Indian parliamentarians have protested against Sri Lanka’s alleged human rights violations demanding the government support a UN resolution presented by the US.
Angry MPs stalled proceedings in parliament on Tuesday. Flashing newspapers purportedly showing images of the slain body of the 12-year-old son of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, they demanded that New Delhi clarify its stand on the issue of alleged human rights violations by the Sri Lankan army.
The politicians, many of them from Tamil Nadu in south India, which has a sizable Tamil population, criticized the government's failure to put pressure on Sri Lanka to probe war crimes as part of a resolution process. They demanded that the government support a US-backed resolution presented to the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next week.
Unanimity in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu, which was divided in its support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam (LTTE), is now unanimous that the perpetrators of war crimes against Tamils in Sri Lanka must be brought to book.
“The entire world knows of the war crimes against Sri Lankan Tamils," V. Maitreyan of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the main party in Tamil Nadu, told Deutsche Welle. “The army went berserk and killed thousands of innocent civilians. Will the government support the UN resolution?”
Senior Dravida Munntetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader T. R. Baalu did not hide his party's displeasure either, although it is a key ally of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.
The civil war came to an end after three decades in 2009
"Our party will not settle for anything less than supporting the resolution. All political parties in Tamil Nadu have taken a stand on the issue and the Indian government should fulfil their aspirations," he said.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist parties also supported the south Indian parties' demand.
In view of the sensitive nature of the issue, the Indian government has been reluctant to make its stand clear. It is walking a diplomatic tightrope as it wants to maintain equitable ties with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government but does not want to upset the domestic constituency.
To assuage tempers, Prime Minister Singh has even written to DMK chief M. K. Karunanidhi and emphasized that his government is engaged with all parties to achieve an outcome that is "forward looking rather than deepening confrontation and mistrust."
Senior ministers on Tuesday gave ample hints that the government normally did not back country-specific resolutions and its stand would only become clear depending on the exact wording of the resolution.
"This will be a test of India's policy of neutrality toward its neighbor," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Deutsche Welle. “India is a member of the international human rights council and the expectation is that it will back the resolution. Pressure is also building up from all fronts."
Human rights violations
Tamil tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in the final stages of the civil war
Human Rights Watch has revealed that the Sri Lankan army resorted to repeated indiscriminate shelling of civilians, including packed hospitals, and the blocking of humanitarian assistance to the trapped.
The resolution specifically calls for the Sri Lankan government to "expeditiously as possible" implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and address the accountability issue, which the US says has not been adequately addressed in the LLRC report.
On Wednesday, Britain's Channel 4 is due to broadcast a documentary that reportedly shows the body of the son of Prabhakaran with five bullets in his chest and alleges he was executed at close range.
Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to India Prasad Kariyawasam said it was “motivated” and “concocted.”
"The government of Sri Lanka categorically denies the allegations that it has deliberately targeted its own civilians, as the Channel 4 alleges in its film “Sri Lanka's Killing Fields," said a press release.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas