Who the F*** Does Vaiko Think He's Helping?

You know what might be helpful to Tamils of Sri Lanka, Vaiko? If you recognized the very simple concept that the Tigers are Tamils, but not all Tamils are Tigers. That at this point, the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE are equally culpable for the suffering of civilians in Sri Lanka. Instead, you spout bullshit like:

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko on Wednesday warned that Tamil Nadu would witness a bloodbath even if the slightest harm befell Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader V. Prabakaran (Hindu).

"All Tamils support Prabhakaran. If anything happens to Prabhakaran, a river of blood will flow in Tamil Nadu. Then the police and their guns will not matter. If you don’t stop the war, India won’t be one country," he said (Indian Express).

Yeah, about that - here's one Indian Tamil who unequivocally denies any support for Prabakaran while at the same time fully supporting the aspirations of the Tamil people. How do you like that? Is it within the realm of possibilities for you?

Or maybe you're taking attention-getting lessons from Varun Gandhi? Is that what this is about? Are you hoping maybe you will actually be arrested and you'll become some sort of martyr for your cause?

Recalling the shoe-throwing incident at the news conference of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, he said the self-respect of the Tamils was manifested in the self-immolation of 12 persons. The Sikhs could only hurl a shoe, “but here we have people who can get bombs. The next generation of youth will not be like me,” he later told reporters (Hindu).

He called upon the youth to join the armed struggle in Sri Lanka by asking what was wrong with Tamils going to Lanka and bearing weapons there if Che Guevara, an Argentinean could go to Cuba for a revolution. “If that happens, Vaiko will be the first person to go,” he said. “Arrest me if you want. Elections can go on, I don’t care” (Indian Express).

Vaiko, if you want to become number 13 on the list, or if you want to get into a boat and join your beloved Tigers, by all means go ahead. Just keep in mind that when the government starts shelling the civilian area you're in, the Tigers might try and shoot you if you decide you don't like it and you want to leave.

By: on 9 Apr 2009

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I hear what you're saying and

I hear what you're saying and am scared to even say anythign about this issue as someone who is "not from there", but I think that's also important given how infused with intensity comments and ideas about this conflict are.   I think you might be misunderstanding that a shift in the message seemsn to be taking place because the LTTE and GoSL are no longer equal partners in killing civilians-- mainly because the LTTE has militarily lost, no? (that's a sincere question - not a rhetorical one)?  

And as a result, people who don't like ethnic cleansing are desperate for someone who might have the force and not just the moral will to resist the GoSL (whether Tamils in India or the Indian government or the United States or the Uk or whoever) to actually use it - and to be honest, I can't blame them, even though I wouldn't agree with a lot of what they would say (as you didn't).  It is more a cry of despair than a substantive threat, similar to someone in Gaza calling for the destruction of Israel when they can't get a blockade lifted or bombings stopped.

But if my assumption about the military state of affairs is wrong, then the rest of the analysis goes out the window, and I would agree with you.

I think you might be

I think you might be misunderstanding that a shift in the message seemsn to be taking place...

Sorry, not clear - what shift in which message?

And as a result, people who don't like ethnic cleansing are desperate for someone who might have the force and not just the moral will to resist the GoSL...

Sure, but when the LTTE starts shooting at civilians who try and escape to army-controlled territory in the dead of night, how can anyone possibly stand up in public and declare Prabakaran and the LTTE the only hope left for the Tamil people?

And when those who manage to escape get to army-controlled areas, they're greeted by being put into 'internment welfare camps' where they can look forward to being kept for God knows how long.

In Tamil Nadu, I don't know of a single vocal group that has a nuanced approach to the conflict in Sri Lanka. And by nuanced, I mean something besides "LTTE/Prabakaran/Tamils Good, GoSL/Rajapakse/Sinhalese Bad." If someone here in Tamil Nadu doesn't grow a pair soon (intentional - all of these politicos are dudes) and call for a political settlement within the context of a single state, I don't think India is going to have anything meaningful to contribute to this crisis anytime soon.

And I apologise in advance if

And I apologise in advance if that wasn't sensitive enough - I know this is not just "an issue" for most people who care about it, but their cousins, sisters, brothers, lives, etc. - so please excuse the abstraction - i am just upset really and don't entirely know what to do.

By shift in message, I meant

By shift in message, I meant that as this becomes a unilateral conflict, and the LTTE more like Hamas - something you don't necessarily like a lot of things about, but that becomes more and more irrelevant because they can't do very much for good or evil.  In which case the message might shift away from a pure humanitarian message to one that actually does focus much more on oppression of Tamils by the Sri Lankan state or in some other way because the reality on the ground in terms of who has power and who doesn't is different.  This doesn't change the basic point that it's ordinary people's lives and deaths that have to be at the center of it, but it's getting increasingly harder to keep in mind.

Sure, but when the LTTE starts shooting at civilians who try and escape to army-controlled territory in the dead of night, how can anyone possibly stand up in public and declare Prabakaran and the LTTE the only hope left for the Tamil people?

Point well taken.  Like I said, I'm desperate to find somethign to do, but I don't know what it is.  Who do we stand up in public and declare the only hope left for the Tamil people in real practical terms, or do we simply accede to a possible genocide?  It's the same old question, except the terms are starker now because the military stalemate has ended.  Maybe if I knew more about some of the smaller groups or players or maybe international nonmilitary prsesure or something, but I am saying that absent those things, people will say stuff like this.

The problem with Sri Lankan

The problem with Sri Lankan Tamil nationalists is that they continue to clump the LTTE and the Tamil people in the same basket. For them, there can be no Tamil people without the LTTE. The diaspora morons who are currently protesting in Ottawa, Toronto and London have, as one of their demands, that the LTTE be recognized as the "sole representatives" of the Tamil people. This when the LTTE have been banned as a terrorist organisation by both Canada and Britain. But such stupidity really does not astound me.

That still leaves a problem

That still leaves a problem though - for those of us - Tamil or not - nationalist or not - who believe that the lTTE is very f@#ked up but are also aware that there is an imminent "bloodbath" (UN rep's words) of scores of thousands of people that is about to occur (which is a dual responsibility of LTTE and the GoSL), what do we do?  Who do we support?  The "clumping" has already occurred.

We seem to not have time to build a third force, if that were even plausible, and at the same time, we feel uncomfortable supporting the chauvinistic brands of Tamil nationalism / LTTE tactics (to understate it) as well as a need to oppose what is about to happen...

Again, suggestions are very very very welcome, because while I know the long term solution is to support the humanitarian, non-nationalist agenda in Sri Lanka (or something like that), the short term seems to require trying to do something to prevent a genocide (at worst).

An article you might find

An article you might find interesting....

 

There is a colossal fallacy that surrounds this accusation of 'genocide', or that of an impending one, both from a legal as well as a common-sense perspective. Countering this accusation is necessary only because those who accuse Sri Lanka, or rather President Rajapaksa's administration, of genocide are giving that term (genocide) a somewhat polite meaning. 'Genocide', mind you, is a most atrocious and horrible thing.

At the outset, however, we need to remind ourselves of certain realistic and practical 'ifs'. If genocide had happened, the Sri Lankan Armed Forces would have run-over the LTTE many months ago, for genocide would have meant, in current circumstances, the annihilation of all those innocent Tamil people trapped in the North (i.e. specifically the no-fire zone). If genocide had been the state policy over the decades, the population of Sri Lanka would have been a few millions less than what it is now; and even if the argument is that of widespread, prolonged displacement and destruction of the community's physical and cultural base amounting to genocide (as accused by the 'Tamils Against Genocide'), then, the finger necessarily points to the LTTE which had control over the North and the East (the base of the Tamil people) perhaps, since the 1980s. If there was genocide, then more than 50 per cent of the Tamil population would not be living in areas other than the North and the East of this country. So, why does this accusation of genocide seem exaggerated and ridiculous, but yet seem to be so vital to those who are willing to throw a lifeline to the LTTE? Let us consider some basic issues.

http://defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090411_04

I think the war over which of

I think the war over which of these words will be used, as in Palestine, is largely a legal issue first and secondly a public relations fight.   It substantively doesn't matter.  Whether they are Tamil or Sinhalese, though in this case in the short run, those hundreds of thousands of people or so who are trapped and being killed and raped and dislocated are largely 'Tamil.'  As someone with interests from a human-focused perspective, I would take a position in the public relations fight that I think would be best suited to saving people's lives, regardless of whether the option I would have to choose is "bloodbath" or "ethnic cleansing" or "nearing the end of the communal war with GoSL about to 'win' to the detriment first and foremost of those people who are trapped in the formerly ltte territories and more broadly for all of the people of Sri Lanka and anyone interested in stopping the effects of violence from war." or "genocide"

On the legal front, which I am not naive enough to think is not tied up with the public relations front, I think that there are an enormous numbers of definitions of genocide available.  For example, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide:

Article 2

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

However, like I said, I will leave the legal front for another day.  For me, right now, that is just one of many avenues to attempt to stop what is self-evident to me, whether you are Tamil or Sinhalese or Muslim or American or whatever - that there are many many many many people - perhaps 150,000 that are about to be relocated or forcibly expelled or killed or raped or otherwise made into victims of a war that they probably would have wanted a stop to had they any choice in the matter.

Note also that the legal punishments apply not just to the commission of genocide, but the following:

Article 3

The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;

(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;

(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

(d ) Attempt to commit genocide;

(e) Complicity in genocide.

 

a shorter version of what I

a shorter version of what I said is this:  if we have to have a serious debate about whether genocide is occurring, something is very very seriously wrong with whatever situation we are describing.  Full stop.

Agreed. Dr A, I just wanted

Agreed.

Dr A, I just wanted to note that your thoughtful responses to this thread are much appreciated. In our criticisms of the LTTE and LTTE-driven politics, it may seem that we (on this blog) are all too willing to dismiss the legitimate concerns of some people-- whether Tamils from Sri Lanka living in diaspora, or otherwise. However, given the context in which those particular comments were made, I have some hesitations about letting Vaiko and other Tamil Nadu politicians off-the-hook so easily (by attributing his/their statements to frustration/helplessness), and will share that in an upcoming post.

As your comment makes abundantly clear, a semantic debate is useless at this very critical moment. But I do want to point out that the legal definitions and deployments of the term "genocide" are very much a part of publicly circulating discourses about the war. Hence the predominance of groups like Tamils Against Genocide and Canadian HART among diaspora Tamils (and their friends in Tamil Nadu).

Diaspora Tamils may feel that what is happening is a genocide, whatever the term used to describe it. We cannot simply dismiss their concerns. But I want to explain why I have generally stayed away from the term "genocide," even though it has gained momentum within the diaspora and some media outlets, because I feel that it does little work to help the political situation, let alone Tamils in the Vanni. The Government of Sri Lanka and its anti-Tamil/pro-state allies have done all they can to discredit the usage of the term. They have been incredibly successful because they are able to hold the GoSL's pseudo-humanitarian actions against the abovementioned conventional definitions of genocide, while yoking the term's use to Tamils who are unwilling to critique the means and ends of LTTE politics. The GoSL then (discursively) becomes 'the liberators of the Tamil people from the LTTE terrorists,' rather than a more powerful co-conspirator in the war that is killing Tamils. You can see it in this very thread, in the excerpt posted by Watcher. (Posting an excerpt from defence.lk without comment? Always consider the source, folks.) Meanwhile, the urgent concerns of those who use the term "genocide" are conveniently brushed aside as more LTTE propaganda.

The question still remains: What do we do? I'm swinging between two extremes right now. On the one hand, the only thing I feel I can do from my vantage point is to write. To write what I've heard, what has been said, how I responded, what I see, what I think, how I feel. On the other hand, I am so immersed in this, both personally and politically, that I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of "talk" -- the "what happened, who said what?"  back and forth, and the desire to stay up-to-date that leaves little time for reflection.The discussion becomes more about us, even when we're talking about what is happening, to whom it is happening, and what can be done. I've begun to feel like I'm living in a bubble, whether I'm in Colombo, Chennai, New York, Toronto, London, or wherever. I want to burst the bubble. (How easy it would be to say, "less talk, more action.") But in this phase of the war, a perpetual state of crisis has become the rule, even as the government and media pundits constantly remind us of its impending end.

Simply put: Everyday, they say it's almost over. It isn't over. When they say it's over-over, what will they say has ended?

That's the question that remains for me, and I think it's where we can intervene. We must connect this humanitarian crisis to the larger political problem that gave rise to militarization, militancy, political violence and war in the first place.

So the first, immediate question is: What can we do to stop the immediate violence against Tamil civilians trapped in this war? 

The second is: When the conventional war is finished, and Sri Lanka enters what some are calling a "post-LTTE" scenario, what would that mean, and what kind of political engagement will there be between the government and the country's minorities, particularly the war-affected Tamils and Muslims of the North and East?

The war must end. How it will end -- whether through war or ceasefire -- will still leave us with this fundamental political problem. If we tackle the first question without the second, the first one will return to haunt us again.

Thanks kettikili -

Thanks kettikili - affirmation is nice and I appreciate what you've said as well.

On the issue of the semantic debate - I do think it is relevant, but mainly in terms of a) mounting international pressure on the GoSL (which both the legal and the media discourse are about).  I also think that because the situation has shifted, some of the language that may have been extreme in the past like "genocide" has become more plausible in my mind anyway - if only to describe a future outcome rather than the 60 year process.  The choice of words is going to reflect both where we come from and where we want to go, but it is the second that I think is important to focus on.  This style of pragmatic analysis is exactlty what I'm talking about as useful:

But I want to explain why I have generally stayed away from the term "genocide," even though it has gained momentum within the diaspora and some media outlets, because I feel that it does little work to help the political situation, let alone Tamils in the Vanni. The Government of Sri Lanka and its anti-Tamil/pro-state allies have done all they can to discredit the usage of the term. They have been incredibly successful because they are able to hold the GoSL's pseudo-humanitarian actions against the abovementioned conventional definitions of genocide, while yoking the term's use to Tamils who are unwilling to critique the means and ends of LTTE politics. The GoSL then (discursively) becomes 'the liberators of the Tamil people from the LTTE terrorists,' rather than a more powerful co-conspirator in the war that is killing Tamils. You can see it in this very thread, in the excerpt posted by Watcher. (Posting an excerpt from defence.lk without comment? Always consider the source, folks.) Meanwhile, the urgent concerns of those who use the term "genocide" are conveniently brushed aside as more LTTE propaganda.

The immediate item for discussion is the right one, I think:

So the first, immediate question is: What can we do to stop the immediate violence against Tamil civilians trapped in this war? 

The broader issues are going to differ from person to person (e.g. I have a friend who is likely going to stop calling herself Buddhist as a result of having been exposed to the details of this situation for the first time) and it would be helpful to figure out what the "second" question, the frame in which we work, is, so that we are able to understand our similiarities and differences and work together nonetheless.  It is extremely hard to know, after having tried to be in an unnamed third space on this issue for so long, how to interact with Tamil nationalists right now, as is demonstrable by the existence of this thead.  I agree with the approach of evaluating on a case-by-case basis and understanding the peopel involved and what they're trying to do (whether the people on hunger strike in front of the UK Parliament or TN politicians or LTTE or whoever else).

But assuming there are a group of people that can develop some size tent (small, medium, big) to oppose the immediate violence and the likely outcome of an LTTE defeat/exit (whether it is described as ethnic cleansing or genocide or a bloodbath), a useful thing may be to develop a network that can then go out and do various things like writing, informing the broader public about this very specific issue with framing of various kinds (which not everyone's going to agree wtih), and attempt to place as much pressure on the GoSL as possible to halt without creating more or other destructive outcomes as well (e.g. the equestion of whether the LTTE is about to militarily defeated or whether this is a strategic retreat on their part came up yesterday in a conversation I had - the issue of the internationalisation of the conflict is in my mind as well) - there are many things that I think we need to think about while we try to do something.

But we have to try to do something, I think, and I think we are, but there is still a feeling of helplessness because it is quite possible we don't have time or access to power to secure a halt that will preserve as much of the lives and dignity of the people in the north and east as possible.  But it is a question as to what one does in that situation - I don't know that it changes what you do at all, because this is not a "happens/doesn't happen" situation but a lessening or enlarging of the worst affects.

Sorry for the length of this, but it is good to get it out.  Let us keep talking...

There have been visits to

There have been visits to Tamil Nadu by Sinhalese politicians such as Siritunga Jayasuria (http://meenu.wordpress.com/2009/03/04/interview-with-siritunga-jayasuriya/) condemning the Indian government's role in this.  He belongs to this party (http://www.nssp.info/index.html).

There are now allegations that Sri Lankan forces have been using chemical weapons and again the link to the Indian government is brought up.

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