Give Prabhakaran, take magnanimity

The LTTE is asking for forgiveness, but is offering nothing in return

The LTTE says it is sorry. In the words of its Anton Balasingham, its smooth public face, assassinating Rajiv Gandhi was a ‘great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy’. Further, he has called upon the Indian government and the Indian people to magnanimously let bygones be bygones, and ‘approach the question in a different perspective’. What he is saying, in effect, is that now that the Tamil Tigers have put their chestnuts in the fire by provoking the resumption of civil war in Sri Lanka, India should help pull them out.

Seen from a purely legal perspective, this apology does not mitigate the crime. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s leader, remain a fugitive under Indian law. The court that sentenced Prabhakaran is unlikely to be impressed by an long-distance expression of regret delivered by a proxy. Neither should the Indian people, in principle, show any magnanimity towards unreformed terrorists, whose professions of regret come out of the barrel of a still firing gun.

But the timing of Balasingham’s discovery of conscience has more to do with politics than with sincerity. It recognises that the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was a ‘monumental historical’ mistake because it alienated the Indian people from both the Tamil Tigers and their ostensible cause. The apology is an attempt to work its ways back into the good books of the Indian people. More importantly, the professed apology provides pro-LTTE Indian politicians with a degree of cover as they attempt to confuse support for the Tamil Tigers and with that for the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is merely a new salvo in the LTTE’s propaganda battle aimed at winning over public opinion in India in general and Tamil Nadu in particular.

The minimum the Indian government must do is to reject Balasingham’s apology and insist that the LTTE will be held responsible for the resumption of Sri Lanka’s civil war and the consequent harm that it will cause to the Sri Lankan Tamils. The best way to respond, though, would be for the Indian government to insist that no apology from the LTTE will be considered sincere until it surrenders all those convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Those handed the death penalty can appeal to the President of India for clemency. He is empowered to decided on behalf of the Indian government and the Indian people whether it is deserved. The LTTE’s bluff must be called.

Updates: The LTTE has since clarified that it has not confessed to the crime at all. Why apologise then? In general, India is unimpressedby the whole ploy.

12 thoughts on “Give Prabhakaran, take magnanimity”

  1. Nitin,

    Absolutely. I could not agree with you more. As a country that has faced terrorism (including from LTTE) it will be big-time double standards if we decide to pardon LTTE for Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. It would clearly mean terrorists could get away with murder (quite literally) in India, something India clearly would not want to project.

    Just because Sri Lankan Tamils fall on the wrong side of the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka is not reason enough for Tamil-speaking politicians in India to get pally with LTTE, or for the ordinary voter in Tamil Nadu to see that as an important reason to vote for or against in elections.

    Sri Lankan Tamils must be seen just as humanitarian refugees if they happen to come to India, and India must provide all possible military & diplomatic support to the Sri Lankan government to help crush the LTTE. India must remember that just as the Jehadis in Kashmir are not freedom fighters but terrorists, LTTE in Sri Lanka are terrorists and must be dealt as such.

    India has let the farce prolong for too long in its most prosperous neighboring country. A rich, peaceful Sri Lanka can become the pride of South Asia, and a good example for countries like Nepal & Bangladesh, who can get there as well if they have their priorities right.

  2. Never negotiate with terrorists – thought we learnt that in Kandahar. Prabhakaran is most disciplined terrorist there is. We need to be the same.

  3. what a crap apology if one can call it a apology at all. India should demand that the LTTE surrender the culprits and stop all terrorist activities, give up arms and return to the negotiating table. Nothing less than that will do.

  4. Nitin,

    The most interesting point you made is this habit of confusing support for LTTE as support for Sri Lankan Tamils. Both are not the same. LTTE whatever its initial justification has turned into a vicious terrorist organization and deserves as much symapthy as Kashmiri terrorists do. B. Raman in an interesting write up in rediff called for India to help Sri Lanka destroy their maritime and air assets. I think that makes sense. LTTE will never come to the neogtiating table unless sufficiently weakned.

  5. Confused,

    I agree with B Raman. Rather, Raman agrees with what I wrote late last year. Unlike him, I wouldn’t preclude sending in land forces, although direct use of sea and air power may be sufficient to compel the LTTE to discontinue the civil war.

  6. Nitin,

    Agree with your arguement.
    A caveat though, to ensure a stable Sri Lanka, Indian government must lean on Sri Lankan government to curb extremist Sinhalese factions. If need be constitutional safeguards should be provided to ensure the stability between different ethnic groups.


    Your emoticon happy reader 🙂

  7. An apology may ameliorate public opinion, but it is not justice. The LTTE must be brought to book for all acts of terrorism committed on Indian soil, not just the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. There should be no compromise on this score.

  8. Whether Congress I rejects LTTE’s truce offer or not, UPA government has been treating LTTE with kid gloves. Based on the reaction to LTTE terror activities before the recent TN assembly elections, it’s pretty clear that Indian establishment treats LTTE as part of Tamil people in Sri Lanka and not as a terror organization.

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