It’s ten years since the Sri Lankan civil war ended. The political activism around the movement has witnessed a sea change over these years. Mainstream parties that once were frontrunners of the movement have been effectively sidelined. Several new ones have taken their space.
Kolathur Mani of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, who was at the forefront of Eelam liberation movement for the last three decades, explains how the political tide turned in TN. “Outfits like Save Tamils movement and May 17 movement were formed after the war ended. Naam Tamilar Katchi got revived,” recounts Mani.
“These groups were agonized. They pointed out how State and Central governments had failed the Lankan Tamils on the issue and successfully mobilised youngsters in the State. Youngsters, mostly college students, started agitations that continued for several years, demanding that Indian representatives vote in favour of the resolutions passed in international bodies in connection with the war.
“Civil society uprising, in the form of students’ movement, was a turning point in the history of Tamil Nadu’s social movements,” says professor R Manivannan, head of the politics and public administration department at Madras University. “Civil society organizations that emerged from the movements are far more active on the issue than political parties,” feels Manivannan.
Manivannan feels that these organisations need to take the political plunge to be able to do something on the issue. Kolathur Mani, however, says not all of these outfits understand the island nation’s political background or ideological point of view.
“Many of them still think secession of TN from the Republic of India is essential for the formation of Eelam in Sri Lanka. They couldn’t be more wrong. Central government plays a significant role in Sri Lankan affairs and its support for the cause is important to ensure the rights of Tamils in the island nation,” says Mani. “Many organizations formed after the war does not understand this.”
In the last few years, however, many of these organizations have turned their focus on internal affairs of TN, many of them with an eye on electoral politics.
Though 10 years have passed, Tamils in Sri Lanka are still struggling for their right to property. Soon after he assumed power in January 2015, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena announced that lands occupied by the military would be returned to the Tamils living in the country. The announcement was repeated recently, indicating that still lands have not been released to many.
But in these 10 years in Tamil Nadu, the war played a major part in shifting power, planted diverse ideologies in the minds of the youth, served as a starting point for various discussions and revived the spirit of dissent.