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‘Land grabs part of structural genocide’ - interview with Tamil Nadu journalist Maga Tamizh Prabhagaran

Speaking to the Tamil Guardian, Indian film maker Maga Tamizh Prabhagaran condemned the procurement of Tamil land by the Sri Lankan government as part of a structural genocide, after the London screening of his film ‘This Land Belongs to the Army’.

Prabhagaran, who was detained by Sri Lankan security forces whilst visiting the Tamil homeland in the North-East of the island, was eventually deported by Colombo. Upon arrival in London, Prabhagaran also described being held and interrogated for over 3 hours by British police, questioning him on the LTTE and on protests held by the Tamil diaspora.

His film, detailing state procurement and Sinhalisation of the Tamil homeland, was screened at an international conference on land grabs earlier this month in London.

Land grabs, the Sri Lankan state’s forcible and militarised procurement of Tamil owned land in the North-East, has seen international condemnation with a resolution having been presented to the US Senate this week outlining “ongoing concerns regarding landownership and property restitution”.

See his full interview with the Tamil Guardian, where he talks about his experience on the island and future projects, below.

 

Tamil Guardian:

Your film “This Land Belongs to the Army” premiered in London this week. Could you tell us more about it?"

Prabhagaran:

"The first thing that I was shocked on was regarding… many of the lands included “This Land Belongs To The Army” “This is Army Property” “This Is Navy Property” like this…"

"So only then I got the thought to make this documentary, especially on this land grabbing issues…"

"During my visit the main thing is the today the ongoing land grab is the main issues, going on today in North Eastern Sri Lanka. This is an ongoing war, this is a “peace” war. This is a structural genocide – land grabs is a structural genocide. Because land is inherited for the people... It is the main investment for people."

"That is also being grabbed by the Sri Lankan Army or Sri Lankan government or by all Sri Lankan security forces including the police."

"We know about the last 5 decades they took land in the name of development projects or in the name of giving land to the poor Sinhalese farmers. But the aim of the government is we want to Sinhalese the total nation. Total Sri Lanka, they want a colonisation, the total of Sri Lanka as a Sinhalese nation. That’s the main aim they want to do. In future what that means is after 10 years, we also talk about land grabbing issues, but at the same time, they’ve finished all the land grabbing and colonisation."

"For example, if the world nations or the international community give the chance for a vote for a separate Tamil Eelam, it means they will also take a vote. The Sinhalese also will be in Tamil areas and get to oppose a Tamil Eelam. That’s the aim of the Sri Lankan government."

Tamil Guardian:

"What happened with your arrest by Sri Lankan security forces?"

Prabhagaran:

"In Killinochchi… the Sri Lankan Army surrounded me, about 20 army persons, surrounded me and checked my camera. After that they took me to Nachchikuda Police Station. During that, I had life threats also. They gave me petrol to drink instead of water. After that they took me to Killinochchi police station then to Colombo. Colombo is where the main CID office, near to the Fort Area.
During that time all the human rights, all the laws were violated by the Sri Lankan Army regarding my arrest. By the basics of a normal case, they will take me to court within 24 hours. If I am put under a terrorist case, they should take me within 72 hours. But after 72 hours only the submitted me in the court.
This arrest totally it is… it is an unlawful thing. If I am doing wrong and they investigate me, that’s not a problem. The violation of law is a problem for me during my detention."

"After I was removed from Sri Lanka I got to Chennai Airport on the 28th of December in the night. All the media and my friends and some of my friends in the media and movement friends all came and invited me from the airport. I think so many of the tamil nadu people and also the diaspora people supported me, asking to release me."

"Mr Vaiko also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Indian for my release, that is also a reason that led to my release. Also the Committee to Protect Journalists and all the diaspora movements supported me to be released from Sri Lanka.  I thank them all for helping me to be released."

Tamil Guardian:

You also faced problems at London. Could you tell us what happened?

Prabhagaran:

"They kept me for 3 hours and they doubted me due to my detention and removal from Sri Lanka. They doubted me as a “Tiger” or being “pro-LTTE”. They asked questions like that and also asked “The LTTE will again come?”. They also asked questions about my book and what I came to London for. They asked if I came to arrange any protests also."

Tamil Guardian:

What is your impression of the political climate in Tamil Nadu and India?

Prabhagaran:

"Yes there is more support for Tamil Eelam.. I know for the last 30 years they supported the Tigers struggle also. But the Eelam issue is not only a Tigers issue. Eelam is all for Tamils, not only for Tigers. People have this idea and realise that Tamil Eelam is for Tamils."

"Also due to the pressure of Tamilians and Tamil Nadu people only they supported the March resolution, they took action against the Sri Lankan government activities. I also during my North-Eastern India travels, all the peoples and all the protestors and all the movements… they know about the Eelam struggle. They know about the independence struggle of Tamils in North-Eastern Sri Lanka and they get impressed by the protests. They like it so much, they have an independence model from the protests."

"We want to work more apart from Tamil Nadu and apart from our race…. We’ll take this thing bigger and around the world."
 
"I think the parliamentary elections are in May 2014. Before that we have the March resolution… so the government and the BJP and congress can take actions regarding support for Tamils. But I don’t have any hope for parties like the BJP or Congress. Because the parties only change, the government machinery does not change. The outer thing only changes… so in the future I don’t have much hope for the Indian government."

"I only hope in the people. Vaiko held a protest against the Rajapaksa visit to India, 2 years before. During that time, I covered that news in Madhya Pradesh. During that time they gave notices in Hindi… they heard about the news and they cried about the killing of Tamil people. The main things is they still do not know about the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka. We want to work more apart from Tamil Nadu. We want to work with people not with governments. That is the thing that will make an impact on the actions of any government. People’s support means the government will definitely support the actions."

Tamil Guardian: Could you tell us more about your other work and future projects?

"I am not only working on the Eelam issue or the Sri Lankan issues, I am also working on the North-East Indian conflict and on the nuclear issues going on in Tamil Nadu. But the Eelam and Sri Lankan issue is the specialised issue in which I write or take any documentaries regarding the today situation."

"I do not talk so much about the past or historical things, but we want the current things on whatever is going on in Sri Lanka. Solely I go to Sri Lanka and took a film on the current situation on what is going on in the North and East."

"I did an interview with Iron Sharmila who is hunger striking for 13 years against the Armed Forces Special Powers act which is currently in North-Eastern India and also in Kashmir. I took a case against the Manipur government and I gained permission to meet Sharmila… during the month of November 2013."

"Apart from this I also covered North-East Indian states personalities and human rights activists and some movements also... Now I am writing a series about the nuclear power plant issues in Kudankullam."   

On another project he is working on, Prabhagaran added,

"This book fully includes the situation of post-war Sri Lanka… It includes all the past, present and future."

"After the war in 2009 a lot of books came in tamil without a full study, so I thought I want to write a book about the full study…. The one book that I was so inspired by after returning, it was a book by Malathy – A Fleeting Moment in my Country. I was impressed so much by that book."

"My book, “Tracing the mark of the Tiger: A journey of 25 days in blood-stained Sri Lanka” includes the details of land grabbing and ongoing structural genocide and also issues of harassment of women. We also took interviews with former LTTE members, some important members. It includes the total landscape of the Vanni today."