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BJP, DMK Slam Govt in LS Over Plight of Ethnic Tamils

Government today came under attack in the Lok Sabha from its friends and foes over the plight of the ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, with demands that India should take a lead in ensuring passage of a resolution against the island nation at an upcoming UN meet.

During a debate on the issue, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said India should also caution other neighbours against interfering in the Sri Lankan affairs or Indo-Sri Lankan relations.

"Let India not merely vote ... In the UNHRC but take the lead in drafting the resolution and carry it through the UNHRC," said Sinha, a former External Affairs Minister.

"Foreign policy is not conducted out of fear but with confidence and elan," he said, while noting that India has a lot of clout but seems that have lost momentum.

He wanted to know what happened to India's "stature" and hoped that the government would wake up.

Sinha said an impartial inquiry should be held into the "genocide" carried out against Sri Lankan Tamils and there should be a clear commitment from that government that guilty shall be punished.

Initiating the discussion, DMK leader T R Baalu, whose party is a key constituent of the ruling UPA, wanted the government to ensure passage of the UN resolution to fix accountability for the war crimes.

Demanding that the guilty of the Sri Lankan war crimes be taken to the International Court of Justice to "give some solace to the victims", he said India should not be "lukewarm" but have a clear-cut approach on the issue at the UN. 

Baalu asked the government to clarify its stand on the "mass-scale atrocities" perpetrated against the ethnic minorities.

"25 years have passed since the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayawardene accord was signed, but it has not been implemented so far," he said, claiming that the "genocide" of Tamils in the war and atrocities against them have not yet stopped.

Besides mass killings and rapes, Tamil language and culture is being targeted as shown in the change of names of a large number of villages in the Tamil-dominated areas of Sri Lanka, Baalu said, initiating a discussion which does not entail voting.

He wanted Sri Lankan war criminals to be punished in the same way as those convicted for similar crimes in Bosnia, Syria and other places by the International Court of Justice.

Another UPA ally, Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) asked the government to clarify its foreign policy on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. "Have you protested the atrocities being committed against the Tamils," he asked.

He said the Sri Lankan crisis was a result of the failure of the country's establishment of not following the principles of Jawaharlal Nehru that India would speak up against human rights violations in the world.

Yadav said there was a confusion over India's foreign policy and wanted a clarification.

He urged UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to ask the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister to explain the steps taken by the government to help Sri Lankan Tamils.

"Sonia ji, why are you silent. You have the control.... please ask the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister sitting behind you about the steps taken in this regard," he said.

Sougata Roy of Trinamool Congress, whose party withdrew from the government last year over FDI issue, asked DMK to pull out from UPA if it really had serious differences with the Congress on the issue.

"We had differences with the Government on the FDI and diesel price hike. So, we left the Government. Why are sticking with them," he remarked.

At the outset, Speaker Meira Kumar said members should speak in such a way which would not affect India's relations with its neighbours.

Minister of State for Home Virendra Beniwal said that the action was taken to maintain law and order as the lawyers were marching towards the assembly building with an intention to disturb law and order yesterday.

The issue was raised in the legislative assembly by BJP Whip Rajendra Rathore who alleged that the police intensionally targeted the lawyers who were peacefully demonstrating near the assembly yest.

He demanded suspension of errant police officials and lodging of FIR against them, alleging that the action was taken without any warning and women lawyers were also beaten up by police.

The Minister, however, stated that the lawyers marched towards the building and uprooted barricades after ignoring warnings from the police.

They pelted stones and a few policemen including DCP, South, Don K Jose and inspector Bhopal Singh were injured in stone pelting.

The minister said some lawyers also received injuries while they were trying to remove the barricades. His statement sparked an uproar with the Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria leading a walkout by the Opposition MLAs.

Kataria demanded that the state government end the deadlock and warned that the situation could go worse if the government did not initiate immediate action.

The lawyers were marching towards the assembly building yesterday when Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was presenting the state budget.

A lawyer Rajesh Pareek, who claimed to be inside the session court building, said over phone that police lathicharged the lawyers today when they were moving peacefully towards Collectorate office from Sessions Court.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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