Colombo, November 2, 2006
Kuldip Nayar, the noted Indian journalist and head of the Indian Peace Mission to Sri Lanka said in Colombo on Thursday, that India should lift the ban on the LTTE and engage it politically in order to bring lasting peace to war-torn Sri Lanka.
"I am of the view that the ban should be lifted," Nayar said when newsmen asked him how India could play a constructive role in the Sri Lankan conflict if it was barred from interacting with one of the two parties in the conflict – the LTTE – because that group was banned in India.
Nayar went on to say that banning organisations was no way to solve problems.
"Problems have to be looked at from the political angle and tackled politically, and the groups involved should be engaged politically," he stressed.
Asked if he would campaign for the lifting of the ban on return to India, Nayar said that the issue would be taken up at a meeting which was being planned.
Team-mate Gayathri Singh from Mumbai said that the issue of lifting the ban on the LTTE would be part of a larger campaign to get governments to tackle such issues politically.
"We are against all bans," added Jatin Desai, also from Mumbai.
Nayar said that the A 9 highway linking south Sri Lanka and Jaffna in the north should be opened "immediately" to alleviate the suffering of the common man.
The contentious issue of the re-opening of the road had led to the resumption of war in Sri Lanka.
Asked what India could do to help Sri Lanka settle the long-standing conflict between the majority Sinhalas and minority Tamils, Nayar said that India should not keep the distance it had been keeping.
Gayathri Singh said that India could not be indifferent to what was happening in Sri Lanka because of the possible spill over of the problem into Tamil Nadu.
Bhagwati to serve on SL inquiry committee
Members of the Indian peace mission said that the Sri Lankan government had invited the former Chief Justice of India, PN Bhagwati, to be a member of a new Committee to Inquire into Human Rights violations in the island.
The Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe had told them that Justice Bhagwati had accepted the invitation.
Rights situation in SL very worrying
The peace mission members said that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka was causing great worry.
"Human rights violations here are numberless," Nayar said. "We are very worried and concerned," added Jayasree Velankar.
"Disappearances and abductions are cruel and intolerable," Nayar said.
When asked to rate the countries in the South Asian region in terms of human rights violations, Nayar said that Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were the worst offenders.
He was particularly concerned about the bad treatment given to the minorities in the region.
The Indian peace group, the nucleus of which is in Mumbai, is planning to be a South Asian body.