I am informed there are at least 5,000 permanently disabled Lankan army veterans whose rehabilitation would now be a difficult assignment amid fiscal constraints. Plus, there are thousands of seriously-affected families which are yet to be supported and paid benefits. Just the last three years’ battles have left 6,261 soldiers killed and 29,551 wounded in this South Asian country. [A total of 23,000 troops have died since the first casualties in October 1981.] On the rebels’ side, the loss of lives is estimated to be 20,000 during the corresponding period.
How will Lanka then cope with the post-conflict difficulties? Yes, guerilla chief V. Prabhakaran is dead. Much of the army he built is also dead. But does that bury the Tamil question in Sri Lanka for ever? Is the notion of a Tamil homeland going to perish with Prabhakaran? It appears so, for the moment as no one is talking about the conditions prevailing in the wretched refugee camps where about 200,000 internally displaced people are languishing. Those innocent Tamils are believed to fear a nationwide crackdown on anyone suspected to have had links with the LTTE. There are already reports of pro-government Tamil militiamen hunting for Tiger sympathisers among them.
Only if the Indian Government could speak on the political and social mess that Sri Lankan Tamils are in today. Even if we’re to ignore the rising Chinese influence in Lanka, we should not shut our eyes when our brothers and sisters in the Lankan refugee camps can neither expect justice from the law of the country nor be hopeful of any intervention by the international community. It’s testing time for India too. The overall Commander of the Indian Peace Keeping Force Depinder Singh, in whose presence Prabhakaran accepted (and then refused) the peace-cum-autonomy deal in September 1987, giving Tamils everything they wanted, less independence, had said that peace in Sri Lanka was not possible while Prabhakaran lived. Now that this domineering force is no more, now that the tribulations of Tamils are multiplying, why should we fail, once again, to see the changed environment? Doesn’t a great opportunity present itself with Prabhakaran’s death? India can certainly help heal the wounds the Tigers inflicted on both sides of the Palk Strait. PRABHAKARAN’S OBITUARY