The time when people show their true colours
By Kumar David
These are the worst of times and also the best; these are the times when all shades of chauvinism come out to bask in the glorious sun of military victory, these are also the times when the steadfast stand up tall. Politicians and clergymen, newspaper editors, intellectuals and laymen from all walks of life are no exception. Last Sunday (15 February) even the English language newspapers succumbed to a sharper than usual tilt towards chauvinism not seen since the days of holocaust denial by the kept-press of 1983; we were also treated to displays of blighted xenophobia. Conversely I have met in person, or know of local bishops and South Indian clergymen, monks in yellow robes, women activists, Marxists and boring liberals, and many men and women of goodwill, who have said that enough is enough and decided to take a stand. In quantity, the detritus outnumbers the steadfast, but no matter; in the long run the fewer will be the better, much better.
The title of today’s piece is borrowed from Lenin’s article of March 1923, less than a year before his demise. Ethnic bigotry is our issue, his, the first shoots of bureaucratic degeneration. Lenin was one of the earliest to spot the rot; many in our midst cannot see rot dripping from every corner of the social fabric.
Grinding down the LTTE
First the ritual bit; I am no LTTEer – those who know me or read me know this, those who see a Tamil terrorist behind every bush will never comprehend that internationalism rejects the oppression of national minorities. There is another point to add; it serves no purpose to discuss the blunders of the LTTE with those who do not recognise that the Tamil people are an oppressed minority; purposeless, because it will be an exercise in Tiger bashing without national liberation, sans LTTE, as an objective. Having made this clear let me proceed to communicate with those, the few, who share my space.
The LTTE has been beaten, forever or for the time being I do not know, but it has been trounced by a combination of local and international forces and also by changed circumstances. War between the representatives of about two million people against a state representing 15 million is an uphill task at the best of times, unless like Israel, a global superpower underwrites the venture. Plain demographics were adversely loaded from square one, but that is the case with all minority armed struggles. Then, it is plain idiocy to go antagonise the whole world, have ones logistics, supply chain and funding disrupted, commit crimes against another national minority (Muslims), kill the prospective prime minister of India, and use widespread terrorism. The LTTE was its own worst enemy.
By changed circumstances I am referring to two factors; the large changes in Tamil demographics whereby the young and the able in body, brain and booty, live outside the North-East if they live in Lanka at all, and secondly the global war on terror and India’s induction as an American coolie in that enterprise.
Political zilch and economic goodies
When the LTTE is routed the Tamils are battered; no point pussyfooting about the essential nature of race wars. The majority of Tamils were active or passive supporters of the LTTE, at least at one time. Don’t take my word; this is what the government’s fellow traveller Pilleyan (Chandrakanthan) said about the 1990s in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We didn’t have doubts. Not only I, the entire Tamil community had faith in the Tigers” – LakbimaNews, 15 February. By and large the community remained passive and subcontracted out the national question to the Tigers. This was inevitable if the military strategy is dominant to the near exclusion of everything else – politics, diplomacy, social and civic issues.
Now that the Tigers have been licked what can the Tamils expect? Devolution, ethnic democratisation of the Sinhala State, self-governing arrangements in Tamil regions, a non-unitary constitution; rubbish, none of this will see the light of day. There will be an economic development programme in the North more so than the East, facilitated by foreign aid and according to some reports coordinated and led by India and Indian capital. Sans a political package of deep devolution, and with democratic spaces in the South shrinking, can such a strategy to buy off Tamil nationalism with a peace dividend of economic goodies succeed? That remains to be seen; I veer between watchfulness and deep pessimism. But it remains to be seen whether the programmes really gets of the ground in the midst of a worsening economic prospect for the country, global recession and a still unsettled security scenario.
A campaign is now on to marginalise the TNA, the last remaining and rather limp representative of Tamil nationalism. Obviously there have to be substitutes to put in its place to administer the Northern Province. Quislings are waiting in the wings and known or unbeknown to newspaper editors the stakes are already being laid out by power brokers in the highest echelons of the regime. The LTTE pushed into guerrilla warfare, the TNA marginalised, quislings as satraps and military occupation of Tamil lands! Is this or is this not the recipe for another disaster some years down the road. When will they ever learn, not only in Colombo, but in New Delhi too?
Gratuitous advice for Tamil nationalists
Let me close with a few words of unsolicited advice. The national liberation struggle of the Tamil people must continue until the fundamental nature of the state in Lanka is transformed, but it must be prosecuted by methods starkly different from those of both the Chelvanayagam and the Prabaharan eras. The Tamil nationalist movement must put politics in command and engage with broad struggles on social and economic issues. It must join the current campaign to preserve democratic rights (right to life, right to dissent) and link the demands of national liberation into these tasks. Emphatically, this is not the same as ‘joining the democratic mainstream’, the phoney approach that the regimes new found hangers-on, jaded left-opportunists and recently articulate petty-bourgeois quacks postulate. It is as different as Rosa Luxemburg is from Anadasangaree; though no offence meant to this respected gentleman.