Mixed reaction to dual citizenship promise for Lankan Tamils

sri_lanka_tamil_womanThe announcement by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that her party would press the Centre to provide dual citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamils in the State has evoked mixed reactions from different quarters, The Hindu newspaper reported.

Says Arulappu Rameshkumar, a refugee-returnee living in Keerimalai of Jaffna, “Many of the camp refugees were born and brought up there. They have also got married there. As they are not Indian citizens, they are finding it extremely difficult to get ahead in their career. Ms. Jayalalithaa’s promise, if implemented, will make a huge difference.” Ms. Rameshkumar chose to leave Tamil Nadu’s Mandapam camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees six months ago as she did not want to lead that kind of life any longer. She is running a small shop to eke out a living for herself and her two sons.

V. Jayakumar, consultant to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), says if dual citizenship is provided, the refugees will no longer be monitored by the police.

To buy land, they will no longer have to get the approval of the Reserve Bank of India. Some refugees, having been in Tamil Nadu for over 20 years, are resourceful enough to acquire immovable assets.

V. Niranjan, founder of the Jaffna Managers’ Forum, says dual citizenship would make it easier for the refugee community to pursue education in Tamil Nadu, an educational hub, or anywhere else in India.

Besides, the Tamil diaspora, living in the West, could easily enter into matrimonial alliances with the refugee community.

There are other views too. Harim Peiris, chairman of the Resettlement Authority, feels that a refugee boy, marrying a local Indian girl, struggles hard to acquire citizenship. Such cases can be handled initially. For providing Indian citizenship to refugee-local couples, Mr. Jayakumar points out that the Union government has to remove one of the stipulations in the Citizenship Act that either of the parents of the applicant should not be an illegal migrant at the time of his or her birth. This holds relevance as all refugees are now considered illegal migrants.

While underscoring that the refugees should return to Sri Lanka on a permanent basis, M.A. Sumanthiran, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesperson, however, says the decision to come back should be left to them.

K. Vigneswaran, chairman of the Akhila Ilankai Tamil Mahasabha, cites the declining number of Members of Parliament from Jaffna due to the demographic changes and argues that if the refugees return to the North, the number of Members of Parliament will go up.

S.C. Chandrahasan, founder, OfFER (Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation), is keen that stateless refugees in Tamil Nadu should get Sri Lankan citizenship first. “Let the Tamil Nadu government revive, at the earliest, the practice of holding mobile camps to issue consular birth certificates to such persons. About 14,000 boys and girls are in need of the documents.”

Calling Ms. Jayalalithaa’s statement “an election stunt,” S. Sandarasegaram, former professor of education, sees no reason for the Indian government to offer dual citizenship to Sri Lankan citizens or those whose roots are in Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)


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