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7 September 2011

Indian high commission protest over Tamil death sentences

Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity national secretary

'End the death penalty in India', was the slogan chanted by over 700 people outside the Indian high commission on 30 August.

Called by Tamil Solidarity, the protest demanded the cancellation of the execution of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalen, then scheduled for 9 September. Later in the evening of the protest, an eight-week 'stay of execution' was announced.

The three men have been held in solitary confinement for over 20 years for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. This judgment, made in the frenzied political atmosphere at the time, has long been questioned.

Rajiv Gandhi was allegedly killed by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber, and a further 25 people were convicted. The sentences of the other 22 have been commuted to life imprisonment.

Murugan's sister joined Tamil Solidarity members to hand a protest letter to the high commissioner. She implored the crowd to continue the protests and to struggle for the rights of Tamil-speaking people in India and Sri Lanka, and to win democratic rights for all.

The campaign to end the death penalty in India is also backed by Paul Murphy, Socialist Party Ireland MEP.

It has gained considerable international support, including from people such as Arundhati Roy, activist/author, Noam Chomsky, academic/activist, and Desmond Tutu, anti-apartheid campaigner.

Tamil Solidarity supports the call to commute the death penalty - and to end its use - and for a retrial. An online petition can be signed on the Tamil Solidarity website:


We also demand a full public inquiry into the brutal slaughter of Tamil-speaking people during the decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka.

The only way this inquiry could be free from the influence of president Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime and his international collaborators would be if it were made up of representatives from the working class, poor and oppressed from all communities in Sri Lanka, aided by workers' and human rights organisations internationally.

Although damning evidence is being amassed of the genocidal policies of Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa regime, many governments are anxious to maintain links with the small but strategically important island.

The Indian and Sri Lankan governments have close links - and India fears the growing influence of China in the region.

The Indian government gave political and military support to the Sri Lankan regime throughout its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam which ended two years ago with tens of thousands of Tamil civilians dying in the last few weeks alone.

Clearly, the execution of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalen would be celebrated by Rajapaksa.

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