Review of 'Elusive Mind'

 by Shan Ranjit


INSIDE AN ELUSIVE MIND ; BOOK REVIEW OLD WINE IN A NEW BOTTLE

The latest book by Narayan Swamy (henceforth referred to as NS) on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its chief, Vellupillai Pirabakaran is a disappointment. I would take it one step further and call it a hoax. His latest book is titled as Inside an elusive mind. By this he is implying that he has understood the mind of the LTTE chief, Vellupillai Pirabakaran. One would assume that for the author to give such a title to his book, at least the author would have met and understood the intricacies of the LTTE chief's mind. Well, guess how many times NS has met Pirabakaran personally. Only once! And that too in the mid eighties for about ten to fifteen minutes. He himself suggests that the Tigers did not trust him too much- I would do not blame the Tigers for this. The last time he saw the Tiger chief was in Vanni in 2002, when Pirabakaran hosted a news conference for hundreds of local as well as foreign journalists. NS was one of the hundreds of Journalists who gathered there.

NS's first book - From Boys to Tigers - was well received. This book came out about a decade ago. At that time there were not too many books written in English about the Tigers or its leader. Hence, the book was well received. I myself would admit that NS's first book sufficiently well researched and written. However, his latest book is nothing but a carbon copy of his first book. In fact he has taken chapter-by-chapter from his first book and inserted them in his new book. Also, most of the

crucial new bits of information have come from two other books- Adele Balasingam's The Will to Freedom and Anita Pratap's book Island of Blood. There is nothing new in his latest book. However, he is clever to have given a fancy heading for the book so that he could make a quick buck. NS should not insult the intelligence of those who read his book.

Now, if someone of the caliber of Anita Pratp had given such a title to her book, then one could understand. She has not only met Pirabakaran several times, but had the courage to travel to the conflict zones in Eelam, risking her own life. One would only wish that NS had shown the courage of a woman like Anita Pratap by personally visiting the conflict zone, talking to people who were directly affected by the war.

Instead, NS choose the easy way - researching from the comforts of his home, Chennai- and claims that he has understood Pirabakaran well. What a joke! NS lists several people that he interviewed for his latest book. Among all those people, the only one who had some contact with Pirabakaran was the Tamil Poet, Kasi Anandan - even the Poet has lived in Chennai for the past two decades with hardly any personal contact with the LTTE chief. For NS to claim to have understood the LTTE chief by interviewing a handful of people is ridiculous.

There is nothing wrong if a journalist wants to make a quick buck on someone's popularity - here it is the LTTE chief - as long as the Journalist is honest, sincere, and present the facts in non-partial way. NS has failed to do this. He portrays the legitimate aspirations of Eelam Tamils as illegitimate; he calls the LTTE chief a megalomaniac; he has branded the liberation fighters as bloodthirsty murderers. Yet, he has conveniently forgotten to highlight the atrocities of the Indian Army; he fails to mention the selfish interests and the betrayal of the Indian government in the Eelam struggle. He did not mention the poor advice given to Rajiv Gandhi by his foreign policy experts; he did not mention how the ' old fox ' (wily JR) took the inexperienced Rajiv Gandhi and India for a treacherous political ride.

UNSUBSTANTIATED FACTS: The book has many unsubstantiated facts and misinformation. One of the gross misinformation is about the grenade attack on the late Krishnakumar - popularly known as Kittu. NS states that after the grenade attack, Kittu was taken to hospital in Jaffna, and then removed to another hospital where he had to undergo amputation of his leg.

This is total nonsense. When Kittu was injured, he was taken to the Jaffna General Hospital. It is here that Kittu's leg was amputated. After he recovered from his anesthesia, he was removed to another hospital for security reasons. However, Kittu did visit the Jaffna General hospital on a couple of occasions for wound care treatment. I can vouch for this fact because, I personally know a doctor, who was a member of the team that amputated Kitu's leg.

INDIAN INVASION: TWISTED FACTS NS eloquently details about the atrocities committed by the Tigers during the Indian Army invasion in Jaffna. Yet, he has conveniently forgotten the most gruesome and shameful murder committed by the Indian army - the killing of Dr.Sivakumaran. Dr.Sivakumaran was a dedicated physician working at the Jaffna General Hospital (JGH). When the Indian army entered the JGH and started shooting at the patients, Dr.Sivakumaran had the courage to walk along the corridor to the main entrance- with his nursing staff trailing him - pleading and shouting to stop the shooting. With his hand raised, he identified himself and his staff. Yet, the Indian Army shot and killed him at point blank range. Twenty-one innocent lives were lost in this tragedy. The Indian Army came to Eelam as liberators of Tamils. Yet, within a few weeks they turned into thieves, murderers and rapists.

The Indian Army perpetrated some of the most heinous acts of cruelty against humanity in Eelam. The world will be better served if NS, with his ample resources, conducts a through research into the atrocities of Indian Army in Eelam. An honest journalist is one who reports the facts without twisting, and presents both sides in an impartial way. I do not think that NS has done this in his book.

PIRABAKARAN: A GAY BASHER? NS also alleges in his book that Pirabakaran hates homosexuals and homosexuality. Where did NS get this information? Did NS ask Pirabakaran for his attitude towards Gays in the fifteen minutes meeting that he had more than two decades ago? If I am right, Pirabakaran has not aired his views publicly on Gay issues. Being a strict disciplinarian, there is a good possibility that Pirabakaran does not tolerate any such behavior within his organization. Certainly, the LTTE chief would not want his most disciplined organization in the world to turn out into a Gay camp. There is a difference being strict (with its consequences) versus being hateful. However, it is important for a journalist to quote his source of information when such a serious allegation is leveled against someone.

In conclusion, his latest book is a disappointment. Most of the information has been taken from his previous book as well as from the books of Adele Balasingam and Anita Pratap. The only thing that is new is the cover- he has printed a mesmerizing picture Pirabakaran. I have no doubt that the purpose of this book was nothing more than to fill NS's depleting coffers. One would only wish that in the near future, if NS decides to write another book on LTTE or its chief, it would be more balanced and present the facts in an honest and truthful way.

SHAN RANJIT

from Circle Digest
Tuesday, December 30 2003
Volume 2001 : Number 3311

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Posted January 8, 2004