Silence won't do

Silence won't do

India’s continuing defence of the Sri Lankan government’s conduct of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has become untenable, especially in the wake of new evidence of what happened in the final days of the war.

Fresh video footage provides chilling evidence of the government’s systematic execution of surrendering and captured LTTE fighters and their relatives, even if they were children. Twelve-year-old Balachandran, son of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, was made to watch the execution of his five bodyguards and then shot dead at point-blank range. The video footage provides further evidence of the government targeting civilians. Previous evidence showed Lankan troops shooting and bombarding civilians trapped in the ‘no-fire zones.’

New footage reveals that the government prevented humanitarian assistance from reaching civilians there. What is clearly evident from the latest and earlier video footage and accounts of Tamil civilians and other witnesses to the final stages of the war is that civilians were not accidental victims of the war but deliberate targets of attack by government forces. In other words, civilians and surrendering Tigers were gunned down as a matter of policy that was in all likelihood made at the highest levels of government.

Global calls for trial of key players in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime on war crimes charges are growing. Sadly India is among a handful of countries that continues to defend the Rajapaksa government’s indefensible and inhumane record.  A US-sponsored resolution will come up for vote in the UN Human Rights Council. India must support that resolution.

Delhi failed the Tamils back in 2009 when it did not raise its voice against Colombo’s targeting of civilians. Its focus on humanitarian aid and economic development of Tamil areas in the post-LTTE period rather than on issues of justice has severely dented its image as a democracy committed to the rule of law. Its endorsement of the Rajapaksa regime is no doubt motivated by strategic concerns and fears that any criticism of the Rajapaksas will result in Pakistan and China expanding their influence in the island. While such anxieties are understandable, ignoring violence that approximates crimes against humanity and even war crimes is morally reprehensible.

India claims it is committed to a negotiated solution to the ethnic conflict and to peace and reconciliation there.  If this commitment is genuine, India cannot remain silent on the issue of justice any longer. Reconciliation is not possible in the absence of justice.

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