It could be surmised as just a coincidence that the news about Buddhists and Muslims clashes in Burma were in the global newspapers and on the same day Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a resolution about India playing a role through UN for a referendum on Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.
The conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims are getting accentuated in Thailand and southern Thailand insurgency is linked to Islamic groups supposedly facilitated by Malaysian Government or some sections of it.
The Sri Lankan Conflict came to an end in 2009 with the death of LTTE leader Prabhakaran and the defeat of the terror outfit — it is categorised as terror outfit by India / USA and other countries. But the large diaspora of Sri Lankan Tamils has in its fold, LTTE sympathisers. This diaspora essentially is an offshoot of the more than two decades old conflict and a substantial number of Sri Lankan Tamils went to Europe/USA and Canada and Australia as refugees. The terrorist organisation also accumulated billions of dollars of resources by taking a percentage of earnings of the sympathisers and also by arms and drug running all over the world. It was also known as a ruthless organisation which killed large numbers of mild-mannered Tamil intellectuals. The Sri Lankan Tamil world lost a great many eminent persons due to this terror organisation. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi is well-known but not much is known about the organisation’s murders of respected Tamil figures starting with Duraiappa, Mayor of Jaffna in 1975.
Actually one of the earliest actions of the organisation was the killing and wounding of nearly 150 civilians within the Mahabodhi Buddhist shrine in Anuradhapura as early 1985. This shrine is one of the most revered places for Buddhists. More curious is the ambivalent relationship of LTTE with Muslim groups in its areas. At some point of time in the 1990s, Muslims were under attack by the terrorist organisations and there was a move to expel them from some areas to create a contiguous Tamil territory.
The terror group never explicitly identified with Hindu diaspora. Nor did it claim to be representing the aspirations of Hindus in Sri Lanka as great descendants of the pioneering Hindu Savant Arumuga Navalar. [1822-1879]. Interestingly, Swami Vivekananda received an ecstatic welcome from Hindus in Colombo in 1897.
From the point of view of global civilisations, Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist groups were more identified with the aspirations of the Church. For instance, by choosing Norway as a mediator, LTTE implicitly accepted the position of the State-sponsored Lutheran Church of Norway (which was the state religion there till May 2012).
On the other side, Dravidian political parties in Tamil Nadu began to find a political issue in the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. In the process, Sri Lankan Tamils became a pawn in the competing populist policies of the two DMKs along with assorted fringe groups. Within Tamil Nadu, starting from the 19th century, many a Church leader and Christian priest has propagated Aryan / Dravidian theories (not supported by any scientific evidence) with a view to split society. In the earlier part of the 20th century, EVR Ramasawmy Naickar consolidated the Christian propaganda with full support to British Raj and declared August 15, 1947 to be a day of mourning. He and his followers were complete agents of British and at one point of time he even ‘begged’ Jinnah to include ‘Dravidastan’ as part of his proposed Pakistan.
The DMK and its off shoot ADMK began to milk this Tamil movement in Sri Lanka by converting it into political football in TN according to their convenience. The actual aspirations or the genuine grievances of Sri Lankan Tamils became secondary to the political mileage which could be had from their sufferings.
Suddenly, the TN parties began to speak of ‘umbilical’ relationship with Sri Lankan Tamil groups. But during the last few weeks of war in 2009, neither the ruling party of M Karunanidhi nor the Opposition of J Jayalalithaa made any efforts to pressurise the Central Government to provide relief to suffering Sri Lankan Tamils. At that point of time, defeating LTTE became an important calculation to all the ‘umbilical’ relations.
Now the issue has suddenly come back with a bang after a broadcast on Channel 4 of the UK and theGuardian newspaper about atrocities on Tamils in 2009. The resolution in the Assembly however, remains without substance in the absence of large-scale demand for it from Sri Lankan Tamils inside Sri Lanka.
The resolution is also devoid of any substance since it gives unsolicited advice regarding who can vote in such a referendum to be conducted by Sri Lanka. It claims that diaspora Tamils should also be allowed to vote even if they are citizens of different countries. One can see ‘street water pipe fights’ in Chennai and other places practically every morning. Such fights have now been elevated to Assembly situations to score brownie points by the current Government, which does not even bother to think about the possibility of Sri Lankan Parliament passing a resolution on Kashmir Valley in a similar vein. Strategic thinking is not TN leaders’ cup of tea.
It is important for Sri Lankan Tamils to note that in an all-party meeting convened to pass a resolution in Indian Parliament, none of the major parties were in support of such a resolution. Only parties from TN were for it. This reveals that Sri Lankan Tamils — particularly those who are pro-LTTE — do not have much sympathy from the rest of India.
The global situation is becoming grim with Church-related groups since Europe has given up on Church and Latin America, Africa and Asia are the continents to conquer in future. China is developing a friendship with Sri Lanka and it can also include cultural / civilsational roots. India has significant civilisational links with Buddhists from the point of view of doctrine of Karma / re-birth / reincarnation and other teachings. There are more commonalities between them compared to desert religions from Middle East which stand for homogenisation and global dominance. In that context, the attack on a Buddhist scholar in the premises of The Big Temple in Tanjore by some fringe elements is most unfortunate and uncalled for.
There are attempts to construct new stories and discourses trying to create a ‘cultural community’ out of Tamils at large bereft of their Hindu identity. That will bring more misery to the Sri Lankan Tamils since it uproots them from their moorings and tries to have a ‘secular’ Tamil discourse which will ultimately be swallowed by the Church.
There is a global war going on between some believers of Islam and non-believing Europe. In Africa also, Christian and Islamist groups are in conflict. Europe, in addition to facing acute economic and demographic crisis, is fending off attacks from Islamists.
Under such circumstances, it is time for Sri Lankan Tamils to make a decision about the nature of their identity. Malaysian Tamils have gathered under a Hindu umbrella and to that extent their global support and sympathies are much larger. They should realise that political parties in Tamil Nadu are primarily involved in enriching themselves and their families. ‘Eelam’ is ‘Aelam’ (auction) for them. For USA and UK, the crisis is a mere pressure point to get more military or port concessions from Sri Lanka to counter the Chinese influence in that island.
In the emerging global scenario, Sri Lankan Tamils may be better off joining appropriate civilisational processes to get their aspirations fulfilled rather than relying on treacherous Tamil Nadu political shenanigans.