The issue regarding a separate homeland for the Tamils of the world has evoked considerable interest over the past 70 years or so. From the 1950s to about the early 1980s, a strong campaign took place in India for carving out a separate state of Dravidastan in the southern part of India. That campaign reached a level where it nearly threatened the break-up of India; but with some strong-arm tactics and quiet diplomacy, India was able to manage the issue. Nevertheless, as is well known, the yearning is still strong among the Tamils in India to set up a separate state, and many are waiting for a new spark from anywhere in the world to trigger the call once again. The Tamils in Sri Lanka too, attempted to establish a separate State in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, even prior to Sri Lanka’s independence from the British, and have made many efforts to realize such a goal.
When the call for a separate state in Sri Lanka was mooted, it was no secret that the Tamils in Tamil Nadu were overtly and covertly assisting the effort of the Sri Lanka Tamils to do so. That support was akin to the support that the Tamils in Sri Lanka gave to the Tamils in India, when the Tamils in India tried to realize the dream of a Dravidastan nation. In fact, it is well-known that Tamils in India were supporting the Tamils in Sri Lanka, not because of their sympathy or affinity towards the Tamils in Sri Lanka, but rather as a result of their own compelling desire to create a separate Tamil State, which then, could be of benefit for all Tamils, worldwide.
Unfortunately, the separatist effort in Sri Lanka evolved into a violent and terror phase because of the ruthlessness of the terrorist leader Prabhakaran. But even so, the Tamils worldwide tolerated the terror and the cash extortions, since they perceived Prabhakaran as the possible conduit through whom the elusive Tamil homeland could be won for all Tamils of the world.
It is estimated that there are about 100 million Tamils living in many countries across the world. That, therefore, makes them one of the few races in the world with such a large population, but are yet without a geographical land mass to call their own. This drawback perhaps may be the psychological factor that drives the Tamils’ inner desire to carve out a homeland of their own in some part of the world. However, since their attempts to do so in India and Sri Lanka have failed, it is necessary for the Tamils to now examine the option of identifying a new location, or a part of a country, to create a homeland of their own. It is only if they are able to do so, that they could practice self-determination, nurture their culture, and protect their customs in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.
To achieve that vision, three important factors need to be fulfilled in the identification of a country to host the Tamil nation. First, that country must be sympathetic to the cause of the Tamils, and be one which would encourage the Tamils to express themselves in their own style. Second, that country must already have a critical mass of Tamils. Third, that country must have a sufficient land mass to be able to allocate a land area for setting up such a new Tamil homeland. Then, the billion-dollar question world is which country fits these specifications?
A host country that could comfortably fulfil the conditions as referred to above, is undoubtedly Canada, which is a second largest country in the world. It has a land mass of almost 10 million square kilometres, which makes it 153 times the size of Sri Lanka! It practices bilingualism and is one of the most ethnically diverse, multicultural nations. It has a population of only 38 million. Nearly 15% of its people are Asians, with a large proportion of them being Tamils. Canada is already divided into 3 territories and 10 provinces, many of which are very sparsely populated. That also suggests that the influx of a few million new immigrants to Canada could be accommodated without much tension or displacement of the existing population. In addition, Canada’s Constitution provides for a significant degree of autonomy to its provinces, which would conveniently allow a new ethnic group to establish themselves as an autonomous group, living in a specified location within a federal system of government.
The number of Tamils living in Canada as Canadian citizens is estimated to be around one million, and therefore a critical Tamil population mass has already been established in that country. Many Tamils from Sri Lanka and India have made Canada their home, and serve Canada diligently and loyally. In return, Canada has been sympathetic and generous towards them. At the same time, based upon the benign and tolerant attitude that the Canadians have developed towards minorities, the Canadians have also been able to understand and appreciate the aspirations of the Tamil People. Therefore, Canada will be in a position to actively provide the Tamils with the opportunity to express themselves in a separate state of their own. Moreover, many European Canadians, especially the current leadership in Canada, have openly supported the Tamil aspirations to establish a separate homeland for the Tamil people. They have done so at many world fora, and also canvassed for the Tamils at many global organizations, including the United Nations. Taking all these factors into consideration, Canada seems to be the ideal host country to provide the necessary framework for the Tamils of the world, to help establish their own nation.
The recent demonstrations by the Tamils in Canada have given expression to this growing sentiment, and that must now be recognized by the Canadian authorities. Hence, a suitable official response should be given by Canada to the Tamils of the world, without allowing such peaceful demonstration to take the shape of more violent expressions, as those that took place in Sri Lanka and India. In that regard, the best course of action for Canada would be to respond in a fair manner, and grant the Tamils in Canada the freedom to exercise self-determination in a demarcated part of Canada in a land area of around 200,000 square kilometres, which would, in effect, be only about 2% of its massive land mass. That would then provide the Tamils in Canada the political and economic space to engage in self-rule within the demarcated territory, thereby fulfilling a long felt need of the Tamils.
In that context, the province of Manitoba in Canada seems to be the ideal location from which a suitable segment of land could be conveniently demarcated for the new Tamil nation, since that province has one of the lowest population densities in the world. Such a new nation of the Tamils could, in due course, accommodate Tamils from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji and from any other country, who wish to migrate and make a home in the new nation within the Canadian territory, in much the same way that the Jews from difference lands migrated and settled in Palestine, and established the new state of Israel. This type of a gesture by Canada would not only be a magnanimous humanitarian expression, but also one in which the world surely would position the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau as the foremost contender for the next Nobel Peace Prize. Even more importantly, that action would also lead to the Tamils of the world being finally able to realize their cherished dream of having a separate nation for themselves, with land under their control, and with their own government.
Dr. LIONEL PETERSON