Feature Article

Court case mooted against India’s internment camps for Eezham Tamils

[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 September 2009, 18:47 GMT]
Long continuing human rights violations of Government of India and Tamil Nadu State Government, by the way they treat Eezham Tamils in internment camps and refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, are challenged by I’lanthamizhar Iyakkam (Young Tamil Movement) in Chennai, which is mooting a court case in this regard. Accusing the central and state governments for showing racial discrimination against Eezham Tamil refugees, for committing repression through their police and intelligence services and for failing in equal treatment compared to Tibetan and Burmese refugees, the YTM seeks redress under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian constitution, says a document released by K. Arunabharathi, coordinator of YTM and plaintiff of the proposed case.

For many years now, India is operating two internment camps in Chengkalpaddu and Poonthamalli in Tamil Nadu, under the nametag ‘special camps,’ for keeping select Eezham Tamils virtually as prisoners, even after their registration as refugees.

While courts elsewhere in India have released even prisoners to get registered as refugees, keeping registered Eezham Tamil refugees as prisoners, breaches basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution, says YTM document.

India is operating 117 refugee camps for Eezham Tamils in Tamil Nadu. But the camps are not observing international norms upheld by UN convention for refugees, the document says, citing the following:

While the UN refugee convention insists on equal treatment of refugees, the Eezham Tamil refugees in India are explicitly shown discrimination and are deprived of facilities and freedom granted to refugees from Tibet, Burma, Afghanistan and former East Pakistan. The Tamil refugees are branded as terrorists and are treated as detainees.

The UN convention concedes to refugees the right to choose their place of residence and to travel freely within the territory of the country that grants them the refugee status. While the other refugees from Tibet and Burma enjoy these rights, only the Eezham Tamils are confined to the 117 camps in Tamil Nadu, even after recognition as refugees. Besides, the two special camps, the existence of which is acknowledged by the government, are illegal in this respect.

The UN convention guarantees the right to seek legal remedy to refugees. The Eezham Tamil refugees living in an atmosphere of fear are scared to complain. Those who wish to take up complains to courts are intimidated by the intelligence agencies and by the camp administration.

The document, besides citing a number of court precedences, has annexed reports from Mr. Ravikumar MLA, human rights organisations of Tamil Nadu and Pondichery and a report from Coimbatore Law College students who had made comparative studies between the camps of Eezham Tamil and Tibetan refugees.

India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 signed by 130 countries. Most of the Indian laws regarding foreigners are a continuity of repressive British colonial laws that were never revised. Only the basic human rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution are viewed as something helpful to the refugees, legal circles said.


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