THERE IS ferment among Tamil-speaking people worldwide over the slaughter taking place in the north of Sri Lanka. Over 2,000 people have died in recent weeks. All critics of the government are silenced. Nearly 200,000 Tamil people are still trapped in the war zone. The Rajapakse government of Sri Lanka refuses to cooperate in a ceasefire to evacuate them.
We have seen widespread protests in countries with a large Tamil population. Numerous protests are taking place in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. We have also seen the incredible action of the Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) whose solid strike has been going on since 29 January.
Tamil Nadu (TN) police tried to stop the strike by brutally attacking the lawyers but they fought a pitched battle with the police for hours. As a result they strengthened the strike even further. One senior advocate who has been a member of the ruling party DMK has resigned from the party. On 20 February, Delhi lawyers also observed a strike to support the Chennai strike. The strikers received support from throughout India.
Anger of masses
After the police’s brutal attack on the advocates, anger and frustration has now turned against the TN government. Despite paying lip service to the ‘Tamil cause’, the TN government’s inaction has created anger among the masses.
Students and youth are involved in many spontaneous protests and blockades expressing their anger at the TN ruling elite and the warmongering Sri Lankan government. In a desperate attempt to control the students, police were stationed at key colleges where students are more politically active. Colleges have also told the students not to leaflet or get involved in any activities related to Sri Lankan Tamil issues.
With elections to be held in a few months time, leading right-wing parties are struggling to control the anger against the war in Sri Lanka. They can see it spreading into anger against the right-wing parties and the Indian government.
The ruling TN government’s false pretence of concern for Tamils getting killed in Sri Lanka was fully exposed in the TN media by Siritunga Jayasuriya, secretary of the United Socialist Party (USP – Sri Lankan section of the CWI) who visited India last month. I was also visiting India at the same time and we were both working alongside the CWI section in India, New Socialist Alternative.
Siritunga gave interviews to almost all leading TV stations, newspapers, and magazines and spoke in several meetings with hundreds of people attending. This intervention in TN politics is historically important as it has raised awareness of the need for united struggle.
A Sinhala left politician raising his voice for the Tamils was received warmly by the people which led to several discussions on the politics of the USP. We have also urged the left-leaning forces to come together to unite the struggle to stop the war in Sri Lanka.
The meeting we called on 7 March in Chennai to unite the struggle to end the war attracted leaders of more than 12 groups and students and advocates. An international campaign to ‘stop the slaughter of Tamils’ was launched from that meeting which also elected a working committee to coordinate the work.
A mass meeting is being organised in Chennai on 30 March. The campaign has also called for an international day of protest on 8 April against the Indian government and companies supporting the murderous Rajapakse regime.
We saw the massive protest of 125,000 Tamils in London. More protests are being organised in parts of Britain such as in Coventry. Well known Coventry councillor Dave Nellist is a sponsor of this campaign and is calling for support for all its activities. In Southampton University, students are organising an exhibition to raise awareness of the killings in Sri Lanka.