Monday, March 02, 2009

The State of the Wannabe states!

In response to popular demand (one person asked), I'm elucidating my stand on the 4 wannabe states viz Kashmir, Tibet, Palestine and Eelam. In supporting a movement, three things are important to me.

1. Demonstrable injustice in the status quo.
2. Presence of an inclusive democratic political leadership, which can control the armed wing if one exists.
3. The economic/democratic viability of the wannabe nation state.

Kashmir: Independence. (3/3)

Injustice: This is straight forward. India and Pakistan invaded an independent nation in 1948. Neither the King nor the people of Kashmir wanted to be part of either states. India signed a dubious accession agreement with a King who demostrably had no support among his subjects. Even that agreement was conditional on a plebiscite. India never came good on that commitment.

Leadership: Hurriyat has consistently lead the people with a visible control over its armed element Hizbul Mujhahideen. Even the mainstream parties, National Conference and PDP have demanded a very high degree of autonomy. In Mirwaiz Farooq, Yaseen Malik, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, the new nation will be in very capable hands.

Viability: Democracy in this new state is likely to be exceptional. Tourism, trans-asia trade, agriculture and hydro-electric power can sustain this economy.

Tibet: Independence. (2.5/3)

Injustice: A barbaric movement called 'Communism' invaded this independent nation and subjected its people to the control of an external race, the Hans. Considering the Chinese state will (and has tried to) destroy every symbol of Tibetan nationhood namely religion, language and its unique culture, the question of rapprochement with China does not arise.

Leadership: Although Dalai Lama is an apostle of peace and non-violence and the Tibetan movement presently has no armed resistance, the leadership is a bit weak. The Tibetan prime minister in exile is just a lackey of the Dalai Lama. Besides Dalai Lama represents a feudal system where monks lorded over unfortunate but willing commoners. Dalai Lama should relinquish the political role he still plays.

Viability: When independent, Tibet will be one of the largest countries of the world with an abundance of natural resources. The new state is very likely to be a Democracy and probably one of the most peaceful states on earth.

Palestine: One state solution, meaning no Palestinian state. (1/3)

Injustice: The Zionist movement flooded this land of the Arabs and made them second class citizens in their own land. While Jews have always lived in Palestine and some level of Jewish immigration would have been acceptable, what Arabs got was a raw deal. Why should Arabs pay for the crimes of the socialists and communists in Europe?

Leadership: Palestinian movement has been plagued by poor leadership throughout its existence. Even the few reasonable leaders it got like Yasser Arafat were terrorists. Besides Palestinians were stupid enough to be cheated by their Arab neighbors and rejected every reasonable solution put forth by the Jews. Presently there is no credible Palestinian leadership.

Viability: An independent Palestine will start and forever remain a third-world state of squalor and poverty. Joining a unified secular state will instantly make them first-world citizens with every opportunity at their disposal. After-all some 1.5 million Arabs already live peacefully inside Israel. Besides any solution short of the unified state will deny both Arabs and Jews, legitimate and complete access to the land of their forefathers.

Eelam: Total Annihilation of LTTE (0/3)

Injustice: None. Even at the height of Sinhalese majoritarianism from the 1950s thru 83, an independent Eelam state was an unjustifiable demand. The Srilankan Tamil struggle should have been on the lines of the US Civil rights movement and the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

Whatever legitimate demands the Tamils had, were satisfactorily met in the 13th amendment of the Srilankan constitution. Additional demands (if any) can easily be made and suitable justice sought in a vibrant democracy like Srilanka.

Leadership: When Tamils needed a Martin Luther King Jr or a Nelson Mandela, they got a scoundrel in Prabhakaran. I wonder if there has ever been a tyrant in the history of the world, who sought a socialist authoritarian regime with zero democracy, even before his wannabe state was born! The rest of the Tamil leaders have had very little credibility or have been eliminated by the Tamils themselves.

Viability: Imagine a country full of racists!! These people who refuse to live peacefully with their Sinhalese co-nationalists, are not capable of forming and governing their own nation state. Agriculture, Fishing and smuggling can sustain this economy but such a nation, born out of hatred, will forever remain a pariah state.

20 comments:

Sundar said...

'Total annihilation of LTTE' doesn't answer "Eelam or no Eelam" question. Besides, a 3-point scale for such complex issues is puerile. What is the basis for considering status quo alone and not prior status? I think you are, like many others including me earlier, under the impression that Tamils in Ceylon are like the Malaysian Tamils or African-Americans, who are indentured labourers brought in by the British in modern times. The truth is that most of them settled there in the third century BC. Until 1815, Kandy remained an independent Tamil Kingdom whereas the rest of the Serendip (a loan from Tamil 'Cheran theevu' incidentally) island changed hands between the various European colonialists. It was the British who conquered the Kingdom (no different from Kashmir) and united it by force in 1833. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1166237.stm At least, most of India remained under one territory of Mughals and, to some extent, Ashoka, and later under the British.
I request you to consider facts with an open mind. With middle-east, one doesn't have much of a problem because we don't have prior opinions and have well-researched books on the subject. It would be improper for people like you with access to the scanty data available on Sri Lanka to form unconsidered opinions. I hope that you at least give one round of open-minded rethink.

Sundar said...

By the way, I don't dispute the 'leadership' point in your post. Practically thinking, I only favour a Canada-like or, at the least, India-like setup there. In which case, democracy will inevitably prevail, particularly when you have a Panchayati Raj system like in India. If you've lived outside of Chennai, you'd appreciate the above.

'Injustice' is something that I disagree with completely, because it seems to be based on wrong facts and impressions. Do you have a source telling how much of the 13th amendment has been implemented in practice?

If you think, even Article 370 doesn't compensate for the past 'injustice' done to Kashmir, how does the 13th amendment in a monolithic state fare against that? After all, Kandy was an independent kingdom for centuries before that.

Economic viability will not be a problem with so much of a coastal area, plus a Canada like provincial system doesn't need provincial self-sustenance. Don't you agree with that?

Sundar said...

I also request you to question each of the assumptions that you've made in your post. On a rethink, are you 100% sure that Tibet will become a democracy and not a theocracy?

100% sure that the 'moderates' like Omar and Mufti will have a place in a hypothetical India-free establishment?

Sundar said...

Eelam is different things to different people. To me, its past is similar to Kashmir. Its future should be like Quebec.

Balaji said...

I have said even at the height of Sinhala majoritarianism, Eelam demand was unjustifiable. Srilankan Tamil issue is about the marginalization of a community in a society.

There are templates available from the world over to solve such issues. The 13th amendment was more than a reasonable solution.

// I think you are, like many others including me earlier, under the impression that Tamils in Ceylon are like the Malaysian Tamils or African-Americans, who are indentured labourers brought in by the British in modern times. //

I have written way too much on the Srilankan issue (in my Tamil blog) to be that ignorant.

This Kandy argument you make doesn't really hold up. By that logic India did not even exist before 1857. Which Indian kingdom spanned on the both sides of Brahmaputra? Except the British, which north-Indian king ruled the extreme south? The current Indian Union is made up of nation states and so is Srilanka. Re-digging history can make arguments. They don't make for solutions to injustices.

Funnily, its the Srilankan Tamils who use history from the time of Ellalan down to now, to spew hatred. Why talk only about 1833 and not about the over-representation of the Tamils in the British government?

Open-mindedness is exactly what I urge Indian tamils to have too. We cannot support the Tamil racists of Srilanka simply bcos they speak the same language as us. Or because Tamil Kings from India ruled parts of Srilanka.

As for me, I know reasonably enough about the Srilankan issue. Not taking a stand now will be cowardice.

// With middle-east, one doesn't have much of a problem because we don't have prior opinions and have well-researched books on the subject. //

wow. why?! I have had a opinion on Palestine ever since I could read and understand the issues there. For me Kashmir, Palestine, Srilanka and Tibet are just global issues. My being a Tamil doesn't make me any more sophisticated in forming an opinion on Srilanka.

// It would be improper for people like you with access to the scanty data available on Sri Lanka//

I don't know how and why you are making this kind of judgment.

Balaji said...

>> are you 100% sure that Tibet will become a democracy and not a theocracy?

In the post, I said "very likely". I disapprove of Dalai Lama's political role even now let alone in a future state.

>> 100% sure that the 'moderates' like Omar and Mufti will have a place in a hypothetical India-free establishment?

oh, I'm almost certain. Its gonna be a democracy. People shall decide. Mirwaiz Farooq and Yaseen Malik are moderates too.

>> If you think, even Article 370 doesn't compensate for the past 'injustice' done to Kashmir, how does the 13th amendment in a monolithic state fare against that?

No, I don't equate article 370 with 13th Amendment. Srilankan Tamils do not deserve the kind of rights enshrined in Article 370. They need more like the US Civil Liberties act of 1967.

I know the 13th amendment has not been implemented fully. But how can it be when the north and the east were ruled by terrorists? I support the Srilankan Tamil Political parties in entering a dialogue with the govt in thrashing out the modalities of further devolution of powers.

Sundar said...

// This Kandy argument you make doesn't really hold up. By that logic India did not even exist before 1857. Which Indian kingdom spanned on the both sides of Brahmaputra? Except the British, which north-Indian king ruled the extreme south? The current Indian Union is made up of nation states and so is Srilanka.//
Totally agreed. But, why then does your post say the following?
//Injustice: This is straight forward. India and Pakistan invaded an independent nation in 1948. Neither the King nor the people of Kashmir wanted to be part of either states.//
So, if British occupied a territory by force and granted independence as part of another territory, it's fine. Is it?

What's the difference between Hyderabad, Junagad and Kashmir? Not to speak of Arunachal Pradesh or Nagaland. And, afaik, India didn't invade Kashmir, but definitely coerced/cajoled the King who didn't have a mandate.

// Srilankan Tamil issue is about the marginalization of a community in a society. //
And, at the same time, for you, Kashmir is an issue of self-determination and independence. Do you imply that the Tamil parts joined the Sri Lankan Union on their own?

// Why talk only about 1833 and not about the over-representation of the Tamils in the British government? //
Consider me to be uninitiated and give me some sources for this.

LTTE uses civilians as shields.Kashmiri terrorists are living amidst civilians. But, does India bomb its own people? (I'm not talking about the human rights' violations, which are condemnable regardless.)

// I have written way too much on the Srilankan issue (in my Tamil blog) to be that ignorant. //
I got that impression because you said it's a civil rights issue like that of the American movement.

I'm happy that you're bold about making an opinion. But, I find you no less closed-minded than the so-called Tamil racists.

Sundar said...

For the record, I read http://balajiworld.blogspot.com/2009/03/state-of-wannabe-states.html?showComment=1236061860000#c8110458625510810175 after posting my previous comment.

Balaji said...

>> So, if British occupied a territory by force and granted independence as part of another territory, it's fine. Is it?

No, it isn't. I'm sympathetic to the demands of Nagas for a greater Nagaland as well. Not as an independent country becos, it might not be economically viable and become a parasite state on India.

Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir are all instances of Kings making decisions which had no support among his subjects. Also remember, people in British India had the right to go away as Pakistan. So its not just princely states that had the opportunity to choose. States within the British India, had that opportunity too.

For the better part of Independent Srilanka's existence and even after becoming a Republic, Srilankan Tamils have demanded parity of treatment, protection against violence both physical and cultural, protection against denial of economica opportunities.

Eelam mostly remained the fringe demand of Tamil racists especially Indian Tamils who have nothing to do with the issue. And the most funny thing is even LTTE did not demand a separate state whenever it came to the negotiating table. It just wanted an authoritarian undemocratic autonomous region over which Prabhakaran can lord over.

>> Kashmiri terrorists are living amidst civilians. But, does India bomb its own people?

India doesn't have to. The Indian army is way too powerful for that. But I can name several instances when countries used Air Force to taken on terrorists.

US right now in NW Pakistan with the support of Pakistani Army, Russia in Chechenya, Colombian helicopter attacks on FARC rebels. Bhutan used heavy artillery against anti-India militants holed up in its territory. India also used Air Force to bomb Kargil whose 'mujhahideen' occupiers might have included Indian nationals.

Besides Kashmiri terrorists don't live among civilians. They live in Jungles. Most of the human rights violations occur when Indian army suspects civilians of being informers and food carriers of the terrorists living in the Jungles.

I don't know how I can be open-minded than I'm already? Anybody who doesn't accept your OPINION is close minded is it? Am I taking a stand without knowing the issue. Do I reject demonstrable facts? I have opinions which people may disagree with. Thats fine and welcome. Only fools seldom disagree.

I criticize as racists only those Indian Tamils who throw issues aside and supporting Eelam Tamils based on race affinity alone.

I will suggest books which talk about Srilanka in the British Era when I get time. To begin you may want to read this recent article.

Sundar said...

// I don't know how I can be open-minded than I'm already? Anybody who doesn't accept your OPINION is close minded is it? Am I taking a stand without knowing the issue. Do I reject demonstrable facts? I have opinions which people may disagree with. Thats fine and welcome. Only fools seldom disagree. //

Well, my previous comment rearding this was a bit snappy. I menat 'opinionated' when I said closed-minded. Because, you listen, so you're not closed-minded. But, I say opinionated because the inputs come through a perspective that you've developed (of course, I think this is unavoidable). This kind of a bias is so subtle, which lets someone to be faithful to the scale used, but the scale is calibrated to suit their opinion. For example, the choice of the three features that you've used here, and your definition of them, your interpretation of facts, that's where prior opinions come into play. I believe I know the mechanism too well as it happens all the time within me. As for me, I know that I'm not dispassionate about this issue. I made that comment only to show disagreement with your claim that your opinion on this subject is comparable to that on the middle-east issue. I find it extremely hard to believe.

Sundar said...

//I will suggest books which talk about Srilanka in the British Era when I get time. To begin you may want to read this recent article.//
It's not for no reason that it's under 'op-ed'. My, a typical over-generalisation by westerners (I suspect). When it comes to matters of religion and caste, these people never cease to amaze me.
1. Sinhalese are Buddhists -> so, they got colonised (wasn't a Hindu-majority India colonised?) That too the following piece is a classic:
//In the name of Buddhism and because the Sinhalese are by nature a fun-loving people, not only did they hardly resist these invasions, but often their women mingled freely with the invaders. The result can be seen today in the faces of many Sinhalese women folk, with their kinky hair or Arabic features.//

2. Tamils being mostly Hindus & Hinduism having deep-rooted casteism -> they didn't allow invaders
How does most people equate Tamil ethnicity with Hindu identity? Hinduism is not as simple to bucket. Neither is Tamil identity. I don't say that casteism is absent among Tamils, it's rampant. But, that contributes a zilch to people resisting invaders. If anything, it divides the opposition.

3. Tamils lived tough lives -> studied hard -> got British jobs
Connect it with they didn't mingle freely with them and the other demeaning assertion that Sinhalese mingled freely to the point of being promiscuous.

The biggest issue of all is with the following:
// There seems little doubt that a few thousand years ago, India and Sri Lanka were linked by a small strip of land, which can still be seen today from the air: Adam’s Bridge, or Ram Setu. This is how the first Tamils, those who settled in the North, came to Sri Lanka.
//

Where did the Sinhalese come from?

// Are not Sri Lankan Tamils closer to Indians, culturally, socially and spiritually, than the Sinhalese? //

Aren't the Sinhalese ethnically closer to people of modern-day Orissa? (I agree about the religio-cultural part. But, even there Buddhism is not alien to India, of all the places.)

I think I need to read real books from each POV rather than go with 'me-too' op-eds.

Balaji said...

oh, I agree. His generalizations are unnecessary. But I think he has got his facts rights and has offered an unbiased opinion. Probably he meant this article for the western audience.

I recently referred this article in my tamil blog asking exactly the same question. How are Srilankan Tamils closer to Indians than the Sinhalese.

Sundar said...

// Also remember, people in British India had the right to go away as Pakistan. So its not just princely states that had the opportunity to choose. States within the British India, had that opportunity too. //

Thankfully, I was not drinking coffee when I read this. :-)
On a serious note: Political integration of India

Sundar said...

/ I recently referred this article in my tamil blog asking exactly the same question. How are Srilankan Tamils closer to Indians than the Sinhalese. ( http://balajiulagam.blogspot.com/2009/01/blog-post_30.html )//
There's a common fallacy in using numbers or vectors for demographics. When someone says, for example, an average visitor to yahoo.com is of age 32 years, is conservative, is lactose-intolerant, earns $120K, etc, it paints a picture of a typical user of that description. The fact, however, is that there's probably hardly anyone using Y! that fits this description. It's just the average. (In the past, we learnt it the hard way.) Coming back, there's no ethnic vector representing 'Indianness'. So, if Sinhalese are ethnically closer to a section of Indians, and however large the section may be, and Sri Lankan Tamils are ethnically related to another section of Indians, and if India supports the Sinhalese based on just that, that day, please drop the word 'federal' (though 'lip-service' one) from the Constitution and allow the constituent states the option to reconsider their accession, please. Indian Tamils are ethnically closer to Sri Lankan Tamils, and if other Indian groups find so with the Sinhalese, they can lobby too. That would call for neutrality. It's another matter that people don't feel that connection with the Sinhalese despite their anscestry. They somehow got separated due to language, lack of contact, etc.,

Sundar said...

I find that most of your argument is based on 'likely', 'almost certain' (according to you) beliefs and some untrue things like the 'freedom enjoyed by the princely and non-princely states to choose to not join India' measuring against a scale that you've defined on your own. The only online stuff that you gave is to an article which has got the well-known fact that 'Rajiv's assassination was LTTE's biggest blunder' right, but mostly just third-rate.

You claim that you know this domain very well because you've written a lot on this. Let me try to find those posts to get educated. But, nothing anywhere close to convincing yet.

On top of it, your choice of words is a clear giveaway for your prior opinion. (I never claimed that I'm dispassionate. ) But, you refuse to accept that, at least, explicitly. You're well within your right to do so. But, I remain unconvinced. I'll keep watching for your comments for any interesting insights.

P.S. Let me clarify one of my earlier comments:
// It would be improper for people like you with access to the scanty data available on Sri Lanka to form unconsidered opinions. //
I actually meant the following:
Since the data available on this subject is scanty, and you're among the few (in the sense of online population) that has access to the limited data, it would be improper for you (and I) to not consider the facts.

Balaji said...

// I find that most of your argument is based on 'likely', 'almost certain' //

I'm writing about states that are yet to be born. Unless I have a time machine, I cannot say with certainty, for instance, whether Independent Tibet will be a democracy or theocracy.

// The only online stuff that you gave is to an article //

this is not a research paper but a blog post. if you want references to any fact that I have used, I can give you.

I gave that link bcos you asked for material on over-representation of Tamils in the British Lankan govt. I'll put a post shortly with links to a handful of books which have analyzed British Raj in Lanka.

// But, nothing anywhere close to convincing yet. //

what am I supposed to be convincing you of?! I don't expect anyone, especially not a Tamil Eelam supporter, to abandon his opinion simply bcos I totally reject it. If quizzed I can clarify my position, thats all. People need to read a helluva lot more than my blogs to form or reform their opinion on Eelam.

// On top of it, your choice of words is a clear giveaway for your prior opinion. //

what do you mean by prior opinion? I have clearly said I favor total annihilation of LTTE and see no justification in the Eelam demand. Meaning I have taken a stand.

Words like opinionated, close-minded, prior-opinion etc may seem like punch-lines, but in effect they mean nothing.

// Since the data available on this subject is scanty, and you're among the few (in the sense of online population) that has access to the limited data, it would be improper for you (and I) to not consider the facts.//

I hardly think so. There is an abundance of info available on the subject. And what fact have I not considered?

Sundar said...

Yes, I agree that you don't have to convince me of anything. Just that I've been looking out for alternative arguments.

// And what fact have I not considered? //
My original statement was because I assumed you're equating Afro-Americans' status with that of Sri Lankan Tamils. You've since said you know the complete historical context. My clarification was only about what my statement meant, because you had wondered 'why and how' in one of your comments. It's a moot point now.

This kind of a conversation is unsuitable for a subject of this nature. As you've said, it'll take a lot more than blogs for anyone's opinion to change in such issues. Let me leave it at this point. We should probably catch up over coffee on other things. Have a couple of things to talk to you. That's for another occassion.

Balaji said...

sure, we'll catch up soon.

as promised I have posted links to books that mention the over-representation of Tamils in British Lankan Govt here.

and here's the list of all my Tamil posts on the Srilankan issue.

Vijay said...

seems like the LTTE has been annihilated.

Balaji said...

yeah. a very satisfactory end.