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Refugees seek dual citizenship – Deccan Chronicle

[MISC, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 20:28 No Comment]

While Indian Tamil descendants of the island nation living in refugee camps here rejoice over the DMK’s proposal for permanent resident status, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees apprehensive over future demand dual citizenship.

As a race we are wronged and hence remain stateless, is the refrain of refugees living inside and outside camps. But not a single soul wants to go back to the island Republic immediately given the “gross human rights violations” against Tamils there. Albeit, the Lankan Tamils still nurse the fond hope of returning to their motherland, the Tamil Eelam.

Newton (60), a fisherman of Peshalai living in Aanaiyur camp in suburban Madurai says, “We will be grateful if the Indian government makes us permanent residents here and at the same time ensures of our citizenship rights in Lanka. It should not be a question of losing one eyesight for the sake for another for we live a decent life here with our roots there.” All his neighbours in the camp back his plea.

Middle-aged refugees and women prefer to stay back as they feel there is no safety and security in the war-torn island. “Despite the Sri Lankan government’s claim that the ethnic war has ended, the situation there is not conducive for us. Unless the Indian government forces us to go back, I shall not go back to the island,” says S. Sivasundaram (45) of Jaffna, an inmate of Kottapattu camp. Chellapackiam endorses his view.

Women like Sivaneswari of Jaffna want to live in India for the welfare of her children. “My daughters and I prefer refugee camp in India to the concentration camp in Lanka,” she says.

Youngsters who are not the direct victims of war aspire for better living condition in India. “If the government provides us employment, we will never think of going back to Sri Lanka,” says Vinobha (19), a diploma holder in nursing.

The aged feel homesick and beg to differ. In fact, 30 families from the camp have decided to leave for Sri Lanka and are awaiting official clearance. V Jayaseeli (65) is happy of the very thought of going back to her native Valvattithurai. “I want to spend the rest of my life with my son and grandchildren,” she says.

Many refugees in Thalayoothu camp are not convinced of the DMK’s request to the Congress-led government to make them Indian citizens as they believe it would not help them secure their innate rights as Lankan citizens on par with the Sinhalese.

“Can it give us the feeling of living in our motherland?” asks 39-year-old Vanitha. Some feel that the PR status would not only alienate them from their soil but also render their half-a-century struggle meaningless. Thangeswaran of Oferr is of the opinion that living among Indian Tamils would wipe out their identity, which the Sri Lankan government desired for.

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