Last week, I had a chance encounter with a Srilankan Tamil (SLT) who visited home for some repair work. It was revealing and heart-rending on many levels. But what more I can do except to feel sorry for these people, when even the Chief Minister of the State is not able to do anything.
So when this man came home, from the very few sentences he spoke, I could make out that he is a Srilankan Tamil. The funny thing about these Srilankan Tamils are they hesitate very much to talk in the first place, because their accent immediately make them stand out and secondly they also dont want to get identified as a Srilankan Tamil. I asked him straight if he is a Srilankan and he acknoweldge that. Given below is the gist of our discussion on wide-ranging topics (as if we were two foriegn ministers talking to each other!!)
Me: Where are you from?
SLT: I am from Jaffna.
Me: When did you come to Tamilnadu from Srilanka?
SLT: I came here in 2007.
Me: So you came here before the final war in May 2009?
SLT: Yes, I came here couple of years before the war.
Me: How did you come to Tamilnadu?
SLT: I came to Chennai on a Student Visa and after that converted myself as a refugee.
Me: Does the Srilankan Government allow you to leave Srilanka?
SLT: Yes, I was studying in Kandy at that time. Couple of times I was arrested by the Srilankan Army and I have to use the political influence to come out. So I decided to come to Chennai.
Me: Why Srilankan Army arrested you?
SLT: I was helping the fighters (meaning the rebels, LTTE) injured in the war. So I was arrested.
Me: Have you ever participated in the war efforts of LTTE?
SLT: No. I was only helping the injured LTTE soldiers in getting medical treatment.
Me: How is the situation now in Srilanka? Do you have any contacts?
SLT: The situation is still bad. The Army keeps arresting people without any reason.
Me: Lot of Tamils have migrated to the western countries like UK, Canada and other European countries. Did you not try to migrate to those countries?
SLT: Yes, I did try to go to UK. You know right, that we cant go legally. So I tried to go to UK through the illegal route. I paid 10K UK pounds to an agent to go to UK but couldnt go.
Me: What happened?
SLT: The agent took me to Malaysia along with other illegal immigrants from Srilanka and made us stay in a hotel for couple of days. Then he suddenly disappeared from Malaysia and escaped to Thailand leaving us in the lurch. We were caught by the Malaysian police.
Me: Oh, really. Then how did you manage to come out of Malaysia? Malaysia, I heard is a very strict country?
SLT: Not like that. We bribed the Malaysian police and came back.
Me: How do you manage to get so much of money to pay to these agents?
SLT: In our family, my eldest brother migrated to UK some 15 years ago. He studied well during his younger days and he got a scholarship to go to UK for further studies. He is now settled in UK and he funds our efforts. He is a Professor in UK University. He keeps telling me that I should have also studied well instead of engaging the activities what I did, but now nothing could be changed.
Me: So, you are in India for the last 4 years. How do you manage your life here?
SLT: See I came here on a student visa but later I claimed myself as a refugee. If I have to be recognised as a refugee, I have to go and register myself at Shastri Bhavan. (He is not able to tell which department exactly but Shastri Bhavan is the place where many Central Government offices function). I have now registered myself as a refugee.
Me: Are you allowed to work in India with the refugee status?
SLT: It is very difficult to get a job in India with a refugee status. I got selected in atleast 3 companies before but unfortunately when I told them my nationality is Srilankan, nobody was willing to give me a job. This is a kind of temporary job what I do so that I can earn some money to keep myself afloat.
Me: Do you face problems with TN Police?
SLT: Not much. As a refugee, Shastri Bhavan issues a letter which I have to take it to the nearest Police Station where I am staying and get myself registered as a refugee. I have done that now. So the local Policemen know me and they dont create problems. My job involves visiting various localities in the city and I have to drive a two-wheeler. But I cant get a Indian Driving License. So I drive without a license and sometimes I get caught. I pay a bribe to the Policemen and even there sometimes few Policemen feel sympathetic and allow me to go without taking a bribe because of my Srilankan Tamil refugee status.
Me: How long you are going to work like this? what are you future plans?
SLT: I am 30 years old and my parents have started looking for a girl. They are looking for a girl who is already in countries like UK, Cananda etc., We are trying to get a foreign settled girl for marriage so that I get a spouse visa and settle in that country.
Me: Ok, the most important question, do you think Prabhakaran is still alive or killed in the fourth Ealam war?
SLT: We believe he is alive. Couple of reasons, the photograph of the body of Prabhakaran which was shown by the Srilankan Army after the war seems to have been a doctored one. Secondly, the Srilankan Government has still not issued the death certificate for Prabhakaran to the Indian Government.
Me: Thank you.