“There are over one lakh refugees in Tamil Nadu living in 115 camps. We have requested the Indian government to pressure the Sri Lankan government to release their [refugees’] land in the north which has been taken over by the Army,” said senior TNA parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah, who was part of the TNA delegation that met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi recently.
The population of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province declined considerably after the war and the return of refugees was crucial, he said. “They have to come back and be resettled in their own lands with secure livelihoods.”
During the country’s civil war that spanned nearly three decades, several thousand Tamils went to India seeking refuge and have since been there. The Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR), which has been working with the refugees in India for the past 30 years, recently wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the issue, expressing concern over the delay in facilitating their return. “The two governments should consider evolving a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the return of the refugees,” OfERR’s treasurer S.C. Chandrahasan said.
The TNA drew the attention of Mr. Modi to the Army’s alleged land-grabbing in the north, heavy militarisation and safety of women.
“It was a very useful discussion,” Mr. Senathirajah said referring to the meeting that was initially allocated 30 minutes but went on for over an hour. Mr. Modi advised the TNA to work with minority groups, including Muslims and Indian-origin Tamils inhabiting the island’s Central Province, he said.
Meanwhile, the TNA’s New Delhi visit appears to have ruffled a few feathers in Colombo. The Sunday Times, in its political column this week, reported that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was angry that the TNA had not intimated the government about the visit.(Hindu)