On the Nitty-Gritty of 'Hit Lists'

by Sachi Sri Kantha

1992 Hit List in Chennai

The India Today magazine of April 15, 1992 (pp.28-31) carried a three page "Special Report" authored by Anirudhya Mitra, from Madras [now Chennai].  On page 28, with a boxed caption, "The Hit List," four photographs of prominent Tamil Nadu individuals were placed; (1) J. Jayalalitha, the chief minister of the state, (2) D.R. Karthikeyan, the then chief of the Special Investigation Team which "investigated" the Rajiv Gandhi assassination which had occurred in May 1991, (3) Vazhapadi Ramamurthy, the then president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee of the Congress Party, and (4) S. Sripal, the then Deputy General of Police of the state.  The report stated, that the "LTTE supremo V. Pirabhakaran is reported to have sent a suicide squad to eliminate those [i.e., these above mentioned four individuals] who have done damage to its once-vaunted Tamil Nadu network."

Though the author of this "Special Report" was recorded in the magazine as Anirudhya Mitra, it was an open secret who manufactured this junk and fed it to Mitra.  Since then, I have indulged in studying the 'notoriety' and nitty-gritty of news on hit lists.

Now, 13 years later, let's check what has happened to these four VIPs of Tamil Nadu.  Jayalalitha is still in business as the chief minister of the state.  The two officers of the police force have retired and are still alive and kicking.  But guess what happened to Vazhapadi Koothapadayachi Ramamurthy?  He became a cropper to the hit list of - not the LTTE, - but Chitraguptan, the mythical Accountant General of the Hindu Lord of Hades.  Ramamurthy died on October 27, 2002, from a massive heart attack at the age of 62.

The purported "hit list of the LTTE" released by India’s intelligence weasels have had a snowball effect in the South Asian political theater since 1992.  Crooked politicians have taken it upon themselves as a ‘badge of honor’ to be in the "hit list of the LTTE."  The DMK leader, M. Karunanidhi, having been piqued that he was not included in the "hit list of the LTTE," while his nemesis Jayalalitha had made it, publicly proclaimed that he, too, was on the "hit list of the LTTE."

Still today the paranoia and burlesque theater based on the "hit list of the LTTE" thrives in Tamil Nadu, as is evinced by the August 15 news report of the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) from Chennai.  Here is an excerpt, for those who have inadvertently missed it:

"Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha hoisted the tricolour at the Independence Day celebrations here Monday amid tight security.  Over 500 policemen guarded Fort St. George, the venue for the celebrations that was under surveillance by personnel manning closed circuit cameras.

Security across Tamil Nadu was tightened following Friday’s assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.  The Indian Navy has been on high alert along Tamil Nadu’s more than 1,000 km coastline, officials said.  Jayalalitha has ‘Z’ category security – one of the highest levels of security for Indian political leaders – as she has been an outspoken critic of Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  Airports, railway stations and bus stops were under the scanner since Thursday, and police kept a close watch on sensitive towns like Coimbatore, Tirunelveli and Ramanathapuram.  Some 10,000 extra security personnel were deployed on the streets of Chennai Monday…"

Hit List, Z Category and Z plus Category

The less comment on the burlesque theater run by a former cinema star for the entertainment of ill-fed masses, the better.  For decades, Mahatma Gandhi has been weeping in his grave on the banal "celebrations" by the ‘Z’ category security-holding dimwits in the name of India’s independence.  But one might like to know that, in Indian bureaucratic lingo, Jayalalitha, holding the ‘Z’ category security, is not in the top-dog circle.  There is a superior category called ‘Z plus’ as well.  I’m not joking, but the hair-splitting difference between the ‘Z’ category and ‘Z plus’ category is distinguished only by the word ‘very.’  Whereas the ‘Z’ category security refers to "Very High threat", the ‘Z plus’ category security refers to "Very Very High threat."

Who said that Indian bureaucrats are not endowed with a sense of humor?  Here is a relevant verbatim excerpt from the Jain Commission Report relating to the threat perception to Shri Rajiv Gandhi.  It makes rather humorous reading.  The gaps denoted by ‘three dots’ are as in the original.

"Deposing before the Commission on 25th April 1996, Shri.K.N. Thakur, former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, attempted to undermine the threat assessment of the R&AW by interpreting technical jargon and defining that the expression ‘Very High’ used in the threat assessment report of the R&AW actually meant provision of only Z category to Shri. Rajiv Gandhi as defined in the Yellow Book.  He stated,

‘This report records in para 3 that the threat to the security of Shri Rajiv Gandhi from the Sikh extremist organisation would continue to be ‘very high’ despite his leaving office…The words ‘very high’ means ‘category Z’ as defined in the Yellow Book regarding the security of dignitaries. R&AW does not prescribe the threat level, it only gives only threat assessment and it gives threat assessment in the light of the Yellow Book and expressions used in the Yellow Book are so used in threat assessment reports.’

However, during the same deposition, he contradicted himself by stating that,

‘The threat assessment report of R&AW does not make mention of security principle or the security level based on demitting of office by him. The R&AW report does not make mention of the objective principle of threat to the protected persons…because security principle is not their charter.  Yellow book is the charter of I.B. and State Police… ‘Very High threat’ is only ‘Z’ category, ‘Very Very’ is Z plus…’

The above statement implies that the R&AW could not possibly have recommended the level of security since it was not their charter.  The fault, therefore, lies with the narrow interpretation of the term ‘Very High’ by the Intelligence Bureau itself in equating the threat level to Shri Rajiv Gandhi to Category Z merely due to the use of the expression ‘very high’ and thereby missing the very essence of the message which was attempted to be conveyed by this statement.

The specious logic of this argument gets further reinforced by the fact that the threat perception reports for Shri. Rajiv Gandhi furnished by the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau units (excerpted earlier) have used quite strong and categorical expressions…" [Jain Commission Report, August 1997, vol.3, chapter 3]

Hit Lists since 1994

Taking a cue from Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi, Tamil Nadu’s tweedledum and tweedledee of politics since 1989, the two media-savvy Tamil politicians in Colombo (namely Lakshman Kadirgamar and Douglas Devananda) who aligned with President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994, also began to whistle the tune of "being in the hit list of the LTTE" for their political survival.  Devananda prided himself as a survivor of the 1983 Welikade prison massacre of Tamils by the Sinhalese Establishment.  It might be reasonable to ask him whose hit list he escaped in 1983?  Since March 2004, Anandasangaree, the current holder of an empty TULF throne, has picked up the same tune of "being on the hit list of the LTTE" to whistle, when his political perfidy came to be exposed.

I also noticed that, while Kadirgamar, Devananda and Sangaree had voluntarily promoted their selfish interests by whistling the tune of "being on the hit list of the LTTE," even some sensible individuals like Sonia Gandhi who do not give a hoot about such a "hit list of the LTTE," were unwillingly portrayed as purported targets of such a hit list.  This happened after the Supreme Court verdict on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination was released in May 1999.  Having been humbled by the not-so favourable verdict delivered by the three Supreme Court Justices Wadhwa, Thomas and Quadri, RAW’s pundits elevated Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia’s name onto the LTTE’s purported hit list.

D.B.S. Jeyaraj swallowed RAW’s rope, hook, line and sinker, to wail that Sonia Gandhi’s life is in danger from the LTTE.  In one piece, Jeyaraj fabricated as follows:

"…the potential danger to Sonia Gandhi from the LTTE is always there.  That threat is something that cannot be disregarded as improbable.  Therefore, it would be prudent for the authorities to provide maximum security to Sonia Gandhi and also exercise a constant vigil in this respect." [‘Sonia and the Tigers’, Frontline magazie, July 3-16, 1999]  Happily for all of us, now six years later, Sonia Gandhi is still alive and kicking.

I presume that having entered the House of [Indira] Gandhi following her marriage to Rajiv, Sonia has attuned herself to the antics of toadies among politicians, bureaucrats and media mongrels.  In the 1970s and 1980s, her mother-in-law and her husband were on numerous 'hit lists' of local and foreign origin.  Sonia also witnessed, with her own eyes, when Rajiv was struck in Colombo and humiliated by a JVP-symopathizing naval rating in 1987, while being hosted as a state guest of the Government of Sri Lanka.  It is rather hilarious that the pundits of RAW could not forsee that the Indian prime minister was also on the hit list of the JVP in 1987!

Essence of Hit Lists

Having been an interested watcher of released political hit lists in the media for over a decade, here are the synopses of my findings.

(1) For iconoclasts, to be on the hit list of a state’s intelligence set up is a badge of honor.  Fidel Castro was on the CIA’s hit list.  Yasser Arafat was on MOSSAD’s hit list.  Pirabhakaran has been on RAW’s, as well as the Sri Lankan intelligence gang’s, hit lists.

(2) Every intelligence agency worth its salt has to have a hit list.  Research reveals that the most successful hit list-holding agency has been Israel’s MOSSAD.  It has culled quite a number of the heads of the PLO’s deputies.

(3) Some prominent individuals land on more than one hit list, and when they indeed get hit, it is almost impossible to find out whose hit list did the job.  For example, President J.F. Kennedy was purportedly on many hit lists [that of the KGB, Castro, Mafia, etc.] and who was the real culprit still remains a puzzle.  The same was true for Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi as well.  Here is the Jain Commission Report on Rajiv Gandhi’s landing on many hit lists.  To quote,

"Available material before the Commission suggests that Shri Rajiv Gandhi was facing extremely grave threats from Sri Lankan Tamil militants and their Indian sympathisers, fanatic Sinhala elements of Sri Lanka, Sikh terrorists operating from Punjab as well as foreign countries, Kashmiri militant groups operating from India as well as foreign countries, Afghan Mujahideens, Islamic fundamentalists from Pakistan, certain groups within the Government of Pakistan, some groups connected with the Royal Family of Nepal, terrorist elements operating from North Eastern India, notably ULFA and aggrieved individual elements.  There were also hints of certain outside powers involving themselves with some of these hostile forces." [Jain Commission Report, August 1997, vol.3, chapter 3].

(4) As with any commodity, hit lists are of two types; the real and the fake.  Simple common sense dictates that, if the LTTE indeed has a hit list, it cannot continue to be a lively organization, if its purported hit list is in the files of every media organization [Also see below, the note on Karuna.]

(5) Fake hit lists are very much in demand in the political theater.

(6) Fake hit lists are mostly manufactured by lazy crooks in the media, from the feeds of underground skunks.

(7) Crooked politicians who will lick anybody’s feet to advance their careers [a good example now is V. Anandasangaree, who now prides himself about his past association with the Trotskyist Sinhalese leaders and his current links to the racist Jathika Hela Urumaya] make use of fake hit lists to gain sympathy and the attention of the media.

(8) It is worthwhile to remind memory-challenged politicians that rowdy elements of Sinhalese-dominated Governments of Sri Lanka have viciously targeted prominent fighters of Tamil rights since 1956, when Pirabhakaran was a toddler.  Just a few examples.  On whose hit list was the then young Federal Party MP, A. Amirthalingam in 1956 when he was hit on Galle Face Green during the satyagraha campaign?  On whose hit list was the then TULF MP, V. Yogeswaran in 1981, when his Jaffna house was burnt in conjunction with the worst 'bibliocaust' in recent Asian history?  On whose hit list was the TULF President M. Sivasithamparam in the 1983 anti-Tamil riots, when his rented Colombo house was attacked?  On whose hit list was G.G.(Kumar) Ponnambalam in 2000, when he was assassinated?

(9) As for the LTTE’s purported hit list, how come Karuna – a high ranking LTTE insider for more than a decade according to media blurbs - could not reveal its details last year [or until now] to the news-hungry media in Colombo and Chennai, while he was throwing mud on everything which has happened in the LTTE under Pirabhakaran?  Only two inferences can be made.  Either, there is no LTTE hit list, or Karuna was not a ranking LTTE insider.

(10) No human in this world can escape from the one real hit list – that of the Grim Reaper.  Ask Vazhapadi Ramamurthy who had to answer the summons in October 2002.


Posted September 12, 2005