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.Powered by Sidelines