Tamil Tribune

Agony and Impotence of a Tamil Nadu Chief Minister within the Indian Union

(Sri Lanka, India, Tamilnadu and Karunanidhi)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2009 (ID. 2009-07-01)
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1. Powerlessness of Tamil Nadu

2. Chief Minister's Plea in Humility and Supplication

3. Sixty Million Population of Tamil Nadu

4. This Situation Should Change

Supplementary Discussion

1. Powerlessness of Tamil Nadu

Thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan military during the first few months of 2009 (United Nations reported the death toll as 20000). About sixty million Tamils live in the Indian state of Tamilnadu just about a hundred kilometers from the killing fields of Sri Lanka. They were unable to do anything about it except to watch it with tears in their eyes and sadness in their heart, because diplomatic and military power lies with the Indian government that is dominated and controlled by Hindi politicians. People of Tamil Nadu, although they pay taxes dutifully to the Indian government, have no say even as their brethren were massacred by the tiny Sri Lanka that is no match in military and diplomatic power to India by a wide margin.

2. Chief Minister's Plea in Humility and Supplication

The highest elected leader of Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi, was powerless to do anything to protect the fellow Tamils of neighboring Sri Lanka. Humanitarian agencies around the world warned of the impending civilian tragedy in Sri Lanka. With no military or diplomatic power of his own as the head of a state in the mighty "regional power" India, all he could do was to beg and plead with the Indian government to save his brethren in Sri Lanka. He repeatedly asked the Indian government to put pressure on Sri Lanka to bring about a ceasefire but the Indian government continued to train Sri Lankan military officers and also provided diplomatic cover in the United Nations. Sri Lanka openly stated that India never asked it to enter into a ceasefire. This proud octogenarian politician, five times chief minister of the state, literally begged India. Here is a plea in humility and supplication. On December 26, 2008, Karunanidhi appealed again to India to bring about a ceasefire, saying that every minute of delay cost one more Tamil life. Then he added, "with tears in my eyes I am making this request”.

Karunanidhi is a veteran Tamilnadu politician of six decades; democratically elected as state chief minister five times (1969-71, 1971-76, 1989-91, 1996-2001 and 2006-present).  He was not only making his personal plea to protect his brethren Tamils in Sri Lanka, he was making the plea on behalf of the 60 million people of the state. In an opinion poll conducted in Tamil Nadu by Loyola College in January 2009, ninety percent of the people surveyed wanted an immediate ceasefire.

3. Sixty Million Population of Tamil Nadu

The State of Tamil Nadu, with a population, land area, coastal stretch and gross domestic product (GDP) greater than half the countries of the world, could easily have been a country on its own. Yet the leader of this 60-million people state was totally powerless to protect fellow Tamils from the military of Sri Lanka of 20 million people and economy much smaller than that of Tamil Nadu and technological development much less. Had Tamilnadu been an independent country, Sri Lanka would be no match to it and, in fact, would not dare to massacre Tamils. But Tamil Nadu is a mere state within India with no military or diplomatic power of its own. Powerless to do anything of his own, the chief minister was reduced to begging the Indian government to protect his people in Sri Lanka. Read his plea to the Indian government again. Don't you hear the agony and utter desperation and powerlessness in his voice? Voice of the chief minister of 60-million people.

4. This Situation Should Change

The chief minister could not even speak up against Indian government's military, financial and diplomatic support to Sri Lanka. If he speaks up the Indian government could dismiss his state government and could even arrest him for anti-national activities. In fact, a number of lesser known politicians and Tamil activists had been arrested for speaking up against Indian government's support for Sri Lanka. So the astute politician that he is, Chief Minister Karunanidhi does not speak up. Yet his sadness, his feeling of powerlessness comes through in some of the statements.

On November 23, 2008, the chief minister said, "Raja Raja Cholan conquered Sri Lanka. Today Tamils are destroyed there and we (Tamil Nadu) are in such a pathetic situation that we could not help them. This situation should change" (November 23, 2008). [Note: Raja Raja Cholan was one of the greatest kings in Tamil Nadu (985-1014 AD); he conquered Sri Lanka in 1002 AD and assumed the title Sinhalanthahan.]

On January 24, 2009, he said, “We are like a man without hands and dumb, who is not able to protect the butter from the scorching sun.” He further added, "We know what we can do and what the Indian government can do”. He knows Indian government could easily stop the war in neighboring tiny Sri Lanka and also knows the Tamil Nadu state government is powerless. He continued in desperation, “How are we going to save them?” In the end Tamilnadu was not able to save the Tamils of Sri Lanka. 20000 civilians killed in Sri Lankan Air Force bombing and army shelling. 300000 held in camps surrounded by barbed wires and patrolled by gun totting Sinhala soldiers.

Will this situation change? Are the people of Tamil Nadu forever doomed to be powerless and at the mercy of Hindi politicians who rule India? Is independence for Tamilnadu the way out? [Reference 1] Can it be achieved? [Reference 2]

Supplementary Discussion: We stated in this article, "So the astute politician that he is, Chief Minister Karunanidhi did not speak up." Let no one misunderstand that we applaud the chief minister's silence or we give him a clean chit in this regard. We wish he had spoken up against Indian government's actions and clearly exposed the Indian government to the people of Tamil Nadu. He did not do so because he is not a national hero like Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of Bangladesh, who stood up against the Pakistani government. He is not a national leader but a politician who would bend and sway to stay in power. He did not want to challenge the Indian government over the Sri Lankan war.

A more important question we need to answer is, "Would things have changed if Chief Minister Karunanidhi spoke up against the Indian government?" No, it would not have changed. The Indian government that ignored the wishes of the people of Tamil Nadu as indicated in the afore-mentioned Loyola College opinion poll would not act any differently even if the chief minister condemned its actions. In fact, in October 2008 he publicly threatened the resignation of his party MPs (Members of Parliament) but the Indian government refused to budge. The chief minister did not follow through with the resignations but backed off [Reference 3]. Similarly it would have made no difference even if he spoke up against Indian government actions from platform to platform around Tamilnadu. Indian government may simply ignore him or, if he became too much of a thorn on their back, dismiss his government and may even arrest him. As for the Sri Lankan war is concerned, it would have made no difference. Yet, Karunanidhi could have spoken up and fell, rather than murmur and continue to rule Tamilnadu.

(NOTE: Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi is the president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), one of the two dominant political parties in Tamil Nadu.)


1. Why Independence (Freedom) for Tamil Nadu from Indian Rule? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 1999 (20 KB) 

2. AN EXCHANGE OF VIEWS: Can Tamil Nadu be freed from Indian Rule? (NO: R. Damodaran, YES: Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 1998. ( http://www.tamiltribune.com/98/0701.html)

3. Did Indian Government "Threaten" Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi to Tow its Line on the Sri Lankan Ethnic Conflict? (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, January 2009 (32 KB)


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