Manoj Venkataraman (Asian College of Journalism)
Chennai, 13 April: Workers at the Modern Bread factory in Taramani went on a daylong hunger strike on Saturday, from 8AM to 5PM, to express solidarity with Sri Lankan Tamils in their cause, demanding the formation of a separate Tamil Eelam state.
The hunger strike was organized by the Modern Bread Employees Union and conceptualised after the release of the BBC Channel 4 documentary “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” followed by student union protests at Loyola College on March 11.
The union released a list of demands including a call for Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be prosecuted by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for human rights violations committed by the Army in the course of operations against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). Other demands included an ultimatum to the Indian government to cease economic support to Sri Lanka and vote against them in the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council).
Stephen, Operator in the Maintenance department, contended that the Indian government should exert pressure on Sri Lanka to resolve the issue at the earliest. He further stated that the union would reserve its vote – in the upcoming 2014 elections – for political parties that take a firm stance against Sri Lanka.
His view was echoed by Muthuramalingam, Operator in the Production department, who claimed that Sri Lankan Tamils were entitled to their Eelam, as they cannot coexist with Sinhalas after decades of civil war.
The hunger strike attracted support from students as well. Manoj Kumar, student at the Adyar Law College, said that he was drawn to the cause through word-of-mouth publicity and fasted with the workers to show his support.
Srinivasan, General Secretary of the union, spoke about future plans to drum up support for the Sri Lankan Tamil Eelam cause, “We will wait for a month for the government to address our concerns; if the response is not satisfactory, then we will resort to further agitations.”
Manoj Venkataraman is student of journalism at the Asian College of Journalism