Wednesday, November 19, 2008

North Vs South

This topic sprang to my mind because of two global events. One hopeful and another quite the opposite.

Thousand of miles away the great American election jamboree came to a historical if not totally unexpected end with Barack Obama becoming the first American President of African-American ancestry. Just when everyone had started losing faith in the economy and foreign policy of the world’s sole “Superpower”, Americans rose as a nation and voted for the man who vowed to put the nation back on track, packing off the dumb cowboy from the Oval Office. (It’s a great tragedy that no such leader is in sight for Mera Bharath Mahan but if Winter comes will spring be far behind!!).

While the Americans decided to pull down the cotton curtain (a term denoting denial of rights to Blacks) and bridge the race divide…..

A few hundred miles across the Indian Ocean the Srilankan Army decided to do a Hitler in the tear drop island (Perhaps nature knew that the emerald island would be drenched in tears). The Final Solution as imagined by the government thirsty for Tamil blood has seen millions of Tamils flee their already ruined homes and with nowhere to run, either fight in the ranks of the LTTE or die by jumping into the ocean. A whole new example for people caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The great North-South divide seems to be prevalent almost everywhere on earth irrespective of the nation’s size, geography, race or population. A nation as big as USA or one as small as Srilanka can be victims of this parochial mentality. The basal “US Vs THEM” thinking has been the root cause for every single conflict the poor little planet has been seeing and bleeding from. The Northern states of America that wholeheartedly supported the abolition of slavery and acceptance of equality of African-Americans had to fight a long and bloody Civil War with their slavery mongering Southern counterparts to realize the American dream. Even today in the final election tally, Northern, Eastern and Western states have formed the bulwark of Obama’s win.

A similar fight for survival and self-determination is raging in the lush green island’s northern parts. A tiny minority that alternately ruled and slaved in the land is fighting what seems to be a final battle. And the root cause, one of the usual suspects –Race!. Ever since the Bandaranayake clan announced the Sinhalese only policy, violence against the Tamil community started rising and reached its crescendo during the 1983 Venni Prison riots. The Tamil race had ruled the island either directly or directly during the reign of the Cholas and then started inhabiting the island as slave workers in the tea plantations of the British. Through sheer hard work and enterprise the Tamils formed a vibrant and peaceful community in the north, north-east and west of Srilanka apart from a sizable presence in Colombo, the capital. They played a key role in the Srilankan economy and cultural life. But the ugly face of race started rearing during the early 1970’s and the ethnic strife morphed into a brutal civil war in the 1980s.

Today the entire northern region is raging with air-raids and bombing. Not even women and children are spared. International aid-organisations have been banned from entering the area. The southern and central Sinhalese hawks see this as the final countdown to ending the reign of LTTE in the north. While I firmly agree with the international community that the LTTE should be brought to justice for the brutal slaying of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi, it neither gives the Srilankan army the right to kill innocent Tamils nor guarantee the silence of the Indian government.

It’s a tragedy of Himalayan proportions that the tiny nation lacks a statesman on either side who can unite the nation in peace and rid the parochial tendencies. The Americans have shown that if people unite under a just and fair leader US and THEM can become WE and OURS. Let us unite under the banner of Humanity! Lest we forget, Only the dead have known the end of war.