|“NOTWITHSTANDING THE DIVIDING SEA…”|
|Tuesday, 02 December 2008|
Mahaveera, Mumbai & the Madrasi Mad Max mode
Though there was much tut-tutting by the so-called peace lobby in Colombo, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga never spoke a truer word than when she described Velupillai Prabhakaran as a megalomaniac. The man is quite plainly mad, as evidenced by this claim early on in his Mahaveera speech this year: “…the sacrifices they made have no parallel in the history of the world. No country but ours had at any time encountered such wonderful dedication as expressed in the actions of our valiant heroes.”
So, from the 300 Spartans under Leonidas who, according to Herodotus, held off a one and a half million strong Persian army at Thermopylae, to the Soviet defenders at Stalingrad who broke the back of the Nazi army; from the Vietnamese who defeated the world’s greatest military power to the Hezbollah of Southern Lebanon who twice made the Israelis retreat from Lebanese soil (the Israelis held a commission of inquiry on the debacle of the 2006 war), the sacrifices, dedication and heroism of fighters in all of “the history of the world” no less, pale by comparison with Prabhakaran’s Tigers, who it might be noted, have diminishing control over two districts (and not all of them) after over thirty years of war. Yep, its time to exchange the flak jacket for the straitjacket.
Prabhakaran seems to derive his hubris at least in part from his achievement against the IPKF. He keeps referring to “happenings in the past” where they faced “forces much mightier than ours…superior forces”. What he does not seem to comprehend is that the IPKF was not motivated to fight him to a finish, it received mixed signals from its political masters, it had limitations in the kind of firepower it could dispose of, it had social hostility in its rear, and above all, it had somewhere else to go back home to. None of these conditions apply to the Sri Lankan armed forces. Indeed their opposites do.
What is new about Prabhakaran’s Mahaveera message this year is the attempt to trigger a new cycle of mega violence against Sri Lanka by young Tamils in Tamil Nadu and overseas. It is the Mumbai model of “jihadi” type violence; the script of a million Madrasi Mad Maxes.
We have already been the target of two, three, many Mumbais, one may argue in truth. From old woman pilgrims in Anuradhapura, to boy bhikkhus in Arantalawa, from pedestrians in Maradana to commuters on trains in Dehiwela, from women employees in the Central Bank to suburban shoppers and passengers on buses, Sri Lankans of all ethnicities have been the victims of Tiger terrorism.
Sometimes – or for a period of time - this terrorism was of a cross border character. Shekhar Gupta blew the whistle in an India Today cover story, a retired senior Police official complained in his memoirs about the cover up of the bloody bomb blast at Meenambakkam airport, and TIME magazine carried a piece by Ross Munro which stated that the attackers who murdered 200 civilians in the sacred city of Anuradhapura were in radio contact with their handlers throughout the operation.
So what is new, one may ask. What is new is that Prabhakaran’s pitch is clear, unequivocal, martial and Pan Tamilian. He hopes to whip up support for the cause of Tamil Eelam and hatred against Sri Lanka and Sinhalese among Tamils, especially young Tamils the world over. Consider his words carefully:
“…We are conducting this struggle with the unrelenting support of the Tamil people, the world over…
…Today, there are great changes taking place in India. The dormant voices in support of our struggle are re-emerging aloud again. There are also indications of our struggle becoming accepted there. The positive change in environment gives us courage to seek renewal of our relationship with the Indian super power…
…Not withstanding the dividing sea, Tamil Nadu, with its perfect understanding of our plight, has taken heart to rise on behalf of our people at this hour of need. This timely intervention has gratified the people of Tamil Eelam and our freedom movement and given us a sense of relief. I wish to express my love and gratitude at this juncture to the people and leaders of Tamil Nadu and the leaders of India for the voice of support and love they have extended. I would cordially request them to raise their voice firmly in favour of our struggle for a Tamil Eelam state...
…At this historic juncture, I would request Tamils, in whatever part of the world that they may live in to raise their voices, firmly and with determination, in support of the freedom struggle of their brothers and sisters in Tamil Eelam. I would request them from my heart to strengthen the hands of our freedom movement and continue to extend their contributions and help. I would also take this opportunity to express my affection and my praise to our Tamil youth living outside our homeland for the prominent and committed role they play in actively contributing towards the liberation of our nation…”
This is structurally similar to the call for “jihad” that emanates from those fanatical preachers and ideologues who managed to motivate the young men who perpetrated the massacres in Mumbai. There is great similarity between Prabhakaran’s discourse and the words of “Imran”, one of the Mumbai terrorists speaking to Indian TV while under siege, who justified his depredations by an incantatory narrative about the sufferings of Muslims, especially in Gujarat and Kashmir.
Prabhakaran has sown the Dragon’s teeth. We can expect in the next years and decades, young terrorists of Tamil origin to descend upon us, machine guns blazing in all directions. How to guard against this? We must avoid the worst case scenario, in which Tamil terrorism of external origin reinforces and links up with Sri Lankan based Tamil terrorism. This we can do by the simple expedient of eliminating LTTE terrorism on the ground. As a character in one of the Shaft movies said, “You can’t have no cavities if you ain’t got no teeth”. We have to pull all the teeth of indigenous Tamil terrorism, beginning with the elimination of Prabhakaran and his “heroes”. Just as nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure, and the conspicuous failure of Prabhakaran’s war – including his guerrilla columns and units, not just his semi-conventional capacities -- will be the greatest deterrent to potential Tamil terrorist threat from outside.
This has to be supplemented by political measures. That is not because terrorism can be prevented or appeased by autonomy however generous that autonomy may be. Colombo’s coffee club cosmopolitans are wrong in this too. Take the case of Indian Kashmir. Not only is India a federal or quasi federal state, it is also secular and democratic. Furthermore, Kashmir enjoys “special status” within the Indian Union. That has not deterred terrorism including cross border terrorism in Kashmir. There are even Chechen and Afghan terrorist fighters who regard Kashmir as a cause and carry out violent acts in that province.
Nor has autonomy ended secessionism: the recent forceful protests in Indian held Kashmir resulted in numerous deaths from police shootings while the elections were held with many secessionist political leaders in custody. India’s exemplary secularism and federalism has not eliminated secessionist terrorism in the Northeast either. Just weeks ago there were coordinated bombings in Guwahati.
Why then bother with autonomy? Simple: there are 2 billion Indians who will always outnumber the mass base of the terrorists. However, there are 80 million Tamils and only 18 million Sinhalese. Therefore the Sinhalese need the support of the anti-Tiger Tamils. They also need to increase the numbers of anti-Tiger, anti-terrorist Tamils. They need to counter the attraction of separatism and terrorism for young Tamils, incorporating and integrating them as fully fledged Sri Lankan citizens. This requires the creation of an authentically Sri Lankan identity, in which Sri Lanka has a broader connotation than a thin disguise and mere synonym for Sinhala-Buddhist or Sinhala. That requires the elimination of all discrimination and the implementation of genuine regional/provincial autonomy. Furthermore, Sri Lanka, a small country, needs the support of India and the international community, without which it cannot handle Pan-Tamil terrorism which will have its sources and origins in the territories of other states. In the first instance, the pre-emption of Pan-Tamil terrorism requires the active support of India (the Central govt, other states and moderates in Tamil Nadu). It can only be handled jointly. This requires substantive autonomy as an urgent strategic and security imperative.
(These are the personal views of the writer)
Courtesy: Daily Mirror
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
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