The war is in all sense over. But the tremors will be felt for a long time. This is the grim reality of Sri Lanka today. Sri Lankan army is on the offensive. The Liberation Tiger of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) is confined to only 75 sq. km. The plight of around 50,000 civilians still stranded in the war zone of North Eastern Sri Lanka is most tragic. They are caught between the Army and LTTE. Recently Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had said that both sides may have committed war crimes, and soldiers had shelled no fire zones and areas packed with thousands of civilians. Expectedly, Sri Lanka reacted strongly.
LTTE should allow the innocent civilians trapped in the war zone to
move freely according to their wishes. The Sri Lankan government has
decided to go all out for a military solution rather than a political
one. The offensive has been criticized by various international humanitarian
organizations including Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch etc. This scenario has made Sri Lanka more insecure than before.
The history of human kind has shown us that violence cannot bring
peace. In fact, it leads to more violence.
The ongoing war has taken many lives, has destroyed property worth millions of dollars and resulted in the human rights violation of the people trapped between the Army and the LTTE. The war has already taken a heavy toll of civilians. Recently, Sri Lankan army shelled a civil hospital in the Northern part of the country and suicide bomber of tiger attacked a refugee camp in Anuradhapura.
In the first week of January Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of Sunday Leader, was assassinated in the city of Colombo. His last editorial does reflect poorly on the Sri Lankan government. He wrote, "No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last." Many independent journalists are threatened, attacked or killed by the right wing extremists.
LTTE chief V Prabhakaran is still in the hiding in North Eastern Sri Lanka. His son S. Anthony is also commanding a division. The point is decimation of tigers will not make Sri Lanka free from the ethnic conflict.
The Sri Lankan situation always becomes sensitive in Tamil Nadu. Various political parties including ruling DMK, Vaiko led MDMK and few pro-militant Tamil parties are bent on exploiting the sentiment prevailing in the state.
There is a feeling of sympathy towards the Tamils of Sri Lanka, which
made politicians restive. There was a talk of Tamil ministers resigning
from the central government. But, ultimately they decided against it.
Various demonstrations took place in support of LTTE in Tamil Nadu. Vaiko also
addressed a meeting in Mumbai. Surprisingly, Jayalalithaa, leader of
AIADMK, observed a day long fast in support of Sri Lankan Tamils on 9th March, 2009. She said that there was a widespread perception that the
Congress led UPA had done nothing to help Sri Lankan Tamils. 2-3
incidents of self-immolation also took place in Tamil Nadu. Ruling DMK
passed a resolution in the state assembly requesting government of India to play
a pro-active role and ask Sri Lankan government to cease-fire. Pranab
Mukherjee, External Minister, was compelled to air dash Colombo in the
last week of January. Before returning to India, Mukherjee made it clear to
the media that he has no sympathy for LTTE. Following his visit, Sri
Lankan government announced a 48-hour truce to allow civilians to come
out from the war zone. However, tigers did not respond.
There is a demand from Tamil Nadu that the central government should move United Nations General Assembly and Security Council to ensure immediate ceasefire, restore peace and stop the genocide of Tamils. As parliamentary elections are already announced in India, the safety and security of Tamils living in Sri Lanka will become a major issue in the state of Tamilnadu. Mr. Karunanidhi has also clarified that he has no sympathy for the LTTE. But, one has to accept that the LTTE does represent the sentiments, emotions of the Sri Lankan Tamils, who feel neglected in the island country.
The issue before us is - What next? What will be the future of Tamils in Sri Lanka? Sri Lanka needs to evolve a political solution acceptable to all parties in general and Tamil parties in particular. There is a talk of devolution of power. Though, it has been going for a long-time, no tangible action has been taken in this regard. The Peace Mumbai team, which visited Sri Lanka in 2007, had also suggested that the devolution of the power and that a true federal state is the best possible remedy to the Sri Lankan situation. There is also a talk of the implementation to the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which was a part of the India-Lanka Accord, 1987. If implemented, it will result in considerable devolution of powers to the Tamil majority of North and East. It also has provision of creation of a merged province in the northeast.
The civil society needs to see that the conflict is resolved in an amicable manner. The Sri Lankan’s have a lot of hope from the South Asian civil society in general and Indian civil society in particular. They feel that the South Asians will be able to understand complexity of Sri Lankan society in a better way than the people will from a distance. But, to be fair, the civil societies of India and South Asia have failed to rise to the occasion.