In an interview with a Sri Lankan newspaper, the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo,
Mr Narendra Nath Jha, has urged the Sri Lankan people to look at federalism as a solution
to the crisis in Sri Lanka.
And, not unnaturally, the Tamil Times gave the interview pride of place in its February
issue. Mr.Jha said:
"The word federal should not scare people away. Indians feel that
federalism is not enough for India. They want it to be a looser federalism. One of the
ways of resolving this conflict is by having a fresh and close look at the various federal
Mr.Jha is a senior diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, even senior to the present
Indian Foreign Secretary Mr.M.Dixit and presumably Mr.Jha should know what he is talking
But if that which Mr.Jha now proclaims are truly his Governments views, why did
not New Delhi match these proclaimed views with its deeds and secure a federal
constitution in the 1987 Accord? Why did it instead foist on the Tamil people the
miserable 13th Amendment and an executive Governor appointed by a Sinhala President? Why
did it foist on the Tamil people an Executive Governor who held office at the pleasure of
the Sinhala President and who also controlled the financial resources of the Provincial
Council? We may well ask Mr.Jha: Is that what you call federalism? Please do
tell us. We are a reasonable people and we will listen to reason.
Mr.Jha knows, ofcourse, that the real question is whether India recognises that the
Tamil people have the right to self determination. The real question is whether India
recognises that the armed struggle of the Tamil people arose in response to a systematic
and continuing oppression by a permanent Sinhala majority. The real question is whether
India recognises that that armed struggle is therefore both just and lawful.
And, here we are not unmindful that the Indo Sri
Lanka Accord which was signed by the late Mr.Rajiv Gandhi, recognised the Tamil
militant movement as combatants in an armed conflict and in this way, India
has already recognised the legitimacy of the armed struggle.
Will Mr.Jha bow to reason and agree that today, the two parties to that armed conflict
are the LTTE and Sri Lanka and that the only way forward is for the two parties to the
conflict to talk to each other?
But , whilst the recent Canadian Human Rights Mission calls for talks between the LTTE
and Sri Lanka, and the British High Com-missioner in Colombo suggests the same, the
Government which Mr.Jha represents prefers to act as if the LTTE does not exist. What is
worse, far from recognising the LTTE as the only force which has consistently and
steadfastly struggled for the Tamil Eelam cause, New Delhi seeks to annihilate it. At the
same time it seeks to nurture an alternative leadership which will do its
New Delhi failed with Mr. Appapillai Amirthalingam who was resoundingly rejected by the
Tamil people at the Provincial Council polls in December 1988 - a poll which was held
under the immediate supervision of the Indian Army. New Delhi failed again
with Mr.Varadarajah Perumal even though it sought to prop him up with the direct
intervention of the Indian Army - an army which had come to Sri Lanka on a so called
peace keeping mission.
But, as the recent visit of the TULF to Delhi shows, the Government which Mr.Jha
represents continues to persevere in its search for Tamil quislings. It seems that
Mr.Dixit seeks to achieve as Foreign Secretary that which he had failed to achieve as the
Viceregal High Commissioner in Colombo in 1987.
Mr. Jha will agree, will he not, that the bottom line is in the annexures to the 1987
Indo Sri Lanka Accord? The bottom line is his Governments concern to secure Indian
hegemony in the region and secure that broadcasting facilities and naval facilities in Sri
Lanka are not given to countries outside the region? That is why Mr. Jha and New Delhi
(and Mr.Gamini Dissanyake) seek to keep the 1987 Accord alive and continue to peddle the
line that the conflict can be settled within its frame.
Given all this, please forgive us, Mr.Jha, if we take the view that New Delhis
current talk of federalism is simply an attempt to keep its oar in
the conflict in the face of possible initiatives being taken towards associative
structures in certain Western countries.
Mr.Jha knows well enough, that the Sri Lanka constitution is an unitary constitution.
He knows that the unitary provisions of the Sri Lanka constitution are entrenched. He
knows that the Sri Lanka unitary constitution cannot be changed to a federal constitution
without holding an island wide referendum - and that the Indo Sri Lanka Accord makes no
provision for that. In any case, Mr.Jha also knows that given the belligerent Sinhala
chauvinism which is deep rooted in the Sinhala body politic , a referendum has always been
a non starter. What then is this federalism that Mr.Jha is talking about - and
how is to be achieved?
New Delhis track record shows that it regards the Eelam Tamils as an
expendable commodity - expendable in the altar of its own self interest. The simple
political reality is that New Delhi gave limited support to the Tamil militant movement
before 1987 with the principal intent of destabilising Colombo and making Colombo move
towards New Delhi. The Annexures to the 1987 Accord are proof enough of that intent.
But all the time that New Delhi gave this limited support, it knew that
young Tamils were giving their lives for Tamil Eelam. It knew that these young Tamils
would not and did not give their lives merely to further New Delhis geo po-litical
interests and so, it led these young Tamils to believe that their liberation struggle had
New Delhis support - and that a Bangaladesh was around the corner.
Herein lay the hypocrisy and the dishonesty of New Delhis policy and actions.
New Delhis hands are stained with the blood of thousands of young Tamils who
died for Tamil Eelam. Having secured its hegemony through the Annexures to the Accord, New
Delhi then turned on the LTTE as it was the only Tamil militant movement which stood
dedicated to the memory and the aspirations of the thousands who had given their lives in
the Tamil Eelam national liberation struggle.
It is said that the wise learn by the experience of others but that fools fail to learn
even by their own experience. Please do not take the Tamil people for fools, Mr.Jha. We as
a people have suffered much. We are Tamils. We know that as Tamils, we are also Indians.
But, please, Mr.Jha, please do not give us bull.