In our previous issue of The Sunday Indian, after my editorial, we had carried a special feature by Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunge, the late Editor of the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Sunday Leader. We carried this as a special feature just because Mr.Lasantha almost knew that he was going to be assassinated, before he actually was! He also knew that his assassinator was already known very well to none other than his long time ‘friend’ and the current President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who strangely (or perhaps, not so strangely, given his clear complicity) refused to take any action.
In fact, the civil war in Sri Lanka between LTTE and government forces is reaching its culmination with a decisive victory for the Sri Lankan army. While the defeat of LTTE, one of the world’s deadliest terror organizations and the one which pioneered the concept of suicide bombings, is no doubt great news (all the greater, because of the fact that it was this LTTE that has been responsible for the assassination of one of India’s most dynamic Prime Ministers, Rajiv Gandhi), on the other hand, under the guise of war, the current government has been creating a humanitarian crisis of a gargantuan proportion by systematically cleansing the Tamil ethnicity. In other words, it’s a clear genocide of Tamils! Even if one accepts the fact that a substantial majority of Lankan Tamils have now settled in either the southern part of the country or have become expatriates in Europe and other parts of the world, and that many nowadays prefer to distance themselves from the activities of the LTTE, and though the incumbent Lankan government has been slimly ‘pledging’ equal rights for the Tamils there, it’s a known fact that a large number of Tamils (almost 250,000) have been caught in the crossfire between the army and the LTTE. Thousands of innocents have been forced to part with their lives simply because the current government evidently doesn’t want to distinguish between the LTTE and those who have been inhabitants of towns like Mullaitivu, the erstwhile stronghold of the LTTE. Moreover, the means the government has adopted to shutout any voice of dissent in the mainstream media against government action through jailing as well as systematically killing journalists – as in Lasantha’s case – is completely unacceptable. Under the current regime, the state of affairs has deteriorated to such an extent that Sri Lanka has now globally become one of the most dangerous place for journalists and media organizations. In fact, in the latest released reports, The International Federation for Journalists has put the nation as the second most dangerous for journalists after Iraq. Along with Mr. Lasantha, other respectable journalists have been either put behind bars or have disappeared completely. The government has itself admitted to the fact that since January 2006, almost nine journalists have been killed.
For a country like India, terrorism has not been a new thing and our own past experience in terms of dealing with this menace indicates that any attempt to systematically persecute a community for the atrocities by a select few is not only inhuman but always backfires. The literal genocide of the Sikhs in Delhi, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, is an ideal case in point, when thousands of innocent Sikhs had to sacrifice their lives. It is ironic that they were from the same Sikh community which valiantly fought back against terrorism and made sure that Punjab remains a most secure part of India. This was rather possible because the Indian government was successful in restoring confidence in the minds of the common Sikhs and trusted them with weapons to fight back the terror menace, whose ill effects did not spare the Sikhs either.
Though it is a fact that Sri Lanka wouldn’t have been able to have such a decisive victory without the use of air power, it is also a fact that the collateral damage associated with such aerial assaults in terms of civilian casualties has been far higher than its real effectiveness. Worst is the fact that in the name of war on terror, hospitals and schools have been targeted! Whether or not this ongoing genocide of innocent Tamils is serving any purpose of the current government, it is definite that this onslaught is definitely alienating the Tamil community far more from the mainstream. After this chapter, it would be impossible for the current or the future governments to bridge this alienation and it would invariably support the cause of violent terror organizations to justify their future wars.
The conventional war against LTTE might mostly be over; but perhaps it’s time for the short battles to start. And the Sri Lankan government knows it very well that it’s only a matter of time before the LTTE hits back with renewed vengeance with an array of suicide attacks and guerilla ambush encounters (if not a full scale war), tactics it has mastered perfectly over the years. If the Sri Lankan government continues its suppression and fails to fulfill its promise of giving all the rights to Tamils and continues with its discrimination and systematic genocide, it would only be a matter of time before another Prabhakaran and another LTTE are born, even if the incumbent ones are dead by now.
- 05 February 2009 |