LTTE & Sri Lanka: The Paradigm Shift in Public Opinion
Fourteen students from a Law College in the Chennai suburbs are on a indefinite hunger strike calling on the Indian government to influence a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. They entered 5th day of their hunger strike today. Visiting Tamil movie actor Sathyaraj attempted to persuade them to give up their strike in view of their deteriorating health conditions. Several other local political leaders also made requests for the students to give up their protest. However the students have chosen to pursue their struggle.
Gandhi’s principles of non violence (Ahimsa) seem to be inspiring even the current generation. But, in this day and age of PR stunts and violence, would a hunger protest along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi by 14 students in a corner of India attract the attention of a government, leave alone that of media?
While all the recent protests in Tamil Nadu have a common agenda: "Stop the war in Sri Lanka", it may or may not be viewed as a public support for LTTE or an endorsement for independent Tamil Eelam.
One has to note that since the ban on the LTTE was placed by the Indian government 17 years ago, the organization gradually lost the broad support it enjoyed in the 80’s. There were still a section of the Tamil Indian society that viewed the Indo Sri Lanka accord as that of deceit. However Rajiv Gandhi’s death at the hands of some Sri Lankan elements, made the general population in India (including Tamil Nadu) move away from LTTE and its objectives. Tamil Nadu government and the general population stood behind India’s attempts to pack LTTE’s support base in its soil.
The peace initiative by Norway was closely watched by India and its population that had concerns for the Sri Lankan Tamils. LTTE prevailed the peace negotiations and projected a new face – Mr Tamil Selvan as the peace negotiator and political head. The derailment of the peace process and the subsequent killing of Mr Tamil Selvan by Sri Lankan forces brought disappointment to several Indians, but yet LTTE did not gain the sympathy as it enjoyed in the 80’s.
However the support for LTTE in India (Tamil Nadu particularly) has grown by leaps and bounds in recent months. Several weekly magazines such as Kumudam Reporter, Nakkeeran both with high readership in the state published Prabhakaran and Tamil Eelam maps in their cover. Posters sprung up in several cities and towns in south India proclaiming Prabhakaran as a revolutionist. Tamil celebrities raised slogans equating Prabhakaran with Subash Chandra Bose and LTTE cadres to Bagath Singh. Communist volunteers proclaimed Prabakaran as south Asia’s Che Guevara - an Argentine Marxist revolutionary. What caused this paradigm shift in the common mans opinion needs to be investigated.
If you are closely monitoring the recent developments in Southern India, you will agree that the way the war has progressed, has impacted the opinions of Indians to a large extent. The influx of war imagery and videos have caused even a mute spectator panic and cry for the Sri Lankan Tamils. Videos that show bombing of civilians by Kfir aircraft and the charred dead bodies of children in school uniform being pulled by parents has shaken the conscience of Tamil Indians. Images from videos that showed the mutilation and stripping of dead bodies of fallen female rebels by Sri Lankan soldiers were published in some magazines and has caused even those who held strong anti LTTE sentiments to cross the bridge and view the Sri Lankan army as barbarians.
Videos like these are just a tip of the iceburg.
Tamil Indians have seen counter insurgencies initiatives at home - in Punjab, Kashmir and the north east. However the images from Sri Lanka were not anything similar. The volume of casualties and atrocities by the Sri Lankan army were emotionally incomprehensible for most Tamil Indians.
Most will agree that, It is not the actions of LTTE or their goals and objectives, but the flouting of human values by the Sri Lankan armed forces that has caused the paradigm shift in the sentiments of south Indians.
Apart from national parties such as CPI(M) and BJP joining the Anti War bandwagon, We are hearing anti war sentiments from Colombo after the murder of Lasantha Wikrematunga by government agents. Asserting that Mahinda Rajapakse regime is “the darkest, the most brutal and the most ruthless,” that has ruled Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraweera, the convenor SLFP (M) and ex foreign minister of Sri Lanka - a Sinhalese by ethnicity, in an interview published in this weekend Sunday Leader, said
The SLAF has used more bombs than in Vietnam just in a few months. Even if Pirapaharan is captured and killed as some people like to speculate, we will only be committing another generation to the war perhaps to fight a far more ruthless LTTE than today.
Apologizing to the Sri Lankan people for “bringing this dark and evil regime into power", he further said
The evolving situation is such that key journalists are fleeing the country. More than a dozen have already left and others are on the verge of leaving.
If Sri Lanka truly wants to win the war, it has to come up with a solution that is acceptable to the Tamils and that may prove more powerful than all the bombs and weapons they have been using against the LTTE. Only then will they find durable peace in the region.
LTTE & Sri Lanka: The Paradigm Shift in Public Opinion
- » Published on January 28, 2009
- » Type: Review
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