By K. Venkataramanan
Veteran Tamil Nadu p o l i t i c i an M. Karunanidhi has announced the revival of the Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation, a forum he had floated in the mid- 1980s to drum up support for the creation of a separate Tamil nation in Sri Lanka. In 1986, it was a broad-based political platform that attracted leaders from different parts of India and there was widespread support for the cause. A quarter century on, the most striking feature of the attempt to revive it is its incongruity in the current political context. The Tamil Eelam project was never really on, as neither India nor the world at large was ever interested in dividing Sri Lanka.
Further, neither the domestic situation in Sri Lanka nor the global or regional context contains any objective condition for the establishment of a separate state. Having eliminated rivals to emerge the sole proponent of the cause, and having let the power of arms overshadow its political content, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) effectively destroyed the movement for separation through its ultimate defeat. Velupillai Prabhakaran has left behind only a legacy of ruin and devastation for his Tamil community, and it is left to the few surviving Tamil moderate politicians to pick up the shards of a nearly abandoned devolution discourse and work towards limited self-rule in the Tamil majority areas.
Mr. Karunanidhi has, over the years, oscillated from advocating Sri Lanka’s division to advising Tamil groups and parties to go in for a negotiated settlement. A truthful summary of his stand over the last 30 years will be an unbroken record of flip-flops. His latest U-turn is the ease with which he dropped the core principle of TESO — the concept of “Tamil Eelam” — from the agenda for the first conference of the revived forum to be held on August 12. All it needed was a visit from the Union Home Minister for the DMK patriarch to jump from strident advocacy to confounding ambivalence — a domain he is quite comfortable in.
Every political party has spoken about Tamil aspirations and in more recent times about restorative and rehabilitative justice for the victims of war. All parties called for an end to the war in its last stages, but it is doubtful if the appeal was honest. For instance, it is conceivable that there was great tolerance from the international community and from the Indian political and bureaucratic class towards the use of military power by Sri Lankan forces in 2008-09. There was, conceivably, an unstated consensus that finishing off the LTTE was a prerequisite to lasting peace. Even the parties inseparably identified with Prabhakaran’s brand of political nihilism were not against the war, but merely against the idea of the LTTE being defeated.
SITUATION IN SRI LANKA
What makes TESO a mockery of the predicament of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is the fact that they are more worried about their security and survival than resurrecting the separatist demand. In fact long before the LTTE was vanquished, there was all-round realisation that Tamil Eelam was not a viable project. With the Indian position against the division of the island becoming an entrenched global policy, political posturing is going to make little difference to the Tamils who are denied access to their lands. (Courtesy The Hindu)