Sri Lankan soccer

This game has restarted even before the election whistle was sounded. But in contrast to what the title suggests, this is rarely played in that idyllic and aptly tear-shaped island, but in TN, a bomb’s throw or gunshot hearing distance away. A parallel arena is Indian judiciary.

SL Tamil issue in general, Pro-Eelam champions, the violent and the softer ones included and Rajiv killers in particular have been the favourite football of politicians here for the last three decades. In this queer and sinister sport, all players not only play to the gallery but also score political goals at any of the goalposts!

The Tamil issue, though festering for decades and even centuries, arrived with a ‘bang’ in the early eighties. TN, due to geo proximity and ethnic affinity, turned a natural haven for refugees as well as the fighters. Indira Gandhi and MGR, who were at the helm in nation and State, realised the political implications of the crisis that first spilled and then poured through our porous shores. The bloody tournament started then.

Both of them did not stop with extending humanitarian aid to the cultural cousins who were rendered destitutes overnight. The State and Centre also openly encouraged and armed the militants, giving them potent arsenal and critical training. Refugee and army camps sprouted. All parties here in true rational competitive spirit jumped on the bleeding-hearts bandwagon. Sympathy and solidarity for SL Tamils became such a political fad that the State declared a three-week holiday for schools and colleges bang in the middle of the 1983 academic year and worse, CM MGR and down to his last party cadre strutted around the Secretariat and streets in black robes as a show of protest!

This was the time India itself was fighting separatists across north India, from Khalistan to Kashmir to the North East. Yet, the Congress regime spared little thought about instigating trouble in and interfering with the sovereignty of another nation. This unfettered licence from the Centre itself was enough for the parties here to take abundant umbrage. In an original version of what is now derisively called State sponsored ‘terror’, TN became the happy hub for all kinds of pro-Eelam outfits, most of them prone to violence. In their bid to outwit each other and project themselves as sole champions of the Tamils, a few of them indulged in internecine wranglings, one of which was a daylight gun-battle in public Pondy Bazaar in Chennai. The TN regime, either played mute referee or whimsically took sides, all in the name of SL Tamils.

Indira had passed. With Rajiv at the helm and after much pressure from SL government the tide changed. Most groups were either benched or booted out, though much dangerous debris remained to haunt. With prime player LTTE falling foul, SL Government was now awarded the penalty kick in the form of IPKF in 1986-87. As a deadly war between Indian forces and LTTE raged and ravaged the tiny island, the political war here took a parallel twist. DMK was now the new champion of Tamil Eelam with hero MGR suddenly depicted as villain. The shoe was on the other foot and free-kicks flowed from forward, back and also self-appointed mid-fielders like Nedumarans butting in.

Immortal MGR went to meet his maker and then Rajiv was exiled. PM Weepy Singh had little clue about SL. K became CM in ‘89. The ball in his court, true to his leanings, real or put on, he refused to receive the IPKF at the Chennai port, cementing his Pro-LTTE image. The patronage typically helped the LTTE kill 14 EPRLF leaders, in the city and yes, in daylight. The killers just breezed through TN without an official hitch. The Chandrasekhar Govt which replaced the demented Raja of Manda, under much pressure from minister Dr Swamy dismissed the DMK Govt in Jan ‘91 for abetting LTTE.

The revenge killing of Rajiv by LTTE during the poll campaign near Chennai in ‘91 May set off a fresh round of political football. The Cong, in the company of AIADMK, held the DMK as an equal partner of LTTE in the assassination of Rajiv. For once all Congmen were united on this one issue. In ‘96, however staunch Congman Moopanar broke ranks and joined the DMK, giving the latter a much needed exoneration. The two tangoed to power, here and in Delhi as part of United(?) Front, with arch-enemy Cong support, to save secularism. This second exoneration however did not last as the UF fell when the Jain Commission report indicted the DMK. But the latter got lucky in ‘04 when Cong again joined with DMK, looking away from Rajiv’s memory and mortal grave.
In ‘09, when LTTE was decimated with the help of India under UPA in which Tamil crusader K was a partner, Rajiv’s assassins became the new football. Extra-constitutional Saint Sonia declared that she had forgiven Nalini & Co. Commutations and clemency were the flavour of the new SL soccer season. Pele pales in comparison before these political flip-flops.

With LTTE out of the way, J had no problem in bidding for the championship. Her latest missile asking the Centre’s permission to release the 7 convicts has set the cat among the political and legal pigeons. All is fair and foul in poll-time politics. SL issue has caused much havoc in the State and national politics but there is no clue if it is at all such an electoral clincher.

Now don’t ask where the SL Tamils figure in all this. Sick of self-styled sponsors and saviours, they are learning to settle in sovereign Sri Lanka, a nation incidentally!

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Jawahar T R