Many, including the media, are surprised by the sudden upheaval and ask why the protests have come after "four long years since one of the bloodiest civil wars came to a brutal end". There are many reasons. A brief note on this group's mindset is required to substantiate the stand taken now.
From cooking to constitution, Bollywood to parliament affairs and from salary hikes to petrol price hikes, everything has been discussed, debated and divulged in the limited realms of public forums in office to the ever buzzing social media. Needless to say this elite group is ever observing and extremely opinionated.
It cannot be denied that we all stayed helpless while thousands were killed during the last days of the war. But you cannot deny that we all cried and fumed deep inside thinking of the plight of innocent lives lost in the crossfire and in planned bombardments through the decades. When it all ended or at least we thought so, we prayed for the settlement and rehabilitation of the displaced, leave out equal rights for that is always a distant dream. But what we read and watched was nothing but a continuous violation of human rights and discrimination against Tamils.
As usual, the incidents sprung up occasionally and ended with empathy and sympathy overflowing only in status messages and tweets. But one sudden and the most unprecedented turn of events happened to everybody's surprise, including the Sri Lankans, after four years - the footage released by Channel 4 alleging that Balachandran, the innocent kid of LTTE chief Prabhakaran, was indeed shot dead in cold blood by the Sri Lankan army.
Remember the sensational photograph of Vietnamese girl Kim Phuc running nude with her burnt hands. That photograph brought the whole Vietnam war to an end, marking a deep scar on the US. I am right now seeing history repeat itself, the photograph of innocence personified by Balachandran has sparked the dormant emotions of people in Tamil Nadu against the Sri Lankan army. How I wish the same photograph had been out in 2009, for it could have saved thousands of lives. Nevertheless, I am content that it came out after all.
Observers liken this to the anti-Hindi agitations that laid the foundation for Dravidian parties in the southern state. Though the gravity and implications of the two issues may differ distinctly, there is an underlying base and that is of language and ethnic identity being suppressed.
It is disheartening to get comments from a few sections that these protests are orchestrated for political gains by a few parties from behind. This is not the right time to investigate who and what has caused them to unite. You must also have noted that historically, the students of law colleges and government art colleges are the ones who stand in the frontline of protests.
But students from many engineering colleges, including IIT Madras and Anna University, jumping into the foray must have signalled that it is not being politically mooted. Rather, I would say it has made the political parties that have been playing dirty politics wary of how to align themselves or deal with this.
Now it is the turn of Silicon Valley citizens to join hands, and why do they do? It is simple, as I said. They have reached the threshold of sitting and shouting in the electronic media about issues that concern them and the nation. Now they feel it is time to act, it is time they are heard, it is time to vent out the deep emotions they have held for their ethnic brothers in the neighboring island country.
I would like to quote an instance when I was questioned by a friend from the northern part of our country as to why we (Indian Tamils) are so bothered about what's happening next door when we have issues in our own homeland. I answered, "When you are in a foreign land and hear someone calling out or speaking your mother tongue, what makes you move with a gleaming smile on your face? That same inert feeling makes me cry when I think about the Sri Lankan Tamils."
And why now? It is better late than never. The spark has grown into a flame and we add fuel believing that it burns till the light of equal rights reaches the long deprived and oppressed people.
Lalith Raja MS is a senior system engineer at Infosys, Chennai.
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