Is Karunanidhi whistling in the dark?
What else but a fear of his party cutting a sorry figure could have forced the former chief minister and DMK chief into calling for India to support a referendum on the formation of a Tamil 'Eelam' (separate nation) for the ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka...
"At the intervention of United Nations, some countries have been formed and got recognition. Similarly a referendum should be conducted amongst Tamils for the creation of Tamil Eelam and United Nations should take steps for that, " wrote Karunanidhi in his party mouth piece Murasoli, a few days ago.
The DMK patriarch made these observations at a time when the Indian Parliamentary delegation was in Lanka (April 16 to April 21) for an assessment of the political and the rehabilitation process after the end of the ethnic war in Sri Lanka.
The DMK, with its 18 MPs is a key constituent of the UPA II government at the Centre, but it chose to pull out of the delegation. In fact, on April 15, Karunanidhi had told reporters in Chennai , "There are past experiences to show that there is no use of such visits. Therefore, nobody from DMK is undertaking the visit."
The AIADMK too had decided not to send its party MPs as part of the delegation, slamming the Lankan government for what it saw as its 'anti-Tamils' stance, when it came to rehabilitation of internally displaced Tamils. The party supremo and the state chief minister J Jayalalithaa also said that she did not want to send her MPs on merely a token visit, like the one undertaken by DMK MPs including Kanimozhi and TR Baalu (in 2010).
Clearly, the Lankan Tamils issue still has political currency in Tamil Nadu.
Only last month, in March, India voted against Sri Lanka - the only Asian neighbour of Lanka to do so - in the UN resolution for 'promoting reconciliation and accountability' in Sri Lanka .
Last year, a UN panel said it had credible proof that there were serious human rights violations in the final phase of the conflict in Lanka. The island nation's army pulled off a comprehensive victory in its 26-year long civil war with the Tamil Tigers when it felled the rebel leader V Prabhakaran.
For over 25 tears, the Lankan Tamil issue has been emotional fodder for Tamil Nadu politicians, but the tide has turned, and Karunanidhi seems to have lost the plot.
In fact, Karunanidhi's latest call for UN-sponsored referendum on Sri Lanka is nothing short of embarrassing because it seems to be out of sync with what the Tamils in Sri Lanka seem to want. The parliamentary delegation, on its return, has said the Tamils want nothing but empowerment through a political process.
India and Indian politicians should do more to press for political evolution, say analysts like K Venkataramanan, The Hindu newspaper's bureau chief, who has covered the ethnic conflict extensively.
Unlike the conflict in Northern Ireland that saw the Sinn Fein emerge as the political wing even as the IRA was the rebel army, and Fatah emerged as the political arm of the rebels in the fight for a free Palestine state, the LTTE's political content was very feeble. And with the rebellion crushed, and the machinery dismantled, the way forward is tricky and long.
Calls, like the one on referendum by Karunanidhi, could well prompt theMahinda Rajapakse government to clamp down further on ethnic Tamils. Such a scenario could only be harmful to the Tamils. After all, Rajapakse can claim that the entire island voted for him.
In the 2010 elections, the Tamils also voted, unlike in 2005, when the ethnic Tamils stayed away form the electoral process. There is no accurate figure on the number of Tamils in north-east Sri Lanka , since there was no census in 2001. But that is not the issue. Technically, Rajapakse enjoys absolute majority.
However, the overriding reason why politicians like Karunanidhi need to rewrite their script is simply because of the times we live in.
There has been a paradigm shift - the world is moving towards a more inclusive society.
Our political campaigns should then be targeted at getting Sri Lanka to be inclusive.
The paradigm is no more about self determination based on ethnicity. It is about everyone having a place under the sun.
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Bhama Devi Ravi is a Chennai based journalist