Sunday Levity: Prabhakaran’s fast

The radios were returned too soon

Writing of India’s attempts to get both sides of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict to compromise, J N Dixit recounts an incident when the Indian government decided to send a signal to the LTTE’s Velupillai Prabhakaran that ‘he cannot take India support for granted’. It was 1986, and the LTTE’s operational base was located in Madras.

In a surprise move, the Tamil Nadu police was instructed to capture all the communication equipment of Tamil militant groups, especially the LTTE. This was done and Prabhakaran went on a fast.

This generated tension in Tamil Nadu, with everybody disclaiming responsibility for having taken the initiative to clip the winfs of the LTTE. (India’s Minister of State for Internal Security) P Chidambaram, came out with a statement that the action was taken without consulting the Central government. The Tamil Nadu state government was annoyed with this and returned the equipment to Prabhakaran, persuading him to break his fast. But the more significant political consequence…was Prabhakaran’s realisation that he could not expect unqualified support from Tamil Nadu authorities or the Government of India. He commenced shifting his operational based from Madras to Jaffna by the middle of December 1986.

An anecdote related to Prabhakaran’s fast revealed his personality traits. A Tamil journalist asked him at the time of his breaking the fast as to what his main worry was when he was fasting. Prabhakaran replied that his main worry was that his “trigger” finger would become weak due to lack of nutrition, affecting his shooting capacities. [J N Dixit/Assignment Colombo]

5 thoughts on “Sunday Levity: Prabhakaran’s fast”

  1. Ah, wise old Chidambaram! I guess he has learnt a few lessons along the way. LTTE appeasement still continues though, thanks to deluded Tamizh nationalistic politics from the likes of DMK, MDMK etc. It’s only more subtle and clandestine now, after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

  2. India should not have armed and trained the Tamil separatist groups of Sri Lanka. If India has felt that the Sri Lanka should not be divided into two countries, it should not have mislead 1000’s of Tamil youth to take up arms and fight and lose their life and limbs. India acted very very irresponsibly in this issue. I hope India realizes its error and plays a fair minded mediator role in Sri Lanka.

  3. I am not sure if Uccai thinks we are like the US meddling everywhere in the world and making it our business to keep our armies occupied doing something in some part of the world..

    Sri Lanka is in our backyard and taking interest in events there was and is remains important for our national security.

    The anecdote definitely seems interesting, though, and would have been one of the incidents that started India’s shift away from LTTE that eventually led to the IPKF operations and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

  4. As Prabhakaran said, there is nothing wrong in India taking care of its interest. What is wrong was the India’s total disregard of the interest of the Tamil people.

    India approached the Island’s problem in a very amatuerish way. I think most of the blame must go to Dixit. His arrogance caused immense suffering in Sri Lanka. Had India had a more perceptive and intelligent individual as the High Commissioner, then India could have kept its good name in the Island.

    Enough of this topic. I will not write anymore.

  5. Uccai Pere

    Had India not trained and armed Tamil youth in Sri Lanka, others would have. The conditions in the country were ripe. In fact, many Tamil youth had traveled to Lebanon for training by the PLO and other Palestinian groups. Let us not over emphasize India’s role in the emergence of Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka.

    Best regards

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