Tamil Nadu government failed to understand the problem in Sri Lanka: Murali
India, specifically the governments in Tamil Nadu, had failed to understand the ethnic conflict during the Sri Lankan civil war, legendary off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan said Sunday.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a masterclass session on the sports biopic ‘A Legendary 800 – Against All Odds’, based on his life, at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa.
“The problem in Sri Lanka… India never understood. It’s an honest answer. I am not scared to say that… India means I am not saying the Central government, the Tamil Nadu government didn’t understand what is the real problem there. Because it is so much different in Sri Lanka. See in Tamil [community] in Sri Lanka, there are several sub-groups,” Muralitharan said.
“… it’s all connected, but politically divided. My grandfather is from India [Tamil Nadu]. In 1920s, he went to tea plantations. The British took us forcefully there. So that’s why our generation in Sri Lanka…we all grew in central Hill Country. We are called Indian-origin Tamils. They are called Sri Lankan Tamils… When they speak, the way they speak, the slang is different, but it is the same language,” he said.
“So some wanted to separate one portion [and make a] separate country. In the middle [region]. We didn’t want a separate country. We wanted to live amicably with everyone,” Muralitharan added.
Muralitharan said a few politicians in India did not understand the issue in his country and accused him of being a “traitor to the race”.
“Because I didn’t say anything about the war and what happened and I was [seen as] pro-government… 5-10 per cent of politicians think I am a traitor to the race,” he said.
Talking about the protests that took place after Tamil film actor Vijay Sethupathi initially agreed to portray his role in the film, M S Sripathy, who directed the film, said they did not foresee that casting Sethupathi would become an issue.
“We thought we were doing an inspiring movie about a sportsman. But cinema is not seen as cinema. People think they are a kind of propaganda…and a lot of politics gets entangled with films… Nothing wrong in speaking [about] politics and films, but not being able to do something that you can is just like suffocating you,” said Sripathy.
“So, we had to make a decision. He [Vijay] never wanted to quit, but then he was the one who suggested that why do we have to create so much fuss about it? So then we looked for another actor,” he explained.
Recalling an incident when he was reported by the umpire for “chucking” during a match against Australia, Muralitharan said, “In 1995, when I was in trouble – I am from the minority community, playing for Sri Lanka and the Tamil war was very much at its peak – all of Sri Lanka supported me, as did India, rather than see the religion or anything.”
Muralitharan also recalled the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team when their bus was attacked by terrorists in Lahore during the Pakistan tour. “It was horrifying. We were like sitting ducks. The security personnel on our bus didn’t have any weapons…,” he said.
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