Persecution of Shrilankan Tamil Refugees
After 1983, New Delhi followed a policy which had two characteristics — mediatory and militant-supportive. India deliberately created a political dimension with the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to ensure that they become a leverage to the country's foreign policy vis-à-vis Colombo. One has to keep in mind the fact that the Tamil refugees were a leverage to India's foreign policy. After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, the educational facilities for Tamil refugees were taken away from the Tamil Nadu government. (A homeland Denied, 'If Jaffna falls, there will be a flood of refugees to Tamil Nadu' by George Iype )
D. Ravikumar, who was appointed by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, to submit a report on camp conditions said "Nobody seems to bother about their plight. The Indian Government is acting as if it is doling out alms to the refugees for their sustenance. The inmates of these camps are, at best, looked at with suspicion, and at worst, treated as criminals," (Daily mirror 28 June 2006)
The Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees fall into following three categories.
(1) Those in the Refugee Camps which number 133 as on date. There are about 65,000 refugees in them.
(2) Refugees who maintain themselves outside the Camps. Following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, these refugees were directed by the State Government to register themselves in the nearest police stations.
(3) Refugees who have been identified as belonging to militant groups. They are at present kept in three Special Camps: (a) Tippu Mahal, Vellore Fort, Vellore, (b) Chingleput and (c) Mellur.
Currently, the Indian Government reports that there are about 1,60,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India of which about 76,000 live in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu and about 30,000 live outside these camps in cities and towns across Tamil Nadu. Other non-governmental sources believe that there are actually closer to 100,000 refugees outside the camp.
After the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi the Sri Lankan Refugees in India had to undergo severe ordeals. While the second category of the refugees escaped with mandatory registration in the police station with occasional enquiries and harassments by the police, the other two categories of refugees faced the worse. The plight of these refugees especially those in the Special Camps has been a source of deep concern for PUCL The security arrangements in these special camps are unprecedented and surpass the security arrangements in any of the central prisons in the state of Tamil Nadu. The persons in the special camps are not prisoners or convicts or under-trials or accused of any specific offence under Indian Penal Code. But these detainees in the Special Camps do not enjoy even the rights of the convict prisoners lodged in ordinary prisons. The reality of the persons detained in the camp is that they are under 24 hours detention in conditions which are worse then those prevalent in the Central Prison in India. As per the Commission Report, the inmates of the Tippu Mahal are not permitted to go out of the camp. The inmates are in RIGOROUS CONFINEMENT in the Special camp and the long detention has made the inmates desperate. In fact, even facilities of parole, which are generally available to convicts, and provision of coming out on bail available to under-trials is not available to the inmates. Visitors to the camp are restricted. By contrast, the prisoners in India enjoy a Constitutional guarantee of enjoying all fundamental rights within the prison walls. A person desirous of meeting the detainees in the camp has to make an application to the Special Tahsildar. The Special Tahsildar sits in the Collectorate several kms away from the Camp. The Special Tahsildar seeks the comments of the Superintendent of Police on the application and only thereafter permission is granted. Generally for the papers to move it takes several days. It is all the more difficult for Sri Lankans who are in other refugee camps to meet those in the Special Camps as they have to seek permission first to leave their camp and also to visit the Special Camp detainees. The so- called inmates have been in detention for several years now and there is no time limit specified for their release. This can have psychologically a very traumatizing and demoralizing influence on the detainees. There are several persons who have not come out side the camp for more than ten years now. They are not sure as to when they are likely to be released. The uncertainty of their incarceration is itself agonizing and inhuman.
The PUCL Team Members collected the details of the following handicapped persons detained in this Camp: 1. Ansar: Right foot disabled due to gun shot injury. 2. Mukilan: Totally blind. 3. Ranga: Has lost both the hands below the wrists, lost vision in the left eye and lost hearing faculty in the left ear. 4. "Moscow": Lost the right hand below the wrist and the thumb in the left hand. 5. "Hitler": Lost both hands below the wrist and totally blind. 6. Jerry: Right leg paralyzed. 7. Ajanthan: Has a bullet embedded in the head resulting in paralysis of right leg, right hand and has lost the hearing faculty in the right ear. 8. Yogan: Left leg damaged by gun shot injury. 9. Jeevan: Right foot severed. 10. Radha: Lost vision in the right eye. 11. Nimilan: Lost the vision in the left eye. 12. Shiva: Left foot severed. UN Human Rights groups are not allowed access to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, because the Indian government fears that they would be "critical of conditions in the camps". This is the charge made by the United States Commission for Refugees in its latest report. Essentially, the Indian Government has been and continues to violate key human rights of the refugees. The Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have been stripped of such basic human rights as the freedom to leave the campsites, proper medical assistance, and perhaps most importantly, non-refoulement.
Earlier in March of 1992, the Indian Government passed an order to "persuade and advise Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to repatriate." The refugees who opted to return cannot be termed as purely "voluntary" because very many of them may have opted for repatriation due to the withdrawal of following facilities that had been provided to them before the repatriation process commenced :- 1) Stoppage of doles and rations after the 9 September 1993. 2) Not providing proper educational facilities to refugee children. 3) Not repairing huts and failing to maintain other facilities in camps. 4) Restricting movements of refugees resulting in preventing refugees from going to work to supplement their meager dole to make ends meet. 5)Arresting and locking up refugees in sub-jails designated as (special camps) without stating reasons or inquiry or trial. 6) Not providing access to information necessary to enable refugees to make a voluntary decision. 7) Failing to provide proper medical assistance. 8) Prevention of assistance and services to the refugees in camps by Non-Governmental Organizations.
From the various reports it becomes clear that when the Tamil refugees are deported to Shrilanka, they are persecuted and tortured by military and intelligence agencies. In this connection news in Tamilnation.org, 'Deported Tamil Asylum Seekers arrested & tortured, December 1999′ can be cited as an example.
Various cases have come to light which shows the attitude adopted by the Indian Government in dealing with the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees:
In a Habeas Corpus Petition (No 1465 of 1993) filed by one K. Sarojini Sivalingam on behalf of her husband, Mr R R Sivalingam, it has been stated that her husband was confined in the Special Camp for Sri Lankans at Chengalpattu. The wife petitioned the Court to provide constant and intensive medical care and attention to Mr R R Sivalingam. The Court, vide its order dated 9.9.93, directed the Tamil Nadu State Government to admit him in the Government Hospital, Madras, for proper assessment and better management of his ailment (heart disease), based on the opinion of the Medical Board.
Though the order was pronounced on 9.9.93, the Tamil Nadu State Government failed to implement the said order of the Court for nearly 10 days. It was only after a telegram was issued to the Tamil Nadu State Government that Mr Sivalingam was admitted to the Government Central Hospital on 19.9.93. But, shockingly, he was brought handcuffed, with a chain initially to the Office of the Commissioner of Police and thereafter, to the Government General Hospital, Madras. But, even after admission, he was kept tied to the bed in the hospital, despite several protests on his part. At the hospital, he was not allowed to communicate with outsiders and not allowed to write letters, even to his counsel. Whenever, he was taken to other wards or to the X-ray Department, or to the lab for certain tests, he was taken handcuffed and tied with a chain. His counsel was also told by the escort policemen to get a court order if they wanted to visit him. Moreover, he was not allowed to speak to his legal counsels in confidence and the police guards, including an official from the Special Branch insisted on hearing every word that was spoken. This was clearly illegal.
Despite several protests and representations, the State Government failed to take off his handcuffs and chains. As he was not allowed to write any letters, he was unable to submit a representation in this regard. However, when his counsel visited him on 24 September 1993, at about 5.30 P.M, he forwarded a representation to the Commissioner of Police through him. When his counsel went to submit the representation to the Police Commissioner, he was not present; his Personal Assistant received the representation but refused to give any acknowledgement. In any case, several officials of the police establishment including the Assistant Commissioner (Intelligence) visited him and had seen him chained to the bed; he also complained to them; but no action was taken. It also had a deleterious effect on Mr Sivalingam's health. It is therefore proper that Mr Sivalingam should claim appropriate damages and compensation in respect of the illegal detention and all further illegal acts perpetrated upon him.
The above is just a single instance of many more horrifying cases perpetrated by the Indian Government. The police, without giving any reasons for their arrest and detention in special camps, have arbitrarily and illegally acted in a manner by which the refugee protection given to these persons is withdrawn. Most of these persons are languishing in sub-jails for periods up to two years. In most cases, such detention was followed by the serving of orders under the Foreigner's Act without adherence to the principles of natural justice. This is against Indian and International Humanitarian norms and is a complete travesty of justice.
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