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Our Holocaust

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The  relentless massacres of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lanka state over the past few months had resulted in almost 7,000 deaths and twice that many seriously wounded by May 1. But the slaughter over last weekend is unparalleled in the brutality unleashed by the Sinhalese since independence; over two thousand Tamil lives were snuffed out in a hail of artillery shells. The makeshift hospital – blood-splattered room in a shattered house in the Mullaitivu enclave – has been blasted time and again, the accuracy of the Sri Lankan shells guaranteed by the GPS coordinates passed on by the ICRC.


All this in plain sight of the international community. Even the Western states which have – along with China, Russia and India - stood solidly behind the Sinhala state for the past three years were shaken. As the edition goes to print, US President Barack Obama has also stated the oft- repeated urging of the Sinhala state to cease its “indiscriminate” shelling. We doubt Sri Lanka, secure that China and Russia will thwart any repercussions at the UN Security Council, will pay any heed this time either.


What the Western states, operating with theories of ‘internal conflict’ and ‘terrorism’, can’t comprehend is why the Sinhala state insists on using heavy weapons on the civilians packed into a sliver of land. They also don’t understand why Sri Lanka is blocking international assistance from reaching the 190,000 recently displaced people concentrated in militarized camps. The Tamil people, of course, understand: this is genocide.


For several years the Tamils have been appealing to the international community that there is a ‘slow’ genocide underway in Sri Lanka since independence. These arguments were dismissed – laughed off, actually – as hysteria or propaganda. Yet, quite apart from the pogroms against Tamils up to 1983, in the period since, a hundred thousand Tamils have died in massacres, indiscriminate shelling and bombing, and by starvation due to government embargoes on the Tamil homeland. However, since January ‘genocide’ has not been some abstract concept. The world has witnessed it every single day since as first dozens, then scores, then hundreds of Tamils were killed and wounded. Even by Sri Lanka’s horrific standards, the rate at which our people have been slaughtered is stunning.


What has also become clear is that the international community has knowingly and deliberately allowed this slaughter to proceed. The ideological fixation with ‘fighting terrorism’ and ‘ending armed conflict’ has meant that in the interests of destroying the Liberation Tigers, any number of Tamil civilians are expendable. Notice that even though it is the Sinhala state that is pounding the civilians, blocking food and medicine and repeatedly blasting the hospital, it is the LTTE that has drawn  the focus of the UN’s condemnation?


Notice that even though the Sinhala state launched major offensive operations in April 2006 (displacing over 40,000 Tamil civilians in three days), ordered international NGOs and UN agencies out of Vanni in mid-2007, tore up the Norwegian-brokered Ceasefire Agreement in January 2008, and, even before this year’s slaughter began, had killed several thousand people in LTTE-controlled areas while abducting, murdering or disappearing over 5,000 Tamils in its own controlled areas, it is the LTTE that international actors in all this time have cursed and blamed?


Notice that even though the LTTE called for ceasefire and peace talks in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and that all these calls were dismissed out of hand by Colombo, the international community continued to look to the Sinhala state for a solution? The paradox of asking a state starving, bombing and disappearing a people to put forward political solution to meet the political aspirations of that people has completely escaped the international community.


There is only one solution for us now: the independent, sovereign state of Tamil Eelam. The rationale for that is etched out in the bloody sands of Mullaitivu. If the Tamils accept any thing short of independence, if we allow ourselves to be placed under Sinhala dominion as part of a ‘solution’, they will simply wipe us out at some point in the future. It is self-evident that the close scrutiny of the international community, the pleas and pointed warnings by powerful states and the disgust of the world has not impressed a Sinhala state, polity and people drunk with racism. Not one Sinhala political actor – not even the UNP, the darling of the liberal West – has condemned the slaughter. It is inescapable that whatever the international community does, the Sinhala state will continue to pose an existential threat to the Tamil people unless we are protected by our own borders  and security forces.


The sixty-year old struggle for Tamil liberation is entering a new phase. On the one hand the Tamil nation, going through a Holocaust of its own, is no longer under any illusions about the Sinhala state and people. The international community will never be able to reason with or restrain them. On the other hand, contrary to Sinhala expectations, Tamil militancy will remain central to Sri Lanka’s future. As the LTTE, which has transformed itself – yet again – for a new kind of war, bluntly put it last month: as long as the Tamils are oppressed, “Sri Lanka will never be able to live in peace”. 

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