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Will ask Sri Lanka for independent probe of rights violations, says External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid

IANS
Mar 08, 2013 at 05:36am IST

New Delhi: Describing the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka as a "huge humanitarian problem" which has to end, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Thursday that India will ask the island nation's government for an independent inquiry into allegations of human rights violations there.

While stating that "a closure must be brought to the 27 years of violence", Khurshid said that "that India does not want to play policeman or big brother".

"I know there are reports of human rights violations. The bottom line remains that devolution (of power) which gives legitimate rights must be implemented in toto," he asserted in the Lok Sabha while replying to a debate on the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Will ask Sri Lanka for independent probe of rights violations, says Khurshid

Salman Khurshid said that India will frame its response to the upcoming UN human rights panel vote on Sri Lanka on the basis of parliamentarians' views.

"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."

DMK member TR Baalu initiated the debate.

"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," said Khurshid.

He also said that India will frame its response to the upcoming UN human rights panel vote on Sri Lanka on the basis of parliamentarians' views, the ground situation and the record of the island nation's government.

"We want the Tamils in Sri Lanka to live with dignity and equal participation as citizens and closure for the wounds of the past," said Khurshid. "We need to look beyond the past."

India also needs to strengthen diplomatic steps to avoid a war in the island nation, said the minister while stating that he shared the sense of the house.

The answer failed to satisfy the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and AIADMK, DMK and MDMK members who walked out of the Lok Sabha.

In his speech, Bharatiya Janata Party's 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, while India should take a lead in drafting the resolution in the vote on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Sinha said that 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 implements 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".

Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy said the Sri Lankan issue should be treated at par with war crimes in other countries.

DMK's Dayanidhi Maran raised the issue of the reported killing of the son of the slain LTTE chief V Prabhakaran.

"They are out closest neighbor 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.

Khurshid said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in 2009 announced Rs.500 crore for relief in Sri Lanka and several projects on rail and housing have been completed in the northern parts of the island nation as part of welfare project undertaken by New Delhi.

Intervening at this point, Sinha said: "Tractors and houses cannot establish human rights for Tamils in Sri Lanka."

The BJP also walked at this point stating that the minister had not answered their questions.

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa alleged that Sri Lanka was attempting to "intimidate" India into not raising its voice against the atrocities on Tamils in that country by arresting Indian fishermen.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said: "The incidents of arrests of fishermen and the recent firing should be viewed as an indirect attempt to intimidate the Government of India and browbeat it into not raising its voice against Sri Lankan atrocities on innocent Sri Lankan Tamilians in the international fora."

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