The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon

Sachi Sri Kantha
[20 September 2002]


Russell Baker on Historians

It is not an exaggeration to claim that Pirabhakaran has been responsible for making Sri Lanka, a paradise for low grade historians - both native and non-native types. When it comes to the quality of contemporary historians, many would agree with the observations of reputed humorist Russell Baker. In a delightful syndicated commentary with the title ‘Overflowing History’, written in 1994, Baker characterized the scene in America where historian glut was making a mince-meat of past evaluations.

Since it has relevance to the contemporary South Asian history in wider context and also as a link to Pirabhakaran’s revulsion of Sinhalese parliamentary leadership, I provide excerpts from this Baker’s commentary first. 

Overflowing History

“History is constantly being revised these days. It’s because there is a glut of historians. Revising history is the only way to keep them busy. The historian glut results from the government’s Vietnam War policy of granting draft deferments for staying in college. Young men who would happily have left the campus and gone into honest work were naturally tempted to stay on, and on, and on.

This required them to study something. They studied history. What do you study, after all, when you face a long sentence to college, but lack a head for science or mathematics, go to sleep the instant somebody says ‘economics’, aren’t built for professional sports, were never any good at Latin or French, and find out they aren’t giving doctorates for daydreaming? You study history…

Somebody has to pay for the mess history has made of life. Why not take it out on the historians who wrote it, show they were all wrong about practically everything and, if they hadn’t been, the world wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

Ordinarily a country manages to get by with 10 or 12 historians per generation. With the historian explosion created by Vietnam, however, thousands were suddenly coming down the pipeline. How could they be kept busy? Newspaper editors could print only a limited number of letters about Benedict Arnold and Mary, Queen of Scots.

With the Vietnam War over, students no longer needed to study history; college therefore no longer needed history professors in boxcar lots. The obvious solution for excess historians: revising the history they had been taught. Now they are going at it with gusto. No reputation is safe anymore. Not even Adolf Hitler’s. Scarcely a day passes now without some reviser of the past announcing that Hitler wasn’t such a bad chap after all. That he probably didn’t even know people were being exterminated, poor misunderstood guy.

Mussolini’s reputation is bound to be revised upward now that the revival of fascist politics in Italy invites the attention of historians desperate for something to revise. Thomas Jefferson has been revised so far down that I recently read a newspaper columnist – a newspaper columnist! – asserting her own moral superiority to him. Even the once-sainted Abraham Lincoln can no longer be spoken of admiringly without issuance of the prefatory apology…” [Asahi Evening News, Tokyo, April 20, 1994]

When one substitutes the Vietnam context to the emergence of LTTE in Russell Baker’s text and shift the focus to South Asia, one can see how the historian avalanche in India and Sri Lanka is playing havoc since mid-1980s. Colombo, Kandy, Chennai and New Delhi have generated sweat-shop ‘Centers’ where professional and amateur historian wannabes have been burning midnight-oil to gobble, digest, and regurgitate censored and semi-censored news as well as gossips emanating from the Intelligence operatives to predict the behavior of Pirabhakaran’s mind and mood.

History writing is tough, even for professionals who receive years of training under the guidance of academic peers. But in contemporary Sri Lanka and India, Pirabhakaran’s actions had turned quite a number of semi-literate professionals and professional cross-dressers into ‘authentic’ or near-authentic historians. Third degree mathematicians, a la Hooles and Sritharans, have become fourth grade historians. Slimy journalists, a la Rams and Jayatillekas, have turned into slick historians. Gossip-raking diplomats, a la Dixits and Godages, have found a route to historians’ lounge by garbing themselves as seers who can read Pirabhakaran’s mind.

Sinhala Maha Sabha and the Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism

In this chapter, I wish to focus on an aspect which has been shunned by many of these professional cross-dressers. This is relating to Pirabhakaran’s task in tackling the viles of brown-skinned Buddhist Aryan violence in Sri Lanka. Prior to this, I provide a simple example on the pitfalls of history writing, pertaining to Sri Lanka. The precursor of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was the Sinhala Maha Sabha founded by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, whom I identified as the first generation of Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryan advocates in the previous chapter. When did Bandaranaike found this Sabha? In the 1930s? Six of the sources I checked, authored by professional historians, provide four answers. K.M. de Silva [A History of Sri Lanka, 1981, p.445] and A. Jeyaratnam Wilson [The Break-Up of Sri Lanka, 1988, p.56] mention the year 1937. S.J. Tambiah [Buddhism Betrayed?, 1992, p.13] records the year 1935. Calvin Woodward [The Growth of a Party System in Ceylon, 1969, p.34] and Richard Nyrop et al. [Area Handbook for Ceylon, 1971, p.504] list the year 1934. Most recently, A. Samarasinghe and Vidyamali Samarasinghe [Historical Dictionary of Sri Lanka, 1998, p.120] point the year 1932.

If professional historians disagree on such an open and vital event relating to the colonial history of Ceylon which set fire to the ethnic harmony in the succeeding seven decades, one wonders how much reliance one can have on the writings about Pirabhakaran and LTTE by professional cross-dressers, who mix ingredients of hearsay, gossip and innuendo to their cocktail of commentaries. Here is a recent example of such a tripe from Dayan Jayatilleka:

“Ernest Gold did the haunting soundtrack for the movie Exodus, starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint. Prabhakaran loved the book. D.B.S. Jeyaraj related the tale in his version of the portrait of the separatist leader as a young man, penned as a birthday tribute in the Sunday Leader. (What Jeyaraj does not add is something he can check with iyekkam oldsters such as the Nithyanandans, namely that Mein Kampf was also on Prabhakaran’s short list of favourite texts). Be that as it may, the key lies in the latter’s deep identification with the Zionist experience and achievement.” [The Island newspaper, Colombo, May 26, 2002]

Exodus, Paul Newman, Prabhakaran, iyekkam (i.e., an endearing Tamil word for the ‘Movement’), Mein Kampf and Zionist experience – phew! Jayatilleka is a spin-meister who can drop names like bullets from a machine gun in a few sentences and simultaneously pass innuendo on Pirabhakaran by noting that Mein Kampf, Hitler’s book, is in his “short list of favourite texts”. His source of information are the Nithyanandan couple [wife Nirmala, being the sister of Rajani Thiranagama], who were once members of LTTE. Jayatilleka does not reveal under what context Nithyanandans blurted this tidbit on Pirabhakaran. He also fails to mention whether he cross-checked this tidbit with any other confidants of Pirabhakaran.

Even if Mein Kampf was in the ‘short list of favourite texts’ of Pirabhakaran, what harm could it have done? Millions of non-Germans have read that book in translation to understand Hitler’s mind, as akin to millions of non-Germans [including Jayatilleka, if I believe so] who read Das Kapital of Marx in translation. Nirmala Nithyanandan, who had lived in USA for a while, would probably have learnt that Senator Alan Cranston took the trouble to translate that book from German to English, word to word, and he was sued by Hitler for copyright infringement. Just because Cranston took the trouble to translate Mein Kampf, should one castigate him as an admirer of Hitler’s policies? Jayatilleka has become the foremost proponent of fallacious logic. In addition, it appears that Jayatilleka also has mastered the deception of what Hitler described in his Mein Kampf as follows:

“The masses are poorly acquainted with abstract ideas, their reactions lie more in the domain of feelings…Whoever wishes to win over the masses must know the key to open the door to their hearts…The masses’ receptive powers are very restricted and their understanding feeble…Effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare necessities expressed in a few stereotyped formulas.” [cited in, Nigel Rodgers -Hitler: A Beginner’s Guide, London, 2001, p.18]

This is because the same passage of Jayatilleka on Exodus, Pirabhakaran and Mein Kampf quoted above, has appeared verbatim, in his previous commentary, ‘The Time of the Tiger: Reflections’ [The Weekend Express, Colombo, Dec.11-12, 1999]. Like Hitler contributing his cerebral vomit frequently to Volkischer Beobachter [People’s Observer] – the Nazi mouthpiece of the early 1920s, Jayatilleka also spews his venom in the Island newspaper – the mouthpiece of Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism in Sri Lanka. 

The founder and foremost practitioners of Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism

While Jayatilleka continuously smears Pirabhakaran as a practitioner of Aryan Nazi methods, it is of interest to revisit, who had admired Hitler’s message and practised it with vengeance against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), the pre-eminent Buddhist reformer, is one of the now-revered names of colonial Ceylon. He was a generation ahead of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and he died in the year of Hitler’s ascent to power. Gananath Obeyesekere, anthropology professor at Princeton University, had identified Dharmapala as the founder of Buddhist Aryanism in the island, in his essay entitled ‘Buddhism and Conscience’. Wrote Obeyesekere, in the penultimate paragraph of this essay:

“Through his familiarity with Bengali intellectuals, Dharmapala also used the term Aryan, not in its traditional meaning of ‘noble’ but in its racist sense. It is Dharmapala who identified non-Sinhala civilian populations for verbal attack: the Muslims, Borah merchants, and especially Tamils, whom he referred to as hadi demalu (filthy Tamils). The Tamil issue was just beginning to be a serious social and political problem owing to the introduction by the British of South Indian Tamil labor into the plantations and the creation in the central highlands of a new Tamil community hemmed in by Sinhala populations.” [Daedalus, summer 1991; v.120, no.3; pp.219-238]

Then in the concluding paragraph consisting of two sentences, Obeyesekere summed up as follows:

“Dharmapala himself never encouraged violence against minority ethnic groups, but he framed the ethnic issue in terms of a modern Buddhist nationalism and paved the way for the emergence of a specific modern Sinhala Buddhist national consciousness laying bare for many – especially for those who live in modern overcrowded cities – the dark underside of Buddhism without the mitigating humanism of the Buddhist conscience. Without that conscience and humanism, Buddhism must become a religion that has betrayed the heritage of its founder.” [ibid]

While Anagarika Dharmapala preached the Aryan doctrine and foul-mouthed other ethnic groups, his nominal adherents like Bandaranaike and A.E. Goonesinghe gained inspiration from Hitler’s oral pyrotechnics  and goon squads respectively. The second generation of Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism [Jayewardene, Premadasa and his fellow rivals Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake of the 1980s] adopted lock stock and barrel the Nazi treatment methods on Eelam Tamils.

While Jayatilleka continues to sling mud on Pirabhakaran, his father Mervyn de Silva, blessed with little more wisdom, had occasionally allowed records of Nazi-type harassments meted out to Eelam Tamils in the 1980s to appear in his journal. Here is a vivid example, penned by S. Velupillai from Vadamaradchy region. Excerpts:

“…Operation Liberation commenced on May 26 [1987], ended on May 31, and resulted in over 1,000 deaths and 2,000 arrests in Vadamaradchy on its liberation from the LTTE. On the last day of the offensive I was arrested from one of the 16 temples specified as havens by the Forces in a notice dropped from the air across Vadamaradchy. We, the captives, were chained and shipped to a makeshift detention camp in Galle, though our destination, according to our papers, was to be the notorious Boosa Detention Camp. Later, we came to know that Boosa was already full.

We were confined to a warehouse turned into a detention camp, adjacent to the port of Galle, about 200 metres long, and 20 metres wide. There were 6 latrines, outside the camp. At a time 6 detainees would be led out at gun point to spend 6 minutes in the latrines. Most of us had no option other than defecating and urinating into a gutter deep inside the camp. The gutter overflowed. We wallowed in our own faeces and urine that flowed from the gutter, under our feet, towards the centre of the camp which teemed with worms and flies, vomit and spittle. There were no baths. None of us had bathed or changed for days. Both the camp and the inmates stank.

The camp was packed to capacity. The detainees were split into over 50 groups, with 50 in each, each headed by one of its members. I headed group 52. A barbed-wire fence divided the head and the body of the camp….” [Lanka Guardian, Colombo, Oct.1, 1993; p.20]

Considering my personal experience with submissions to the Lanka Guardian journal, I cannot verify how much of Velupillai’s original descriptions of 1987 experience would have been edited for legal as well as cosmetic reasons. But, it is not an exaggeration to state that the sufferings of Eelam Tamils in the torture camps of Sri Lanka in 1990s, have been on par with the Nazi treatment meted to the hapless Jews and Gypsies in the first half of 1940s. As confirmation, I provide the following excerpts from a report by Peel, Mahtani, Hinshelwood and Forrest, published in the Lancet medical journal in 2000.

“We reviewed records of all Sri Lankan men who had been referred to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture between January 1997 and December 1998……Medico-legal reports were written by 17 doctors that supported the allegations of torture in Sri Lanka made by 184 Tamil men who had been referred during this period….74 (40%) were aged between 25 and 30 at the time of the analysis, so they would have been several years younger when they were detained and tortured by the Sri Lankan authorities, principally the army. 25(13%) were younger than 25 when they were first seen at the Medical Foundation, 71 (38%) were aged 30-40 years, and 14 (6%) were older than 40….

Of the 184 men, 38 (21%) said they had been sexually abused during their detention. Three (7%)  of the 38 said they had been given electric shocks to their genitals, 26 (68%) had been assaulted on their genitals, and four (9%) had sticks pushed through the anus, usually with chillies rubbed on the stick first. One said he had been forced to masturbate soldiers orally, and one had been forced with his friends to rape each other in front of soldiers for their ‘entertainment’.

Of the men who said they had been sexually abused, 11 reported being raped as part of that sexual abuse; this represents 5% of the total number of men on whom reports were written. The men who had been raped were much younger, on average, than the men who said they had not been raped. This suggests that the soldiers choose the younger and more vulnerable men to rape.

Of the 38 men who had been sexually abused, only four (10%) had scarring of the genitals, and none of them were found to have significant scarring around the anus. Since there are very rarely any physical signs caused by acute sexual assault of men, it is not surprising that there were so few men with physical signs of their sexual abuse. The injuries were: thickening and tenderness of final 1-2 cm on urethra of a man who described a soldier pushing an object inside his penis; a scar on the base of shaft of penis of a man who said that soldiers had repeatedly slapped a heavy desk drawer shut on it; an irregularly defined defect in the foreskin of a man who said that soldiers had tied some string around his penis and pulled, tearing off a piece of his foreskin; and a cigarette burn on the scrotum of a man who said that soliders had stubbed cigarettes out on his genitals….” [Lancet, June 10, 2000; vol.355, pp.2069-2070]

In his classic work Roots, Alex Haley agonised about how his slave ancestor would have felt when given the option of castration and leg amputation, his ancestor chose to lose his legs so that at least he could pass his genes to his progeny. The above-cited descriptions of Peel and colleagues on the torture and victimisation suffered, especially in the genital region, by Eelam Tamil detainees at the hands of Sri Lankan army suggest that practising adherents of Hitler’s genocide techniques are not absent among the Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryan enthusiasts serving the Sri Lankan army.

Few months after the appearance of this shocking report in the Lancet, Sri Lanka had its general election on October 10, 2000. This election witnessed the third generation of brown-skinned Buddhist Aryan racists coming to the stage, under the label Sihala Urumaya [Sinhala Heritage]. This party’s national organizer Champika Ranawaka became a member of parliament, after a tussle for nomination among the party members. G.Senaratne and Deepal Jayasekera, contributing a commentary to the World Socialist Web Site, had noted the mind-set of Ranawaka as follows:

“The Ranawaka faction, backed by the Buddhist clergy, represents a more overtly fascistic layer, comprising gangster elements drawn from students, younger small-scale businessmen in Colombo and Buddhist monks, and a handful of army men. Ranawaka commented during the election that the movement would treat Tamils in the way that Hitler treated the Jewish masses. The comment is not a mistaken slip of the tongue. One of the underlying themes of Sinhala chauvinism is the superiority of the Aryan Sinhalese over the southern Indian Dravidians or Tamils. In the 1930s, leading figures in the Sinhala Buddhist movement were open admirers of the Aryan supremacist philosophy of the German Nazis and their policies. Ranawaka was a JVP student leader in the late 1980s when the JVP carried out murderous attacks on the working class and its organisations. He has repeatedly called for the formation of what amounts to fascist shock troops….” [World Socialist Web Site, News & Analysis; December 4, 2000]

‘Out-Gestapoing’ the original Gestapo in Book Burning

Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police) or Gestapo in abbreviation, was the notorious Nazi contribution established by Hermann Goring from a section of the Prussian police force. In the first half of 1980s, the Sri Lankan version of Gestapo goon squads created history in book burning to a degree which quantitatively exceeded the vandalism which occurred under Nazi Germany in the 1930s. This aspect of recent history has been glossed over by authentic historians like Silva and pretending historians like Rajan Hoole, as indicated below:

“These Councils [i.e. District Development Councils] were ill-fated from the start, when the Council elections in July 1981 resulted in such untoward incidents as the burning of the Jaffna Public Library by government forces.” [Book: The Broken Palmyra by R.Hoole et al., 1990, p.27]

“…To meet the threat posed by this mounting violence the police force was strengthened by a large contingent of policemen and police reservists sent from Colombo. These reinforcements checked the violence temporarily, but became themselves the target of violence. On th eve of the [District Development Council] elections, a terrorist group shot and killed some policemen who were on election duty. This incident provoked just the response the perpetrators of this violent act had anticipated and desired: the unfocused anger of the police and one of the worst incidents of police reprisals in the encounter between them and the young political activists in Jaffna. The violence was inflicted on property more than persons, culminating in a mindless act of barbarism, the burning of the Jaffna Municipal Library.” [Book: J.R.Jayewardene of Sri Lanka, vol.2, by Silva and Howard Wriggins, 1994, p.445]

While de Silva and Wriggins correctly describe this shocking event as ‘mindless act of barbarism’, they – as well as the authors of Broken Palmyra previously - conveniently smoothened the vandalism by not even quantitating the loss of historical documents and books. de Silva and Wriggins also present an unconvincing opinion that the June 1, 1981 book burning of Jaffna Municipal Library was an unfortunate one-time retaliation event. This opinion is inaccurate since book burning was a continuing event in the 1980s, as indicated below. Where was Pirabhakaran when the Jaffna Municipal Library burnt? According to Narayan Swamy,

“One of the hundreds who saw the monument of Tamil glory burn down with its invaluable collections was Prabhakaran. But Prabhakaran’s main worry was then to escape [to India]” [Book: Tigers of Lanka, 1996, 2nd edition, p.73]

Even Narayan Swamy had failed to mention the number of volumes which was engulfed in fire. The then head of state, J.R. Jayewardene was interviewed by the Indian journalist S. Venkat Narayan a couple of months later, and was asked about the Jaffna book burning. His responses, as typical of the foxy politician, were nothing but dismissive and condescending to the sentiments of book lovers. To quote,

Question: In Jaffna people are very upset. The policemen set fire to the 50 year old library and burnt 97,000 valuable books. They also set fire to a TULF MP’s house.

Answer: That’s because they think he is in touch with the terrorists.

Question: It seems they were trying to catch him so they could kill him.

Answer: Terrorists do that too.” [India Today, Sept.1-15, 1981, pp.18-19]

Michael Kauman from the New York Times who visited Jaffna around the same time also published a report on Sept.11, 1981, informing the readers “Mr.Yogeswaran’s [the TULF MP unnamed in Venkat Narayan’s interview] anger was very personal. Three months ago his house was burned by what many Jaffna people say were Sinhalese policemen. On the same night, the large library with its collection of 97,000 books and Tamil manuscripts was burned and destroyed.” Kaufman’s report appeared under the caption, ‘Harassed Sri Lanka Minority Hears call to Arms’. Quantity-wise, 97, 000 books and manuscripts were more than four fold higher than the infamous May 10, 1933 book burning event first held under the Nazi regime. According to Rodgers,

“On 10 May 1933 the first book burning took place, when, in scenes that looked spontaneous but were actually highly organized, students, academics and others took books from libraries, bookshops and schools and burnt them in squares throughout Germany, incinerating about 20,000 volumes.” [Book: Hitler-A Beginner’s Guide, 2001, p.49]

It need to be reiterated that the June 1, 1981 book burning of Jaffna Municipal Library was not an isolated event, as opined by the biographers of J.R.Jayewardene. The books located in Pirabhakaran’s birth zone were specially targeted and suffered similar fate in 1984. The library of Hartley College-Point Pedro, containing 6,690 books were burnt by the armed force personnel who occupied the buildings closer to the school. Furthermore, in August of that year, the local library of Valvettithurai was set ablaze by the armed troops, as informed by S.P.Raju, a former school teacher and a secretary of the Valvettithurai Citizen’s Council, to Sanjoy Hazarika, the reporter for New York Times (Aug.22, 1984, p.A4).

Apart from books available in institutions of learning and public service, even private book collections of Tamil individuals were not spared by the goon squads of Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism. To my personal knowledge, in Colombo itself, the then TULF (Colombo branch) leader M.K.Eeelaventhan’s book collection and TULF President M.Sivasithamparam’ book collection were specifically targeted and destroyed in the 1977 and 1983 ethnic riots respectively. In an unsigned feature in 1990, the Asiaweek magazine captured the agony of an Eelam Tamil bibliophile as follows:

“ ‘My 30-year library’, sobbed Villararajah Thiagalingam, his shaking finger pointing at the ashes of what once was his study at 261 Dyke St. in Trincomalee late last week. ‘All my books and 30 years of research’. In nearby streets in the Northeastern Sri Lankan port town, police kicked doors and fired indiscriminately at the few Tamil houses and shops that remained standing. On the outskirts of town sounds of government shelling added to the tension. ‘We were hiding in the shed and we could hear them shouting’, said Thiagalingam, referring to the Sinhalese mob that had burned his house. ‘They were carrying knives and swords’….” [Asiaweek, Hongkong, June 29, 1990, p.24]

It should be stressed that Thiagalingam is just one of thousands of Eelam Tamils who lost their personal collections of books to mob vandalism fed on Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism. In sum, despite all the image-tarnishing tactics employed by Pirabhakaran critics like Jayatilleka and abetted by amnesic professional cross-dressers, if Hitler’s brand of genocide has ardent adherents in Sri Lanka, they can be traced along generations linking Anagarika Dharmapala, Bandaranaike family (husband-wife-daughter), Jayewardene, Premadasa, Athulathmudali, Dissanayake and Ranawaka. Pirabhakaran’s ascent was the ultimate Tamil reaction to such Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism. This has been reiterated by none other than Mervyn de Silva in 1991, as follows:

“The two-party game which helped to aggravate the Tamil problem (some analysts say the problem was in fact a by-product of that two-party contest for power and the opportunism it promoted.) still goes on. But the constitutional changes that Mr.J.R.Jayewardene introduced in order to centralise power in an executive presidency at the expense of parliament, the extension of the UNP-dominated parliament’s 6 year term to 12 years, the deep divisions in the Opposition, the dramatic decline of the ‘Old Left’, the chaos and bitter squabbles in the SLFP after Mrs.Bandaranaike was deprived of her civic rights, have all taken quite a toll. While these developments were altering, often imperceptibly, the traditional structure of politics in Sri Lanka, two other parallel processes were under way. The Tamil agitation moved out of parliament, the traditional Tamil leadership was soon marginalised with whatever token gains they had made through parliament becoming more and more meaningless. In that area, the DDC [District Development Council] polls in Jaffna [held in 1981] and the manner in which these were conducted, together with the campaign of terror unleashed by UNP ‘goon squads’, stand out as the turning point…” [Lanka Guardian, Colombo, Sept.1, 1991; pp.3-4]

Mervyn de Silva has a pleasing style of describing the paradigmatic shifts in few sentences, devoid of verbosity. Though he did not mention the name Pirabhakaran in this passage, it was obvious to everyone that Pirabhakaran was the individual who moved the Tamil agitation out of parliament. Why? Though the TULF, then prime representatives of Tamils, were Gandhians in practice – their strategies were hardly producing any dividends for the Tamils in terms of preventing the state-aided colonisation occurring in the Eastern province, while at the same time the forces of Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism were harassing the younger generation in multiple fronts.

Nehru on Gandhi’s greatest message

Between pages 51 and 66, the October 1963 issue of the Playboy magazine carried a historically interesting feature. It was an interview with Jawaharlal Nehru, with the subtitle: ‘a candid conversation with the architect of modern India’. Unlike other interviews which had appeared in the Playboy magazine, the interviewer’s name was peculiarly missing. I wish to quote few passages from this interview for its relevance in multiple contexts, including that of Pirabhakaran’s contribution to Eelam Tamil liberation campaign.

Playboy: “…What in Gandhi’s thinking most impressed you – and your countrymen?

Nehru: “Mahatma Gandhi, in a sense, burst upon the Indian scene…And there was magic about the message he gave. It was very simple. His analysis of the situation in India was essentially that we were suffering terribly from fear, so he just went about telling us. ‘Don’t be afraid. Why are you afraid? What can happen to you?’ Of course, when he talked in these terms he was thinking of our political fears. If we did something that the British Government did not like, well, we’d be punished, We’d be sent to prison, We might be shot. And so a general sense of fear pervaded the land. It would take hold of the poorest peasant, the lowliest of all our people, whose produce or nearly all of it went to his landlord and who hardly had enough food to eat. This poor man was kicked and cuffed by everybody – by his landlord, by his landlord’s agent, by the police, by the moneylender.

Playboy: “Why was Gandhi so dramatically effective in dispelling this sense of fear?

Nehru: “Whether there was something in the atmosphere or some magic in Gandhi’s voice, I do not know. Anyhow, this very simple lesson – ‘Don’t be afraid’ – caught on and we realized, with a tremendous lifting of hearts, that there was nothing to fear. Even the poor peasant straightened his back a little and began to look people in the face and there was a ray of hope in his sunken eyes….We were poor stuff. Again and again, he gave us the strength and the vision to achieve our goal. For 30 years or more, we took shelter under his shadow and under his guidance.

Playboy: “A profoundly important pat of his teaching was, of course, the commitment to nonviolence. Do you consider nonviolence to be an effective tool of international diplomacy today?

Nehru: “The efficacy of nonviolence is not entirely convincing. None of us would dare, in the present state of the world, to do away with the instruments of organized violence…”

In these three answers of Nehru, Pirabhakaran’s route to the liberation campaign come into focus. By the end of 1963, following 16 years at the helm and absorbing a defeat in battle front against China in 1962, even Nehru – Gandhi’s closest associate - had become convinced that the efficacy of nonviolence as a vehicle is very much limited in the ever-changing world. The strategy of TULF leadership, parrot-mouthing the nonviolence vehicle for liberation of homeland in the late 1970s was a non-starter. Either they were ignorant of realities of the Asian mileau or they were fearful of voter rejection for their bombast. By any stretch of imagination one cannot argue that Amirthalingam or Sivasithamparam were ignorant of the limitations of nonviolence. Thus, it could only be inferred that they were clueless on how to tackle the Brown-skinned Buddhist Aryanism within the boundaries of parliamentary politics. The genius of Pirabhakaran was in countering the threat posed by the adversaries of Eelam Tamils by authentic militancy.

There is a post-script to this Playboy interview given by Nehru, which deserves mention. A few months after the publication of this interview, there appeared an editorial confession in the Playboy magazine (a rare occurrence by Playboy’s standard), that the purported interviewer, who had not been identified by name, did not exclusively interview the then India’s prime minister for the magazine. Rather, the interviewer had done a ‘cut and paste’ job of answers from previously available Nehru material and submitted it to the Playboy. Nehru died in May 1964. That the published views belonged to Nehru were not in question. But that they were not exclusively offered to the Playboy showed that even four decades ago, fakery by Indian journalists was a sport adeptly played on the gullibles. That even an American icon like Hugh Hefner was fooled by the journalist version of Indian rope-trick produced amusement to some observers. The fact that quite a number of Eelam Tamil politicians and public, other than Pirabhakaran, were made gullible by many Indian journalists in the pre-1987 period is also difficult to digest even now. [Continued]