New Delhi Convention Calls For Investigation Of
Sri Lankan War Crimes
By Satya Sivaraman
19 May, 2011
A convention in New Delhi has demanded the Indian government present a White Paper in parliament on India’s role in facilitating war crimes against Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The convention, attended by political leaders, academics, retired judges, journalists and students also called upon the United Nations to recognize the atrocities against Tamils in Sri Lanka as nothing less than genocide. It further appealed to Indian political parties and all democratic forces to raise the issue of war crimes in Sri Lanka at every forum possible.
The convention titled ‘War Crimes in Sri Lanka: The UN Report and its Implications’ was organized on May 10 by the Delhi Tamil Students Union (DTSU) to discuss a recent UN advisory committee report that found credible evidence of war crimes in the last phase of the Sri Lankan government’s war with the LTTE.
Speaking on the occasion Ram Vilas Paswan, National President of Lok Janashakti Party (LJP), said that Sri Lanka’s desire to impose a monolithic polity through one language and one culture and denial of any autonomy whatsoever to the Tamils has led to the current scenario. He said that while there was considerable debate in the Indian media about issues of Bangladesh, Palestine or Afghanistan, when it came to Sri Lanka it was all reduced to the issue of Tamil ‘terrorism’.
“There has been an attempt to hide from the non-Tamils in India the problems of Tamils in Sri Lanka,” he said. Paswan said that the heart-rending videos of war crimes by Sri Lankan soldiers shown at the convention proved that what was happening in Sri Lanka was a genocide.
“The Indian government cannot be silent. If there is an assault on humanity, whether on Tamils or on anyone else, the government should speak up,” Paswan said calling for dissemination of information throughout India on the war crimes committed in Sri Lanka. He promised that LJP would ensure that the Tamils’ issue will be raised in the Indian parliament.
D. Raja, National Secretary of the Communist Party of India, pointed out how the ruling class of Sri Lanka had always been opposed to the Tamils and how this turned more virulent after Mahinda Rajapaksa took over as President. In the context of the UN report he said it was necessary for India to take responsibility now.
“This UN report deserves a response from India and the international community,” he said, Adding that “Government of India’s foreign policy towards Sri Lanka has completely failed now,” he said “even though the war was waged by the Sri Lankan government, India was a collaborator”. He asked how the UPA government could help Sri Lanka in this genocide of Tamils and criticized India’s previous attempts to prevent war crimes investigations by the UN.
Swapan Mukherjee of the CPI (ML)Liberation also extended his party’s solidarity with the attempts to publicise the UN report and to generate a movement in India to pressurize the government to come clear on its position on Sri Lanka. The Indian people must actively pressurize the Indian government and the TN assembly to pass resolutions against the Sri Lankan government, he said. “The Rajapakse government must be taken to task. This is for the future of democracy, secularism, peace and prosperity in South Asia,” he said, affirming his party’s commitment to take the campaign forward.
In the first session of the convention, where human rights activists and academics spoke, Prof. Jagmohan Singh, former editor of World Sikh News and prominent campaigner against death penalty said that the Indian government cannot escape responsibility for the crimes of the Lankan government. He contended that the Tamil Nadu assembly should pass a resolution that an enquiry into genocide of the Tamils in Sri Lanka should happen. “Tamils may have lost the battle, but they will definitely win the war,” he concluded.
Prof. Manivannan from the University of Madras pointed out that as far as war crimes are concerned how almost all media houses in Sri Lanka and those in India like The Hindu just replicated official versions of the Lankan state. He noted how the Sri Lankan army also used other methods to intimidate the Tamils, like deliberate starvation of the Tamil population and systematic sexual assault of captured Tamil women, all which could fit in the paradigms of genocide. “If this goes unaccounted and unpunished in human history, the word justice will lose its meaning,” he said.
Satya Sivaraman, independent journalist and activist, noted how Sri Lanka changed from a model country for rest of South Asia in the early 50’s to a country that emulates Rwanda now. Calling what happened in Sri Lanka as a “classic war crime”, he pointed out the pernicious role played by not just politicians but also bureaucrats in shaping the foreign policy of the Indian government. “Besides logistical support to Sri Lanka, the Indian government worked as a public relations manager for Rajapaksa’s regime,” he said. He talked about the need for the Eelam Tamils’ issue to be taken beyond Tamil Nadu and for mobilizing public opinion throughout India against war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Justice Rajinder Sachar, former Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi, talked about the necessity of taking the UN report seriously. “Mention any crime, you will find out that it was committed by the Sri Lankan army.” He said that the government of Sri Lanka should be held accountable for its crimes and blasted the President of Sri Lanka for restricting the access of UN panel members to investigate human rights violations in the country. He also lamented the partisan nature of the legal system in Sri Lanka. “India should not remain silent about the barbarism in Sri Lanka. It is not an option,” he said.
Malem Ningthouja of Campaign for Peace and Democracy in Manipur and Nagari Babiah, a Karnataka based human rights activist, also expressed their solidarity with the Tamils’ demand for justice. Malem spoke for the need for the issues of such oppressed communities to be internationalized and for solidarity for such movements to be built at a broader level.
A condensed version of the UN report published by DTSU, was released at the convention by Justice Sachar. Videos showing the brutalities of the Sri Lankan army on the Tamils, including shelling of hospitals, civilian zones and humiliation and execution of captured prisoners were screened.
For further information contact Delhi Tamil Students Union at firstname.lastname@example.org
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