It takes little time for the monster of jingoism to put on flesh. The chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalithaa, perhaps set the ball rolling by suspending a sports official for allowing a Sri Lankan football team to play in the state and then throwing out the two visiting Sri Lankan student football teams. Now a section of the people in Thanjavur has taken up the cue by protesting against the visit of Sri Lankan pilgrims. Sri Lanka has released a travel advisory, warning its citizens against a visit to South India, and the scare seems to satisfy politicians in Tamil Nadu who feel that it is the right answer to Sri Lanka’s atrocities against ethnic Tamils, its refusal to speed up rehabilitation and India’s failure to do anything about it. This is not the first time that such sentiments are being voiced. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has repeatedly tried to stall the training of Sri Lankan defence personnel in India that are an integral part of the bilateral exchange between the two countries. In deference to its wishes, the Centre has shifted out a batch of Sri Lankan trainees from the state. Yet the backlash seems to be gathering momentum and the most worrying part of it is the attitude encapsulated in Ms Jayalalithaa’s contention that even friendly matches between school students of the two countries are impossible. This points to the enforcement of a cultural blockade against Sri Lanka that militates against the national policy towards a friendly country and establishes India as a society of vengeful and reactionary individuals.
Ms Jayalalithaa’s adoption of such a strident stand may have something to do with her political rival’s recent expression of commitment to the cause of the Tamil Eelam. Competitive politics among the Dravida parties have been cause for a fresh flow of pro-Tamil sentiment in the state and the open denigration of India’s policies with regard to Sri Lanka. It is not that India’s policy towards Sri Lanka is flawless, but whatever its inadequacies, Tamil politicians ought to desist from inciting public passions against Sri Lankans. This is not merely to keep Sri Lankans away from harm. It has to be kept in mind that the brunt of this parochialism will ultimately have to be borne by the minority Tamil population in Sri Lanka, which is already the target of the fears and suspicions of the majority Sinhala population.