Sri Lanka's Genocidal War on Eelam Tamils and the Question of Nation's Self-Determination
By Democratic Students Union, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Self-determination of nations in the Marxist programme cannot, from a historic-economic point of view, have any other meaning than political self-determination, state independence, and the formation of a national state. - Lenin
Genocidal war on Eelam Tamils by the fascist Sri Lankan state:
For the last two weeks, the Sri Lankan armed forces have been engaged in an aggressive war with the people of Tamil Eelam, aimed not only at the combatants but the entire civilian population. As a result, Thousands of Tamils have been killed, wounded and have been forcefully displaced.
It is not a war between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE as the mainstream media tries to portray, but is an attempt by the Sri Lankan state to wipe out the entire Tamil population from the island, in the cover of eliminating the LTTE. Schools, orphanages, hospitals had been made targets of indiscriminate aerial bombings by the Sri Lankan Air Force. For example, 61 children from “Sencholai” (Red Garden), a home for children who lost their parents in war, recently died in one such attack. Sri Lanka Army’s Deep Penetration Unit fired upon a civilian bus travelling from Madhu to Paalampiddi in January 2008 killing 20, of whom 11 were school children, and injured 14 out of whom eight were children. No civilian area has been spared by the air force, which are attacked on an everyday basis. Bunkers have become an inevitable infrastructure in all schools. It is as if the Sri Lankan government wants to create a graveyard in the whole of Tamil populated areas in the Eelam. Such an approach is consistent with the Sri Lankan President’s comment that this is the final assault to finish off the ‘terrorist’ LTTE, only after which it will think of any ‘talks’ with the Tamils! We have heard many times about the ‘final solution’ to the Tamil national question by Sri Lankan presidents through the use of brute force, but the Tamils fighting for their separate country has defeated the wars of aggression every time in the past. This time too, even with thousands of casualties, the Tamil people are bravely resisting the might of the Sri Lankan state, and this time too, its misadventure is bound to culminate in failure. The struggle of the Eelam Tamils for an independent country has emerged out of a historic experience of oppression and subjugation in the hands of the Singhalese nation. This reflects the political aspirations of the Tamil people to be free of Singhalese national oppression, and it can only have a political solution, and not a purely military one. It is therefore necessary for all the democratic voices to recognise and stand by the inalienable right of the Eelam Tamils to self-determination through secession from Sri Lanka, and to oppose the ongoing genocidal war of aggression by the Sri Lankan state on the freedom-aspiring Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island country.
The approach of the Sri Lankan state:
Irrespective of the parties in power in Colombo, the response of the Singahlese ruling classes in Sri Lanka towards the democratic aspirations of the Tamils have primarily been through the use of brute force. In 1983 itself, the then President Jayawardene declared that “I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people …now we cannot think of them. not their life or their opinion …the more you put pressure in north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here… really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy”. From the time direct British colonial rule ended in 1948, the successive Singhalese governments have followed a consistent policy of national oppression and discrimination towards the Tamil minorities, denying their basic rights and opportunities for socio-economic development. Land settlement policies implemented from 1950s onwards displaced millions of Tamils in the northern and eastern districts such as Mannur and Mulai Thivu in a planned manner, which were then redistributed among Singhalese peasants and landless labourers. The Sri Lankan parliament declared Buddhism as the state religion, and pursued a policy of discrimination against other religious minorities. The ‘Sinhala-Buddhist Only Act’ formulated in 1956 declared Sinhala as the only official language, which was against the policy so far followed of recognizing both Sinhala and Tamil as state language. Further, in 1970, discrimination against Tamil youths pursuing higher studies in the name of standardization led to a drastic decline in their entry to government jobs. In 1979 the Sri Lankan state enacted the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act to cope with the growing militancy among the Tamils. This Act and the subsequent crackdown by the army of Tamil youths confirmed the fears of the Tamils that the Sinhalese government was hell bent to exterminate them.
These are only a few examples from the history of a long-running process of calculated oppression and discrimination by the Sri Lankan state towards the Tamil minorities. The Tamils in Sri Lanka initially voiced their opposition peacefully to these oppressive and undemocratic policies, such as the mass resignation of Tamil MPs in 1956 and 1958, a series of demonstrations and strikes in Colombo, etc. The response of the Sri Lankan state then, as now, was to unleash a reign of terror and brute force through the army on the agitating Tamil population, leading to the first major wave of Tamil refugees to the northern and eastern parts of the island in 1958. The state-sponsored massacre of hundreds of Tamils in 1983 made the question of self-determination through peaceful means decisively redundant, and pushed the Tamils in Sri Lanka to the path of armed struggle for national liberation of Eelam, a path made crimson by the blood of thousands of martyrs. This war has also helped the Sinhalese ruling classes in diverting the attention from the basic issues of livelihood and economic development of the people of the country in general, with a large part of the GDP spent in financing the exorbitant defense budget.
The Tamil national movement for an independent Eelam:
With the democratic aspirations and demands of the national minority in Sri Lanka crushed ruthlessly, the Tamil parliamentary parties passed the historic Vettukottai Resolution in 1977 where demand for a separate Tamil Eelam was raised for the first time under the banner of Tamil United Liberation Front. From that time onwards, for more than 30 years the struggle for a separate Eelam is being waged by the Tamils, withstanding untold repression of the Sri Lankan armed forces which is aided directly or indirectly by Indian state and its imperial master, the U.S. The war imposed on the freedom-aspiring Tamils took genocidal proportions in 1995 and 2000, in 2002 when the ceasefire agreement was broken, and again now in 2008. The Sri Lankan state has violated agreements signed with the Tamil representatives over and over again, and now it is imposing the precondition of laying down arms, in one word surrender, before any negotiation. The Tamils have been facing the choice between fighting for freedom at the risk of death or living as slaves throughout the period of this decades-long war. The Tamils have been offered and they have rejected a negotiated settlement through international mediation many times in the past, which could have led to peace, but a peace without justice. An uncompromising struggle for national self-determination, the fight for a free Eelam has emerged as one of the foremost nationality movements in the world, which have been demonized and isolated by the present imperialist world order led by U.S. imperialism. Rather than recognizing and upholding the just demand of the Tamil national minority, the rulers of India represented by Congress, BJP or even the so-called communists CPI(M) has acted as the faithful South Asian agents of U.S. interests in repressing the Tamil Eelam movement.
Indian state, the faithful agent of U.S. imperialism in South Asia:
India has been following an expansionist policy towards its neighbouring countries in South Asia, and has even militarily intervened more than once in their internal affairs. In Sri Lanka too, under this policy of furthering its own geo-political interests (which is tied to the interests of U.S. imperialism) Indian state initially supported the armed struggle of the Eelam Tamils. But soon the Indian state joined hands with the Sri Lankan government to suppress the movement, and sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1986 which created mayhem in the Tamil populated areas in Sri Lanka, killing, raping and maiming thousands. After a complete military defeat of the Indian mercenary army it was forced to retreat, but Indian ruling classes, irrespective of the party in power, has till date continued full diplomatic and military support to the fascist Sri Lankan state. Pranab Mukherjee, the defence minister has this week stated that India will not stop military aid to Sri Lanka, and expressed its willingness to help the Rajapakshe government in carrying out the present genocide of Tamils. A Sri Lankan army official has recently revealed that Sri Lankan military officers are being trained in Dehradun and Gurgaon military camps by the Indian army. But this is not all. According to some media reports, hundreds of Indian military personnel are directly involved in the present war, serving in Sri Lankan armed forces in advanced battle fronts. Such overt and covert support is not surprising, given the Indian state’s anti-democratic and pro-imperialist character, which itself has been crushing the genuine demands of various nationalities, such as Kashmiris, Nagas, Manipuris and Assamese and others within its territorial boundaries through the use of superior military might. It is not possible for Sri Lanka to continue its war against the Tamil national minorities without the approval of the Indian state, and Rajapakshe’s constant visits to New Delhi of late makes it clear that Indian government is actively supporting the present war. And being the foremost custodian of U.S. interests in South Asia, it is not difficult to conclude that India is given a go-ahead in this by Washington itself.
The so-called Marxist parties such as CPI, CPI(M) or CPI ML (Liberation) too has abandoned the Leninist principle of supporting the democratic demand of national self-determination, including secession, and have failed to force the Indian state from following a policy of non-intervention in Sri Lanka. They are equally responsible for castigating the movement for Tamil Eelam as ‘terrorism’, thereby helping in its brutal repression. Major regional parties in Tamil Nadu, whether DMK or AIDMK which never fails to celebrate Tamil nationalism to garner votes, have utterly failed to take any decisive action to prevent the ongoing massacre and displacement of thousands of Tamils in Eelam. Close to than 60,000 people have died and nearly 3 lakh have been displaced so far during this war, most of whom are Tamils. The media also has played its devious role in hiding the true situation of Eelam Tamils, which is uncritically presenting the biased versions spoon-fed by the Sri Lankan government, or completely blacking out this calculated extermination of an entire population in the name of ‘war against terror’. The Indian media, such as the casteist and Brahmanical Hindu group run by N Ram, too is guilty of justifying this brutal repression, rather than building a public opinion against this unceasing cold-blooded massacre of hundreds of civilians on an everyday basis.
The need of the Hour:
The Sri Lankan government, in its attempt to silently carry out this latest military misadventure to sniff out the Tamil resistance, has expelled all humanitarian agencies including the Red Cross as well as the international media from the war front. Of late the Sri Lankan forces have also stopped providing data about casualties in the ongoing war. Such criminal attempts of systematically silencing democratic and genuine rights of the people by use of force will inevitably fail. We must demand an immediate and unconditional declaration of cease-fire from the Sri Lankan government and a stop to the genocide in Tamil Eelam. At the same time, following the principles of Marxism-Leninism, which stands unequivocally in favour of the right to self-determination of the oppressed nationalities, we must raise our voice in support of the demand of Eelam Tamils for independence. It is high-time that the Sri Lankan and Indian ruling classes as well as their master U.S. realize that only a free and independent Tamil Eelam can ensure permanent resolution to the nationality question in Sri Lanka, and only a unity based ofsn justice and equality of the two nations can usher in peace in the island. Moreover, only an integration of the revolutionary class struggle with the national liberation struggles can effectively fight feudalism and imperialism, two primary enemies of the people in the Third World countries.
[Democratic Students Union, Jawaharlal Nehru University ~ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org