Skip to main content Skip to footer

Giving Bicycles and Taking Land: New Delhi’s ‘Rehabilitation’ Policy on Eezham Tamils

March 9, 2013

India donates 10,000 bicycles to assist the rehabilitation of the war displaced in the North, said The Hindu on Thursday, citing the Indian High Commission in Colombo. The highlight was timed for protests in Tamil Nadu and across the world over the Indo-US failure in tabling a just resolution on Sri Lanka at Geneva. New Delhi’s adamant backing to the ‘friendly’ Sinhala State and military in occupying and colonising the lands of the nation of Eezham Tamils is well known. While there are speculations that the Indian policy aims at indirectly grabbing land in the island through strategic partnership with the Sinhala State and by accepting the structural genocide it commits on Tamils, an alternative Indian media Kafila on Wednesday revealed how Indian land grab enslaving peoples takes place in Africa with the complicity of governments there. 

Both India and China are accused of being part of the global land grabbing club and many African governments are complicit in this wholesale plunder of their land, said the Kafila writer, Sputnik Kilambi, adding that India’s role in the land take-over underway in Africa raises serious questions about the direction of south-south relations. 

India now ranks third in the amount of land grabbed from other countries. It is the irony of a former British colony turning into a neo-coloniser, the Kafila writer cited environmental journalist Darrel De Monte.

Four years earlier, on 4th May 2009, Hindustan Times carried a feature on India’s race for land in Africa.

“After years of competing for overseas oil and mines to fuel their still-growing economies, India and China are silently scouring the world for their next great need: farmland to grow food. The destination: Africa,” said Hindustan Times, adding that Indian investment in land in Ethiopia would reach $ 4 billion this year.

Unlike China, India need not look to farmland elsewhere to meet that demand, because it can fill the gap by increasing farm productivity. Still, the Indian government and several companies have intensified the chase for farmland abroad. Even farmers from Andhra Pradesh have gone and invested in land in Kenya, Hindustan Times cited a government official.

The Kafila writer says, water scarcity at home and global fears of a looming water and food crisis are among the reasons India has joined the club of land predators.

More than 80 Indian companies have acquired immense swathes of arable land in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Mozambique to grow food crops as well as sugarcane and palm oil, both raw-stock for biofuel, Sputnik Kilambi said.

She cited Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute saying, “The takeover of peoples’ land and water by corporations – even if they are from the global south – is a new form of colonisation.” 

The Kafila article cited two South Indian corporates in the fray, one led by Bangalore based Ramakrishna Karuturi that targets a million hectares in Africa and the other led by Chennai-based C. Sivasankaran that already has 700,000 hectares.

A hectare is 10,000 sq. metres, which is about 2.5 acres.

Karuturi asked for only 100,000 hectares of land at Gambela on the Ethiopia–South Sudan border, but Ethiopian government insisted that take 300,000 ha, at the peanuts rate of US $ 1.5 per ha. 

According to Human Rights Watch, 75,000 people were displaced, and the Ethiopian army is accused of arbitrary arrest, rape and torture of scores of residents in Gambela to make way for large-scale commercial farming.

Thousands of local Anuak farmers are being forced to become lowly-paid wage labourers on land that belonged to their ancestors. 

India’s actual actions on the ground have rarely borne scrutiny in the mainstream press, the Kafila article said, warning that Land is the resource that is most likely to spark conflict in any country where the majority of the population depends on farming for their livelihood, as is the case in most of Africa.

* * *

India’s complicity with genocidal Sri Lanka in getting lands in Trincomalee and possibly in the Sinhala Military Zone in Palaali, and the MS Swaminathan plan for ‘agriculture’ in Vanni immediately after the war, using Eezham Tamil war widows, are on record.

Why the New Delhi Establishment is not recognizing the territoriality of the nation of Eezham Tamils in the island despite the genocide and annihilation they face, and why there is overt and covert support to Rajapaksa regime from several quarters in India – from the Sonia Congress to leaders in the BJP, BJD, and even the CPI-M; from an articulating section of media corporates operating from Chennai to ‘sane’ historians in New Delhi and Thirukku’ral reciting missile scientists of Rameswaram, and from the covert operations of individuals running foundations for corporates to mainstream political parties becoming corporate houses in Tamil Nadu – have to be understood through the larger perspective, say political observers in Tamil Nadu.

But there is a question that puzzles many. Why genocide and annihilation of the nation of Eezham Tamils when most of them would not have opposed to India’s interests of mutual benefit in their land?

For that the political observers say, Tamils, despite their number and spread across the world, don’t have a State and with the calculated annihilation of the LTTE don’t have a military and land to give. Tamils and the noises they make could be ignored and disposed of, but not the Sinhalese who have a State, 300,000-strong military specialized in genocide and land to extract. 

Convincing the Sinhalese that the genocide committed on the Tamil nation would not be disturbed and that they would always need New Delhi to prevent any recurrence of ‘historical invasion of Tamils’, is important to get the whole island for India. Sinhalese who deny the nation and territoriality of Eezham Tamils and gullible Tamil activists who believe the campaign that Tamils could fulfil their aspirations when India ‘economically integrate’ the island, should understand the larger perspectives currently in operation, the observers further said.

Will there be another militant movement, is a question invariably asked by intelligence agencies of both New Delhi and the West, to whom so ever they meet among Eezham Tamils.

Many of the Eezham Tamils, who shudder at the thought of any forces of vested interests making another armed struggle inevitable, wonder at the question coming from the agencies whether the paranoia results from their knowledge that both India and the USA are not going to do anything righteous to Tamils and they would only further the crisis.