By M. S. Shah Jahan writing from Tamilnadu
Is Tamilnadu hostile to Lankan visitors?
No not at all!
It is only a splinter group known as Eelamists do involve in such activities to gain publicity.
Politically this group including the ardent Tiger supporter, Vaiko’s MDMK has no strength in the state even to save deposit in a legislative election in any electorate of the state contesting on their own.
But in March they were successful in raising emotion against Sri Lanka with the broadcast of channel 4 video that was telecast by a new tv station called ‘ Puthiya Thalaimurai’ ( new generation).
Also it is true not many here accept the military training to Sri Lankan armed personal in the state as it hurts their sentiment. Few opined it is the center that creates unnecessary tension in the state by repeatedly sending them here instead of to other states despite of objection.
But sports fans were unhappy to see the youth footballers sent off in an unceremonious manner. Some believed it was this incident that gave courage to attack the Christian pilgrims.
A veteran journalist and editor of a magazine “Thuglak” Cho Ramasamy who is said to be an advisor to Ms. Jeyalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, in a tv interview with ‘Puthiya Thalaimurai’ on Saturday night (8) described the sending off the SL foot ball teams and sacking of the official Thomas of the Nehru Stadium, were unwarranted and ill-conceived.
On the attack of pilgrims, he said it is the Lankan Diaspora who feeds and instigates the local Eelam supporters to do such violent acts in order to safe guard their asylum position in the West. He spoke lengthy on Eelam subject and at one point he said there was no war in Sri Lanka. A ‘war’ is between two countries. Whereas here what SL did was a military action against the LTTE terrorists. We have problems with Maoists and also in Kashmir against militants, is it a war, he asked.
Well, so far I did not come across a single person who approved the attack on the pilgrims. Tamil culture is to offer a pot of water even to the enemy if he steps into your house. The media covered the incident fully and justly. Many television channels had talk shows on Monday and Tuesday with cross section of people while moderators were apparently sympathetic to the plight of pilgrims.
Even London BBC’s Tamil service had an interview with Vaiko who roared like a lion as usual with his flowery Tamil, accusing the government of “genocide”. He repeatedly said there was no attack on pilgrims, but Tamil enthusiasts and Tamil lovers expressed their objection only, he insisted. The interviewer proved to him that three out of seven buses were damaged causing injury to some children and others including Tamil speaking pilgrims.
Immediately the cannon ball came out of his mouth, “Why did these Tamils come along with Singhalese”? What a silly question from an advocate, parliamentarian and a political party leader? BBC guy justified their visit with Sinhala pilgrims. Vaiko burst, “Is BBC for Tamils or Singhalese”? The answer was it was a neutral news service.
Vaiko cut the phone line and there was no response for repeated attempts. Alas during the war against Tigers BBC was accused of being pro LTTE.
Travel advisory by the Sri Lankan government seems to have an immediate impact in Chennai and Trichy airports. Arrival of tourists has come down remarkably and it will affect not only the airlines but also the trade and commerce of the state they say.A statistic quoted declining of Lankan tourists to Trichy had already started with arrivals in the month of January from 4094 to 2347 in July.
A trader from T. Nagar, Chennai’s shopper’s paradise said “Thousands of Sri Lankan tourists come. They are famous shoppers for textiles, jewelry and food stuffs, buying large quantities of clothes and dresses for their own use and family members.Whole sale dealers go direct to places like Coimbatore and Thirupur. Absence of Lankan tourists will affect 10% our business.”
Next to textiles it is said food stuff business will also receive a hit. Export of sugar and rice will face constrain thus causing difficulties to farmers and others depending on these products. Further eatables made or grown in other states that go to Sri Lanka through Tamilnadu will also face problem. On the whole there is a risk of losing Rs. 1500 Million to 1900 million worth of business.
Even the fisher folk from Nagapattinam that frequently get into hot water with SL Navy have condemned the attack on pilgrims. They said, under the guise of voicing for the Tamils, some groups act against one’s human rights. Their communiqué further said, attacking innocent pilgrims will cause problems to the fishermen of Tamilnadu. We had a cordial discussion with Sinhala fisher men when both sides met in 2010 August, they said.
Besides, a section of the media used the youth soccer players’ sudden exit to reproduce the news that Indian cricket fans were harassed by Lankan fans while their team was on the losing spree during the recently concluded cricket matches. An Indian journalist had tweeted that Sri Lankan cricket fans at the fourth One Day International (ODI) between India and Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa Stadium had harassed some Indian fans and assaulted them after India won the match.
He further said one Indian woman had beer cans thrown at her and that there was also a lot of jeering and booing at the Indian fans amidst a tight police presence. The journalist further said that a fan of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar who travels around the world with the Indian cricket team, was forced by Sri Lankans in the stands to wave the Sri Lankan flag and was later physically abused and had objects thrown at him.
The Indian fan said he never faced such harassment or treatment at any cricket series around the world. “Even Bangladesh fans were cultured compared to the Sri Lankans,” the journalist quoted the Indian fan as saying.
The worst thing here was, though Indian officials sought help from their counter parts to calm down the local spectators, none raised finger, it was reported. Similar incident was reported in Pallekela too. Of course this is lack of sportsmanship from the country that was famous for decency in sports. Lanka should correct herself.
Now there may be apprehension in India about the safety of Indian Cricket fans visiting Sri Lanka to watch the T20 Cricket World Cup though so far no such news has come out. An UAE blog said, Indians visiting Sri Lanka will be treated with respect and there would be no intimidation of the visitors during the upcoming T20 Cricket World Cup, quoting a senior Lankan diplomat in the UAE.
“The T20 Cricket World Cup is scheduled in Sri Lanka and we are expecting a lot of Indians to come and watch the matches there. We welcome tourists and visitors from India as well as Tamil Nadu and provide all hospitality. There should not be any concern among them” said Sri Lanka’s Consul General for Dubai and the Northern Emirates, Abdul Raheem in a statement.
Any way Lankan fans and authorities should use this opportunity to show how magnanimous they are in their attitude and that Lanka is not hostile to Indian- Tamilnadu visitors despite the recent incidents!