POST ACCORD: THE INDIAN SUMMER
9.1 The arrival of the I.P.K.F.The response to the Accord from the Tamils of Ceylon was one of relief and jubilation. In Batticaloa and Trincomalee where government oppression had been the most far-reaching, this jubilation found public expression. In Batticaloa where the S.T.F. once had a license to kill, the STF watched sullenly while the people celebrated. Sensing an explosive situation, some community leaders telephoned the Indian Embassy and asked them to send in the I.P.K.F. early.
Some days before the signing of the Accord, the L.T.T.E. had talks with Mr. Puri of the Indian Embassy in Jaffna. The L.T.T.E. then issued a statement that India had agreed to recognise the L.T.T.E. as the sole legitimate representatives of the Tamil people. On 24 July Prabhakaran left Jaffna for Delhi by Indian air force helicopter. In New Delhi he was to meet with Rajiv Gandhi and have talks with Indian officials. Apparently these did not go happily. It was clear that agreement on the Accord had been reached between Delhi and Colombo. Some details were leaked to the Sunday papers in Colombo which published them on 26 July. It was also said that the Accord was going to be signed in the next few days and that New Delhi was confident of securing the L.T.T.E.'s compliance. The government made important concessions to India, especially concerning the non-use of Trincomalee harbour by parties hostile to India. The government had failed in its goals, even false ones, which it set before the Sinhalese people. Its main gains from the Accord were that a sharp drop in the defence budget would provide funds for development projects and for salary increases to public servants, and hopefully put an end to the bloodletting and instability resulting from the war. It had to sell this to the Sinhalese with judicious packaging. The riots which broke out in Colombo with the signing of the Accord indicated that the task would not be easy. The ceremonial aspect was marked by a Sinhalese sailor in the guard of honour swinging the butt of his gun at the Indian Prime Minister, who narrowly escaped serious injury. The government's salesmanship was not without effect. A Colombo based journalist related the story of how a taxi driver let loose at the President with expletives when the Accord was signed. One week later his tone was different. He had said: "Our President is a wise man. He has shrewdly left it to the Indians to handle the Kottiyas (Tigers)." On the other hand, the Sinhalese extremist group, the J.V.P., has been becoming increasingly deadly since the Accord. At the time the Accord was signed, the MP for Tangalle was killed. The J.V.P. has since then followed it up with attacks on leading government personalities, including an attack on the U.N.P. parliamentary group inside the parliamentary complex on 8 August and the murder of the U.N.P. chairman Harsha Abhayawardene on 23 December, 1987. The J.V.P. thrived on soil watered by the government's racist propaganda. Its elimination has now called forth the deployment in Sinhalese territory of the same mental and military apparatus once used against Tamils.
The L.T.T.E. was now downcast. Little had been heard from New Delhi, from their leader Prabhakaran. From 30 July, Indian forces had been flown into Palaly, while Sri Lankan forces were flown South for riot control duties. The L.T.T.E.'s first task was to secure the return of Prabhakaran. To this end crowds were made to sit down and block the roads leading out of Palaly. The crowds appeared to be more curious than angry. For two days the Indian army came out, stood before the crowds, made polite conversation and got back to base. The Accord envisaged a surrender of arms within 72 hours. The L.T.T.E. maintained that it could not take a decision without its leader. The Indians then made an announcement that Prabhakaran would be flown back on 2 August and deposited at Suthumalai from where he had earlier been flown to India. From Palaly to Suthumalai, Prabhakaran was escorted by Indian troops. The L.T.T.E. imposed a curfew for the first time in places straddling the envisaged route. People watching from their houses were strongly discouraged, with little effect, from waving at Indian troops. The L.T.T.E. announced a public meeting at which Mr. Prabhakaran would announce the movement's decision on the surrender of arms. The meeting was held at Suthumalai on 4 August. Tens of thousands attended, including Indian military officials, embassy attaches and local and foreign journalists. Mr. Prabhakaran's speech was commended as having been masterly delivered. He played the role of a chieftain, who had struggled for his people and had been ill-used by India who purported to be a friend. He was now bowing to fate and yet kept his independence and self respect. It was a moving performance, and yet there were discordant notes. The main anxiety for the people was now that the L.T.T.E. should surrender its arms and secure the peace -- peace which had so often turned out to be an elusive phantom. The speech was heading for a tragic climax when Prabhakaran said that their armaments had been used in defence of the people of Tamil Eelam and in defence of their rights. Now, he said, they were parting with these same arms and had decided under pressure to surrender them. A crowd which was in tune with him would have wept aloud. But instead, they applauded. The television broadcast showed a momentary spasm of annoyance passing over Prabhakaran's face. This was a continuation of the communication gap between the L.T.T.E. and the people, which was alluded to in describing the events of 1 May.
At the same meeting, the L.T.T.E.'s Trincomalee leader, Mr. Pulendran expressed his unhappiness about surrendering their arms in the context of the unresolved problems of Trincomalee. In surrendering the L.T.T.E.'s arms Prabhakaran had commended the Tamils to India's care and had also declined to accept the Chief Ministership in the interim administration.
With the L.T.T.E.'s decision to surrender arms, it was thought that the peace was here to stay. There was relief all round. It may be mentioned that this period saw the rise of Yogi, the brother of the late Mr. Kugan, the previous second-in-command, to the position of Chief of Propaganda. Subsequently a quantity of arms was ceremonially surrendered by Yogi to the Sri Lankan army at Palaly under I.P.K.F. supervision. Such ceremonies took place throughout the North and East. The arms surrenders by the L.T.T.E., E.R.O.S., E.P.R.L.F., E.N.D.L.F., P.L.O.T.E., and T.E.L.O. were telecast for the benefit of the Sinhalese. The latter three militant groups were exiled in India. The E.N.D.L.F. (Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front, popularly known as Three Star) was made up of a breakaway group of the P.L.O.T.E. under Rajan and a breakaway group of the T.E.L.O.. Under the Accord, it was envisaged that all militant groups would be brought to Ceylon, surrender their arms and take part in democratic politics.
The rest of the story is about how the failings of all parties to the conflict, the Sri Lankan and Indian governments, the militant groups and the Tamil people, wove themselves into an explosive fabric which ignited in October 1987.
Each party could pick facts selectively to fuel righteous indignation. Each party could maintain with some justice that it had acted rightly whilst others had ill-used and wounded it. Charity, patience and a sense of give and take were missing. The Accord envisaged a surrender of arms by militants within 72 hours. Even a week after that, arms were still trickling in. President Jayewardene for his part had undertaken to grant amnesty to all militants and to release all prisoners detained. Charges had been framed only against a fraction of those detained. General Sepala Attygalle read out the President's amnesty when Yogi made the first surrender of arms on 6 August. The process of releasing political prisoners also commenced at this time. The Sri Lankan government was convinced that only a small fraction of the arms had been surrendered. In this they had the concurrence of most observers.
At the joint press conference with the Indian Defence Minister K. C. Pant on 8 October, the President was asked why he went beyond his side of the bargain to grant the amnesty and release prisoners before the L.T.T.E. had hardly begun to move on its part. The President replied that the Indians had persuaded him to honour his part in advance, while the Indians undertook to unearth the arms. Justifying what he had done, the President summed up his argument with impeccable eloquence: "It was an Accord for peace and not for war." He pointed out that venturing out on the Accord would have been pointless if the war was to go on. With considerable justice, the President could maintain that he had taken commendable risks to make the Accord work.
On the other hand, the government was in an indecent hurry to resettle displaced Sinhalese persons in the East without a parallel initiative being taken over displaced Tamil persons. Sinhalese were being settled on schemes in the Trincomalee and Amparai districts. The one on the Trincomalee-Habarana Road was in the area where stretches of jungle had been cleared on both sides of the road after the massacre of Sinhalese passengers during the new-year. When questioned by the Trincomalee citizens' committee, minister Gamini Dissanayake replied that this settlement was meant to put a stop to various nefarious activities. The settlement on the Allai-Kantalai Road was more subtle. The Kantalai dam had been breached in April 1986 causing widespread destruction in the adjoining agricultural scheme which was about 30 years old. There had been 70 allotments each to the Tamils and Muslims and 260 to the Sinhalese. The Trincomalee G.A. told the citizens' committee in the presence of the visiting British Minister that after the disaster of April 1986, the Sinhalese settlers had agreed to be relocated elsewhere, while the Tamils and Muslims wished to go back to their old allotments. He explained that since each Sinhalese family which held an allotment had now become 3 by natural increase, the Sinhalese settlers were now being given about 600 allotments on the Allai-Kantalai Road. There was evidently some cheating involved here. For one thing it is not the common rule that every family can claim additional crown land for its natural increase. Nor is it likely that the Tamils and Muslims were told that they could claim extra land for their natural increase if agreeable to relocation. The fact that the government was prepared to use its machinery to cheat in the matter of colonisation before the interim council to administer the North and East came into existence, was bound to arouse Tamil suspicions concerning the Accord. If the government wanted to make the Accord work and to restore Tamil confidence, it should have held off acting in controversial areas until the Tamils could be carried along. The extent of colonisation in question was small and the government had little to gain by flexing its muscles.
Colonisation touched a tender spot in the Tamil psyche. A Tamil grievance could also be aired against the Accord with a modicum of substance by saying: "The provincial councils envisaged under the Accord are an eyewash. The government is doing the bad old thing in colonisation, with the Indians doing nothing to stop it. The provincial councils will be a ceremonial farce like the ill-fated District Councils of 1981."
It has been mentioned that L.T.T.E. leaders such as Mr. Pulendran, who had had a bitter personal experience of the Sinhalese army and in turn caused bitter experiences amongst Sinhalese, had strong feelings on colonisation. To this could be added other complaints, again not entirely lacking in justice. Supporters of the L.T.T.E. could say: "All right, the government and the Indians are complaining about the slow surrender of arms by the L.T.T.E.. But everyone knows that some of the other militant groups were trained and armed by the Indian government just before the Accord. Does that not amount to a plan to destroy the L.T.T.E.? They have hidden arms. Can the L.T.T.E. really afford to surrender all its arms? How will they defend themselves? Moreover the government is hedging on the release of prisoners"
Suggestions within government ranks surfaced in the press to the effect that the release of prisoners should be linked to the surrender of arms. Many Tamils found common cause with the L.T.T.E. on the issue of prisoners and on colonisation. It could after all be maintained on legal and moral grounds that the overwhelming bulk of prisoners had no specific charges against them. Thus the government had no business to hold them even for a minute. And then holding them to ransom for arms is an inexcusable absurdity for a government to impose on its Tamil citizens who were in law equal to Sinhalese citizens.
On the other hand, the other militant groups could say: "We too made a contribution towards Tamil liberation. Hundreds of our comrades gave their lives fighting the Sinhalese army. Not only did the L.T.T.E. murder our comrades in cold blood and torture and humiliate many others, they are also striving to wipe away our contribution from the annals of the Ceylon Tamils. Do not we at least deserve to live?"
The Indians could say: "Are not the Tamils moving much more freely and breathing much more easily because of us? Detained Tamils are being steadily released. People should not jump to hasty conclusions about us. We cannot simply go around asking Sinhalese to pack up and go. Our officers have gone about making a careful study of colonisation. Did we not suspend work on a colonisation scheme in the Batticaloa district? The return of all militant groups to the island is a necessary part of the Accord. Our position is that all Tamils have a right to live here and participate in democratic politics. We do not carry a brief for any person or party. The L.T.T.E. must appreciate that."
Everyone had a case as well as complaints. These will be strengthened by the failings of others. Most significant were the failings of India, because she was supposed to be by far the most superior in wisdom, strength and experience; on her mature dexterity hinged the success of the Accord.
Getting back to the early days of August, it looked for a time that the L.T.T.E. would go in for electoral politics with some quaint touches of its own. To this end the Eelamurasu, which was controlled by the L.T.T.E. started a very traditional attack on the T.U.L.F.. The T.U.L.F. was perceived as the main rival to the L.T.T.E. in the event of elections. The Eelamurasu started a column called Somersaults aimed at discomfiting the T.U.L.F.. For example, it published an old photograph of the veteran T.U.L.F. politician, Mr. V. Navaratnam driving President Jayewardene, then leader of the Opposition, in his automobile. It promoted elements of the L.T.T.E.'s religious creed - that there were precisely 631 martyrs for the cause of Tamil Eelam. 631 was the number of its dead claimed by the L.T.T.E.. Around this time Mr. Shankar, an E.R.O.S. leader, stated in an interview with the Colombo based Sunday Island that his group had lost 150 men and said in an aside that none of them had taken cyanide. The L.T.T.E. men carried cyanide capsules around their necks and many of those who died did so taking cyanide after being cornered. The Eelamurasu responded with a polemical piece against Shankar. All this had the flavour of election-time politics which people were comfortable with. The L.T.T.E.'s deputy leader, Mr. Sri Mahattaya, uncharacteristically started giving interviews to foreign and Colombo papers. He told the Weekend that Sinhalese were welcome to Jaffna and would not be harmed. Sinhalese flocked to see the lost land of Jaffna. This too augured well.
However, there were elements of instability evident at this time. One was the L.T.T.E.'s insistence that its 631 dead were the only ones who died in the cause of the liberation of Tamils. The dead from other militant groups and from amongst civilians were demoted to useless chaff. Such intolerance was bound to lead towards angry violence. The other was that many of the members of the P.L.O.T.E., E.N.D.L.F. and T.E.L.O. now lodged in Mannar, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi were strongly motivated by a desire to take revenge on the L.T.T.E.. Prominent amongst these were Sankili (Kandasamy), a leading member of the P.L.O.T.E., and Rajan.
Many felt uncomfortable that India had chosen such a volatile arrangement. India could argue that the peace accord had in it a package deal for all the militants. If participation in murder was to be a criterion, all militant groups, including the L.T.T.E., should be sent to the Andaman Islands. This would not be feasible and perhaps not what people wanted.
Another aspect of the L.T.T.E.'s political thrust came to light in early August. A little known affair which concerned the students of the University of Jaffna was the kidnapping by the L.T.T.E. of the student Rajakaran. The student had been active in matters of common interest and had taken part as a member of the action committee during the affair in November 1986 of the missing student Vijitharan. It later came to light that the actual reason for kidnapping the student was to do with the L.T.T.E.'s suspicion that Rajakaran had connections with the N.L.F.T., a small Marxist group. Its leader Mr. Viswanandadevan, an Engineer and pungent critic of the L.T.T.E.'s, had been missing for two years. It was suspected that he had been killed during a crossing from India. The L.T.T.E. had detained and harassed other members of the N.L.F.T., but had been unable to get at the group's cash and weaponry. It was hoped by the L.T.T.E. that Rajakaran may be able to help. At the time of Rajakaran's kidnapping, Viswanandadevan's 70 year old father in Nelliady had also been arrested and beaten. His compound had also been dug up. Rajakaran's detention was denied by the L.T.T.E.. For this reason, the worst was suspected. But the versatile Rajakaran escaped L.T.T.E. custody in early July. In a letter dated 17 July 1987, Rajakaran appealed to the Jaffna University Teachers' Association (J.U.T.A.) to speak to the L.T.T.E. and seek a guarantee that he would not be harmed. It was subsequently left to the students themselves to raise the matter with the L.T.T.E.. Here again the students had acted with commendable boldness where others had been held back by unwarranted fear. The discussion was cordial. Mr. Sri Mahattaya himself admitted that the students had been tackled the wrong way and assured them that no harm will befall Rajakaran. The students put it diplomatically that such an assurance should be made publicly. Mahattaya agreed. On a subsequent day he made an appearance at the Kailasapathy auditorium and gave such an assurance. He said during his statement that Rajakaran was investigated for links with a criminal organisation. It is interesting that other militant groups came to be branded as criminal (anarchic) only because the L.T.T.E. was the most successful in the employment of similar methods.
The surprising development was that Rajakaran was present and took the stage on request. The L.T.T.E. walked out. Rajakaran described his experiences under detention, including physical hurt. A revealing piece of information he gave was that Mr. Kailasapillai, a T.U.L.F. stalwart from Illuppaikkadavai in the Mannar district, had been a co-detainee with him at a camp in Tellipallai. A few days before the Eelamurasu had featured Mr. Kailasapillai with his photograph in its lead story. In an interview he had reportedly said that the T.U.L.F. was no longer needed and praised the armed youth. An attorney in the K.K.S. electorate who was close to the T.U.L.F. leader, A. Amirthalingam, made a similar recantation. It cannot be said that election politics in Ceylon was strange to such methods. Only, the degree was new. Fear had replaced bribery.
The I.P.K.F. had promised that all militant groups were entitled to its protection. In Mannar the L.T.T.E. had sought an I.P.K.F. escort. The E.N.D.L.F. under its leader, Rajan, made its appearance in Jaffna under I.P.K.F. escort. It addressed a meeting in the University. It made an attempt to set up an office on Beach Road. An L.T.T.E. instigated crowd sat on the road in front of the house, shouted slogans and threw stones. An E.N.D.L.F. man who went out to peep was caught and was being badly mauled. One of his comrades after appealing to I.P.K.F. men who were present, and not finding an immediate response, grabbed a gun from one of them and fired it into the air. The crowd dispersed. The not so independent press in Jaffna reported the matter as a case of the people not wanting the E.N.D.L.F.. The first reported internecine killings were those of 3 L.T.T.E. men in the Mannar district. In another incident an armed party of the L.T.T.E. that was sent to avenge these killings was reportedly surrounded and shot. During this latter half of August, there was little to worry in Jaffna itself, but killings and counter killings amongst militants started occurring in Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Trincomalee. The mood of optimism in Jaffna was however heightened by the resumption of the train service to Colombo on 31 August. Jaffna's Tamil language Uthayan daily carried a report that the Indians were to build the much longed for rail link from Jaffna to Batticaloa. Although Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa were linked by Tamil territory comprising the Eastern seaboard, travel between them was cumbersome and of late, hazardous. This too was something to smile about. The train with a repair crew appeared in Jaffna on the evening of 30 August after an absence of 18 months, and stopped near the Kachcheri to replace some missing sleepers. A happy crowd gathered as if to welcome visiting Royalty. The job was quickly done. The I.P.W. (Inspector of Permanent Ways) looked at his watch and said in the homely, but not quite Queen's English that one has long associated with that tribe: "It is getting bloody late. Let's move on." He then signalled to the gangs of navvies to get on board. A whole host of children clambered up as the train pulled off, to enjoy a free ride up to the station six hundred yards away.
Then things began to move in Jaffna. On 1 September, an L.T.T.E. sentry at Kulapitty junction in Kokkuvil was abducted by persons travelling in a van, assaulted and later released. On the night of 7 September, four Assembly of God (A.O.G.) churchmen who were travelling in a van were gunned down at Uduvil junction. Two of the dead were Sinhalese clergy from the South. The motive for the killing was unclear and was put down to misadventure. The incident happened around 10:00 p.m. The van was to go inside Church Lane to pick up another A.O.G. clergyman. L.T.T.E. sources claimed that they were the intended victims. So did the E.N.D.L.F.. All that is known is that prior to the shooting, masked gunmen with walkie-talkies detained two A..O.G. members in that area. They heard orders being issued to fire at a white van that was coming. The two A.O.G. members tried telling the gunmen without success that their own pastors were expected in a van.
The following day an L.T.T.E. loudspeaker car went around announcing in the Chunnakam area: "Not only are these criminal groups now killing our members. They have now taken to murdering Christian clergy." On 3 September,the Assistant Government Agent of Mutur Mr. Habib Mohammed was shot dead in the early hours of the morning as he was returning from the mosque. Mutur lies South across Kottiar Bay from Trincomalee harbour. The same day angry Muslim demonstrators smashed up the L.T.T.E. office in Mutur town. The L.T.T.E. denied responsibility for the killing. The effect of the killing was to reawaken suspicions between the Muslims and Tamils of the East.
Organising hartals (or work stoppages) to stir up political feeling was commonplace in the North and East. First the T.U.L.F. did it. Then each militant group had its independent hartals. The L.T.T.E. claimed to be against hartals but nevertheless had them. The difference was that "the people" organised them, and the L.T.T.E. generally left people who went to work alone until lately. Earlier they were organised to protest against the government. More recently their purpose was to mark the deaths in battle of leading militants. From the time of the T.U.L.F., the success of hartals required implicit force. For this reason it was also an act of self deception by which the organisers would claim high popularity ratings. If all shops and offices were closed, and transport stopped even to deter the sick from being taken for treatment, the organisers would claim a hundred percent success. The way they said it would betray the feeling that they, the sponsors, were also hundred percent popular.
On 9 September, the Muslims of Kalmunai organised a hartal to protest the murder of Mr. Habib Mohammed. This went off peacefully. The L.T.T.E. announced its own hartal for the identical cause to be observed on the following day.
In the morning hoodlums looted and burnt Muslim shops in Kalmunai as armed men stood by. Muslim residents associated the gunmen with the L.T.T.E.. Telephone messages were sent by the Muslim leaders in Kalmunai to the I.P.K.F. at Akkaraipattu, asking them to to come to their aid. According to a Muslim academic from Kalmunai, the I.P.K.F. came late around 2 o'clock in the afternoon after pressure was applied by Muslims at Akkaraipattu. They came with one Velmurugan master who was again said by Muslim to be close to the L.T.T.E.. The I.P.K.F. then proceeded to remove roadblocks put there by Muslims to block traffic as a sign of protest. One Tamil school-teacher who was there observed that the I.P.K.F. had acted ill-advisedly in removing those road blocks. For if a militant group had organised a stoppage, a hint from them would stop traffic on the roads. Everyone was afraid of guns. The I.P.K.F. had never interfered with these. But the Muslims are not known for possessing gun-power. Road blocks are for them the only means of enforcing a hartal and saving face. Above the I.P.K.F.'s perceived tardiness in responding to the call by Muslims for protection, the removal of road blocks was also seen as discriminatory. As an overwhelmingly Hindu body, to play the role of peacekeepers, the I.P.K.F. should have been prepared to show greater sensibility to Muslims. Qadri Ismail, writing in the Colombo based Sunday Times, gave another angle to the events in Kalmunai. He pointed out that the role of Tamil gunmen need not be blamed on the high level policy of any particular militant group. The Kalmunai Mosque stood on premises on which once stood a colony of low caste Tamils who had been driven out by Muslims 20 years ago. There was an element of settling old scores by descendants of the disinherited. The end result was to heighten tension and distrust towards the Accord within the Muslim community.
On the night of 13 September, the L.T.T.E. launched a surprise strike against members of other militant groups in the Batticaloa district. Most of the victims were unarmed and had thought themselves to be safe. According to press reports, about 70 of them were killed. Several others sought shelter even with the once dreaded S.T.F.. The attack was denied publicly by the L.T.T.E.. The L.T.T.E. had launched on a new reckless course, pregnant with catastrophic consequences for everyone in the North and East. The L.T.T.E. had committed an outrage which was an open secret buzzing about the airwaves of the international news media. Those who defend the L.T.T.E. would blame India, maintaining that India had plans to use the other groups to destroy the L.T.T.E. while for the L.T.T.E. it was a case of do now or die later. This would hardly justify a massacre of unarmed militants who would not have known what hit them. Our experience with members of other militant groups suggests that they were certainly angry with the L.T.T.E.. They wished to re-assert their dignity and wanted the community to give them a place of respect. But to suggest that they were incognate tools of India's would be an unfair overstatement. A large number of them would have chosen reconciliation with the L.T.T.E. on honourable terms if that course had been open. It would be more true to say that the other groups were driven into India's hands by the position taken by the L.T.T.E. and because of increasing rejection by the community. The two processes were interdependent.
Politically, the L.T.T.E. had been dissatisfied with the way things were developing. It had been offered 3 seats in an interim administrative council of 8. Two places went to the T.U.L.F., 1 to another militant group and 2 were to be government employees. The interim body was to administer the North and East until provincial council elections could be held. That was expected to take anything from 6 months to a year. Whether the interim council was going to administer or advise, and whether elections would be held on a first past the post or on a proportional representation basis were questions on which no clear answer had emerged. The L.T.T.E. had apparently pitched its ambitions much higher than what the Indian and Sri Lankan governments would allow or what the majority of Tamils considered prudent. The L.T.T.E. was angling for sole control of the North and East, as evidenced in its past conduct. They had displayed a capacity for astounding turns that had made headlines and for the most incorrigible conduct which confounded whoever had dealings with them. And their strength was a readiness to gamble with their own lives, and incidentally with those of many others, in pursuit of their aims. The last was symbolised by cyanide capsules. They had been gods. Good and Evil, Truth and Falsehood, Friends and Enemies and even solemn pacts had little meaning for them. Like the gods of ancient Hellas, they dwelt in an existentialist world; in their own Mount Olympus, presided over by their own Zeus. What was on offer for them now was the tame respectability of provincial dignitaries. They were tempted as events would show, and yet uncomfortable and undecided. Just as they had agreed to surrender their arms, they seemed amenable to agreeing to something as a means of buying time.
Life had been relatively unexciting after the Accord. Several of the L.T.T.E. leaders such as Kumarappa and Pulendran had got married. They enjoyed the respectability of social life with senior Indian army officers who joined in the nuptial festivities. There were beach outings. Yet their self-image of virility was being sapped. They were being treated increasingly like a Tiger whose claws had been blunted. Dignitaries from the South, journalists, both local and foreign, were flocking in to see them, as they would go to a zoo to see a caged animal. Should they be tamed, they had nothing to fall back on. The people did not really love them. They simply admired and obeyed them. But who would honour and obey a senile animal that had lost its teeth and claws? This was worrying. What would an ancient god do in a world that had been his domain, and which was now so changed as to exclude him? Like the legendary Wotan in Niebelung's Ring, it was time for a suicidal leap; to create some of the most obscene scenes in an effort to do or die. They were once more going to revive their capacity to shock. They were prepared to throw away all they had worked for - friendships cultivated assiduously over months as well as numerous of lives. But, did the parties concerned have other choices?
The fact that the Indians were talking almost exclusively to the L.T.T.E. was an indication that they had accepted the L.T.T.E. as a power that counted, and that to attempt to exclude them would be taking too much trouble on themselves. This indication was strengthened by later events. Behind all the Indian rhetoric during the October war, feelers to the L.T.T.E. were being constantly made. Doubts continued to remain in the public mind as to whether India was really serious about crushing the L.T.T.E..
Even if the L.T.T.E. had really believed that its destruction was being sought, it could have moved to strengthen its ties with the people. It could have admitted and apologised for past errors. Terms for reconciliation with dignity could have been offered to other militant groups. It could have moved to tolerate dissent and democratise its organisation. Such moves would have made it difficult for any outside force to weaken it. The L.T.T.E. enjoyed enough prestige to carry these through. Students at the University of Jaffna and several intellectuals had been entreating the L.T.T.E. for such gestures for over a year, only to be given the short shrift. Except for the diehards, most militants from other groups would have been extremely happy with such an offer. Under these conditions, few Tamils would have actively worked against the L.T.T.E., other than those whose drive for vengeance was very strong. But the L.T.T.E. chose rather a sensational use of violence in a bid to demonstrate their immense potential to sour things.
The other militant groups felt that they deserved a place of honour and that the L.T.T.E. was systematically conspiring to disinherit them. In this most Tamils would have sympathised with them. Their presence in certain areas was guaranteed by the Indian army. They could have used this to their advantage. They could have made and stuck to a public pledge that even if the L.T.T.E. did not wish to work with them, they were against taking revenge on either the L.T.T.E. or its supporters. They could have got actively involved in projects to help the local people. Instead of harassing travellers, they could have printed and distributed leaflets through them, appealing to the Tamil people to recognise their contribution and criticising the L.T.T.E.'s stand. But many of them chose differently. In their frustration they developed an antipathy towards the common Tamil people, especially those from Jaffna, who were accused of being pro-L.T.T.E.. Bus passengers were regularly harassed and frequently robbed. Extortion and robbery once again reappeared in parts they inhabited. Vehicles were hijacked. As internecine killings increased, they were driven to depend more and more on the Indian and Sri Lankan forces. All this led to the strengthening of the stereotype image that the L.T.T.E. was trying to pin on them.
The arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force was widely welcomed by the Tamils of Ceylon. They had come to preside over peace and not over war. They started by doing the right things. Their conduct was disciplined even in a state of provocation. They defused landmines left behind by the former antagonists. When Major Dilip Singh, Lieutenant Vickram and Mohinder Rao from the Eighth Battalion (Engineers) died in a mine clearing accident, there was universal grief in Jaffna. These men had given their lives for the people of Jaffna. The mother of the last on being given the heart breaking news of her son's death had reportedly remarked: "I am happy that he died this way." How did it happen that by mid-September, the image of the I.P.K.F. was looking tattered; and by the second week of October it had blundered itself into killing Tamil civilians by the hundreds? Aspects of this question have been dealt with in different parts of the volume.
By the middle of September, developments stretching back over a month brought about a situation that was anything but peaceful. Yet the Indian Peace Keeping Force had remained seemingly inert. At first it looked as if the I.P.K.F. was offering protection to all militant groups when they were escorted on request. Then internecine killings started, people started to disappear and four clergymen were killed in Jaffna. The position of the I.P.K.F. seemed to be that its brief was to retrieve arms from militant groups and not to maintain law and order. The L.T.T.E. claimed that it had trusted the I.P.K.F. to protect Tamils from the Sri Lankan army. But instead, while the Sri Lankan army was still here, the I.P.K.F. was establishing camps in places where the Sri Lankan army was nowhere about. Sinister motives were hinted at. The Indian High Commissioner Mr. J. N. Dixit in an interview with D. B. S. Jeyaraj published in the Sunday Island of 30 August, 1987, stated that the I.P.K.F. was establishing the new camps to contain internecine fighting between militant groups. He also stated that 65% of the arms including 85% of the heavy weapons had been surrendered. Elsewhere he had said that 80% of the arms had been surrendered.
It was the surrender of arms that was of the greatest concern to the Sinhalese. The putsch by the L.T.T.E. on the night of 13 September in Batticaloa and the continuing killings elsewhere seemed to make these claims far less convincing. Not only did the L.T.T.E. seem to possess plenty of arms, they seemed also to be able to move about freely over a wide area notwithstanding the I.P.K.F., and use the arms against other militants. As the L.T.T.E. became increasingly vocal and demonstrative in Jaffna, especially after Thileepan's fast, passengers to and from Jaffna were increasingly harassed by other militant groups between Kilinochchi and Jaffna while Indian and Sri Lankan forces looked on.
On all counts the I.P.K.F. was acquiring a sorry image. For the Sinhalese it was not retrieving arms. And for the Tamils it was not maintaining peace. The L.T.T.E. propaganda machine went to town on what was appearing to be a contradictory role of the I.P.K.F., spicing it up with colonisation, the slow release of prisoners and the increase of crime.
Even more surprising was the complacency of the I.P.K.F. in not going to the people to defend its role. It had much to take credit for. The threat to civilian life through military action had virtually ended. Freedom of movement for all Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese had been restored. In the Trincomalee district, Tamils could get back to lands they were driven out of. There was a likelihood that town property that was forcibly taken over by Sinhalese thugs with government blessing would be restored to their owners. People were able to regain their homes in other Tamil areas which had now been de-mined and made safe from shelling. Train services had been restored. There was every prospect that rehabilitation work would commence and that aid money would help those who had been ruined.
Furthermore, Tamil prisoners were in fact being released. The delay could have been explained as coming from technicalities. The problem of colonisation was being studied and particular allegations were being investigated by I.P.K.F. officers. At least in one instance in Batticaloa district, the I.P.K.F. had halted work on a scheme. The L.T.T.E.'s actions could have been rationally attacked. The adequacy of powers given to Tamil areas under the Accord could have been patiently explained and the L.T.T.E. could have been asked to trust the people to decide when elections are held. Further, the Indian authorities could have addressed regular press conferences and seminars in the Tamil areas and could have had consultations with independent sections of Tamil opinion. The latter would have provided the means of correcting errors, avoiding blunders and understanding their unfamiliar environment.
If the Indians had attempted to use the press, that would have been understood. But when the I.P.K.F. on 10 October, 1987, detained newspapermen from two newspapers and reportedly damaged the machinery, that was seen by the public as a rowdy and unjustifiable act. Newspapers in Jaffna had got used to bending in the face of authority while fancying themselves not to break. It was said that some newspapers which respected independence, avoided trouble by reserving the front and back pages for obligatory material, while publishing independent material in the inner pages. But the people apparently came so low down the list of Indian concerns, that they were freely given over to the L.T.T.E. to play with their emotions. Anyone who witnessed the highly volatile scenes which followed, could not but help feeling that we had blundered on to the edge of a volcano.
The I.P.K.F. stuck to dealing with the L.T.T.E. exclusively with increasing exasperation. The L.T.T.E. had no particular obligation to stick to one position. It was free to play with the Indian authorities on one hand and the people on the other as long as no tangible link (except the L.T.T.E. itself) existed between the Indian authorities and the Tamil people. When dealings with the L.T.T.E. yielded little more than exasperation, the framework in which the Indians operated led them into a war for which they were ill prepared.
All actors were imprisoned in mental frames into which they had been led by past choices. Sorely lacking were individuals with the strength of character to leap out of the incubus of history to turn the tide. All were being sucked into a chasm where they would lose control of events.
The L.T.T.E. was now set on a desperate course. It was prepared to offend the minimal norms of human communication. In an interview given by Mahattaya and the L.T.T.E. spokesman Anton Balasingam to Jehan Haniff of the Sunday Island, the L.T.T.E. was questioned about the killings of 70 militants in the Batticaloa district and about the surrender of arms. In reply Balasingam said that the L.T.T.E. had surrendered all its arms and that the killings in Batticaloa had resulted from fighting between dissident militant groups. Interestingly, Balasingam made reference to Mahattaya before answering these questions. Balasingam's position within the organisation was something of an enigma. He was known to refer to the L.T.T.E. as a mafia-type organisation. On one occasion he was quoted widely to this effect in the press including that in Jaffna. No attempt was made by the L.T.T.E. to contradict this. It is known from sources close to the organisation that despite a stormy relationship, he and Prabhakaran needed each other.
9.2 The Fast
On 15 September, Mr. Thileepan, the Jaffna chief of the L.T.T.E.'s political wing started his death fast near Nallur Kandasamy temple. A platform was set up and Thileepan and his helpers were on it. Five demands were put forward, two of which dealt with colonisation and the release of prisoners. The fast was at first not taken seriously. The Indians calculated that it would end as fasts normally do, and hoped to ride it out by ignoring it. It took some time before it sank in that Thileepan was not taking even water. All India Radio broadcast a statement by the government spokesman which said that as a leader with a cause, Mahatma Gandhi undertook fasts to death himself; he did not send in one of his assistants to undergo the ordeal and sit back. But the emotional climate was being stirred up so much that it had little impact. When things were looking like they were getting out of hand, the Indians started talks with the L.T.T.E.. Tamil Nadu politicians Pandruti Ramachandran and Nedumaran arrived on the scene. Indian officers too started visiting Thileepan. Shortly before Thileepan began his fast he made a remarkable speech in front of Jaffna fort, giving a singular twist to Tamil nationalist history. "Accords," he said, "have been brought about by our enemies to dampen national fervour whenever this shows signs of boiling over. Today, the Indo-Lanka accord is meant to suppress the thirst of the people for liberation." He then pointed his finger histrionically at the Jaffna Fort and continued: "The first inhabitants of this were the Dutch and they enslaved us anew. Then came likewise the Sinhalese and now the Indians with new accords and new promises. Our aim is to chase away the Indians and fly our own flag of freedom in this Fort." This rousing speech may have gone down in history if not for the utter disillusionment which followed in October.
At first Thileepan's fast looked like a gimmick meant to divert attention from the killings in the East. The L.T.T.E. quickly used its organisational capacity to build up the emotional momentum. Loudspeaker vehicles went about broadcasting maudlin sentiments. Public transport vehicles were used to ferry in crowds. Long distance marchers converged on Kandasamy Kovil. Heart-rending cries over loudspeakers and sobbing noises had their effect. The cry "Thileepan anna (elder brother)," rising to a high pitch became familiar around Jaffna. The feeling was drummed up that such a fine man as Thileepan was going to die only because the Indians had cheated the Tamils and were only here to help the Jayewardene government.
The hartals or stoppages called for in Jaffna during Thileepan's fast disrupted public transport and made train services irregular. The other militant groups interpreted the press coverage and the rallies in Jaffna as a pro-L.T.T.E. gesture, unmindful of what the L.T.T.E. had done to them. Their attitude assumed an abusive anti-Jaffna stance. They decided that if people in Jaffna were going to travel just when it suited the L.T.T.E., then they too were going to allow people to travel only when it suited them. Train services stopped at Kilinochchi and passengers were stranded without a bus service to complete the rest of the journey. Hiring cars charged as much as Rs.500/- per passenger to complete the remaining 40 miles to Jaffna. To many travellers the harassment by the E.N.D.L.F. seemed Indian instigated, as a way of hitting back for the anti-Indian hysteria being created by the L.T.T.E. in Jaffna.
Clearly the difficulties of travellers owed much to the capriciousness of the L.T.T.E.. The Indians could have exposed this by trying to be helpful to those in difficulty. But they instead appeared in vindictive light by identifying the Jaffna people with the L.T.T.E.. This further incensed feelings in Jaffna and played into the hands of the L.T.T.E..
Emotional crowds at road junctions were once more in vogue. These were the same crowds that welcomed with tears the Indian Red Cross team less than 3 months before. Jaffna had been rendered even more unprincipled and volatile by liberation politics. But to call the crowds anti-Indian would have been a misrepresentation. India was still the holy mother. The people were an angry child hitting and screaming at the mother to have its way. The L.T.T.E. instigated crowds to humiliate the Indian army. At Manthikai crowds of women threw stones at the Indian army. Personal insults were flung at Indian soldiers -- like stroking the beard of a Sikh soldiers and calling him a half-beedi man (beedi is a cheaper form of cigarette) The Indian soldiers were highly restrained. The only shooting took place in Manner.
In Mannar a crowd marched towards an I.P.K.F. camp along the road from Mannar to Talai Mannar, urged on by an L.T.T.E. loudspeaker from a car. Once the crowd was highly strung with shouting slogans, the loudspeaker car instigated the crowd to march on the camp. An Indian officer came out and begged the crowd with folded hands not to advance beyond a certain point. The loudspeaker kept up its harangue and the men behind fired and killed one man in the vanguard of the crowd. The crowd quickly dispersed.
At this time a group of Sinhalese visited Jaffna on a peace mission. The party included Mr. Shelton Ranaraja, Deputy Minister for Justice, the Rev. Fr. Yohan Devananda and several doctors including the G.M.O.A. Secretary Dr. Ratnapriya. Shelton Ranarajah, though holding a junior ministerial position in the ruling United National Party, held publicly expressed independent and liberal views on the ethnic question. For him it was a pilgrimage of reconciliation with a view to seeing and understanding. He came despite the risk to himself as an unprotected member of the government, coming during a highly strung period. The doctors had brought medical supplies to hold clinics. Many Sinhalese with a left wing bent had come to admire the L.T.T.E. as an effective revolutionary force. These Sinhalese had campaigned against the government without major success. The government had found means of neutralising their influence while allowing them a respectable existence. For them the remarkable success of the L.T.T.E. was a revelation. That the success followed in the wake of risks taken by no other leaders in this country, was to be admired. The deceit, murder and inhumanity involved in that success was taken to be of no account. A Sinhalese clergyman, who was an admirer of the L.T.T.E.'s, once told a Tamil clergyman: "They are doing the fighting. You have no moral right to criticise them." Even as a clergyman, he little realised that in the political climate of the times, much courage was needed to preserve our sense of values as a community. This kind of moral fight too involved risks as the hundreds of internal killings within and without the militant groups had testified.
Some of the most provocative incidents in Jaffna took place on Friday, 18 September. At Manthikai, the Pt. Pedro police station which was manned by the Ceylon Police was attacked by crowds egged on by agent provocateurs. The police station was burnt and the policemen were humiliated. The I.P.K.F. nearby did nothing to stop it. The policemen were made to march towards the army camp in Pt. Pedro carrying their belongings on their heads. A crowd shouting abuse followed behind. The vast majority of people were silent spectators. Many who saw the sorry looking policemen were alarmed and saddened. The policemen had done nothing since assuming duties in Pt. Pedro to deserve such treatment. Many common people observed that we as a community were going to pay for this.
The peace mission from the South had come as guests of the L.T.T.E. leader. A hartal was declared on 18 September. Members of the peace mission obtained a special pass from Sri Mahattaya to drive their vehicle into Vadamaratchi. They witnessed some of the worst scenes on that day. They saw a police vehicle burning at Pt. Pedro. At Valvettithurai they saw a crowd in front of the police station shouting abuse. The peace mission was manoeuvred in front of the crowd to face angry policemen who were armed. The scene was very provoking to the police. A smashed chair belonging to the police station lay before them. On learning that those now standing in front of the crowd were Sinhalese, the policemen shouted angrily at them: "You are the ones who brought them here." Members of the peace mission felt that the police may open fire any time and that they would then be the first victims. As they went away, they met an L.T.T.E. man loading a magazine into his automatic. He told them derisively: "You got scared, didn't you?" They saw a similar scene at the Sri Lankan army camp in Valvettithurai. An abusive crowd stood in front of the camp. A drunken, gesticulating soldier stood before the crowd returning the abuse. An officer came out and dragged the drunken soldier away. It was clear that the L.T.T.E. was angling for a scene where one of the armed forces would open fire leaving several dead civilians on the road. What a nice story that would have made around the world: "In the middle of a non-violent struggle with a Gandhian style fast going on, Indian and/or Sri Lankan forces open fire and kill innocent civilians!" It was also clear that the Indian and Sri Lankan forces were just barely controlling themselves.
The peace mission was to return to Colombo the following day. Since a hartal was on, they obtained permission to travel in their two vehicles. All the way from Jaffna, they were followed by a van past several sentry points manned by the L.T.T.E.. There could be little mistake about the identity of the persons in the van that followed. Past Pallai, this van overtook them. At Yakkachchi (4 miles before Elephant Pass) this van was parked on the road. A few yards away, the peace mission was stopped by 6 youths armed with grenades and machine guns. The peace mission was addressed abusively and some were dragged out of their vehicles. The peace mission was left stranded without even their baggage. The vehicle which followed them, together with the two hijacked vehicles returned towards Pallai. The parting shot from the hijackers was, "We are Rajan's group (E.N.D.L.F.)." If one could play the game, so can two. What the E.N.D.L.F. did south of Elephant Pass, the L.T.T.E. did to the north, putting the blame on the E.N.D.L.F.. It was generally known that North of Elephant Pass was territory jealously controlled by the L.T.T.E.. Members of the peace mission caught a South bound bus after walking two miles towards Elephant Pass.
The treatment of the mission was in tune with the course the L.T.T.E. was taking. The mission came on an invitation made by the L.T.T.E. sometime previously. If the L.T.T.E. had changed its mind on the usefulness of well disposed Sinhalese, it could have told them not to come. But to have them, talk to them nicely and treat them in this manner at parting was a rather prolix way of saying: "We have finished with you. Do not bother to come again." The action had the L.T.T.E.'s stamp on it. If the L.T.T.E. ever needed Sinhalese friends again, such as after their war with India, its leaders would have no difficulty. All they would need to do is blame such actions and the killings of Sinhalese on some hot heads who had since been disciplined, and then resume relationships as though nothing untoward had happened.
To Mr. Shelton Ranaraja's credit, when he answered questions in parliament, he was a sad, rather than a bitter or angry man. Many Tamils like to blame the Indian offensive of October, together with the killings of Sinhalese from 5 October on the Sri Lankan government. They say that all the trouble was caused by the Sri Lankan government attempting to transport 17 L.T.T.E. members to Colombo and provoking them into taking cyanide. But the events which began on 13 September and the dramatic events described above signalled what was coming. The L.T.T.E. had given up on trying to cultivate Sinhalese friends. Its capacity to shock was one of the L.T.T.E.'s most potent weapons. Friendship with the L.T.T.E. was a strange and self-flattering affair. In the course of the coming days dire hints were dropped for the benefit of several old friends who had for months sat on committees, given advice, drafted letters, addressed meetings and had placed themselves at the L.T.T.E.'s beck and call.
A report written by the peace mission for the Christian Worker (in the issues of the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 1987) had the tone of reflective disillusionment: "... It so appears that the gun tends to evolve a logic of it own, turning its user into an extension of itself... Rational thought and human communication are subsumed in the final solution offered by the gun. We have already seen this on a massive scale in Lebanon. Now do we ourselves have to go through a very personalised reproduction of a similar situation where everybody seems to be shooting at everybody else? Sri Lankan politics has always appeared to many as a pantomime. But now the drama seems to be turning rapidly into a tragedy on a large scale. We can but hope that firm action will avert it." Very prophetic words to be fulfilled hardly a fortnight later.
Before Thileepan lost consciousness, he aired some of his religious hopes. He would go to a heavenly abode, he said, where he would join the 650 or so martyrs from the L.T.T.E.. Then with the joy that is reserved for these chosen ones, he would look down upon the land of Tamil Eelam. There is little doubt that he believed in something like this undemocratic and unegalitarian of creeds. It took some time for it to sink down that Thileepan was dying a slow and excruciating death. It was presented in such a manner as to touch the religious sensibilities of the Tamils. Being next to Kandasamy Kovil, the scene was right for a momentous religious event. Saivite devotional songs called Thevarams were sung. Sombre women with tear stained faces were there. Over its television network Niedharshanam, the L.T.T.E. merged the images of Thileepan and Mahatma Gandhi. Many were taken in. A Western diplomat who visited the scene observed blankly, "it looked to me like a stage set for the Gandhi film."
The L.T.T.E. betrayed a misconception of a non-violent struggle for which it can not be blamed. This misconception was common even amongst educated Tamils. The Federal Party (the T.U.L.F.'s main predecessor) launched a satyagraha campaign for Tamil rights in early 1961. This took mainly the form of sit-ins in front of government offices in the North and East, and long marches. There were mass meetings at which students queued up to sign petitions in blood. The police made strenuous efforts for a few days to disperse the crowds. But the crowds withstood the police baton charges. This was an exhilarating moment. During the 1958 riots the Tamils had acquired a reputation for being cowards who get beaten and run away. The helplessness of the Tamils then seems to have inflamed the violent Sinhalese hoodlums to ask for more blood. Many of the elderly in Colombo tasted the sting of racial violence. In 1961 the Tamil satyagrahis had proved that the Tamils were as a people not cowards. They were prepared to withstand pain and injury in order to win their dignity and rights as equal citizens. Scenes of selfless courage were in evidence everywhere. Men fell down on the road before military trucks and stayed their ground until they were beaten and dragged senseless to a side. People were once more proud to call themselves Tamils. After the first few days the then government of Mrs. Bandaranaike's, decided to ignore the satyagraha campaign. The campaign dragged on for 3 months and was ended by the imposition of a state of emergency and the use of force that was mild by today's standards. An insider claimed that the organisers were embarrassed by the prolongation of the campaign and by difficulties in finding alternatives to government rice rations which were stopped by the closure of the administration. They thus adopted measures such as the printing of postage stamps and starting a mail service, which would compel the government either to talk seriously or end the campaign by force. The government chose the latter only to have the problem fester and erupt into violence a quarter century later. It fell to another generation to revive the spirit of courage and self sacrifice. Besides, in the use of methods there was another important difference. In 1961 the people and their leaders stood together and suffered voluntarily. Though the F.P. and the T.U.L.F. continued to claim non-violence as a policy, they put off action for a future appropriate time in the future.
The result was a serious general misunderstanding of non-violence. Non-violence and violence were regarded as two alternative means to the same political end. Only the latter may need plenty of money and prove more hurtful. That they morally meant two different things was lost sight of. All that seemed to be required was to find the most efficacious means disregarding moral implications. The most important aspect of non-violence was lost sight of - that of self-purification together with honesty and integrity even in small things; that it involved love and respect for life rather than a coward's desire to avoid inflicting pain because of the trouble that may result. In consequence, once people got through with sitting in front of the Kachcheri, the old bad ways continued. Nor did they love the Sinhalese any better for it. The rich lording it over and humiliating the poor, caste pride, spiritual, administrative, and physical thuggery, all continued as before only to become worse with time.
When things went on in this manner it was to be expected that non-violence would be discredited in the eyes of the young while in fact it had never been tried. Young militants in the 1980's too may be forgiven for uttering with brazen confidence that non-violence had been rejected by the people as unworkable. Whether violence worked was a question few bothered to ask. The misconception was evident when the L.T.T.E. claimed that it was supreme master in the use of violent as well as nonviolent means and that it was equally at home in both methods. That it was master of violence was an accepted fact. Thileepan's ordeal was now proving to the masses that the L.T.T.E. was also master of non-violence. Violence and non-violence were here being treated as morally indistinct tools. Even amongst those who were against the L.T.T.E.'s violence, Thileepan's fast touched sensitive chords.
But the scenario being gradually built up by the L.T.T.E. was an essentially violent one. Crowds marching to Nallur from distant places were made to shout menacing slogans by loudspeaker cars. Prominent among the slogans were: "Prabhakaran is our leader," and "If Thileepan dies, Tamil Eelam will become an exploding volcano." The first kept Mr. Prabhakaran in the picture while the limelight was on Thileepan. No one knew what exactly the second meant. Those who closely watched the proceedings at Kandasamy temple, came away with different impressions. Some praised Thileepan's determination. Some blamed the L.T.T.E. of deliberately putting Thileepan through the ordeal of a slow and painful death. There were allusions that Thileepan himself had left instructions while he was still in his proper senses, that should he ask for water as weakness made him lose control over his will; such a request should be ignored. However, everyone hoped that Prabhakaran would take pity and order the fast called off. This was not to be. Prabhakaran's position remained that the fast had been voluntarily undertaken to secure five demands make to the Indians. Therefore India will be fully responsible for Thileepan's fate. Whatever Thileepan had decided, an element of complexity was revealed when a community leader raised with a senior L.T.T.E. official the question of reviving Thileepan who was by now unconscious. He was told that they had taken a final decision on the matter. The external factors seemed to suggest that this was the case. This surmise would be strengthened when 12 L.T.T.E. men committed suicide on 5 October. It looked as if the L.T.T.E. had decided that Tamil Eelam should become a burning volcano.
In the meantime the Indians had started a series of talks with the L.T.T.E.. Those on the Indian side included the High Commissioner Mr. Dixit, his deputy Mr. Sen and Lt. General Depinder Singh, Chief of the Indian Army's Southern Command. Those representing the L.T.T.E. included Prabhakaran, Balasingam and Sri Mahattaya. By all accounts it was not cocktail diplomacy. It was like schoolmaster India attempting to verbally lash into line an incorrigible schoolboy whom he would like thrown out but cannot. Mr. Dixit must have found Ceylon a strange place in which to practise Parisian diplomatic etiquette. A senior minister in the government in Colombo of the gentler kind, once reportedly complained to a friend after meeting Mr. Dixit: "I felt like having been treated like a pick-pocket in my own home."
The L.T.T.E. was evidently pressing for majority representation in an interim council for the North and East, which given the circumstances would be around for a long time. This elicited Dixit's remark: "Interim is interim." The L.T.T.E. evidently wanted elections put off for a long time. The L.T.T.E. had also expressed a wish to have control over Police and Colonisation. The Indians had strongly objected to the use of the press to whip up anti-Indian feeling. On this matter as pointed out earlier, the Indians seemed unable to think of an alternative to pummelling the L.T.T.E.. They were not thinking in terms of a direct approach to the people. In depending totally on their ability to awe or bully the L.T.T.E. into line, they were walking on miry ground. A journalist who was present described a scene where Depinder Singh challenged the L.T.T.E. concerning freedom of the press in Jaffna. He was assured that it was indeed free. General Singh then asked if a statement given by him would be published. Thinking perhaps that Gen. Singh wished to address the people, the L.T.T.E. readily agreed. Then Gen. Singh pulled out a letter from his pocket and asked sternly if it would be published. The letter was from the father of Douglas Devananda, a senior E.P.R.L.F. leader, whose brother Premananda was kidnapped shortly after the Accord. There was an embarrassed silence. Gen. Singh continued, saying that there was sometimes censorship in India. But what prevailed in Jaffna was unheard of. Gen. Singh hardly knew of the Indian censorship that would descend on Jaffna after October 1987.
The L.T.T.E. organised a big demonstration on Thursday, 24 September, 1987, when processions converged on Jaffna Fort to present petitions to the I.P.K.F.. The crowds were basically emotional and had little understanding of the issues involved. An Indian officer who was receiving petitions, suddenly unrolled a large map of Ceylon. He asked those present: "You are complaining strongly about Sinhalese colonisation. Show us exactly where it is taking place and we will put a stop to it." There was some confusion and puzzlement. Some hesitantly pointed to places. The women at the demonstration were being quite expressive. One woman with a loud voice referred to the Indian Prime Minister as "The dog born of Indira". The Indian officer turned to a senior engineering foreman who was there and asked him: "Why are your people so angry and insulting towards us?" The engineering foreman tried to reassure him: "Some may express their feelings too strongly. But we would always love India. India is our mother."
In the light of what happened later, it may be well to reflect here on the feelings of Indian soldiers. Most of the latter were from very poor backgrounds. When they arrived in Ceylon, they had a vague idea that they had come to protect Tamils from the Sri Lankan army. They had also expected to see a pitifully downtrodden population. But what they saw in Jaffna was contrary to expectations. There was little to do in the way of protecting Tamils. After the Accord, the Sri Lankan army were only too happy to behave themselves. Instead of uniform unrelieved, poverty, there was a fairly large well-to-do middle-class. Most people dressed well and lived in reasonable comfort. Unlike in India where each village may have just one television set, every other home in Jaffna had colour television. Shops were stocked with modern Japanese goods. Most homes had their wells, their water sealed lavatories and electricity supply as a bare minimum. They wondered why the Indian government had made such a fuss about Jaffna. Indian propaganda must have surely had a bewildering effect on the Jawans  1 . In its twists and turns, one day the L.T.T.E. would be a murderous evil force. Soon afterwards they would become gallant men of vision.
When the I.P.K.F. first arrived, soldiers expressed their surprise. Tamil Nadu Jawans observed with wonder: "This is a fertile place." Malayali Jawans said to the effect: "This place reminds us of Kerala." Those from North India perhaps thought that this was a strange place which was vaguely like the South. Only the shops reminded them of what is said about Singapore. For the first few weeks, the I.P.K.F. was preoccupied with the shops in Kasturiar Road. The officers bought Japanese TV sets, video recorders and 3-in-1's. The Jawans looked for radio-cassettes, pen torches and ball point pens. As the weeks went by, some Jawans told civilians: "We thought we came to protect you from the Sinhalese. But all we see is your boys killing each other. We do not see any Sinhalese." The colonisation problem too did not make sense to Indian soldiers. They found it difficult to appreciate the problem of state sponsored colonisation. They would say: "What is the difficulty with Sinhalese in your areas? In India we have Tamil Nadu people in Maharashtra, Maharashtra people in Delhi, Delhi people in Karnataka and so on. There is no difficulty in that!" With Thileepan's fast, people were instigated by the L.T.T.E. to insult and humiliate Indian soldiers. Soldiers from Punjab and Rajasthan who had no stake in what was going on here, no understanding and cared even less, were ordered to put on a stiff upper lip and take it all, much against their natural impulses. Their anger is not hard to imagine: "First we were asked to come and save these people. We then find that these people were quite well off and lived much better than our people. They start killing each other and now come and throw stones at and insult us for no conceivable reason. Moreover they have the cheek to do this after eating our food."
Anyone would have known the consequences of the L.T.T.E.'s pushing an army smarting under such provocation into military action. After turning Tamil Eelam into a burning volcano, Prabhakaran would say with disarming gravity: "Now that we have been compelled to defend ourselves militarily, India must assume full responsibility for whatever ill befalls the civilian population."
When it became clear that Thileepan would die and that the likelihood of volcanic eruptions in Jaffna could not be dismissed, guessing was on as to how this would happen. Speculation and fear became ripe in certain quarters on the basis of a brick dropped in the hospital by a person considered fairly high up in the L.T.T.E.. He reportedly dropped dark hints about the fate that would overtake those officials who garlanded the Indian Red Cross, in the event of Thileepan's dying. The list of those who welcomed the Indian Red Cross included besides the L.T.T.E., many of the senior doctors, senior government officials and members of the Jaffna Citizens' Committee. The existence of a threat was not taken lightly. These and other persons in the administrative and academic elite who had earlier thought that their relationship with the L.T.T.E., though uncomfortable, was fair, were keeping their fingers crossed.
Thileepan died on Saturday, 26 September, the 12th day of his fast. On the same morning it had been announced that the negotiations had borne fruit. This may be an important reason why the death did not lead to an eruption. The crowd at the Nallur Kandasamy Kovil watched, tense but silent, as a doctor felt Thileepan's pulse. The doctor motioned Thileepan's father to cry. The people standing around were then urged to cry. The whole crowd wept. The tension was defused. Not a stone was thrown. Not a vehicle burnt. The moment of Thileepan's exit was touchingly dignified. Old Gandhians who had thought that non-violence was dead were profoundly moved. They even started saying confidently that Thileepan was different from the rest. He was not responsible for acts of violence, they added. The solemn manner in which the crowd received the news of his death, they hoped, was a sure sign that the Tamils had turned back to the old Gandhian way of non-violence. Thileepan's family too almost certainly believed this. They contacted an old Gandhian to write an appreciation. It was gladly done and it echoed these sentiments. It seemed bad taste to strike a discordant note. Even those whose experience of Thileepan had not been of the pleasant kind would not say otherwise. Whether a voluntary act, an act of supreme obedience or an act of unprobed complexity, Thileepan's death excited awe. Perhaps, many in torture cells had died more painful and more heroic deaths, even in militant ruled Jaffna. But publicity made the difference. Columnists in the South who were no friends of the L.T.T.E.'s, could not resist a hint of admiration. Lucien Rajakarunayake writing in the Sunday Times of 4 October, 1987, compared Thileepan favourably with the chauvinists of the South who were eternally promising to shed the last drop of their blood before the first in the cause of Sinhalese supremacy, all the way down from the days of the Bhasa Twins - Jayasuriya and Rajaratne. Lucian Rajakarunayake went on:
"I do not agree with Thileepan's cause, nor have I ever agreed with the similarly motivated causes of most others on this side who have threatened death fasts or begun great walks for peace with lottery tickets on the sideline. However, one cannot help but be impressed by the extent of political dedication, even misguided, when a slow death is courted by one, when others are satisfied watching the other man's son die for the success of their selfish slogans.
"Mind you, if the Sinhalese begin to ask their politicians and other racial champions, who make such loud noises and promises of sacrifice on public platforms, if they are prepared to go half the distance Thileepan went in hunger, it may help get rid of the political poseurs who strut about in the garb of Sinhalese heroes, and by the curious identification of the majority only with the nation, as national heroes, as well."
When the agreement reached between India and the L.T.T.E. was announced on Monday, 28 September, after obtaining the Sri Lankan President's concurrence, it had little to say on the 5 demands put forward over Thileepan's fast. The membership of the interim council was increased from 8 to 12 and the L.T.T.E.'s representation increased from 3 to 7, giving it a majority. The L.T.T.E. agreed in writing to submit 15 names, including 3 for the chairman, from which the President of Sri Lanka would choose the required number. The people were relieved.
Why then did Thileepan die? That was a question for which no satisfactory explanation could be found. From the point of view of Tamils as a whole, the actual results were hardly a gain. Even in the council of 8 proposed earlier, the Tamils would have been in the majority, amongst whom there would have been a convergence of views on key issues. The difference in the new agreement was a majority for the L.T.T.E. by itself, until the mandatory elections were held. The only concrete achievement was a demonstration by the L.T.T.E. that its power to sour things for anyone choosing to act without its consent was hardly to be scoffed at.
Thileepan had not suddenly changed to non-violence. He was very much a part of the violent scene, as leader of the political wing of the L.T.T.E. in Jaffna. But he was a dedicated L.T.T.E. man who had spent the prime of his life in its service. It would be truly remarkable if he had knowingly thrown away his life for such meagre returns. Jaffna is a place where cynicism has reigned for so long that nothing is taken at face value. There have been several cases of persons in militant groups who had become frustrated and who simply carried on for the lack of an alternative, caring little whether they lived or died. There are those who would assume that Thileepan was one of them. A more plausible explanation coming from some others is that when the fast was undertaken, Thileepan was not told that he would die. Even if nothing was coming in the way of response to the demands, Prabhakaran could solemnly call off the fast in deference to the wishes of the people. Once Thileepan had started fasting on a public platform, he had little control over events. Whatever he wished, the decision was left to others.
It is perhaps uncharitable to speculate on the motives of dead men. Whatever was in Thileepan's mind, the cynicism of others cannot be discounted. On the testimony of those who knew Thileepan, he was certainly capable of sacrificing himself for a cause in which he believed. He was certainly not a non-violent man. As late as 2 July, 1987, Thileepan took part in a lamp-post killing at Urumpirai junction. During the fast he gave expression to the L.T.T.E.'s religious creed. Thileepan was seriously wounded in the abdomen during the Vadamaratchi operation. It is known that, at least after this, he was emotionally sensitive.
Shortly before his final fast, Thileepan went to the Eelanadu office to complain about an editorial which had said: "Whether the Elephant comes or the Tiger comes, the Accord must be implemented." The elephant is the symbol of the ruling party, U.N.P..The senior person who was on duty that night told him with some force: "You have misunderstood this. You know the editor is a reasonable and highly respected man who was principal of your old school (Jaffna Hindu College). If you talk to him, he will explain things to you." Thileepan stared at the ground for some time. He then exclaimed: "Do not crush us," and walked away. This encounter betrayed a feeling amongst the Tigers that the Tamil people who once gave them flattering devotion were now distancing themselves - hence the need for desperate measures. The Thileepan of September 1987 was not the same Thileepan who stood four square at the University during a peace meeting in mid 1986, arrogantly insisting on the paramountcy of the L.T.T.E.. His words had then come not from the logic of Tamil unity or Tamil well being, but from the logic of power. Given this new emotional sensitivity, how did changes within the L.T.T.E. affect him? A journalist who was Thileepan's class mate at Jaffna Hindu College and also knew Yogi who was a little senior to them both, had this to say: "Thileepan was from the time I knew him, a man with dedication. He did fully believe in the cause of the Tamil militancy." This journalist, who is not an L.T.T.E. sympathiser, had little doubt that Thileepan died more or less voluntarily. Yogi's association with the L.T.T.E. in London was relatively brief. His main asset was that he was the elder brother of the late Kugan, Prabhakaran's deputy, whom Prabhakaran trusted completely. Unlike Yogi, Thileepan had been on the ground during a difficult period and had served loyally for a long time. Those who would like to pin on Thileepan, the image of an orthodox Gandhian martyr or even that of the unquestioning obedient servant, would probably do him injustice as a human being with human feelings. Amongst ordinary people, there was much sympathy for Thileepan and not all of it was complimentary to Prabhakaran. However, Thileepan was soon to be forgotten amidst other events.
9.3 Towards Confrontation
The L.T.T.E. expressed dissatisfaction when it submitted fifteen names for the interim council and the President made his choice. Mr. N. Pathmanathan, Additional Government Agent, Trincomalee, whom the L.T.T.E. had named as its first choice for the chairmanship of the Interim Council was dropped in favour of Mr. C.V.K. Sivagnanam, Municipal Commissioner, Jaffna. Amongst those remaining there was no one from the Eastern Province, although the L.T.T.E. had submitted the name of an Eastern Province Muslim and others from the East amongst the 7 leading names. Mr. Sivagnanam, reportedly under pressure, sent a letter turning down the appointment. It appeared to most Tamils that the President had made his choice in such a way as would alienate the Tamils and Muslims in the East from the northern Tamils. Moreover, N. Pathmanathan was an experienced and competent administrator. Mr. Sivagnanam's main achievement was to perform the demanding task of being the government's commissioner in an L.T.T.E. dominated Jaffna. He seldom displeased anyone, was not known for any particular principled stand, but had a mind of his own on certain matters. He could move with decision where his own ambitions could be made to fit the aims of the powerful interest groups he had to contend with. To many, the manner in which the L.T.T.E. looked upon his appointment, was a revelation about its relationships with public men.
N. Pathmanathan had been released from prison on 2 September, 1987, after being detained for 45 months under the prevention of terrorism act. He was a Grade 1 C.A.S. (Ceylon Administrative Service) officer who had served as the Additional Government Agent, Trincomalee under a Grade 2 Sinhalese officer. He was arrested in December 1983 and was notified of his charge more than 2 years later. The charge was peculiar to the P.T.A. and did not involve any first or second hand criminal act. The crime involved was the alleged provision of help for some Tamil prisoners who had escaped from Batticaloa prison. Pathmanathan is said to have been in the know of some person who in turn was in the know of such help being given! Pathmanathan was not taken to trial. He was detained for much longer than the mandatory limit of 18 months in the hope that he would plead guilty. Pathmanathan was determined not to plead guilty to something he had not done. While in prison he studied law and interested himself in the welfare of other prisoners who were utterly innocent and were languishing in prison because the system moved clumsily and many of the prisoners did not have the money to do the needful. His determination was such that the government had to drop the charges and release him. A senior civil servant who had worked with Pathmanathan stated that, "he was an extremely intelligent man and a committed Tamil."
It is understandable that the President did not wish to elevate such a man to the chairmanship of the interim council. It is interesting that the same device of asking for a list of names in place of one nominee is used to avoid appointing inconvenient vice-chancellors of Universities. The Indian High Commissioner held that the L.T.T.E. was wrong to complain as the matter had been explained to them and they had agreed in writing. The Tamil public felt cheated. But the L.T.T.E. had little reason to complain. Many would contend that Mr. Dixit had taken for a ride a ragged group of fighting men who were innocent of legal matters. Such a charge would not hold water as the L.T.T.E. had all the legal advice it needed at its disposal. They had the services of two lawyers, one of whom at least was recognised as competent and experienced. Anton Balasingam had held an academic post in Philosophy in Britain. Yogi was a student in Britain. It is unbelievable that they were unable to sort out among themselves, the consequences of what the L.T.T.E. was putting down in writing. Mr. Dixit may not have been excessively polite towards the L.T.T.E.. He may have been overconfident that he could handle them, or perhaps he hid his uncertainties beneath a facade of contempt. It was natural that he should feel more at home with the Colombo elite, whose first language and background he shared. Understanding what motivated them, his success with them had been remarkable, even when his office changed from Ambassador to Proconsul. He had perhaps at least begun to understand the L.T.T.E. when he advised President Jayewardene against transporting the 17 L.T.T.E. captives.
It is in all likelihood unfair to accuse Mr. Dixit of conniving with President Jayewardene over the appointments to the Interim Council. It is far more likely that he did the job of a negotiator who was anxious to avoid trouble. An agreement already existed between India and the President on the composition and method of appointment. Mr. Dixit would have had to ask the President to concede a little more in agreeing to an L.T.T.E. majority. The President conceded this much with some stipulations about the method of appointment. When the L.T.T.E. objected to the President's choice, it is reliably learnt that the President agreed to the L.T.T.E. revising the list, giving them the option of securing a chairman from the East by submitting all three names from the East. However the President could have gone further. He had little to lose in agreeing to the L.T.T.E.'s intended nominees.
Such omissions by President Jayewardene far from absolve India from the unprincipled character of its overall handling of the Ceylon Tamil question which helped to bring about the current impasse. Dixit, however, had his share of responsibility in India's cynical use of Ceylon's Tamil problem. Then came an unexpected problem, not uncommonly encountered in such unprincipled dealings. The L.T.T.E. acquired an autonomy of its own -- shades of Bhindranwale and the Punjab. Relationships were already complicated by mistrust and mutual cynicism. When the government in Colombo agreed to fall in line, what was on offer was not enough for the L.T.T.E.. This was a problem that India seemed incapable of tackling competently. There are those who attach much importance to claims by the L.T.T.E. concerning verbal promises made by India. Prabhakaran reportedly claims that Rajiv Gandhi assured him that the L.T.T.E. could keep its arms after a token surrender of some arms. Another claim much talked about concerns Tamil Nadu minister Pandruti Ramachandran. He allegedly assured the L.T.T.E. that, although they would have to send in 15 names for the 7 seats on the interim council, the leading names would be selected. The second has been discussed earlier. As for the first, even if such a promise was made, the end result intended was clear. No armed group was eventually going to be tolerated. The L.T.T.E. could not have been mistaken about that. Given the present reputation of the Indian government, it cannot be put past Messrs. Gandhi and Ramachandran to have made such promises.
Other reports of a secret package agreed to between the L.T.T.E. and the Indian government surfaced in the London Observer of Sunday, 3 April, 1988. The report filed by Dhiren Bhagat from Colombo quoted Indian High Commissioner Mr. J.N.Dixit. It stated that funds amounting to 200,000 pounds sterling a month (Rs. 5 million) were to be paid to the L.T.T.E.. The funds were to be paid for the maintenance of L.T.T.E. members until normal life returned to war ravaged areas. The Jaffna peninsula was to receive Indian economic aid amounting to 43 million pounds sterling. The report quotes Mr. Dixit as having said that the monthly payment was made for the month of August (1987). The L.T.T.E. is said to have resumed secret talks with India on the subject of new financial arrangements. The initial agreement is said to have been reached between Prabhakaran and Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi at the end of July 1987.
The same report quoted the L.T.T.E. spokesman in Madras as saying that the payment was part of a larger package of guarantees to secure his co-operation in implementing the Indo-Lanka Accord. The package of guarantees is said to have included: A majority of the L.T.T.E. in the interim Provincial Council; one billion rupees economic assistance to the Jaffna peninsula for rehabilitation to be undertaken by the L.T.T.E. dominated Interim Council; and help to form a Tamil Police Force after the establishment of the interim council. The L.T.T.E. spokesman had characterised this as a gentlemen's agreement with the Indians. One wonders why hundreds have to die while gentlemen played their pecuniary games. Whilst big money was being talked about in high places, ordinary civilians were being assassinated for innocuous and sometimes necessary dealings with the army of the same India. Some who got threatening notes were those who sold things such as tomatoes to soldiers for a few tens of rupees.
This report about the money sounds plausible as it fits into the general pattern of things and has been corroborated by Reuters and the Times of India. It may not amount to anything sinister as the press in the South tries to make out. It is not inconsistent with India's pledge to secure the L.T.T.E.'s compliance with the Accord. It makes it even more unlikely that India was set on a one track course to destroy the L.T.T.E.. India would certainly have kept several options open. Even after the war India kept making approaches to secure the L.T.T.E.'s compliance. One could say with certainty that if the L.T.T.E. had moved to confess past errors and to seek a solid democratic base amongst the people, India would have found it prudent to leave them alone. That the L.T.T.E. had to look for its security in secret and undemocratic deals with a foreign power, rather than in the trust of the people was a sign of its weakness. This makes all that followed even more inexcusable.
Apologists for the L.T.T.E. like to pick on such straws in the wind as the events surrounding the deportation on 5 October, and represent these as turning points in the tragic drama resulting from Indian and Sri Lankan perfidy. But the fabric of the tragedy was woven by the intermingling of the failings of the different actors. Lying, deceit and massacres are its various threads. It would be mere caprice to represent isolated events as turning points.
Granted that the Indian and Sri Lankan states are flawed affairs; anyone who aspired to lead the Tamils must be judged very harshly if these flaws are held up as adequate grounds for knowingly flinging the entire Tamil community into the fire. In mitigation however, the L.T.T.E. is the product of a brutal world; a world where great leaders, men whose education and maturity entitle them to know far better, routinely use deceit and mass murder as legitimate forms of action. This can be seen in the American use of Contra rebels in Nicaragua and in the Soviet meddling and the shifting of sides in Eritrea. That President Reagan delegates authority to decide on murder and assassination to distant C.I.A. officials or proxies does not make him less of a murderer than a bandit who makes his own decisions. The same can be said of most big nations which observe little restraint in the way of law or principle when dealing with foreigners, especially by proxy. The R.A.W. cannot claim moral superiority over the Tamil militant groups. The fight against terrorism will be futile as long as the world's leaders play with terror when it suits them. The impressionable young minds of the L.T.T.E. were moulded by the cynicism and duplicity they encountered in their dealings -- with the T.U.L.F., the Tamil elite, and the Sri Lankan and Indian authorities. They concluded that the way to success was to outdo the others in these qualities. They realised unforeseen success and forgot the original cause. The Tamil people who could have exerted the corrective influence and have ensured that the right men became leaders were themselves lost and became directionless.
The uncertainty over the Interim Council lasted a few days. Most people hoped that the matter would get sorted out, at least by the L.T.T.E. accepting the present arrangement as a spring board for more. Then came the affair of the 17 detainees and the decision by the L.T.T.E. that Tamil Eelam should after all become a burning volcano.
9.4 The End of an Era.
The suicides of the twelve L.T.T.E. men in captivity have been dealt with separately. Amongst them were Kumarappa and Pulendran. There was every prospect that they would be released. The evidence seems to point that the decision the detainees should take cyanide was taken by the L.T.T.E.'s top leadership. This brings us to two questions. What motivated men like Kumarappa and Pulendran who had reached their height of influence and power to throw away their lives so lightly? The other question is, what do friendships with members of the L.T.T.E. really mean? The L.T.T.E. is not a democratic organisation. Its members are under an oath of personal loyalty to their leader Mr. Prabhakaran. This aspect of the organisation was strengthened over time by a process of elimination. Those democratically minded fell by the wayside, mostly by leaving the organisation. There is enough pressure on ex-members of the organisation to remain passive. Those with the organisational ability to challenge the L.T.T.E. must take even greater care. It is then to be expected that those currently in positions of leadership in the L.T.T.E. whether out of conviction or convenience take the oath of loyalty to their leader seriously. Over time the workings of the organisations have acquired religious, or even theological overtones. Conformity is also ensured by a system of policing where every man is said to be the other man's spy. Kumarappa was a man whose loyalty had been tested. When the L.T.T.E.'s Batticaloa leader Kadavul refused to take on the TELO, the L.T.T.E. had to rely on Kumarappa and Pottu. The smallest price to be paid for disobedience, for a person with no means, may be some abject retirement. To many, this may be worse than death. One person who perhaps came closest to defying Prabhakaran was Kittu. His fate will long remain a matter of conjecture. This may, just perhaps, throw some light on the fates of Kumarappa, Pulendran and even Thileepan.
Going by human nature and the unusual requirements of the type of organisation the L.T.T.E. is, the importance of the system of policing together with rewards and punishments cannot be under-estimated. It has been frequently found that the conduct of individual L.T.T.E. members can vastly differ as individual persons and in a group. In the wake of the Indian offensive of October, those L.T.T.E. members who were isolated by their families were much readier to accept mediation and surrender. Many such persons surrendered. A clergyman involved in social work observed: "Several of the L.T.T.E. boys who have their families in Jaffna are handing over their arms to boys from outstation areas and are going to their families. Those from the outstations are moving about with the rest in isolated pockets not knowing what to do and out of communication with the leadership." One area leader in Jaffna gave hints of wanting to surrender. Fear of punitive action weighed heavily on his family. It was later reported that he fell in with some other members of his group and had left Jaffna. Parathan, a leading member of the L.T.T.E.'s television unit, was also regarded a hard man. Shortly before the Indian army's advance into Nallur, he was observed alone in the Kandasamy temple area. He was going from house to house and sometimes stopping motorcyclists on the road, pleading with the owners for the loan of a 200 CC motorcycle. If a vehicle had been required by the group, it could have been commandeered. Evidently, Parathan did not want it publicised that he was looking for a vehicle.
Malaravan, the former L.T.T.E. leader of Ariyalai, was seen in the wake of the Indian advance, nestling like a babe between his father and mother, in the back of a car parked in the precincts of Kandasamy Kovil. Malaravan became notorious after beating to death a civilian, Edward, in the Ariyalai camp in November 1986. It is very probable that Malaravan's fate could have been different had his parents not been near at hand. It was later reported the he was detained while being taken southwards to be sent abroad. The facility to go abroad is again crucial in decisions to be taken by dissatisfied militants. If many of the militants had been dissatisfied, it would have cost the Sri Lankan government only Rs. 0.2 billion out of its annual defence budget of 15 billion (1.3%) to provide 2000 militants with the maximum Rs. 1 lakh that each needed to go abroad. It gives one small aspect of the government's lack of imagination.
Without making unfair generalisations, like in any organisation, the motivations of those who joined it are widely different. In the case of the L.T.T.E. some would be motivated by ties of clan or thirst for power, others by romance and many by a burning hatred of the government for what it had done. Some joined just for a lark because others were doing it and the community had little to offer in making routine life worthwhile. Those most easily disillusioned are the ones who had the intention of doing some good to the community. Such persons are likely to have independent ideas and will be the least amenable to an oath of personal loyalty to the leader. It was pointed out that most of the staff and students from the University of Jaffna who joined the L.T.T.E. in the early 1980's dropped out. Prominent amongst them were Mr. and Mrs. Nithiyanandan. The only person left from that lot is Anton Sivakumar whose relationship with the L.T.T.E. is again chequered. The best L.T.T.E. members are those who are caught young with impressionable minds, with a simple joy in carrying a gun, a boyish thirst for romance and who have no parents capable of influencing the child and of being a nuisance to the child's career in the militancy. The latest additions are from amongst girls. Many Tamil girls have a gloomy future resulting from the breakdown of a society where women were dependent and where well above 100,000 young men have gone abroad. Numbers connected with the militancy were far less - about 15,000 at best. Amongst girls, again, motivations vary widely. Those most amenable to romance and whose tenure is short are likely to come from secure middle class families. A large number of girls joined the L.T.T.E. from lower middle class families from rural areas such as Mullaitivu. These were from homes directly affected by Sri Lankan military action. It was Prabhakaran's genius to weld all these diverse motivations into an organisation where personal loyalty to him would be enforced. He had the imagination to study people and use even those doubting persons who would at least be formally independent. For some with literary talents, a smile and some kind and flattering words from Prabhakaran were enough to secure their loyal services.
As for friendships with the L.T.T.E., the evidence suggests that there was a very sincere element in many of them. The friendship Kittu and Rahim formed with Captain Kotelawala of the Ceylon army was genuine, and has gone on beyond its period of mere utility. Kittu once reportedly came under criticism for preventing an L.T.T.E. sniper from taking a pot-shot at Captain Kotelawela who was exposed while inspecting positions around the Fort. Subsequently Kittu's party is said to have been fired at by an army sniper. A senior L.T.T.E. leader once said that their relationship with Captain Kotelawela was based on their mutual appreciation of each other as professional soldiers. The close ties between Kittu and Rahim are again out of character for an organisation where loyalty to the leader comes first. The presence of both in Madras is regarded a kind of exile. Even after the strange affair of Kittu losing a leg, he proved his usefulness as a field commander in Jaffna during Operation Liberation where his mere presence was able to inspire morale which had been failing amongst the ranks. The ties even extended to family circles. Kittu's old mother from Valvettithurai, recently visited the family of Rahim's intended bride in Nallur. Rahim is the last remaining in the L.T.T.E. out of a group of 6 class-mates from St. John's College who joined in 1984; the last to leave went abroad in September 1986 after being the Karainager leader. Rahim's survival capacity is tied perhaps with his ability to avoid unpleasant subjects in conversation. He displayed a touching desire to keep in touch with old schoolmates when his application to join the St. John's College Old Boys Association came before the committee in October 1987. Kittu can be crude, vulgar and illogical (the logic of power that one sees in so many army officers) in his appearances, and very inconsiderate to commoners who fall foul. But the ties he sought with leaders in the South appear to have a genuine element. He had that kind of erratic emotional bent.
Amongst the many murdered while Kittu was in charge of Jaffna was the Jaffna P.L.O.T.E. leader, Mendis (Wijayapalan). Mendis was regarded as a friend of Kittu's and was killed after one month's captivity in January 1987 despite an assurance given to his family that he would not be harmed. Mendis is accused of having helped several persons wanted by the L.T.T.E. to escape to India. It is not known with certainty if the decision to kill Mendis came from Kittu or from above. But significantly, it took place within a few days of Prabhakaran's arrival in Jaffna. One may hazard the guess that it would have been out of character for Kittu to have treated Sinhalese visitors and prisoners in the way they were treated in September and October 1987. This last decision appears to have been taken between Prabhakaran, Balasingam and Mahattaya. Balasingam's influence in decision making may not be of great importance. But the personal need Prabhakaran has of him seems to have enabled him to safeguard his position. Balasingam, a former British High Commission employee, who later wrote a doctoral thesis on Hegel, was a teacher of political science at a British polytechnic. He could also converse ably on philosophical subjects. After July 1983 he moved to Madras with his Australian wife Adele to be full-time spokesman for the L.T.T.E.. His writings helped to give the L.T.T.E. a Marxist image. But his real function was far less flattering. In Prabhakaran's words, he was to "explain rather than to direct the course of armed struggle." His real significance stemmed from an emotional need Prabhakaran had of him. The relationship was a stormy one. When drinking with friends in Madras, Balasingam would sometimes say, "Drink, friend, drink. There is little else you can do when you are in an outfit like this." When back on the job, his doubts would seem to vanish. His wife, a former member of the British Communist party, would sometimes agree when others expressed doubts about the state of things within the L.T.T.E., but after talking it over with her husband, she would come back with her doubts cleared.
Mahattaya had a childhood steeped in want. He is very much a loner and is not much of a public man. Mahattaya is once said to have had serious differences with Prabhakaran. These appear to have been patched up. Those who befriended him in old times can perhaps claim a hint of loyalty that did not quite approach friendship. He would be suspicious of the kind of ties formed by Kittu.
The ties of friendship between Kumarappa and Indian army officers again appear to be genuine. He married after the Accord and took his marital relationship seriously. The thought of death in such a relationship cannot be uppermost in a person's mind. His was no ordinary suicide, for he had cause to live. The day before he committed suicide, he told an Indian officer he counted as a friend: "You must see my wife today." That has the fatal ring of a man who cares for his wife, but must yet bow to an inexorable destiny. This perhaps demonstrates the nature of friendships with men in the L.T.T.E.. Many of them are human in the ordinary sense. But they are bound by an inexorable fate which draws them through either faith or fear - perhaps both.
This fate finds its embodiment in their leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran. One aspect of his calls to mind some kind of subcontinental cult god whose mighty will commands the rise of devotees and later sends them obediently to their destruction. It is as though loyalty, and blind obedience are one and the same thing to him. A common error in presenting great figures of history is to glorify their military successes where they murdered hundreds of thousands of their fellow men, and describe their ultimate failure as incidental upon some miscalculation. Their seamy side and the destructive process it engendered are lost sight of as the real cause of failure. Napoleon on the one hand is the military genius, the victor of Austerlitz who with a wave of his hand rolled back the combined forces of Austria, Prussia, Russia and Britain. He was also the great actor who looking at the pyramids of Egypt surveyed 5000 years of history. What are we to make of his hasty, ignominious retreat from Moscow to Paris in record time in the winter of 1812, leaving his harried men to face the ravages of the Russian winter? By romanticising him we lose sight of the personal tragedy of the man, his spiritual emptiness, his uncertainties and the reassurances he sought in the way of securing power over other men. His mistake was not a misjudged attack on Russia. By 1810 France was already creaking under the load of militarisation.
Likewise one aspect of Mr. Prabhakaran's case is fascinating. Using unpromising material his will forged together a force, the L.T.T.E., which made the world sit up. A government in Colombo which treated the Tamil problem with derision in 1978 and savagery in 1983 was shaken to its foundations. In time New Delhi too became unsure. Washington took a keen interest. Where lesser mortals would have chosen to call it off, Prabhakaran persisted for greater gain. All this required a ruthless will to manipulate everything that came his way.
It was now the end of an era. A struggle that had, in its dawn, been fired by several noble ideals, and called forth courage and much sacrifice from young persons irrespective of group, had now reached a point where the community was powerless and voiceless. How long could a military force that claimed to represent them retain any degree of real autonomy with such a weak base ? In the interests of sheer survival, people would have to dispense with standards and ideals and become immune to the loss of life. In time, with children becoming militarised with hardly any voice raised from within the community, even the last links on our hold on civilisation are put into question.
What went wrong ? Had we been led by a casual acceptance of violence as a tool to disregard the value of all life ?
One last scene impresses itself on the mind. The scene was the playing field of the University of Jaffna at dusk on 13 October, 1987. The Indians had blundered a first landing near the University the day before. Sentries were now posted everywhere. A line of women stood with guns around the field. They epitomised the hopelessness that has beset many Tamil women. Their faces were blank as if they cared little whether they lived or died. They had little resemblance to Joan of Arc or to the Parisian women who stormed the Bastille. One of them said in a quiet voice that betrayed no emotion: "Please close the gate when you go." A tear was not out of place.
9.5 A Digression on the Forces of History
With all our limitations (not one of us among this group of writers is an academic historian) and with all our differences in views, we have in a way tried to do what Thucydides did for the Pelopponesian war 2500 years ago - the debilitating war between Athens and Sparta which ended Greek supremacy of the Mediterranean world. What we have offered is a series of reflections and accounts of our own situation. We too have to come to terms with a world that has been changed by these events. We hope we have offered something towards understanding these events and, thus, towards changing our lot for the better.
One debate that will go on is whether there is a form of armed struggle that will bring about freedom and democracy or if violence is to be entirely abhorred and the struggle is only to be towards creating (on a large scale) the personal virtues of honesty and a love for truth, together with a willingness to suffer for them. And if the latter, whether it is consistent to confine nonviolence to human beings only or if it should be extended to the animal kingdom as well. Those who admit the possible use of force would maintain that i. they are not advocating it for the love of it; ii. violence is part of the day to day reality of this world; and iii. it would be sheer irresponsibility to blind oneself to it and leave its use entirely in the hands of anti-social or criminal elements. Moreover they would say, that at the end of the day, the objective reality is determined by those who have the guns.
Those who disagree will say that there is a subjective element in judging the fruits of violence. Apart from the evils of war, there is also the long term damage to the psyche. There is also the question of the time frame. The idealism of Lenin gave way to the purges of Stalin - perhaps the largest act of mass murder in the history of mankind, exceeding even Hitler's acts against Jews. Did not the legitimacy given to the revolution by dedicated revolutionaries like Lenin, pave the way for the passive acceptance of the arbitrary acts of Stalin? Did the journey from Tsar Nicholas II to Mikhail Gorbachev have to pass through the purges of Stalin?
To this may come the reply that we are not in a position to sit back and judge history as though it could have been otherwise. It was made by those who grasped the opportunities of the moment. There is always room for others to mismanage things later. We will be judged severely if we do not grasp the opportunities of our time and choose to run away from them.
It may then be replied that life has gone this far on the assumption that force is necessary. Its use has an honoured place in human culture. But misery has persisted and even increased, to a point that unless we can create a culture where force is outside normal reckoning, mass suicide may become a reality. What is absurd to human reason may become a reality in another realm. Perhaps a search for and the surrender to God may be the only option we have left. Are not after all, all the sophisticated theories of revolution leak-proofed to the point of becoming esoteric creations? They are never proved false because the initial conditions are somehow never right. Ask anyone who has lived through a revolution! In the academic world, a moral interpretation of history would be treated as naive. But this was the standpoint adopted by many historians through the ages who felt a burning desire to communicate what they believed to be the truth - down from the prophets of ancient Israel and Thucydides. In fact, F.M. Cornford, a widely respected Greek scholar has this to say in his essay titled The Unconscious Element in Literature and Philosophy: "Now this is not to say that Thucydides' philosophy of life is not, within its limits, a true philosophy - as true as any alternative our own minds may contribute. It may even be truer. Fourteen years ago, writing under the impression of the South African war (Boer war, 1898 - 1900), I may have overstressed the financial aspect of imperialism. Since 1914 (First World War) Thucydides' moral interpretation of history has seemed more profound." ("The Unwritten Philosophy", Cambridge University Press).[Top]
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