Packed with performance and punch lines, the entire Tamil film fraternity staged a powerful show of strength at a one-day fast in Chennai Saturday to express solidarity with the Eezham Tamils. The actors demanded the Tamil Nadu state and the Indian Union Government to immediately find a peaceful and permanent solution to the Sri Lankan problem.
Rajinikanth struck an emotional chord when he shared his personal experience of interacting with Eezham Tamils and praised 'the music of their dialect'. At the same time, he expressed concern over the fact that Eezham Tamils did not enjoy the rights they deserve in their land.
"Did they enter the war on purpose? They demanded their rights through all kinds of peaceful methods, when nothing worked out, they were forced to take up arms," Mr. Rajinikanth said. "The urgent need is to stop the war. The voice that we rise over here must be heard by Rajapaksa," the famous actor explained in his speech. He directly addressed the Sri Lankan President and said: "Rajapaksa! What are the Tamils demanding? Equal status. It is in your best interests if you recognise their rights. You have the three armed forces: the army, the navy and the air force. But have you been able to wipe out all the Tamils who have been fighting for their rights? You have not been able to do this in the past two-years of the war, as in the past thirty years. You are unable to accept your defeat. Because, for you, it is a question of ego. Accept the truth and grant them equal rights."
On the same vein, Rajinikanth targeted the Sri Lankan nation and warned them in no uncertain terms: "When poor and innocent people of suffer, a country will never improve. The people there are dying in large numbers for the past several years. Please understand that their dead bodies are not being buried, they are being planted into the land. Don't forget that these seeds will grow again tomorrow!"
The super star implored the Sri Lankan President to give the Tamils their rights and their traditional land because it was in the best interests of Sri Lanka.
Kamal Haasan said that it is the responsibility of the International Community to ensure that a ceasefire is implemented in Sri Lanka immediately.
"This meeting is taking place so that we express our feelings; we have been asked to keep away from inflammatory speeches. This is a world that takes offence when an apparent fact is mentioned – and we have seen what happens when our brothers Seeman and Ameer expressed their opinions," the charismatic actor said.
"In a society that does not guarantee fundamental rights, it is natural for radicalism to take root. When the nation attains independence, the so-called terrorists will be the martyrs and freedom fighters. Only time can be a judge. A peaceful solution should have come to Sri Lanka, but because of its absence, people have been forced to take up arms. Tamils all over the world have united for the sake of the Eezham Tamils," he said. "People in Tamil Nadu who have so much of infighting should realize this," he added at the end of his soul-stirring speech.
Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK) Chief and actor Vijayakanth remarked in his speech that people of Tamil Nadu had the right to criticize both the State and the Union Governments. "Rajapaksa is staging a major drama. The State and the Union Governments should question him. He bombs the innocent civilians and he has never showed any humanitarian concern," Mr. Vijayakanth said.
South Indian Film Artists Association President Sarath Kumar, who also heads All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK), called for a permanent solution to the ethnic strife in the island nation.
Vijay urged his fans to send telegrams to the Indian Prime Minister requesting him to intervene in the Sri Lankan problem. Ajith called for lasting peace on the island nation even as he used the opportunity to condemn critics who had spread rumours of his unwillingness to participate in the fast.
Parthipan posed the question how the funds being collected in Tamil Nadu are going to reach the Tamils caught up in Sri Lankan offensive and urged all concerned to ensure independent channeling of the funds and also enable monitoring and feedback by engaging a team from various sectors, including a member on behalf of the South Indian Film Artists Association.
Vivek acknowledged that the Eezham Tamil Diaspora was responsible for arranging live performances abroad for actors and actresses from the Tamil film industry. "In every grain of rice that we eat, the contribution of the Eezham Tamils is there. So, we have a moral duty to voice for their rights and concerns," he said.
Many of the actors who spoke at the event also focused on the history of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, saying that the Tamils were natives of the island and justified the Tamil demand for equal status. One of the actors also said it Eezham was not an offspring of Tamil Nadu to describe Eezham Tamils' relationship with Tamil Nadu as of an umbilical cord. Quite opposite, Eezham and Tamil Nadu shared a common womb and thus siblings, he declared.
Mayilsamy, named Thileepan, who fasted unto death in Jaffna in 1987 as one of three personalities who had greatest impact on Tamils, the other two being Mother Theresa and M. G. Ramachandran (MGR). Actor and Director Manivannan in his address said Mahatma Gandhi conceived non-violence agitation as a form of struggle against apartheid in his early ages in South Africa. "Gandhism, which originated in South Africa, and brought independence to India, attained its symbolism in Jaffna," where Thileepan sacrificed his life in his fast-unto-death campaign demanding justice from India in 1987.
Several actors expressed solidarity with the Tamils who have been uprooted due to the Sri Lankan offensive and forced into jungles amid shelling, bombardment and life-threatening snakebites.
Donations poured in throughout the day. Rajinikanth contributed 10 lakhs to the relief fund, and Kamal Haasan shelled out another 5 lakhs. Within an eight-hour span of the fast, over 45 lakh rupees was collected for the Eezham Tamils Relief Fund by the South Indian Film Artists Association headed by Sarath kumar and Ratharavi.
Other famous actors who enthusiastically participated in the fast were: Sathyaraj, Vijayakumar, Vikram, Prakashraj, Surya, Prabhu, Dhanush, Karthi, Karthik, Arjun, Vadivel, Jeyam Ravi, Silambarasan, Napolean, Goundamani, S.V Sekhar, Jeevan, Prasanth; and actresses Manorama, Kushboo, Radhika Sarathkumar, Sripriya, Nayanthara, Trisha, Sneha, Keerthi Chawla and others.