The Tamil Nadu police has launched a state-wide door-to-door verification of nearly one hundred thousand Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in the southern Indian state.
Reports reaching here from state capital Chennai have quoted unidentified `highly placed sources` as saying that the massive, census-like, exercise is being carried out by the Q branch with the help of the police all over the state.
The state`s top police officials decided to carry out the verification process immediately after the seizure of explosives and other war materials meant for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from Kodiakarai coast in Nagapattinam district on February 13.
(A day later, a boat carrying chemicals meant for mines and grenades was seized off Dhanushkodi coast, and three Sri Lankans were arrested. On February 20, 70 bags of aluminium ingots were also seized at Pethaniapuram in Madurai).
The police is mainly checking out the documents the Sri Lankan Tamils living in the state possess by way of identification. A Chennai police officer explained: `The Sri Lankan Tamils` addresses will be verified and antecedents checked. Those who seem suspicious will be placed under observation. We will have to keep an eye on the people they meet here.`
The Sri Lankan Tamils, who have been arriving in Tamil Nadu from across the Palk Straits ever since the anti-Tamil riots broke out in the island in July 1983, are spread across the state. Most of them are lodged in 133 large and small refugee camps. However several thousand live either with relatives or on their own. The refugees are provided with some rations, and are allowed to work to earn their living.
Since they are spread over many cities and towns across the state, verifying their documents will take time. All the camps are open, except the one in Chengalpet. Verifying documents of those living in refugee camps may be relatively easy.
But checking out those staying with relatives or independently will be a time-consuming exercise, a police official pointed out.
The Chengalpet camp, which is a closed one, houses refugees with suspicious backgrounds. `As soon as they land on the Tamil Nadu coast in clandestine catamarans, the Q branch checks their background. Those who are suspected to have links with the LTTE are packed off to the Chingalpet camp,` the police officer said.
Senior police officers suspect that many of the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees now living in Tamil Nadu could be involved in providing logistic support to the LTTE supply line of war materials and medicines through the one-thousand-km-long coastline with as many 400 landing points.
At a recent press conference, Tamil Nadu Girector General of Police D Mukherjee had said: `Many Tamil refugees are using the war-like situation in Sri Lanka for doing business. This is a business opportunity for them.`
Since January 2006 alone, nearly 20,000 Sri Lankan Tamils have crossed the Palk Straits in rickety boats to seek shelter in Tamil Nadu in the wake of the failure of the peace process in their island-nation and the escalation of conflict between the security forces and the LTTE.