Tamil 'Eelam' is for Tamil Nadu politicians what the full moon is for hungry wolves. All their howling is indicative, not of any yearning for a distant, dreamy Eelam, but of the baser urges of the politics of the here-and-now. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who heads the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a prominent constituent of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, gave a call last week for the creation of a separate nation for Tamils in Sri Lanka, on the lines of Montenegro, South Sudan, East Timor and Kosovo. Far from forcing the Sri Lankan government into reaching a settlement on devolution of powers to the minority Tamils, Mr. Karunanidhi appears to have further aided the politicisation of this sensitive issue in Tamil Nadu. Political parties in the State have quite rightly looked up to the United Nations as the instrument to ensure the political and economic rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. In no small measure, pressure from the parties in the State contributed to the shaping of India's stand on the recent resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. But to suggest that the U.N. conduct a referendum for the division of Sri Lanka on ethnic lines can only have the effect of prompting the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to resist all international efforts to speed up the peace and reconciliation process. Unreasonable demands and suggestions articulated on their behalf will achieve little other than worsening an already bad situation for the Sri Lankan Tamils.
In any case, Kosovo or Montenegro, South Sudan or East Timor is not comparable to Sri Lanka. But then Mr. Karunanidhi was only looking for instances of new nations formed on the basis of referendums or external intervention, and not seeking to make a cogent case for the resolution of Tamil grievances in Sri Lanka. In 2000, the model of political division he cited was that of Czechoslovakia, which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Mr. Karunanidhi's words, this was “separation without bloodshed”, a peaceful resolution of a conflict in a country with sharp divisions. However, instead of making loud noise to no purpose in Tamil Nadu, the DMK leader would do well to raise the Sri Lankan Tamils issue with the Centre, quietly or otherwise, and help in the formulation of a foreign policy approach that can yield quick results for the long-suffering Tamils in the island while preserving the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. For good reasons, India has a firm position on seeking a solution within a united Sri Lanka. Political parties in Tamil Nadu should see the sense behind this.