Long waiting for freedom
18 years is a very long time. Especially to a person who had been forcibly rooted out of his birth place. When one person is forcibly sent out that is called eviction. If that happens to a large number of people belonging to a religion and ethnicity it is called ethnic cleansing. Hitler tried to exterminate Jews. Some people called it genocide. After the fall of Nazi Germany many were tried for crimes against humanity. Ethnic cleansing is also a crime against humanity.
Northern Province Muslims faced this horrendous experience in 1990. They were forced out by their Tamil brothers at gun point. Only a few hundred rupees were allowed to be taken. Other valuable possessions were left behind or striped off from them before they were forced out. Perhaps they did not mind leaving behind their possessions. Perhaps they had thought of coming back soon. However their wait has been a few years shorter that a generation.
Generational problem is affecting them in a different way also. Older generation want to go back to their homeland. They are emotionally attached with the past. The generation that grew up in exile is not very keen to return. They have assimilated to different societies; some have not even seen their homeland.
1990 ethnic cleansing was not an isolated incident or decision. It was a culmination of a systematic programme to drive Muslims out of North and East and make it a mono-ethnic region. The process started in the East. Muslims were killed at random and properties were destroyed. Muslims returning from Hajj or praying at mosques were also massacred. The message was loud and clear, get out of our homeland.
Ranil Wickremasinghe wanted to negotiate with the LTTE and settle the conflict. LTTE was enjoying a parity of status with the government. Even at best of times the LTTE was not willing to consider the return of Muslims. This is in spite of Prabakaran and Balasingham admitting committing a “political blunder” and assuring support to reeturn. Apologists like Nadesan and others sought to justify the crime of LTTE using analogies from United States. However it was Sivaram alias Taraki who presented the real picture. He bluntly claimed that ethnic cleansing of the Muslim was the strategy and the political project of LTTE. He even went to the extent of suggesting that ethnic cleansing and genocide of Muslims were on the cards.
Those who knew the gravity of LTTE design requested that Prabakaran himself to issue a written guarantee of the safety of Muslims. Such guarantee, it was demanded should be underwritten by the international community. No guarantee was given let alone considered.
By M.H.M. SALMAN