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Tamil Eelam not a lost cause: Fr. Jegath Gaspar

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 09:06 No Comment]

Jegath_Gaspar_1  “I don’t think Tamil Eelam is a lost cause. If there was any point of time in history that Eelam was a possibility, I think it is now. Tamils all over the world are more determined than ever,” says Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj, Chennai based Catholic priest and international broadcast journalist in an interview to TamilNet Sunday. “I believe that geopolitics or foreign policy or security policies are never static; they are ever dynamic, they will keep changing. I am confident that at some point of time India will come to realize that the only strategic leverage it has against the Chinese-Sri Lankan combine in the Indian Ocean is the Indo-Tamil combination,” he said, pinning the responsibility for the failure of Indian foreign policy to M K Narayanan Doctrine.

"Until recently China was treading cautiously as Sri Lanka was considered the extended backyard of India. But the utterly short sighted, self-centered, arrogant and revengeful check of policy makers in New Delhi, solely driven by anti-Tamil venom have given this strategic pearl-Srilanka on a platter to China,” Fr. Gaspar said adding that the only asset India ever had, to contain China in the Indian Ocean was, the Eelam Tamils and the LTTE.

“People think that because of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination India took revenge on the LTTE and Eelam Tamils. That may not be the whole truth. I would put it this way. It is because of the (India’s National Securty Advisor) M.K.Narayanan doctrine as known in policy-making circles. The fundamental of M.K.Narayanan’s doctrine, if there is an Eelam in Sri Lanka, it will lead to a greater Eelam, which includes Tamil Nadu as well. This has guided and determined the Indian security and foreign policy,” Fr. Gaspar said.

According to him, the strategic community based in Delhi doesn’t talk much about the Chinese threat to India in the Indian Ocean as they do with Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

“My disappointment or anger today is not much towards our enemies but towards the so-called champions of our cause,” Fr. Gaspar was critical at the political forces in Tamil Nadu for not educating the rest of India on the issue and for not acting in the right way at the right time. The rest of India doesn’t really know that the Tamils had the experience of almost genocide in the war crimes of May alone, he said.

In his opinion, “at least when Ki’linochchi fell, the politicians in Tamil Nadu should have taken a dispassionate and realistic view of the situation and pooled all their energies and consciences together to ensure just one thing: that the struggle doesn’t get completely destroyed.”

“There must be credible resistance in the homeland from the side of the Tamils. If there is no resistance there, whom are you talking for, and who is going to listen to you? For this, I think the LTTE has to survive. There are remnants and they can regroup, get a direction, and remain a credible guerrilla resistance force. I don’t think they will come out now in the open, but I think they have to be there working quietly for resistance. The nature of Sinhala fascism is such that the Tamils have all moral legitimacy for resistance,” Fr. Gaspar, the former journalist of Radio Veritas, said in the interview.

However, he emphasized that the Tamil community (be it in Tamil Nadu or around the world) should now embrace the spirit of democracy for the ultimate cause of Eelam.

The fundamentals, articulated in the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution and validated in the subsequent general elections have to be continuously reiterated by the world Tamil community wherever they live since it sends an open, clear and firm political message to the host countries around the world, the Friar said, urging India to facilitate such a democratic exercise among the Eezham Tamil refugees in India too.

“If they say that they want a separate Eelam, let them at least be given the right to make that political statement. It is a perfectly democratic exercise. Since India considers Sri Lanka a friendly country, such a referendum would be seen as a hostile exercise, but then this is happening worldwide, and the UN has accepted the legitimacy of knowing the opinion of the people, which is a democratic right of the people. They have lived here for about 25-30 years and I think they should express themselves. They should record and register their opinion,” Fr. Gaspar Raj said.

Full text of the interview follows:

TamilNet: At various junctures, you have said that India would find itself in a situation to support the establishment of an independent state of Tamil Eelam due to geopolitics. Why do you think India would find itself in a situation to promote the establishment of Tamil Eelam?

Jegath_Gaspar_2 Jegath Gaspar: China has, in the last decade, emerged as an economic superpower the world has to reckon with. It is rapidly expanding its spheres of influence near and far. Such a course makes control of the strategic components, both regional and global, an existential imperative.

Sea lanes have become crucial to the global economic and resultant political expansion of China. The traffic across the Atlantic and of the Pacific is no more the exclusive domain of US. European powers, as it used to be until the early nineties. Today ships with Chinese merchandise cruise these seas endlessly. On the other side China has also quietly created several client states in Africa from where it is getting iron and ore and other natural resources for its huge industry back home. China’s business spread in the middle and Far East too, is significant. All these make Sea Lane security critical to the emerging global power of China and Indian Ocean is central to the scheme of Sea Lane security.

Though Sri Lanka was best suited to provide the Chinese this very important component until recently China was treading cautiously as Sri Lanka was considered the extended backyard of India. But the utterly short sighted, self-centered, arrogant and revengeful check of policy makers in New Delhi, solely driven by anti-Tamil venom, have given this strategic pearl-Sri Lanka on a platter to China. They did it by decimating the Tamil resistance. They had absolutely no compunction being a willing party to the horrendous war crimes committed on the Tamils. Sadly even the strategic community based in Delhi doesn’t talk much about the Chinese threat to India in the Indian Ocean as they do with Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

But the real danger and real Chinese threat comes in South India, in the Indian Ocean. By the very nature of China’s needs and compulsions, the tensions are bound to increase and reach a flashpoint. It may not be a war, but it will reach a flashpoint. And the only asset India ever had, to contain China in the Indian Ocean was, the Eelam Tamils and the LTTE. But as I said because of the short-sighted, self-centered and a revengeful policy of a few individuals in New Delhi, they have completely lost this leverage of Tamils vis-a-vis the Chinese hegemony in the Indian Ocean. However much India tries to please Sri Lanka—today, there is a tragic competition to please Sri Lanka against China, India telling Sri Lanka, “we will please you more than China pleases you”—one must also remember that Sri Lanka has the added history of never being loyal to India. It has always acted against the interests of India. Be it the Indo-China war, or the Indo-Pak war, Sri Lanka never sided with us. It openly sided with the enemies of India. In future too it will side with China and not with India.

I believe that geopolitics or foreign policy or security policies are never static; they are ever dynamic, they will keep changing. I am confident that at some point of time India will come to realize that the only strategic leverage it has against the Chinese-Sri Lankan combine in the Indian Ocean is the Indo-Tamil combination. Therefore, I think that India will take a look at the Tamils in a very, very different way.

I think it is our responsibility also. Unfortunately most of the policy makers sit in Delhi and the South-Indian perspectives are never heard. And at best, we mirror and reflect the thinking of the Delhi-based thinkers and strategists. I think it is also pertinent that South-Indian thinkers and strategists should progressively effect a policy-shift on Indian security policy and foreign policy. They’ve to make India realize that Tamils will be their best-friends and that Eelam will be in the best interests of India.

TamilNet: You speak about making India realize that Tamil Eelam would be in its best interests. How do you think father, that the support base for the Tamil cause in Eelam can be broadened in India, especially outside of Tamil Nadu?

Jegath_Gaspar_3 Jegath Gaspar: My disappointment or anger today is not much towards our enemies but towards the so-called champions of our cause. Much of our activism is confined to street protests, vocal chord intensive and fiery interviews. We have failed to inform and educate the rest of India, the activists in India, the parliamentarians of India, the policy-makers of India, the common man of India beyond the borders of Tamil Nadu. Even within Tamil Nadu people really don’t know what exactly the issue is. Mainland India views this as an issue of the fringe segments, people who are seen as extremists and Tamil chauvinists. I think it is time that we take the cause, the history, the rationale, the justification for why there is a need for Eelam. Even the experience of almost a genocide, the experience of war-crimes in the month of May alone, the rest of India doesn’t really know all this. That’s what we need to do and that’s what we are trying to do also. I can see lot of educated young people coming into the picture. I also wish that this issue gets detoxicated from politics, specifically electoral politics and that it moves to the center of the civil society. I am aware that an issue of this nature cannot be taken forward without political parties and politicians. Having said that, academics, journalists, strategic thinkers, social activists, and young people who are willing to invest time and energy in this cause should come forward to campaign for this cause outside Tamil Nadu, in Delhi, in Andhra Pradesh, in Orissa, in Bombay, in the northern states. They need to create a powerful political opinion for Tamil Eelam.

TamilNet: Talking about the inevitability of politics, we see that at one point or another, almost all political parties in Tamil Nadu have expressed their support to the establishment of Tamil Eelam. Do you think it is possibly to renew this, or reassert it in a credible manner?

Jegath Gaspar: Firstly, I don’t think Tamil Eelam is a lost cause. It is not at all a lost cause. If there was any point of time in history that Eelam was a possibility, I think it is now. There is a quiet resolve among Tamils all over the world, particularly among the enlightened Tamils all over the world, that the kind of atrocities heaped on the Tamils, the kind of brutalities on the Tamil people in the first six months of this year and the continuing trauma of more than three hundred thousand people in the open concentration camps there—this alone becomes the raisond’être for Tamil Eelam. Tamils all over the world are more determined than ever. Why are you and me talking? We have never seen, never met each other. I think there is definitely a point to this. There is a determined effort by Tamils all over the world to see Eelam.

The major challenge comes from the fact that even today our struggle is seen as a terroristic struggle. The world accepted the Sinhala argument that the Tamil Eelam struggle is a terroristic struggle. It is the duty of the Diaspora to work tirelessly and intelligently with all stakeholders, with the governments of the world and global organizations to remove this darkness, which has clouded our struggle—the tag of terrorism. It is their responsibility to make the world accept theoretically that the Tamils have the right to self-determination. That is the first challenge, and it is not an impossible task if we work responsibly with far-sightedness we will be able to achieve this within two-three years. We will be able to get the world to recognize the right of the Tamil people for self-determination.

Simultaneously, the forces in Tamil Nadu and India should work towards modulating and moderating the Indian foreign policy and security policy in favour of the Eelam Tamils. Whether India will recognize the right to self-determination of the Tamil people is a mute question and we will have to work towards that. People think that because of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination India took revenge on the LTTE and Eelam Tamils. That may not be the whole truth. I would put it this way. It is because of the (India’s National Securty Advisor) M.K.Narayanan doctrine as known in policy making circles. The fundamental of M.K.Narayanan’s doctrine, if there is an Eelam in the island of Sri Lanka, it will lead to a greater Eelam which includes Tamil Nadu as well. This has guided and determined the Indian security and foreign policy. The primary reason was the fear that fissiparous tendencies will emerge in Tamil Nadu if there is Tamil Eelam.

The third thing that has to happen is, there must be credible resistance in the homeland from the side of the Tamils. If there is no resistance there, whom are you talking for, and who is going to listen to you? For this, I think the LTTE has to survive. There are remnants and they can regroup, get a direction, and remain a credible guerrilla resistance force. I don’t think they will come out now in the open, but I think they have to be there working quietly for resistance. The nature of Sinhala fascism is such that the Tamils have all moral legitimacy for resistance. There also has to be a political inter-locution also. Today, the political interlocution on behalf of the Tamils in Sri Lanka has been left with very duplicitous politicians and traitors, and I don’t want to name them. It is also important that we support credible Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka to be interlocutors between the Southern Sinhala polity and the political aspirations of Tamil people.

If these three things happen: 1) the international community recognizing the right of Tamils to self-determination, 2) India also changing its security and foreign policy towards Sri Lanka vis-a-vis a separate Eelam and also 3) there being a credible resistance on ground, then I think that Eelam will be a realistic possibility in another twenty years time.

TamilNet: How do you think the Tamils of Tamil Nadu could show their support in a legal or legislative context? Since you were talking about the stereotyped exercises that social street protests have become, what do you think the people can do?

Jegath_Gaspar_4 Jegath Gaspar: Most of the political parties in Tamil Nadu have done great service to the Tamil cause. But they’ve done equal disservice as well. I also tend to get emotional about it because I believe that if only all our political parties had acted in unison, if they had taken initiatives together, we would have been able to stop the ultimate and violent destruction of the struggle. Unfortunately, we failed to handle this historically important issue of the Eelam struggle beyond the calculations and constraints of our electoral politics. This is a painful fact that makes me very sad. Individually every leader worth his name in Tamil Nadu has contributed to the Eelam cause, but when it came to the point of ultimate test, everyone had their electoral calculations. I don’t want to name any party or individual.

I have been a keen observer of the Eelam struggle, and I knew that something had gone very deeply wrong when Mannar fell. And by the time Kilinochchi fell, it was too late. At least when Kilinochchi fell, the politicians in Tamilnadu should have taken a dispassionate and realistic view of the situation and pooled all their energies and consciences together to ensure just one thing: that the struggle doesn’t get completely destroyed. Unfortunately, everyone wanted to play politics. There were a few individuals who completely misled the LTTE and gave them a totally wrong picture of the ground situation.

Let’s say that we have all collectively failed. If there is one point in the history of the Tamils in the last thousand years, where we as a race have to commit collective suicide in shame, it is now. We have failed as a people. So, let us do some penance and reparation within ourselves. Let’s start a new journey. Even now, it is so partisan here, everyone accusing each other. We have forgotten our real enemies. In fact, we are ending up fighting our own selves. I think better sense and sanity will prevail over all of us so that we have a level-headed commitment for the Tamil cause.

TamilNet: Tamils in Norway have re-mandated the 1977 mandate, the last democratic mandate of Eelam Tamils (before the induction of PTA in 1979 and 6th amendment in 1983), a few days before Tiger weapons were silenced. Now, there are fresh move among the Tamil diaspora to re-mandate the VR-1977 in various countries (UK, France, Canada, Germany etc.) in diaspora context. What do you think of the exercise of remandating the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution? How do you think the Eezham Tamils in Tamil Nadu could re-mandate it?

Jegath Gaspar: I think there has to be a relentless reiteration. For the moment, it may not carry any legal weightage. But it carries tremendous political weightage, therefore a reiteration of the fundamentals of the Tamil demand: 1) we had a homeland and we have a homeland and we will have the right for a homeland; 2) we have our own history, language, culture and way of living; 3) all Tamils are equal and 4) Tamils have the right to self-determination — I am talking about the Tamils in Sri Lanka and not about the Tamils in India). These fundamentals, articulated in the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution and validated in the subsequent general elections which they had there has to be continuously reiterated by the world Tamil community wherever they live since it sends an open, clear and firm political message to the host countries around the world.

Coming to India, I think India should also facilitate such a kind of referendum or plebiscite or opinion poll to be conducted among the refugees here, asking to know what it is that they want as a solution in Sri Lanka. And if they say that they want a separate Eelam, let them at least be given the right to make that political statement. It is a perfectly democratic exercise. Since India considers Sri Lanka a friendly country, such a referendum would be seen as a hostile exercise, but then this is happening worldwide, and the UN has accepted the legitimacy of knowing the opinion of the people which is a democratic right of the people. They have lived here for about 25-30 years and I think they should express themselves. They should record and register their opinion.

TamilNet: Do you feel that the Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka have clearly voiced their aspirations for the establishment of Tamil Eelam?

Jegath Gaspar: Right now, they are a brutalized lot, they are a frightened lot. Whether it is in the concentration camps, or Jaffna or Batticolao or Colombo. Even the Sinhalese are afraid to critique the Rajapakse regime. Although we expect the Tamils to articulate their political aspirations, one has to realize that they are terrified and frightened. I don’t think we can expect them to express their political aspirations with so much clarity and courage at this juncture. A section of the Tamil National Alliance are putting forward the fundamentals, and I think it is the duty of the Diaspora Tamils to strengthen the moderate political voices there to represent Tamil aspirations to the international community and to the Southern Sri Lankan polity. We are rising our voice all over the world but it is very very important to give voice to the Tamil aspirations and demands from within Sri Lanka, and I think the people best equipped are the Tamil National Alliance.

TamilNet: How do you think the Eelam Tamil Diaspora, the Tamils in the homeland and the people of Tamil Nadu should cooperate among themselves?

Jegath Gaspar: What we are lacking at the moment is clear direction. There is no visible leadership to articulate and assert how we have to go forward. That fluidity is creating a scenario where lot of forces are competing to occupy that leadership role. There’s no single credible authority to give a direction to the worldwide Tamils to work for this cause. I know individuals and small groups of people who are trying in earnest to give such a direction. It will take some more time for things to unfold. Until then, I think people should resist selfish vested interests who will attempt to occupy the political space for controlling the politics of Tamil Eelam. I will emphatically say that the Tamil community (be it in Tamil Nadu or around the world) should now embrace the spirit of democracy, we should talk in open, but with so much love and concern for the suffering people there and the ultimate cause of Eelam. Let us also see the things that unite us and not the things that divide us. We should contain our emotions and be very cool and level-headed and absolutely democratic, define a clear roadmap and involve all stakeholders. It can no longer be one or two people coming up to claim that they represent the LTTE and the movement. It is incumbent on the world Tamil community, intellectuals and committed activists and all of them to come together and arrive at a blueprint of action, a roadmap to achieve Eelam. I know it is not a very palatable statement. But I think that democracy, even if it is messy, is a hundred times better than closed door decisions.

TamilNet: Could you tell us about your work at Radio Veritas?

Jegath Gaspar: My entry into the Eelam Tamil struggle was very spontaneous and accidental. When I took charge of Radio Veritas Asia towards the end of 1995, I had no great idea about the various dimensions of the Eelam struggle. Like everyone around here, I was a romantic lover and admirer of the struggle. When I was in the radio, I learnt a lot about the struggle from the letters that people wrote to me from the homeland. I also had a prejudice against the LTTE that they killed the Prime Minister of my country. But the letters which I received from the people there showed me what the great civilization called India did there during the IPKF time. Truth is same for everyone and the truth is never partial to Indians, or Eelam Tamils. So I knew that we have been very very unjust and unfair to the Eelam Tamils. I was basically responding to the agonies and aspirations of the ordinary people there. I never had any contact with the LTTE, the fighting organization there. I was responding to the letters of Tamil people and I became a believer in the right to self-determination of the Tamils. After reading the painful and tragic stories of the people I came to believe that Eelam is the only solution. I began to give voice to them, I travelled around the world trying to help various charities raising funds for rehabilitation and humanitarian work back in the homeland.

When I was a broadcaster, from the letters I realized that the war had disintegrated a lot of families. The war had completely shattered a lot of families. family members. Imagine a scenario. The war breaks out in Ki’linochchi, the father runs to LTTE controlled area, the mother runs to the Army-controlled area, the children roam about here, there and finally reach somewhere. Nobody knows the other’s whereabouts since there is no proper telephony, people don’t know where to write letters to, and so on. A family that lived together for hundreds generations gets disintegrated overnight. So, I started a program called Uravu paalam (Bridge of Love) and I am very happy to say that between 1996 to 2001, we reunited more than 4400 families which I consider the best thing I ever did in my life. Right now, there are more than 300, 000 people in the camp: their families are disintegrated and there’s so much anxiety to know where people are. I am trying to see how this ‘Bridge of Love’ program can be revived in the present context, and I hope to come up with something within two months time.

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