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Lankans seek refuge in TN

Jan 22, 2006 04:41 PM IST India India

New Delhi: When violence breaks out in Sri Lanka it's repercussions are felt in Tamil Nadu. Refugees from the island nation have begun trickling in into Tamil Nadu's Ramnad district. Is India ready to handle the humanitarian and security repercussions?

32-year-old Selvam and his family have taken a silent three-hour boat ride from Mannar in Sri Lanka to this beach in south Tamil Nadu's Ramnad district. It's a ride that smuggles them away from the tension in the island nation. They'll now live here as refugees.

"I used to make rotis. I can't do that because the army asked me to shut shop. So we decided to close down and leave," Sri Lankan refugee Selvam said.

Close to 100 refugees like Selvam have come in the last two weeks. They are the first to come after recent incidents of violence started threatening the fragile peace process in the island.

But as they get ready to join 56,000 other Sri Lankan refugees in camps in Tamil Nadu, the task in front of the security forces is to stop the LTTE from sending it's cadres disguised as refugees.

A task that's beyond the ability of this lone police station, which screens the refugees. Experts say it's a weakness the LTTE will exploit to send it's soldiers to a safe haven in Indian soil.

"The police force here is over stretched and they can't do a screening job even if they do so it cannot be a clean job," V R Lakshminarayanan Former Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu said.

"One of the problems is that the LTTE has given military training to civilians during the peace process that's something even we are concerned about " S C Chandrahasan Organisation for Elam Refugee Rehabilitation said.

As hostilities increase in the island nation it's perhaps time for India to take a close look at repercussions both from a security and humanitarian perspective.

(With Rooban in Madurai and Veeraraghav in Chennai)