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COMPARISON OF TAMIL POLITICAL MOVEMENTS

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ancient Dravidian race was also influential, and Sri Lankan Tamil politicians referred to this alleged heritage in debates and campaign speeches in the 1930’s and 1940’s (Russell 1982, 149). By the early 1970’s, however, just as the Dravidian parties were becoming stably incorporated into the Indian Union, militant Tamil movements were beginning to take up arms as a means of carving out a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka. It is widely acknowledged that during the early 1980’s the Indian government supported the Sri Lankan Tamil militants with weapons and training (Krishna 1999, 114-115). As the civil war between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil militants in the north-eastern Tamil speaking areas intensified, the Indian government intervened citing the dangers posed to the Indian Union by spiraling Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka. By 1987, however, the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka (IPKF) and the largest of the Tamil militant groups, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were at war. The LTTE had rejected as inadequate the proposals for territorial devolution contained in the Indo-Lanka peace accord. By 1991 the IPKF had withdrawn, and after a short interval the war resumed between the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE. Following the LTTE’s assassination of the former Indian Prime Minister and Congress Party leader Rajiv Gandhi during an election campaign in 1991, Indian involvement in Sri Lanka has been more circumspect and restrained. In recent months, the Indian position has been limited to stressing the need for a negotiated solution, whilst emphasising commitment to Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity. There have been close and often complex connections between Tamil politics in India and Sri Lanka. These connections must be seen in the larger context of ongoing social, political and economic interactions between the two countries. Sinhalese as well as Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka were influenced by the Indian National Congress. During the 1920’s and 1930’s prominent Sri Lankan politicians, including the future Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, attended the annual sessions of the Indian Congress (Russell 1982, 44). Despite the reticence that followed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India has become a major international player in Sri Lankan political and economic life, and Sri Lanka is said to receive a large share of Indian foreign investment. Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict also continues to affect India through a steady stream of Tamil refugees that try to escape the fighting in the north-east by making the hazardous crossing of the Palk Straits to reach Indian shores. These important connections are, however, overshadowed by the very different dynamics of Tamil politics in India and Sri Lanka. This paper will argue that these differences are best explained by placing Sri Lankan and Indian Tamil politics, political party development, and competition within

Sagar XVII — 2007  
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