Shouting “Not a rupee, not a bullet for the Rajapakse government” up to 100 protesters marched around India House on the Aldwych in London. This was part of the international day of action on 8 April called by Stop the Slaughter of Tamils – Campaign to end the war and fight for democracy in Sri Lanka (SST). This international campaign was initiated in Chennai in Tamil Nadu against the horrific slaughter of Tamil people taking place in the north of Sri Lanka.
Chants of ‘Indian government – blood on your hands’ explained why India House was targeted. SST called the day of action to highlight the Indian government’s support for the warmongering Rajapakse regime. Huge strikes of workers and protests of students have taken place in India against the slaughter of Tamils and yet the Indian government continues to supply arms to Sri Lanka.
Thousands of Tamil people were also protesting in Parliament Square against the atrocities which escalate by the day. Reports tell of up to a thousand killed in one day as a result of the Sri Lankan government’s use of chemical weapons. A number of young people, school and university students, came from this protest in Westminster, which was going on continuously since Monday 6 April, to participate in the action at India House.
Several police were waiting when the first protesters arrived. They intended to pen the protest in but were forced to allow the protest on the pavement and, in the end, even a march around the building.
Bush House, home to the BBC World Service is located adjacent to India house. Passing here, the protesters shouted: “BBC – shame on you” in response to the very minimal reporting on the situation in Sri Lanka. There is anger at the failure of most of the British media to cover the protests taking place, apart from the few arrests.
Protesters attempted to deliver a letter of protest to India House. Despite police attempts to prevent this, a letter was accepted. The representative who came to the door refused to answer questions about the Indian government’s involvement
A number of speakers addressed the demonstration. Rosie from Southampton Socialist Students and SST explained why we were protesting. A very important debate is being held at the university to help the wider student population understand the situation in Sri Lanka.
Senan, the coordinator of the campaign explained how the campaign came to be launched. A meeting was held in Chennai which Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy was intending to address until a family tragedy prevented her. Since then she has expressed interest in coming to London soon for a meeting.
A speaker on behalf of the Committee for a Workers’ International talked of the need for a united struggle of Sinhala and Tamil workers and poor people against the war and against repression in Sri Lanka. A number of protesters were encouraged to address the crowd. One student from Queen Mary’s university thanked the organisers and expressed support for the United Socialist Party (the Socialist Party’s sister party in Sri Lanka). Other speakers wanted to emphasise the solidarity with the Tamil people and to express gratitude for the organisation of the protest.
After the protest a number of SST activists, including Socialist Party members, went to the Parliament Square protests. There, the SST campaign was very well received and throughout the two protests almost 150 people gave their details to be part of the campaign. Some of the students involved in organising the protest arranged for Socialist Party member, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, to speak to the crowd on behalf of SST. Sarah made the point that we can have no trust in governments like the British government whose hands are soaked in blood. This point was met by huge applause and she continued to make the case for mass action of ordinary people such as the strikes of advocates and protests of students in Chennai.