Help Sri Lankan Tamils: An Open Letter to Mr Modi

Dear Mr Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

I am writing this letter concerning Tamil people in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka, which has been the hereditary land of the Tamils for thousands of years, known as Tamil Eelam. Of course, I am writing this from France, as a diaspora Tamil. We, a group of the diaspora sacrifice two thirds of our time to achieve a prosperous future for the fellow Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. Since the late 80s, many others and I have been constantly working to find a path, in which Eelam Tamils can live in peace with dignity. The Tamil language has existed in the world for thousands of years, long before many present day ruling languages and states.

It is well known that you understand Tamil history better than the Sinhala Buddhist leaders. We appreciate that in your last speech in the UN General Assembly, you quoted a favourite Tamil phrase penned by the poet Kaniyan Poongundranar: “Yaathum Uure Yaavarum Kaeleer / யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்’ ” (To us all towns are one, all men our kin). As you are well aware of the background and facts of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, here there is no need for me to mention anything about the origin of the Tamil language, and its history in the island of Sri Lanka.

We Tamils are close to India in many aspects – linguistically, culturally, religiously, socially, etc. When our scholars, poets, philosophers and others speak about our relationship with India, they describe that we Tamils in Sri Lanka have an umbilical cord relationship “தொப்புள் கொடி உறவு”.

In brief, then Taproban or Ceylon was colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. There is ample historical evidence that during the colonial period a Tamil Kingdom was in the island of Sri Lanka. The first colonial master, the Portuguese came to Sri Lanka in 1505, followed by the Dutch in 1658. Both colonial powers maintained the Tamil Kingdom as unique. When the British took over in 1795, they too maintained the Tamil Kingdom separately for thirty-eight (38) years. However, in the name of ‘administrative convenience’, they amalgamated the Tamil Kingdom in 1833 with the other two Sinhala Kingdoms. This was the beginning of our sad stories in the island.

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When the British gave independence in 1948, they handed over the governing power to the numerical majority, the Sinhala Buddhists – SB. They took this opportunity to start discriminating against us in all aspects of life in our hereditary land and in other parts. They started to colonise our regions with SBs – as part of their master plan. As a result, today we Tamils are compelled to live in slavery in our own land.

Being our good neighbour, you all are well aware of the failure of our thirty years of non-violent struggle, which the SBs responded to with extreme violence, eventually paving the way to an armed struggle.

Here I do not have to mention anything in detail about the crucial role played by India. The blood shed by the people of the North and East gave birth to the Indo-Lanka accord in 1987. Manipulations carried out with ulterior motives by Sri Lankan governments, created turmoil between the Tamils in Sri Lanka and India. Without realising the agenda of the SBs, there were mistakes made by both sides.  Eventually, the government of Sri Lanka won everything in their favour.

During the war, they sought the help of India; I mean Indian Congress party on a bogus promise that, as soon as they had ended the war, they would implement not only the 13th Amendment in full, but also the ‘13th plus’. During that time, the then government had a two-thirds majority in parliament. The President had executive powers too.

However, at the end of the war in May 2009, they broke the promises that they had given to India and the international community. Sadly, your predecessor or his political party could not put pressure on Sri Lanka! It is believed that Sri Lanka was blackmailing India about its involvement during the final stage of the war.

Today, we Tamils have nothing in the island – we are losing our people, our land, our culture and our religion to the aggressive SBs. Successive Sri Lankan governments proceed with the four pillars of their master plan – Sinhalaisation, Buddhisation, Colonisation and Militarisation in the North and East.

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Now, eleven years after having ended the war on false promises to India and the international community, they have done nothing to settle the ethnic conflict. All this time, our appeals to the Sri Lankan government have been ignored. To be frank, they are not concerned at all about settling our political grievances. The promises they gave your predecessors and yourself regarding the 13th Amendment have been intentionally ignored.

The Sri Lankan rulers swiftly brush truth and reality under the carpet. They whitewash successive governments and ignore the reasons why since independence in 1948, Tamils engaged in thirty years of non-violent struggle and then a further thirty years of armed struggle.

Presently, the way they convey the reasons for the ethnic conflict of more than seven decades in the island, gives an impression to the outside world that the people in the North and East are simply uneducated, jobless, suffering from poverty and other social problems. 

The truth is that, since independence in 1948, Sinhala dominated governments bought time and space in the name of negotiations. Now they blame the Tamil politicians, saying that since independence they have ‘taken a wrong path’!

The accords (Banda-Chelva and Dudley-Chelva pacts) signed between the Tamil politicians and Sinhala leaders were unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhala leaders. This is very good evidence to prove that Sinhala leaders took Tamil leaders and the people of the North and East for a ride.

The abrogation of pacts and ceasefire agreements, including the Indo-Lanka accord, are tactics of the Sri Lankan governments to achieve their four pillars. Their thinking is that, once the North and East has been successfully colonised with SBs, then the question of a political solution to the Tamils will not be raised by anyone.

They completely ignore the grievances and the history of the Tamils and now they bluntly tell us that, the ‘minority should not do anything that disturbs the majority or causes suspicion’.

We Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka are a ‘Nation’, not a minority as they depict to the outside world. They insist that we should forget the past and work on development. In other words, their agenda is that ‘development’ is the political solution to our long-standing political grievances – our history, our hereditary land, war crimes and all sorts of systematic violations that they have committed against us.

Sir, they are now talking with ulterior motives about neutrality in the region. This is again to buy time and space from India and the international community. However, the ‘gate was closed only after the horse had bolted’.

Whether one likes it or not, China has a permanent base already in Sri Lanka.  In 2017, China took over Hambantota port and 15,000 acres of land on a ninety-nine years lease, with the blessing of the present rulers. Gradually the island of Katchchaithivu in the North will also be given to China. Sri Lankan governments trust more in China and Pakistan than in India. There is historical evidence of this, over a long period. The SBs are annoyed that although Buddha was born in India, Buddhism has no place there. They also strongly believe that Tamil militancy was born and brought-up in India.

It is true that there have been some unfortunate memories among us. Nevertheless, every Tamil in Sri Lanka values the vital role of India regarding our political settlement. They believe that it is the responsibility of India to implement the 13th Amendment in full. The past, present and the future remind us that unity and solidarity among us is important for the betterment of both.

Those who speak about the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi should listen to what was said by Sri Lankan Navy sailor Wijemuni Rohana de Silva who attempted to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi on 30 July 1987. He openly says that he hit Rajiv Gandhi to kill him. The Navy commander who was part of this plot is closely working with the present government. In the recent past, he was attending the UN Human Rights Council – UN HRC in Geneva.

In the meantime, I would like to bring certain matters to your kind notice. These days, ex-Sri Lankan soldiers participate in the sessions of the UN HRC in Geneva. Their task is fully against India.

I do not wish to disclose everything in this letter but in brief – Sri Lankan governments always believe that they can easily manage with Indian negotiators and mediators. However, people like Mr G Parthasarathy and a few others wanted India to guarantee the safety, security, economic and social well-being of the Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces.  For this reason, Sri Lanka prevented them taking part in negotiations.

Sir, time is running out. We urge you and the government of India to take immediate initiatives to implement the 13th amendment that was agreed and accepted by India to meet the aspirations of the Tamils in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka. These are matters of concern for the people of India as well.

This is the only way to prevent the modern day Tamil slavery in the island of Sri Lanka.

Sir, the Indo-Lanka accord is an international agreement. It gave birth to the 13th amendment, which is still not fully implemented by Sri Lanka. Therefore, we strongly believe that, it is the responsibility of India to demand Sri Lanka to implement it without further delay.

In the recent past, I have written many articles in English and Tamil concerning India and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

S. V. KIRUPAharan

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