The Opposition, joined by the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (both part of the United Progressive Alliance), on Friday demanded in Parliament that the government ensure the speedy resettlement and political mainstreaming of Sri Lankan Tamils and called for a proactive policy to end their plight at the earliest.
Punctuating her interventions with a smattering of Tamil, deputy leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who moved the Calling Attention Motion, said the refugee camps were in effect “barbed wire prisons.”
Earlier, seeking clarifications in the Rajya Sabha on External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna’s suo motu statement, D. Raja (DMK) accused the government of painting a “rosy picture” of the camps. He said they were “nothing but concentration camps like in the Hitler regime. They are open air jails.”
Not just for Tamils
Ms. Swaraj urged the government to facilitate an all-party visit to Sri Lanka. The issue of Tamils in the island nation was a cause of concern for not just Tamil Nadu as was made out by the composition of the delegation of Tamil MPs that visited the country in October, she said.
This was echoed by A. Ganeshmurthi (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).P. R. Natarajan of the CPI(M) insisted that the delegation was not allowed access to the places they wanted to go.
Thol Thirumavalavan (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi) said the government should find out the fate of 11,000 Sri Lankan Tamils, who were kept in a separate camp and being subjected to severe interrogation.
Critical of the government’s statement for sounding sympathetic towards the Sri Lankan government, T. K. S. Elangovan (DMK) was apprehensive of the ruling dispensation in the island using Indian financial aid to attack Tamils.
While N.S.V. Chitthan (Congress) stressed the need for members to be careful of what they say about Sri Lanka as it could have an adverse affect on the Tamils there, he wanted to know the fate of those refugees who managed to return home. O.S. Manian (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) wanted to know what the government had to say about the Sri Lankan observation that the military victory was possible because of India’s military assistance.
Mr. Raja said the hot pursuit and firing by Sri Lankan forces around the middle of this year was genocide. Even some parties in the government had called it as such. With the government providing assistance to the Sri Lankan armed forces on the one hand and supporting the resettlement of the displaced on the other, it appeared it had no policy on the issue.
While the European Union had refused financial aid to Sri Lanka due to human rights violations, India had said it was there to assist it. Mr. Raja demanded the government abandon its “helplessness on the fishermen issue and play a pro-active role. On the “disappearance” of Tamil youth, he wanted the government to question Colombo in this regard. “Is it their fault that they are born as Tamilians?”
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) disagreed with the government’s assertion that some Tamils living in camps were rehabilitated. He said they might have been moved out of the camps but not rehabilitated. T.K. Rangarajan (CPI-M) said the coastal guards of both countries should help fishermen and not chase them.
E.M.S. Natchiappan (Congress) complimented the government for handling the Sri Lankan issue. He said there should be a joint committee of India and Sri Lanka to solve the problems of fishermen in both countries.
M. Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) was also “thoroughly disappointed with the government response to the plight of Tamils and, declared that his party was committed to the sovereignty of the neighbouring country and had no sympathy for the LTTE. “If anybody thinks that the LTTE is gone and the problem is solved they are sadly mistaken. One can win a war, but lose peace,” he said.