Centre cautious over Lankan Tamils' citizenship issue

Chidambaram meets Karunanidhi, promises to look into matter

In a tightrope walk, as the Congress would not like to be seen as “anti-Tamil” over the issue even at the initial stage, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday discussed the matter with Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. Chidambaram took great care in indicating the Centre’s approach to the DMK’s latest rather pricking demand.

“The Centre would look into the proposal,” Chidambaram told reporters after a 25-minute meeting with the DMK patriarch at the latter’s Gopalapuram residence here. The DMK’s plea on the issue would be “discussed” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna before any decision was taken, the home minister said.

The Chidambaram-Karunanidhi meeting comes close on the heels of the DMK leader’s letter to the prime minister as well as UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, explaining the party’s stand on the issue, and the “very important resolution” it had adopted at its “Mupperum Vizha” conference at Kancheepuram last week, marking the finale of DMK founder C N Annadurai’s birth centenary.

The copies of the letter were personally handed over to both the Congress leaders by the DMK Parliamentary Party leader T R Baalu in New Delhi on October 1. He had also forwarded a copy of the letter to the home minister.

Karunanidhi, in the letter, had called for expeditious steps by the Centre to give effect to the DMK’s plea. The party had said there were 73,572 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in 115 camps across Tamil Nadu, and that over 30,000 of them were staying outside the relief camps in different parts of the state.

The DMK resolution has made a strong pitch for granting permanent Indian citizenship to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, besides demanding that the Centre take steps to ensure their livelihood security in India. The refugees have been staying in Tamil Nadu since the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka turned bloody in 1983.

Chidambaram said he had discussed the prevailing political situation with Karunanidhi, besides the steps to be taken (by Sri Lanka) to relocate the internally displaced Tamils (IDT) in the relief camps to their original habitations (in the wake of the defeat of the LTTE). “The chief minister gave some suggestions, and I made some clarifications,” the home minister said.

On sending a team of Indian MPs to Sri Lanka to discuss the rehabilitation of Tamils, Chidambaram said it was under the Centre’s consideration.

The DMK’s resolution on the refugee issue has surprised and shocked political circles here, as successive state governments in the past have not been averse to the idea of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees voluntarily “returning home if they wished to” once normalcy was restored in Sri Lanka.

DH News Service

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