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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Self-immolation - the penury of those who commit

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, visited India held talks with our PM Manmohan Singh.  At Sanchi, he laid the foundation stone for a University of Buddhist and Indic Studies  where Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley was also present.  There have been protests in Tamilnadu and MDMK leader Vaiko led a group but was arrested on way to Sanchi.   During the official meeting,  India  raised the issue of integrating Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils into the national mainstream. 

The issue of Sri Lankan Tamils is a sensitive subject in India given that India’s more than 60 million Tamils share close cultural and linguistic ties with the ethnic minority on the island nation.  There is innate feeling in Tamilnadu that  Sri Lanka’s government headed by Rajapaksa—belonging to the majority Sinhalese community—of doing little to integrate the Tamil minority into the national mainstream more than three years after the end of the three-decade-old civil war in the island nation in May 2009.

We certainly feel for the Tamilians of Sri Lanka – the Civil war was brutally decimated; there have been instances of human rights abuses, arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances.

This post is on a different aspect which has happened somewhat frequently in Tamil Nadu in particular.  In the State, there are political parties and pro-Tamil outfits often fanning illwill – and there have been instances of people self-immolating for the cause.  There sure are sentiments for the tamilians but what happens to the one who sacrifices himself for the cause – does he care for his family – is that a momentary decision and finally does it ever have the desired impact on the Society !!

Self-immolation refers to setting oneself on fire, often as a form of protest or for the purposes of martyrdom or suicide. Self-immolation of the type that happens in Tamil nadu is in no way simple suicide – it is not losing one’s will power momentarily and giving up one’s life – there is world of difference that separates the self-immolator from the others. His total defiance of the survival and self-preservation instincts, his determination to give away what everybody else finds precious.  Often people immolate themselves when their leader gets arrested, on sentimental issues and even when their leader has a natural death.

Protesting against the recent visit of Mahinda Rajapaksa,  a 26-year-old auto driver from Salem attempted self-immolation and subsequently succumbed to burn injuries.  T Vijay Raj, an auto driver from Salem, set himself afire near the old bus stand protesting Rajapaksa's visit. Police rushed him to the Mohan Kumaramangalam Government Hospital  with 90% burns.   The man’s father tearfully stated that his son was the sole  breadwinner of family.   

The tragedy of Tamils in Sri Lanka is an emotive issue that fringe parties in Tamil Nadu periodically use to rally pro-Eelam sentiment.  After the death of the poor auto driver, there were more than one party which claimed that the deceased was an active member of their party ~ some trying to cash on the sentiments following the death.  Raj's relatives and members of political parties, including MDMK and VCK, refused to allow the hospital to conduct a postmortem on his body. They staged a sit-in protest at the hospital, demanding an FIR against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Police personnel attempted to pacify the protesters but the demonstration continued till late evening.  Seeman, founder of pro-Tamil outfit Nam Thamilar Katchi, visited the hospital and offered his condolences to Raj's family. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko  visited the family of Salem autorickshaw driver T.P. Vijayaraj, offered condolences to the aggrieved family members and handed over a cheque for Rs. 2.25 lakh. He also garlanded the photo of Vijayaraj and interacted with the family members.

Often the families of leaders of Political parties live affluently and enjoy all benefits of life – it is always the workers at the grassroot level who suffer for all the cause – this is in general and not against any party in particular.  The families of the deceased are often left in lurch – the parents would suffer more at their old age having lost their beloved son; the wife and children also would languish financially and for lack of support – such deaths no doubt throw the family in wilderness the chill penury.  Is there really anybody who cares or even condoles for such death after passage of some time.  It is time leaders condemn such acts, never eulogise such acts as bravery and ensure that their cadres also live happily.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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