Last Thursday (26 August), speaking on the issue of the genocide of the Sri Lankan Tamils D. Raja of the Communist Party of India told the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, “What happened to the Tamil Nationality is one of the worst tragedies in the history of the world” and slammed the Indian government for its role in this genocide. He accused the Indian government that it had “betrayed” the Tamils.
Reproduced below is the published version of his speech to the House. In this transcript references to Rajapaksa, his brother Gotabhaya and in some instances the word “genocide” were expunged by the Chair, which are indicated by asterisks (*).
SHRI D. RAJA (TAMIL NADU): I am grateful to the Chair, I am grateful to all the political parties and I am grateful to the entire House for facilitating this meaningful discussion. I have raised the question of Sri Lankan Tamils and their problems several times in this House. Once again, I rise to raise this issue.
In fact, I initiate this discussion with great amount of anguish and pain.
I do not stand here to shed tears for those thousands of Tamil people in Sri Lanka who were massacred, who were killed.
I do not stand here to condole their deaths, but, definitely, I stand here to demand justice for those thousands of Tamil people who were killed in Sri Lanka.
I stand here to demand justice for those Tamil people who are alive even today in Sri Lanka and who are alive elsewhere in the world.
I stand here to demand an impartial international investigation of the war crimes and the abuse of human rights that took place in Sri Lanka.
I also stand here to question the moral responsibility of my own country, our own Government, and the role of our Government in helping Sri Lankan Tamils get justice and in finding a political solution to their problems.
Sir, Sri Lanka is the closest neighbour of our country. Sri Lanka has two nationalities. One is, Sinhala nationality and the other is the Tamil nationality. The Sinhala nationality is the majority nationality while the Tamil nationality is the minority nationality.
What happened to the Tamil nationality is one of the worst tragedies in the history of the world.
If the Sinhala nationality had been a minority there and if they had been subjected to such tragedies, such inhuman treatment, I would certainly have been the first to raise my voice in defence of that community also.
It is not because something happened to the Tamil nationality that I stand here and raise my voice. It is not at all so. It is the question of human rights. It is a question of democracy. It is a question of the rights of a minority community, minority in a particular nation.
Sir, Sri Lanka is a democratic, socialist republic. They call themselves the democratic socialist republic of Sri Lanka. What happened to the Tamils does not indicate that it is democratic and socialist in its true nature.
That is why I raise this issue.
The Tamils have been there since 1948. They were the backbone of the Sri Lankan economy, the Sri Lankan development.
Sri Lanka got Independence in 1948. Since then, systematically, the Tamil people have been subjected to torture. The Tamil people were being decimated. They were deprived of their rights.
The first anti-Tamil act was the disenfranchisement of one million Tamils in Sri Lanka. When that happened, the Tamil population was reduced and that became an issue there.
Sri Lanka has two languages, Sinhalese and Tamil, but the Sri Lankan Government passed a legislation which made Sinhalese the only official language. In Sri Lanka, if there had been two languages since the beginning, it would have remained one nation but if there is only one language, it would become two nations. That is how people’s sentiments
started boiling and, subsequently, the successive Governments in Sri Lanka went in for standardization.
In the name of standardization, they created obstacles for Tamil people for entering into jobs, for entering into the administrative set up and, systematically, in order to change the demography of Sri Lanka, they allowed ‘Sinhalisation’. This went on and, systematically, the rights to the Tamil people were denied and they were subjected to torture.
Sir, I now come to the 1999 full-scale war on Tamils.
Before that, the august House should understand that the first anti-Tamil pogrom took place in the year 1956.
Then, the second pogrom took place in the year 1958. Then, there was a pogrom in 1962. Then, there was a pogrom in 1977 and there was a pogrom in 1983.
In all these anti-Tamil pogroms, thousands of Tamil people were killed, thousands of Tamil women were raped and thousands of Tamil children were left orphan. It is countless; this tragedy went on.
This led the Tamil people who were fighting on Gandhian lines — I am reminded of one name here, that of Dr. Selvanayakam, who was a Gandhian from Sri Lanka; he led the Tamil people in the struggle – to fight for their rights. They followed the Gandhian, non-violent method of struggle.
But the successive Sri Lankan Governments systematically denied all the rights which led to some militant actions and militant activities.
Several young groups of youths were started, and LTTE was one of those groups which took to arms having seen all this denial of human rights and democratic rights by successive Governments. This is not the place
where I argue for LTTE; I don’t need to argue for LTTE and I do not subscribe to their idea. That is a separate issue.
But the point is that in the name of fighting LTTE what Sri Lankan Government did was a full-scale war on Tamils. This full-scale war took place in the year 1999. It was a fullscale war in the name of fighting militancy. In the name of fighting LTTE, what Sri Lankan Government did was a full-scale war on Sri Lankan Tamils. In the month of May 2009, 40,000 people were massacred.
I call it a *; nothing but *; nothing but ‘massacre’. You have not seen such a killing, such a * and such a massacre in any country in the contemporary history.
It never happened in Europe; it never happened in Arab countries; it ever happened in Africa or in Latin America. It happened in our closest neighbour Sri Lanka.
Sir, 89,000 Tamil women are war widows. It is not one or two. People may question my figure. But let them give the figure. This is one independent study which put the figure that 89,000 Sri Lankan Tamil women remained war widows; thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil children have become orphans, they have lost their limbs, they have lost their legs
and they have been wounded; 15,000 young women and young men are declared to be disappeared and nobody knows their fate. This is what happened in the month of May 2009.
But * — I take his name because he is the Head of the State — and his Government said there were no civilian casualties. They said that what happened in Sri Lanka was a humanitarian operation. All war operations were called by that Government as humanitarian operations.
They called concentration camps as welfare centres.
This is what they claimed. But the international community has to raise its voice.
The Secretary General of the United Nations appointed a three-member Committee. That three-member Panel gave its Report on 31st March, 2011. That Panel has said that there were human rights abuses; there were war crimes. This is what they said.
They massacred 40,000 Tamil civilians; they took away over 15,000 people for interrogation whose fate is not yet known; they held over 300,000 people in concentration camps denying them access to international humanitarian agencies.
Many people died in these camps due to lack of food and medicine and 1,46,679 are still unaccounted since the end of the war.
These are all figures from the Report given by the UN Panel. The UN Panel called it ‘killing fields of Sri Lanka’.
Sir, we thought that this war would go without any witness. But, fortunately, there were some human beings who had some feelings for Sri Lankan Tamils.
They videographed all this war, the war operations by Sri Lankan Army. This was shown by British channel, ‘Channel 4 News’.
In India, I must say, this was shown by the Headlines Today channel, the only channel in India which showed the war operations, the abuse of human rights, the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
And, I must also mention that one young lady journalist from Chennai, Priyamvada, representing the Headlines Today, went to Sri Lanka and she had recorded, “I witnessed Genocide: Inside Lanka’s Killing Fields”. That is the document, Sir. If Members are interested, I have got all the CDs and I have the reports of the UN Secretary General’s
panel. A three-member panel has given this report.
I think, there is a need to sensitise the feelings of the Members also. These are all photographs where the war took place, how the Tamil people were massacred and killed. The book contains all the horrible photographs. No human being can tolerate such crimes that took place in Sri Lanka.
Now, there is a demand for an international, impartial investigation, and this demand was not raised by India. So far, India has not raised this demand. But, the international community has raised this demand.
And, I must say, the European Union has raised this demand. The European Union has come out with a strong statement which has said that evidence is very credible and there is a need for an independent, impartial international investigation on war crimes.
But, what does the Sri Lankan Government say? Sri Lankan Government says, “America is not the international community, or, Canada is not the international community, or, the European Union is not the international community.” What about Russia? What about China? What about India?
In fact, * claimed, “I waged India’s war”. This is what Sri Lankan President claims, “I waged India’s war and I demand an answer from the Government of India.” Did you ever deny the Sri Lankan claim?
The Sri Lankan Government claimed, “I waged India’s war”. What does he mean? What does the Sri Lankan Government tell the world? India was the collaborator in the war against Sri Lankan Tamils.
The Government of the day was the collaborator in the war against Sri Lankan Tamils.
Are you having the sense of guilt? That is why, you are keeping quiet, not raising issue of an international investigation.
Why do you keep the silence? What is the meaning of your silence? Why is India not speaking?
When Bangladesh War took place, India took a stand. India interacted with the international community. India justified the cause of Bangladesh and India justified its support to Bangladesh.
In this case, I ask the Government whether they ever took up this issue in SAARC.
Did you ever take up this issue in the Non-aligned Movement? Did you ever take up this issue in the United Nations? Did you ever take up this issue with our neighbouring countries? Did you ever talk to China? Did you ever talk to Pakistan? Did you ever talk to our neighbouring countries, mobilising their opinion to stop this
genocide, to stop this massacre?
There, I said, I find the Government of India totally failed to defend the Sri Lankan Tamils, to protect their interest. Otherwise, how can the Sri Lankan Government make such a claim?
That is where I say, Sir, and I take this opportunity even to appeal; I appeal to the Chinese leadership; I appeal to the Russian leadership; I appeal to those countries who are siding with the Sri Lankan Government till this minute. I want them to have a serious interaction, at least, with India and try to understand what actually happened in Sri Lanka.
It is not just killing of one person. It was a full-scale war on one particular nationality – Tamil nationality. In two days, 40,000 people were killed. Where else did such a thing happen?
That is why, Sir, I said that this House must express its strong feeling.
The Government of India should take a stand.
What is the stand of the Government of India? I am not very clear about that. Why has the Government of India not demanded an impartial international investigation of war crimes?
Sir, something happened in Libya. The Australian Government, the American Government demanded that the former Libyan President must be prosecuted in the International Court of Justice. Here, I take the names of * who is the President, and, his brother, * who is the Defence Secretary; both of them speak venom against the Tamil nationality and justify the war on Tamils as humanitarian operations.
Sir, * went to the extent of accusing one of your elected Chief Ministers in the country. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was ridiculed by * but the Government has no time to react; the Government has no time to take up the issue. Why is it happening, Sir? This is what I am asking.
Why does not the Government have that will?
Somewhere down the line, the Government has lost the moral authority, Sir, I must say and I admit that till the time of Madam Indira Gandhi, the world used to look up to India to know what India had to say on a particular issue at a particular point of time when certain things happened in international arena. Now, who cares for India? It is because you have lost your moral authority.
You don’t want to discharge your moral responsibility. I am not entering into the internal affairs of a sovereign country.
I admit that Sri Lanka is a sovereign country but the problems do not remain the problems of Sri Lanka.
Since 1948, we have been receiving refugees from Sri Lanka.
Even today, more than one lakh Sri Lankan Tamils are living in Tamil Nadu and other places as refugees.
Is this not the problem of India?
How many agreements have been entered between India and Sri Lanka since the first disenfranchisement agreement?
How many agreements have been signed since the late Rajiv Gandhi-Jayawardene Agreement?
What happened to those agreements? Could you save the Tamil people? Could you protect their democratic rights? Could you protect their human rights? Why?
This is what I am asking.
You are now building ‘strategic relationship’ with Sri Lanka. What do you mean by ‘strategic relationship’ with Sri Lanka?
You are not demanding an impartial investigation at the international level. Are you keen only to have investments in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka plays the geo-political equation.
If India is keen to have investments in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka is keen to have Chinese investments.
Sri Lanka is keen to have other investments and Sri Lanka tries to play a geo-political equation.
Sri Lanka tries to blackmail, and, you succumb to that blackmail. You don’t want to raise your voice. Otherwise, India should have raised its voice and India should have asked for an impartial international investigation.
India should have talked to China and Russia.
India should have built an international public opinion in the interest, and, in the defence of the rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils.
Why did you not do this? This is what I am trying to ask you.
I am asking the Government. The Congress-led UPA-II Government should answer this question; otherwise, nobody will have respect for India in the international arena. I am telling this to you. Now, India is trying to become a Permanent Member in the UN Security Council. I say that the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is a test case for India as to whether India can play a role as a Permanent Member in the UN Security Council or not.
Otherwise, what is the need for India to go to the Security Council as a Permanent Member? I am one of those Indians who wish India to become a Permanent Member in the UN Security Council. I wish India to be there, and, the UN Security Council must be more representative. India should find a place; Africa should have its own representative.
Having said that, my question is as to what are you going to do in the UN Security Council if you cannot raise your voice in the interest of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the closest neighbour. It is a test case. Somewhere, I find that your foreign policy towards Sri Lanka has completely failed. It has to be admitted that the foreign policy towards Sri Lanka has completely failed.
The Government will have to recast its foreign policy towards Sri Lanka. This can have implications. I admit. But these implications will have to be faced by India. Consequences will have to be faced by India.
India is not, as some people think, a banana republic. It cannot be blackmailed by anybody like this; it cannot be pressurized by anybody like this. India should stand up. India should gain that moral courage in the context of international affairs. That is where I question the Government.
You have completely failed to protect the Sri Lankan Tamils. The Government of India let down Sri Lankan Tamils.
I can use the harsh word also, Sir. The Government of India ‘betrayed’ the Sri Lankan Tamils at a crucial moment. ..(Interruptions).. That is what I am saying. ..(Interruptions).
SHRIMATI VIPLOVE THAKUR: What are you talking about? ..(Interruptions)
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Please..(Interruptions)..
SHRI D. RAJA: The Government of India has betrayed. That is what I am saying. It is a fact. ..(Interruptions).. You have signed different agreements and you have committed to protect Sri Lankan Tamils. What happened finally? When the war was going on, what were we told? Even the Home Minister…
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Mr. Raja, please conclude.
SHRI D. RAJA: I have come to the end, Sir. What did the Home Minister, Mr. Chidambaram, say when the war was..(Interruptions).. That is why I am asking. When the war was in full-scale, what did he say? He said that combat operations came to an end. That stopped the fasting of the then Chief Minister, the DMK Chief. He sat on a fast in the interest of Tamils. But the Home Minister then claimed that the combat operations were over. The fast came to an end within an hour. I do not know; people doubted why the fast was begun when it was known that it would be over in an hour. ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI D. RAJA: I don’t know ..(Interruptions)..
DR. V. MAITREYAN: You are saying that ..(Interruptions)..
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Please ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI TIRUCHI SIVA: Please don’t trivialize the matter. ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI K.V. RAMALINGAM: Why are you talking. ..(Interruptions)..
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Please sit down. ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI PAUL MANOJ PANDIAN: You are ..(Interruptions)..
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Mr. Pandian, please sit down. ..(Interruptions).. Please sit down. ..(Interruptions).. Don’t make this a debate between the two Parties. ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI D. RAJA: Sir, I am stating the facts. ..(Interruptions).. I am not politicizing the issue. ..(Interruptions).. I am stating the facts. ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI TIRUCHI SIVA: Sir, I submit that let the issue not be trivialized. ..(Interruptions)..
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: That is what I am saying. You are taking the discussion to the party level. ..(Interruptions).. We are discussing ..(Interruptions)..
SHRI D. RAJA: Sir, I am stating the facts. Facts are bitter.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Please conclude, Mr. Raja.
SHRI D. RAJA: I am stating the facts. What happened in the crucial days of final stage of war? What happened in Tamil Nadu? What happened in the country? Why could India not intervene at that stage? Why? That is my question. Let them answer. They are part of the Government. Why did India not intervene at that point of time to save the Tamils? My simple question is why it happened. This is my question. Let the Home Minister reply. Let the External Affairs Minister reply, if necessary.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: At the end of the debate, you will get a reply.
SHRI D. RAJA: The problem is, the Government should take the responsibility collectively. It is Government’s moral responsibility.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: I think, you have taken more than the allotted time.
SHRI D. RAJA: Sir, finally comes the question of fishermen. Even today, there are reports that Indian fishermen are being harassed, are being killed, are being subjected to tortures by the Sri Lankan forces. Why are we not able to protect our own fishermen? There is a problem, Sir. That problem is Katchatheevu Agreement. I have the statement given by the Minister.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: That is a separate issue.
SHRI D. RAJA: I am just finishing it. I am saying this because it is related to it. The External Affairs Minister has given the statement in the same House where he said, ‘The access to Katchatheevu does not cover the right to fishing’. Right to access to Katchatheevu does not cover the right to fishing by Indian fishermen.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: I think, you are clubbing the two issues. The debate is going on on the problems being faced by the Sri Lankan Tamils. Please conclude. A number of Members are participating in it. You should respect it. That’s all.
SHRI D. RAJA: Sir, I will conclude. Had the interruption not been there, I would have concluded it.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: There was no interruption.
SHRI D. RAJA: My point is this. Earlier I demanded to reopen that Agreement. Now I think that the time has come when the Government will have to think of revoking the Katchatheevu Agreement in the interest of Indian fishermen. That is my submission. The Government will have to consider it.
Finally, Sri Lankan Tamil people have not got their political solution. India is helping to rehabilitate Sri Lankan Tamils. India is giving generous financial aid and support to Sri Lankan Tamil people. But that support does not reach the needy Tamil people there. And that is being used for various other purposes. The Government will have to find some mechanism to monitor how that fund is utilised and spent.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Mr. Raja, you have taken 27 minutes. Half of the time of the debate is taken. Please conclude.
SHRI D. RAJA: Sir, my point is that the Government of India should make its stand clear and demand an impartial international investigation on war crimes. The Government of India will have to take up this issue in the United Nations. The Government of India will have to take up this issue in the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Already the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission raised this issue.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: It is a repetition, Mr. Raja.
SHRI D. RAJA: Sir, I am summing it up. This is a serious issue.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: In this way, we cannot conclude the debate.
SHRI D. RAJA: The whole House will have to join me in demanding that the Government should come out clearly in order to find a political solution to Sri Lankan Tamils. Thank you, Sir.