Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tamil Nadu for Tamil Tigers

The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (southern Indian state of which Chennai is the capital) issued a general strike for today. The goal of the strike was to demand a permanent ceasefire between the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government. Businesses, schools, government, and all other workers were asked to participate in the general strike, showing solidarity, regardless of one's political affiliation.

Regardless of the news source and supporting side, it is apparent that the Tamil civilians are the main causalties of the continued fighting. The UN estimates that around 100,000 civilians have escaped, but at least that many still remain trapped. Over 25,000 are now huddled in refugee tent camps, with others seeking to go to India via boat. It also estimates that over 4,500 civilians have been killed in the last three months. The military claims that only about 30 have died in the last few days, but the LTTE puts that figure much, much higher. The organization, labeled as a terrorist group by many countries, points blame at the government for targeting innocent civilans. The Sri Lankan government claims that the rebel group is using civilians as human shields.

Even while the strike is going on, its efficacy is already dubious. Some businesses decided to stay open, citing its production requirement ties overseas. Others simply couldn't afford a loss of one day's earnings. Opposing politicians also running in the election stated that the strike was simply a political ploy and smokescreen for garnering votes for the upcoming election - not true concern for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Our school decided to close for the day, taking precautions from potential (but unlikely) protesting, alsong with concerns about the public transport system, upon which both families and staff are dependent. Judging from the numbers of honking horns I hear outside, for many, the day continues as normal.

I pray that the citizens still trapped in the war zone are allowed to leave and seek safety. For the remaining fighters of the LTTE, the situation does not look good. They are now confined to an 8 square mile area, with a small number of fighters left and two key figures have just surrendered. The hope of a separate state now looks doomed.

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