Nation Current Affairs 06 Dec 2019 AP home for Lanka&rs ...

AP home for Lanka’s ‘nowhere people’

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | KMP PATNAIK
Published Dec 6, 2019, 1:12 am IST
Updated Dec 6, 2019, 1:12 am IST
A Lankan Tamil family in RV Nagar, close to Lammasinghi, near Chintapalle in the Visakhapatnam agency. (Photo: DC)
 A Lankan Tamil family in RV Nagar, close to Lammasinghi, near Chintapalle in the Visakhapatnam agency. (Photo: DC)

R.V. Nagar (Visakhapatnam agency): While hardliner Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksha was assuring Indian media of the development of Tamils in north Sri Lanka, a group of  Tamils from Jaffna was celebrating the forty-ninth birthday of  Veeraswamy Karunanidhi on a foggy evening in RV Nagar close to Lammasinghi, which otherwise is known as the coldest place in Andhra Pradesh.

Karunanidhi was a 10 year-old child when his parents, along with hundreds of others, were repatriated to Chintapalle in 1981. These Tamils, mostly Dalits from Salem district, were being persecuted by LTTE cadres and the armed forces of the Jayawardene regime.

Much before the official intervention in the LTTE strife for independence with the Lankan government, Indira Gandhi decided to repatriate the poor among them. All of them were brought on ships to Rameswaram camp in 1981 and from there dispersed to Odisha, Karnataka and several parts of Andhra Pradesh.

They were put in the temporary shacks with no assurance of employment or sustenance. The illiterate and poverty-stricken families were shifted to new projects where they could find reasonable employment to make ends meet, temporarily.

Around 40 families were shifted to remote agency villages in RV Nagar and Erravaram camps close to Lammasinghi (popularly known as Lambasinghi), about 140 kilometres from Visakhapatnam. They were put in the AP Forest Development Corporation (APFDC) abandoned quarters and the adults were asked to work in the coffee plantations which were started then.

The employment was only for four months and rest of the year they had to search for work for survival. However, Christian missionaries offered clothes and rations and enrolled the children in Santi Sadhana High School, the only English medium school in that area.

The camp was cut off from the general tribal society and repatriates never sought any financial help from the local population. As they began adjusting to the new life, the outlawed Maoists, who were in full swing in the agency, began threatening them with their lives if they passed any information about their movements to the armed police. On the other hand, the elite forces, the Greyhounds, tormented them for information on the Naxals.

“We were sandwiched between the police and the Maoists and then decided to approach the government to shift us back to Jaffna or Salem in Tamil Nadu. We got no response and presumed we were forgotten people,’’ Karunanidhi said.

They saw the first ray of hope when the former sub-collector at Paderu and present CEO of APMSS, S. Solomon Arokia Raj (a native of Tamil Nadu) put them in the category of Scheduled Castes by issuing Adi Dravida certificates to all the residents of the camp.

“We got shelter in the APFDC quarters and it was followed by issuance of Aadhar cards, ration cards and voter identity cards. This give us confidence to lead rest of our lives in this remote village,’’ said Ms Rasamma, 70, who suffered at the hands of the Lankan Army.

She says all the families have been leading a comfortable life with their bare minimum needs being fulfilled without seeking financial aid either from government agencies or private lenders.

Most of the elders, who told this correspondent in 2004 that they were eager to move back to Jaffna or Salem, said they have come to terms with the situation and find Vizag agency as their new home and hope to continue to live till their children find employment in cities.

They said there was no point in going back to Salem where their lands have been grabbed by people or to Attan in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, with which they have lost all contact over these four decades.

“Vizag is our home. Why should we go to Salem or Jaffna,” asked Tabadhi Veeraswamy, 33, younger sister of Karunanidhi, now employed in the state health department as an auxiliary midwife nurse. She obtained her post graduate degree in anthropology from the GITAM University and is the first repatriate to get a government job.

The charming and hyperactive woman, married to an adivasi of the Araku Valley, said their generation, born in the remote hills of Chintapalle, is not dreaming of becoming civil servants, doctors or engineers. They are pursuing professional courses offered after Intermediate and hope to join government services that would enhance their social stature and help them become part of the mainstream.

“Till then, we will rear sheep, cattle and fetch forest produce when there is no work in the coffee plantations,’’ Karunanidhi said.

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