Swelling student agitations: Why Sri Lanka cannot ignore TN

Last year, Sri Lankan Ambassador to India Prasad Kariyawasam had ridiculed politicians in Tamil Nadu for their anti-Sri Lanka stance and said that they were being paid by the LTTE.
Kariyawasam’s dismissiveness reflected his government’s position that it was hardly bothered about Tamil Nadu since its bilateral ties were with India, the country, and not with a state. With Delhi on its side, Sri Lanka thought Tamil Nadu was of no consequence.
Not surprisingly, an Indian newspaper known to be close to the Sri Lankan establishment echoed the island nation’s sentiments when it said that Tamil Nadu should be kept out of India’s foreign policy on Sri Lanka. Meaning, India should take decisions that are good for its geopolitical interest as a whole.
Unfortunately, both the Sri Lankan establishment and its proxies today should feel terribly sorry for under-estimating the sentiments of Tamil Nadu. It’s certain that whatever stand India chooses to take at the UNHRC, will be largely decided by the public and political opinion in Tamil Nadu. Going by what the union finance minister P Chidambaram has reportedly promised his party workers in the state, it’s not going to be good news for Sri Lanka.
Unlike in the past, the alleged war crimes and killing of tens of thousands of Tamil citizens by the Sri Lankan military in the final phase of the war is now a huge emotional issue in the state. And it is not without basis. There is an incredible mountain of evidence in international media that directly holds Sri Lanka accountable for various war crimes.
Not only the international media, but also the UN, various human rights organisations – including groups from the island itself – and the international community are quite firm in their resolve that the war crimes have to be accounted for. The country was given adequate time to at least begin the reparations, but it obviously wasn’t serious at all. Instead of any credible action, it continued to ridicule and target its critics. Reportedly, the human rights violations (abductions, torture, disappearances etc) that Sri Lanka was notorious for, are still continuing.
It’s not just the US or the rights groups that want action against Sri Lanka. Even the OHCHR wants an international investigation against alleged war crimes and rights violations.
And the movement in Tamil Nadu is swelling by the day.
If it had been confined to a few groups led by leaders such as Vaiko, Nedumaran, Thirumavalavan and Seeman in the past, now even the mainstream political parties want stern action. The most significant development, however, is the swelling agitation by students.
What started as hunger strikes and street protests by a few colleges in Chennai is now spreading to other parts of the state such as Kancheepuram, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli. On Sunday, students of Chennai IIT also joined the movement. Perhaps no other part of the country has seen such a genuine students’ movement over a political issue in the recent past. Although the colleges are kept closed to keep things under control, it hasn’t deterred students from coming on to the streets.
A very interesting aspect of the students’ agitation in the state is the overwhelming involvement of students of professional courses, mainly engineering. Traditionally, they are the last to join any public agitation, but this time, they seem to be dominating the movement. For instance, students of Chennai IIT oragnised a protest event on Sunday and also observed a fast. Today, students of Anna University, the top-ranking state-run technical university, are sitting on a fast. About 500 students from an engineering college are also on a hunger protest in suburban Ramavaram.
What Kariyawasam and his government should realise is that in Federal India, ultimately it’s the aspirations of people that will prevail. With all its failings, India, unlike Sri Lanka, is a real democracy and the autonomy of its states is real. Sri Lanka can ignore Tamil Nadu, but India cannot. It’s the states that make India and not the other way round.
The same failure to understand this sense of cultural and political autonomy that makes India sparkle as a democracy is what led to the killings of several thousand people in Sri Lanka over the years. It should realise its folly and atone at least now.
Source: http://www.firstpost.com/world/swelling-student-agitations-why-sri-lanka-cannot-ignore-tn-665436.html


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