Back in Nov 2006, Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie was in India and had showered praises on India for giving shelter to displaced people from a number of countries. She also said that India's action of providing shelter to refugees from various countries, though it had needy people of its own was commendable.
At that time Badri Seshadri, Chennai, India wrote a post about the plight of refugees and in particular about the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. Badri says,
இந்தியா தன்னாட்டு மக்கள் நலனுக்கே நிறைய செய்யவேண்டிய நிலையிலும்கூட, வெளிநாட்டு அகதிகளை அரவணைத்து அவர்களுக்கு வேண்டிய அளவு செய்துள்ளதாக ஜோலீ கூறியுள்ளார்…
Even though, India has helped these refugees in the beginning, the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu living under harrowing circumstances. They are being shut down in separate camps. Tamil Nadu state government's decision has been to somehow send these refugees back where they came from, against their will.
Badri continues that India did not sign the UNHCR convention treaty in 1951. And hasn't signed till now. Burmese, Afghan, Bangladeshi and Tibetian refugees are not happy in India. But, the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are worse off than the others. To people who risk life crossing the Palk Strait, all India gives them is quite akin to a prison sentence.
Badri has a set of guidelines.
1. அவர்கள் இந்தியா வந்த உடனேயே, அரசியல் காரணங்களுக்கான அகதி என்பதை உறுதி செய்துகொண்டு (பர்மா, இலங்கை அகதிகள் இன்றைய நிலையில் அரசியல் அகதிகள்தாம்!) அவர்கள் கண்ணியத்துடன் உயிர்வாழ சுகாதாரமான, வசதியான தாற்காலிக இடம் கொடுக்கப்பட வேண்டும்…
2. Political refugees admitted to India should be given some sort of diplomatic papers and should be given permission to live and work anywhere in India.
3. Where-ever the refugees elect to stay, ration cards should be given to them to procure groceries at a fair-price.
4. The children of refugees should be allowed to study in India.
5. Government hospitals should treat refugees like any other Indian, without demanding any payments.
6. Refugees should be allowed to buy any real-estate. And when they sell the property, they should be allowed to convert the money to other foreign currency.
7. Refugees should be allowed to travel to other countries.
8. Most importantly, refugees should not be labeled as ‘usual suspects’ and put in prison and investigated. Such heinous activities should be prohibited.
9. India should sign the 1951 UNHCR convention treaty.
India could then invite Angelina Jolie and celebrate says Badri Seshadri from Chennai, India.
Here are some excerpts from Thiru's post.
Most of families are living in an abandoned building with crumbling walls and roof. Each family has been alloted a 5×5 feet space. Four feet tall mud walls have been erected. A family cooks, eats, relaxes and sleeps in the space given.
Thalaiyuthu Panchayat, district administration, state government and Indian government have not taken care of basic amenities in this refugee camp. We saw pigs and dogs being given better shelter near this camp. At the same time, why hasn't our government provided even the basic help these refugees need. The refugees, who seek shelter fearing the war in their native land are treated quite abominably here. Not only does the government not help, they also prevent other organizations from providing help.
Thiru reiterates that it's our duty to make sure at least the basic help should be given these hapless refugees, especially the children.
Thiru goes on to say that there are no information about what is happening to the money set aside by the Indian government, to be spent on refugees. There is no information about the rights of refugees. Thiru says that plans are afoot to collect information regarding what had taken place in the last five years. And that they are planning on the next level of action. He says that he and his friends left the Thalaiyuthu refugee camp with a heavy heart.
Azhiyuran, who visited the Thalaiyuthu camp with Thiru records his thoughts about the cultural impact on the refugees some of whom have spent as much as 16 years in the camp.
திருநெல்வேலியிலிருந்து மதுரை செல்லும் சாலையில் சங்கர் சிமெண்ட் தொழிற்சாலைக்கு பின்புறமாக இருக்கிறது இந்த முகாம்.சிமெண்ட் நுண்துகள்கள் விரவிக்கிடக்கிற முகாமில் யாவரின் முகத்திலும் வறட்சியான சிர்ப்பையே காண முடிகிறது. அண்மையில் அயலகத்திலிருந்து வந்திருந்த திரு, தூத்துக்குடியிலிருந்து வந்திருந்த வரவணையானோடு நானும் இணைந்து தாழையூத்து அகதிகள் முகாமிற்குப் போயிருந்தோம்…
Azhiyuran goes on to talk about weddings. He says,