Front Note: Corroboration of My Assessments
It is always encouraging to receive corroborative confirmation. Thus, before I present this week’s installment of my analytical biography on Pirabhakaran, I’m glad to incorporate the views of those who shoot from the opposite fence. Both are certified Pirabhakaran-haters. One is a Cabinet minister and the other one is a media analyst.
First to the highly visible analyst C.A.Chandraprema alias Thadi Priyantha. In his recent commentary, ‘The LTTE: To Talk or not to Talk…?’, which had appeared in the Island (Colombo) newspaper early this month, Chandraprema supports my view expressed in the Part-22 of this series, that Rohana Wijeweera was a carbon copy of Pol Pot.
Of course, Chandraprema has his own bias and blinders and peddles his spins for livelihood. Still I wish to quote him, since he had authored a book in English on the JVP’s Pol Potism of 1987-89. Also, his exposure on the military debacles suffered by the Sri Lankan army is a back-handed compliment to the successes of LTTE’s foot-soldiers and Pirabhakaran’s strategies. Excerpts:
“One should remember that the terrorists who killed the most number of innocent civilians in this country [Sri Lanka] is not the LTTE but the JVP. The JVP’s record has not been broken by the LTTE and will not be broken even if the LTTE continues to fight and explode bombs until the year 2020. The LTTE has killed thousands of armed forces personnel but a lesser number of Sinhalese civilians. This is not due to any ‘principles’ on the part of the LTTE. During UNP times the civilian casualties of the LTTE were much bigger than the military casualties. But after the PA assumed power [in 1994], due to continuous bungling, soldiers were killed at the rate of thousands at one go thus increasing the number of military casualties as against civilian casualties.
When the LTTE attacked civilians, even though such attacks were far more numerous than the attacks on armed forces personnel, the number of persons killed was less than in the case of military targets due to the obvious reason of the greater concentration of military personnel whereas civilians are widely dispersed and only a few can be reached in a night raid on a Sinhala village. The most number of ordinary Sinhalese were also killed by the JVP and not the LTTE…”[Island, Colombo, November 7, 2001]
Then, I wish to cite the statistic offered by General Anuruddha Ratwatte, on the number of Sri Lankan army cadres killed so far. According to a news report by L.B.Wijayasiri, which appeared in the Ceylon Daily News of November 12, 2001, Gen.Ratwatte had stated at a meeting held at the Kandyan Art Association Cultural Hall on November 10, that, “In their battle against the LTTE more than 18,000 heroic security personnel lost their lives while another 10,000 were disabled.” A candid admission from Pirabhakaran’s nominal adversary-general for the past 7 years. In my estimate (see, The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon – part 14), I had calculated the number of Sri Lankan security personnel killed by LTTE as 15,500. Gen.Ratwatte has confirmed that I had underestimated by a margin of more than 2,500. I stand corrected.
Amirthalingam: A Victim of Imperial India’s Itch
In the websites maintained by the Sinhala organizations, Appapillai Amirthalingam appears only as a victim of LTTE, and nothing is mentioned about why he became a leader for the Eelam Tamils, before the emergence of Pirabhakaran. This I consider as unfair to Amirthalingam’s long public career. Nothing is mentioned about why he was lucky in 1956 to escape from death in Colombo at the hands of Sinhala hooligans, when padre Bandaranaike was the prime minister of Ceylon. Also, in the earlier chapters of this analytical biography on Pirabhakaran, I had critiqued the leadership style of Amirthalingam as inadequate in meeting the demands of Eelam Tamils in the post-1977 period. But this criticism has to be balanced with my respect for Amirthalingam’s contribution to the Tamil politics of the pre-1977 period. Thus, I wish to reproduce my eulogy to him in entirety, written after I learnt about his assassination.
“Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Sheik Mujibur Rahman – these three leaders share some distinct similarities in their epoch-making public careers. All three are recognized as symbolic ‘fathers’ of their ‘modern nations’ – United States, India and Bangladesh respectively. These visionaries also share the fate of being assassinated by their own kinsmen. Now, Appapillai Amirthalingam also has joined this elite group of leaders who had the will and vision to lead the struggle for freedom of their nations and then being murdered by some deranged individuals belonging to their own ethnic group.
I still vividly remember an appearance of a poem in the Sutantiran (the weekly newspaper of the then Federal Party) sometime in the mid 1970s, with the title, ‘Amirthalingan our Abraham Lincoln’. It compared the political careers and the struggles of both leaders. Now I wonder, whether the poet who penned those verses would have presaged the fateful ending of Amirthalingam at the hands of an assassin.
Call it coincidence (or not), in the final analysis, the political career of Amirthalingam did in fact show many resemblances to that of Lincoln.
1. Lincoln was the most esteemed and maligned of the American presidents. Similarly, Amirthalingam was the most esteemed and maligned among the Sri Lankan political leaders of this century. Both were admired and loved by their constituents, while at the same time, attacked on a partisan basis as the person most responsible for every major crisis which faced their nations when they held the position of some power.
2. Both were endowed with a mastery of rhetoric which endeared them to their supporters.
3. Both Lincoln and Amirthalingam were subjected to vitriolic attacks from the Opposition parties as well as from the radicals of their own parties.
4. Epithets such as ‘timid’, ‘hot-headed’, ‘dictator’ and ‘political coward’ were flung at Lincoln and Amrithalingam by their own party radicals who disagreed with them.
However, Amirthalingam differed from Lincoln in one character trait. While Lincoln (as well as Mahatma Gandhi) understood the value of silence and secrecy in politics, Amirthalingam did everything in an open fashion. Thereby, he exposed himself to physical abuse in the Satyagraha campaigns of 1956, 1958 and 1961. He (and his wife) were also accused of instigating the 1977 Sinhala aggression against the Tamils of Sri Lanka. While he was the Leader of the Opposition between 1977 and 1983, there was even a No-confidence motion against him in the Sri Lankan parliament. Among the parliamentarians of the ruling UNP, only one sensible colleague, Shelton Ranaraja voted against this nonsensical motion, while S.Thondaman abstained from voting. All the other UNP members obeyed the orders of the party whip.
Like Mahatma Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman, Amirthalingam also had his share of incarceration for the cause he believed in. And like Gandhi, he also became easy fodder for cynicism and ridicule in the hands of politically biased journalists, commentators and cartoonists. One should only just glance through the pages of the partisan press of Sri Lanka from 1977 and tabulate the cartoons of Wijesoma, Opatha and Amitha to learn how Amirthalingam was derided for the views he stood for. A short, rotund figure in verti and saalvai with a pottu on his forehead who always gets mugged by a loyal ‘Sri Lankan patriot’ or who always was found hanging by the tail of a tiger – that has been the caricature of Amirthalingam in the Sri Lankan ‘national’ press.
Amirthalingam differed from Mahatma Gandhi in one significant manner. He was not a journalist or an author. So, he has not left behind any significant writings which could be passed on to posterity. What is left behind as his primary intellectual contribution remains buried in the Official Proceedings of the Sri Lankan National State Assembly (popularly known as Hansard). So that his contributions to the human rights problem in Sri Lanka are not distorted or belittled, efforts should be made to (a) compile the speeches made by Amirthalingam in the Sri Lankan parliament (1956-1970 period and 1977-1983 period); and (b) publish them in Tamil and English. That will be a memorable tribute for his four decades of public service.” [Tamil Times, Sept.1989]
Still I stand by every word I wrote in 1989. The contempt shown by the contemporary generation of analysts who cloak themselves with the ‘human rights’ badge and banners (especially the Broken Palmyra scribes), for the battles Amirthalingam fought in the human rights front for nearly 25 years (1952-1977) is despicable. Amirthalingam fought his battles at a time when ‘human rights’ had not been hijacked into an industry, with sponsorship from the repressive state officials, military men and news media.
When I wrote this eulogy in 1989, I was not aware that Amirthalingam was a victim of Imperial India’s itch. For any one wondering, what I mean by this itch, I reproduce excerpts from an editorial captioned ‘Imperial India’ which appeared in the Economist magazine, three months before Amirthalingam’s assassination and a rebuttal to this editorial by M.Rasgotra, who was then the High Commissioner for India in London. The editorialist of the Economist magazine noted:
“India is even bigger than it looks. Its soldiers control a large part of Sri Lanka and keep order in the Maldives. It treats Bangladesh as supplicant. It leans arrogantly across Pakistan to give support to the Afghan government in Kabul, which is Pakistan’s enemy. Now it is trying to turn Nepal into a vassal…
The government of Rajiv Gandhi would claim that it is not expansionist: that its actions are neighbourly and helpful. In Sri Lanka it is trying to control the Tamil Tiger guerrillas; in the Maldives last year it intervened to prevent a coup. The charge that earlier India had supported Tamil demands for a separate state in Sri Lanka, and allowed the Tigers to train on its territory, is shrugged off as history. A suggestion that the Maldives coup was plotted by India to get its soldiers into the country is probably nonsense, but it is believed by some normally sensible people among India’s neighbours. Unhappily, today’s India is considered capable of acts usually associated with interfering autocrats…
Some reckon India is flexing its muscles simply because Mr Gandhi’s government faces a difficult election this year. A united opposition could, just possibly, defeat Mr Gandhi’s increasingly discredited Congress Party. An adventurous foreign policy is the last hope of a worried government… [Economist, April 15, 1989, pp.14 & 17]
Being an employee of the Indian civil service, the then High Commissioner of India for UK had to respond, and his rebuttal letter was a vintage example of ‘We did the right thing bombast’ for which Indian diplomats had been potty-trained assiduously. I reproduce first three paragraphs of this letter for its verbose parries on India’s imperialist tendencies and a vital statement on India’s stance regarding Eelam. Wrote Mr. Rasgotra:
“Sir – Your condemnation of ‘Imperial India’ (April 15th) is shocking in the immensity of its prejudice and the immoderation of its language.
What lurid imagery! ‘India’s new empire’; ‘India’s bureaucrats having authority over the entire sub-continent from Iran to Burma’; ‘Indian siege of Nepal’; ‘India garrisoned by its army of 1.2 m[illion] men’. And finally ‘Imperial India’. There was an imperial India – the India of Clive and Curzon, which conquered Burma, sent expeditions to Lhasa, waged wars in Afghanistan, ruled Ceylon from Madras and maintained not an ambassador in Kathmandu, but a resident. But all that ended with the Raj – a good 42 years ago. There must be some comfort in interpreting someone else’s present in colours of one’s own past.
You say, ‘earlier, India had supported Tamil demands for a separate state in Sri Lanka’. I dealt with the problem in its early phase from 1982 to 1985 as India’s foreign secretary. I took every possible occasion to make it clear to all concerned that India had no sympathy for Elam. It had none then; it has none now. Indian soldiers are not there to ‘control a large part of Sri Lanka’. At great cost of money and Indian lives, they are trying to disarm the Tamil Tigers, who want to break up Sri Lanka with the force of arms.
I doubt anyone will take seriously your dark murmurings about India plotting the coup in the Maldives to get its soldiers into that country. The coup foiled, those soldiers got out pretty fast. A very few remain and they too will be out as soon as the Maldives government can relieve them…”[Economist magazine, May 6, 1989]
One should appreciate Rasgotra’s candor in stating that India had no sympathy for Eelam. But in my assessment, he had covered up two vital points. First, while overstating his importance in Indian policy making during the period [1982-85], Rasgotra had refrained from mentioning that he had a boss who made the ultimate decision on Indian policies. She was none other than Indira Gandhi. From 1969 until her death, she also dominated the Indian stage strutted by effeminate men politicians and policy wimps. She was also known as a leader who made decisions impulsively according to her whims. The RAW, the Indian equivalent of CIA or KGB, was her creation. Secondly, Rasgotra had overlooked the meddling of Indian intelligence operatives – the RAW personnel – in the Eelam issue. While Amirthalingam was exploited by the RAW personnel and in turn fell prey to their designs and paid with his life, Pirabhakaran was intelligent enough to outwit the RAW operatives by his quick reading of their minds.
Jayaratnam Wilson, a keen observer of Eelam Tamil politics for decades, had noted the scenario during 1983-86 as follows:
“At various times, to my knowledge, Indian policy makers had contemplated intervention [in Sri Lanka], and plans had been drawn up to that end. This had given hope to the TULF and the leaders of the Tamil militant groups. Whether this was done deliberately in order to mislead the Tamil leaders can only be conjectured, but the result of such aid being offered was that the Tamil leaders placed all their eggs in one basket – the Indian one…” [Book: The Break-Up of Sri Lanka, C.Hurst & Co, London, 1988, pp.203-204]
Wilson continues further:
“The Research and Analysis Wing of the Indian government (known as RAW, the counterpart of the CIA and KGB) was active in promoting this view, and its agents infiltrated the Tamil groups. Apart from obtaining valuable and confidential information, these agents set Tamil groups against one another so as to create a balance and thus prevent any one group from obtaining dominance over the others. RAW succeeded at first, but finally failed to prevent the LTTE from gaining the upper hand.” [ibid]
In my assessment, this is where, Pirabhakaran scored over Amirthalingam. As I had pointed in my 1989 eulogy to Amirthalingam, though being a confessed and practising Gandhian, he did not value the use of ‘silence’ and allowed RAW operatives to infiltrate his mind. If Amirthalingam had to be faulted for his mis-steps, it is because since 1981 rather than being an active leader, he played the role of a parrot in the Tamil folk metaphor ‘Ilavu kaatha Killi’ [the parrot which awaited for the cotton fruit to ripen]. He depended on the power of Indira Gandhi to liberate Eelam, and when she was assassinated on October 31, 1984, Amirthalingam’s dream got busted like the metaphorical cotton fruit.
Also, the timing of Amirthalingam’s assassination (when he had re-entered the Sri Lankan parliament after a lapse of more than five years, on the National List of TULF following his sojourn in Madras) suggests that India’s intelligence operatives would have felt uncomfortable about him ‘revealing’ bits of embarrassing information about their dealings with him in the parliament. It is well known among the students of espionage, that Intelligence operatives wish to hide their tracks, and they are apprehensive about their ‘contacts and sources’ spilling the beans at inappropriate occasions. The trans-national arrest of Panama’s dictator Manuel Noreiga (a long-term paid source for CIA) by President George Bush Sr. (a former director of CIA, who had shared some secrets with Noreiga) to keep him silent and at distant from public glare was a best example. Similarly, the elimination of PLOTE’s Uma Maheswaran following Amirthalingam’s assassination in 1989 and even LTTE’s Kittu in 1993 by the actions instigated by RAW have to be viewed from this angle as well. Though I have refrained from commenting on why V.Yogeswaran was assassinated along with Amirthalingam, the answer could be that his was a ‘collateral damage’ as they say in military lingo.
RAW’s ‘dry run’ on targeting TULF leaders to implicate Pirabhakaran
It is my proposition that the double assassinations of Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran in 1989 in Colombo was not an isolated event. It was preceded by a ‘dry run’ (a term, the Indian sleuths came to tag on LTTE, following Rajiv Gandhi assassination in 1991) conducted in 1985 in Jaffna. Thus, one cannot ignore the victims of this ‘dry run’, namely V.Dharmalingam and M.Alalasundaram. Dharmalingam had served Eelam Tamils for 23 years as the MP for Uduvil (1960-1977) and then Manipay (1977-83). Alalasundaram was a nominated MP for Kopay (1981-83), following the death of S.Kathiravelupillai in 1981. Again, the attempted scapegoat for the killings of Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram was none other than Pirabhakaran.
I present two versions which have appeared on the assassinations of Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram. The first version is from Indian journalist, Narayan Swamy, since he has covered in detail, the circumstances of this assassination. The second version is from the Broken Palmyra scribes, who had pointed out the assassins.
Narayan Swamy has described:
“[Rajiv] Gandhi was far from happy at the way things were developing in Sri Lanka. He told a journalist: ‘The real problem is violence in Sri Lanka, and although it is sparked by the Tamil groups, the major part of the violence is on the part of the [Sri Lankan] security forces.
Just then, a mysterious twin murder took place in Jaffna. For once, the security forces were not responsible. The victims were former TULF MPs M.Alalasundaram and V.Dharmalingam. Although the murders were eventually linked to TELO, the crime itself has remained one of the unresolved mysteries of the Eelam campaign.
On September 2 , two young men went to Alalasundaram’s house and requested for character certificates. As Alalasundaram turned to go inside, the visitors pounced on him and dragged him into a waiting car. The kidnappers then went to a marriage which Dharmalingam was attending and told him that Alalasundaram wanted to see him. When he came near the car, he too was pushed in and the young men vanished with the two politicians.
Dharmalingam’s body was found the next day near a cemetery with a bullet in the forehead. A handwritten note found nearby said: ‘This is the punishment for those who betray the Tamil race and those who pawn Eelam, especially the TULF.’ It was signed: ‘Tamils with Self-Respect’. Alalasundaram’s body had two bullet wounds in the chest and arms and was recovered from Jaffna town.
The killings sent shock waves throughout Tamil areas, in particular Jaffna. Dharmalingam was one of the most respected Tamil politicians who had quit the TULF and joined the more radical TELF, but had been expelled. He was a man of simple habits, known for his generous heart, his only luxury being a cycle. He was known to have helped many poor children get admitted into schools by paying for their education. People approached him with all kinds of problems. Alalasundaram, an advocate of the Supreme Court, was also politically active in Jaffna. When he was killed, he hardly had any money worth speaking of. He had to sell his wife’s jewellery when his daughter wanted a bicycle.
The Indian government expressed shock and distress. Dharmalingam’s son, Siddharthan, who was with PLOT, blamed the killings on ‘one of the groups that comprise the Eelam National Liberation Front’. Gandhi complained that, ‘certain Tamil extremists were killing other Tamils’. The TELO joined in the growing condemnation, and in a statement hoped ‘that no organization involved in the liberation struggle was involved’. Strong rumours attributed to both the Sri Lankan government and Indian intelligence, pointed the accusing finger at the LTTE, which had two years previously shot at Alalasundaram in the leg on alleged charges of corruption. The Tigers vehemently denied the accusation. Initially, few believed them…” [Book: Tigers of Lanka, 1996, pp.160-161]
Now, to the analysis of the Broken Palmyra scribes:
“It was well known that Prabhakaran, the LTTE leader, and Sri Sabaratnam, the TELO leader hated each other. The assassination of TULF MPs Mr.Dharmalingam and Mr.Alalasundaram of 2 August 1985 [Note: August is an error. September was correct], is an example of the methods by which one militant group tried to score over the others. Mr.Dharmalingam and Mr.Alalasundaram were amongst the TULF MPs who continued to reside in Jaffna. On the basis of testimonies given by several persons who had talked to TELO exiles in India, it is believed that this is how it happened. The LTTE leader Prabhakaran reportedly made a strong threatening speech against the TULF. Sri Sabaratnam, the TELO leader, then gave secret instructions to his men to assassinate the two MPs expecting that Prabhakaran would get the blame and discredit. As expected the LTTE was largely blamed.
In an independent testimony, a PLOTE sentry near Mr.Dharmalingam’s residence identified a vehicle in which the assassins came as belonging to the TELO.” [Book: Broken Palmyra, 1990, p.75]
While both Narayan Swamy and the Broken Palmyra scribes had indicated that TELO was responsible for the assassinations of Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram, for reasons of propriety or convenience, they have not digged further to inform on whose instructions TELO carried out this attack on the Tamil legislators. It was an open secret to Eelam Tamils that TELO had been turned into the puppet of RAW operatives, and as inferred by the Broken Palmyra scribes the motive for those two assassinations was to smear the image of Pirabhakaran who resisted being controlled by those RAW operatives.
RAW in the mold of CIA
Like humans, institutions which are built by humans also, following birth, undergo the phases of infancy, adolescence, maturity and senility. The RAW was formed by Indira Gandhi in 1968, along the lines of the infamous CIA, which was constituted in 1947. The RAW had tasted success in its infancy stage when it ‘created’ Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. Then, its turn of playing in the Sri Lankan field opened in 1983 due to the bungling of J.R.Jayewardene.
In this context, before answering why the RAW operatives could have been the conspirators for the assassinations of Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram, I wish to provide some background on the activities of RAW, as I had culled from a review article penned by Capt.S.M.Hali, to the Defence Journal (the monthly magazine of Armed Forces of Pakistan) of Feb-March 1999. It was entitled, “Raw at War – Genesis of Secret Agencies in Ancient India”. Hali himself has picked up segments of cited information from a 1981 book ‘Inside RAW’ (Vikas Publishing, New Delhi) by Asoka Raina. According to these sources,
1. The prime objective of RAW is to monitor the political and military developments in all adjoining countries, which have direct bearing on India’s national security and in the formulation of its foreign policy.
2. RAW has been organized on the lines of the CIA.
3. The functions of RAW vary according to the target. The main ones being, Collection of Information, Collation of Information and Aggressive Intelligence. The last category includes espionage, psychological warfare, subversion, sabotage, terrorism and creating dissension, insurgency and, ultimately insurrection to destabilize the target country.
4. The modus operandi of RAW include India’s foreign missions, Multinationals, Media, Collaboration with other espionage agencies, Third country technique – (i.e., obtaining information and operating through third countries), and last but not the least, spotting and recruitment.
5. Under the recruitment category, Hali notes, “RAW operatives are on the lookout for local recruits to serve their ends. Acting on the Chanakyan principles, they tend to exploit human weaknesses for wine, women and wealth, and, at times resort to blackmail. Separatist tendencies and ethnic or sectarian sensitivities are also well known grounds for manipulation…”
Capt.Hali’s description of RAW exploiting ‘human weaknesses for wine, women and wealth’ deserves note in relation to the assassination of President Premadasa, for which LTTE has been accused without definite proof, other than the correlational evidence that a suicide bomber was the assassin. This purported assassin Babu offering sexual favor to Premadasa’s valet-cum-masseur E.M.P. Mohideen was reported by the media [I learnt this from the AFP news reports, which appeared in the Japan Times and Mainichi Daily News of Tokyo of June 5, 1993]. While alive, Premadasa himself had suspected that RAW operatives were aiming for his life due to his well-known antipathy against Indian policies in South Asia. With time, details related to this ‘sex trap episode’ enmeshing Premadasa assassination as well as who gave the order to the Colombo Municipal Council’s Fire Brigade to wash the scene of assassination thereby covering the vital forensic clues, have been hushed up by the Sri Lankan media.
Those who have studied the history of CIA remember well that CIA gained its notoriety when it reached the adolescent phase during the late 1950s and 1960s by plotting the overthrows and assassinations of leaders who were perceived to be anti-American. Plotting the overthrows and assassinations of Indonesia’s Sukarno, Congo’s Lumumba and Cuba’s Castro had become part and parcel of the CIA’s clumsy history. For these activities marking the adolescent phase of an Intelligence Agency, I provide a label – the ‘adolescent itch’ of espionage. Like human adolescents, who crave for recognition from adults by indulging in adult activities such as smoking cigarettes, boozing, and patronizing prostitutes, some of the professional frolics of intelligence operatives also border on incredulity. Promoting assassinations in territories beyond its own land has become an ‘adolesent initiation rite’ for Intelligence agencies to receive ‘recognition’ among their peers.
Nathan Miller, in his book Spying for America – The Hidden History of U.S. Intelligence (1989) provides some examples such as the CIA making a pornographic movie with an actor wearing Sukarno mask, and spraying the TV studio with a chemical where Castro was to give a speech so that Castro would lose his charismatic appeal or dusting his shoes with a chemical to damage his beard. There is paucity of such material for RAW’s activities, though I have no doubt that Pirabhakaran may be willing to share with Eelam Tamils, some of the hilarious ‘deeds’ of RAW operatives in the future. But, the 47-year old K.V.Unnikrishnan, the RAW’s top field officer in Madras falling prey to the ‘honey-pot’ trap of CIA’s and Sri Lankan intelligence team in 1985-86 was an embarrassing episode in the annals of Indian intelligence wallahs. [Salamat Ali’s report ‘Sex for secrets: An Indian official is caught in the leaking act’, Far Eastern Economic Review, October 15, 1987, p.40]. This was a classic case of a hunter being caught by his own trap.
Probable conspirator for the Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram assassinations
I mention this particular exposure since Salamat Ali has reported that,
“Before his arrest [in 1987], Unnikrishnan headed the RAW’s operation in Madras and was directly in charge of Indian dealings with Sri Lankan Tamil militants based in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Although he was not part of the decision-making apparatus, as field coordinator of Tamil militants he was privy to most of the details of the secret negotiations involving New Delhi, Colombo and the militant Tamil groups.” [ibid]
It is my guess that this Unnikrishnan could have been a probable conspirator for the 1985 assassinations of Dharmalingam and Alalasundaram. According to Salamat Ali,
“During a tenure in Colombo as the RAW’s representative six years ago [i.e. in 1981], he had become friendly with an unnamed US consular official and, together with him, engaged in several extra-marital affairs with unidentified women. Despite these sexual escapades, he was apparently a hen-pecked husband and his alleged American contact knew that Unnikrishnan was mortally afraid of his wife.
After his return to India, he was briefly stationed in New Delhi before moving to Madras. Sometime in 1985, a woman describing herself as a stewardess with Pan American Airways telephoned him from Bombay to say that his American consular friend had told her to contact him if she felt lonely. Unnikrishnan flew from Madras to Bombay and a liaison developed between the two. During 1985-86, she gave him complimentary air tickets to fly to Singapore. During those jaunts in Singapore, compromising photographs of the stewardess and her lover were taken…” [ibid]
The ‘adolescent itch’ of organizing assassinations became unbearable for the RAW operatives by mid 1980s and the TULF leaders (Dharmalingam, Alalasundaram, Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran) became sitting ducks between 1985 and 1989. Unlike other young Tamil militants, only Pirabhakaran refused to tango to the tune of these RAW operatives, because he had a vision of his own.
The Sri Lankan link to the Unnikrishnan honey-pot trap has been provided by none other than J.N.Dixit. He is a seasoned pro that he doesn’t even mention RAW by name in his memoirs. To quote him,
“In some of my discussions with Lalith Athulathmudali in the first half of 1986, I felt that he was extraordinarily well informed about the personalities in our intelligence agencies and in the Ministry of External Affairs at headquarters who were dealing with Sri Lankan affairs. I reported these perceptions to Delhi. The general comment which I conveyed was that the Sri Lankan mission in Delhi and the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Madras seemed to be very effective in gathering information and operational intelligence. In the event, my being impressed by the efficiency of the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions was misplaced. The Sri Lankan source of information was a senior operative of our own intelligence agency, Unnikrishnan, who had been subverted most probably by the Americans through a foreign lady working for Pan-American Airlines. His negative activities were discovered sometime towards the middle of 1986, which was followed by appropriate procedural action against him. The fact that the Sri Lankan Government’s advance knowledge about Indian policies and intentions clearly diminished after Unnikrishnan was neutralized proved that he was a major source of information to the Sri Lankans.” [Book: Assignment Colombo, 1998, p.61]
Like the military lingo, the diplomatic euphemism is also colorful. Kindly note the lingo used by Dixit such as ‘negative activities’, ‘procedural action’ and ‘neutralized’. It is reasonable to infer that in this honey-pot trap episode, only Pirabhakaran came out without a tarnished image, due to his innate intelligence and precautionary steps in keeping away from the RAW operatives.
Thus, it is my contention that though technically the Indo-LTTE war came to a close with the departure of Indian army from the island in March 1990, the war of India’s RAW and other Intelligence agencies against Pirabhakaran’s LTTE has continued for the next ten years. Rajiv Gandhi assassination case trial (1992-99), capture of MV.Ahat by the Indian navy which precipitated the death of Kittu in 1993, Interpol notices (1995) and other routine ‘assassination plots’ of LTTE released to the press were all manifestations of this continuing ‘undeclared war’ of RAW against LTTE. In the forthcoming chapters, I plan to analyze each of these issues. (Continued)