LAST MONTH WHEN I WAS IN WAYANAD, Kerala, I drove through a Sri Lankan Tamil settlement in the middle of a tea estate near Mananthavady. Since 1964—that is several years before the LTTE, Prabhakaran, the Indian Peace Keeping Force, all that we recollect when we hear ‘Sri Lankan Civil War’ —300,000 Sri Lankan Tamils have been living in the tea plantations in Nilgiri, Coimbatore and Wayanad districts in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. They came riding the Shastri-Sirimavo Pact of 1964 and the Indira-Sirimavo Pact of 1974. (Who said India didn’t do anything when Tamils in Lanka were reduced to second-hand citizenry by the Sinhalese?)
For decades, the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India have been dreaming of going back to a Tamil Eelam, which they believed Prabhakaran would get them. With that hope, they spoke the same Tamil they brought with them, and refused to integrate with the Nilgiri Tamils and the Wayanad Malayalees. Now Prabhakaran is no more. And they will probably never go back to Visuamadu, Dambatene or Kilinochi as Eelam citizens. When I drove through the gloomy Tamil settlements in Mananthavady, Sri Lanka had moved on with their presidential campaign where their two ‘heroes,’ the current President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the former army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, were fighting over who would get the credit for having eliminated the Tigers, in a grotesque war which used phosphorous munitions and heavy artillery, killing 7,000 civilians and wounding 10,000 (UN figures) in a matter of few days in early 2009.
And now if you put yourself in the shoes of one of those 400,000 Tamils displaced in northern and eastern Sri Lanka or in those of someone interested in Sri Lanka from the point of view of human rights and justice, you will instantly know that the outcome of the Sri Lankan election will have very little impact.
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