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Tamil Nadu Chief Minister meets Indian leaders and demands equality for Eelam Tamils

Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin, has met with India’s Prime Minister and the leader of the main opposition party, Sonia Gandhi, to put forwards the demands of Tamil Nadu.

A key demand of which is for:

“Eelam Tamils to have equal civil and political rights”

These meetings follow discussions between Tamil National Alliance and India’s High Commissioner for Sri Lanka. During these discussions, India’s High Commission tweeted:

 

The meetings follows a landmark EU resolution that slammed the deterioration of human rights in Sri Lanka and noted called on the European Council to consider sanctions and repealing GSP+ trading agreements. In the US, Congresswoman Deborah Ross has introduced a bipartisan House Resolution calling for an "effective international mechanism for accountability" and a "permanent political solution" in Sri Lanka. Britain’s Upper Tribunal has also recognised the threat of torture peaceful Tamil activists face and decried Sri Lanka as “an authoritarian regime”.

Eelam Tamil refugees

Yesterday Eelam Tamil refugees in went on a protest in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu for the 9th consecutive day demanding their release from the detention centre. 

According to the Indian government, over 90,000 Eelam Tamil refugees residing in India. India’s controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), which passed in 2019, excluded Eelam Tamils from securing citizenship and effectively leaving them in a state of limbo. The act was supported by all 11 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members in the Rajya Sabha and passed with 125 MPs voting in favour and 99 against. The 23rd demand of the referendum calls for a repeal of the CAA.

Read more here: Eelam Tamil refugees protest for 9th continuous day demanding their release

Rights of Tamil fishermen

Listed in the memorandum of demands presented to Prime Minister Modi, was also concern over the “traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen” and a demand for a “retrieval of Katchatheevu”.

Katchatheevu is a Tamil islet that was conceded to Sri Lanka through a naval agreement between India and Sri Lanka in 1974. The agreement deprived traditional Tamil fishermen of a key outpost in the waters.

The rights of Tamil fishermen in both Tamil Nadu and across the North-East have come under threat by the Sri Lankan Navy which has curbed their fishing rights. Increasingly Tamil Nadu fishermen who make the perilous journey are arrested and beaten by Sri Lanka’s Navy.  

In February, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader, M. Thambidurai, reported that at least 245 fishermen had been killed in Sri Lanka.

That same month, Sri Lankan soldiers blocked Tamil locals from fishing in Kurunthoor kulam (lagoon) located in Kurunthoormalai, Mullaitivu. In the past, the Navy has implemented a “pass system” which effectively barred Tamil fishermen from accessing fishing waters for months and only permitting those with military approval.

Following the deaths of 4 Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lanka, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar condemned the actions of the Sri Lankan government declaring the actions “unacceptable”.

The memorandum calls for the establishment of a National Commission for the Welfare of Fishermen.

Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Minister, and leader of the pro-government paramilitary Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), Douglas Devananda, has vowed to continue the arrests stating:

“If Indian fishermen enter our waters we will arrest. There is no doubt in that. I have informed the navy”.  

 

Agriculture

Another key demand is the repeal of India’s controversial Three Farm Laws which has been fiercely opposed by not only the Tamil Nadu but communities in the Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. 

Whilst Modi has claimed that the measures would open up India’s economy and grant Farmers more autonomy, as they can set their own prices and sell directly to private businesses, farmers maintain that legislation leaves farmers vulnerable to corporate exploitation.

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for 58% of India's 1.3 billion population, meaning farmers are the biggest voting bloc in the country.

Juridical and Tamil rights

Stalin has also called for the establishment of a regional branch of the Supreme Court in Chennai to allow Tamil Nadu greater autonomy. In addition, he called for “priority in appointments in Union Government Offices and Central PSUs in Tamil Nadu to people from Tamil Nadu”.

These demands were listed alongside a call for language parity. Stalin has called for “declaring Tamil as an Official Language of India and Use of Tamil in the High Court”. A further demand was for a bill to ensure 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures.

Other demands included declaring Thirukkural as the national literature and a revival of the Central Institute of Tamil, Chennai.

Read the full memorandum here.

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