By B.G. Verghese
The anti-Lanka agitation in Tamil Nadu has taken a bizarre turn with competing Tamil groups exploiting misguided sentiment through irresponsible one-upmanship for petty political gain. Scratch the surface and trace the trail of events and most will discover not so much a pro-Lanka Tamil agitation as a lingering pro-LTTE one. For it is the LTTE that massacred and systematically removed all liberal Tamil voices in Sri Lanka and then used innocent Tamils as human shields in a vainglorious effort to bring international pressure to bear on the Sri Lankan government to end the fighting and give Prabhakaran a reprieve to live to fight again.
The resolution unanimously adopted by the Tamil Nadu Assembly was an expression of Tamil chauvinism, a minority strand of opinion, and Jayalalithaa’s riposte to Karunanidhi’s anti-Lanka gambit and Vaiko’s fulminations. What was demanded otherwise too was to stop treating Lanka as a friendly nation, slap sanctions on it for “genocide”, demand a referendum on a separate Eelam, boycott the next CHOGM meet in Colombo, and bar Sri Lanka cricketers playing IPL matches in Chennai. Earlier demands have included a ban on Sri Lankans training in Tamil Nadu under Central auspices and a ban on Lankan sporting teams coming to the State. Vaiko has gone further in slamming the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India for “sedition” and seeking his deportation for attempting “to instigate the people of North India, Orissa and Bengal” by arguing that Sinhalese in that Island have their origins in these states, which is afact. Innocent visiting Sinhala monks have been beaten up in the State. This is unconscionable and criminal and stems from the racist hysteria and hate generated artificially by criminal malcontents.
The Lankan Government has been slow to fulfil its promises but is under pressure to get there, the UNHCR resolution being the latest demarche. The Government of India too is closely monitoring the situation even while it assists in housing reconstruction in the North and seeks reconciliation between the estranged ethnic groups. Pushing Sri Lanka into a corner simply will not help. Rather, it could hurt India’s long terms interests.
The reckless statements and actions of all actors in Tamil Nadu violate the injunction of Article 19(2) to promote friendly relations with foreign states and constitute a dangerous bid to wrest foreign relations from the Centre. This is no part of “federalism” and amounts to an assault on the Constitution in line with similar misconduct by West Bengal and some other border states. The Centre cannot stand by idly and needs to admonish and warn Tamil Nadu under the terms of Article 355 that enjoins the Union “to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”. Let none be left with any impression that any Stare or combination of states is greater than the Union.
There will be howls of protest against such counsel and cheap political insinuations of the Centre using coercive powers in a bid to set the stage to win the 2014 polls by other means. The boot is actually on the other foot. For some shrill critics, low politics and a veneer of high patriotism appears a winning combination. All considered, in this context, surely Boswell got it right.
Elsewhere, in another curious twist to an already tangled story, the Chattisgarh High Court in a PIL filed by activist B.K.Manish has overturned the Centre’s ruling that in matters pertaining to the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution that seeks to protect and empower tribal India, the Governor shall be deemed to be acting in his discretion and not as Governor-in-Council. This runs counter to the written opinion given by the Attorney-General following a reference to him by the former President, SmtPratibhaPatil, and conveyed to the conference of Governors, and returns to the previously held official position.
This is not a matter that should be left hanging in the air as the latest High Court ruling virtually nullifies the original intent of the Fifth Schedule. It is another matter that critics take the view that the Fifth Schedule as enacted is undemocratic and unworkable as an unelected Governor, often a handmaiden of the government of the day, cannot override elected state governments and even the tribal advisory council. In any event, the Fifth Schedule, and even PESA legislated under its auspices, has not worked as intended as it is allegedly democratically inoperable. Where then does this leave the Constitution and the tribals for whose benefit the Fifth Schedule was enacted? The Tribal Affairs Minister is sincerely attempting to serve the tribal cause but finds himself in a bind and appears to be in a minority of one in his own Government. The National Tribal Council, with the PM as chairman, has not met even once and neither Parliament nor the media seems to care.
Meanwhile, the AdivasiMahasabha and CPI in Bastar have demanded application of the Sixth Schedule to that region on the ground that the Fifth Schedule has not been implemented. They believe that were the Sixth Schedule to be extended toBastar, it could have an autonomous council with legislative powers, as in the Northeast. This would enable the district to enact laws for the protection of tribal lands and forests, safeguard customary laws and social customs, by-passing indifferent or antagonistic state governments and powerless Governors.
Things are stirring and matters cannot be allowed to drift with crocodile tears being shed for tribal India which is being ruthlessly exploited or left to its own pitiable devices in conditions of extreme deprivation, abject poverty and utter helplessness.
Finally, the beating of breasts continues over the Supreme Court sentencing Sanjay Dutt to five years imprisonment (of which he has served three years) for his role in storing underworld arms at the time of the 1993 Mumbai terror attack.He is widely seen as a good fellow who has turned over a new leaf and shown remorse and reformed himself since. All sorts of busybodies have got into the act despite Sanjay Dutt stating with great dignity that he seeks no pardon and pleading not to be hounded by a cruelly intrusive media. Yet, second-guessing the Supreme Court cannot be applauded nor can the enormity of the planned Mumbai bloodbath by underworld dons in concert with enemies of India be lightly forgotten.