THAMIL NATIONAL LIBERATION STRUGGLE AND NATIONAL LEADER PRABHAKARAN
(Published on behalf of WTM-Canada)
This profile is dedicated to all those KArthikai (November) flames and MArkazhi (December) blossoms who forsaking their own dreams and carrying in their hearts the dreams of their Motherland reddened the soil of Thamil Eelam with their blood.
The history of our liberation struggle and the life of Prabhakaran are inextricably intertwined with each other.
Prabhakaran, the greatest military strategist and guerilla leader this century has produced, shines today as the undisputed National Leader of the people of Thamil Eelam and the morning star of sixty million Thamils around the world.
The World Thamil Movement is publishing this profile 'Prabhakaran, the National Leader of Thamil Eelam and the Thamil Eelam War of Liberation with great pleasure and pride. We are doubly overjoyed to see this publication coming out on the 6th Anniversary of the Thamil National Heroes Day.
There is a general belief that the Thamils have failed to record their long history precisely and in proper sequence. Not only the history of Thamil Nadu, but also of Thamil Eelam had not been properly recorded. The history of the powerful “Jaffna Kingdom” that existed in Thamil Eelam from the beginning of the 13th to the first half of 17th century had not been fully chronicled for posterity.
Hence, by publishing this book we get a great amount of psychological and moral satisfaction that we have fulfilled our historic duty to future generations at least to some extent.
In this profile we have very briefly sketched the origin and the various stages of the evolvement of the Thamil Eelam liberation struggle, the war strategy, the awakening of Thamil Nationalism and the foundation for the building up of the infra-structure of Thamil Eelam. Also we have briefly chronicled the life history of our National Leader Prabhakaran, his childhood days, his life underground, his political and military activities and above all his extraordinary and towering personality.
We can aptly compare the Thamil liberation struggle and its leader Prabhakaran to the two banks of a river. We cannot imagine of a liberation struggle without its leader Prabhakaran or a leader Prabhakaran without the liberation struggle. We cannot separate one from the other.
We feel extremely proud to live during his life time. We have unshakable faith that under his heroic leadership, the Tiger forces will march undauntedly to the battle front, vanquish the enemies and win back the lost sovereignty and freedom of Thamil Eelam.
In this struggle for the liberation of our Motherland, the Thamil Diaspora should contribute their due share and fulfill their historical duty. We fully hope that this profile will help to arouse the Thamil Diaspora not just emotionally, but intellectually as well to contribute its due share.
The World Thamil Movement
Thamil National Liberation Struggle and National Leader Prabhakaran
Our National Leader Prabhakaran
Family Background and Childhood Days of Prabhakaran
Valvettithurai was one of the important Northern ports during the period of the Jaffna Kingdom and even before. It served as a bridge between northern Thamil Eelam and the port of Kodikkarai in Thamil Nadu. The people of Valvettithurai are brave sailors who traveled the stormy seas and amassed great wealth through trade. This sea-port has earned an indelible fame in the annals of Thamil Eelam. This is because it is the birthplace of Prabhakaran, founder of the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Liberation (LTTE), who with popular support of the people is leading the Thamil Eelam National struggle. He is now unanimously accepted as the National Leader of Thamil Eelam. He was born in this historic village on 26th, November 1954.
“Thirumeniyar family” is one of the reputed families in Valvettithurai. Thirumeniyar is one of 4 sons born to Iyampillai Velayuthar. His brothers are Gnanamoorthiyar, Puniyamoorthiyar and Arumugathaar. Thirumeniyar’s maternal uncle Ponnambalam was a successful businessman and was conferred with the title of Mudali during the Dutch period. Thirumeniyar Venkadasalam alias Thirumeniyar Periyathambiyar erected the famous Vaitheeswaran Sivan temple of Valvai according to the wish of his father. The temple construction commenced in 1867 and was consecrated in 1883. He renovated two more temples viz Vaikunthap Pillayar and Puddanip Pilaiyar temples. He also built many Madams for the use of pilgrims at Mullaithivu. The family also built two more temples. Valvai Muthu Mariamman temple and Nediyakadu Pillaiyar temple. Another family called Methaiveedu Nagalingam lived in the adjoining town of Point Pedro. This family was also reputed for building many temples in this area. These two families were joined together through marriage. Thiruvenkadam Velupillai of Thirumeniyar family married Paarvathy of Nagalingam family.
Prabhakaran is the youngest child born in that family. Prabhakaran has one elder brother and two elder sisters. All of them are happily married and settled down in life. One of his sister Vinothini Rajendram is in Canada. The other sister are brother are living in Denmark.
Prabhakaran's father served under the Ceylon government as a District Land Officer for several years. Prabhakaran’s father and mother are domiciled in Tiruchi, Thamil Nadu at present.
Prabhakaran had his education up to 10th grade at Sithamparam Vidyalayam in Oorikkadu, Valvettithurai.
In those days the sole ambition of children from affluent and middle class families was to receive good English education and then seek employment abroad or secure employment in the government. But from his childhood days Prabhakaran's way of thinking was completely different.
When he travelled with his father to the other parts of Ceylon he saw for himself how the Sinhalese policemen ill-treated innocent Thamil people by kicking and beating them. Such incidents caused shock and pain and left deep scars in his psyche.
Especially, the first major genocidal attack against the Thamils during 1958 affected his mind profoundly. Still in his teens, he heard numerous heart-aching stories of inhuman and brutal murders of Thamils by racist Sinhalese goon squads and thugs.
He heard at first hand from a widowed mother who is well known to his parents the anguish and pain she suffered. How Thamil children were killed by heartless mobs by throwing them into cauldrons of boiling tar. How a Hindu priest was burnt alive at a temple in Panadura. So when he came to know how the unfortunate Thamils have been at the receiving end of horrible attacks at the hands of Sinhalese goons, he developed deep sympathy, love and a firm resolve to defend the defenseless the Thamil people.
So he perfected an irresistible urge in his mind to free the Thamil people from the clutches of the oppressive Sinhalese government. He came to the firm and resolute conclusion that the only way to confront the racist Sinhalese government which used military might against the defenseless and innocent Thamil people is through armed struggle.
So during his student days, he and his friends learnt the art of making improvised hand grenades. On one such occasion a grenade exploded accidentally and he received burnt marks on his leg. After medical treatment the burnt area became black. This earned him the nickname 'Karikalan' (person with a blackened leg) when he was still a young lad.
The standardization system introduced by the Sinhala government in 1971 acted as a stumbling block against Thamil students gaining entry to Universities after finishing high school. Prabhakaran who studied up to 10th grade could not continue his studies because of his involvement as a liberation fighter.
Prabhakaran parents were completely unaware of his clandestine activities. But the opportunity for the parents to know of his clandestine revolutionary activities came knocking at the door on its own.
One day a posse of policemen came in search of Prabhakaran. They knocked at the front door of his house at the unholy hour of 3 a.m. in the morning. Immediately on hearing the knocks, Prabhakaran immediately knew it is the Police had come in search of him. Sensing trouble, he vanished through the back door into the darkness of the night without anyone's knowledge.
Prabhakaran’s mother opened the door and was startled to see several policemen in khaki uniform standing in front of the house. She was shocked because at that time she was unaware of Prabhakaran’s involvement in any ‘clandestine movement’. Finally, after a thorough search of the house a disappointed Police went back empty handed failing to apprehend Prabhakaran. He was only 19 years old at that time and he never returned home thereafter.
When his father came to know of his involvement in revolutionary activities, he went to Prabhakaran’s hide- out and brought him back home.
Prabhakaran told his parents "I will never be of any use to you or to other members of the family. Let there be no trouble for you because of me. Please allow me to go my own way. In future never expect anything from me." So saying he left the house. Then he plunged himself fully in the clandestine activities of the movement.He became a full time activist living under ground and moving from place to place to escape arrest by the Police.
His Early Comrades in the Revolutionary Movement
His early comrades in the movement were youngsters and relatives from his own village of Valvettithurai. This is to be expected when a revolutionary movement is launched by someone still in his teens. Such a situation is unavoidable and quite natural.
The Birth of the New Thamil Tigers
During the early part of 1970, strong repressive measures unleashed by the government against Thamils and the blatant discrimination perpetuated against them in all spheres of life created a strong wave of resentment among Thamil youths. They were itching to launch some retaliatory action against the Sinhalese chauvinistic government. Neither the Thamil political parties nor the Sinhalese leftist organizations understood the simmering mind-set of the Thamil youths.
The Thamil youths thought that there were no Thamil political leaders or organizations to stand up and fight on behalf of the oppressed Thamil people. Although the Thamil leaders engaged themselves in various non-violent struggles for more than 30 years, they were treated like outcasts by the government. No one listened to their protests in Parliament. Their protests echoed like cries in the wilderness.
The leftist parties which became victims of Sinhalese chauvinism after 1956 worked against the Thamils. So they too completely ignored the political struggle of the Thamils. Therefore, the Thamil youths were not prepared to trust these leftist parties as well.
Under these circumstances a student movement was started in 1970 under the name “Thamizh MAnavar PEravai” ('Thamil Students Union'). The TSU brought together all the Thamil students and mounted several protest demonstrations, rallies and processions against standardization to University admissions introduced by the government. The TSU became a powerful force among the Thamil students. Thamil youths gradually began to realise that only through an armed revolutionary struggle that Thamils could liberate themselves from the tyranny of Sinhalese hegemonic rule.
The TSU grew to become a very strong organization. Prabhakaran was in the forefront as the leader of the militant wing. As he was the youngest person in that group he was fondly called 'Thamby' (younger brother) by other members of the group. Even today there are people who call him by this name. At the beginning, these young men learnt the art of making hand grenades and using firearms all by themselves. There were about 25 young men in this militant group, all of them close associates of Prabhakaran hailing from Valvettithurai.
During this time to show their opposition to the government, 4 youths under the leadership of Prabhakaran decided to set fire to a government owned Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) bus. But half way. through fear the other three ran away. Only Prabhakaran who was only 16 years-old at that time boldly set fire to the bus and returned. Prabhakaran’s boldness earned the admiration of every one without exception. Those members of the group who were older than him admired Prabhakaran’s bravery and his ability to execute successfully all the difficult tasks assigned to him. All members reposed confidence in Prabhakaran who became symbolic of Thamil militancy and forerunner of Thamil militant movement.
At the same time, the Sinhalese government which was closely monitoring the activities of the TSU attempted to suppress it by using brute force. Some members of the TSU were arrested and tortured by the police. Unable to bear the torture, a few of them broke-down and spilled the beans. In the process they unwittingly betrayed their colleagues to the police. Then the Sinhala police started to hunt down members of the militant group. They arrested many of them, locked them in prisons and tortured them. It was during this period the 4th Storey building in Colombo Fort became famous for torturing Thamil youths. Not wishing to take unnecessary risk, Prabhakaran went over to Thamil Nadu.
Prabhakaran did not stay long in Thamil Nadu. He returned to Thamil Eelam during the early part of 1972. There was an urge among the various revolutionary youths who remained scattered for a revolutionary leadership to head a strong revolutionary movement wedded to revolutionary political philosophy. It is under these circumstances the New Thamil Tigers was launched by Prabhakaran in the middle part of 1972. He was only 17 years- old at that time. The movement was organized with very strict code of conduct and discipline from the very beginning.
New Thamil Tigers and Their Activities
Prabhakaran was both the leader and military commander of the “ New Thamil Tigers”. From the very beginning, Prabhakaran himself personally recruited young men committed to firmness, determination and renunciation (of life) and revolutionary flavour to the movement. He himself provided them the required military training.
(1) First Military Operation
The first military operation of the “ New Thamil Tigers' was carried out under the command of Prabhakaran on July 17th 1975. Alfred Duraiappah, the then Mayor of Jaffna and S.L.F.P. Jaffna electorate organizer was the first victim. He was shot dead when he came to worship at the Varatharajah Perumal Temple at Ponnalai. After the successful operation the Thamil Tigers escaped in the Mayor's car after snatching the keys from the driver.
The credit for planning, executing and leading the first operation successfully goes to Prabhakaran. This incident became a strong warning signal to those Thamil traitors who wanted to betray the Thamil people’s liberation struggle. Above everything, this incident gave confidence to the freedom-thirsty Thamil youths in their long and difficult march towards Thamil Eelam. Many youths joined the movement in the fight against internal and external enemies under the able and trusted leadership of Prabhakaran.
(2) “New Thamil Tigers”
The clandestine movement needed large amount of funds to operate underground. Therefore, they were forced to rob government owned banks to finance their activities. Although the Sri Lankan government collected revenue in the form of taxes from all the people, it neglected completely the Thamil areas in national development schemes. Prabhakaran, therefore, felt that it is not immoral to rob the government to finance the Thamil liberation struggle. So on 5th March 1976, Prabhakaran with his comrades entered the People's Bank branch at Puthur in broad light and took away 5 lakhs in cash and 2 lakhs worth of jewelry at gunpoint.
After the murder of Alfred Duraiappah and the bank robbery the government set up a special intelligence squad in the North. It was created by the Police Headquarters in Colombo with the sole purpose of completely wiping-out the New Thamil Tigers. This division commenced its work in Thamil areas with the help of informants and traitors.
(3) Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam
The “ New Thamil Tigers'” organization took the new name of Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 5th 1976. Prabhakaran remained the political leader and military commander. Some stringent rules and regulations in force during the time of the New Thamil Tigers were relaxed and new regulations were introduced with the object of facilitating the participation of all people in the Thamil Eelam liberation struggle.
Furthermore, Prabhakaran constituted the organization as an urban guerrilla movement with the objective of carrying out a long drawn-out people’s war for the national liberation of Thamil people.
With prophetic foresight Prabhakaran realized that the guerrilla method of warfare is the only viable option for unarmed and numerically smaller nation to fight against the military might of the Sinhala chauvinistic regime. He also correctly anticipated that a guerrilla warfare will be a fore-runner to a full-blooded armed mass liberation struggle in which everyone will participate.
By way of explanation Prabhakaran said "Guerrilla warfare is really mass struggle. It is not in conflict with mass struggle. Guerrilla warfare is the highest form of mass struggle. When it takes root in the hearts of the entire populace and reflect their aspirations it becomes a mass struggle. My object is to achieve this purpose of making all take active part in this guerilla warfare."
In this liberation struggle, leader Prabhakaran divided the military activities of Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam into three main divisions.
(1) Eliminating Sri Lanka’s police spies and Thamil traitors who help them.
(2) Crippling the administrative structure of the Sri Lankan police force functioning in Thamil Eelam.
(3) Destroying army troops and camps by mounting covert and overt attacks and bring them under LTTE control followed by setting up civil administration appropriate to the Thamil people through which self-rule is established in Thamil Eelam.
On July 02, 1976 Nadarajah, Manager Petrol depot. from Urumpirai was shot dead.
On Feb 14, 1977 police constable Karunanithy was shot dead at Maviddapuram.
On May 18, 1977 two policemen bearing the same name Shanmuganathan were shot dead at Inuvil.
(In August 1977, the UNP. government successfully carried out a genocidal attack on Thamils' throughout the island.)
On January 27, 1978 Kanagaratnam, TULF candidate for Pottuvil was shot at Colombo.
On April 07, 1978 Inspector Bastiampillai, who gained notoriety for torturing Thamil suspects at the CID office on 4th floor, and four other police officers were killed in the jungles adjoining Madhu church in Murungan.
On April 25, 1978 for the first time LTTE issued a statement publicly claiming responsibility for military operations from the days of New Thamil Tigers to LTTE totaling 11 military operations. .
On May 19, 1978 a “Law proscribing the LTTE” was passed by the Sri Lanka Parliament. This law gave very wide powers to the army to eliminate LTTE cadres.
On September 07, 1978 a “ New Constitution” was passed by the UNP government of J.R Jayawardene which relegated Thamil language to 2nd place.
On December 05, 1978 Rs.12 lakhs was robbed from the government owned bank at Thirunelveli after killing two policemen.
On July 20, 1979 J.R.’s government passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act to strengthen the previous law which proscribed the LTTE. Under this law a person can be detained incommunicado for 18 months without trial or charges.
On the very same day of the passage of the Prevention of Terrorist act, a state of Emergency was declared in the Northern province. Immediately, J.R. dispatched his nephew Brigadier (Bull) Weeratunga to the North with instructions to “Destroy terrorism in all its form” in six months, that is on or before December 31, 1979.
When the Sri Lankan government under J.R. intensified military oppression of Thamil people and launched a no-holes barred war to destroy the LTTE completely; Prabhakaran decided to strengthen and expand both military and political activities to confront government’s counter insurgency plans. Towards this end, he decided to suspend all military actions temporarily during 1979 and 1980 and concentrated all his attention in strengthening and expanding the Tiger organization.
It was during this period he drafted a full-fledged ‘revolutionary political doctrine’ through which he intended creating an army of fighters who were politically conscious. During this period establishing LTTE branches for the purpose of forging friendly relations with progressive movements remained one of Prabhakaran’s high priority.
On May 31, 1981 the Sinhala army and police together with UNP thugs set the Jaffna city on fire. They burnt to ashes the Jaffna library considered one of the best in South Asia that contained priceless collections of more than 94,000 books and rare manuscripts.
The Eelanadu newspaper publishing house was also burnt down. The duo who spearheaded the Thamil cultural genocide were two senior cabinet ministers known for their chauvinism, Cyril Matthew and Gamini Dissanayake of the UNP government. Gamini Dissanayake later became the leader of the opposition and UNP presidential candidate in the 1994 elections. He was killed in a bomb attack on October 24, 1994.
At this stage, Prabhakaran wanted to make the Sinhala chauvinistic government to realise the fact that Thamils cannot be cow down through state terrorism and violence. So he gave orders to his cadres to mount attacks against government troops. The attacks gradually became escalated in frequency and intensity.
The First Attack against the Sri Lankan Army
On October 15, 1981 the Tigers launched their first attack against the Sri Lankan army by attacking an army truck which came along K.K.S road in Jaffna town. Two soldiers were killed and their arms taken away by the LTTE. In the history of the Liberation struggle of Thamil Eelam this was the first attack on the Sri Lankan army.
On July 02, 1982 four soldiers were killed and three wounded in an attack that took place at Nelliady. The dead soldiers’ arms and ammunitons were also taken away by the LTTE.
On September 29, 1982 the Tigers exploded land mines to cause damage to navy trucks coming on the Ponnalai causeway from Karainagar Naval base as a mark of protest to J.R. Jayawardene’s visit to Jaffna for an election campaign.
On October 27, 1982 the Tigers attacked Chavakachcheri police station and killed 3 policemen and wounded three more. During this successful attack Tigers captured a large quantity of arms and ammunition. Following this attack many police stations in the North were closed and police administration became thoroughly disorganized and paralyzed.
On February 18, 1983 two policemen attached to the Point Pedro police station were shot and killed.
On March 4, 1983 the Tigers launched an attack on a convoy of army vehicles at Umayalpuram near Paranthan and fought face to face with the army for an hour. In this encounter one armoured vehicle was damaged and five soldiers were seriously wounded.
When the Government .Agent of Jaffna wanted to convene a ‘security conference’ at the Jaffna Secretariat to discuss ways and means of maintaining peace and security in the Northern region, the LTTE to show their opposition to the Sri Lankan government bombed and blasted the Jaffna secretariat building just one hour before the commencement of the conference.
On May 18, 1983 the government decided to hold local government election in the Northern province. LTTE leader Prabhakaran appealed to the people of Thamil Eelam to boycott this election. He issued a clarion call urging all Thamils to free themselves from the election mirage of the Sri Lankan government and to reject the government administrative machinery. He further appealed to all the people to rally around the armed struggle for freedom.
On April 23, 1983 as a warning to all those Thamil traitors who were supporting the Sinhala chauvinistic government, three UNP supporters were shot dead by the Tigers. As a result of this military operation, many Thamil candidates who stood for elections on the UNP . ticket backed away and many more deserted the UNP.
On May 18, 1983 on local government election day and just an hour before closing of the poll, Tigers attacked army and police personnel who were guarding the election booth at Kantharmadam, Nallur and killed one soldier and wounded two policemen and two soldiers. The Tigers recovered a RPG automatic rifle from the dead soldier.
Rattled by the successful attacks on the armed forces by the LTTE, J.R. Jayawardena’s government gave full powers to the army to shoot down any suspected freedom fighter ( in government parlance terrorist) at any place and to bury the dead without postmortem examination or judicial inquiry.
At midnight on 23rd July 1983, an assault group consisting of 14 Tigers, including Prabhakaran, lay in ambush at Palaly road at Thirunelveli. The assault group’s command was given to Lieut. Sellakkili by Prabhakaran. When the army convoy arrived at the exact spot, Tigers commenced the attack by activating the land mines. Thirteen Sinhalese soldiers were killed in this attack besides capturing some weapons. Prabhakaran alone shot and killed 7 soldiers in this attack.
This attack shook the Sinhala army establishment and they were thoroughly shaken up. Exploiting the incident as an excuse, the Sinhala government, which was waiting eagerly for such an opportunity, unleashed racial riots throughout the island. It was a well-planned pogrom and thousands of Thamils were brutally murdered. Thamil women were raped. The economic base of Thamils in Colombo were totally destroyed. This genocide was carried out by Sinhalese thugs ably aided and abetted by the army, police, cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and yellow-robed Buddhist monks.
Only after this holocaust, the Thamils fully realized that they and their progeny can never live in peace and security unless they free Thamil Eelam from the clutches of the Sri Lankan terrorist state and make it an independent political entity. This great awakening galvanized ordinary people to join the freedom struggle. Many young men and women fired by revolutionary fervour queued up to join the LTTE.
Thamil Eelam War 1
(August 1984 - July 1987)
Jolted by the July 1983 pogrom that was engineered and executed by the Sri Lankan government against the Thamil people, large number of young men and women joined the LTTE. The ranks of the LTTE swelled many-fold. Guerilla formations multiplied. Under these conditions, Prabhakaran with the objective of converting these formations into a uniformed revolutionary people's army took steps to expand their political and military activities. So from July 1983 to February 1984, Prabhakaran temporarily suspended all military operations and instead drew up mass training programs and expanded both political and military structures.
Thus the turning point in Thamil Eelam freedom struggle commenced with the genocide of July 1983. During this critical period Prabhakaran stood like the eye of the storm against all odds, proving himself equal to all opposition. He easily emerged as the only great leader to take Thamil people’s liberation struggle successfully forward.
Intervention of India
During these years, the Indian government which was closely monitoring developments in the island of Ceylon and the direction of the liberation struggle, especially the political and military maneuvers of the LTTE leader Prabhakaran, decided to intervene. Prime Minister Indra Gandhi decided to intervene on the basis of July 1983 pogrom against the Thamil people.
In July 1983, the Indian government to advance its own geo-political interests in the Indian ocean, decided to bring the island of Ceylon under its sphere of influence by applying political and military pressure.
The Indian government through RAW provided arms and training to the cadres belonging to the various militant groups fighting for the liberation of Thamil Eelam. The Indian government strategy was to give extra arms and money to some of the movements, so that it could manipulate at will the military balance between them in such a way as to bring the LTTE and its leader, who took an uncompromising stand on the question of Thamil Eelam liberation, under its control. If this was not possible then to destroy the LTTE completely.
Prabhakaran who was sharp enough to see through the Indian government's machinations drew up his own plans. While accepting Indian government offers of arms and training, he secretively and without the knowledge of the Indian government and its spy agency RAW managed to induct supplies of arms and ammunitions necessary for a liberation war into Thamil Eelam.
Military operations commenced on 24th February 1984. Under the leadership of Prabhakaran armed struggle in Thamil Eelam became intensified. Tiger formations launched systematic and continuous guerilla attacks on the army and killed hundreds of soldiers. The infuriated army in retaliation attacked and killed unarmed civilians. Yet the people of Thamil Eelam in spite of the suffering were highly elated at the unprecedented military feats of the Tigers under the leadership of Prabhakaran.
On October 24, 1984 Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was killed by her own bodyguards. Rajiv Gandhi who was an air pilot by profession and the eldest son of Indra Gandhi was appointed Prime Minister of India. He had no experience in politics and entertained wrong notions about the ethnic conflict raging in Sri Lanka. He was ignorant of the dynamics of the Thamil Eelam liberation struggle, especially about understanding Prabhakaran. Right from the time of assuming office, he failed to appreciate the fact that Thamils in Sri Lanka suffered oppression at the hands of the Sri Lankan government and they have been denied even the basic rights as a people. Hence he started acting favorably towards the Sinhalese government and in hostility to the Thamil Eelam freedom struggle. This attitude created tensions between the Indian government and Prabhakaran, more precisely between Rajiv Gandhi and Prabhakaran.
Prabhakaran at the age of 31 married Mathivathani, an under-graduate student of the Jaffna University in 1984. She is from Punkudutivu, an island situated off the Jaffna peninsula.They have two sons and one daughter.
Talks At Thimpu
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi collected a coterie of ‘special advisors’ around him by-passing officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in dealing with the island’s ethnic problem. Especially, he ignored A,P. Venkadeswaran, foreign secretary of India who was then forced to resign his office. Rajiv Gandhi’s antagonism towards Venkadeswaran might be due to the fact he was a Thamil. This led to a situation where Rajiv Gandhi’s own whims and fancies became India’s official foreign policy.
Right from the beginning of 1985, the Indian government started applying undue Prabhakaran with Charles Anthony
pressure on the LTTE and Prabhakaran to stop guerilla attacks against the army. It arranged a cease- fire between the Tigers and the Sinhala armed forces beginning 18th June 1985. Under Indian government mediation, negotiations began at Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. All the Thamil liberation groups-ranging from the moderate TULF to the LTTE - jointly enunciated “four cardinal principles” that should form the basis on which a solution to the Thamil national problem should be found. The "four cardinal principles" better known as Thimpu principles in Thamil political discourse are:
It is our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Thamil national question must be based on the following four cardinal principles:
(1) recognition of the Thamils of Ceylon as a nation;
(2) recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Thamils in Ceylon;
(3)recognition of the right of self determination of the Thamil nation; and
(4) recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Thamils in Ceylon.
The Sri Lankan Government headed by J. R. Jayawardene rejected these proposals in toto resulting in a stalemate in talks. In the meantime, the Sinhalese army breached the cease-fire by killing more than 200 Thamil civilians in Trincomalee and Vavuniya. The talks then collapsed for good when Thamil representatives withdrew. During this time Prabhakaran was having consultation with his area commanders about the cease-fire, the talks taking place at Thimpu and future plan of action.
Following the failure of the talks at Thimpu, Anton Balasingham, political advisor to LTTE, was forcibly expelled from India by the Indian authorities. This action brought about deep cleavage and sharp conflict between Prabhakaran and the Indian government. Yet Prabhakaran made clear the LTTE's stand towards India. He declared "We need India's goodwill and assistance. At the same we do not like India imposing its decisions on the people of Thamil Eelam, against their wishes. Our people have the inalienable right to decide about their own future."
But the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian government failed to comprehend Prabhakaran’s commitment and his determination to liberate the people of Thamil Eelam. In October, 1986 the Indian government pressured the Thamil Nadu Chief minister to confiscate LTTE’s communication equipment. The Thamil Nadu police arrested Prabhakaran and other LTTE cadres, took them to the police station and locked them up. They were treated like ordinary criminals by the police.
Vow to Fast unto Death
In this situation, there was a big question mark about Prabhakaran’s next move. Contrary to everyone’s expectation, the youthful leader of the armed movement and the terror of the Sinhalese armed forces, commenced a fast unto death on November 22, 1986. He said that he will not give up his fast unless and until the Thamil Nadu government hands back the communication equipment confiscated. His fast unto death caused shock among all and sundry. Having fully understood the firm determination of Prabhakaran, the Thamil Nadu government gave in and returned back the equipment. Reciprocating the gesture of the Thamil Nadu government, notably its Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran, Prabhakaran ended his fast. Later at a press conference reporters asked a barrage of questions about his fast.
Reporter: " Since you have come out victorious in your non-violent campaign, why can't you adopt the same method of warfare even in Sri Lanka? What is the necessity for an armed struggle?"
Prabhakaran: "India is the only country in history which gained its independence through non-violent means. India understands the sacredness of non-violent struggle and hence victory for my non-violent Satyagraha. But Satyagraha will not work in racist Sri Lanka which is bereft of any humanism or sense of justice. Hence, we are fighting with arms in Thamil Eelam."
When Sri Lanka President J.R. Jayawardene came to Bangalore to participate in the SAARC annual conference, Prabhakaran who was in Thamil Nadu was taken there along with his political advisors to hold talks with him. Indian government informed Prabhakaran about President Jayawardene's proposal to give the Northern province to the Thamils, but divide Eastern province into three parts among Thamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese.
Prabhakaran with MGR
Prabhakaran rejected this proposal out of hand as completely unacceptable. He asked “ When we are demanding the merger of North and East into one, how could we then accept the proposal to divide two into four?”
It was at this Bangalore conference that Jayawardene via the Indian government made an offer to make Prabhakaran the Chief Minister of the Northern Province.
To this offer Prabhakaran gave a fitting reply “This is a deceptive and a dubious trap conceived to exterminate the Thamil race. Chief Minister is a puppet post which the President could dismiss at his own whim and fancy. It is a post with no substantial powers in which you cannot render any meaningful service to the people at all.” He rejected the offer out of hand with the contempt it deserved.
Returning to Thamil Eelam
Prabhakaran realised that as long as he stayed in India, there is bound to be pressure brought on him by the central and state governments. He can be even murdered in Delhi or Madras and thereby bring to an end the armed struggle for Thamil Eelam. On the whole he sensed a lurking danger to his life as long as he continued to stay in Thamil Nadu. Convinced that only his return to Thamil Eelam will help intensify the armed struggle, he returned to Thamil Eelam on January 3, 1987.
While Prabhakran's return made the Sri Lankan Government and the army panic-stricken, confusion gripped the Indian Government and its intelligence outfit RAW. The Indian government evolved a master plan to intervene militarily in the war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. Towards this end India wanted to give indirect military help to the Sri Lankan army to take on the LTTE. Simultaneously India wanted to pose off as the “Saviour” of the Thamil people from the genocidal attacks launched by the Sinhala army.
On May 1, 1987, in his May Day address to the people of Thamil Eelam Prabhakaran said,
“We have to win our freedom through armed struggle and by shedding of blood. There is no other easy way or alternative left for us. Either we perish as slaves or fight with arms and live as free people. This is our political fate. All of us make a firm resolve on this May Day. That is, an independent Thamil Eelam is the only solution and the ultimate solution to our problem. To secure this goal of an independent Thamil Eelam, let us all fight to the last sacrificing our lives, limbs and souls. Let this be our May Day resolve and proclamation!”
Direct Military Intervention of India in Thamil Eelam
On July 24, 1987, some Indian officials met Prabhakaran in Jaffna and informed him that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi wants to meet him and talk to him on a very important subject. So saying they tried to fly him to Delhi post-haste.
On the backdrop of this political turnaround, Prabhakaran addressed a message to the people of Thamil Eelam which read as follows:
“I can assure you that today the Thamils have chosen a leadership which can win for them their goal of Thamil Eelam. I am fully confident that I can carry out this tremendous responsibility vested on my shoulders by you truthfully, sincerely and courageously. I do not believe any ad hoc solution will solve our problem. I am working hard to arrive at a solution which will guarantee permanent peace, bright and prosperous future for all Thamils. I believe that solution is an independent Thamil Eelam. Today, on an official invitation extended by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, I am leaving Thamil Eelam for India.”
Thereafter, he left for Delhi in an Indian army helicopter sent by the Government of India. On the way Prabhakaran stopped at Madras and had talks with the Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran. Nobody knew why he was invited to Delhi in such a mighty hurry. When he and his advisors arrived in Delhi they were lodged at the Asoka Hotel.
In Delhi, the Indian high Commissioner for Sri Lanka J.N. Dixit , Foreign Ministry Secretary K.P.S. Menon and other officials met Prabhakaran. They told him for the first time about the proposed ‘Indo- Ceylon Agreement.’ The officials showed him a copy of the draft agreement, but took it back immediately. Prabhakaran firmly refused to accept the draft agreement. Several attempts were made to coax Prabhakaran into falling in line, but he stood his ground.
Then they told him Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi wanted to see him and talk to him. But even after the lapse of four days, there was no rendezvous with the Prime Minister.
J.N. Dixit, former High Commissioner and a key advisor to Rajiv Gandhi during these political developments has given a clear insight into the Indian mind-set and the policy options discussed in the corridors of power in Delhi. In his book Assignment Colombo (, Konarak Publishers, 1998), he reminisces candidly:
“My advice to him (Rajiv Gandhi) after the failure of our initiatives at the Bangalore SAARC summit was that India's purely mediatory efforts were not likely to succeed. I was of the view that India had to shift its role from that of a mediator to a peace-maker and the guarantor of such peace if the crisis in Sri Lanka was to be resolved. It was also my considered opinion that the LTTE's insistence on the creation of a separate Thamil state in Sri Lanka, based on ethnic, linguistic and religious considerations, would have far-reaching negative implications for India's unity and territorial integrity too. The LTTE's clandestinely publicised objective of a Greater Eelam would have its impact notably on India but the rest of South-East Asian countries with Thamil populations.
I was convinced that the LTTE's objective of creating a separate political entity, purely on the basis of language, ethnicity and religion, would be a challenge to the plural multi-dimensional democratic identity of India as well as other similarly placed countries in the region. Having seen the LTTE in operations, both in the political and military fields, I also felt that, despite the legitimacy of the Thamil aspirations articulated by it, the LTTE was essentially an authoritarian organisation that relied on violence to settle all differences of opinion.
An example of the mindset of LTTE leadership is provided by a report about a journalist asking Prabhakaran some time during 1986 as to who were his role models in politics and military operations. First came Subhas Chandra Bose in all the power and majesty of his position as the supreme commander of the Indian National Army.
The other name Prabhakaran mentioned was the American actor Clint Eastwood in his personification as the hero who avenged injustice with ruthless violence. I cannot vouch for the total authenticity of this story for the simple reason that this was not said to me. But I am inclined to believe in the veracity of such a response by Prabhakaran, given his intense commitment to the Thamil cause and his personality as a militant leader. My suggestions to Rajiv Gandhi were based on these assessments.”
When they found Prabhakaran will not accept the agreement, the Indian government immediately brought representatives of the other servile Thamil Groups who were in Thamil Nadu to Delhi. As to be expected, these groups without as much as batting an eye lid, readily gave their consent to the agreement. Then Rajiv Gandhi announced that everyone, barring the LTTE leader Prabhakaran, have accepted the agreement. Further he announced that he was flying to Colombo to sign the agreement on July 29, 1987.
Only after these developments Rajiv Gandhi met Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran pointed out to him the many short- comings in the agreement. Yet the Indian officials told the mass media that Prabhakaran has given his consent to the agreement. However, Prabhakaran issued a press statement denying government’s claim. In the mean time ‘black cats’ commandos were posted to guard the Asoka Hotel where Prabhakaran was lodged. It tantamount to a virtual house arrest and keeping the LTTE leader incommunicado.
Indo - Sri Lankan Pact
Indo - Sri Lanka agreement was signed in Colombo by Rajiv Gandhi and J.R. Jayawardene on July 29, 1987 without obtaining the consent of the LTTE leader and the Thamil people. Displaying sheer arrogance as Prime Minister of a regional superpower and stupidity as a politician, Rajiv Gandhi signed the agreement with President J.R. Jayawardene, mainly to safeguard the geo-political interests of India. This he did after locking up Prabhakaran, who was leading the liberation struggle of the Thamils with the sole aim of establishing an independent Thamil Eelam, in a Delhi hotel. Rajiv Gandhi who returned to India after signing the agreement met Prabhakaran and gave some assurances to him. After receiving those assurances Prabhakaran returned to Thamil Eelam.
LTTE leader Prabhakaran explained clearly the political stand taken up by the LTTE about the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord at a historically important mammoth gathering of several thousands of Thamils at Suthumalai. In the presence of Indian Army personnel, newspaper reporters and the people of Thamil Eelam he explained the LTTE position thus:
“Today we are handing over the arms we took for the liberation and emancipation of our people to the Indian Government. From this very moment of surrendering our arms we are also entrusting the safety of our people in the hands of the Indian government. “When the Indian government takes over the arms served as a shield and the only protection of our people, it is also taking over the great responsibility to protect the people of Thamil Eelam. The handing over of our arms only signifies this exchange of responsibility. At this juncture if we do not surrender our arms, a very unfortunate situation will arise whereby we will be forced to clash with the Indian Army. We do not want this unfortunate situation to arise under any circumstances.
“ IPrabhakaran at Suthumalai
am fully convinced that an independent state of Thamil Eelam is the only permanent solution to the problems faced by the Thamil people of Thamil Eelam. I will continue the struggle politically for this goal of Thamil Eelam. In the interest of our Thamil people, circumstances might compel LTTE to take part in the interim council or contest elections. But I will not participate in any election at any time. I want to announce this categorically here and now.”
After this, on the orders of Prabhakaran, LTTE cadres began handing over their weapons to the Indian Army at Palaly Military Camp.
But Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi failed to keep his promises he gave to Prabhakaran. Instead he kept on procrastinating and skillfully inducted the other Thamil traitor groups based in India into Thamil Eelam and directed them to engage in anti -LTTE and anti-Thamil activities.
The martydom of Thileepan
At this point of time, Martyr Thileepan, with the approval of Prabhakaran decided to undertake a fast unto death to expose the treacherous role India was playing as the supposed “Saviour” of the Thamil people. This was also meant to be the next phase of the liberation struggle.
On September 15, 1987 Thileepan (Rasaiah Paarthipan) who was the LTTE's political wing leader for the Jaffna district commenced his fast over the following demands from the Indian government. (The Indian army was in de facto control of the peninsula during this time)
1. All Thamils detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be released.
2. The colonisation of traditional Thamil areas by Sinhalese under the guise of rehabilitation should be stopped forthwith.
3. All such rehabilitation should be stopped until an interim government is formed.
4. The Sri Lankan government should stop opening new Police stations and camps in the Northeastern province.
5. The Sri Lankan army and Police should withdraw from schools in Thamil villages
and the weapons given by the Sri Lankan government to 'home guards' shouldbe withdrawn under the supervision of the Indian army.
Citizen Committees, trade unions, students unions, teachers associations, religious leaders, all held meetings and discussed the issues relating to Thileepan's fast. They passed resolutions and submitted memorandums to the overall commander of the IPKF, Lt. General Depinder Singh requesting the Indian authorities to intervene and stop the fast and initiate immediate efforts to set up the interim administration in the Northeast.
But nothing moved fast enough to stop Thileepan’s martyrdom. The Indian government turned a blind eye. It did not realize the gravity of the situation or the dire consequences that are bound to flow following Thileepan's death. Thileepan attained martyrdom on the 26th of September 1987. There was widespread grief in the Northeast There can be little doubt that Thileepan's martyrdom had a profound effect on every Thamil soul in Sri Lanka. Thousands of people from the North and East poured into Yaazhpaanam as the news of his death spread like wild-fire.
Judged by past events, everyone expected a violent reaction in the Northeast following Thileepan's martyrdom, but to everybody's surprise the funeral turned into a peaceful day of mourning. LTTE members moved in decisively to curb any kind of violence. They moved all state owned buses into depots and guarded them. They also provided cover to government institutions after some attempts were made to set fire to them. The Thamil daily Eelamurasu as well as the TV Nitharsanam carried the LTTE leader, Prabakharan's appeal to the people not to destroy or damage public property, as this was the property of people of Thamil Eelam.
Black flags were seen everywhere - along roads, top of houses, churches, temples, trees and public buildings. Thousands of wailing and sobbing men, women and children followed Thileepan's last journey. His body was covered with the red flag of the Tigers. Thileepan's body was taken on a decorated car through villages for the people to pay their homage and last respects. It was finally taken to Suthumalai where it was kept for public viewing. Thileepan’s body parts were donated to the medical faculty of Jaffna University according to his last wish.
Thileepan's martyrdom brought profound sadness and deep sorrow and also fear among many people. Most of them had genuinely believed that India would intervene at the last minute on humanitarian grounds and stop the impending disaster. They began to have doubts about India's conduct. They began to say 'this could have been avoided' and 'India should have moved fast' and 'India should not have let this happen' and so on. In short the people felt it was a great betrayal by ‘mother’ India. Thamil dailies began to carry articles criticising the handling of the whole issue by the Indian authorities.
In a statement released by LTTE leader Prabhakaran on the occasion of Thileepan’s martyrdom, he said, inter alia,
“The entire Thamil speaking people in the North and East should rally round the LTTE in this non-violent struggle. We can achieve our goal of Thamil Eelam only by the united and concerted effort of the entire Thamil masses. This is the only way we can show our gratitude to Thileepan for his un-comparable sacrifice and martyrdom in pursuit of our cause.”
Heroic Death of 12 Liberation Fighters
After the death of Thileepan, Sri Lankan navy arrested 17 senior LTTE cadres, including 2 senior commanders Pulendran and Kumarappa off Point Pedro coast. They were brought to the Palaly Army Camp and detained. Prabhakaran registered a very strong protest against this unlawful and high-handed action of the Sri Lankan government when there was a cease-fire and a general amnesty in force. He urged Indian as well as the Sri Lankan governments to release the LTTE cadres immediately.
In the meantime, the hawkish Minister for National Security Lalith Athulathmudali was insisting that all the arrested LTTE cadres to be brought to Colombo to face charges. He threatened to resign his cabinet portfolio if his demand was not complied with by President Jayawardene. On account of India’s betrayal, 12 out of the 17 liberation fighters committed suicide by swallowing cyanide. Prabhakaran issued a soul -stirring and strongly worded statement to the people of Thamil Eelam. He asked:
“If the Indian government would have demanded the Sri Lankan President Jayawardene to release all those men who were arrested , then these unwarranted deaths would not have taken place. In this respect India has totally failed to honour its commitment, exercise its authority and fulfill its moral responsibility to protect the lives of the liberation fighters and the Thamil people. If India has forsaken this great moral responsibility, then there is no meaning in the Indian Peace Keeping force lingering in Thamil Eelam. Now we have to question their motive for remaining in our soil. Are they staying here to protect President Jayawardene, the Sinhalese Army and treacherous Thamil groups and help them to exterminate the liberation fighters of LTTE? It is an unpardonable crime indeed that instead of protecting our fighters and leaders, India was handing over them to the Sinhalese Army. By this treacherous act. the IPKF has committed an unpardonable crime against the people of Thamil Eelam. Under these circumstances we have decided not to abide by the cease-fire agreement!”
(Continued in Part 11)