|Mumbai terror and Prabhakaran's expectations|
|Thursday, 04 December 2008|
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Prabhakaran's usually much hyped Great Heroes’ Day 2008 speech on November 27 became a casualty of the daring terror strike on the same day in Mumbai. Holding the city to ransom for three days the terror story hogged headlines and only few of the Indian print media carried Prabhakaran's speech on the sidelines, while the visual media ignored it.
And this time he needed the ears of New Delhi, more than Tamil Nadu, to act upon his strong plea for India's support for his armed struggle and lifting the Indian ban on the LTTE. Actually this was the central theme of his, otherwise recycled, annual speech.
The Manmohan Singh coalition is fighting a battle to survive the ground swell of criticism for its abysmally poor performance in handling the Mumbai terror strike. In a knee jerk reaction so typical of New Delhi, long standing proposals to strengthen the counter terror apparatus at the Centre and the states are hurriedly being resurrected. With the general elections in another three months, no Indian political party can afford any more to soft pedal terrorism of any hue – religious, ideological or ethnic. The national impact of the Mumbai terror raid is so strong that policy makers from now onwards can only take a hard line on activities of terrorist organisations. And in India that includes the LTTE, whose conduct had qualified it to be banned as a terrorist organisation. Only recently the Delhi High Court has upheld the ban on the LTTE.
The first counter measures against terror are already in the pipeline and relate to coastal and marine terrorism. Stricter control of illegal entrants, tightening of security at airports and harbours, tightening of shipping and fisheries control, and tougher vetting of visitors from neighbouring countries would probably follow. The proposed federal agency for integrating the national response to terror attacks and expansion of the reach of the counter terror force - the National Security Guard (NSG) to the metros might take a little more time to come through. But surely come they will, for the government had been dithering on these issues for years now.
And all this is bad news for Prabhakaran's mission to win friends and influence people in India.
Happy at the resurgence of political support in Tamil Nadu for the LTTE, Prabhakaran called it “great changes taking place in India." Prabhakaran is probably expecting greater acceptance of the LTTE in Tamil Nadu encouraged by the revival of pro-LTTE elements in Tamil Nadu as the "dormant voices in support of our struggle" re-emerging aloud again, as he termed them.
Perhaps in a bid to save the face of Tamil Nadu leaders who are demanding immediate ceasefire, he explained his readiness to talk peace, after listing out the record of failed peace efforts in the past. He stressed that Tamil genocide was taking place as a result of the war, to strike a chord among Tamils everywhere.
It is significant that Prabhkaran wants India's help on his own terms as there is not a word of regret or remorse in the speech for his own betrayal of India when it had actively intervened in support of the Tamil cause in the past. He has not even provided a fig leaf of apology for the role of LTTE in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Indian prime minister on the soil of Tamil Nadu.
It is out of question for any politician in India to ask people to wish away (as Prabhakaran had done) not only the Rajiv assassination but also the LTTE's black record of killings of his own kind let alone his opponents, Tamil or otherwise. This attitudinal problem of Prabhakaran will make it difficult for any worthwhile Tamil politician to openly express support for the LTTE, even if the ban on the LTTE is lifted. Many Sri Lankan Tamils apparently consider these issues as not germane to their struggle which has been militarily taken over by the LTTE.
But across the Palk Straits it is still considered as the LTTE's unacceptable conduct, particularly when it had depended upon India's goodwill for its survival, not once, but many times in the past. Prabhakaran's refusal to recognize this is manifest in his description of the earlier Indian interventions as "injurious to the people of Tamil Eelam, as well as to their struggle." Obviously this was to justify his collusion with President Premadasa, of the same "racist Sinhala state, "to throw out the Indian forces which went to Sri Lanka to help Tamils. Not only that, his love-hate thoughts on India were evident when he blamed "the racist Sinhala state, with its intrigues, conspired to bring enmity between our freedom movement and the earlier Indian administration." So his platitudes of India "the super power" sound hollow.
Prabhakaran has castigated "some countries which identified themselves as so-called Peace Sponsors, rushed into activities which impaired negotiations." Obviously this was a reference to the U.S. and the EU who have banned the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. They have also busted LTTE clandestine arms procurement rings and clamped down its front organisations including some NGOs. He probably felt no more confident of influencing them to mend their ways in favour of the LTTE.
As a corollary, his need for India to bale him out is more than ever before as the security forces are closing in on the LTTE bastion at Kilinochchi. So it was not surprising to read that he had "great expectations that the Indian super power will take a positive stand on our national question." Probably, he expects further political pressure from Tamil Nadu to influence India. He felt Tamil Nadu "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." Of course Sri Lankan Tamils’ plight is dear to the heart of Tamils but not the self-inflicted plight of the LTTE.
Though India has unequivocally stated that it was against the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam, the LTTE leader had "cordially" requested them "to raise their voice firmly in favour of our struggle for a Tamil Eelam state, and to take appropriate and positive measures to remove the ban which remains an impediment to an amicable relationship between India and our movement." Does he really believe in his call? Or has a stray event like the celebration of his birthday by a group of lawyers in the Madras High Court kindled his high expectations? Prabhakaran is too shrewd for that. All this hype built over Indian support is probably to boost up his constituency among expatriate Tamils and the LTTE cadres battling it out in Wanni under adverse conditions.
The Great Heroes’ Day statement only shows that despite his strategic blunders Prabhakaran is yet to introspect and come to term with the dynamics of sub-continental reality. If he wants Indian support he has to change his script drastically. And it has to be on India's terms, not his. That might well be an academic question in the case of Prabhkaran.
(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.)
Courtesy: Daily MirrorC
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