Opinion Article

13th Amendment: arousing a zombie

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 November 2008, 01:39 GMT]
The Indian government may be bereft of all guts to do anything in Sri Lanka. But at least it can render a great service by not talking about the 13th amendment as a basis to resolve the crisis. What is more dangerous than India abetting a war against Eezham Tamils by providing arms, armed personnel and intelligence to Colombo is the political sabotage of thrusting the rotten 13th amendment upon the struggling people to muffle their voice. India should rather acknowledge the decades-old Tamil voice for self-determination as a nation, to base exploration of fresh models, writes Opinion Columnist Chivanadi.

The fact that India, especially its Congress government was instrumental to the enactment of the 13th Amendment in the constitution of Sri Lanka doesn’t mean that India should adamantly stick to it even after seeing its failure for two decades. Individuals may care for false prestige, but not a great nation like India.

The provincial council solution facilitated by the 13th amendment in 1987, failed at the outset primarily due to its incompatibility in concept and structure to match the acuteness of the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka, than due to the opposition to it by the LTTE.

This should have become clear without any iota of doubt to India at that time itself as the Indian sponsored Chief Minister Varatharaja Perumal himself became so frustrated of the working of the solution despite the presence of the IPKF, that he decided to declare an independent Tamil country on the day he quitted. He must have received tacit assent from India to take that step, but well, there was a Janata government in power in Delhi at that time which was able to see the realities.

A fundamental, conceptual conspiracy in the 13th amendment was that it provided devolution for eight provincial councils when the question was between two ethnicities. Thus the amendment was designed to nullify the importance of regional identity by equating those who wanted it and those who never asked for it. A reputed Sinhala scholar recently pointed out at a workshop in Oslo how the model failed to arouse enthusiasm in the Sinhala provinces.

The 13th amendment was far too short in addressing the basic requirements of Tamils: recognition of their ethnic identity as a nation of self-determination which was essential for their emotional security in the context of the inherent nature of Sinhala nationalism in Sri Lanka, physical security in the context of ethnically charged and inflated armed forces of the state, integrity of land in the background of state sponsored encroachments which started even before independence and structural provisions to implement development in all sectors in the way and extent they wish without hindrance.

The advocates of the 13th amendment argue that all basic Tamil aspirations could be found in it in an implied sense. But it was a folly or perhaps a deliberate sabotage that India and Sri Lanka thought of stuffing and stressing a unitary constitution with a phenomenon that needs at least a confederation-constitution to handle.

Eezham Tamils have to be ever thankful to Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Chief Justice Mr. Sarath Silva, for aptly demonstrating to India the void of 13th Amendment by a court ruling dividing the Northern and Eastern Provinces united by the 13th Amendment.

It would have convinced even a child how so simple it is to deny the Tamils their geographical integrity. But however explicit the Sri Lankan President and Chief Justice were, they failed to convince the Indian government and some sections in Tamil Nadu for they still harp on the 13th Amendment.

When a political effort fails it is statesmanship to find improved remedies. But, what happened in the case of Eezham Tamils was the leadership in India and Sri Lanka decided on a retrogressive tactic to penalize the already suffering people by going back to zero.

Mahinda was talking of Panchayat system (local government) solution, started an aggressive war abetted by India and the West, divided North and East, truncated the 13th amendment, terrorized the Tamil population and effectively used the JVP and JHU to resist to any meaningful solution.

As the saying goes in Tamil, it was a tactic of making people say ‘let there be no alms but hold the dog’ (Pichchai vea’ndaam, naayaip pidi), so that they would agree to anything the Establishment concedes. This is a typical bureaucratic approach for we don’t have statesmen anymore in our region. They are all executives and bureaucrats of a larger system. If that says ‘terrorism’ all of them will endorse it blindfold.

It is time that the Tamils of Eezham and Tamil Nadu should tell India and the International community clearly and loudly what they have in their mind and what they want, without mincing words. It is not a matter confined only to the LTTE. Even those Tamil groups now in the Mahinda camp will need the security of an irrefutable constitutional platform for all their dealings. Otherwise they will be liquidated once their services are not required.

Other than the intertwining of Eezham Tamil nationalism with the LTTE, implicated in Rajiv assassination, and an opinion that Congress and its officials are biased due to their earlier failure in SriLanka arising from Tamil resisstance, there are many other facts or myths circulate about India’s attitude and fears towards Eezham Tamil self-determination:

'Eezham may create inspirations in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India. Therefore, what the maximum the Eezham Tamils can get should be less than what the Indian states have.'

'Sri Lanka may seek the help of ‘others’ who will threaten Indian security.'

'Turmoil and security threat possible due to a backlash of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka in the event of recognizing Tamil rights.'

Often many western diplomats have hinted that it is India that is an obstacle for Eezham Tamils getting anything politically substantial.

There is a view that as events in Sri Lanka move in a way not acceptable to them, India and her strategic partners will allow only further chaos and will think of only incomplete solutions in order to facilitate space for their interests. The attitude is ‘if you don’t listen to us, go to hell; let’s grab what’s possible’.

Some political analysts also have cited a line of thinking that the easiest way for India is to allow the elimination of top LTTE leaders so that the crisis would die and no need to care what happens to the Tamils, as they can’t blackmail like the Sinhalese.

Well, now there is a situation that if India doesn’t see to it that Eezham Tamils get their autonomy or independence, she may face worse security threats.

The people’s awakening in Tamil Nadu is a serious matter. It is difficult to predict the form it may take. Besides, the behaviour of India in respect to Eezham Tamils will seriously erode the credibility of Indian establishment with its ethnicities, minorities and subalterns. They will not look at it as a lesson. Rather they will look at it as a challenge. While the Sinhalese continue with their blackmailing, the Eezham Tamils also will try to seek other avenues. Military defeat of the LTTE is not the end of the Tamil struggle.

Not that the Indian leaders don’t know that it was actually the Sinhalese polity and the average Sinhalese mentality that didn’t cooperate from the very beginning with India’s geopolitical and security concerns. Had there been an understanding and regional perception, they wouldn’t have contributed to the ethnic crisis attracting all hawks to poke their noses. Rather the Sinhalese leadership chose to exploit the Indian concerns for blackmailing India and to achieve their chauvinistic goals in Sri Lanka, which has now reached the stage of systematic genocide.

The exclusive Sinhalese polity will not stop until the Tamil identity is completely subordinated and Sinhalicised. The perception it has given to its people is that this is settling scores with a two and a half millennia old enemy. There is no immediate likelihood that the Sinhalese perception will change for pluralistic accommodation.

A concrete structural arrangement not less than a confederation, if not a separate country, can only prevent catastrophe in the island. That too will need international supervision and separation of the warring parties for some time, considering the deep divide the prolonged war has created. In extreme situations facilitation of demographic movement also may be needed.

If India can take a bold stand on this it won’t be difficult to convince its ‘strategic partners’. A noble mission will only enhance India’s prestige inside and outside and no more blackmailing.

Whether the present government at Delhi may able to carryout such a venture or not, at least it should not seal the fate of Eezham Tamils by instigating the zombie of 13th Amendment.

What Dr. Manmohan Singh should perform in Sri Lanka is a surgery, not abetting genocide.


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