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Saturday, April 28, 2012 - 10.29 GMT
A poser to Karunanidhi

Why not a referendum on Kashmir-Eelam?


Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhis efforts to outdo his regional rival in communal politics - current Chief Minister Jayalalitha, and take the wind off the Indian Parliamentary delegation of Tamil representatives led by Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj to Sri Lanka, was to ask the Indian Government to urge the United Nations to bring pressure on Sri Lanka to hold a referendum regarding the establishing a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, to realize his unfulfilled dream.

The DMK leader, who together with Jayalalitha, brought sufficient pressure on the Congressled UPI Government to ensure that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh feel coalition compulsions in addition to US pressure, to vote against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR last month, had a good rejoinder from Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He did not mince his words in stating that if Karunanidhis unfulfilled dream was a Tamil Eelam, he should work for it in India.

He told the Daily Mirror that "A much bigger population of Tamils live in Tamil Nadu in India than the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. If Karunanidhi wants a Tamil Eelam he can have it in Tamil Nadu. He should not come to make Eelams in Sri Lanka. This is a sovereign country. We consider those who talk about Eelam as terrorists,"

Karunanidhi and the DMK has since stepped up his campaign for carving out a separate Tamil Eelam' in Sri Lanka, by seeking the revival of the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organization (TESO), an outfit he was associated with in the 1980s, to fight for a separate State for Tamils on Gandhian lines. Addressing a public meeting, in Kolathur constituency (Wednesday 25), Karunanidhi, a key partner in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, appealed for the Centre's support for creating Tamil Eelam.

The Sri Lankan President may reject the idea, but it will be my life's mission hereafter, the DMK leader said.

Full moon wolves

Tamil 'Eelam' is for Tamil Nadu politicians what the full moon is for hungry wolves., is what the lead editorial in The Hindu of April 23, said on the attempts by Karunanidhi and Tamil Nadu politicians attempts to arm-twist New Delhi on his proposal for a UN backed referendum on Eelam in Sri Lankan territory. It said that: All their howling is indicative, not of any yearning for a distant, dreamy Eelam, but of the baser urges of the politics of the here-and-now. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who heads the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a prominent constituent of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, gave a call last week for the creation of a separate nation for Tamils in Sri Lanka, on the lines of Montenegro, South Sudan, East Timor and Kosovo.

It added with a note of caution that: Far from forcing the Sri Lankan government into reaching a settlement on devolution of powers to the minority Tamils, Mr. Karunanidhi appears to have further aided the politicisation of this sensitive issue in Tamil Nadu.

Acknowledging how the parties of Tamil Nadu contributed in no small measure to the shaping of India's stand on the recent resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, The Hindu stated that, to suggest that the U.N. conduct a referendum for the division of Sri Lanka on ethnic lines can only have the effect of prompting the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to resist all international efforts to speed up the peace and reconciliation process.

In any case, Kosovo or Montenegro, South Sudan or East Timor is not comparable to Sri Lanka. But then Mr. Karunanidhi was only looking for instances of new nations formed on the basis of referendums or external intervention, and not seeking to make a cogent case for the resolution of Tamil grievances in Sri Lanka. In 2000, the model of political division he cited was that of Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Mr. Karunanidhi's words, this was separation without bloodshed, a peaceful resolution of a conflict in a country with sharp divisions, The Hindu said.

But what is so easily forgotten is what happened elsewhere after this so-called separation without bloodshed. The division of Czechoslovakia is just one example of the crisis in the Balkans. The tragedies of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia and the massacre at Srebrenica are still fresh in the memory of many who have even a mere nodding acquaintance with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia on ethnic lines. Even the Dayton Accords have not yet healed the wounds of the crisis as seen in the recent commemoration of the 16th anniversary of Srebrenica. If anyone if to be fooled by the independent statehood of Kosovo, which is still not recognized by Serbia, there is enough already happening between Sudan and South Sudan, to have much more than mere doubts about the success of UN backed , encouraged or supported referenda to divide nations and countries.

Jammu & Kashmir

Rather than look at far away Czechoslovakia, or think of Montenegro, South Sudan, East Timor and Kosovo for the promotion of Eelam, it is better if Karunanidhi and those who think alike, would look closer home in India, where the UN mandated plebiscite is yet to be held from 1948 to decide on the actual status of Jammu and Kashmir. From the time of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to this day India has rejected any attempt to genuinely resolve the Jammu Kashmir issue, by not creating the necessary conditions to hold the UN mandated plebiscite - the vote by which the people of a political unit determine autonomy or affiliation with another country.

There is now a debate in India whether the plebiscite is an issue of not. Yet, commentator Amaresh Misra wrote in October 2011 In August, 2011, that the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of Kashmir brought out a report, after three years of painstaking investigations that revealed shockingly the existence of 38 sites of unmarked graves in North Kashmir. Estimates vary, but more than 2,500 unidentified bodies were unearthed during the exercise. The SHRC has asked for DNA profiling to identify these bodies and determine whether they are dead militants or dead, ordinary Kashmiris.

The Kashmiri Association of Parents of Displaced Persons (APDP) has been agitating for several years about locating more than 10,000 missing persons. These people could have been targets of militants, or of the Indian army, or both. It is suspected that many more unmarked graves exist in other areas of Kashmir. The SHRC has requested the State government to conduct a thorough enquiry in the matter.

Truth seeking, and coming clean on facts, plus justice and compensation for people killed either by the army or the militants, will boost Indias credibility. In fact, the unmasking of the issue of unmarked graves is integral to `Kashmir is an integral part of India logic.

Karunanidhi and others in India who are so-vocal and demanding action about the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, and suggesting a UN backed referendum for a separate Eelam, need only look north to what is happening in Jammu- Kashmir, and begin to take the necessary steps to consult the people of J & K as to what their preference for statehood is whether it is to be part of India, part of Pakistan, or two parts of either country or even a separate state of Kashmir-Eelam.?

As the US-based security website states: The concept of partition is anathema to Indians. Kashmir's symbolism to India is as critical a consideration as any security significance associated with this fragment of ice and rock threaded by a beautiful valley. India is unwilling to lose even one additional hectare of this land. New Delhi is also concerned that Kashmiri autonomy would set a precedent for breakaway movements in other Indian states (e.g., Punjab or Assam). It will also be interesting to know how India will in fact react to the promotion of separatism in neighbouring Sri Lanka by the likes of Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, when considering the separatist tendencies that prevail in many parts of the country today.

Looking back at not so distant history, states: In 1952 the elected and overwhelmingly Muslim Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, led by the popular Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, voted in favor of confirming accession to India. Thereafter, India regarded this vote as an adequate expression of popular will and demurred on holding a plebiscite. After 1953 Jammu and Kashmir was identified as standing for the secular, pluralistic, and democratic principles of the Indian polity. Nehru refused to discuss the subject bilaterally until 1963, when India, under pressure from the United States and Britain, engaged in six rounds of secret talks with Pakistan on "Kashmir and other related issues." These negotiations failed, as did other such efforts later. So much for the promotion of the rights of the truly oppressed people of Jammu & Kashmir, even with a UN mandate.

It adds that: Kashmir's demographics illustrate the complexity of the issue. The territory can be divided into three regions -- Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh -- each of which is dominated by a different ethnic group. Jammu is inhabited mainly by a Hindu majority, the Kashmir Valley is settled by a Muslim majority, and a Buddhist majority resides in Ladakh. While there is an identifiable Kashmiri ethnicity, the three groups are ethnically distinct, complicating any notion of "Kashmiri nationalism."

Those who talk of a referendum, whether UN backed or India manipulated on the setting up of an Eelam in Sri Lankan territory, must also have a proper understanding of the demographics of m Sri Lanka, and not only the present post-conflict situation in the Northern Province. One cannot forget that the original call for Eelam, by the LTTE, and its political backers of the TNA had planned an Eelam that included the North and East, with little concern for the demographics of the East that would have made such a polity untenable from the outset.

Karunanidhi can either take Sri Lankas Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksas advise and seek to have his unrealized dream of Eelam established in Tamil Nadu in India, or before he talks of Eelam related referendum in Sri Lanka, work towards resolving the crisis of Jammu and Kashmir, with or without UN intervention or nudging.

The Hindu concludes its editorial stating that “for good reasons, India has a firm position on seeking a solution within a united Sri Lanka. Political parties in Tamil Nadu should see the sense behind this.” One can only hope the thinking of the leader writer is correct, and whatever Karunanidhi’s life’s mission is, that political parties in Tamil Nadu would see the sense behind such a policy, and stop their full moon wolf howls for Eelam over here.


Comment by Lucien Rajakarunanayake





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