|India's Other Terror Threat|
|Friday, 09 January 2009|
Prof. Asoka Bandarage
In the aftermath of the horrific attacks in Mumbai, global attention is on the threat to India from Islamist Jihadists in the north and the west. In the mean time, the threat from the Tamil secessionists in the south receives little attention. How India deals with its southern terrorism and the Sri Lankan situation has a direct bearing on her ability to take a strong and consistent stance against terrorism.
During the early 1960s the Dravidasthan movement to establish a separate Dravidian state in South India was one of the most fissiparous tendencies and a major threat to the Indian Union. After India adopted the draconian anti-secessionist amendment to its constitution in 1963, the South Indian secessionist movement was halted, but, South Indian support for a 'surrogate' Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka, the island state in the southern tip of India, expanded. Even today, the manifesto of the Marumarchi Dravida Munnetra Khazagham (MDMK) in Tamil Nadu calls for autonomy for regional states in India and establishment of a separate Tamil state --Eelam- in Sri Lanka.
The confluence of South Indian Tamil nationalism and Sri Lanka's post-independence policies favorable to the Sinhala majority in higher education and state employment and other factors led to the evolution of Tamil separatism and terrorism in Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankan moderate and militant separatist groups, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were initially nurtured and protected by Tamil Nadu political parties with the complicity of the central government of India. The Indian Intelligence Service, RAW - Research and Analysis Wing - was involved in training and arming the Tamil terrorist groups under Indira Gandhi.
Over the course of the Sri Lankan secessionist war, the LTTE--now banned in India, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Malaysia as a terrorist organization--emerged as the most lethal and well organized terrorist group in the world and the proto-type of global terrorism. According to the FBI, LTTE's ruthless tactics have inspired terrorist networks worldwide including Al Qaeda in Iraq. The LTTE perfected the use of suicide bombers, invented the suicide belt, pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks, assassinated two world leaders (former Indian Premier, Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa)--the only terrorist organization to do so. The LTTE is the first militant group to acquire air power. Its attack against Sri Lanka's World Trade Center was the largest terrorist assault in the world prior to the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. It is also known for its extensive reliance on forced conscription of child soldiers and women suicide bombers.
While powerful international countries oppose political negotiation with terrorists, the Sri Lankan state has negotiated with the LTTE in 1985, 1987, 1989-1990, 1995, 2002 and 2006. But, on each occasion, the LTTE used ceasefires to build itself militarily, to wipe out Tamil moderates and terrorize the civilian population. The failure of the 2002 Norwegian facilitated peace process resumed the armed conflict. The government has regained control over the Eastern Province and much of the Northern Province and is reportedly close to wresting control of the remaining areas under LTTE control.
Asoka Bandarage teaches Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University. Her latest book is The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy (Routledge, 2008).
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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