The Mirage of Eelam

The past week has seen deafening noise of protests ravaging the cities and towns of Tamil Nadu. A vernacular media swaggered that it is one of the greatest awakenings of the Tamil peoples and equated it to the Arab Spring. Students of every college staged fast unto death, whilst fringe political and social groups carried out various other protests such as road blocking, strikes, and, in one occasion, even self-immolation.

All these protests alleging Sri Lanka’s of war crimes in northern Sri Lanka during the Final War of 2009. Curiously, there were fewer protests during the actual war and it has all been quiet for the past three years. Suddenly the pictures of Balachandran, the son of Veluppillai Prabhakaran, LTTE supremo, came up in the media, first in The Hindu, and all hell broke loose.

Who are these people? Why is there a sudden mobilisation of such a huge protest movement? Why is DMK, which limited itself to staging some half-hearted dramas during the actual war, has become so aggressive now? Is ADMK has vested interest in kindling these protests? Is there a one-up-man-ship going on between Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi?

Let’s go back a few years, well, even a couple of decades.

What happened was neither a genocide nor mass murder. It was a war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army. That is something even these protesters would agree, because they kept using the word ‘war’ and ‘war crimes’. Yes, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of civilians were killed in the war. But who is responsible for their death?

William Dalrymple, in his book ‘The Age of Kali’, describes the LTTE as ‘the most lethal terrorist organisation in the world’. LTTE’s Prabhakaran aggressively militarised the northern Sri Lanka. His outfit decimated all other competing Eelam organisations so much so that today’s youth cannot name a single organisation other than LTTE. This organisation knew no mercy, knew of no compassion. They ruthlessly killed leaders, both Tamil and Sinhalese and killed any and every Tamil who dare question their authority and tortured hundreds more. They forced children to enlist as warriors and abducted those who refused. LTTE’s hatred of Muslims is also legendary. Killed hundreds of them were in the hands of LTTE and about 750000 were expelled from Northern Provinces. A deeper study in the future might answer the question of who killed more number of Tamils: Sri Lankan army or the LTTE.

When the IPKF was battling with the tigers, Prabhakaran famously joined hands with Premadasa and announced that the conflict of Sri Lanka is between two brothers, Sinhalese and Tamils, and India had no business meddling with it. It’s a different matter that he ended up assassinating even Premadasa after the IPKF had left.

Prabhakaran despised democracy and favoured autocracy. One of the sore points of Indo-Sri Lanka accord was that of conducting elections to provincial councils. Prabhakaran didn’t like equal representation given to other outfits in the accord.

For all that façade of being a terrifying organisation, Prabhakaran is actually a despicable coward. During the IPKF battle, the LTTE used civilians as shields to fight, and when they were killed, lamented that the Indian army was killing innocent civilians. When this happened, many believed it to be true. However, this time, the very documentary from Channel 4 authoritatively proved that the LTTE used civilians as shields and fought from behind the civilian clusters. When the civilians wanted to flee, the tigers shot them. And this is the documentary the protesters in Tamil Nadu use as the evidence against Sri Lankan army.

There’s a huge diaspora of Sri Lankan Tamils living in Europe, UK and Australia. Through its covert network LTTE extorted huge funds for its operations. These people had no option but to pay as their relatives were still living in northern Sri Lanka, who were under the mercy of the LTTE. In 2003, a rough data estimated that tigers’ revenue to be in the range of $30 million a year.

When they were short on arms, the LTTE unilaterally announced ceasefire and called for peace talks. Colombo had no option but to comply with the ceasefire and initiate talks. The tigers used this lull period to replenish their arms and once done, they, again, unilaterally withdrew ceasefire and initiated fresh attacks.

They killed other Tamil leaders Siri Sabaratinam, Amirthalingam, Padmanabha and elected leaders Premadasa and Rajiv Gandhi.
In terms of the principles of Gorilla War, no outfit in the world can come close to LTTE in terms of its ruthlessness and utter disregard for human lives.

Here is a group that would kill anyone, civilians – children and women included – army-man, political leaders, presidents and prime ministers, and its own people, prevent any and every attempt at resolving the problem, not accept anything short of Eeleam with themselves installed as the single-most authority on the land, talk like heroes and fight like cowards, with least regard for human lives.

What would you do with such an outfit?

Sri Lankan army had absolutely no option but to decide enough is enough.

When it decided to go for an all-out war, it was supposed to be indeed that: a no-holds barred all-out war. That’s what they fought. The nature of the outfit that they fought was such that the only path to winning the war was of they themselves getting ruthless. When you want to kill bin Laden, you can’t send cops in the daylight. You will have to stealthily attack in the middle of the night and shoot him. It may be construed as unlawful, but did he leave an option? And remember, in terms of terror quotient, Prabhakaran is ten times worse than bin Laden.

Even at this stage, the casualties could have been drastically reduced had LTTE come out of their civilian buffer and fought like real warriors. Alas, they proved that, cowards in their birth, they were cowards in their death too. During the war they continue to let their own people die, whilst drumming up protests in Tamil Nadu, hoping India will intervene and restrain Sri Lanka. Till the end, they nurtured the hope that somehow the war would be stopped.

Just imagine if that had happened! In two years LTTE would have recouped, rearmed and launched fresh attacks. All the Tamils who stood against LTTE in the war would have gotten killed, more terrorist attacks would have been launched, and the resolution to the ethnic conflict would have gotten much farther.

So, to sum up, what had happened was the best thing. Decades and decades later, there is now hope for resolving the ethnic conflict. The only solution to this conflict is that of Indo-Sri Lanka accord initiated by Rajiv Gandhi. This is not the time for chest thumping. This is the time for resolution and rehabilitation.

Instead, the people of Tamil Nadu are being led astray in empty bravery. In the guise of sympathising with Sri Lankan Tamils, they are being made to protest the good war that had decimated the most lethal terrorist organisation in the world. We are letting the good war go down the drain.

Since the war has ended, no political organisation in India seems to have focused on the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils. The central government too seemed in no hurry to bring in a political solution to the ethnic problem. Sociologists like Ramachandra Guha have pragmatic solutions to the conflict, whose service the government could have been useful. The people of Tamil Nadu too seemed only interested in drumming up melodrama, because, you see, that is easy and interesting. Pragmatic political resolution is tedious and boring. Who would want to waste time on that when you can stage an action-oriented matinee show?