For many of us the war in Sri Lanka was over in the month of May 2009, when the armed rebellion was defeated by the combined might of many super powers including that of India. But for the Tamils of Sri Lanka’s origin, a war of other form and means is still rages both within their cherished land and in the lands where they have sought “political” asylum.
The parties of the political establishment in Tamil Nadu; the DMK and the AIADMK who claim to profess the concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils Refugees in the state., but have not bothered to look at the inhuman conditions in the so-called “friendly” refugee camps which has been historically giving “shelter” to the asylum seekers or refugees from the North and East of Sri Lanka. The utter apathy of the successive governments led by both DMK and AIDMK is nothing short of political hypocrisy.
Tamil refugee camps of one form or the other, in pathetic conditions have existed in Rameshwaram and Mandapam for almost three decades now. What is more scandalous is the way the Indian ‘state’ treats these asylum seekers who fled from the twin violence of the Sri Lankan state and the armed rebels. Without any exaggeration, each one of the Sri Lankan refugee has been Suspected and targeted as a terrorist or an accomplice of terror.
The Tamil Nadu Q branch police are running an illegal detention camp in Chengalapattu. Currently 28 refugees ‘imprisoned’ in the camp and invariably all of them face the common charge of entering India without a passport. From the very inception when mass exodus of refugees/asylum seekers started from Sri Lanka, they were usually sent to the open refugee camps in Rameshwaram and Mandapam after their details were duly registered.
The refugees who are currently detained in Chengalpatu were also similarly registered when they came to India seeking asylum. But strangely they have been charged with cases of entering the nation without passport. Currently 13 out of the 28 refugees are on hunger strike from 15th of June, demanding their immediate transfer to the open camps. 4 of the protesters are in a very critical condition. One of the protesters Jagan has a low pulse rate. Narmadhan, Satheesh kumar and Sendhooran are suffering from hematuria as a result of the long hunger protest.
Some of these refugees in the Chengalpattu camp came to India seeking asylum 20 years ago. Cases have been registered against them also for the same reason after May,2009. The high court of Tamil Nadu has dismissed the charges against 7 of these refugees and has ordered their immediate release. But these refugees re being illegally detained in these prisons. Apart from this, fabricated cases of thieving, smuggling of weapons and drugs have also been registered against some of the refugees. Even though the police have no evidence against thee refugees the case has been adjourned whenever it comes for the hearing.
The refugees are not allowed to leave the camp. They are given 70 rupees per day for food and upkeep, with which they are expected to buy the necessities to cook their daily food by themselves. In case of any medical emergency, they are taken to the hospitals escorted by 4 police men.
Only their blood relatives are allowed to meet them in this prison. These relatives travel for a about 15 hours from their camps in Rameshwaram or Mandapam to visit them. After coming to Chengalpattu they have to get permission from the Thasildar and then from the Police department. Only then the Q branch police will allow them to see their relatives. After all the procedures are completed they get barely an hour to meet their relatives in the camp. Further the visitors have to get permission from their camp supervisors to travel this far to meet their relatives. After a hunger strike agitation last month by a few changes in the procedures were implemented.
Overall, the Chengalpattu refugee camp is neither functioning as a prison run in accordance with human rights laws nor as a refugee camp where rights are guaranteed. Rather it’s clear that it is functioning as a illegal detention camp. These refugees are neither treated by the international Refugee law (UNHCR) nor by the Indian Penal Code.
The sole intention of this seems to be paint a picture that these men who fled their land in fear for their lives, as members of the LTTE, and thereby claim that the organization is still operating even as the Sri Lankan government has formally announced that the LTTE has been totally wiped out. These detainees are tortured both physically and mentally in these camp-prisons. They can neither avail required medical facilities in Chengalpattu nor can they get the necessary help from their relatives.
We the following concerned organisations; Tamil Solidarity Campaign, May 17th Movement, PUCL -Karnataka, SICHREM, Visual Search, Pedestrian Pictures, LESBiT, New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) and the progressive sections of Karnataka condemn the treatment meted out to these refugees and asylum seekers.
We demand that this illegal detention camp at Chengalpattu be closed down and demand the release of all these 28 refugees to the open refugee camps at Rameshwaram and Mandapam where they can join there relatives and friends. It is also our concern that the conditions in the Refugee Camps be improved, and these war victims be treated more humanely with compassion and concern.
29th June 2012