Monday, March 18, 2013

Anti- Sri Lankan protests in Tamil Nadu

It all started with the hunger strike by a few Loyola College students in Chennai. It seemed unclear to me what exactly their primary goal was. They had a 9 point charter of demands, which didn't read well.

It was also not clear to me what suddenly prompted this hunger strike. Sure, there was a scheduled meeting of UNHRC, where a few countries headed by the USA was going to table a resolution criticising Sri Lanka's human rights record. Channel 4 of UK had come up with another documentary, which had the haunting images of Prabhakaran's young son Balachandran eating biscuits in one frame, and found in a sea of blood in another. Two important books had been published during this time - The Cage by Gordon Weiss and Still Counting the Dead by Frances Harrison - documenting the human rights excesses by the Sri Lankan army during their bloody war against the LTTE in 2009.

The Tamil Nadu State Govt. moved swiftly and broke the hunger strike. But this only made the student protest spread across the state. Last week, almost every town had a college or two organising a local hunger protest. Even IIT Madras seemingly participated! Engineering Colleges and Medical Colleges looked to be joining. The State Government declared all colleges closed starting today.

At the political level, DMK's TESO was all for a very strong resolution against SL. Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha wrote to the Prime Minister asking for a tough stand at UNHRC. Last week parliament witnessed Tamil MPs almost unanimous - even the TN Congress MPs.

Yet, something seemed not right.

The Indian Government response is not clear what its position is. The pressure from Tamil Nadu means that India will be forced not to back Sri Lanka. It will be made to vote along with the US resolution, which unfortunately is itself quite weak. DMK and AIADMK want the resolution to be made strong against SL, but India doesn't have the capability or willingness to do so at this late hour. Further, Even if India cobbles together a tough resolution (much against its own wish), it doesn't have the ability to convince other countries to accept its version.

The protesting Tamil Nadu students have no clue about any of this. They do not even have a clarity on whether to support the US backed resolution or not. Their goal of calling SL action as a genocide is not going to happen, because that campaign started so late.

In the end, the students will feel betrayed.

Without leaders from amidst themselves directing this, students will merely fritter away their energy and will be mostly misused by the various political parties.

Many leftist intellectuals in TN seem to be overly thrilled about the student uprising. They see it as their beloved revolution. They are entitled to their dreams.

Most students who spoke on TV seemed to know very little about the political process. They don't seem to be reading anything at all. It is obvious that whatever they presented as their demands seem to have been given to them by some other operators, with their own ulterior motives.

If the students do not read up and work on their own leaders, they will end up feeling totally disillusioned. They cannot move this current government that easily with such haphazard flash strikes.