Indian political activists take up arms against the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai
By Satheesan Kumaaran
Sunday, May 18, 2008

South Indian political activists have accelerated their campaign to expel the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission (SLDHC) office from Chennai on the charge that the office is spreading incorrect and distorted information about Eelam Tamils in Tamil Nadu (TN). The question arises whether the Sri Lankan government will take it seriously or allow the Indian activists to continue their pressure until the mission is finally expelled from TN.

By all means the SLDHC is a resourceful office for the Sri Lankan intelligence as it covertly collects information about those on Indian soil who purportedly work against Sri Lankan sovereignty and undermine its territorial integrity.

The Sri Lankan high commission in New Delhi does not play much of a role except in diplomatic relations between Colombo and New Delhi. The SLDHC, however, based in Chennai plays a crucial role when it comes to Sri Lanka's territorial affairs and sovereignty because the LTTE has enjoyed good relations with TN for decades and had their early military bases in TN.

The Indian and Sri Lankan Tamils have shared common cultural, linguistic, religious and historical relations from time immemorial. Unlike the Tamil descendents in south-east Asia who lost touch with their fatherland, the Eelam Tamils have always maintained good relations with their fatherland. The Eelam counterparts made pilgrimages to TN. Like all Hindus, Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils also aspire in their lifetime to visit Hindu temples in TN and other states of interest in India.

SLDHC plays pivotal role
When the diplomatic mission was established, Sri Lanka saw India as a friendly and immediately neighbouring country with which to have diplomatic ties. The SLDHC served the purpose wisely before Tamil militancy targeted the Sri Lankan state demanding a separate Tamil state for the minority Tamil-speaking Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

When hundreds of Indian visitors paid visits to Sri Lanka, they were required to obtain visas in advance from the Sri Lankan mission. There are many visitors to Sri Lanka from the southern part of India. The SLDHC is the only Lankan mission covering all southern Indian states, including TN and Kerala.

Sri Lanka used to send Tamil-speaking Hindus and Christian diplomats to serve in Chennai and other countries in south-east Asia, but things changed in the wake of the ethnic tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese.

The job of the SLDHC became risky after the start of the civil war and, since then, its main role has been to "keep TN in check". If Indian Tamils actually started to throw their full military weight behind the Tamils in Eelam, the Sri Lankan military would be outnumbered and crushed by the LTTE.

A book set a fire
When the Sri Lankan government under Mahinda Rajapaksa intensified their military campaign against the Tamils in the Northeast of Sri Lanka, the Indian Tamils began their protest demanding Indian intervention to protect their brethren in Eelam. This time, Muslim Tamil Amza had fallen victim. After Amza took over as deputy high commissioner in February 2005, he increased his activities in TN, much more than past diplomats. His masters gave instructions to continue the anti-LTTE sentiments in TN following the death of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Amza became embroiled in controversy when the leaders of Tamil Protection Movement (TPM) found out about the release of a book meant to tarnish the image of the LTTE in India. The book was a collection of press reports from anti-LTTE media in India published in December 2007 by the Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled, "LTTE in the Eyes of Tamil Nadu."

The book was divided into three sections - Editorials, News in English and Tamil. The introduction stated: "The purpose of this publication is to share with the world the atrocities committed by the LTTE in Sri Lanka and India, in particular in Tamil Nadu. The LTTE has been involved in many human rights violations, not only in Sri Lanka but also in Tamil Nadu. Apart from being involved in smuggling explosives, arms and ammunitions, it has also been responsible for the cold blooded killing of innocent fishermen from Tamil Nadu and abducting South Indian fishermen and their fishing trawlers." In the acknowledgement page, it thanks the following Indian media outlets: The Hindu, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle, News Today, Frontline, Dinakaran, Dinamani, Dinamalar, Daily Thanthi, Makkal Kural, Maalai Malar and Maalai Sudar.

The book was circulated as a gift to daily visitors to the SLDHC office, including media personalities and other VIPs.

The TPM was angry about the book and began a careful study on SLDHC. They were shocked to hear that the mission had hired senior Indian fishermen representatives and local Indians to gather phone and fax numbers, email ids, and home and office addresses of pro-LTTE personalities such as cinema directors Thangapachchan, Seeman, Bharathirajah, actors Sathyaraj, Manivannan and politicians like Vaiko, Ramadoss, Thirumavalavan, Nedumaran, Veeramani, Koluthur Mani and Kovai Radhakiridinan.

Demand to close down the mission
The TPM led by S Ramadoss and Thol. Thirumavalavan came out with thousands of people to Chennai Street on March 27, 2008, demanding the Indian government close down the SLDHC, as it had violated diplomatic practices by acting as spy from TN soil.

Thirumavalavan blamed the SLDHC of indulging in a "vituperative disinformation campaign" against Tamil people struggling for their human rights. He said by publishing books and releasing statements against Tamils, the SLDHC was trying to malign the Tamil freedom struggle and therefore, reinforced the need for immediate closure of the mission and for it not to be allowed to have an office in any corner of TN.

Due to strategic interests, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry directly controlled the SLDHC. The SLDHC is of equal status, considered on par, with the rank of a high commissioner and directly responsible to the government of Sri Lanka. It is not a mission subordinate to that in Delhi.

The growing pro-LTTE events in India will definitely entice the Sri Lankan government to strengthen the mission rather than close it down.

Closing down of the mission in Chennai would mean diplomatic collapse for Sri Lanka. The powerful politicians have gained the key and it is doubtful they would put it down unless they succeeded in their efforts. The recent activities of Amza are viewed with apprehension and suspicion, and to say the least, not appreciated by the Indians. Let us wait and see what happens to the demand of Indian political activists. Will the mission will be closed down or will the Sri Lankan government use its power to curb the TN influence and activity of the political activists.

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Courtesy: The Tamil Mirror ( - May 2008 Issue)