Kollywood: Politics, Pretense and Perversion - 2
by B R Haran on 10 Jun 2010 1 Comment

Sri Lankan Tamil issue

As Eelam War–IV was on in full swing in 2008, the PMK was the first to start the ‘show’ with a protest demonstration in front of the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission on 30 September 2008. PMK’s protest was followed by a one-day hunger fast organised by the CPI. Other parties like CPM, DMDK, MDMK, VCK and other smaller ones joined the fast, on 3 October. AIADMK, which was supposed to attend the demonstration, pulled out at the last minute due to the overwhelming presence of actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK. The PMK also avoided it. MDMK leader Vaiko announced that his party would hold a protest demonstration throughout the state on 10 October and ensured the same, for which its ally AIADMK also extended support. As police refused permission, he and his cadres defied orders and courted arrest.


Meanwhile, the isolated DMK, which was ruling the state, organised a public meeting on 6 October and the Chief Minister gave a call to his party cadres to send telegrams to the Prime Minister’s Office demanding India’s intervention in the Sri Lankan affair. PMK, VCK and DK also joined in sending protest telegrams. 


All parties demanded India stop supply of war equipments to Sri Lanka and asked the Centre to intervene and enforce a ceasefire.  


As the telegram protest didn’t have the desired effect, the Chief Minister convened an ‘all party’ meeting, which was boycotted by AIADMK, BJP, DMDK and MDMK. The ‘all party’ meeting passed three resolutions vide, the Centre must stop supply of arms to Sri Lanka government and ensure an end to the alleged genocide by enforcing ceasefire; the Centre must arrange to send relief materials for Sri Lankan Tamils through the Red Cross; and the Centre must find a lasting solution to the problems, including repeated loss of lives faced by the Indian fishermen near Sri Lankan waters.


The Tamil Nadu government gave the Centre an ultimatum of two weeks, failing which all MPs from the State would resign from Parliament. The PMK, Left front, and even the opposition MDMK consented to the ‘resignation’ protest. The TNCC, which can’t move even a finger without the consent of its ‘high command’ was non-committal on the resignation issue, but signed and supported the resolutions as an expression of solidarity.


Meanwhile, the then National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, as instructed by the Prime Minister, summoned the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner and asked his government to exercise restraint in the military operations against the LTTE. He conveyed India’s concerns regarding the sufferings of civilians and the alleged shooting of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.


The Prime Minister, who gave an assurance to Karunanidhi over the telephone that he would act accordingly in the aftermath of the ‘telegram-protest’, came out openly after the all-party meeting and said the Indian government is concerned over escalation of hostilities, displacement of innocent people, and the losses suffered by them. 


Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi (Chief Minister’s daughter) was the first to act according to her father’s script and screenplay by ‘promptly’ submitting a post-dated resignation letter to her father. Following her footsteps, other DMK MPs of the Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha submitted their resignations to Karunanidhi. Former union minister Dayanidhi Maran, then estranged from the CM’s family, also met the Chief Minister after three days and gave his resignation. Pressurised by these developments in the DMK, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, as instructed by the Centre, summoned the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and conveyed India’s ‘concern’ over the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils caught in the conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army. Earlier, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee also expressed India’s concern.


AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa lambasted the all-party meeting as a ‘drama,’ the MPs’ submission of resignations to Karunanidhi a ‘farce,’ and said Kanimozhi’s resignation was not worth its paper cost. She demanded Karunanidhi prove his concern for Sri Lankan Tamils by dissolving the State Assembly and making his MPs to resign from the Union Cabinet. She asked what was he doing for the last four and a half years and what purpose would be served by resigning when just six months were left for closure of Parliament. She said Karunanidhi was diverting people’s attention from many relevant issues concerning his misrule.


Other opposition parties like DMDK and BJP also called the resignation of DMK MPs a ‘travesty’. DMDK president Vijayakanth was more scathing in his attack on Karunanidhi. During a mammoth ‘Youth wing’ conference of his party in Chennai, he minced no words in criticising Karunanidhi and the Centre, blaming them for the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.


Though the people of Tamil Nadu were clear about the Lankan issue and could differentiate between LTTE and the moderates, Karunanidhi didn’t understand the people’s mind and developed cold feet due to the hullabaloo created by the opposition and pro-LTTE organizations. As his earlier antics drew flak from all sides, and as Parliament elections were approaching, he feared his party might lose some constituencies because of Sri Lankan Tamil issue. In October 2008, the Chief Minister induced the film fraternity to jump onto the “Sri Lankan Tamil” bandwagon; directors, producers, exhibitors and other technicians, under the banner ‘Tamil Ina Unarvu Kuzhu’ (Forum for Tamil Race) held a rally in Rameswaram in support of Sri Lankan Tamils and against the Rajapakse government. The film fraternity of more than 2000 people, sans top actors, participated. A public meeting was organised, which saw a flurry of ‘emotional’ speeches from almost all speakers; some were well known directors and producers. As the rally has been organised at the behest of the ruling party, the speakers came out openly in support of the banned LTTE and against the Indian government.


While support for LTTE in the name of Lankan Tamils took the colour of ‘separatism’, the talks against the Central Government had the odour of ‘anti-nationalism’. A speaker made a stupid comparison of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi with the assassination of Indira Gandhi and Mahatma Gandhi, saying, India had forgiven the Sikhs (killers of Indira) and the Aryans (Brahmin killers of Gandhiji), but had not forgiven the Tamils (killers of Rajiv). It was also said that, A ‘Sikh’ and a few ‘Aryans’ (Brahmins) have become the Prime Ministers of India, but a ‘Tamil’ could not become Prime Minister.


Encomiums were sung for LTTE Chief Prabhakaran. It was said that he and his troops were the only Tamils who retaliated with equal strength when Tamils in the rest of the world were at the receiving end. One speaker went to the extent of saying the Centre was afraid of Tamils becoming strong with the formation of a separate Eelam. He asked, ‘If India could help the formation of a separate Bangladesh from Pakistan, why couldn’t it help the formation of separate Eelam from Sri Lanka?’ Some speakers showed a proclivity towards the formation of a separate Tamil nation. Upcoming directors Seeman and Ameer were the main speakers of seditious language; senior directors Barathiraja and Ramanarayanan endorsed their views.


While the film fraternity was going hammer and tongs in support of LTTE in Rameswaram, MDMK leader Vaiko and his colleague and former union minister Kannappan made similar seditious speeches in a meeting in Chennai city, where a documentary film in support of LTTE was also screened. Vaiko threatened the Centre that he would even carry arms and mobilise youth for fighting in support of LTTE; Kannappan said a day would come for demanding a ‘separate’ Tamil Nadu.


Perturbed by the voices in support of LTTE, opposition leader Jayalalithaa said the speakers would have been arrested on charges of sedition had she been Chief Minister. Karunanidhi, to put her in a dilemma, promptly ordered for the arrest of her allies Vaiko and Kannappan! Undeterred, Jayalalithaa charged that the arrests were politically motivated and demanded the arrest of directors Seeman, Ameer and Barathiraja under the same sections of the IPC. Left with no alternative, Karunanidhi had to order the arrest of Seeman and Ameer. They were arrested after their participation in the ‘human-chain’ protest organised by the ruling DMK but boycotted by its Congress ally.


As the actors association led by Sarathkumar did not participate in the Rameswaram rally, it organized a daylong fast on 1 November 2008, where all well-known and little-known stars expressed solidarity and sympathy for the affected Tamils of Sri Lanka. Thanks to a timely advisory by Sarathkumar asking the actors to avoid controversy, the speakers controlled their ‘emotions’ and generously donated a lot of money (for the first time in the 30 years of ethnic struggle) for Sri Lankan Tamils. Actor Ajith Kumar, who normally avoids such ‘politicised’ events, attended, allegedly due to threats by some chauvinistic elements in filmdom.


Recently, on 6 February 2010, Tamil filmdom organized a huge thanksgiving ceremony for the Chief Minister for providing 90 acres of land in Chennai to construct free homes for film industry workers. All speakers eulogised the CM; but actor Ajith Kumar publicly told the CM that apolitical actors like him were being threatened to participate in political meetings on Cauvery and Sri Lankan Tamil issues, and those who don’t attend such meetings are branded as ‘anti-Tamil’. He requested the Chief Minister to put an end to such atrocities and let cinema be just another profession; politicians should not drag cinema into politics and other social problems which they were supposed to solve themselves. Rajinikanth, who had experienced such atrocities, applauded Ajith his courage.


Later, when a section of film artists tried to make an issue out of it and create problems for Ajith and Rajini, both actors had a private meeting with Karunanidhi, after which the issue was resolved.


(To be continued…) 

The author is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai

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