The Lanka question | Pakistan Today

The Lanka question

Troubled waters all around India



New Delhi has lots to explain when Mohinder Rajpaksa was reelected as Sri Lanka’s President for the second time. India had supplied him small arms which he liberally used to kill the Tamils, the largest minority in that country. He should have been tried for war crimes because he killed 40,000 Tamils in cold blood even after the surrender by what was then called the LTTE, the militant face of Tamils in the Northern Sri Lanka.

That he tried to woo both military and police chiefs to stay back even after the defeat show. This shows how adroitly he led a democratic India up to a garden path. Yet New Delhi should have known what was all over that he ruled the country by force. His one brother was the Defence secretary.

I can never forget his role because the police harassed me at night; my only crime was to observe that the now defunct LTTE should be fought politically, not military. That night there was a knock at my door. The police did nothing except to see my passport. The message was clear. I left the country the following day and has never returned to Colombo.

Now that the country has ousted the dictatorship it should implement the old US-sponsored resolution, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The resolution said that Sri Lankan government should conduct an “independent and credible” investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and the untold atrocities committed in the last phase of the war. Unfortunately, one message that came loud and clear was that New Delhi tried it best to defend the Rajpaksa government. But the 47-nation strong body, led by the US, not only brushed aside the India objections but also refused to water down the resolution. In protest to Delhi’s attitude, the DMK had withdrawn the support at that time.

It is still not too late to constitute the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) suggested by India at that time, to probe the whole happening which would bring out the skeletons out of the Sri Lankan cupboard. A similar attempt earlier proved to be futile because the Sri Lankan government, the accused, held the probe itself. Naturally, nothing worthwhile emerged from the investigation, which was a sham.

Indeed, it is heartening to see Sri Lanka returning to the fold of democracy. But it is unfortunate that in contrast, the Pakistan people are not asserting themselves to have the real democracy back. The surrender of politicians on the constitution of military courts is the recent example. What it meant is an amendment in the constitution to provide for trial of terror suspects by military courts for a period of two years.

Unfortunately, the only comment came from Genl Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s military chief, who said ‘special courts are not the desire of the army but need of extraordinary times’. The timid politicians gave concurrence by their silence.

Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan are our neighbours. What happens there can have repercussions in India. That the roots of democracy in our country are deep enough to withstand such developments is heartening to see. Yet a dictatorship next door is disconcerting. New Delhi cannot export democracy to other countries. But it should do all it can to see the will of people prevailing in the neighbourhood, without interfering in the internal affairs of the countries.

Dictatorships get a fillip when democracies falter. India committed this cardinal sin when it abstained from voting at the UN Human Rights Council a few years ago. A resolution was sought to be passed to seek an international, transparent inquiry to find out whether Sri Lanka had killed in cold blood 40,000 soldiers and others in the wake of hostilities against the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE). Even after their surrendered unconditionally.

India’s abstention at that time reminded me of the words of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: When aggression takes place or human rights are violated, we will not and cannot remain neutral. Yet the Manmohan Singh government was found placating the dictatorial government headed by Rajapaksa. New Delhi did not bother the harm it would be doing to the cause of Tamils’ rights and their own say in governance.

My hunch is that bureaucrats in the Ministry of External Affairs, with their mindset, decided to stay absent what they thought was “in the interest of the country”. The then hapless foreign minister Salman Khurshid went along. He probably wanted the release of 100 fishermen who had “strayed” into the waters claimed by Sri Lanka.

I was not surprised to read the Rajapaksa government’s reaction: Thank you. No doubt, New Delhi was under pressure from the democratic world, led by America, that China and Pakistan, where democracy has been reduced to a relative term, supported Colombo.

I do not regret the obliteration of the LTTE which was largely a terrorists’ organization. But as a humanist, I feel sad over the killing of soldiers and their supporters after the surrender. The Sri Lankan army, obviously with the blessings of President Rajapaksa and his brother, Defence Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had no remorse over their indulging in a blood bath.

The world would not have known about the killings if the enterprising BBC Channel 4 had not shown the documentary on the killings and atrocities committed not only against the LTTE troops but also against the innocent Tamils. Colombo’s own inquiry was eyewash, exonerating the army and heaping the blame on the Tamils who wanted an equal say in the affairs of Sri Lanka. Will they get it under the new regime is a test for its democratic governance.

Kuldip Nayar

Kuldip Nayar is a veteran Indian journalist, human rights activist and a noted author.


  1. Krishnananda Kini said:

    Congress was true to its Nehru-Indian Marxist tradition. Nehru wept for Nizam's bloodthirsty Razakars and earlier he was not moved by their atrocities on Hindu women. During Jyoti Basu home Ministry there was half a dozen killings for more than two years every day, nothing to worry, because those killed were not Muslims So also 1984 Sikh riots as their vote does not count much. If Rajpakshsa's victims were Muslims Congress Tradition would have raised hue and cry. Now it is slowly becoming worldwide Phenomena. in a Global Democratic set up one has to breed like rabbits to get the recognition. At the moment Obama is busy with giving Clean Chit to Saudis after his parting kick to Indians about that Notorious Pluralism.

  2. NAK said:

    "India had supplied him small arms which he liberally used to kill the Tamils, the largest minority in that country. He should have been tried for war crimes because he killed 40,000 Tamils in cold blood even after the surrender by what was then called the LTTE"

    This is a darn lie and the whole world knows it. It is sad to see a reputed and experienced old man use LTTE propaganda material to avenge a petty grudge.

  3. Don said:

    The claims about numbers and killings have not been proven. This article is rife with errors based on wild guesses. Since the war ended, not a single civilian has been killed. After 30 years of ruthless killings we have peace in the country today for which we are grateful to both Governments.

    • Sabaratnam said:

      Can you prove that since the war ended, not a single civilian has been killed? Have you not heard of the killings, rapesand tortures which had taken place until the end of Rajapakse regime'/

  4. Democrat said:

    The government of SL should mature up to understand democracy. In the UK the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish live happily due to the expected autonomy at their places in one country. Similarly there should be greater autonomy for the Sinhala speaking and Tamil speaking people in one Sri-Lanka. The majority citizens should not be selfish and jealous about the minority citizens. let us live and let live. Be educated.
    name: Democrat

  5. alex said:

    A good article. Sri Lanka's war criminals are not off the hook yet. The new government has an opportunity to pursue genuine reconciliation, devolution with the Tamils and run its internal war crimes trials as well as cooperate with the UN investigation, which will likely carry on. India wants its UN security council seat and that means it needs to oversee democracy and good governance in its back yard. This is its chance.

    • Daisy said:

      Not forgotten. LTTE is the baby nurtured by SL governments. Daisy

    • RSS said:

      UN Investigation is by all parties the SL Govt and the Tigers. The SL Govt refuses to cooperate with UN

  6. Kanga said:

    Yes – Tamils had suffered immensely – no one thinks why LTTE came up in 1977 – it was after all 'Gandhian' satyagraha efforts by the Federal party by SJV Chelvanayagam failed after nearly 20 years of struggle and he gave up for the boys to take arms. India could have stopped it – but it failed. Even the IPKF failed – I went there the day before IPKF attack – and saw what it did – I could not get out for 6weeks. India has failed in many respects to uphold freedom of the people.

  7. p.sayakkara said:

    How about the innocent sinhalese , muslim citicens & clergy killed by prabakaran in cold blood? may he burn in HELL!!!!!!!!!

    • RSS said:

      That is under investigation by the UN too. If you know any, you need to inform as appropriate

  8. Democrat said:

    LTTE was created by the chauvinistic succesive Sinhala governments. In 1956,1958,1977 and 1983 the innocent Tamil speaking people were slaughtered and raped. Many fled SL. Thus born LTTE. Tamils are peace loving people who were in SL long before the Sinhala people of Arian origin arrived. If Tamil speaking people have been left to their traditional North and East as it was before the British conquored SL, we would have two loving neighbouring kingdoms. The Senanayakes,Bandaranayakes,Jayawardenes ,Premadasas, Kumaratunges,Rajapakses,etc gave birth to LTTE.

  9. carlion said:

    40,000 killed? Where is the proof? This old man is nuts. Still not matured with age. SHAME!

  10. Saanthkumarn said:

    then let the UN to find out. if people speak truth, you say old man fool. you will get old too

  11. Srivan said:

    Good article by an old experienced hand. Rational people knew that mass murder of civilians was a grave crime against humanity and for the LLRC to have left this gruesome episode to the country's military, the accused, is deafeningly beyond words can describe! Even worse is to try and adulterate the ongoing UN investigations to find out the real truth or sabotage their findings is beyond words can describe. Even apart from the role of the SL and Indian military in the final massacre at Mulliyawaikkal in the north of Sri Lanka was the devastating aerial bombardment of the area by Pakistan's Air Force done on contract signed between then Pakistan President and SL's President Rajapakse under yet undisclosed terms using WMDs like napalm bombs and cluster bombs photos of which appeared on some websites using Chinese military jets free of cost! The whole grisly affair must surely see the light of day without being swept under the carpet! It is a blot on humanity!!!

Comments are closed.