Senior Sri Lankan leader and former chief minister of the island nation’s Tamil-majority North Eastern province, CV Wigneswaran, on Friday urged India to grant dual citizenship to the Lankan Tamil refugees living here since the late 1980s.
The demand for dual citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in several camps across Tamil Nadu and outside has gained momentum in the wake of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. And, there is unanimity on this across the political spectrum, barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
There are more than 62,000 Lankan Tamil refugees living in 107 camps spread across the state and another 36,000 in other states. They are predominantly Hindus.
The Sri Lankan leader’s demand assumes significance since the opposition has been charging that CAA is discriminatory as it leaves out the Tamil refugees among other persecuted minorities.
Wigneswaran, a former supreme court judge who was in Vellore for Pongal celebration at the Voorhees College, told reporters that refugees have been in the India for more than three decades and should not be left as stateless people any longer.
“They have been extended the benefits, including higher education, given by the government of India all these years,” he pointed out.
While extending his support for the return of Lankan Tamils back home, Wigneswaran, however, said their children have born and brought up in India and are studying here.
“Since they must extend their stay in India for this purpose and to continue to avail these benefits, they need dual citizenship, though we want them to return to our country soon,” he said.
Admitting that there was no specific treaty on extending dual citizenship to Lankan Tamils, he said the governments of both the countries should chalk out a new avenue to make this possible.
Observing that more than 10,00,000 Lankan Tamils have left the shores and many of them want to return for extending their services to the people of the country, he pointed out that the foundation for that was lacking.
“If we win the provincial elections, we assure to extend all the required measures to facilitate their return. When the Tamils return to their home, the Sri Lankan government owes a huge responsibility to provide a conducive atmosphere for them to settle down,” he said.
Asked about the delay in the release of all the seven life convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Wigneswaran said he does not think that they were directly involved in the killing.
“Beyond that, there may be political reasons behind that decision, which I do not know,” he said.