By Satheesan Kumaaran
In 2001, Tamil students in the North and East got together to hold an event under the banner “Pongu Thamil” (Thamil Boiling Over), a Tamil “resurgence” programme designed to draw the attention of the Sri Lankan public to the Tamil cause, and to declare to the world the Tamil community’s desire for the political freedom of the Tamil people.
|Tamil children waving Tiger flags at the Oslo Pongu Thamil celebrations.
At that first gathering, the student organisers resolved to make Pongu Thamil an annual event. The 2003 Pongu Thamil, held in Jaffna, attracted some 150,000 people.
While Pongu Thamil in Sri Lanka has been overshadowed in recent years by other developments, military and political, in the North and East, and the event is observed less widely than it was when first launched, the Tamil diaspora has picked up on the theme and observes Pongu Thamil as an annual event in countries where there are Tamil expatriate communities.
The LTTE has called upon the Tamil diaspora to observe Pongu Thamil to draw international community’s attention to the Tamil cause and to exert pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka.Meanwhile, the LTTE is observing Pongu Thamil in areas under its control in the North. The LTTE will be appealing to a community that is weary of a war that continues unabated, with no clear winner or loser. The Pongu Thamil observances are expected to boost the morale of the Tamil population living in LTTE-held areas.
There are an estimated one million Tamils living in countries outside India and Sri Lanka, and many of these overseas-based communities observe the yearly Tamil resurgence programme.
The LTTE is seeking the support of the Tamil diaspora for an independent “Tamil Eelam”. To this end, LTTE leaders and Tamil poets have issued statements urging members of the overseas Tamil community to hold Pongu Thamil events and urge governments in their home countries to exert pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka to negotiate a settlement with the Tamils.
In his statement, the young Indian Tamil poet, Arivumathi, said the Tamils had forgotten their legacy.
“Pongu Thamil is a way of raising the international Tamil community’s awareness of the Tamil people’s proud past,” he said. “Tamils in the past wielded great power, and they once controlled many parts of Southeast Asia. Pongu Thamil will be an inspiration to Tamils around the world, including Tamil Nadu Tamils. We hope it will help unite the world’s Tamils under one umbrella.”
Speaking at the recent Pongu Thamil event held in Oslo, Norway (on June 14), the popular Tamil poet Pulavar Pulamaipiththan recalled the bond existing between his family and V. Pirapaharan, LTTE leader.
Referring to Pirapaharan as his “younger brother” (“thamby” in Tamil), the poet said he looked upon Pirapaharan as his leader, and that he believed he would make an outstanding leader for the Tamil people. The poet is a former presidium chairman of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the party-led by J. Jayalalitha.
Sri Lanka-born Tamil poet Kasi Ananthan, who now lives in Tamil Nadu, said: “The Pongu Thamil celebration is full of sentiments and an event that brings together Tamils around the world.
“Eelam Tamils go back in time to pre-history. Karikalan, Rajendra Cholan, Sundra Pandyan came from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to help Tamils when they were facing military debacles. Let me express my hope that this year’s Pongu Thamil will bring an end to the suffering of the Eelam Tamils.”
Poet Puthuvai Rathinathurai, who lives in Vanni, said: “We are happy to hear that Tamils around the world are observing Pongu Thamil in solidarity with their Eelam brethren.
“Many people, including members of the Tamil diaspora, are not aware of our sufferings, but now things have changed. Information technology has made the world a global village. IT and Pongu Thamil have helped to raise awareness among the Tamil people. The Tamil diaspora have an important role to play to convey the message of Eelam Tamils to the world forum.
“We from the ground gave birth to Pongu Thamil. It is now up to the Tamils who live outside of Eelam to carry the programme forward and get international support for a peaceful solution to the Eelam cause.”
Narendran Yogaratnam (alias Yogi), head of the LTTE’s military history division and former LTTE political wing leader, said: “Pongu Thamil is an awareness-raising programme for Tamils around the world. The international community, including India, is watching closely the developments in Sri Lanka.
“Eelam Tamils question the sincerity of Tamil Nadu. They want Tamil Nadu to break its silence and create an atmosphere in which India and the international community can put pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka to stop using military means to find a solution to the problem.
“Let me congratulate the Tamil diaspora for holding Tamil resurgence conventions around the world with the aim of educating the international community about the just cause and struggle of the LTTE.”
In an interview given to Australian Tamil radio, senior LTTE leader V. Balakumaran said that, while the international community’s support was necessary to achieve the goal of liberation, the Tamil people should understand that the international community’s views regarding different nationalist struggles were often inconsistent and motivated by self-interest.
“Recent news stories aim to discourage the Tamil people and create confusion among our people. Our people have to clearly understand the motives behind such moves by the international community.”
Balakumaran said: “We observe Tamil Nadu state along with the Indian national government. There is a link between us. Our regret is that India’s policymakers are viewing the Tamil people’s struggle through the lens of their country’s political welfare. Until the central Indian government approaches this matter intellectually, and recognises that ours is a struggle for survival by an oppressed people in the land of their birth, India cannot make any healthy, fruitful contribution. India has approached our struggle as an integral part of their national political equation.
“We have said clearly that Tamil Eelam is not against India; we will uphold India’s welfare as our own. One fact should be clear, and that is that no one should doubt our friendship and strong ties to India.”
The LTTE hopes to solicit India’s support to find a long-lasting solution to Sri Lanka’s national question. Anti-LTTE analysts and pro-Sri Lankan government policy-makers argue that the LTTE is seeking the support of India and the international community because the LTTE is in a weaker position in the wake of the Sri Lankan Army’s continued efforts to liberate the Vanni from the LTTE.
The LTTE’s apparently feels that the direct participation of India and the international community is necessary to achieve its final goal.
(The writer is a Canadian Tamil academic.)