India: Women begin fast for Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka

Express News Service
A group of around 30 women began a fast unto death, on 13 April, to demand the cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka.
The group headed by human rights activist Prof. Saraswati, who declined to reveal which college or university she is working at, claims to be unaffiliated to any political or social organisation and say that they simply are people who have come together spontaneously, concerned by the deaths of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Although the group claims to be unaffiliated Prof. Saraswati is a known activist and is related to Periyar Dravida Kazhagam leader Viduthalai Rajendran.
Their primary demand is for Sonia Gandhi, “Sonia Gandhi should stop the war. She has both the power and responsibility to do so. She knows the pain of loss so she should act on this immediately,” said Saraswati.

Asked why they have chosen this method of protest she said, “Many organisations have tried many different ways but everything has failed to turn the attention (of the people and government) towards the Eelam Tamils deaths. That is why we have chosen to come together and fast.”

They have chosen the spot where Muthukumar’s – who self-immolated for Eelam Tamils - body was kept for public viewing in Kolathur. “We chose this spot in memory of Muthukumar,” she says.

Police have allowed them to fast at the venue only on Monday saying that they had not obtained prior permission, the group though has not found an alternative spot, “We have not found an alternative spot and all marriage halls have been instructed to rent out only for marriages because of the election. But we will have to move today.”

Asked why no prior permission was obtained she said, “We decided to fast only on Saturday.” They are determined to continue the fast at a different location.

UN must take steps to protect Tamils in ‘safe zone’:

The United Nations must assume responsibility for the safety of Sri Lankan Tamils moving into the ‘safe zone’ in the island nation, State BJP president L Ganesan said on Monday. At a press conference here, Ganesan said the Lankan Tamils were apprehensive of moving from the jungle into the ‘safe zone’, which was under the control of the Sinhala government forces, because of the atrocities committed by the army, including rape of refugee women. Hence, the UN must come forward and offer protection to the Tamils moving into the ‘safe zone’. Ganesan said the Lankan government had declared two-day cessation of hostilities under pressure from the US. But India claimed credit for it with an eye on the coming LS polls and to propitiate its ally, the DMK. Citing the Lankan government’s claim that the two-day halt to the war was to enable the people to celebrate the Tamil and Sinhala New Year’s Day, the BJP chief said it showed that the island nation had once been a part of India and that traditions that were in vogue for centuries could not be destroyed.

South Asian Collective appeals to Rajapaksa for truce

A Collective of concerned citizens from South Asia on Monday has sent an open appeal to the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to extend the announced 48-hours ceasefire for a longer period as a first step to bring enduring peace in Vanni. The Collective is of the opinion that this declared truce could be utilised as an opportunity to develop confidence among the innocent Tamil civilians who were caught in the crossfire between LTTE and the Lankan troops. The Collective feels that the common historical bonds South Asia shares with Sri Lanka gives it the right credentials to play a mediating role. The Collective offers their resources in mediating the truce to effect confidence building among the Tamils and feels it is important to build trust among the civilian Tamils at this juncture . The South Asian collective has appealed to Rajapaksa to allow for independent supervision, so that no side would be able to blame each other for violating the truce and obstruct civilians of safe passage from moving out of the conflict zones. The open appeal was issued on behalf of eminent South Asian personalities.

14 April 2009

Source: Express News Service