Rebels without a cause: How the DMK’s Eelam conference was a non-starter

by G Pramod Kumar  Aug 13, 2012 12:51 IST

#ConnectTheDots   #DMK   #Eelam conference   #M. Karunanidhi  

The central government was reportedly apprehensive about Karunanidhi and company speaking the “Eelam” word at the TESO (Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation) conference that the DMK organised in the city on Sunday.

But subsequently, the centre has apparently said it didn’t mind the “E” word. As the one day conference, which also included a “conclave”, ended with 14 resolutions and some public speeches the centre it seems got it right.

Either the central intelligence agencies had done their reading right that the conference would have no fireworks, or the centre had a pact with DMK that it would end up as a lameduck seminar on the conditions of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Even a typical UN conference would have had more fire and bluster than this.

What are the outcomes of the conference (which also saw some last-minute court-room drama around the venue)? Nothing new or radical: a UN probe on war crimes, rehabilitation of Tamils in the affected areas; political autonomy for Tamils and so on.

The Eelam conference addressed no new issue. Firstpost.

Haven’t we heard them before, that too in stronger and intimidating terms over and over again?

Yes, indeed. The British, the Americans, the Japanese, the French, the Canadians - all have said this and even pursued it with strong arm tactics, while India mewed on the sidelines. The resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a result of the strong pursuit of the international community, led by the West, was a big slap for Sri Lanka even as it slandered and threatened the UN, the international community and its own activists back home.

Beyond that, DMK organising a “conclave” of 30-odd representatives, which appeared like a routine seminar passing recommendations and resolutions that are forgotten the next day, sounds ludicrous and farcical. That too without the support of any of the political parties or groups that are associated with the Eelam cause. They stayed away; so did the Congress. It was a DMK show, supported only by the Dalit party, the VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi)

Perhaps the farcicality or the inconsequence is one of the reasons why the centre or the Congress couldn’t care less. If the Congress could manage the DMK during the most volatile phase of the war, i.e. when thousands of Tamil civilians were allegedly being killed by the Sri Lankan army, which evoked strong protests and action from the international community and even the seemingly neutral UN, nothing was going to be worse.

Even after the end of the war, when the world was pouncing on the Sri Lankan regime, the DMK and its leadership didn’t create any problems for the Congress other than stage-managing some symbolic threats. Now after much water has flown under the bridge, what can DMK’s Eelam warning do unless it is not followed up with real political fire? Unfortunately its armoury has been completely dampened by the assembly-poll rout, the 2G scam and the umpteen cases its leaders are facing.

No Sri Lankan Tamil stakeholders attended the event, except for a Sinhalese activist, who incidentally had some words of criticism of the DMK and India, and said that the Sri Lankan government repressed not just Tamils, but also Sinhalese. There was also a Nigerian parliamentarian speaking for Tamil rights.

The Tamil Eelam is now political agenda pursed merely by the Sri Lankan diaspora and some nationalist parties in Tamil Nadu and nobody in Sri Lanka. Even the LTTE’s political vestige, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), does’t want an Eelam. Of course, one could argue that in a dangerously oppressive Sri Lanka, the Tamils cannot express their true wish.

But Tamils in Sri Lanka know that it is impractical and even their most fervent supporters in the West wouldn’t endorse such a dream. Instead, what the Tamils in Sri Lanka want is a dignified life that is not inferior to that of the majoritarian Sinhalese. In a country that is controlled by a war triumphalist dynasty held to ransom by radical Buddhists, Tamils are still an insecure community.

Does the DMK have a role in this? Yes, if it can influence the government of India in wielding the stick.

The DMK, to be effective, should have been capable of political blackmail and serious brinkmanship to force the centre to act during and after the war. Instead, all it could do was to issue statements and organise fasts that were withdrawn at the drop of a hat. Karunanidhi at yesterday’s TESO conference justified the withdrawal of his 2009 fast saying that he and the government of India were deceived by Sri Lanka’s false promises to India that it would stop the war.

If the DMK couldn’t do anything when it was in a vantage position and when it mattered the most, what is in it for the party now? The truth is: nothing. It betrays the party’s inability in pursing real issues to stand up to the ruling AIADMK. Bogeys are easier than issues that make the lives of people hard.

DMK is looking for issues to create visibility. And Eelam is an ever-green issue that hurts nobody because the enemy is unreachable. The conduct of the conference, where no radical voices were heard, is perhaps an indication that it was a ruse to show strength.

Does it matter politically?

Not really. If it did, the openly pro-Eelam or rather pro-LTTE parties should have been successful in the elections. On the contrary, the most influential pro-LTTE party couldn’t even get into an alliance to contest the last assembly elections.