Thursday, February 12, 2009

BJP to Raise Telangana Issue In Parliament

Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Prakash Javadekar and Pushpdan Gadhavi have bagged time to push for the creation of Telangana -- in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha respectively -- during the fortnight-long Parliament session beginning on Thursday.

Javadekar is a Member of Parliament from Maharashtra and Gadhavi from Gujarat.

Javadekar, whose resolution is listed for February 20, told reporters that he was only pursuing his party's line to fight for Telangana. It will also figure in the BJP's manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls, he affirmed.

When media persons pointed out that the BJP had not made any efforts to create Telangana during the five-year tenure of the National Democratic Alliance, Javadekar quipped that the 1999 party manifesto had promised the creation of three states, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, and the party had kept its promise.

Looks like BJP is the only party that is serious on getting a separate state of Telangana.


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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Srilankan Army Shooting Spree

Continuing my posts on Srilankan Tamil Issues, this is another interesting Article in Yahoo where it mentioned about the hardships of the Srilankan Tamils who are stuck up between a marauding Srilankan Army which is seeking to finish off the LTTE even though there is a huge collateral damage and the LTTE which is using poor Tamils as human shields.

The Sinhalese militants have gone to such an extent that they are assassinating anyone who is talking against the war or the atrocities of the Srilankan Army. They recently assassinated a very noted Newspaper person in Colombo.

The Srilankan Army is shelling even the Hospitals where hapless Tamil victims of war are getting treated located in the designated "safe areas". The Army is throwing every book on human rights into the dustbin with India looking the other side.

A mother and father lay on the floor, their two young children cradled between them. Floral pillows and other bedding were strewn about: They were apparently sleeping when an artillery shell hit their makeshift shelter in northern Sri Lanka, instantly killing them all.

This photo, taken Jan. 23, along with other pictures and video footage taken last week were given to The Associated Press by independent observers. They offer a rare glimpse of the growing toll the civil war has taken on the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the all-but-sealed conflict zone.

The images show that despite repeated government denials, civilians are being killed and maimed in the fighting.

Some of the victims were attacked inside a government-declared "safe zone" in rebel-held territory and the wounded were brought to the nearby Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital, which itself has come under attack.

The hospital, overflowing with wounded civilians, was shelled Monday for the fourth time in two days, killing two patients, said Kandasamy Tharmakulasingham, a government health official. A total of 11 people have been killed since the first attack on the hospital Sunday afternoon, he said.

One of the last working medical institutions in the region, the hospital lies outside the "safe zone" the government established Jan. 21 inside rebel territory as a refuge for civilians. The government pledged not to attack the safe area during its offensive against the rebels, but it has come under repeated artillery attack, according to local health officials and human rights groups.

Government troops have brought the Tamil Tiger rebels to the brink of defeat in recent months, forcing them out of much of the de facto state they once controlled in the north, capturing their administrative capital and shattering their dream of establishing a separate homeland for minority Tamils. The offensive has also raised growing concerns about the fate of civilians in the war zone.

Journalists and most aid groups have been barred from the area of the fighting, but independent observers shot video footage and photographs over the past week and provided them to The Associated Press. The observers provided the images on condition they not be identified because they feared government reprisal.

The photograph of the slain family was taken in the early morning of Jan. 23 in the village of Udayarkattu inside the "safe zone," according to the observer who took the picture. It showed the bloodied bodies of a woman, two young children and a man lying among brightly colored floral pillows, a green mat, striped sheets and other bedding. A bicycle, stacked blankets and other household items could be seen in the background.

An artillery shell struck between two makeshift shelters where people displaced by the fighting were staying and the family of four was killed instantly, the observer said. A second photo showed the body of a woman wearing a red-and-white checked dress lying face down under debris in another shelter nearby.

The video footage, taken last week, showed Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital packed with dozens of severely wounded people, including many young children. Many of the wounded were lying on mats underneath beds because of overcrowding.

The footage showed young boys and girls with amputated legs and arms, and an elderly woman missing her right leg writhing on a mat on the floor. A toddler, his head bandaged and left eye swollen closed, lay nearby, his gauze-covered hands useless as flies buzzed around his face.

"We were caught in shelling after I unloaded our goods. Both my sisters were killed," a teenage boy with no arms sobbed in despair in the footage.

Nearby, a middle-aged man lay on a bed with one leg amputated above the knee and the other amputated below it. "I was sleeping with my family when the shells fell," he said, gesturing helplessly. "My wife and two children, aged 7 and 10, were blown to pieces and I screamed."

Another man, his right arm missing below the elbow and his left hand bandage, recalled: "I got caught in a shell attack near my house. That's all I remember. When I woke up, my hand was cut off."

The footage showed young children, including a baby who appeared to be less than 1-year-old with both legs heavily bandaged.

Asked about the video and photographs, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara asserted: "No civilians have been killed."

"There may be civilians injured, but not due to shelling. They may be injured because they have been employed on the construction of (rebel) defenses. Civilians maybe have been injured due to crossfire," he said.

Dr. Thurairajah Varatharajah, the top health official in the war zone, estimated last week that more than 300 civilians had been killed in the recent fighting, something the government has denied. Varatharajah has not updated his estimate.

The government has accused the rebels, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, of holding the civilians against their will as human shields, a charge the rebels deny.

A government spokesman insisted the civilians move en masse to the "safe zone" immediately. "The government cannot be responsible for the safety and security of civilians still living among LTTE terrorists," said spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle.

He did not say how the civilians could move if they were being held against their will.

The United Nations said the government could not absolve itself of responsibility for the safety of the civilian population. "You can't cherry pick from the laws of war. The warring parties remain responsible for civilians at all times," U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Monday the military was on the verge of ending Asia's longest-running civil war.

"The strongholds of terror once believed to be invincible ... have fallen in rapid succession, bringing the final elimination of terror from our motherland and the dawn of true freedom to all our people well within our reach," he said in a message to mark Independence Day, which falls on Wednesday.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils after decades of marginalization by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the civil war.

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Why New Delhi fiddles when Lanka burns

This is a very interesting post I read at Rediff written by Shri M.R. Venkatesh. Here is the original post Why New Delhi fiddles when Lanka burns.

When I was in high school, the then Tamil Nadu government used to shut educational institutions for a few days as a mark of protest against the genocide in Sri Lanka. Closing down schools and colleges was supposed to be our 'strategy' of dealing with the Lankan government; our version of 'shock and awe'.

This practice continued even when I was in college. Decades later now my children are in school and as I write this piece, I understand, that the state government is contemplating closure of educational institutions on the Lankan issue. After all, habits die hard.

In the interregnum the state has been witness to several bandhs, strikes and hartals. In fact, at the last count, there has been more bandhs in Tamil Nadu for the Sri Lankan Tamils rather than for the Tamils in TN!

Needless to emphasise, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue has more or less occupied the electoral centrestage since the early eighties when the ethnic crisis erupted in that country. So has it been a part of mainstream Tamil cinema since then. Naturally it has come to occupy the collective psyche of the people of the state.

It may be noted TN is a state where political parties have grounded their appeal on the basis of regional, racial, ethnic, language and of course a separate identity. In fact, certain political parties had taken things so far as to appeal for cessation from India. But that was in the fifties.

It took the sagacious leadership of late Annadurai in the early sixties for the then unified Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to give up this call. In fact, after the Chinese aggression in the early sixties, the DMK gave up this call and pledged to work for the unity and integrity of India. This remarkable political aboutturn ensured that the DMK (and the breakaway groups) emerged as a potent political force in Tamil Nadu for the next five decades.

Nevertheless, even to this date certain radical groups in TN dream on and are reportedly working for a separate country for Tamils. And for this group a separate Eelam for Tamils in Sri Lanka is the first step in achieving a separate country for Tamils, which would include parts of Tamil Nadu and possibly other countries too!

Therefore, even to this date, for some the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka was meant to be an acid test to these political parties on proving their allegiance to the "cause of Tamils" -- never mind what it actually meant. After all, as someone brilliantly put it, if it is jo bole so nihal in Punjab, it is jo hyperbole so nihal in Tamil Nadu.

The root of the civil war:

The Sri Lankan constitution (unlike the Indian constitution which guarantees equality to all its citizens) positively discriminates against the minority Tamil population of the island country. This is at the heart of the decades-old ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Disagreements between the two dominant communities -- the Sinhalese and Tamils -- can be traced to the then PM Bandaranaike's declaration of the "Sinhala Only Act". This language policy is at the root of the present-day conflict and dates back to the independence of Sri Lanka in 1948. Confrontational policies adopted by both sides since then have actually pushed the country to a precipice.

This diffused situation was ripe for several armed groups to emerge and fight for their rights. One of the groups to emerge was the deadly Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. By the mid-eighties this group had virtually eliminated other major Tamil groups and emerged as the sole representative of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

This is where the plot goes awry. As a consequence of this development, many representatives of the Tamil groups ended up working with the Sri Lankan government or simply denounced violence and joined mainstream politics. Either way most of them remain opposed to LTTE's vision of an independent state.

Nevertheless, the LTTE was seen as a saviour of the Tamil race at least by some in TN. So did some in the Tamil film industry, which over the years has developed a cosy relationship with the LTTE, just as Bollywood has done with the Mumbai underworld. Crucially, that blurred the distinction between the LTTE and Sri Lankan Tamils.

Using nationalistic sentiment and pandering to Sinhalese demands, successive Sri Lankan governments have been directly and indirectly party to pogroms on Tamils. Caught between a marauding Sri Lankan army on one hand and a merciless LTTE on the other, it was a losing battle for Sri Lankan Tamils right through.

As a tragic consequence of all these, several innocent Tamils were killed there and many more fled the Sinhalese-majority areas, some into neighbouring India. This in short, is the sad, pathetic story of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

W(h)ither Rajiv's vision?

This was in 1987. This continuous flow of refugees from Sri Lanka pitchforked the Indian government into the conflict. It was the visionary leadership of Rajiv Gandhi who saw the emergence of India as a regional power and thereby sought to play a proactive, positive and decisive role in putting an end to this vexatious issue. The airdropping of food and medicine in June 1987 was a case in point -- India flexed its regional muscle.

This in turn led ultimately to the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord in July 1987 between Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President Jayewardene. Under this accord, the Lankan government made a number of concessions subject to certain conditions to Tamil demands, including devolution of power to the provinces, a merger of Northern and Eastern provinces and official status for the Tamil language.

India in turn agreed to play a guarantor's role by establishing order in the North and East through a peacekeeping force (IPKF). Militant groups including the LTTE, agreed initially to surrender. Later on the LTTE reneged on its commitment as its realized that the IPKF was in effect a deterrent to its plan of an independent Eelam.

While Sri Lanka brilliantly used the IPKF to settle other internal uprisings within, the IPKF would in the next two years became an unwanted force for the LTTE, Sri Lankan government and of course the Sinhalese majority. But it may be rather captivating for the reader to note that the IPKF was equally the villain of the piece in India -- for some political parties in India as well as our human rights groups.

And in the process, the IPKF, in the absence of role clarity as well as political direction suffered heavy causalities. In the withdrawal of IPKF, the vision of Rajiv of India playing the role of a regional power withered. Crucially, when the IPKF withdrew, the Sri Lankan Tamils lost.

Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed

It may be recalled that the DMK (which consistently had a soft corner for the LTTE), which was an integral part of the V P Singh-led National Front government, engineered the withdrawal of the IPKF in 1990. Subsequently, the LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 fearing that if he was re-elected he would send the IPKF back to Lanka.

Since then, the Congress party held the DMK guilty of having a hand in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, by 1997, the Congress toppled the I K Gujral-led United Front government precisely on the point that the interim report of the Jain Commission that was probing into the conspiracy angle indicted the DMK.

Mysteriously, the final report was silent on the involvement of the DMK in Rajiv's assassination. Why did the commission indict the DMK in its interim report and keep silent in the final report is one of the most intriguing aspects of Indian politics.

But more was to follow. In the next six years, that is by 2003, both the Congress and DMK forgot all this and came together to fight the elections and form the UPA government. Further, in an ironical twist, the DMK depends heavily on Congress for support to sustain its government at the state.

Either way, it is amusing to note that both the Congress and DMK traveling together on the same LTTE boat for over five years. Much as it was political expediency that brought these two parties together, convergence this long on this vexatious issue has raised the eyebrows of many political pundits in Tamil Nadu.

One is indeed flummoxed to note that the DMK that repeatedly used to swear to protect Sri Lankan Tamils has been remarkably silent on the liquidation of the LTTE as well as the attendant genocide in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the empty threat of the DMK to pull out of the UPA government has been the butt of much ridicule in TN.

The Congress knows that most of the other Dravidian parties in the UPA are hot air. Perhaps the Congress, notably the wily old fox of Indian politics Pranab Mukherjee , is fully aware of their addiction to power. Like the LTTE, these parties are least bothered about Tamils in Lanka (or India), except of course the hyperbole.

That explains why local politicians who thundered repeatedly to give their life for the LTTE and Tamil cause have not been able to give up even their government post and the perks associated with it. No wonder, cadres will commit suicide, and leaders will continue to deliver elegy in chaste Tamil.

No wonder Sri Lanka burns, Delhi deliberately fiddles. That is the power of the unspoken words of the final report of the Jain Commission.

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