05 November 2011

Some thugs can’t even name themselves…

It has been reported that Rajiv Gandhi, on his way to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord, had told Tamil Nadu politicians that the agreement he was to sign with the then president of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene, would bring Sri Lanka under the Indian orbit, just like Bhutan.

The before and after of the Indo-Lanka Accord is well known, but considering the recent joint-statement issued by the ministers in charge of external affairs of the two countries, it is worth a recap.  India, under Rajiv Gandhi and before him, under his mother, Indira Gandhi, armed, funded and trained Tamil separatists from Sri Lanka and as such has remained the principal instigator of and contributor to terrorism and all its horrendous and tragic consequences.  
The ‘after’ of the Accord saw the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) engaged in wanton acts of brutality against the very people whose interests the accord was supposed to uphold. The IPKF is guilty of destruction, torture, death, displacement, rape, petty theft and other such ‘peaceful’ operations in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Having rescued the LTTE from certain defeat via the Accord, India ended up having to deal with the wrath of the terrorists it spawned, breast-fed, spoon-fed and gun-fed.  ‘Tail between legs’ was how the IPKF left Sri Lanka.  By this time, natural antipathy to a regional thug had beefed up the fascist JVP of Rohana Wijeweera to launch its second and infinitely more bloody insurrection, leaving 60,000 dead in just over 2 years. 
India left behind one thing. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, whose political worth lies in the legitimacy it gives to the boundaries of the Eelam map, never mind the objections of history, geography and demography.  While some say that India did help Sri Lanka in combatting the LTTE, i.e. after 2005, no one can claim that such ‘help’ did not come with a political price tag.  It was not about a friendly and repentant neighbor doing the right thing. It was the neighbourhood thug engaged in extortion. 
Today, two years after terrorism was vanquished.  We celebrate this moment and must remember that we can do so mainly because of the political leadership, the security forces and the citizenry of this country.  If India helped (even grudgingly) in some manner, we would say ‘thank you’, but we need to point out that it is the least that India could do, considering her considerable and significant contribution to problem-cause. 
The statement referred to above clearly indicates that we should be sober in our celebrations.  It is one thing to defeat the LTTE and quite another to keep separatism at bay.  The one did not follow the other and only the naïve would believe that it should.  The LTTE represented the military option of the separatism, and for a time it did seem that guns could carve an Eelam out of Sri Lanka, whereby a community with no historical claim, amounting to less than 6% of the population (counting out Tamils living outside the so-called ‘traditional homelands’), would get control over one-third the land area and half the coast.  After the military option petered out, Tamil chauvinism had to get back to what I call the Chelvanayakam Option -- a little now, more later – with ‘little’ being the legalizing of the homeland claim (not even supported by myth, by the way) through the 13th Amendment. 
What’s the source of India’s fascination with the 13th?  Right now, the Congress Party is deep in some foul smelling matter.  Scandals, mismanagement and the usual dissatisfaction with incumbents have seen a drop in popularity, a decline which has found articulation in electoral debacle.  Tamil Nadu returned not ally but opponent.  It is clear that retaining power at the next General Election could come down to obtaining Jayalalitha’s support or else neutralizing it.  For all the antipathy that her state has toward Tamils from Sri Lanka when they do come there, either as refugees or on visit, the idea of a Tamil Homeland and related sloganeering continues to have a lot of political currency.  Placating Tamil Nadu is not a political choice for the Congress Party. It is an imperative. A ‘must’.
The wording of the ‘Joint Statement’ indicates a lot of arm-twisting on the part of Delhi.  Mentioning ‘investigations into allegations of human rights violations’, shows that Delhi must have cited moves by international thugs to harass Sri Lanka; it’s got ‘we will protect you brother, but at a price,’ the cost being the 13th Amendment, which too has been mentioned.  Well, mentioned with a ‘plus sign’, meaning land and police powers (included in the 13th as of now) and other things besides.  In reality, the small print is about editing the concurrent list in favour of Eelamist positions. 
Now it is not only the Congress Party that has problems. India, as a nation, is in crisis.  It has countless separatist struggles to deal with, a grand mismatch between projected image of emerging power and a lived reality of misery and numerous other problems that the IPL, braggadocio, a few nuclear reactors etc together or separately cannot take out from the governability equation.  India wants, nay craves, international recognition. India wants ‘thug-status’ acknowledged, i.e. by obtaining a permanent position in the UN Security Council. And nothing shows that country’s national angst than the fact that it cannot shed the name given by those who invaded and pillaged it.  Indeed that country because what it is courtesy of the invader.  That’s a huge psychological handicap to overcome. We understand. 
The Joint Statement shows that Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs had positioned himself (and thereby the country) as India’s vassal. There’s no mention of India’s endless wars, crimes against humanity, lack of domestic mechanisms to investigate known crimes against humanity (in Kashmir and elsewhere) and Sri Lanka’s concerns about these followed by India’s commitment to addressing them. 
Why should Sri Lanka give guarantees of any kind to India?  Sure, Sri Lanka is not as big as India, has a smaller economy and even though the average standards of living are far superior, Sri Lanka doesn’t have the fire power or the bucks that India can mobilize.  Sri Lanka is a smaller market and therefore cannot use its population statistics as leverage. For example, ‘we are a huge market, remember!’ is not a flag that can be waved to ward off the would-be de-stabilizer.
Sri Lanka has one thing that India does not, a ‘one thing’ that has stood us well over the centuries when dealing with invaders.  A sense of dignity.  Whatever is bartered away by politicians, the people recover, sooner or later. Whatever the costs!  The costs, in this case, will most definitely be a major electoral reversal for those who sell out. 
Sri Lanka did not become another Bhutan.  It will not.  Where Rajiv Gandhi failed, his wife will not succeed. Where J.R. Jayewardene failed, G.L. Peiris will not succeed. 
Twenty seven thousand members of the security forces paid with their lives to defeat the LTTE and keep separatism at bay.  Close to a hundred thousand of our citizens perished in this 30 year long conflict. Sixty thousand were killed in 1988-89 and India helped in that particular ‘evacuation’ by way of the Indo-Lanka Accord.  We have seen enough blood, courtesy of our neighbor.  They can make us bleed, again and again.  But death comes slowly.  This is something that India should realize. G.L. Peiris too. And of course Mahinda Rajapaksa.    

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