Indian Tamils view Sri Lanka with concern, but also apathy

April 24th, 2009 - 2:26 pm ICT by IANS  

By TSV Hari and Maitreyee Boruah
Chennai/Bangalore, April 24 (IANS) From indifference to concern - the attitude of Indian Tamils to the plight of their ethnic brethren caught in the fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels in the island nation varies widely.

“We are emotional about it but frankly the fighting is happening far away,” said S.K. Muruga Das, a youth who played cricket while the Tamil Nadu capital Chennai Thursday observed a shutdown called by the ruling DMK to demand a truce in Sri Lanka.

“While I sympathise with our Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka, I also find the shutdown a welcome break from the daily grind of preparing my children for school, cooking, ensuring everything is ready for husband’s departure to his office and leaving for work myself,” V.K. Brihadambal, a 29-year-old resident of Tyagaraya Nagar in the heart of Chennai’s business district, told IANS.

An NRI doctor visiting Chennai found the apathy confusing.

“While Tamils in the US and Canada were seen demonstrating noisily against the Sri Lankan government’s military attacks that resulted in killings of thousands of Tamils in Mullaitivu, the general apathy here is surprisingly confusing,” said T.P. Ramakrishnan, a general practitioner from Pennsylvania.

“The fact remains that Tamils are getting hurt and ending up dead by Lanka’s military action. We Indians have done precious little to alleviate the suffering. What is seen here is a false show of political sympathy and the people are simply not bothered,” Ramakrishnan added.

But there was outrage too.

“It’s sad that a large number of Tamils are being killed in Sri Lanka. Peace should immediately be restored in Sri Lanka to save Tamil lives,” said M. Arjuna, who works as a telephone operator in a hotel in Bangalore, capital of the adjoining state Karnataka and a city with a huge Tamil population.

Arul Selva, originally from Tamil Nadu and founder editor of Slum Jagatthu (Slum World), a periodical focussing on issues related to the urban poor, said it was a matter of great concern that Tamils were being “butchered in Sri Lanka without any reason”.

“The Sri Lankan army comprises Sinhalese only. Had Tamils been a part of the Sri Lankan army, then we could have said that the Sri Lankan government is fighting against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). But this is a pure case of fighting between two ethnic groups,” said Selva.

Meenakshi Sundaram, president of Bangalore Tamil Sangam - a prominent association of Tamils in Karnataka - termed what was happening in Sri Lanka “pure genocide”.

“In the name of wiping out the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government is doing ethnic cleansing and killing innocent Tamil civilians.”

Sundaram asserted that Tamils across Karnataka and the world were not bothered about the LTTE or its chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, it was the safety of the common Tamils in the island nation that mattered.

“Welfare of Tamils in Sri Lanka and LTTE are two separate issues. Killing of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka is against the Geneva Convention of which the Sri Lankan government is a signatory. We’re asking for the safety of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the end of war could only bring peace in the country,” said Sundaram.

Members of the Tamil Sangam want the Indian government to pressure Sri Lanka to end violence in the country.

“The Indian government should ask Sri Lanka to end the war and help in safe passage of Tamils in Sri Lanka to a secure place,” said P. Damodaram, secretary of the Sangam.

The conflict in Sri Lanka has escalated into a grave humanitarian crisis with an exodus of Tamil civilians from the war zone even as the Sri Lankan government claimed that the Tamil Tiger rebels were about to be crushed after 25 years of civil war.

According to the Sri Lankan government, over 104,000 civilians have escaped the conflict since Monday but an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 civilians are still trapped in the coastal strip, measuring just 12 sq km, controlled by the LTTE.

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