Monday, April 1, 2013

Can Tamil Nadu unilaterally ban Sri Lankan cricketers?

Dhananjay Mahapatra
More than a month ago, a heart-wrenching video released by Britain's Channel 4 accused the Sri Lankan army of executing Balachandran, the youngest son of slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE) chief V Prabhakaran, in 2009. The video was part of a documentary about alleged ethnic cleansing by the island nation's forces during the 37-year civil war.

By mid-March, the situation in Tamil Nadu, which shares ethnic roots with the Sri Lankan Tamils, came to a boil. Visiting Sri Lankan Buddhist monks were shamelessly chased and assaulted by goons in Chennai railway station and Tamil Nadu-bound trains.

Sporadic incidents of violence, instead of being quelled through law enforcing machinery, were quickly termed as "surcharged atmosphere". Chief minister J
Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking exclusion of Sri Lankan cricket players from Indian Premier League games in Chennai.
She threatened to stop the matches if her government's wishes were disregarded. She wrote, "We will permit IPL matches to be held in Tamil Nadu only if the organizers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan player, umpire, official or support staff participate in these matches."

India's ties with no other nation are as strong historically and mythically as it is with Sri Lanka. The first mention of Lanka is in Ramayana, which narrates how the ties started with Hanuman's flying visit to Ravana's Ashoka forest to get news of the abducted Sita followed by the building of a bridge 'Ram Sethu" across the Palk Strait by the 'vanara sena'.

In 2005, the PM and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were there for the inauguration of the Rs 25,000 crore Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project, which envisaged dredging the mythological 'Ram Sethu' to allow large ships to sail between India and Sri Lanka, reducing the shipping distance between our western and eastern coast.
It was Jayalalithaa who had petitioned the Supreme Court against the dredging of the Sethu or Adam's Bridge. Quoting extensively from various historical literature and compilations, she said 'Ram Sethu' was a symbol of the might of human will and the construction of the bridge by the 'vanara sena' of Lord Rama was a victory of human endeavour in the face of adversity.

Can assault of visiting Sri Lankan Buddhist monks be ever regarded as a victory of human endeavour in the face of adverse situation created in Tamil Nadu by the release of videos of alleged execution of Balachandran four years ago?
The filial links with India started with King Vijaya, an Indian prince who migrated to Sri Lanka with his followers and made it into a monarchy. But there is one link that was planted nearly 2,300 years ago and is still surviving.
When Kalinga war-reformed Ashoka sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism, the young princess had taken with her a sapling of the pipal tree at Bodh Gaya, meditating under which prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Gautam Buddha. That sapling was planted at Lanka's ancient capital Anuradhapura. The sapling grew into a huge tree and is still standing, whispering tales of centuries-old human tribulations.

Like the pipal sapling, trade ties between India and Lanka has grown steadily. India exported goods worth $4.3 billion to Lanka in 2011-12, accounting for 22% of the island nation's total imports. Indian majors Tata, Bajaj, Bharti, RPG, Dabur, Ultratech, Ambuja Cements and Ashok Leyland have registered their presence along with state-owned

Given the Tamil Nadu government's decision to ban entry of Sri Lankans into their territory through official diktat and goon violence, would it not spark retaliatory measures from Lankan authorities?
What will happen if they take a decision that no product of an Indian company employing residents of Tamil Nadu is welcome in Sri Lanka? It is hard to imagine any of the above mentioned companies not employing a single Tamilian or any one who has domiciled in Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu, as an integral constituent of the union of states called India, had the right to use all its political clout and public pressure on the Indian government for taking whatever steps they collectively deemed fit to deal with Sri Lanka in the international forum or United Nations in the wake of the release of the video about execution of Balachandran.

But it would be rather unfortunate if constituent states take unilateral decisions, like banning entry of Sri Lankans into Tamil Nadu, on issues which are best left to the Union government.