Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Over 58,000 Eelam Tamils in India awaiting recognition

(Image courtesy: Nitin Kanotra | Hindustan Times)

Despite the presence of thousands of Eelam Tamils who continue to seek asylum and refuge in India, only one Eelam Tamil, Nalini Kirubakaran was given the civic right to vote in India’s Lok Sabha elections this year. 

According to a recent report submitted to the government in India, as of 2023, 58,200 Tamil refugees were living in 104 camps across Tamil Nadu, and over 33,200 of them were living outside the camps. As for their civil documentation, 95% have Aadhaar cards, 78% have bank accounts, 1% have Sri Lankan passports and 3% have Sri Lankan national ID cards.

The majority of refugees in India are Tamils who have fled during the war. In recent months there have been several instances where Eelam Tamils have undertaken treacherous journeys by boat since the start of this year, fleeing from Sri Lanka. They claim the economic crisis, high inflation, lack of jobs and livelihood as well as systematic surveillance and intimidation continue to force them to seek a better future for their families. 

According to reports, most of these Tamils have been living in India for over 30 years. However, they continue to languish in squalid refugee camps with no access to health services or civic rights.  Nalini became the first Eelam Tamil in all these years to be granted the opportunity to vote. 

Nalini was born at a refugee camp in Rameswaram Mandapam Camp in Tamil Nadu and continues to live there. However, Nalini claims that it was not an easy journey for her to get an Indian passport and voter ID to her name. A legal battle many Eelam Tamils in India try to wage. In 2021, Nalini even moved to the Madras High Court where her application for an Indian passport was rejected. 

“For the first time, I have voted… I am very happy. At the age of 38, my dream was fulfilled. I am the first person in Tamil Nadu to vote from the Refugee Camp,” Nalini said when interviewed by the press. 

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.