Friday, February 27, 2009

The border burden


By – Paritosh Chakma

According to 2001 Census, there are 71,283 Chakmas in Mizoram and they are the second largest ethnic tribe in the state, next to the Mizos who form 77% of the state’s tribal population. Out of 71,283 Chakmas, as many as 35,438 – that is 49.7% - from 49 villages will soon be evicted from their homes due to the ongoing India-Bangladesh border fencing.

When about 50% of a particular community – that too a minority tribal community – is facing imminent displacement that would forever change their lives, shouldn’t the state government and the Central government act with the alacrity the magnitude of the problem requires? But alas, the lethargy and apathy of the state government of Mizoram is so severe that it has practically done precious little to assure the victims of a safe future in their new homes. At best the response of the Mizoram government has been insensitively pathetic. In its reply to a complaint filed by Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN), a non governmental organization, to the National Human Rights Commission alleging denial of adequate compensation to the fencing victims, the state government of Mizoram stated that it did not consider the out-fenced victims as “displaced” because “the Fencing Line is not the boundary of Indo-Bangia Border”. The state government further stated, “It is also informed to the villagers that their shifting from outside to the inner side of the fencing will depends upon the will of the villagers. There is no compulsion to have their residence shifted to the inner side of the Fencing Line.” Does it mean that the victims who have lost their land and homes to pave way for the fence won’t be resettled and rehabilitated but left to fend for themselves? Indeed, if that happens, the government will live up to the trademark of the country that is known for not providing sufficient compensation and rehabilitation to the displaced victims – be it in the case of Narmada river dams or other dams or industrial plants across the country, who had to sacrifice their happiness for nation’s sake.

In India the State can acquire any land by exercising its “eminent domain” in the name of national interest under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, particularly tribals and dalits, have not been properly rehabilitated. In case of Mizoram-Bangladesh border fencing, no social impact assessment or environmental impact assessment has been undertaken and hence the far-reaching consequences (environmental, social, economic and cultural) of the victims have been ignored. The raw deal of the state government of Mizoram towards the fencing victims must also be seen from the angle that almost all the fencing victims belong to minority Chakma community.

Certainly, the fencing affected victims deserve better deal from the government so that they are able to live better lives aftermath of the displacement. They have gave away their ancestral land and homes without any opposition, as witnessed in various parts of the country associated with fears of displacement, for the interest of the nation as the Indo-Bangladesh fencing is meant to protect the nation from anti-national activities and illegal infiltrations from across the border. The Chakmas are aware their lives will change forever along with the changed landscape. Now, their children and grandchildren will grow up seeing a man-made border fencing which they will painfully learn it wasn’t there before.

The negative outburst of the Mizoram government has direct serious implications for the 50% of the total Chakma community population in the state who will be displaced.

First, if the out-fenced Chakmas are allowed to remain “outside the fencing line”, it will be disastrous for their wellbeing and security as they would be left totally on the mercy of the Bangladeshis, Bangladesh security forces and Bangladesh-based terrorist elements. The contention of government of Mizoram that “In the case like the village of Bindasora that the fencing was constructed for National Security reason and not to mean for the boundary of the Indo-Bangia Border and that there was no objection of dwelling outside the Fencing Line” is absolutely flawed and condemnable. In April 2008, the then Chief Secretary of Mizoram, Haukhum Hauzel while expressing security concerns stated that in Bindasora village, about 80 families fell outside the fence and the villagers were prevented by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) from getting sand from the river which used to be their main source of income. I fail to understand as to why the out-fenced villagers should be allowed – for god’s sake - to remain on the other side of the fence which has been constructed for “national security reason” in the first place. Don’t the out-fenced citizens of India need security? After all, for whom is this “national security” that the India-Bangladesh fencing seeks to provide?

Second, the out-fenced Chakmas will face enormous problems if they are allowed – which is understood that in absence of rehabilitation they will be forced to remain where they are – to remain on the other side of the fence. Similar past examples should serve as eye opener for both the planners and the victims. As of December 2002, about 1,570 persons living in eight villages of Jarapata, Kurikhala, Latukandi, Badna, Kachubari, Laphasail, Deotoli and Latubankar under Karimganj district of Assam, who too were “out-fenced” by the India-Bangladesh border fencing, faced immeasurable hardships and harassment. These people were allowed entry into their “own country” through specific gates manned by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel who kept a register of the villagers. But the gates remained closed from 6 pm to 6 am, thereby forcing them to live at the mercy of Bangladeshi nationals for 12 hours a day. Villagers who had crossed the gates must return to their homes before 6 pm or else they would be stranded for the entire night. If anyone fell seriously sick in the middle of the night, they had to depend on the mercy of the BSF personnel to open the gate. Hence, the Indian citizens who were “allowed to stay” outside the fence by the administration faced enormous problems in accessing basic facilities such as education, markets, healthcare services, and the like.[1] The situation of the Chakma displaced victims in Mizoram would be no different if the state government fails to resettle and rehabilitate them inside the fencing.


Third, to allow the out-fenced victims to remain where they are is nothing but a ploy being hatched by the state government to deny resettlement and rehabilitation to the displaced persons, develop their new settlements, protect them and look after their wellbeing. So far, neither the Central government nor the state government of Mizoram has made public any resettlement and rehabilitation plan which has made the victims worried about their future.

Finally, in absence of proper resettlement and rehabilitation there will befall a humanitarian disaster on the Chakmas which will make them economically subservient and socially disunited for generations to come.

The Chakma tribals inhabiting the border areas along the 318-km stretch Mizoram-Bangladesh border, where the fencing is coming up, are extremely impoverished and lacked development. Right to development is a fundamental human rights and Mahatma Gandhi said “Poverty is the worst form of violence”. Hence, the state government has been perpetrating “the worst form of violence” on the minority Chakma community by keeping their villages most undeveloped and compelling them live in a situation where they strive not for excellence or progress but struggle to make their both ends meet. This is despite the fact that the Central government has released Rs 1556 lakhs during 2004-05, Rs 903.48 lakhs during 2005-06, Rs 2262 lakhs during 2006-07 and Rs 2086 lakhs during 2007-08 to Mizoram under Border Area Development Programme (BADP) to primarily develop the interior areas nearest to the international borders. The Chakma habitations are on the border line (from zero to 10 kilometres) but there is no semblance of any development there. While Mizoram government claimed to have utilized all the funds released during 2004-05 to 2005-06, it failed to utilize Rs 991.83 lakhs during 2006-07.[2] There is wide gap between the claim of full utilization the fund and the lack of any improvement in the living standard of the targeted population. Also, the non-utilization of Rs 991.83 lakhs during 2006-07 is nothing less than criminal negligence on the part of the state government when the border people are left extremely impoverished.

Neither the Central government nor the state government of Mizoram can afford to ignore the interests of the half of the Chakma population who are facing displacement. The failure on the part of the State to provide proper resettlement and rehabilitation on time to the displaced people will have serious implications both for the Chakma community and Mizoram as a whole. The State has two stark choices to make: give better lives to the displaced for a brighter, happier and prosperous India or dump them to face the consequences.

Footnotes:
[1]. Source: The Assam Tribune, Guwahati, 2 December 2002, available at http://oldcontent.northeastplus.in/41.html, last accessed on 10 February 2009
[2]. Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India available at http://www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/BADP.pdf

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another setback for CBI

After the Supreme Court on 10 February 2009 criticized the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly “acting at the behest” of the political leadership at the Centre in the disproportionate assets case against former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, the CBI has received yet another setback – this time from Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla.
On 18 February 2009, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla termed as “very doubtful” the report of CBI on the death of Rev Chanchinmawia, an influential church leader, who died under mysterious circumstances at his official residence in Khatla in Aizawl in October 2007. The church maintained that he was murdered but the CBI ruled out any “foul play” in the priest’s death.

The casting of doubts by the present Chief Minister over the CBI inquiry ordered by the previous government headed by Zoramthanga speaks volumes about the credibility of the CBI. In August 2008, the CBI was handed over the case after many sections of the people, including the Presbyterian Church, did not accept the findings of the Special Investigation Team of the state police concluding that the priest had committed suicide.

The faint indication of Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla that the CBI could be bought should be damaging for the CBI’s image. It seems that the CBI has completely lost its credibility in the eyes of the leaders and the public as it has been increasingly accused of acting under the influence of the ruling party to subvert justice.

Whether true or not, it seems both the leaders and the common man have lost faith in the CBI as a credible independent institution.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Know the Chakmas: Document-II

"The story of the Chakma and Hajong refugees (of Arunachal Pradesh) is replete with endless conflicts and harsh struggles for existence" - writes RATNA BHARALI TALUKDAR in "State of denial" Frontline, Volume 25 - Issue 17 :: Aug. 16-29, 2008 http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2517/stories/20080829251704900.htm

The writer points out - "The opposition of the State government to accommodate them as “citizens” has allegedly led to the gross denial of basic rights, including health care, education facilities, job opportunities and livelihood support.The Diyun Secondary School, the only secondary school in the revenue circle meant for these refugees, lacks proper infrastructure and is overcrowded. There are only 18 teachers for 1,350 pupils. For instance, Class VII accommodates 214 children in a single room."


Know the Chakmas: Document-I

"The Chakma are too few to be so fragmented and scattered, but there is little incentive for anyone to try and redress their condition" - writes Sanjay Hazarika, Expert on North East Region of India, in "Refugees Within, Refugees Without"
http://www.south-asia.com/himal/April/chakma.htm .


"On 15 August 1947, the Indian tricolour went up a flagpost in Rangamati, the main town in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Chakma leaders had believed during the tortuous negotiations leading up to Partition that, given the religious composition of the largely Buddhist CHT, their district would be parcelled out to India. Not so, decided Sir Cyril Radcliffe, head of the commission with the task of apportioning the territories, and the Hill Tracts were awarded to (East) Pakistan. On 18 August, Pakistani troops marched into Rangamati, pulled down the Indian flag, and sent up in its place the star and crescent of Pakistan."

V-day: Too much publicity emboldened the "cultural twits"

The ruckus created by Ram Sene goons has created such a stir in the media that their activities - and condemnation that came pouring from across the spectrum - seem to have overshadowed even the India-Pakistan tensions in the run-up to the Valentine’s Day.

The middle aged, bald man called Pramod Muthalik , hitherto an unknown figure, suddenly became a national celebrity and a VVIP for the government of Karnataka. There is probably not a single newspaper or magazine, not to speak of tabloids, which has not continuously carried the news of Muthalik with his photograph. The leading news channels spend hours debating and discussing Muthalik and his cohorts in the Ram Sene after the Mangalore attack against girls in a pub.

As the valentine’s day is in the air, the boundary lines have been drawn. While Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Ram Sena are out in the mainland India, the Asom Sena are doing moral policing on the V-day in Assam.

We may like or not like the idea of celebrating love on a particular day called Valentine’s Day. But surely, we do not have the right (not to speak about ‘license’) to attack or abuse others, least to women who dress “scantily”, go to the pubs and hold boy’s hands. That is none of our business. But the publicity that these socalled protectors of “Indian culture” have received has only boosted their morale to go on rampage. In a way, the media has helped these twits by over-reacting and providing them 24x7 publicity, front-page coverage and editorial write-ups.

I think they will indulge in anti-social acts like vandalizing the shops selling valentine cards, rough up couples, etc. and wake up next day to see their front-page news everywhere. They will smile, sip a cup of tea or coffee, and tell themselves: "we love it".

Friday, February 13, 2009

26/11: Made in Pakistan

By Paritosh Chakma

It seems India’s coercive diplomacy is gradually working. Pakistan has formally admitted that a part of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack was planned on Pakistan soil by Pakistani people. After 13 countries, whose nationals have been killed in the attack, filed cases against Amir Asmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist in India’s captivity, it was no longer possible for Pakistan to flip-flop. And, reportedly, the U-turn was made after US President Barack Obama made a “courtesy call” to Pakistan President Ashif Ali Zardari the night before the official admission. Earlier, media reports suggested that Pakistan would blame Bangladeshi terrorists for the attack.

Pakistan is under tremendous pressure from the international community, in particular the Obama administration, to show positive results in its investigation into the Mumbai attack, which in turn will demonstrate Pakistan’s sincerity to fight terrorism. Incidentally - and importantly -, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke was in Islamabad when the official response was made by Pakistan. It is clear without owning up Kasab there cannot be any rational investigation by Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan authorities – though lately – have filed a case against Kasab and some others under Anti Terrorist Act. This means Pakistan has accepted Kasab as its citizen.

Earlier, National Security Advisor, Mahmud Ali Durani was sacked by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani for accepting Kasab’s nationality publicly. But will Mr Durani be restored now that Pakistan has officially owned up Kasab, the terrorist? Most unlikely.

There has been both skepticism and hope in India following Pakistan response. Hope, because this is a move forward. Pakistan has never ever admitted before the involvement of its citizens or LeT in terror attacks in India.

Skepticism – because Pakistan may once again try to escape responsibility to act heavily on the terrorists and terrorist infrastructure by blaming India for not acting on its (Pak’s) report. Pakistan has asked India to provide more information to assist in its probe. Hence, the ball is in India's court.

New Delhi has said Pakistan’s move was a “positive development” but with a rider: "Pakistan should take credible action against terror infrastructure".

However, the danger lies in the fact that Washington now thinks “Pakistan is serious” to curb terror. President Obama must understand that its too early to say so and must not be swayed away from the "safe havens" for militants - Pakistan as Mr Obama called it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chakma fencing victims not displaced: Mizoram govt




In Mizoram, over 35,000 Chakma tribals are going to be displaced due to the ongoing India-Bangladesh border fencing which is being constructed to prevent anti-national activities and illegal infiltration from across the border.
CJ: Paritosh Chakma

Available at http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=15710225

Also see, Sinlung.com at http://www.sinlung.com/articles/citizen-journalism/chakma-fencing-victims-not-displaced-mizoram-govt.html

RAISING MANY eyebrows, the government of Mizoram has said it did not consider Chakmas who have lost their homes and land to the ongoing India-Bangladesh border fencing as “displaced”. The government of Mizoram stated this in a reply to the complaint filed by a tribal rights, NGO, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN) to the National Human Rights Commission alleging denial of timely compensation to the victims.

While stating that the victims are “compensated appropriately” for any damage as a result of the fencing, the State government however, refused to recognise the victims as “displaced” because “the fencing line is not the boundary of Indo-Bangladesh border” and therefore, there is “no objection” if the victims continued to reside “outside the fencing line”. “It is also informed to the villagers that their shifting from outside to the inner side of the fencing will depends upon the will of the villagers. There is no compulsion to have their residence shifted to the inner side of the Fencing Line,” Romawia, deputy secretary to the Government of Mizoram stated in response to AITPN’s complaint.

The villagers whose homes have fallen on the other side of the fencing have expressed serious security threats. In April, 2008 the then Mizoram chief secretary Haukhum Hauzel said the Mizoram villagers who have fallen outside the fencing line feared for their security. In Bindiasora village, about 80 families fell outside the border and the villagers were prevented by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) from getting sand from the river which used to be their main source of income.

“What is the government doing? After losing everything we have, including our homes and land if we are not ‘displaced’, then who is a ‘displaced person’?” asked a Chakma victim in Tarabonye village on the India-Bangladesh border. “We are too worried about our future” added another hapless tribal villager. The entire Tarabonye village has fallen outside the fencing. Last year the villagers had filed a complaint to the chief secretary alleging inadequate compensations.

According to an independent survey, a total of 35,438 Chakma tribals from 5,790 families in 49 villages will be displaced due to the ongoing India-Bangladesh fencing project. They have lost their homes, land, garden, and other properties to make way for the fence.

Neither the Central government nor the State government of Mizoram has made public any resettlement and rehabilitation plan which has made the victims worried about their future.

Four public sector construction companies -- National Building Construction Corporation Ltd., Border Roads Organisation, Engineering Projects India Limited and National Projects Construction Corporation Ltd are fencing the 318 km-long Mizoram-Bangladesh border.

Paritosh Chakma further adds:

What could be the fallout of the decision of the Mizoram government on the Mizoram citizens if it did not resettle and rehabilitate the fencing victims and allowed them to remain where they presently are (i.e. outside the fencing) after the completion of the fencing project, could be gauged from the following article. I am reproducing the said article for all of us to imagine the unimaginable impacts on the lives of the fencing victims:


Plight of Indians who remained on the other side of border fencing, NortheastVigil, last accessed on 10 February 2009 http://oldcontent.northeastplus.in/41.html

Date: December 2, 2002Source / copyright: R Dutta Choudhury / The Assam Tribune, Guwahati

KARIMGANJ, Dec 1: They are Indian citizens who remain cut off from India for twelve hours a day. It may sound surprising but this is the plight of the people of eight villages of Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh as their villages are located outside the border fencing. This correspondent recently witnessed the plight of these people during a visit to the Indo-Bangla border areas and it is unfortunate that till date the Government has not taken any concrete step to reduce the sufferings of these people. Eight villages of Karimganj district remained outside the border fencing, which was erected 150 metres inside the zero line, that is the actual border. Police sources told this correspondent that the border police, Border Security Force and the magistrates carried out a joint survey of the villages and found that 254 families having a population of 1,570, of which 401 are Hindus and the rest Muslims, are outside the fencing. The Indian villages located outside the fencing are ? Jarapata, Kurikhala, Latukandi, Badna, Kachubari, Laphasail, Deotoli and Latubankar. The BSF maintains a register of the people of these villages and they can come across the fencing to their own country through the gates in the fencing. But the gates are closed from 6 pm to 6 am, and during the time, they remain cut off from their own country. These people have jobs in this part of the fencing and their children have to come across for attending educational institutions. But they always have to keep in mind that they have to go back to their villages before 6 pm or else they can not return home for the night. Very often someone or the other of these villages fail to make it before 6 pm and then their only option is to shout the message across and spend the night in this side of the fencing. If an emergency occurs at night , they have to depend on the mercy of the BSF men posted near the gates to come across. The BSF men posted near the gates in the border fencing said that if someone falls sick at night, they can come across but actually the process is not as easy as it sounded. During the trip to the border areas, this correspondent visited Laphasail village located across the fencing near the border post number 1357 and came across a very unusual sight of Indian children looking at him from across the fencing.


The villagers told this correspondent that they have to come across for treatment in Karimganj town, which is more than 30 kilometres away from the village, while their children have to come across for attending school. Even for marketing they have to come across and go back home before 6 pm. Some of them have land on this side of the fencing and they have to cross the fencing every day to cultivate their land. They admitted that if someone falls sick at night, they have to face serious trouble in getting treatment and the only option is to depend on the mercy of the BSF men posted at the gates to let them come across. The nearest Bangladeshi village is Gajukata, which is only about 200 metres away from Laphasail and the relation between the neighbouring Indian and Bangladeshi villagers is very cordial so far. ?We are yet to have any trouble from the Bangladeshi villagers,? the people of Laphasail said.

Though the relation between the Indian and Bangladeshi villagers is cordial as of date, it is apparent that the Government has failed in its basic duty of protecting the life and property of all Indian citizens as the people of the eight villages are totally cut off from the country and have to live at the mercy of Bangladeshi nationals for 12 hours a day. Moreover, the children of these villages, who have to remain cut off from their own country for half the day, cannot be expected to have any feeling for their motherland. BSF sources said that they maintain a register of the villagers with their photos and every new born is enlisted in the register. But unfortunately, till date the concerned authorities have not been able to provide proper photo identity cards to these people to at least reduce their harassment. Official sources said here that the District Administration had submitted a proposal to the State Government for rehabilitation of these people elsewhere in the State but unfortunately the Government has not initiated any step in this regard. Over the years, Assam witnessed endless number of land settlement programmes by the Government all over the State but so far no one seems bothered about the plight of these 250 odd families, perhaps because they do not yield any political clout and their number is not enough to shift the balance of political power.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Note" it well

By: Paritosh Chakma

The cover story “Fake currency: The New Threat” in the latest edition of India Today serves as an eye opener but it is equally frightening, given the proportion of socalled “economic terrorism” waged against India by its enemies. To me, all citizens should read this issue to enlighten themselves with this emerging menace that could have devastating effects on our economy if not nipped in the bud.

IT’s report gives a terrible feeling of fear to know that: 10-20 per cent of total Indian currency in circulation, which is currently Rs 6,10,000 crore, is counterfeit! According to National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs, 2,204 cases of fake currency notes (about Rs 10 crore) were “reported” during 2007.

Even the intelligence agencies agree that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The NCRB figure does not represent the real picture.

Over the past three years, the number of fake Rs 100 notes seized has declined by more than 60% but the seizures of fake Rs 500 notes and Rs 1,000 notes have gone up by 75% and 300% respectively. This highlights the serious nature that has affected India’s economy.

What is more frightening is the fact that fake currency notes are being dispensed even by banks and ATM machines. The Banks are not following the RBI guidelines according to which the Bank requires to seize any fake Indian currency note (FICN) and lodge an FIR with the police.

As the IT has reported, the Banks often only either destroy or return the FICN to the customer after marking “FORGED” on the fake note. This is not enough to tackle the problem.

I have had a similar experience recently. In my case, the bank staff did not even write “FORGED” but just gave a small “cross mark” before returning the fake Rs 500 note to me. However, I destroyed it by tearing off.

The sophistication of the counterfeit is so high now-a-days that it is quite not possible to detect fake currency notes without expertise. The customers are the worst affected, as the banks won't accept their own notes, say, after the same has been withdrawn from the bank's ATM. In my case I also felt sad over the loss in these days of recession.

As the editorial puts it: “The currency notes may be fake but their consequences are very real”. Experts say, the worst consequence is the erosion of faith of the Indians in their own currency.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sri Lanka has the right to protect its civilians

On 4 February 2009, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) published a paper on the ongoing war in Sri Lanka titled “Mullaitivu Vs Gaza: The Tokyo Co-Chairs fail on the responsibility to protect” which is worth reading. It provides specific recommendations.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sri Lanka: No mercy for civilians trapped in the war?

As Sri Lank mulls the end of the war with the Tamil Tigers, the fate of the civilians, numbering about 250,000, trapped in the rebel-held 330 square km slice of jungle in Mullaitivu, is uncertain. There is mounting fears that they will perish along with the LTTE cadre in the cross fire between the army and the rebels. The army has accused the Tigers of using the civilians as “human shields”. On its part, the Sri Lankan government has said it cannot give any guarantee to the safety of the civilians in the LTTE-held areas.

There has been rising pressure from the international community, including India on both sides of the conflict to provide safe passage to the civilians. On 27 January 2009, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee dashed off to Colombo to express concern about the safety of the Tamil civilians. Prior to leaving for Colombo, Mr Mukherjee made one thing clear: India has no sympathy for the LTTE.

This support from India has certainly provided more courage to the Sri Lankan government to ruthlessly crush the Tigers.

On the night of 29 January 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared a 48-hour ceasefire to allow civilians “safe passage” but only over 100 civilians, including 16 children and 38 women, had fled from LTTE-held area during ceasefire period.

The international community is demanding that the LTTE releases all civilians. But it will be foolish on the part of the Tigers who know that if the civilians are gone, the world won’t pay any heed to the war and the army will immediately crush them.

The army has already captured Mullaittivu, the last urban sprawl held by the Tigers. On 25 January 2009, Sri Lankan army chief, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka declared that the 25-year-old civil war was “95% over”.

Humanitarian crisis

There is a humanitarian crisis. On the night of 1 February 2009, a hospital was hit by shells killing nine civilians and injured at least 20 others in a rebel-held area in Puthukkudiyiruppu town under Mullaitivu district. Neither the army nor the rebels has taken any responsibility for the hospital attack.

According to the United Nations about 230,000 people have been displaced due to intensified fighting in the Wanni region. And, an estimated 250,000 civilians have been trapped without food and medicines; they are traumatized and under continuous shelling attacks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the only international humanitarian agency allowed to work on the ground in Wanni region. It has said that hundreds of patients needed emergency treatment and evacuation from the LTTE-held zone.

No criticism, please!

The government has made it clear that it won’t tolerate any kind of criticism of the war. It is determined to finish off the Tigers. On 1 February 2009, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned to chase off from the country any one who tried to criticize the government actions. He has particularly pointed out the German and Swiss ambassadors and news agencies CNN, Al-Jazeera and the BBC as behaving irresponsibly and trying to sensationalize civilian hardships. Earlier, on 8 January 2009, Lasantha Wickrematunga (52), editor-in-chief of Sunday Leader and virulent critic of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, was killed in an execution-style attack by unidentified gunmen on motorcycles at Attidiya in Colombo. This forced many journalists and media outlets to impose self-censorship.

The great Indian dilemma

Big Brother of South Asia, India is at dilemma as to what should be its policy vis-à-vis Sri Lanka’s ongoing war. It does not want to be seen as supporters of LTTE, which has been banned in India and several other countries like the US, the UK and Australia. India’s official stand is that terrorism cannot be justified under any circumstances. So, India has said it has “no sympathy” for the LTTE.

But the war in an election year (the general election in India is just two months away) has caused furor in the ruling United Progressive Alliance even as its ally DMK, the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, has mounted up pressure for India’s intervention to stop the war in Sri Lanka. The feelings of Tamils of TN are important as the state sends 39 Members of Parliament (MPs) to the Lok Sabha.

Also, there is spill over effects. In the event of humanitarian disasters or government repression, Tamils will try to flee the country to take shelter in Tamil Nadu.

End of Tigers means no end to the Tamil conflict

So, the war will be won – no matter how.

But mere military victory won’t resolve the Tamil problem as long as the government fails to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil minority. The Tamil conflict will not end with the end of the Tigers. It is important to know that it was not the LTTE which created the Tamil problem but the anti-minority policies of the government which created the LTTE.