The Mumbai-based Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) in a 23 June article on trans-boundary fishing incursions in the Palk Bay reduces the issue as arising from mere “unequal technological developments” between the sides of the bay. The article misses or doesn’t want to see the larger issue: the overlapping imperialist and genocidal agendas respectively of the establishments in New Delhi and Colombo carrying out a two-pronged attack on the nation of Eezham Tamils, ultimately to grab their coasts and seas. Colombo’s military and Sinhala fishermen occupying the coasts of Eezham Tamils and New Delhi setting Tamil fishermen on either side against each other are not two different issues. The fundamental flaw of the EPW article is that it sees the affected party as ‘Sri Lankan fishermen’ while in truth even the Sri Lankan state doesn’t see them in that spirit, commented an academic in Jaffna.
Approaching the conflict from the endogenous –exogenous framework, and concluding that it is “an archetypal example of an exogenous conflict,” in which the power balance weighs heavily on the Indian side both in terms of technology and at the level of geopolitics, the authors of the article find the solutions currently proposed as inappropriate.
A concluding suggestion of the article is to convert the exogenous conflict into a more manageable endogenous one, by creating an umbrella institution that would provide a platform of interaction for all relevant parties.
How to come out with an umbrella institution without recognizing the sovereignty of Eezham Tamils over their land and waters, asked the academic in Jaffna.
“The scenario today is such, the sovereignty and self-determination of the nation Eezham Tamils are deliberately denied and a structural genocide for the annihilation of their nation is systematically carried out by both New Delhi and Colombo.
“Setting the fishermen of Tamil Nadu against the Eezham Tamil fishermen is also encouraged and orchestrated with a long-term agenda of ultimately clearing the social control of the waters for bringing in corporate and military control. Military-corporate enclaves in KKS, Mannaar and Trincomalee are already in the making, coupled with bio-carbon and navigation projects in the Palk Bay.
“The balance weighs heavily against Eezham Tamils not only in comparison to the Tamil Nadu fishermen but also in comparison to the Sinhala fishermen who come with military and technology.
“The approach to the issue with the endogenous-exogenous jargon within the existing framework of states on either side of the bay would never work in the given context. Any umbrella institution to sort out the fishermen issue that doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of Eezham Tamils would only lead them to compromise with their subjugation,” said the academic in Jaffna.
J. Scholtens and M Bavinck of the University of Amsterdam and A S Soosai of the Department of Geography of the University of Jaffna have authored the article, “Fishing in Dire Straits, Trans-Boundary Incursions in the Palk Bay,” appeared in the EPW.
The article was based on a study funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. 25 students of the University of Jaffna conducted field surveys for the researchers.