External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid yesterday refused to spell out the Indian government’s stand on the upcoming UN rights panel vote on Sri Lanka but said it would take into consideration parliamentarians’ views on the issue.
Not satisfied with the minister’s response, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the AIADMK, DMK and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam walked out of the Lok Sabha where Khurshid was replying to a short duration discussion on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.
“This is a huge humanitarian problem. This involves both the heart and the head. Our generation has to find a solution to this problem. This has gone on for too long,” Khurshid said adding: “This has to end. It is clear that we want all citizens, particularly Tamils, to live as participants in a democracy.”
He said India will ask the Sri Lankan government to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of violation of human rights in the island nation. “A closure must be brought to the 27 years of violence.”
“There should be reconciliation after acceptance of truth. We have to always move beyond the past. This is not our problem alone. All of India shares your (MPs) concern.”
Khurshid, however, added that India does not want to play policeman or big brother.
“I know there are reports of human rights violation. The bottom line remains that devolution (of power) which gives legitimate rights must be implemented in toto,” he said.
The debate was initiated by DMK’s T R Baalu who asked the government to spell out the steps it would take to address the issue.
In his speech, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said: “We are not in favour of carving out a separate nation out of Sri Lanka but are totally against the butchering of the Tamils.”
He demanded that the Indian government ensure that there is an impartial inquiry into the genocide by Sri Lankan forces during the war against the LTTE.
He asked India to take a lead in drafting the resolution in the vote on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Sinha said his party’s demand was that the government ensure that the Sri Lankan government pulls out its army from northern parts of the country and implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
AIADMK member M Thambi Durai said: “The UN report says more than 4,000 Tamil civilians were killed in Sri Lanka. India should have taken serious action and stopped this genocide.”
“Most of the other countries are very serious about the genocide,” he said adding India should back the UN resolution on Sri Lanka.
Trinamool Congress’ Saugata Roy said the Sri Lankan issue should be treated at par with war crimes in other countries and if the Sri Lankan military is responsible for this, then they should be put on trial at international court.
DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran raised the issue of the reported killing of the son of the slain LTTE chief V Prabhakaran.
“They are our closest neighbour and they have misbehaved. We are asking that India should ensure that there is an international inquiry.”
Dissatisfied with Khurshid’s response, Baalu asked him to enumerate particular steps which the government would take, to which Khurshid replied: “What we do must be clear and effective. How we do it must be left to the government.”
At this, all Tamil parties including the AIADMK and DMK staged a walkout.