How far can military means be used in an area that has a large number of civilians mixed with combatants? The death of 378 persons in northern Sri Lanka, allegedly due to army shelling in the area, raises this question again.
It has been more than a month now since news of the “imminent defeat” of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began swirling in South Asia. Yet with every passing day, there is news of more civilian casualties. This is, of course, almost always accompanied by mollifying statements from the Sri Lankan foreign office.
The death toll, reported by the BBC, is attributed to V. Shanmugarajah, a doctor who is working at a makeshift hospital in a school in Mullaivaikal in Mullaitivu district. The 378 bodies in question were taken to this hospital. There may be many more. The government, of course, denies that.
Colombo should seriously rethink about calibrating its military strategy keeping in mind the safety of civilians. But it seems unlikely that it will do that.