"You want events, numbers, case histories? Not now please, because my mind is strangled I know it's strange, but, that is what I feel That is what we live Pain, agony and fear—always fear I ask you, could you write straight When people die in lots? When you find them dead like flies..."
THIS poem written by Rajani Thiranagama, the founder of the University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna, who was assassinated in 1989—succinctly summarises the fresh influx of refugees into Tamil Nadu from war-torn Sri Lanka. While the present flow of 1,000 refugees is almost a trickle compared to the three lakh deluge of the '80s, it has other ramifications that could alter the politics of Tamil Nadu.
After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, there was virtually no influx of refugees into India. The increased hostilities across the border were seen largely as 'an internal problem' and the Government of India decided to follow a hands-off approach towards the ethnic crisis in the island. Subsequently, the capture of Jaffna peninsula by the Sri Lankan forces in December 1995 and the fairly recent attempt to 'clear' the Killinochi region did not, surprisingly, result in a mass exodus. Even now the people who are crossing the Palk Strait and seeking refuge in India are not from Jaffna or Mullaitivu or Killinochi or Trincomallee district.
The 1,000-odd refugees are from the Mannar district right across the strait. The escalation of war in the region and the alleged wilful denial of food by the Sri Lankan Government is forcing them to cross the sea braving the Sri Lankan army, navy, the LTTE, the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy.
This movement from across the strait could set off a chain reaction. Firstly, the opposition parties can raise the bogey of LTTE penetration into the Indian mainland. Secondly, it...