I cringed. Also, I did not know what he was celebrating. Did he know? The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) had the support of India in the early stages until the dynamics changed and they began to be disillusioned with the Indian government. They killed Rajiv Gandhi.
Anyone who has travelled extensively through South India, mainly the tip of Tamil Nadu, especially Rameswaram, will realise that there was support and the usual make-fast-buck tactics. I wasn’t surprised to read this bit of news:
"Smuggling to Sri Lanka has been a major source of income for many people living on the coast. Smuggling for LTTE was very minuscule when compared with the smuggling for Sri Lankan civilian consumption. Narcotic smuggling for LTTE had come down drastically in the last few years. It's true that smuggling activities have been hit due to increased coastal vigilance. However, smugglers will become active again after a while," a senior police official said.
The waters in this area are astoundingly beautiful. Even a decade ago when I was visiting, one could see fishermen, who the reports say would get arrested under the pretext that they were LTTE operatives. The attitude towards terror suspects is pretty much the same everywhere. And today, India says that Tamilians should be given more autonomy. This is another country we are talking about. This is our government view:
In a brief reaction, the external affairs ministry spokesman in New Delhi said, “It is our view that as the conventional conflict in Sri Lanka comes to an end, this is the moment when the root causes of the conflict can be addressed.’’ It called for effective devolution of powers within the country’s constitution to ensure that all communities, including Tamils, could feel at home and lead their lives with dignity. The spokesman added that India would work with the people and the government of Sri Lanka to provide relief to those affected by the tragic conflict, help rapidly rehabilitate all those displaced and bring back normalcy as soon as possible.
India feels responsible because it knows how it worked its way through this conflict. The death of Prabhakaran cannot kill a movement. What were we doing for three decades to get to the root cause? We are asking Sri Lanka to treat all its communities with dignity?
It is extremely polite of the Sri Lankan government not to tell us to look within our backyards. It is also to their credit that Indians are welcomed in their country, and for a few years now tourists get visa upon arrival.
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I used to be a Sri Lanka junkie.
I absolutely love the place. However, certain areas were out-of-bounds for tourists. And security is stringent at the airports. I recall on one occasion the lady frisking me wanted to check my hand luggage again. I had a small box of dates and she did everything possible to find out more about it. Finally, I said, “Eat it.” She didn’t. No, I couldn’t carry it. I can say that someone owes me a few dates…
Then I remember this man in a lungi. I was on my way from Thiruvanathapuram airport. We were going through the security check and he had a lota (water jug) in his hand. It was the sort used to clean up!
Many non-Tamilians of Indian origin live and work here; most run small businesses, especially trading in gemstones. The Sindhi gentleman sitting next to me on a flight to Colombo told me he was a big man. All I could see was that he knew the flight attendants and he flirted outrageously with them.
He was a film distributor and was candid enough to tell me, “I can only afford third grade fillims. No other market here, no?”
I sympathised with his predicament. He offered to host me. I said, no thanks. He waited till I changed money and then insisted on dropping me off. I decided to do some political snooping. “So, is it okay for Indians?”
“You can settle down here, no problem. You look like Afghani, anyway.”
In Galle, there are several antique shops run by Muslims…and they are not pushing anything; we talked, we discussed, and I just walked towards the stretch of sea as women sold crochet doilies.
It was time to sip some tea…