Jaya’s low blow

Her grandstanding on Sri Lanka cannot be allowed to drive away football teams,pilgrims

Written by The Indian Express | Published: September 5, 2012 2:46 am

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa cracked down on fun and games with Sri Lankans after she discovered that Royal College Colombo had played football with a Chennai Customs team in Tamil Nadu. The next scheduled inter-school game was cancelled and she suspended the official who had permitted the game to take place in a state-run stadium. Meanwhile,Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam activists have raised the pitch on Sri Lankan students on a cultural exchange programme in Trichy. A couple of days ago,the Sri Lankan government issued a travel advisory to its citizens,warning them of the “increasing number of instances of intimidation” in Tamil Nadu. To prove how real the threat was,buses carrying a group of Sri Lankan tourists from the Velankanni shrine to the airport were attacked the next day. This is a highly regrettable turn of affairs. No matter how strongly felt,a political disagreement with a neighbouring nation should never flare into a rejection of their people,a severing of sporting ties and cultural connections.

Rival political formations in Tamil Nadu have competed to condemn the Sri Lankan government’s record,after its brutal civil war in 2009 against the LTTE. The AIADMK and DMK had earlier protested the Indian military training army personnel from Sri Lanka,a sentiment the Centre disregarded by simply shifting the training out of Tamil Nadu. Jayalalithaa had also demanded economic sanctions against Sri Lanka until it resettled the Tamils uprooted in the 2009 violence. And yet,it must be remembered that this question is not a narrow matter for Tamil Nadu — India is deeply invested in a fair outcome. It has stakes in Sri Lanka honouring its commitments to reconciliation with institutional mechanisms that devolve power to the provinces and ethnic Tamils. Extracting accountability from Sri Lanka is a delicate diplomatic endeavour. India voted against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council,even as it extends assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

This strategic finessing may not suit sentiments in Tamil Nadu. It is important,however,to separate matters of high politics and foreign policy from informal people-to-people contact. Tamil Nadu’s chief minister only appears mean-spirited by taking on students,sportspersons and pilgrims.

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