It seems leaders of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) have at last decided that they cannot afford to be left behind on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
After Union Minister G K Vasan last month aired strong comments on the matter and urged the Centre to pull out of the Commonwealth meet in Colombo, it was the turn of Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, who on Saturday wrote to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) urging it not to sponsor and facilitate the forthcoming visit of Indian parliamentarians to Sri Lanka.
A six-member delegation of MPs comprising Sandeep Dikshit (Congress), Saugata Roy (TMC), Dhananjay Singh (BSP), Madhu Goud Yaskhi (Congress), Anurag Thakur (BJP) and Prakash Javadekar (BJP) is likely to fly to Colombo on Monday.
During its four-day trip on April 8-12, the delegation is expected to visit the Indian housing project being constructed in Jaffna for internally displaced Tamils under full grant assistance of the Indian government that will cost approximately `1,372 crore to build 50,000 houses.
In a strongly-worded letter written in her “personal capacity” to the FICCI president, Natarajan highlighted media reports which indicated that the FICCI would be sponsoring delegations of MPs from India to Lanka to hold talks.
“I feel if this trip is undertaken, it will be deeply hurtful to the cause of innocent Lankan Tamils. I feel strongly that FICCI should show solidarity with this cause, and refrain from sending a Parliamentarians’ team to Sri Lanka at this time,” she said. The letter recalled various reports on the atrocities committed on the Tamil population in Sri Lanka during the war in 2009 and afterwards. It also pointed out the financial packages of the Centre to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the deep concern expressed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi over the human rights violations.
“The proposed trip runs directly contrary to the anger and sorrow felt by the people of Tamil Nadu regarding the human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government,” the minister pointed out.
The timing of the letter surprised many even within the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC), given that rumours about the G K Vasan faction being unhappy with the Centre’s conduct on the issue are already doing the rounds. Natarajan was part of the erstwhile Tamil Manila Congress, a breakaway group from the Congress that was floated by Vasan’s father G K Moopanar.
Vasan had also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and had reportedly explained the situation in Tamil Nadu with regard to the Lankan issue. Sources said he also urged the party leaders to take a favourable stand in the matter given the hostile opposition the party had been facing in the State since the war ended in Sri Lanka in 2009.