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Sri Lankan Tamils: why has the DMK withdrawn support?

Updated: March 19, 2013, 11:37 AM IST
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Sri Lankan Tamils: why has the DMK withdrawn support?
The DMK didn't want to lose out to its rival on encashing such an emotive issue just a year ahead of the 2014 polls.

New Delhi: The issue of Sri Lankan Tamils' demand for a separate homeland or the "Tamil Eelam" has always had a strong resonance in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. When in 2008-2009, the Sri Lankan Army moved for the final kill to weed out LTTE once and for all, allegations of 'gross violation of human rights' and 'genocide' of ethnic Tamils had first surfaced. The allegations were reinforced by claims of western media.

Under mounting western pressure, the Mahinda Rajapakse-led Sri Lankan government instituted a national reconciliation mission to build trust among Tamils and rehabilitate those displaced by the conflict. But western human rights organisations have long held this an an eye-wash, a view shared by almost all major Tamil Nadu parties including DMK, AIADMMK and of course the Vaiko-led MDMK.

A panel of experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka found "credible allegations" which according to them, if proven, indicated that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by the Sri Lankan military. The Sri Lankan government has persistently denied this. It has condemned the UN report as "fundamentally flawed in many respects" and "based on patently biased material which is presented without any verification."

A few months back, a photograph of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran's son surfaced, fanning the flames of passion in Tamil Nadu and forcing the western powers to take note of the development. The photograph was reportedly taken by a Lankan soldier while the child was still alive. The photograph showed him quietly sitting in captivity which indicated that the child was not killed in cross-fire or accidental firing.

The Rajapakse government was not keen on genuine reconciliation or even to allow the Sri Lankan Tamils to be rehabilitated, the Tamil parties including DMK have long contended.

Ahead of the vote on a resolution on alleged human rights violations by Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the DMK decided to pull out of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government after three top Union ministers failed to satisfy M Karunanidhi, the DMK supremo, with the wording of the resolution.

The 22nd session of the Human Rights Council is considered the most appropriate forum to mount further pressure on Sri Lanka to ensure accountability is established under an international framework for the 'war crimes' and 'genocide' committed in the closing stages of the civil war and the ongoing gross human rights abuses.

Even Karunanidhi's political rival, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, have been demanding amendments to the UN resolution against Sri Lanka. Both partieshave been demanding that India vote in favour of the resolution at the UN. They have also demanded that India push in words 'Eelam' and 'genocide' in the US-sponsored resolution. They have also asked for an international probe into the matter. The parties have also demanded that a country-specific resolution be moved in Parliament.

While New Delhi has been traditionally wary of supporting country-specific resolutions (as it may backfire in the case of Kashmir), Colombo's proximity to Beijing has also got New Delhi worried in the recent years. So it has been not the most willing to take up the issue of war crimes and supporting slapping of UN economic sanctions on Sri Lanka and push it further into Chinese embrace.

However, with all political rivals riling the UPA on its indecision on this matter, and with the general elections just a year away, the DMK, of course, wanted to encash such an emotive issue to the hilt. And they have clearly got the UPA on the backfoot.

First Published: March 19, 2013, 11:37 AM IST
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