A correspondent of the Mumbai-based Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), visiting the country of Eezham Tamils occupied by Sinhala military, sees there the Palu tree identified in Sinhala, but not the Paalai tree of Tamil literary fame. The example may be trifle but illustrative in showing how the lenses through which the Indian media sees or try to project the question of Eezham Tamils misses genocide in reducing the issue into mere militarisation, commented Eezham Tamil activists in the island responding to a feature in July 14 issue of EPW. Criticising the SL militarisation but at the same time artfully avoiding the heart of the matter, the genocide, the article said, “The message for the moment at least is clear: reconcile, by keeping your head down, give way to the army, be patient and hope for the best. In other words – do pretty much what you did to survive the reign of the LTTE."
The LTTE in fact waged the struggle so that the Eezham Tamils should not keep their heads down; that’s why trusting people survived it despite odds, and it stood up to the expectations even when the establishments of the entire world shamefully rallied against, Tamil political activists in the island commented.
The estimation of the EPW feature is that 75 per cent of the SL Army divisions and at least 60 per cent of its Army personnel, along with other forces numbering around 1,98,000, is deployed in the northern province of the island.
The ratio is one military personnel for every 5.04 people in the province (roughly 200 soldiers for 1000 people), the feature said.
Comparing 20 military personnel per thousand people in Iraq in 2007, 23 per thousand in Northern Ireland in the 70s, 60 per thousand in the Algerian war, 150 per thousand in Chechenya in 2003 and roughly 40 per thousand in Kashmir, and citing the US Defence Department analysis that 40-50 per thousand is enough for ‘counterinsurgency’, the EPW feature said that the SL troop deployment of 200 per thousand in the Northern Province is extraordinarily high, especially in a ‘post-war’ situation.
The feature comes out with three reasons cited: demining, policing and development. Rejecting the first two, the feature cautions that deploying of military for development needs careful consideration.
“Back in the Vanni, the security forces are very busy: making roads, building schools and community centres, organising medical camps, community events and gatherings; liaising and overseeing the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), etc. In short, the army is the government and nothing, or very little, happens without their saying-so. Encounters with senior army officials as well as the other ranks in Vanni suggests that they really do take their ‘development mission’ seriously,” the feature said.
“There is a genuine belief in the value of their new mission. In the context of the many institutional limitations of the post-war context some Sri Lankans even see it as the best option since the military is perceived as more efficient, professional and less corrupt. But it does beg the question: is military hyper-activism, especially with regard to development and civilian concerns, ever been good for nurturing democracy? The military’s new mission in the north has legitimised its large-scale entry into virtually all aspects of governance and peoples’ lives and raises a host of questions and fears,” the feature further said. The article, seeing “even the spiritual realm is part of the military’s mission,” has not failed in saying, “It is difficult to imagine that the Government of Sri Lanka is serious about any genuine reconciliation when one considers the fact that the only significant step taken with respect to devolution – widely seen as central to a political solution – has been the liberal devolving of the military presence, especially to the Northern and Eastern Provinces.”
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But the EPW feature conspicuously failed in not detecting or in not pronouncing the genocidal reason behind the Sinhala military having such an extraordinary number of troops in the north.
Forgetting the crux of the matter, the EPW article was twisting the issue as one such of only reviving ‘democracy’ in the island and demilitarizing ‘development’.
“The military may have won the war against the LTTE but another protracted struggle is looming on the horizon, that of winning democracy and development back from the clutches of militarisation,” said the Mumbai-based journal’s article.
The article citing failures of militarised development in Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan didn’t want to see Israeli parallels of Sinhala military in the country of Eezham Tamils.
In June the EPW had come out with another twisting article on the fishermen issue in the Palk straits.
What has happened in the Eastern Province and what is continuously happening there in terms of genocide have ostensibly gone out of the memory and purview of Indian media and other articulating international outfits.
Distorting the crisis as one that of ‘democracy and development’ for the whole island, and by deliberately suppressing the fact of genocide and annihilation of the nation of Eezham Tamils, they only wait to cite ‘new realities’ both in the North and East in due course with which the Eezham Tamils had to ‘reconcile’, said Tamil activists in the island.
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In the mean time, an article on “Fallacious Perceptions of Development” from the tribal point of view by Richard Toppo, a tribal by himself, appeared in an alternative Indian media, Kafila, on Friday, showed that New Delhi in its tribal belt is no different from Colombo.
“A total number of 6.54 million people have so far been displaced in Jharkhand in the name of development.
“By declaring districts as Maoist zones, the government clears the ground for future operations to be conducted by security forces.
“In a place where displacement and development have become synonymous, the strategic reasons for such oppressive measures go beyond mere monetary gains. Palpably, one may sense the consistent attempts by various corporate firms to have control over the policy formulation process.
The reason behind the move is “to dilute demographic and, hence, political strengths of tribals so that they would not make up a sizeable share of population capable of making any meaningful political impact in any of the concerned states of the country,” the Kafila article cited Mehar Singh Gill.
The Kafila article has brought out a point on how the middle class in India is cleverly alienated from the actual struggle by ‘counterinsurgency’ tactics harping around ‘development’.
Talking of ‘demilitarisation of development and winning democracy’ by pushing behind the burning national question and genocide in the island is another ‘counterinsurgency’ tactic hatched by the very powers that patronize militarisation of development and hijack of democracy.
This is also a tactic of alienating the middle class from the struggle and this has nowadays become a convenient excuse especially for the Sinhala middle class to achieve the dual purpose of fulfilling the genocide as well as being in the ‘good books’ of the international community of establishments.
Whether the national question is the reason or the excuse for the militarisation and degeneration of democracy, how to set them right without addressing the national question, ask Tamil activists, adding that how to address the national question without separating the nation that doesn’t have a military from the one that has a genocidal military.