Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka: Introduction & Index > Indictment against Sri Lanka - the Record Speaks

The Charge is Ethnic Cleansing

Eduardo Marino Report to International Alert
[see also Rajiv Gandhi's War Crimes]

Some Observations and Conclusions
following a trip to Jaffna Peninsula in November 1987

"Over a period of about 20 days, the Indian Army's direct attack on LTTE positions, and defence from LTTE attacks, was coupled with the Indian Army's attack and storming of still unevacuated Jaffna - and many villages and settlements throughout the Peninsula - with widespread (insofar as territory), indiscriminate (insofar as targeting) and sustained (insofar as intensity) artillery shelling. Only less widespread, sustained and indiscriminate, there was air-strafing from helicopter as well. It was not "cross-fire" that incidentally killed thousands of civilians. The majority were killed unavoidably inside their houses and huts under shelling, or were shot at random by the roads and on the streets. A large number of people were "only" wounded - yet, many of them died in the absence of medical care, especially under the 24-hour curfew over a period of about one month, to mid-November..."

From Peace Keeping to War Fighting Indiscriminate Attack Forcible Evacuation Strategy and its Results War Calamities or Crimes ? The Guerrilla Terrorism Refugees Civil Administration Tactics of Occupation Army Brinkmanship


With its epicentre in Jaffna, an accumulation of political and military events and incidents over the preceding nine-week period erupted into armed hostilities between the Indian Army and the Tamil LTTE on 9th October 1987. Regardless of diplomatic rhetoric political intention or journalistic commentary, as from that day, the Indian Peace-Keeping Force, IPKF, became operationally a war fighting military force and - as time has passed and the situation evolved - also a force of military occupation, at least in the Northern Province. To continue calling it a "peace-keeping" operation is a misnomer.

There is no standard conventional definition of military peacekeeping. However, out of about 40 years of experience -chiefly by the United Nations in all continents - a consensus has formed about the minimum and common features to be found with a genuine military Peace-Keeping operation. Namely: the Peace-Keeping force is provisional; it is politically impartial vis a vis the warring parties; it may use force only in self-defence; therefore it does not have enforcement powers a In other words: it is not designed to become another party to the conflict but a new force in-between the existing parties to the conflict and accepted by all of them.


Over a period of about 20 days, the Indian Army's direct attack on LTTE positions, and defence from LTTE attacks, was coupled with the Indian Army's attack and storming of still unevacuated Jaffna - and many villages and settlements throughout the Peninsula - with widespread (insofar as territory), indiscriminate (insofar as targeting) and sustained (insofar as intensity) artillery shelling. Only less widespread, sustained and indiscriminate, there was air-strafing from helicopter as well. It was not "cross-fire" that incidentally killed thousands of civilians. The majority were killed unavoidably inside their houses and huts under shelling, or were shot at random by the roads and on the streets. A large number of people were "only" wounded - yet, many of them died in the absence of medical care, especially under the 24-hour curfew over a period of about one month, to mid-November.

It was a combination of firing and shelling, and - only later the explicit Indian Army command to the population to evacuate Jaffna town and other places, that made an estimated 175,000 families ( that is, about 500,000 people ) refugees into the Jaffna outskirts within days. The situation became grotesquely hopeless for many people in some areas : while the curfew was being rigorously enforced - that is, with an order in place to shoot-to-kill pedestrians -the inhabitants were simultaneously ordered out of their houses into the outskirt concentrations an absurd operational overlapping inevitably leaving a good number dead.


The population was not adequately warned nor given time for preparations, and the places to which they were referred (three improvised "camps" took the bulk of the people, one of them a big Hindu temple crammed with an estimated no less than 40000) had not been prepared with the bare minimum hygiene facilities as foreseen by the Law of War, not to mention drinking-water, food, medicine and lighting. There is no reason whatsoever to attribute any criminal intent here to any political or military actor - the governments of India and of Sri Lanka, in this case.

On the other hand, we do not find room for doubt about the rushed, callous and short-sighted improvisation of non defensive military operation of this magnitude. The attack, and the violent pressure to make so many people move out quickly, demanded much more military planning and military administration than was displayed in the Jaffna Peninsula in October/November. To do it much better was imperative not only for humanitarian reasons but also for the sake of military logic. In general, by acting without due regard for the non-combatant population, armies alienate friends and potential allies, create new enemies and harden existing ones. Evidently, the Sri Lankan Army and Police forces did it over the years. Not in every negative respect, yet with a similar self-damaging effect, the Indian Army in Sri Lanka has now matched them.


Again - insofar the post-9 October period - the central fact is that the Indian Army attacked Jaffna, and many other populated places throughout the Peninsula, shelling and firing massively and indiscriminately rather than at the LTTE selectively. Why did they do this ? For three interrelated reasons, one may conclude: physically it is very difficult to target the LTTE exclusively as it is such a part of the Tamil population; secondly, to "soften" ( Indian officers' terminology ), and thereafter controlling the whole of the population with a view to squeezing the LTTE out; and, thirdly, to minimise casualties on the side of the Indian Army by maximising inactivity on the entire Tamil side. What have the Indian Army wanted to achieve ? They have stated it clearly : to disarm about 3000 guerrillas, killing them if necessary, and to capture their arsenals and ammunition depots. In short : to impose peace militarily once they could not obtain it politically. They have not managed that either yet. It will be achieved "at any price", the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army was quoted saying early in December. How high "any price" will ultimately come to be is impossible to foresee. Whatever the price, it is much easier to see that it -will be paid, in various proportions, by everyone directly involved. This way there won't be winners.

In the North, the military result has been that the LTTE guerrilla has been dislodged - as distinct from destroyed or disarmed - from their main position, Jaffna town. Other consequences have included : material ruin for much of the population all over the Province; physical and moral suffering for no less than 1 million people, including thousands of civilian casualties counting both killed and wounded; real or lasting peace for none among the Tamils so far.

To suggest that "normalcy" has returned to Jaffna is to add lie to injury - the normalcy of absolute martial rule by India and the legality of the Emergency Regulations of Sri Lanka ? Is this the "return to normal" that some Government officials and press persons - and in particular diplomats abroad - have referred to, especially on the eve of the meeting of foreign aid donors in Paris on 4 December ? As regards her side, the Indian Army has lost hundreds of men to mining, booby-trapping r sniping and open attacks by the LTTE, and over one thousand more wounded and maimed Indian soldiers have been evacuated. In addition, India has been incurring the war operational costs of - at this point - no less than 35.000 active men, in comparison with the cost of no more than 15.000 passive ones during the early weeks of peace-keeping in August and September.

For military reasons, besides firing and shelling, there has. been considerable burning of houses and huts - massively in some rural localities - by the Indian infantry : so as to deny the Tamil guerrillas fighting positions and hiding-places, especially on the sides of roads and other routes feasible for army convoys. That is, plain anti-guerrilla warfare as it is known elsewhere in the world; again, no resemblance with a peace-keeping operation.


On top of everything else there has been the "unmilitary" or "unsoldiery" side of events :- wanton killings out of rage, reprisals against non-combatant;, looting of homes of middle and wealthier classes, soldier's assault of women, a murderous attack on the main hospital victimising both patients and medical personnel, and killing of a number of unarmed and disarmed guerrilla suspects without trial according to the Law of War. The Jaffna population acknowledge the efforts of the officers of the Indian Army to restrain their men, and the disciplinary measures that have been taken in a few instances. They say : "India" did not come to do "all this". ''They'' have done it nevertheless. Resentment is deep and universal.


The Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 29 July 1987 acknowledges the Tamil guerrillas as "combatants". For the Sri Lankan press, including the governmental press supporting the Accord, the Tamil LTTE are invariably "terrorists", but never so far for India, neither when she was housing and training Emil "militants", nor now when she has to fight a "recalcitrant" LTTE challenging her military might. For most Tamils in the Tamil provinces they seem to be "the boys". For everyone - foe and sympathiser, locally and internationally - as much as for themselves, they are the "tigers". In the broad picture of modern history they are going to be classified probably as ruthless romantic popular nationalists. Which may explain why both liberals and Marxists - including Tamils --find themselves at odds with the LTTE. The former object to the LTTE's almost exclusively militaristic methods, the latter also to their political nationalistic religiousness. To label warriors is part of war itself.

How one calls them may define one's own political stand or viewpoint in a particular war. There is another level : radically human, it could be said, where regardless of history, and above politics, warriors are what they do and how they do it. Their behaviour and performance may demonstrate what their political position and program cannot. On this level, close observation on the frontlines becomes more important than remote abstraction. So, our conclusion is that the Tamil tigers are combatants - in the sense of the Law of War ( and the Indo-Sri Lankan July 87 Accord ) - who besides combating honourably have also committed politically motivated inexcusable criminal acts in the sense of most religions and systems of law. They are selfless killers. They are not selfish criminals. This is why Sri Lanka suffers from communal war and not Mafia strife.


In characterising the Tamil guerrilla, if terrorists are to be called those who have had recourse to terrorist acts, then everyone who has done so should be called a terrorist. It is simply a dishonesty to confine the use of the term - as some newspapers and politicians mainly in Colombo do - to Tamil guerrillas, while remaining silent regarding dozens of officers and hundreds of soldiers and policemen from the Sinhalese community whose acts, over the years, have been well documented. Everyone knows but not everyone acknowledges that the war in Sri Lanka was escalated by a symbiotic relation between anti-Tamil and anti-Sinhalese terrorism. It is to the credit of the military intervention of India that it has interrupted such a vicious process. However, from interruption to eradication, there is a gap still to be bridged.


Following guerrilla dislodgement - some Tigers retreated southwards into the jungle, others eastwards in the direction of Batticaloa, or surrendered or have been captured while still others have stayed relatively or intermittently inactive mingled with the population - the Indian Army occupied Jaffna, fortified their positions, searched for arms thoroughly and, recently, started to try to organise a civil-military administration. t Once they felt in full territorial control and were in possession of the weaponry left behind by the LTTE, then they asked the population to return home. An estimated 50.000 - about ten per cent - found no home to return to. They became the genuine homeless refugees, as distinct from the earlier forcibly-evacuated half a million. To make this distinction may be significant on account of its effects : one of the issues which could be - discussed is the extent to which people are entitled to war compensation as a matter of law, and not merely to charitable relief as a matter of humanitarian concern.


As to the attempt to set up a new Tamil administration in the Northern Province, up to now the Indian Army has not succeeded. Any Tamil person accepting a post would become an LTTE target for assassination as "collaborator". The active resistance from the guerrilla is reinforced by the passive resistance from at least large sectors of the population. It may be grossly unfair to India to treat her pacification effort as if her aim was to subjugate the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The fact is, nevertheless, that, after having been attacked, they do not want to comply with her design that they had not only accepted but welcomed before having been attacked.


There are many people who believe that intelligence personnel have been working under the guise of the Indian Red Cross : to obtain information from the people about the LTTE in the course of distributing relief in and outside the refugee camps. In general, the motive of many a relief action, including food distribution, by the Indian Army has been in question : "win the stomachs" tactic,- it could be called. This is in contrast with the-situation, only five months back, when the Indian food air-dropping at the time of the siege of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan Army was received by the Tamils with utmost gratitude, as a gift from Mother India in a moment of grave need. This time they need it no less, yet they call it "morsels from an occupation army".

Indian Intelligence services in Tamil Nadu, and the IPKF in Sri Lanka, have been making use of the rivalry and violent bickering between the LTTE and the other Tamil militant groups. Moreover, India has obviously exacerbated the intra-Tamil militant conflict by rewarding materially - offering to do it politically in future as well - the assistance received from PLOTE, TELO and EPRLF to identify LTTE members living underground with the population, and also in the refugee camps - a process of identification that the recently arrived Indian soldiers cannot obviously do. This is one of the oldest classical tactics by occupation armies, and still another clear indication of the war fighting rather than peacekeeping nature of the current Indian campaign in Sri Lanka.

It is understandable that some of the past victims of the LTTE's murderous craving for monopoly power should seek to profit now from such an under-cover opportunity to take revenge. At the same time, the Tamil People by and large seem to resent such a fratricidal mercenarisation of their youngsters, which corrupts a situation already vile enough. Also, information-gathering tactics such as the use of relief and recourse to mercenarisation suggest that the population has not been volunteering information to the Indian Army which, in turn, may suggest either or both of two things : that by and large the Tamil population has turned, if only passively, against the Indian Army, and that popular support for the LTTE is more solid and widespread that anyone anywhere seems to want to acknowledge.

This includes the notion of the LTTE's capacity to induce support or complicity through coercion - a capacity reinforced at bottom by the admiration that its tough uncompromising action awakens in many Tamils, especially in Jaffna. Otherwise, more probably, even without Indian Intelligence efforts, the Tigers would have already been wiped out.


India's stand - at the end of l987 - is that the Tamil tigers must unconditionally surrender militarily, and politically accept the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord - or, otherwise, face relentless persecution, attack and, sooner or later, extermination. In other words, the Indian Government (nowadays absorb at one voice with the Sri Lankan Government) in demanding from the Tamil guerrillas :

1. stop fighting : you may go into politics within Sri Lanka;

2. forget about Tamil Eelam outside Sri Lanka : Tamils will get some autonomy in the Northern Province and may (may not) obtain likewise in Eastern Province.

Whereas the LTTE's stand has been oscillating between an offer (at times desperately) to lay down arms conditionally - once Tamil autonomy in North and East is well secured, and a reaffirmation (often defiantly) of the original commitment to fight uncompromisingly : until Tamil Eelam is gained, with them on top.

Both Maj.Gen.H Singh of the Indian Army in Sri Lanka and guerrilla commander V.Prabakharan of the Tamil Tigers are on record recently declaring, each one from his own side : " we will achieve our objective at any price ". Their objectives being incompatible, then, if they mean what they say, the continuation of the war becomes very logical. As to its outcome, it is uncertain. What is clear, nevertheless, is that as long as the Indian Army and the Tamil guerrilla continue fighting, both India and the Tamils will continue losing. Sri Lanka will not win either.

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