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When Pakistani journalist Abid Shah visited Sri Lanka, everyone wanted to talk to him about the attack on their national cricket team in Lahore, and Shah began to see South Asia’s differences through the prism of the sport:
So my question: where was the spontaneity, the joy, the unstructured chaos of street cricket in Sri Lanka?
DeSilva could not understand what I was saying. Children played cricket in schools, he said. Or in grounds. Why would they play in the street?
Which reminded him. What had happened in Lahore? My trip to Sri Lanka was in March, so we both knew what he meant. “So tell me,” his furrowed stare burrowed through me. “Who did it? The Tamils?”
To each his own demons. ...
In a history of South Asia, the chapter on life after the British could begin: they did not speak the same language.
Polyglot India, democratic, compromised by instituting two national languages: Hindi and English. The southern Indian provinces would not answer a telegram from Delhi if it was sent in Hindi.
Pakistan, a country with little feel for grassroots democracy, declared Urdu as its national language, foretelling disaster when half the country spoke Bengali, and when the ruling classes had no incentive to educate or compromise with the masses. Why cut deals with the masses if your families, your clans, will lose their grip on power?
Could it be that Sri Lanka’s Sinhala majority was proportionately large enough to impose its culture on the rest of the country? Did this, coupled with a populist, democratic culture and ethnic nationalism provide the incentive to educate? Could it explain that brilliant 90 per cent [literacy] statistic, beyond official reports and humdrum of school figures? Was this the reason for Sri Lanka’s high literacy rate compared to its neighbours and why its ruling elite made education a priority?
Read the full piece in Abu Dhabi's The National
K.P. Nayar in the Telegraph on how India will pay a heavy price for abdicating a Sri Lanka policy:
The death of Velupillai Prabhakaran brought back a flood of memories. If history is to determine the day when India’s pre-eminence in all of South Asia began its decline, it would be November 17, 1986. Prabhakaran, the founder of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, would be one of the characters who set in motion a process that brought about this decline. And if history is to fix the responsibility on a single individual for triggering the onset of that decline, it would be P. Chidambaram, who was then the naïve minister of state for internal security in Rajiv Gandhi’s government.More here
M K Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat who served in Sri Lanka in the 1980s in rediff.com:
A long time ago, we created Prabhakaran. We picked him up as an urchin from nowhere. What we found charming about him was that he was so thoroughly apolitical -- almost innocent about politics. He was a simpleton in many ways, who had a passion for weapons and the military regimen. He suited our needs perfectly.
Which was to humiliate the J R Jayewardene government in Sri Lanka and teach it a hard lesson about the dangers of being disrespectful to India's status as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean. Jayewardene was too Western-oriented and behaved as if he never read about the Munroe Doctrine when he read history in Oxford. We didn't like at all his dalliance with the Israelis and the Americans in our very backyard.
So, we fostered Prabhakaran and built him up as a pinprick on Jayewardene's vanities -- as a Bhindranwale of the Deccan.
R. Jagannathan in the DNA:
For India, which faces several insurgencies and revolts, the first lesson to learn is this: it must display determination and muscle early in any war. Otherwise, the adversary is likely to conclude we are weak.
...The second lesson is to spot and isolate the ideological and spiritual mentors of the insurgents.
...The third lesson is about cutting off the source of funding as soon as possible.Read the full article: Tiger, Tiger Burning Out
The decades of bitter fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil rebels has left a beautiful country bereft and thousands caught in the crossfire. Novelist Romesh Gunesekera mourns his island's fate in a moving essay in the Guardian:
For 26 years the main story in Sri Lanka has changed little: bombs, bullets, carnage and suffering. LTTE suicide bombs on buses, at train stations, suicide trucks at the Temple of the Tooth, the Central Bank, the assassination of one president, the wounding of another, and government military campaigns with increasing firepower and increasing casualties, terrifying air strikes and massive bombardment. Sadly, there have been other spikes of horror in the country with tens of thousands of dead - the 2004 tsunami, floods, the 80s insurrection in the south, disappearances, abductions - but the war has gone on relentlessly, in one area of the north or another, with only short periods of truce in which the Tigers and the government each gathered strength for the next round.
In those 26 years the great map of the 20th century was transformed: the Berlin wall came crashing down, Germany was reunified, the Soviet Union disappeared, China became the factory of the world and India boomed. But in Sri Lanka, the story remained the same.
Read the full essay: A long, slow descent into hell
Arundhati Roy in the Times of India
The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the mainstream Indian media — or indeed in the international press — about what is happening there. Why this should be so is a matter of serious concern.
From the little information that is filtering through it looks as though the Sri Lankan government is using the propaganda of the ‘war on terror’ as a fig leaf to dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country, and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people. Working on the principle that every Tamil is a terrorist unless he or she can prove otherwise, civilian areas, hospitals and shelters are being bombed and turned into a war zone. Reliable estimates put the number of civilians trapped at over 200,000. The Sri Lankan Army is advancing, armed with tanks and aircraft.
The report tagged "SCRET/IMMEDIATE" with subject "SOURCE REPORT" reads:
"It has reliably been learnt that RAW (Indian intelligence agency) has assigned its agents the task to target Sri Lankan cricket team during its current visit to Lahore, especially while travelling between the hotel and stadium or at hotel during their stay.
2. It is evident that RAW intends to show Pakistan a security risk state for sports events, particularly when the European and the Indian teams have already postponed their proposed visits considering it a high security risk to visit Pakistan.
3. RAW has also collected photographs of leaders of Jamaatud Daawa (proscribed) and its establishments to target them.
4. Extreme vigilance and heightened security arrangements indicated."
Kamila Shamsie in the Guardian:
"Perhaps, though, if we are to try desperately for a silver lining, we can say ..." one of my friends ventured, in response to the attacks, before her voice trailed off into gloomy silence.
But I knew the end of her sentence. "When a group attacks cricket it ensures that the whole nation will turn against them, rise up against them. So if people believe it was the Taliban or the Lashkar-e-Taiba ..."
But the sadder truth at the heart of Pakistan's psyche is that we have been made so cynical, so mistrustful of the world that there is unlikely to be agreement about who sent the gunmen. The government is already saying the attack was meant to destroy Pakistan's international reputation (which every Pakistani recognises as code for "India did it".) And if the Taliban or the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba or any other group is blamed, there will be many who'll say that cricket is so beloved that the attack is just a set-up to harden public opposition to those groups and justify any action the government takes against them.