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Opinion | Beyond Poll Posturing, The Katchatheevu Revelations Serve to Repair A 50-Year-Old North-South Fault Line – News18

Opinion | Beyond Poll Posturing, The Katchatheevu Revelations Serve to Repair A 50-Year-Old North-South Fault Line – News18


In 1974, the Indian government handed over the island to Sri Lanka. (File image/News18 Tamil)

With the DMK’s first family having been exposed as co-conspirators in the decision to give up India’s claims over Katchatheevu, the party’s fulminations at the Centre come across as severely hypocritical

We’re all asking the wrong questions on the Katchatheevu disclosures. In all honesty, the issue will have a minimal bearing on the outcome of the 2024 Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu. The elections won’t be won or lost on the alleged omissions of the Congress-DMK on an issue that dates back to 1974. The voter, at least at this very advanced moment in the poll campaign, is unlikely to reorient toward the BJP for exposing that Indira Gandhi colluded with DMK supremo and chief minister M Karunanidhi to ‘gift’ the Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka at a cost to Tamil Nadu.

Nonetheless, the revelations around Katchatheevu are important. They should be welcomed because they serve a greater, more beneficent purpose.

The disclosures make it very difficult from here on for the DMK to claim that it is the sole guardian of Tamil Nadu’s interests.

For decades now, since 1974, at least two generations of voters in Tamil Nadu have been told that the Centre gave away this strategic island in the Palk Straits. They were told that the central government under Indira Gandhi did this because politicians in the north have a callous disregard for Tamil Nadu’s sentiments. Or for that matter the interests of anyone south of the Vindhyas.

The DMK has thrived by perpetuating this north-south rift myth for decades all together.

In July 1974, DMK MP Era Sezhiyan, for instance, fumed at Indira Gandhi for hiding the Island pact from Tamil Nadu. For betraying Tamil sovereignty and identity.

Even today, for instance, when fisherfolk are arrested and brutalised by the Lankan navy for drifting too close to Katchatheevu in search of depleting fish stocks, the DMK curses the Centre for cheating the people of the south. For depriving poor fishers of a right to a decent living by restricting their access to waters that are rightfully theirs.

But now it turns out that the DMK’s own founder Karunanidhi had acquiesced in the decision. In fact, a record of the discussions between the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government at the Centre and the M Karunanidhi-led Tamil Nadu state government in 1974 shows that the DMK supremo may have got to know of the prospective agreement with Lanka ahead of many in even the union government.

Now, with the DMK’s first family having been exposed as co-conspirators in the decision to give up India’s claims over Katchatheevu, the party’s fulminations at the Centre come across as severely hypocritical. Some might even use the more unforgiving term – lies.

Ironically, it is the BJP, which has often been accused of being a Hindu upper caste, Hindi belt party — an interloper in Tamil Nadu politics – that can take credit for unmasking the DMK before the Tamil Nadu public.

By placing never-before-seen government documents in the court of public opinion, the BJP has left the DMK with no leg to stand on. The historical record simply can’t be disputed.

Watch this space to find out how these disclosures shape the response of Tamil voters to the BJP in the long term.



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