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No Purity of Purpose in Terrorism

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The death of LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s in Sr Lanka made headlines yesterday and brought the 35-year old Sri Lankan civil war to an end. Several thousand Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils have been killed in this war, a nation has been divided and wounded and extremist elements allowed to flourish. India lost over 1000 of its soldiers in the peacekeeping efforts of the late Eighties, as well as losing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the suicide bombing tactics employed by the LTTE.

A few years ago this Prime Minister’s daughter, Priyanka Gandhi, visited one of the killers, Nalini who is now in an Indian jail. Despite the support that LTTE has enjoyed from some Tamil politicians, the news of Prabhakaran’s death seems to have caused nary a ripple in India, though security analyst B. Raman warns us that it is too early to be complacent. It seems now that the wounds (at least in India) are being painfully and slowly healed. For how long, no one is sure.

Discussion of the twists and turns in this civil war brings out the worst in people. You hear opinions such as ‘Sinhalese are congenitally racist’, ‘Tamils are congentially racist’, ‘Christians created all the problems by evangelizing the Hindu Tamil community’, ‘the Hindu Tamils are to be blamed for their identification as Tamils and not Sri Lankans’, ‘the British are to be blamed for dividing the country’, ‘the Buddhists wanted to institutionalize their beliefs and culture’, and so on. There are enough instances in this nation’s history to illustrate these points.

Granted, many factors contributed to the civil war, but what stands out most clearly is that the best of intentions cannot sustain a terrorist undertaking. The LTTE decimated many other Tamil nationalistic and militant outfits, engaged in a reign of internal terror, used women and child warriors and suicide bombers, committed horrifying human rights abuses, targeted and abducted many civilians, engaged in piracy, arms and drug smuggling and established a relationship with the grand daddy of them all, al Qaeda. History may justify the development of a movement to represent Tamils equitably in the xenophobic and exclusionary Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government. But a violent force like this was only bound to degenerate. There is no purity of purpose in terrorism. Thus the oft-repeated maxim that’one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’ is wrong. The LTTE was organized like a military, but it committed abuses that are in contradiction of the principles of nation-to-nation armed conflicts. Much less do we need to say about the allegedly ‘stateless’ entities in South Asia that practice terror.

Today the process of healing between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka has yet to begin in earnest. Hopefully the end of the war will mean an examination of the sources of hostility and an equitable solution in the democratic process.

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About Wayfaring Stranger

  • What is the purity in killing 10,000 civilians to defeat the same terrorism?

  • Like the Palestinians, Ceylon’s Tamils have had bad luck in their choice (or in most cases, non-choice) of leaders.

    Prabhakaran was a Hitler. A small Hitler on a smaller stage, but a Hitler to his very bone marrow. Even down to the very end, when everyone else in the known universe knew it was over, his bunker mentality mirrored the last days of Der Fuhrer.

    Hopefully, the next Tamil leader will have a basic understanding of the words “compromise” and “negotiate,” but you never know. The BBC printed the comments of some British Tamils who, from their plush London flats, want the war to continue in a nastier, more suicidal mode. With fools like those free to blather on far from Ground Zero, Prabhakaran need not roll over in his freshly-dug grave just yet…

  • @Kalugu: None. The Sri Lankan government and the IPKF have a lot to answer for as well.

    @daleandersen: The ball is in the government’s court now. A lot depends on what their vision is for the way forward. Will it be a South African style “mercy triumphs over judgment” approach? Or will it be a Chinese style demographic assimilation of predominantly Tamil lands into the Sinhalese mainstream? Or in the worst case scenario, will there simply be more of the same i.e. status quo?

    Let’s nto forget that not long ago the Tamil resistance did not actually demand a separate state, but only equal representation and equitable treatment. If the government can engage the Tamils in responsible dialogue over these topics we may see a shift in their stance.

  • Memo to Wayfaring Stranger:

    The only ones saying “the ball’s in the Sri Lanka government’s court” are the queasy Europeans who can’t stand the sight of blood anymore. No one should pay any attention to them. They’re a dying culture anyway. In 50 years, they’ll all be Muslim.

    In point of fact, no one will remember what really happened in Sri Lanka. Because, when all is said and done, it’s the winners who get to write the history…

  • “The only ones saying “the ball’s in the Sri Lanka government’s court” are the queasy Europeans who can’t stand the sight of blood anymore. No one should pay any attention to them. They’re a dying culture anyway. In 50 years, they’ll all be Muslim.”

    Is this a prediction or an expression of hope?

  • RJ


    Wow. I agree. That was pretty deep, and true. Prepare to be flamed.

  • The winner is the government. We’ll see what they do. With the Tamil leadership out of the way, I do not expect to see any visionary moves from that quarter. If the government acts with the interest of only a section of the society in mind chaos will reign.

    I’m no European. I’m an Indian whose family members have served in the Indian armed forces and understand realities in the region. We too are faced with our own problems in Kashmir and noone here has any love lost for terrorists.

  • Kalugu: I think I answered this question before. There is no justification for the Sri Lankan government’s violence when it was unprovoked.

    I think your question is something else. You are likely asking me if this injustice doesn’t somehow let the LTTE and other such outfits pass muster? No, it does not. The bloody history of the civil war holds both these parties culpable.

    Are you asking me if there is another way?

  • it is the responciblity of international community to put Rajapakshe in front of UN Security council for his war crimes and mass killing of Tamil People