On the 19th of May, 1982, the Tamil Nadu police arrested two Sri Lankan youth who had unsuccessfully made an attempt on each other’s lives outside a cinema theatre in the bustling setting of Pondy Bazaar in the Metropolis of Chennai (then known as Madras). The arrest created immense flutters in both the nations of India and Sri Lanka. Back room machinations and complex negotiations emerged as there were bids to both release the arrested and also to deport them to Sri Lanka. Tirelessly goaded on by both the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the charismatic M.G.Ramachandran (“MGR”) and the former Chief of the Tamil Nadu unit in the ruling Congress Party, Nedumaran, it was prevailed upon the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, to ensure a quick and dirty release of the captives (much to the chagrin of the Sri Lankan Government). In a Machiavellian twist of fate, one of the released youth, a decade later, turned out to be India’s most hated human being and nemesis when he successfully plotted the brutal assassination of Indira Gandhi’s own son and former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. The errant youth was named Velupillai Prabhakaran and he was the leader of one of the most globally feared and paradoxically admired insurgent groups operating in subterfuge – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (“LTTE”).
In this remarkably revealing work, M.R.Narayana Swamy details the evolution, ideologies and workings of both the LTTE and its larger than life leader, Prabhakaran. Although it is now a few years since the LTTE Chief was murdered by the Sri Lankan Armed forces in a concerted ambush, the book still makes for some remarkable reading. The story of Prabhakaran is a story of courage, chicanery and cold blooded brutality. It is the story of a man who played two nations against each other before betraying them both. While his cadres received covert support from the Indian intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing (“RAW”) in the form of a plethora of training camps spread across India, his terrorist outfit was awash with overt support in the form of benevolence shown by the politicians in Tamil Nadu, a support which included a whopping monetary grant of Rs.2 crores from MGR. Prabhakaran cunningly manipulated this support by turning against the country that acted as his benefactor by slaughtering 1200 Indian soldiers who were part of the controversial Indian Peace Keeping Force (“IPKF”) that found itself albeit reluctantly in Sri Lanka to broker a peace between the two warring factions that were the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE as part of an India-Sri Lanka peace accord signed by President Jayawardena and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987.
Ruthlessly eliminating rival Tamil outfits such as the PLOT and TELO, organisations which were also fighting for the same cause as the LTTE, Prabhakaran ruled roost over the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka in a brazen and blood curdling fashion. Brooking zero dissent he inhumanly tortured his own second in command Mahattaya under a suspicion that the latter was coveting the Prabhakaran’s post and harbouring an intention of displacing him as numero uno of the LTTE. A Kangaroo Court convicted Mahattaya of all charges, and he was summarily executed.
Narayan Swamy has the appropriate credentials to pen this story after conducting extensive interviews with both the LTTE as well as its extensive network of global operatives. He was also the author of the first ever book to be written on the LTTE titled “The Tigers of Lanka” in 1994. Although purporting to provide an impartial account of the story of Prabhakaran, one can discern a tinge of reverence in the author for this killing machine, in describing his spine chilling exploits. Notwithstanding this element, the book makes for essential reading for all those interested in the Sri Lankan story where a misguided and arrogant Government found itself face to face with a formidable set of guerrillas thirsting not only for some deserving rights but also for some unjustifiable revenge.
“Inside an elusive mind” – A rapt tale of a tiger that ran amok!