I gained first hand information of the Sri Lankan Tamil crisis in the early 70s. The college in Chennai where I did my PG had Sri Lankan Tamils who told stories about how essential items in the Tamil dominated North east region cost four times more than they did in the rest of Sri Lanka. Items like sanitary pads were available only in the black market - at a ridiculously exorbitant prize. These students used to carry home dried chillies, essential spices from the then Madras when they went home.
So a problem was there. It was genuine, I realized. The political murders that Sri Lanka was infamous for had a background that could not be dismissed. There was some sort of an economic embargo in the Tamil areas which made life difficult for them.
I do not know when exactly LTTE and its supremo caught my attention. But I do remember thinking that a separatist movement was ineveitable. That view was based on my interaction with my Sri Lankan Tamil friends a few years earlier.
Velupally Prabhakaran caught my attention – don’t know when - ‘cos of the name. My father had a friend called Velupilla. You know for some reasons certain names stick in your mind on account of quite insignificant associations. Gradually Prabhakaran began to haunt my imagination. The media took care of it.
The stories of his personality, his ruthlessness crept into my consciousness from the magazines and newspapers of which I was once an avid reader. I could empathize with the cause – the end- for which he fought. My friends from college and their tales never really deserted me. But I grew angry with his methods – the means.
I love Christ.
I love Gandhi.
And Prabhakaran did not fit in this company.
Imagine killing people by garlanding them with burning tyres! No cause justifies such brutality.
And then Rajiv Gandhi happened.
In fact, the people with whom I shared my views on current issues had all expressed anxiety about Rajiv Gandhi playing with fire when he invited Prabhakaran to Delhi and messed around with him. One does not turn a traitor on a person like Prabhakaran and get away with it. We became more anxious when the IPKF became the foe of both LTTE and The Sri Lankan government. with it.
Our anxieties soon translated into reality. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
LTTE was messing around with our leaders, our sovreignity. Of course we were all angry.
Stories about LTTE reached us from our friends working in the Gulf and Saudi. They told us how Sri Lankan Tamils there - from house maids to top executives – had to contribute to LTTE funds under threat of harm to their loved ones back home!
Whatever little sympathy I had with for this terror outfit and their cause faded away without my knowing it.
And then of course there was the issue brewing trouble on our doorstep. Tamilnadu politicians were making hay while the sun shone. They continue to do it – espousing the Sri Lankan Tamil cause- now that elections are in the offing. The flip-flops by the leaders of the DMK and its variations, the filmy fast unto death drama by Karunanidhi, no doubt after getting unofficial information that qualitative ceasefire is about to happen, and the dramatic break of the fast on the Marina beach like a well scripted film – it’s sick. Absolutely sick.
A gigantic humanitarian crisis exists. The Lankan army cannot be blamed. No nation can tolerate separatist movement. No Indian political group should support separatist movement. But Tamilnadu has always done it (especially when the atmosphere gets charged with electioneering) and got away with it.
The LTTE cannot be justified. It’s cowardly to use human shields comprising even children and the aged. The honourable thing for the militants to do is to lay down arms, and for Prabhakaran, to surrender.
This is my take There could be inaccuracies as it is reconstructed from memory and my understanding of the situation. However, I can safely claim that this is the take of the average apolitical Indian citizen of my generation on this issue.