Sri Lanka: Crime and Punishment

ASIA--PACIFIC, 25 Feb 2013

Vidya Bhushan Rawat - CounterCurrents

There is a feeling of outrage over the latest revelation of Channel 4 story on Sri Lankan army’s brutalities in the anti LTTE operations in North of the country, a territory which was the stronghold of LTTE. There is no doubt that Sri Lanka was a fighting one of the biggest battle for its survival against a fascist organization which rarely cared for human being and butchered them like animals. There is no denial in facts that LTTE used child soldiers and Sri Lankan army complimented it when they ran out of soldiers in their army to combat the LTTE pressure. The government used all resources to eliminate the most ferocious man called V.Prabhakaran, stories of whose ‘bravery’ is part of folklores in Tamilnadu while making him a perfect villain and hateful figures for rest of Sri Lanka. Prabhakaran was eliminated but now disturbing evidences are coming to the fore that his 12 years old son was brutally murdered on point blank range by the Srilankan armed forces. Though the Lankan army has out rightly rejected these charges yet it is difficult to find that there were no brutalities in the operation and therefore it will be good if the Sri Lankan government apologize to its Tamil population for the excesses happened during the anti LTTE operations and start a ‘reconciliation’ commission so that the country is united and Tamils live there with dignity and self-respect as citizens of that country.

There are definitely some gruesome facts which we need to understand broadly. No army in the world is saint and whenever there are army operations even when each country pretend and say that they follow the ‘Geneva convention’, the fact remain that they violate the principles of war. In fact, has any war been fought on ‘principles’ so far where the army follows all the rules and people are not butchered? That is why my contention is that human rights cases must be followed up and raised by people without boundaries and those who champion the cause of it without having any prejudices.

Those who believe in one particular kind of nationalism and want to counter the other one through political motives are highly unfit to raise the issue. There is no denial that when we see the rights violation, we have to raise the issue and bring the guilty to the book but for that can an entire country and an entire society be blamed? Why should power elite of the world use human rights as a tool to infringe the sovereignty of ‘minor’ countries? Will US or UK or Switzerland ever think of censoring Israel for its blatant violations of all kind of human rights of the Palestinian people for the past 40 years. You cannot even think of an economic embargo against that country which terrorizes others while atrocious sanctions against Cuba and Iraq were imposed once violating all norms of civility.

In each society the majoritarian tendencies rules and we are no exceptions. We blame Pakistanis for not being able to take action against Jamat ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad who sit there and speak of a grand Jehad against non-Muslims but have we in India been able to take any action against the Hindutva lunatics using the same language. What would an ordinary Kashmiri think about Indian army and its operations in the Kashmir valley? What does an ordinary woman in Manipur feel of Assam Rifles? In Tamilnadu itself, why do the Dravidian Parties keep silence when the Dalit Sarpanch is not allowed to hoist a flag or when a Dalit boy is brutally murdered when he try to marry a girl he loves, who does not belong to her castes? Have we seen that brutalities by state and societies reduced so far? Have we forgotten the brutalities inflicted by LTTE against the Tamils who did not agree to their positions?

The British Prime Minister is here in India and today he visits Jalianwala Bagh which became symbol of British oppression in India killing innocent people who protested against them. He talks about our shared legacy and historical ties but the fact is history of British India would be read by two different people in different ways and cannot be the same. A majority of Indians would definitely feel that the British government must apologize for atrocities it inflicted on Indians who were fighting for their freedom. And Britain had more than 60 such ‘jewels’ in its crown in the 20th century where it ruled but it has till date not offered any apology to anyone. No UN body has asked it to do so. Why? Interestingly, no one in their dreams could ever think of seeking economic boycott or stopping political linkages with a country that have a lot to explain.

Definitely, many like me, feel, British contribution to India is enormous but definitely there have been loads of errors too and historical wrongs cannot be undone through creating new wrongs but through reconciliation and social justice. Our own record against Untouchability and caste discrimination is absolutely tainted and call for an international censorship against the government which has rules but no application. But internationalism does not help all the time as it can only help those who want to remain separate as all the treaties will have to be implemented by the state agencies or in the bigger case, through a mediating country. Sri lanka is a small country and hence each one of us feel we have got a right to intervene there and squeeze it. In Tamilnadu political parties feel it is their domain and rather than focusing on their issues, the parties are deliberately raising the Tamil issue in Srilanka and want to gain through people’s sentiments. It is unfortunate as at the end of the day the issue will have to be resolved in Srilanka only.

One does not know the motives of the people who wish to bring the issue of censoring Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in its forthcoming session in Geneva. The timings of these reports are clearly linked and hence show the motivation emerging from London. The question is whether the Human Rights Council is the best to judge about the human rights violation in countries and whether Sri Lanakan government should be censored on a resolution moved by the United States or may be by United Kingdom.

For a moment, let us keep aside the issue of Sri Lanka and see the track record of the Council. What has it done to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq where millions of children are now suffering in hunger, malnutrition and have caught up with different diseases due to chemical warfare launched by the United States and its allies? Even when human rights organisations have boldly spoken against the international aggression, the UN Human Rights bodies just played second fiddle to these aggressions. Similarly, Bangladesh is witnessing some of the biggest protest against the atrocities committed on its people by the Razakars and the agents of the Pakistan army in 1971. Both the countries have strained relationship as Bangladesh always wanted Pakistan to apologize for the mass atrocities unleashed by Pakistan army.

If the Tamils in India feel that there is no future of Tamils in Sri Lanka and it need separation then perhaps there could not be any answer to that at least at the government level. No government would be able to support such motions as each country in South Asia has a tainted record, must worst then Sri Lankan government. The only thing that Srilankan atrocities on Tamils have proved that when the state become highly religious and use religion then even a religion like Buddhism become a tool for spreading state propaganda and not a mean for spreading love and peace. Therefore, Sri Lanka can remain peaceful if it has fair representation for Tamils, Dalits, Muslims and Christians living there and ensure that constitutionally the state remain a secular state. It is also important for the Sri Lankan government to conduct an impartial inquiry and punish those responsible for this ghastly act of killing an innocent child at the point blank range.

Such heinous crimes should not go unpunished and let the government send a message of reconciliation that it believes in it and would go miles to bring the Tamils to the mainstream of that country. International pressures are great but if they become norms of the day in the hands of powerful countries who have violated human rights of all for years, then it would be difficult to find the truth and societies in our countries will never be able to reconcile much the benefit of those who wish to fish in troubled water.


Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at

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