Indian outrage over Tamil war memorial demolition

This undated photograph received on January 11, 2021 shows a general view of a war memorial in the Jaffna University before it was demolished, in Jaffna. (AFP)
This undated photograph received on January 11, 2021 shows a general view of a war memorial in the Jaffna University before it was demolished, in Jaffna. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Indian outrage over Tamil war memorial demolition

Indian outrage over Tamil war memorial demolition
  • Demolition took place two days after Indian FM’s visit to Colombo

NEW DELHI:  Outrage has mounted in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu after a memorial to Tamils who lost their lives in a civil war was demolished in northern Sri Lanka last week.

The monument at the University of Jaffna was built in 2019 in memory of Tamils who perished in the 26-year conflict between Sri Lanka’s government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from 1983-2009, which claimed an estimated 100,000 lives.

Tamils, who are of the same ethnic group as residents of Tamil Nadu, constitute 12 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Their situation in Sri Lanka plays a major role in New Delhi-Colombo relations.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamion condemned the monument demolition as causing “great pain to the Tamils of the world,” while regional parties held a protest on Monday in the state’s capital Chennai, in front of the Sri Lankan deputy commissioner’s office. On the same day, the Sri Lankan government promised to rebuild the monument.

HIGHLIGHT

  • After protests in India, Sri Lankan government promises to rebuild the monument.

“You cannot undo the damage already done. Colombo had to retract after international pressure,” Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Mallai Sathya told Arab News.

“We feel the demolition is an attack on the memory of the Tamils who lost so many of their dear and near ones in the war against the Sri Lankan government,” he said.

The Sri Lankan government, under Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which derives its political support from the majority Sinhala community, had earlier referred to the memorial as “glorification of the separatist LTTE.”

Tamil politicians in India see the monument demolition as jeopardizing the integration of the Tamil community into Sri Lankan society.

“If the Sri Lankan government was really keen on the integration of the Tamils in mainstream society, they should not have allowed the demolition of the war memorial,” Saravanan Annadurai, spokesman for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, told Arab News after Monday’s protest. 

 “A fragile peace is prevailing in Sri Lanka and this kind of majoritarian act shakes the confidence of the local Tamils in the government in Colombo,” he said, adding that the “plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka is a sensitive issue” for Tamil Nadu.

The memorial destruction is seen as polarizing in Colombo as well.

“This was a polarizing action, and it will make the Tamil people all the more upset with the government,” said Colombo-based Jehan Perera, the head of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.   As the demolition incident took place two days after Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to Colombo, Perera told Arab News it was a “slap in the face” to India.

During his visit, the Indian minister urged Sri Lankan authorities to transfer some power to Tamils in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-dominated regions.

As Tamil Nadu will hold a regional election in April, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to show it “cares” for Tamils, Perera said. 

 “The BJP wanted to impress upon the people in Tamil Nadu that they care. After this incident, India now has to show they are serious about the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.” 

 However, Chennai-based political analyst N. Sathiya Moorthy says that by restoring the war memorial, the Colombo government is trying to convey the message that it was not behind its destruction. 

“The demolition came a day after Jaishankar’s three-day visit to Colombo, and would have carried a message of its own, had it not been for the restoration only two days later,” Moorthy said. 

“The issue has triggered a revival of the Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic discourse in Tamil Nadu where assembly polls are due soon,” he added.

Despite the promised restoration of the monument, commentators see the incident as something likely to have repercussions.

Dr. Gulbin Sultana of the Delhi-based Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses told Arab News that as long as the grievances of the Tamils of Sri Lanka are not addressed by the Sri Lankan government, “the issue will continue to act as irritant in India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations.


China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
Updated 45 min 38 sec ago

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
  • Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters underground near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province

BEIJING: Chinese rescuers drilled several fresh holes Tuesday to reach at least 12 gold miners trapped underground for nine days, as dwindling food supplies and rising waters threatened their survival.
Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters (1,750 feet) underground at the Hushan mine near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province after an explosion damaged the entrance.
After days without any signs of life, some of the trapped miners managed to send up a note attached to a metal wire which rescuers had dropped into the mine on Sunday.
Pleading for help, the handwritten message said a dozen of them were alive but surrounded by water and in need of urgent medical supplies.
Several of the miners were injured, the note said.
A subsequent phone call with the miners revealed 11 were in one location 540 meters below the surface with another – apparently alone – trapped a further 100 meters down.
The whereabouts and condition of the other 10 miners is still unknown.
Rescuers have already dug three channels and sent food, medicine, paper and pencils down thin shafts – lifelines to the miners cut into the earth.
But progress was slow, according to Chen Fei, a top city official.
“The surrounding rock near the ore body is mostly granite... that is very hard, resulting in slow progress of rescue,” Chen told reporters on Monday evening.
“There is a lot of water in the shaft that may flow into the manway and pose a danger to the trapped workers.”
Chen said the current food supply was only enough for two days.
Rescuers drilled three more channels on Tuesday, according to a rescue map published on the Yantai government’s official twitter-like Weibo account.
A telephone connection has also been set up.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed dozens of rescuers clearing the main return shaft, while cranes and a massive bore-hole drill was used to dig new rescue channels to reach the trapped miners.
Rescue teams lost precious time since it took more than a day for the accident to be reported, China Youth daily reported citing provincial authorities.
Both the local Communist Party secretary and mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.
In December, 23 workers died after being stuck underground in the southwestern city of Chongqing, just months after 16 others died from carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped underground at another coal mine in the city.