Even after having lived in Sri Lanka for at least two generations, over two lakh Indian Tamils are living like stateless citizens. With the Lankan government proposing extensive changes in the country's constitution, they are fearing further marginalization.
Two generations back, Francis's family left their home in Tamil Nadu to work in Sri Lanka's tea gardens. But even today he has no identity card to prove he's a Sri Lankan citizen and that means he and his family get nothing from the government except harassment.
There are 1,50,000 Indian Tamils like Francis who are neither Sri Lankan nor Indians. They are people from nowhere land -- stateless citizens. "For us there are no basic rights. We don't have an identity card hence we do not have a bank account, EPF or any other privilege," said Francis.
Itís no better for Indian Tamils who have managed to get citizenship. More than 50 lakh of them work in the tea gardens alone. But although they are a crucial part of Sri Lanka's work force, Indian Tamils have always been neglected by mainstream political parties including those representing Sri Lankan Tamils.
"Step-by-step we feel we can improve. We need some sort of affirmative action to improve the lives of our people. We have been neglected for 40 years. We have the right to ask for that," maintained R Yogarajan MP, Ceylon Workers Congress.
The Ceylon Workers Congress, which is the only organization working for them, is now opposing moves to change the constitution. They say it will make matters worse for an already marginalized population. "We are very scared about it because we do not know what the new one is going to be," said Thondaman S Arumugam, Leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress.
President Kumaratunga has also been meeting various political heads to explain her move calling for a referendum. She has also been stressing on the need for a new constitution to abolish the executive presidency, usher in electoral reforms and devolve powers to the Tamils to solve the ethnic crisis plaguing the country, but how much of it will really benefit the Indian Tamils needs to be seen.
This article was published in NDTV. What ever may be the situation, it is the common man who suffers the most.