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Flow of Sri Lankan refugees unabated

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INFLUX CONTINUES: A group of Sri Lankan refugees who arrived at Rameswaram. File photo
INFLUX CONTINUES: A group of Sri Lankan refugees who arrived at Rameswaram. File photo

V.Jayanth

Pro-Eelam groups prepare for demonstrations

CHENNAI: The arrival of refugees from the east and west of Sri Lanka continues unabated. About 3,000 Tamil refugees have arrived in Rameswaram and nearby coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, according to information reaching here. A few hundred of them were even rescued from mid-sea by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard and brought to safety in Rameswaram, official sources say.

Except for a handful of youth suspected to be connected with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the others are generally considered to be "genuine refugees," and are being treated as such. After preliminary interrogation and noting down of details, the refugees are being sent to the camps in the region, officials in charge of Refugees and Rehabilitation say.

The Navy, Coast Guard and the Coastal Security wing of the State police have been on alert, monitoring the movements in the sea and keeping a vigil along the southern and eastern coastline. The Central and State intelligence agencies have also been on the job of collecting whatever information they can, both from the refugees and the fisher folk who go out to sea.

Caught in the crossfire

According to information available here, the refugees, who are coming in droves and in families, are virtually repeating parrot-like, the same reasons for their influx "We are caught in the cross fire. The tension in our villages is rising and we feel safer here in Rameswaram." They do not want to blame either the LTTE or the Sri Lankan armed forces, but do not fail to make at least a passing reference to the so-called "atrocities" of the Army. Most of the refugees who have arrived come from the Trincomallee belt or from the Pesalai-Mannar region, where several incidents and skirmishes have been reported in recent weeks.

Intelligence agencies believe that things are hotting up in the east, where a tussle is also going on between the LTTE and the Karuna faction. And this accounts for the exodus of Tamil refugees from that belt. Police sources here say, they are being asked by the LTTE to either get into the Wanni region or set off to India.

Tamil sources in Colombo say that the situation in the north and east remains "tense and fragile." With the collapse of the "talks about talks," the Tamils in these areas appear to be worried about the possible break out of another "Eelam war."

Hence the persistent movement of refugees to India, they explain.

UN refugee camps

A Tamil MP says the Government has opened refugee camps in both Trincomallee and Mannar regions. The UN High Commission for Refugees and other UN agencies manage their camps.

"Those who want security and are not comfortable in their homes or villages, have been requested to move into these camps, which opened in end-May. Though nobody has come to the Trincomallee camp, a couple of hundred people have moved into the two camps in the Mannar-Pesalai region. We are constantly monitoring the situation, but our information is that the LTTE wants to internationalise the issue all over again."

It is in this scenario that the pro-LTTE groups and political parties in Tamil Nadu, cutting across party lines, are coming together to raise their voice against the Sri Lankan Government, its armed forces and what they call "inaction" of the Government of India.

A Statewide protest demonstration has been called for Friday and both the Centre and the State Government are keeping their eyes and ears open. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has made it abundantly clear that his Government's policy and approach to the Sri Lankan Tamil issue falls very much in line with that of the Centre.

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