Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Arrogance of Power

Does power corrupt ?

Yes, in big way.

Vellupillai Prabhakaran, fought for a cause in the Sri Lankan soil. He was very much unlike Bin Laden or Dawood Ibrahim who wanted to terrorize the world and make the most out of it. In fact, India sympathized the cause of Prabhakaran and his militant organization, the LTTE, until Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at Sriperumbudur on 21st May, 1991. The assassination of the young, charismatic leader opened up the paths to defeat and subsequent death of Prabhakaran yesterday.

The British, at the height of their power, in India and Sri Lanka used to get Tamilans from India to Sri Lanka to work in the plantations. When the British colonial rule ended in Sri Lanka, two different ethnic groups had formed, the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Sinhalese being the dominant group is said to have constantly tested the pride of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Prabhakaran rose to power in the 1970s when "Revolution only comes through the barrel of a gun" was the motto all over. He fought for the tamils, established the militant organization LTTE(Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) and demanded for a seperate tamil home land(elam) within Sri Lanka. Though what he stood for were just causes, the path he adopted for its fulfillment were lamentable.

The LTTE assassinated those who stood in its way, even moderate tamil groups. This forced a way of extremism for all elam related activities of Tamil. In other words, diplomacy was never an option for either the LTTE or Prabhakaran. The call for a seperate "tamil elam" was so strong in Sri Lanka that it even spread waves of protest and anguish against the Sinhalese in India. Politicians such as Vaiko even made a future out of it. Prabhakaran was a hero in the minds of the tamils. He was the one factor that glowed like stars in the darkest of situations. He was the factor that untied the tamils world wide. Sympathy turned into empathy and funds began flowing. The gears of the most organised militant group ever formed began to turn.

LTTE is infamous for many of their tactics. They had a system of parallel government with Prabhakaran being the "President and the Prime Minister" for the "Tamil Elam". Their military forces had divisions into army, navy and airforce, just like any modern nation. But what seperated the LTTE from ULFA or the Khalistan Movement was the Black Tigers. A sect of specially trained soldiers who are ready to embrace death as a weapon for assassination of high profile figures. The LTTE introduced to the world the concepts of modern human bomb. Given that they were able to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India and Ranasinghe Premadasa, the President of Sri Lanka, one can easily estimate the sheer effectiveness and lethality of a Black Tiger attack.

What turned the tamils against Prabhakaran ? By the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 which sought an end to the Civil war in Sri Lanka, India send a peace keeping mission, the IPKF(Indian Peace Keeping Force) to Sri Lanka. By the accord, the Sri Lankan armay were to withdraw into their barracks and the tamil extremists to disarm, after which an interim administrative council would be set up and later tamils given equal status in the country. But the irony is that the mission became violent as soon as it was deployed. The LTTE refused to disarm and began a series of fightings with the Indian Soldiers. When Premadasa was elected as the President of Sri Lanka, he asked the IPKF to withdraw. Although Rajiv Gandhi did not relent, the end of his office signalled the end of IPKF. The new Prime Minister elect V. P. Singh considered the mission a big failure and withdrew all the forces from the island nation.

LTTE retaliated with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. This sole act of terrorism turned the Indian mindset. Prabhakaran and the LTTE became another of the extremist groups fighting without a cause. Moreover the monopolized leadership and heavy funds had begun to change Prabhakaran. The power and money corrupted him. He relentlessly attacked The Sri Lankan government, breaking pacts and promises.

When Mahinda Rajapakse was elected to power in 2008 and with the assassination of the Sri Lankan external affairs minister, the government launched a full fledged military offensive against LTTE. This resulted in the disruption of organization and the death of its founding leader Prabhakaran and his son, Charles Anthony. All the senior leadership of LTTE was killed and it is believed that they are out of action.

Prabhakaran is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Will history repeat? Only the wheel of time will tell


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