Tamil Nadu once again elected Jayalalithaa Jayaram popularly known as ‘Amma’ as its Chief Minister yet again. The polls were conducted on May 16, two days prior to the seventh year commemoration of the end of Sri Lanka’s war.
Several decades ago, Jayalalithaa was a star in Indian cinema who had appeared in several blockbuster films alongside superstars such as MGR (who also was a former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister) and Sivaji Ganesan. She was the regular choice for MGR in particular during her peak in the 1960s and 70s.
She conquered the hearts of the people through her acting and dancing skills. She had a fan following in Sri Lanka too.
Her rival in politics, Muthuvel Karunanidhi also known as Kalaignar (Artiste) was also popular in the cinema circles for his writing. He had written stories and screenplays for several blockbusters during mid to late last century.
Both personalities then moved on to politics where they have continued to dominate the State in successive elections.
Tamil Nadu’s relationship with Sri Lanka became sour during the final phase of the war when the politicians and civil rights activists of the State accused the Government of killing the Tamil people in the North.
The then Chief Minister, Karunanidhi and other politicians played the Sri Lankan war card to the maximum to gain political mileage. Karunanidhi even staged a hunger strike for a few hours. He had also threatened to resign from the Central Government which was at the time led by the Congress if the Central Government failed to push Sri Lanka to stop the war.
However, his threats only remained in writing and no further step was taken. Such actions by the then Chief Minister did not go down well with the general public and those who genuinely cared for the welfare of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Therefore, the support of the people began to tilt towards Jayalalithaa.
Karunanidhi’s political gimmick at the expense of Sri Lankan Tamils resulted in him losing the Tamil Nadu State Assembly election two years later.
Jayalalithaa who also criticized the Sri Lankan Government on the war went a step further by passing a few resolutions against Sri Lanka.
The relationship between the Tamil Nadu State and Sri Lanka was so bad that Sri Lankans here had second thoughts going there. In fact, several stage shows of Tamil Nadu artistes and cinema personalities were cancelled last minute due to protests in the State. It was ironic that the Tamils in Sri Lanka could see their favourite stars on screen but not in person.
Seven years on, the animosity between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu has softened to an extent. The Tamil Nadu politicians did not use the Sri Lankan Tamil issue that much to gain votes. But they did raise the issue of clashes between Sri Lankan Navy and Tamil Nadu fishermen.
Seven years of peace
On the other hand, Sri Lanka has been quite peaceful for the last seven years. But the war affected people continue to face issues. Those in Tamil Nadu wouldn’t know or understand the gravity of the trauma the people faced, or the issues that they continue to face seven years after unless they see for themselves.
However, recovery from a 30- year-old war is indeed a slow process. It is not only about building houses, roads, and businesses. It is about rebuilding lives from scratch.
What is also important for Sri Lanka is to ensure that its relationship with Tamil Nadu is back on track. Several efforts have been made to ensure cordial relationship. However, issues such as the clash between Sri Lankan and Tamil Nadu fishermen have continued to be a stumbling block in the process.