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We failed to launch sathyagraha against govt in 1977 and avert armed struggle: an apologetic Sampanthan

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Opposition Leader, Tamil National Alliance Leader R.Sampanthan has expressed lament that Sri Lanka could have averted an armed struggle had the Tamil political representatives taken a lesson from late Mahatma Gandhi and launched a ‘Satyagraha’ campaign on the basis of truth, civil disobedience and ‘Ahimsa’ in 1977.

He made this observation almost apologetically addressing the adjournment debate to commemorate Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary in Parliament recently.

He stated that it was a “great mistake” that they did not engage in such a non-violent course of action in 1977 against the Sri Lankan Government. The Tamil political representation was strong in Parliament at that time as a large number of their members had been elected to Parliament from the North and the East of the country.

He observed: “I have often thought that in 1977, when there was a UNP Government elected under President J. R. Jayewardene, we could have averted an armed struggle in this country, if we had resorted to ‘Satyagraha’, civil disobedience and Ahimsa on the lines of what Gandhi taught us.

Had we done that we could have won our own self-rule in our areas without violence. It is my hope that we will never have violence in this country again.

We must all be grateful to this great son of India for the concept of non-violence, Ahimsa, Satyagraha, truth and civil disobedience which he introduced as an instrument to fight injustice, inequality and subservience. He unified India. India is a large country.

He preserved the identity of all people in India. Every Indian, whether he was a Bengali, Panjabi, Thelingu, Malayali or Tamil, first called himself an Indian. He made India ‘one country’ in which Indian people lived with self-respect.

He brought India together, not merely by recognising linguistic identity and carving out states on the basis of linguistic identity, but also by ensuring that this linguistic identity did not surpass the Indian identity.”

Sampanthan appealed to the Tamil people to abide by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi to win their rights without resorting to violence, if the Government fails to deliver on its commitments to find an adequate solution to the national question.

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