Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sri Lankan tragedy: Mourned by all , helped by none.

It is difficult not to voice an opinion on a great tragedy unfolding in our time. Seeing the images of a stricken population coming out of a sliver of land one cannot help being moved. The image of tens of thousands streaming out of a beseiged city brought to mind the image of defeated Jews leaving Jersusalem 2000 years ago. The Tamils of Sri Lanka could have learnt a lot from how Israel was created but then Prabakaran and the mediocre leadership are no match for the wisdom of Theodor Herzl or Chaim Weizman or Ben Gurion. I shall write seperately on that.

It has become a fashion in Tamil Nadu to organize some protest rally, shriek unprintable illogical nonsense againt MK, Sonia, India. I've no sympathy for MK. He is cornered fair and square by the lumpen Frankenstein that he, Annathurai, Ramasamy Naicker and other charlatan fascists had unleashed 60 years ago. Looking at all this one would think that Sri Lankan refugees would be patronised with love and care far exceeding their imagination but as it often happens reality is otherwise.

"Rose" a transgender woman hosts a show in Vijay TV. I stumbled upon a a show of hers posted in youtube dealing with Sri Lankan Refugee travails. In that she interviews, at great length several refugees. From a purely journalistic angle it is not a great interview but compared to vernacular and local media it is certainly above par. In the section I've provided the link for a man who narrates his travails. This is unique because no where else do we get to hear from the victims themselves, often we only hear colored political commentary, here they are without filters. Its a six part interview, this section is part 4.

Apart from a very shameful aspect of being cheated out of his last penny by a police officer, the narration highlights the true difficulties of refugees. The biggest difficulty is becoming part of mainstream population, getting a job. A gut instinct is to sympathise with him on being discriminated against but let us put ourselves in the shoes of employers. Who would dare risk employing an unknown Sri Lankan, the first question is "is he LTTE", "if not can we trust for sure", "what troubles would he bring". THAT is the nub of the mess.

Successive governments have all used the Sri Lankan tragedy for their own ends. When convenient they would shout from rooftops about supporting and when inconvenient they would slither away.

The film fraternity led by Bharathiraja is shouting at the most shrill pitch. The greatest tragedy of Tamilians is that by and large people like Satyaraj, Thamarai etc have become ideologues freely dispensing political ideologies. When Sean Penn, two Academy Awards, opines on Iraq War he mostly gets sniggers. But then for 60 years Tamil Nadu, or the Tamil speaking part of Madras Presidency, has been subjected to a mass hypnosis that would put to shame Stalin or Hitler.

Not one, except Mani Ratnam, amongst this Tamil filmdom, Kollywood, had espoused these causes when they were each at the top. Bharathiraja was busy making love crazy films, busy on promoting his good for nothing son, Thamarai never uttered anything in public or through her works on this, Satyaraj had the worst reputation as womaniser (though an actor capable of some good acting) and he too is now busy promoting his equally useless son, the list goes on.

Even if one were to accept, well at least now they are voicing concern, I'd like to ask "to what end". How many have done anything "concrete" for the refugees. Do they even know what the concerns are? How many have even talked to refugees or visited a refugee camp? Do they know the genuine issues of managing such a steady influx of refugees? How do we screen the refugees for terrorists, or for pure criminal elements? how do we control law and order or crime rate with such influx? (Crime rate shot up in Tanjore / Trichy areas during the last such mass influx of refugees).

So many simple acts of generosity could be done. The children could be rehabilitated in good schools (no Tamil Medium please), given psychological support with psychological evaluations, women could be integrated in so many walks of life, the refugees themselves could be used to streamline the steady influx, if only some mind is applied to find sincere solutions.

Instead of fanciful demands of asking India to tell Sri Lanka to stop the war the Indian government could be pressured to send several red-cross aid teams, good rehabilitation NGO's could be asked for help. Kollywood with its immense financial clout can help in many ways. Instead of wasteful Bandh they could have one extra screening of a Rajni/Kamal movie and donate the proceedings. Why stike work thus depriving people in Tamil Nadu of livelihood, do the opposte, work more and donate to charity. Can anything be more Gandhian? But I guess its easy to shout from a dais half baked ideas on racism and question national integrity than to do something really useful.

The last point takes us to the vexing issue of Prabakharan. The local media, invariably Cho and N.Ram, get excoriated as "Brahminical" when they are critical of Prabakaran but who can answer to New York Times or BBC which equally call Prabakaran "dictatorial, terrorist etc". It sickens me to the stomach to see each rally for Sri Lankan Tamils degenerate into unqualified support for Prabakaran and most importantly some phantasmal adulation like he is redeemer. Whether it is Bharathi Raaja or Mahendran (two people who recently were sought out and given audience by Prabakaran) these charlatans cannot answer what kind of life will Tamils have under Prabakaran. Prabakaran has made no bones. He wants to be a dictator, as MK himself now quotes. Looking at his blood stained history of killing all his competitors and dissenters one need not doubt. Ask the families of Amirthalingam, Siri Sabaratnam, Padmanabha etc.

A great human tragedy has become all more tragic due to the mindless circus around this.

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