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  • 14 September, 2022

  • 9 Min Read

sri lankan tamils issue

Issue of Tamilians in Sri Lanka

  • India recently raised the Sri Lankan Tamil issue in the 51st session United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. It expressed concern over Sri Lanka's promise to find a political solution to the Tamil problem not showing any discernible progress.
  • India stated that it has "always believed in the responsibility of States for promotion and protection of human rights and constructive international discussion and collaboration" guided by the U.N. Charter in its statement at the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Concerns raised by India

  • Human rights advocates in Sri Lanka have regularly expressed worries about repression, the narrowing space for dissent, and ongoing militarization, particularly in the north and east, which have a majority of Tamil people.

Tamil issue and its History

  • Background: 11.2% Sri Lankan Tamils and 74.9% Sinhalese make up Sri Lanka. Significant linguistic and theological divides may be seen between these two tribes, with Sinhalese typically being Buddhist and Tamils typically being Hindu.
  • The Tamils are thought to have come to Sri Lanka as both traders and invaders from the Chola Kingdom of India
  • The ‘Indian Tamils’, also called Estate Tamils or Upcountry Tamils, are the descendants of the indentured workers brought by the British to Ceylon from the erstwhile Madras Presidency (present-day state of Tamil Nadu) between the 1820s and 1930s to work in the central hill plantations of tea, coffee, and rubber, frequently under inhuman conditions.
  • By contrast, the Sri Lankan Tamils, also referred to as Eelam Tamils, are said to be the descendants of Tamils of the old Jaffna Kingdom and east coast chieftaincies called Vannamials.
  • Prior to the Civil War: The pattern of Tamil preference during British Rule made Sinhalese people feel marginalized and mistreated. These patterns of Tamil domination underwent a significant transformation shortly after the British invaders left the island in 1948.
  • Many Sinhalese acquired power after British independence and eventually passed laws that effectively denied their Tamil counterparts the right to vote, which sparked the formation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1976.
  • The LTTE was a militant group that drew inspiration from Che Guevara and his guerilla methods.
  • In 1983, the conflict entered a civil war, which sparked riots in Colombo directed at Tamils.
  • Just under three decades of fighting came to an end in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan government said that the LTTE leader had been put to death.
  • Post-Civil War: Although the Sri Lankan Civil War came to an end in 2009, the country's current circumstances have only slightly improved.
  • The Tamil people are still largely displaced. Even in recent years, there have still been incidents of torture and enforced disappearances, despite the fact that political and civil rights issues have decreased.
  • The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) of the government mostly targets Tamils. The Sri Lankan government continues to deny the Tamil people their rights in a more covert manner.
  • For instance, Tamil culture has been gradually displaced by Sinhalese culture through the process of "Sinhalization."
  • In areas with a predominance of Tamil people, Sinhalese monuments, road signs, street names, and places of worship became more prevalent.
  • The Tamil perspective on Sri Lankan history as well as Tamil and Hindu aspects of the nation's culture has been harmed by these attempts, and in some cases almost completely eliminated.

Concerns for India

  • Rehabilitation of Refugees: Many Tamils from Sri Lanka who fled the country's civil turmoil in 2009 are looking for safety in Tamil Nadu. For fear of being targeted once more, they are staying away. India faces a hurdle in rehabilitating them.
  • Sentiments of Indian Tamils: The Indian government has come under fire for ignoring the plight of Srilankan Tamils in order to preserve cordial relations with Sri Lanka.
  • Strategic concerns versus Tamil issue India frequently has to choose between strategic concerns and the rights of the Tamil minority in order to safeguard its economic interests in the region and counteract Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.

Other Issues in India-Sri Lanka Relations

  • Fisherman's murder: The killing of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy continues to be a point of contention between these two countries.
  • 284 Indian fishermen were detained in total in 2019 and 2020, and 53 Indian boats were seized by Sri Lankan police.
  • Project for the East Coast Terminal: In 2021 Sri Lanka revoked an MoU it had with Japan and India for the project for the East Coast Terminal.
  • Influence of China: Relations between India and Sri Lanka are being strained as a result of China's quickly expanding economic imprint (and political clout as a result) in that country.
  • As of now, China is by far the greatest investor in Sri Lanka, making up 23.6% of all FDI from 2010 to 2019 compared to 10.4% from India.
  • Constitution of Sri Lanka, 13th Amendment: In order to satisfy the legitimate request of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace, and respect within a united Sri Lanka, it envisions devolution of the essential authorities to the provincial councils but failed to provide autonomy in a real sense.

Way ahead

  • Building the capacity of its people and working toward their empowerment, which requires the devolution of power to the local level, is in Sri Lanka's best interests.
  • For India to maintain its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean, the Neighborhood First strategy with Sri Lanka is crucial

Also, Read - World Social Protection Report 2020–22

Source: The Hindu

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