The subject of internal refugees forms the underlying thread of the current report. Some of its wider implications, such as the forced return of Tamil refugees who fled the country to India and further a field, are also addressed. This also brings to a conclusion our documentation which attempts to present the effect of ten years of war on the district of Trincomalee. This is a district in which a high proportion of Tamils remain displaced.
The reports on refugees straddle the districts of Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee, and deal with all three communities. Although quantitative balance may be lacking vis-a-vis the communities because of our technical limitations, the result may not be unrepresentative. Though several refugees are bitter, it might happily be said that many of them are reflective and non-partisan to a remarkable degree. It also becomes clear that given a healthy political direction there are hardly any inherent reasons for conflict between the communities.
The question of a healthy political direction is intimately tied up with other matters dealt with in the report. Some of these are aerial bombing of a section of the citizenry, the Jaffna Lagoon issue, the all important land issue and their impact on sovereignty. On the first two, influential sections of the press and the political establishment are urging the government towards more bellicose positions. These in turn have visited further humiliations on the armed forces, each humiliation further complicating the crisis. The recent one at Puneryn owe's something to conceptually flawed political decisions. One was to meet the LTTE's inexcusable reluctance to reach a settlement on the passage of civilians between the Jaffna peninsula and the mainland by punishing the civilians. The continuing practice of fudging the matter of disappearances and a reluctance to check even notorious operatives who have been publicly named by the HRTF among others, shows a fatal desire to pursue the mirage of a military solution. Fifteen years of repression, and the bloody victory over the JVP and their accumulated baggage cast a long shadow over the Island's future.
We have pointed out before that a political solution would necessitate taking a fresh look at the land question and in particular at ingrained habits in handling matters such as colonisation. This requires much courage and a will to do battle with chauvinistic forces. Sadly, this government seems to lack the moral and intellectual qualities for such a task. It seems much easier to do nothing and let this nation tear itself apart.
The current report is based on a selection of materials gathered over six months. The bulk of it was completed three months ago. On the one hand the quick succession of events seems to be changing the ground situation rapidly. But then, on land and refugee matters for instance, change is very slow. The materials brought together were selected so as to reflect long term concerns and to provide unity of subject matter. Where possible, ongoing developments are accounted for.
This will be the penultimate report in a series that will bring to an end a phase of our activity extending over 5 1/2 years from our inception. We have been equally critical of the direction of Tamil society which led to human rights violations becoming the symptom of a cancerous growth within its body politic. The last report in this series (No. 13) will have an extended section on this subject together with developments in the districts of Batticaloa and Amparai. It will be issued shortly.
Communalism, Terrorism & The Silent Majority
Terrorism and the communalization of politics were not in the frontline of Indian politics till recently. We took secularism and peace for granted as the basic thread of Indian political and economic culture. But today that is no longer the case. So the fight now is not only against the valueless, party-based vested interests but also against these power bases of theirs: religion and terrorism. These bases help them to thrive without mass support, because they make accountability to the people an unnecessary concept. In this situation people's movements can easily be crushed. And when the mass mentality gets more and more affected by communalism and terrorism,besides related vices like corruption, and you start accepting that as part and parcel of the country's polity and economy, it becomes very difficult to make a dent and awaken the masses. Those who want to retain a place for mass-based idealism and political forces have to act as early as possible through proper alliances.
The alliances would be something more than short-term, short-circuit networks. They would not be as flimsy and superficial as some of the political alliances we have witnessed. At the same time, they have to be broader based than they have been up till now. The anti-communal, anti-terrorism, non-violent, non-party political movements can have linkages with parties to the extent that the latter are ready to come over to this kind of people-based politics.
Although the situation appears to be hopeless, there is a silent majority that now desires this much more than before. This is a reaction to the critical situation we witnessing today.
[Medha Patkar is the leader of a movement against the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project and other large dams on the Narmada in India. But she is also engaged in efforts to create a new people's force through an alliance of mass organisations].
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