How Modi should deal with Tamil Nadu tantrums

When Narendra Modi set out to campaign and become the Prime Minister of India, he did not plan to win an election to be told how he should lead by one of India’s 31 Chief Ministers. Yet, the Tamil Nadu tantrum has become a curse to India’s Central Government and dented India’s bilateral relationships with fellow sovereign nations and in particular Sri Lanka. The situation with Tamil Nadu tantrums is such that warrants a clear policy decision by the Modi Government and for that matter even Sri Lanka. Relations between two nations cannot depend upon ONLY giving in to Tamils. The 2 main political parties in Tamil Nadu juggling power between each other in Tamil Nadu can contest to be sincere in what they pretend to stand for as historical evidence will tell. This leads to the next question whether they are working to an agenda in contravention of India’s Constitution by aligning with external parties to create tensions between two nations and thereafter enable foreign intervention. The possibilities should not escape Modi’s radar or even that of Sri Lanka.

Jayalalitha present statements are clearly visible in her manifesto declaring she would work towards Eelam for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Of course, she cannot add India because she is aware of the consequences. Nevertheless, this same Jayalalith, declared in 2007, that Tamil Nadu arms supply strengthened the LTTE. This statement established how LTTE were receiving a free supply of arms and military materials and other logistics which included allowing injured LTTErs to seek medical attention.

She went on to declare that,

“ LTTE interfering in India’s internal affairs” &

“ I am the only leader who opposes LTTE in State”.

This was said on 22nd October 2008.

Not stopping there she had condemned the pro-LTTE speeches made by film directors Seeman and Amir for supporting the outfit responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and went on to say that such was anti-national activity.

Not stopping there she went on to declare that LTTE chief Prabakaran was a destructive force, that he would make use of the ceasefire to amass weapons and declared that it was Prabakaran who was responsible for the killing of Amirthalingam and Padmanabha. She alleged that support for LTTE prevailed in Tamil Nadu during tenure of DMK rule so much so that anti-national slogans like ‘creation of separate Tamil Nadu’ were made.

Her October 2008 speech also included that had she been in power she would have arrested the pro-LTTE propagandists. These propagandists remain very much active even after she took control of Tamil Nadu.

The greatest take from what Jayalalitha said in 2008 was that LTTE was interfering in India’s internal affairs ‘it encourages all anti-national forces. It killed Rajiv Gandhi on the soil of Tamil Nadu. It has links with PWG, ULFA, LeT and ISI that are out to disintegrate the country. If those who oppose the LTTE are termed betrayers of Tamils, those who support them are anti-nationals’ going on to declare that she needed NSG protection as “I am the only leader who opposes the LTTE in Tamil Nadu” – Golden words in

Jayalalitha’s 2008 statement was followed by another in 2009 declaring that LTTE was “using Tamils as human shields”. The best of that speech was when she declared that ‘If they (LTTE) allow the Tamils to go to a safer place, then there will not be any civilian loss”. Makes perfect logic and questions why no one in the UN system or foreign governments thought with such logic. Jayalalitha also went on to say “the Indian Government is concerned, the LTTE is a banned organization”.

Fast forward 5 years and in 2014 she includes in her party manifesto the pledge to create an Eelam for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Was this not what LTTE aspired to do and was the reason for their terror. How can a Chief Minister of an Indian State promise in her election manifesto to give Eelam in Sri Lanka for Tamils who are not citizens of India and questions how many actually read her manifesto and based on that gave their vote!

Exactly what should Tamils whether in Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu or any other parts of the world take from these chameleon-like statements issued by Tamil Nadu political parties? It is not just the Tamil Nadu politicians, even the political parties in Sri Lanka face the same two-tongued speeches. Should Tamils themselves not start wondering why foreign passport holding Tamils, should bellow from Canada, UK, European Nations for Eelam when they are unlikely to return to live in Sri Lanka? Is it not time for Tamils living in Sri Lanka to start waking up to ground realities.

Should the Modi Government realistically be concerned about Tamils who are not Indian citizens? Moreover, have the Tamils in Tamil Nadu even thought of Tamils in Sri Lanka if so Vaiko would not lose elections repeatedly? If we take the votes of Vaiko the great friend of Prabakaran himself it should seal the answer. Tamil Nadu state with 53million voters gave only 145,551 votes for the MDMK and Vaiko which is hardly anything Vaiko can boast about while BJP secured 2.2million and 5.5% of the votes. Jayalalitha did bag 17million votes yet these votes had nothing to do with Eelam or Tamil issue in Sri Lanka.

The Modi Government must realize that dealing bilaterally with Sri Lanka means that India is dealing with the sentiments of all its 20million people and not just the few lakhs of Tamils living in the North of Sri Lanka while the majority of Tamils are living amongst the Sinhalese. The Modi Government would be foolish to cripple relations with a country of 20million exerting undue pressure on a sovereign government without even knowing whether those lakhs living in the North actually want Eelam and wish to separate from Sri Lanka. What India needs to realize is that the Eelam has been a fanciful notion of a handful of Tamil elite high caste to continue tramping on the low castes and Modi’s own background suffices to understand the truth of this scenario. Knowing well how caste factor plays in India, Modi will know that there are many Indian Brahmins who whatever Modi’s leadership will refuse to accept him because of his caste. Therefore, let Modi not take the wrong side in the debate where low caste Tamils of the Wanni had been having a raw deal for decades and LTTE was no representative of the Tamils, neither for that matter is the TNA.

Be that as it may what is important is that we realize that India has unnecessarily dampened relations probably as a result of bad advice and at the behest of intelligence advisors manipulated from external sources to take up issues that are totally irrelevant to India and in reality likely to pose more problems for India in the long term.

Indians must realize that Sri Lanka does not require devolution. A map of India and Sri Lanka should suffice for India to realize why. India must also be aware that the Provincial Council system set up by the British was for its own benefit and nothing else. India also needs to know without chirping 13a, that a good part of items included in the Indian imposed 13a has already been implemented. India must understand that with the manner TNA, the LTTE linked political party behaves no sane Government would even consider giving police and land powers to that province.

With Tamil Nadu’s separatist history would India ever consider allowing Tamil Nadu to deal directly with foreign governments even to accept financial aid and direct trade? Obviously not, so if what is good for the goose must be good for the gander.

Someone in Modi’s Government without legacy of the past must brief Mr. Narendra Modi of these ground realities. Asking Sri Lanka to concur to give items that are likely to be a national security risk for both India and Sri Lanka in the long term is committing a blunder that Modi cannot afford to commit and does not need to commit. There are many other ways of building rapport between Sri Lanka without taking the road to tense relations for no reason by only concentrating on a small area that does not represent Tamils at all, for the majority of them are all living elsewhere and most of them living among Sinhalese which nullifies and makes a mockery of all allegations of discriminations especially when the present Chief Minister of the North had been living all his life in Colombo, schooling and working amongst Sinhalese and has been living in the North only for the past several years, that too after Prabakaran’s demise.

Let’s put things in perspective. Modi’s mantra for development has no time to entertain theatrics of Tamil Nadu politicians refusing to be part of the investiture ceremony of the 15th Indian Prime Minister simply because she would have been pictured sitting way behind President Rajapakse. Politics in India has to take place without Sri Lanka and it is good for Modi himself to realize that Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation and he should not repeat the same mistake of interfering in the internal affairs of foreign nations and thereafter complaining that the neighbors are against India.

Tamil Nadu as a state needs to take care of the Indian citizens in Tamil Nadu. Of course, we have never objected to Sri Lankan Tamils forsaking their Sri Lankan citizenship and obtaining Indian citizenship if they are confident that India or Tamil Nadu can cater to Tamil aspirations or even grievances. Sri Lanka’s Constitution makes clear that all citizens have to be treated equally therefore India and any other external party must realize that they are morally wrong to seek privileges for only one ethnic group above all others completely ignoring the ground realities that it was the Sinhalese and Muslims who were victims for 3 decades while the world concentrates only on a few months of the last phase of the conflict. This is totally unjust and India must one of the first to address this wrong.

Modi needs to mend fences not make fences but most of all Modi needs to realize that he has far more important things than falling prey to the theatrics of Tamil Nadu and it is no better a time than now to tell Tamil Nadu whose boss.

Shenali D Waduge

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