Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s assertion in Trichy on Thursday that her decision to send back the Sri Lankan students was a symbolic gesture and that her government would protect Sri Lankan visitors to the state, should put an end to the fear of violence the visiting islanders might feel.
Jayalalithaa has given sufficient time for her protest to New Delhi and Colombo to sink in before assuring that she wouldn’t permit lawlessness in the streets against Sri Lankans.
Since her symbolic gesture, pro-Eelam parties such as Nam Tamilar Katchi, MDMK and VCK had taken to the streets and targeted Sri Lankans. MDMK chief Vaiko was categorical when he said “nobody should come” to Tamil Nadu.
Her statement on Wednesday should be a clear message to them.
Most importantly, with this assertion, Colombo should get the point loud and clear that when it comes to Tamil Nadu, New Delhi is not the first port of call, but Chennai. Both the humiliation and assurance for protection came from Chennai.
And Jaya has demonstrated that it is not empty rhetoric.
Colombo, which has time and again said that an Indian style federalism would not work in Sri Lanka, always overrode the autonomy and sentiments of Tamil Nadu when it came to its bilateral relationships with India. New Delhi, seemed to have either encouraged such a stand or kept quiet, compelling the Tamil Nadu chief minister not only to react, but give a firm rap on the knuckles of both Delhi and Colombo.
It is, however, unlikely that the ruling establishment and its proxies will change their devious ways after this episode. For instance, immediately after Jaya sent the Lankan footballers home, a Sinhala newspaper run by an MP close to the ruling party carried an obscene cartoon against her. However, it failed to evoke any response in Tamil Nadu or India.
Meanwhile her bete noire Karunanidhi is desperate to tread a path different from her, although in principle he cannot disagree with her.
Karunanidhi criticised Jayalalithaa’s stand of packing the Sri Lankans off saying cultural and sporting ties can continue between the two nations. But Jaya hit back saying he had mortgaged self-respect for self-interest and hence could not take a political stand on Lankan Tamils. She had enough and more reasons to point out that he failed in intervening on Tamil issues, despite being part of the ruling government at the Centre.
The DMK has been part of the UPA-1 and UPA-2, and could do precious little to uphold the rights of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka other than pose dramatic threats, which it backed down from later. At no stage of the war, or before it, was the DMK effective in putting pressure on New Delhi to ensure that the Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka were spared of human rights violations or alleged war crimes. It had also not been effective in leveraging its numbers in the UPA to help the Tamils in post-war Lanka.
It lacked imagination in registering protests as well – for instance, while the Centre despatched a team of MPs to Sri Lanka, it was the AIADMK that pulled out its representative first, prompting the DMK to follow suit.
DMK’s lack of ideas in opposing Jayalalithaa government, although it doesn’t have the numbers to function as an Opposition party in the assembly, is also evident in his remark on the ongoing Kudankulam agitation. Even while siding with New Delhi and supporting the Kudankulam plant, Karunanidhi slammed her for the police action against the protestors and called for negotiations with them, which was political opportunism since the protestors were anti-nuclear and gave no space for negotiations.