Wilson Gnanadas, in The Nation,15 May 2011 with title ““LTTE’s lopsided vision, the predicament of Tamils”
One of the most exhilarating accomplishments the world has achieved within the last two years has been the elimination of two powerful, ruthless and influential terrorist leaders – Velupillai Pirabhakaran and Osama Bin Laden. While many things are being written about Laden, it is worth, for awhile, harking back at how the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been operating in the country and how the group had managed to become so popular, virtually running a de facto government in the northern part of the island nation.
The birth of Tamil militancy no doubt was due to suppression and denial of fundamental rights of the Tamil minority by successive governments but certainly the predicament the Tamils of north-east are in at present is mostly owing to the intransigent attitude of the LTTE.
In brief, reminiscence of the Tamil militancy’s origin, what comes to mind is the Sinhala Only Act of 1956, the standardization policy in 1970, the burning of Jaffna library and repeated ethnic pogroms. While these laid the foundation originally for the birth of Tamil militant groups like the LTTE, TELO, EPRLF, EROS and PLOTE infighting among these militant groups, competition to gain popularity and sheer greed for pomp and power immensely contributed to the breakaway of Tamil groups that ultimately led to one party, the LTTE, becoming the most superior, in terms of fire power, man power and international recognition.If the original objective of these groups was to emancipate the Tamil populace from the bondage and liberate them from all types of oppression and suppression, as they claimed, in the midway, these groups lost their axis and their focus. Instead, they started unleashing violence against each other, going even to the extent of annihilating their own men and women.
Assassinating key government figures and then claiming responsibility was considered a brave and a heroic act.
LTTE soon started to head the list that killed a number of leading personalities from their own community including one time opposition leader A. Amirthalingam. Besides, the group went on to commit the most heinous and a daring crime by murdering the seventh Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21 1991. Along with the Premier 14 others too were killed. This then gave LTTE an international recognition as one of the ‘world’s most ruthless terrorist outfits’.
Notwithstanding the LTTE killing all top level leaders, there also had been a few incidents of similar acts of violence perpetrated by other groups. A classic case in point was the killing of two TULF MPs by the TELO, for no reason. The TELO abducted and killed two Jaffna district TULF parliamentarians namely M. Alalasundaram and V. Dharmalingam in 1985. This incident occurred after the Thimpu talks. Until today the reasons behind the killing of these MPs are not known.
What happened was after the 1983 ethnic riots, the then government introduced the Sixth Amendment on 08.08.1983 that titled ‘prohibition against violation of territorial integrity’.
The amendment clearly stated that no person shall directly or indirectly in or outside Sri Lanka support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state within the territory of Sri Lanka and if found guilty, would cease to be a member of parliament.
This piece of legislation prompted 13 TULF MPs of the 17, to quit parliament and flee the country with four bold MPs deciding to remain in the country.
They were M. Alalasundaram, V. Dharmalingam, K. Thurairatnam and S. Rasalingam. Alalasundaram and Dharmalingam were gunned down while the latter two escaped.
Thus, these groups went on killing its own people with no reason or rhyme with the sole aim to be popular.
One group that outmanoeuvred every other group was the LTTE that remained powerful and strong until the defeat of the group in 2009.
If the Tamil militant groups were committed to a cause – a cause to liberate, a cause to give Tamils a better deal, a cause to work under a united Sri Lanka firstly there would not have been infighting among different groups, secondly they would not have annihilated their own people and thirdly they would have struck a deal with whatever government that was in power.
While all the militant groups opted to join the mainstream of democracy after the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord, it is LTTE that continued persistently for a solution based on armed struggle.
And history reveals that this group, the LTTE was never willing to strike any sort of a deal with whatever governments in power and besides, killed its own people for its own survival.
This was evident during the presence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987 when many times innocent Tamil civilians were used as ‘human shields’ by the LTTE to escape IPKF assault.
This was repeated in the 2009 battle against the Sri Lankan forces when thousands of civilians were used as ‘human shields’ during the last stages of the war. While the most commonly accepted perception of all the Tamil parties lately was not to demand for a separate state but to live under a united Sri Lanka, the LTTE went on harping on separatism or nothing less than that. But the LTTE failed in its attempt to fight for a separate state and thereby cheated its own community.
Pirabhakaran ran his administration with an iron fist, killing real and imagined enemies. He called himself “a pure son of the north” but his bizarre and murderous tenure as leader of LTTE typified the worst of the country’s military struggle for power. Today, tens and thousands of innocent Tamil civilians, who pinned their hopes in the LTTE are continuing to undergo hardships and now realise that whatever the cause the LTTE fought for, for the past three decades or so, has no value today. The Tamils today are getting prepared mentally for a better and a meaningful life in the future. LTTE’s armed struggle has only led to bloodshed and further division among communities. Today Tamils ask themselves whether the LTTE fought on their behalf or for its own glory and mileage without any consideration for the masses the LTTE claimed to represent solely.