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Published on Thursday, 13 November 2014 14:02
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RefugeeCamp 410px 14 11 13Kottapattu refugee camp houses nearly 100 families of plantation workers who arrived here after losing everything in the civil war in 1980s.

For M. Karuppaiah, 65, a former plantation worker from Sri Lanka, Tiruchi is virtually his home now. Leaving Tamil Nadu is the last thing in his mind. His view is shared by the 82-year-old Manickam who also worked on a tea estate in Sri Lanka.

They are inmates of the Kottapattu refugee camp here. Besides a good number of Eelam Tamils, the camp houses nearly 100 families of plantation workers who arrived here after losing everything in the civil war that broke out in Sri Lanka in the 1980s.

Karuppaiah said he had worked on coffee, cocoa and pepper estates at Mathalai for 13 years before fleeing to Dhanuskodi by boat from Kilinochi in the 1990s. While Sri Lankan Tamils are ready to return home if both India and Sri Lanka work out a clear-cut plan for their departure, and livelihood back home, these plantation workers of Indian origin are not keen on it. Most of them are doing odd jobs.

South Asia expert V. Suryanarayan said these refugees of Indian origin had gradually integrated with Tamil Nadu, losing their Sri Lankan Tamil moorings. “Unlike the Tamil refugees, they own no land or property in Sri Lanka. They have either lost or sold all their possessions,” he said.

For Karuppaiah, leading a retired life after making a living as a labourer and watchman for two decades, the priority is to get his daughter settled.

The girl is studying Plus-Two in a school at Ponmalaipatti. His 21-year-old nephew, a painter, takes care of Karuppaiah and his wife Subbammal.

“My daughter was born in Tiruchi and has got used to this culture just like me. The situation in Sri Lanka has changed in the past 30 years,” he said.

Furthermore, old age and family commitments have forced Mr. Karuppaiah to remain in India.

Manickam, a native of Pathulai district, said he was not going to achieve anything at this age by returning to Sri Lanka. “This land has provided us livelihood, education and support over the years,” said Manickam, who has married off his two sons and daughters in Tamil Nadu. Prof. Suryanarayan said the refugees of Indian origin needed a humane and compassionate approach from the Indian government, which could not deny them citizenship. “The government did not adopt the same approach in the case of Afghan refugees,” he said.

(The Hindu)

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 14:02