A to Z of the Road to Eelam
[Originally appeared in the Tamil Nation of July 1993; revised for Jan.2002]
By Sachi Sri Kantha
The year 2002 has begun. It marks the 25th anniversary of the Eelam vote granted by the majority of Eelam Tamils for marching to a different drumbeat. As a causative effect for this decision, Eelam Tamils had suffered at the hands of successive Sri Lankan despots, beginning from J.R.Jayewardene to the most recent Chandrika Kumaratunga. Since 1987, for the past 15 years, the verbal as well as armed attacks on Eelam Tamils who chose to march to a different drum beat also came from neighboring Indian politicians and pundits. Thus, it is opportune to look back the past 25 years in an A to Z format of the Road to Eelam.
A is for Amirthalingam
Some become lousy leaders after serving as excellent lieutenants for born leaders. Amirthalingam was such a type. His leadership skill since 1983 was flawed. But his contribution to the cause of down-trodden Tamils between 1949 and 1977, under the leadership of Chelvanayakam was remarkable. But in 1983, he relinquished his skills to lead the Tamils, when threatened by J.R.Jayewardene.
B is for Bombing
When the Sinhalese power-brokers began bombing the Eelam territory, they forfeited their legitimate right to rule the Tamils.
C is for Conference, Commission and (Select) Committees
Tamils have been bombarded repeatedly with platitudes promising equal rights via the All Party Conference, Parliamentary Select Committee and innumerable Commissions. All turned out to be damp squibs.
D is for Diaspora
Eelam Tamils living in the diaspora are now estimated to be more than 800,000. They are a heterogeneous lot. Armchair critics, ardent activists, ex-communist ideologists-turned human rightists, educated fools, young professionals, refugees and retired pensioners abound among them.
E is for Eelam
Contrary to the propaganda of dim-bulbs whose geographical knowledge has putrefied, Eelam will not be a mini-state. Almost 40 nations and territories currently recognized by the international agencies have areas smaller than Eelam.
F is for Friends and Foes
The English poet John Gay said it forcefully: ‘An open foe may prove a curse; but a pretended friend is worse’. Eelam Tamils learnt a good lesson about the friendship of pretended friends: Rajiv Gandhi, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Hindu news establishment in Chennai etc. in 1987 and after.
G is for Gandhis – Indira and Rajiv
Such a contrast in the attitude towards the Tamils between the mother and her son. Eelam people rejoiced on the actions taken by Indira in 1983 and 1984. Her successor Rajiv was a disappointment.
H is for Holocaust
The Tamil holocaust of 1983 ignited the war for liberation of Eelam. The Sinhala propagandists now play the tune that the 1983 planned aggression was an aberration and not the real thing. They gloat that since then, such tragic events have not recurred, despite severe provocations from the Tigers. Hogwash! Constitutional gurantee for Tamil rights doesn’t mean a thing when discrimination and oppression have been entrenched as a state policy.
I is for India
Not long ago, India had giants who guided the subcontinent. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subash Chandra Bose and Rajaji instilled confidence among the downtrodden masses all over the world. Independence movements and struggle for equal rights in Asia and Africa were ignited by their actions. Now, one needs to look for a giant in India with a magnifying glass.
J is for Jayewardene
The founding editor of Tamil Nation, S.Sivanayagam, has aptly summarized the legacy of J.R.Jayewardene in 1987. To excerpt, “When the history of the post-independence period of Sri Lanka comes to be written…his years in power will emerge in dark contrast against the rest of the period – a blood-soaked chapter in the life of a country which had for long earned the happy reputation of being a Paradise Isle; a debilitating phase in the life of the majority Sinhalese people, who despite occasional bouts of mob violence against the minority Tamils, had been known for their spontaneity, warmth, hospitality and friendliness; and of course a period of unmitigated tragedy for the Tamils, who, oppressed by the very State to which they were expected to owe allegiance, decided either to fight back or flee the country’.
K is for Karunanidhi
Amirthalingam’s contemporary and counterpart in Tamil Nadu history. He was an excellent lieutenant to Anna for 20 years, from 1949 to 1969. But, with all the goodwill of people and organizing talents, he could only become a lousy leader. What an anti-climax to the expectations of Eelam Tamils? Even after Karunanidhi was dismissed for the second time as the Chief Minister in 1991, he might have retained the respect of Eelam Tamils, had he continued to show his support. His opportunism got the better of his judgement and Karunanidhi stood exposed.
L is for Land
It has been recorded that the Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle told an American almost 130 years ago, ‘You may boast of your democracy, or any other ‘cracy, or any kind of political rubbish; but the reason why your labouring folk are so happy is that you have a vast deal of land for a very few people’. Regarding Eelam, the liberation struggle of Tamils is also for preserving the land we own by heritage. All the Tamil lives sacrificed will be in vain if the cherished land is lost. To repeat Carlyle, ‘democracy, or any other ‘cracy, or any kind of political rubbish’ is secondary to the cherished land.
M is for Money
Even to fight a liberation war, one needs money. This has remained as the main limitation for the successful execution of the Eelam plan. In Sri Lanka and India, the PLO and its chief Yasser Arafat is held in high esteem and I don’t grudge that. But they should also know the amount of money Arafat receives from his allies for his fight against Zionist interests. Is Pirabhakaran’s financial support similar to that of Arafat? Only MGR openly came forward and gave his financial support to the Eelam campaign in 1987.
N is for Newsmedia
The international newsmedia had covered the Eelam campaign since 1983, with varied accuracy, focus and distortions. The two cliché sentences which do appear in almost every news agency dispatch have been, ‘The rebels from the minority Tamil community are fighting for an independent homeland. Tamils make up 18% of Sri Lanka’s 19 million people. They say, the Sinhalese, who make up 75% of the population and control the government and military, discriminate against them’.
O is for Over-confidence
In his interview with the Time magazine (April 9, 1990), Pirabhakaran was asked, ‘What in your judgement were the LTTE’s own strengths and weaknesses?’ The question was related to LTTE’s war with the Indian army. Pirabhakaran replied, ‘Our strength and our weakness was our over-confidence. Sometimes our cadres took impossible risks, like ambushing an Indian patrol at a point where there were no escape routes. This cost us casualties. We were sometimes careless. But also because of our overconfidence, our boys carried out some amazingly brave attacks.’
P is for Pirabhakaran
So much has been said about Pirabhakaran. One of the best which I remember appeared in the Newsweek magazine (Nov.9, 1987), at the height of the Indo-LTTE war. Angus Deming wrote, ‘Velupillai Prabhakaran may not be a household name elsewhere, but in Sri Lanka he has become the stuff of legend. He is the wily guerrilla leader whose outnumbered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) bloodied the Indian army in Jaffna, then slipped away to fight again another day… Prabhakaran is a man obsessed by a dream; to carve out an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka…He sometimes mouths Marxist jargon, and admires Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. But at heart he is a freedom fighter – not a revolutionary’.
Q is for Quislings
One need not waste much space for the quislings, who have contributed much to the misery of the Eelam citizens.
R is for Ramachandran (known to Tamils and others in India and Sri Lanka as MGR)
India is full of politicians whose words and deeds do not match. MGR was an exception, as far as his relationship with Eelam Tamils were concerned. After the 1983 holocaust, MGR identified himself with the LTTE and pledged that ‘Tamil Nadu will protect Liberation Tigers’ (The Hindu, Nov.7, 1983) and did just that till his death on Dec.24, 1987.
S is for Scholarly-writing
Tamils have been notorious for not writing their past history. It is gratifying to note that to rectify this lapse, quite a few scholarly books have appeared which have been authored by Tamil academics. But members of the ‘intellectual underworld’ (to borrow a beautiful phrase from Medicine Nobelist Peter Medawar) under the mask of ‘human rights’ have also been working overtime in Colombo and Chennai to undermine the motives of Eelam fighters.
T is for Tigers
Tracing the origins of the Tigers, Marguerite Johnson wrote for the cover-story in the Time magazine (June 9, 1986), ‘In 1972 a Tamil teenager named Vilupillai Prabhakaran started a rebel group that became the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. By mid 1983, Prabhakaran’s Tigers had only 30 full-time members, with far less than one gun a piece’. From such insignificant beginnings, the Tigers have developed into such a power that the Sri Lankan government had to increase its military budget beyond a billion dollars per annum.
U is for United National Party (UNP)
The two titans (Jayewardene and Premadasa) who controlled the UNP from 1977 to 1993, naively believed that by increasing the annual military budget, they could silence the Eelam campaign. But they were proved wrong by the tenacity and valor of the LTTE army. Will the new UNP boss be shrewd enough to learn from the mistakes of his two predecessors?
V is for Vadamarachchi and Valvettithurai
Almost every region and town in Eelam had experienced loss of life and bombing damage. However Vadamarachchi and Valvettithurai in particular had to bear the brunt of enemy attack repeatedly, for the only reason that it happens to be the soil which gave birth to Pirabhakaran.
W is for Wars
Every war produces heroes and villains. The real heroes, apart from those who fought valiantly in the battlefronts, are the Eelam civilians who stayed in the Eelam territory despite bombing, intimidation, starvation and death, to give support to the fighters. The mental toughness shown by these patriotic citizens to ride out the difficulties of war can never be matched by those who have settled in non-Eelam territories of Sri Lanka or elsewhere.
X is for X-brained Indian pundits
The 24th letter of the English alphabet is conventionally used to indicate incorrect response as well as for signature by a person unable to write his name. In mathematics, X stands for ‘unknown quantity’. So much negative coverage had appeared in the Indian press since mid 1987 about the LTTE and Pirabhakaran, one can only laugh at the stupidity of these X-brained Tamil and non-Tamil Indian pundits. As the best examples of this X-brained punditry, I cite two items published in 1989 and 1992. In July 1989, the pundits of the Madras Hindu found Pirabhakaran ‘killed in a shoot-out’. The July 31, 1992 issue of the India Today trumpeted that ‘for once, the masters of guerrilla warfare (LTTE) have been cornered’, and also gloated that ‘Tigers exposed as men of straw’.
Y is for Youth
The last two decades belonged to the Tamil youth. Their actions have been criticized by many who play the role of armchair critics. But as Nehru wrote in his book, Glimpses of World History, ‘the parents of many of these children may have behaved as cowards or slaves in the past. But who dare doubt that the children of our generation will tolerate no slavery or cowardice?’
Z is for Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist, derived from the German words zeit (time) and geist (spirit) is described in the dictionary as the ‘spirit of the times; trend of thought and feeling in a period’. The zeitgeist for the past two decades is nothing but Eelam.