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Jain Commission Interim Report
Growth of Sri Lankan Tamil Militancy in
Chapter I - Phase I (1981-1986)
3. Circumstances which led to the arming and training of SLT militants
Circumstances which led to the arming and training of Sri Lankan Tamil militants
7 The riots of 1983 in Sri Lanka brought the ethnic issue into sharp focus in the international arena. The indifference and the inability of Sri Lanka to cope with the ethnic issue became a cause for grave concern for the policy makers of India. The concern of India was due to several reasons.
The public sentiments in Tamil Nadu for the suffering Tamils of Sri Lanka had become so strong that there was a persistent demand for Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka;
The reaction of President J.R. Jayawardhane to the problem, when India's External Affairs Minister Shri P.V. Narsimha Rao met him soon after the riots was far from reassuring; the priorities of the Sri Lankan Government appeared to be geared towards appeasing the majority sentiments rather than redressing the serious and immediate grievances of the Tamil minority;
The conditions of the displaced Tamils housed in refugee camps in Sri Lanka were poor and there was a genuine apprehension that in view of the persisting insecurity to them and the inability of the Sri Lankan Government in providing them protection and succor, the influx of refugees into India would continue while the refugees already staying in India would not be in a position to return to Sri Lanka;
It had become clear that the Sri Lankan Government was unable to effectively deal with either the anti- Tamil violence or the counter violence by Tamil militants without assistance from outside forces. There were clear indications that Sri Lanka was attempting to seek a solution to the problem purely through military means by seeking the help of some outside powers.
7.1 Shri K. Mohandas confirms these sentiments prevalent in Tamil Nadu in his affidavit no. 62/92- JCI as follows :-
Para 13:- " The handling by Indira Gandhi of the issue with restraint, without encouraging short term impulses, even in the midst of provocative news of frenzy, methodical killings, pillage and plunder, was welcomed by international leaders. But in Tamil Nadu, her approach was criticised by large sections as impotent."
7.2 Shri Salman Haider, Foreign Secretary, in his affidavit no. 343/96-JCI, has acknowledged that the riots in Sri Lanka resulted in a sympathy wave in Tamil Nadu in favour of the Sri Lankan Tamil population which was affected by the riots. He stated as follows:-
Para 6(ii) :- "The ethnic riots of July 1983, in which Sri Lankan Tamils greatly suffered at the hands of Sinhala community, led to a significant upsurge in public sentiment in Tamil Nadu in support of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The large number of Tamils killed in the riots led to calls for Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka."
Para 6 (iii) :- "The public uproar on the issue led Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to depute Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao, the then External Affairs Minister, on a visit to Sri Lanka in July 1983."
7.3 Annexure-I enclosed with the affidavit gives an indication of the attitude of the Sri Lankan President J.R. Jeyawardhane to this problem. As per this document the External Affairs Minister, Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao, met President J.R. Jayawardhane at Colombo on 29th July, 1983. The following observations which are excerpted from the Annexure are relevant in this context :-
"President Jayawardhane's assessment of developments gives the highest priority to placating Sinhala feelings. He showed great sensitivity to the feelings of Tamilians, acknowledged there had been too slow progress in redressing their grievances, but blamed the present situation mainly on Tamil extremism which only made it more difficult for him to carry out his reforms. The Sinhalese were determined to prevent separatism whereas the Tamilians had been succumbing to terrorist tactics. First and foremost, he had to reassure the Sinhalese that he was not allowing partition of the country."
7.4 India's concern regarding the deteriorating law and order situation in Sri Lanka with regard to the welfare of the Sri Lankan Tamils is reflected in the following observations made in the note:-
"On law and order we got a dim view both on the extent of violence and the Government's ability to cope with it. The President was first assertive of optimism but one detected an element of doubt even in his first presentation. Later, even those who arranged to meet FM, both Tamil and Sinhalese, spoke of trouble spreading to the tea estates; curfew was re-imposed round the clock for 48 hours; Sinhalese violence was reported to be no longer organised but stray, but widespread, and so too Tamil counter-violence. We were left in little doubt that stabilisation is not in sight. Whether the violence will continue at the present level or grow was debatable but it would be prudent to be prepared for the worst.
This is all the more necessary since the law and order machinery is clearly overstretched. The President himself said the Sinhalese sentiments have made it hesitate in many cases where it should have acted firmly. Others were more disparaging of its loyalties and abilities; more and more cracks in the brave official front of confidence appeared throughout the day and at the end it became evident that help would be needed."
7.5 The plight of the Sri Lankan Tamil victims of the riots has been enumerated in the note as follows :-
"Tamils in refugee camps (displaced persons) are in a very bad way. There are at least 50,000 in 8-10 camps in Colombo, and Indians, in need of succor themselves, told us the refugees need water, food, medicines. Their security in the camps seems reasonably assured; elsewhere the Tamils are reportedly seeking shelter and suffering harassment in the process. Thondaman himself said that help for the camps was a second priority : the first one was to take steps to prevent more camps from becoming necessary. As for relief, the President did not seem inclined to any steps at present but promised to work out needs and get in touch."
7.6 Under such circumstances, the fallout in Tamil Nadu of the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees led to another development spoken about Shri P. Nedumaran in his affidavit as follows :-
Page-5:- "India decided to conduct negotiations for peace at Colombo while giving training and supply of arms to militant groups to step up armed struggle with the motive of giving military pressure on the Sri Lankan Government and force Jayewardene's Government to bow down to diplomatic pressure."
Para-6 :- "It was at that juncture, the Late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi entrusted the full responsibility of Military training of the Tamil Militant youths, to the Research and Analysis wing (popularly known as RAW).
When RAW decided to provide the military training, two senior RAW officers Messrs. Samy and Ravi Menon contacted Mr.Chandrahasan, a Sri Lankan Tamil leader who was stationed in Tamil Nadu. He was informed of their plans and was entrusted with the responsibility of recommending the militant groups to the RAW, for training. During October, 1983, Chandrahasan met me and informed about those developments.
It was he, who gave the first information on the military training by the RAW. In November, 1983, he again met me with a grievance on the refusal of LTTE to join the training programmes along with other groups. That was immediately conveyed to Mr. Prabhakaran who was then at Madras.
Mr.Prabhakaran's observations were,
"Mr.Chandrahasan does not have our confidence and he had discarded our country's politics. Hence whatever help through him, even if the heaven comes, we will not take it, but if help comes directly to us from the Govt. of India, we will take it."
It was at that point, I proposed to Mr.Prabhakaran that he should directly contact the Government of India, which he readily accepted. In this context he requested me to make necessary arrangements."
Para-7 :- "I state the entrustment of military training with the RAW and the responsibility assigned to Mr.Chandrahasan to identify the groups for training was not known to the other Sri Lankan Tamil political leaders like Mr.Amirthalingam, who received a great shock when I appraised him of the situation. He was restless and condemned such a military training to the Tamil youths without the knowledge of TULF. He was very much worried about the activities of RAW who had colluded with persons like Mr.Chandrahasan who had been expelled from his party. Hence I advised him to contact the Government of India and ascertain the details and facts behind such moves."
Para-11 :- "It is submitted that I again wrote a Letter to Mr.P.V.Narsimha Rao on the LTTE movement and its leader Mr.Prabhakaran. At the request of Mr.Prabhakaran I sought for an appointment for Mr. Prabhakaran with him. ..Mr. Prabhakaran had a meeting with the Intelligence Bureau officials. After these efforts, a final decision was taken to extend military training directly to LTTE Cadres.
This enraged the RAW officials and made them to act against the interest of the LTTE; this led the TELO movement in getting better projection. However, the I.B. realised the reality and acted in favour of LTTE. The special treatment and the direct link with the Government of India by LTTE shattered the hope of RAW which wanted the LTTE to submit to their dictates for which the LTTE did not yield. At that, the RAW started misreporting about LTTE and it was responsible for the clashes between the different militant groups. The RAW was behind the clashes between LTTE and EPRLF and LTTE and TELO in 1986. I and Mr.K.Veeramani issued a joint statement on 18.05.1987 appealing to the Government of India to stop the support to the Groups which were rejected by the Eelam Tamil people."
7.7 Shri K. Mohandas, in his affidavit no. 64/92-JCI has stated as follows :-
Para 13 :- "....The issue had become very sensitive, and meanwhile, the Prime Minister's advisors were working overtime, giving facilities to the militants, particularly the TELO (Tamil Ealam Liberation Organisation) to be trained in the use of modern arms in the camps organised in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and elsewhere. The idea was that after the training, they would be supplied with arms and sent to Northern Sri Lanka to engage the Sri Lankan troops in guerrilla action. It was supposed to be a top secret operation without even the knowledge of the State Government and its Intelligence agency. (at least as far as Tamil Nadu was concerned."
Para 15 :- "The insurgency operation was so clumsily organised that it was, before long, an open secret. Each training camp was a mini Union Territory completely controlled by Central agencies, into which the State Intelligence or the State Police had no access."
7.8 Kasi Anandan, a Madras based Sri Lankan Tamil who is a member of the Central Committee of the LTTE was examined by the Commission on 10th and 11th September, 1996, In his deposition dated 10th September, 1996, he has stated as follows:-
".....Government of India promised us to give training at Dehra Dun. It was in 1984 when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. I did not join any training camp. There were many other groups of Tamils. They were also given training. No member of TULF received any training. It was non- violent organisation and believed in democracy. We had lot of hopes from Smt. Indira Gandhi and we thought we would regain our independence as Tamil Eelam. We regret her loss even now. There were training camps even in Tamil Nadu at Kulathur near Mettur., but I do not know the location of camps of other Tamil militant groups. I do not know whether LTTE was having camps at Government or private land. I had visited this particular LTTE camp in 1985. One Mr.Ponnamman was in charge of the camp. I did not know the names of the boys. Ponnamman took me to the camp from Madras. I have heard of Kulathur Mani. He is a DK man. He must be a man from Kulathur. I do not know that it was his land at which training camp was running."
"About 50 or 60 LTTE boys got training in the first batch at Dehra Dun. Two or three batches after that were also trained. I think this started during the Govt. of Smt. Indira Gandhi. The LTTE also got monetary assistance from the time of Smt. Indira Gandhi. I do not remember what type of assistance was given to LTTE during the time of Smt. Indira Gandhi."
"I have not personally known the monetary help by the Indian Govt. or the training provided by it, but what has been conveyed to me by the LTTE, I have deposed on that basis."
7.9 Shri V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India, during his deposition dated 5th November 1996, before this Commission spoke about this aspect as follows :-
".....the first batch of training of the militants was done in 1983 under the Congress Government. I will not disclose the place where this training was held. It was done in Chakarata. Then in 1984, weapons were given to all the militant groups. The Camps were set up in Tamil Nadu. Monetary help was given. MGR in his statement in the Assembly of Tamil Nadu said that Rs.4 crores aid has been given by him to Tamil Militant Groups. The other information I will not give to the Commission, which I believe is sensitive. Then in 1982, there was a shoot-out in Pondy Bazaar in which a criminal case was filed against Shri Prabhakaran. In 1984, there was a bomb blast at Madras Airport in which 30 people were killed. At political level talks took place in Thimpu and Prabhakaran had come. After the meeting Shri Rajiv Gandhi in 1987. In 1986, the Govt. of India decided to send Central Ministers to bring about peace, among the various Tamil factions."
7.10 Shri M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, in his affidavit no. 187/94 filed before the Commission has submitted on PAGE NO.2 PARA 4 :-
"It is a well known fact that the LTTE and other Sri Lankan Militants camps were established in India ever since 1982 in tune with the policy of the Central Government at that time. The Tamil militants were given military training and allowed to have their own training camps in India."
PAGE 19 PARA 19
"I state that the Congress Governments under the Prime Ministership of late Smt. Indira Gandhi and late Thiru Rajiv Gandhi encouraged, trained and supported the LTTE and other Tamil Militant groups."
During his deposition before the Commission, Shri Karunanidhi stated that as far as he knew, the training was imparted for the purpose of self defence. He stated :-
Deposition of Shri M.Karunanidhi on 21-2-1997 Page No.-7
"I know they were trained at several places but I do not know whether they were given arms or not. The training was for self defence."
Deposing before the Commission on 15th. January, 1997, former Union Home Minister, Shri S.B. Chavan, admitted the fact of the training, confirming that its objective was for self defence. He stated:-
"To consider cut off date to 1987 what was upper-most in our mind was to save the name of Gandhi family as some Camps were established to provide self defence to Tamilians who had come from Sri Lanka."
7.11 A first hand assessment of the camps being organised by the various Sri Lankan militant groups is found in the enclosure to a letter (DO C.11. No. 1634/M dated Feb. 8, 1986, referred to in details at page 111) written by Shri K. Mohan Das, the then Director General of Police (Intelligence), Tamil Nadu to the Chief Secretary, Tamil Nadu.
The enclosure gives detailed particulars including strength, weaponry and type of training in the camps, which, according to Shri Mohandas were being organised by the militant groups themselves.
The information contained in the enclosure is summarised as follows:-
LTTE:- 6 camps were reported being conducted by the LTTE in the districts of Anna (1 camp), Thanjavur West (1 camp), Thanjavur East (1 camp), Salem (1 camp, Madurai (1 camp) and Ramnad ( 1 camp) of Tamil Nadu. The total strength of trainees in these camps was reported to be 495 cadres including 90 female Tigers. The camp at Sirumalai (Anna district) was the only camp were all the 90 female Tigers were getting training along with 40 male Tigers. The largest LTTE camp was located at Kumbarapatti in Salem district. The training comprised Arms Training, swimming, boat driving and physical training. The camps were equipped with transport facilities such as Jeeps, Vans, motor cycles etc.
TELO:- Five camps organised by Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) were reported to be running in the districts of Ramnad ( 3 camps) and Salem ( 2 camps). There were totally 233 male cadres undergoing this training which comprised Physical Training, Arms training, swimming and boat driving.
EROS:- Eelam Revolutionary Organisers (EROS) were reported to be conducting two camps in the districts of Ramnad and Pasumpon Muthuramalingam districts. There were 8 male trainees in these camps which were imparting Physical Training and Arms Training.
EPRLF: The Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) was reported to be conducting 7 training camps in the districts of Thanjavur West (3 camps), South Arcot (2 camps), Trichy ( 1 camp) and Ramnad (1 camp) with a total strength of 73 male trainees who were being trained in Guerilla warfare, Physical Training and Arms training. These camps reportedly possessed sophisticated weapons such as Light Machine -guns as well as transport vehicles.
PLOT:- The Peoples Liberation Organisation for Tamil Eelam (PLOT) was conducting training in 18 camps located in the districts of Thanjavur West (11 camps), Pudukottai ( 4 camps), Tirunelvei East (2 camps) and Thanjavur East (1 camp). Totally 2236 cadres in addition to 94 female cadres were getting trained in these camps. The camps possessed transport facilities, boats and some weapons. Predominantly, the training comprised guerrilla warfare and also Physical Training, Swimming and Boat Driving.
Other assorted organisations were also conducting their camps in Tamil Nadu such as Tamil Eelam Army (TEA) - 2 camps, 31 trainees; TELA -Kanthan group ( 3 camps, 117 trainees); TELA-Rajan group (1 camp, 10 trainees); TENA (1 camp, 25 trainees); RELO ( 1 camp, 13 trainees; NLFT (1 camp, 2 trainees); ECRP (1 camp, 4 trainees) and TMPP ( 1 camp, 6 trainees).
As per the enclosure, the total number of trainees of various Sri Lankan Tamil militant organisations in their training camps being conducted in Tamil Nadu was 3179 males and 184 females, totally 3363 cadres.
7.12 This indicates that during the period 1983 and 1986, various Sri Lankan Tamil groups - predominantly militant groups - had set up bases in India. Most of these organisations were functioning from their own offices. Besides, these groups had also organised training camps in several districts of Tamil Nadu and were imparting various types of training including arms training to their cadres. The presence of so many different militant groups in Tamil Nadu further accentuated the problem since often internecine rivalries between them came to fore.
7.13 Some witnesses who have deposed before the Commission have spoken about the LTTE offices functioning in Tamil Nadu. Shri S.C. Chandrahasan, in his deposition dated August 22, 1996 has mentioned the establishment of offices by the LTTE. Relevant extracts are reproduced below :-
" LTTE had its office in Madras in 1983 but they were operating clandestinely. The main base then of them was in Madurai. Once they had their office in Adayar area in Madras. By that time that office had become prominent. They used their office basically for propaganda. I had not been to that office. Balasingham had come to Madras and thereafter the office became prominent. He was their spokesman. I know Raghu @ Gundappa. He was responsible for the weapons for LTTE."
Anita Pratap, journalist, who deposed before the Commission has also spoken about the LTTE offices in Madras. In her deposition dated August 17, 1996, she states :-
"LTTE had started the office, I think, in at the beginning of 1984. It was located at Besant Nagar, South Madras. There were several LTTE cadres operating the office. Lawrence Thilagar, Yogi and others. At any given time there were 5- 6 LTTE cadres operating the office. Periodically, there used to be some spokesman of the LTTE. In 1985, Balasingham had come. He was the official spokesman of the LTTE and he still is. He was in charge of propaganda as well as negotiating with Governmental authorities, R&AW and other Agencies. Till I remained in Madras, Lawrence Thilagar, Yogi and Balasingham remained official spokesmen of the LTTE."
Kasi Anandan, in his deposition dated September 10, 1996, has stated as follows :-
"After my first visit in 1977 to India, I went back after a week and again came to India in 1984. There were riots in 1983 in Sri Lanka when Kutimani and others were killed. Immediately after the riots, I came to India. I came in December,1983. My family came to India in January 1984. We were staying at Tamil Nadu Guest House in Chepauk Guest House. LTTE was having its office after 1984 in Indira Nagar, Adayar. Prabhakaran used to be in the office. Balasingham, Baby Subramaniam and Muthurja and few other leaders of LTTE Were there. Raghu alias Gundappa was also staying there. I think Kittu was not there in Madras but was there in Jaffna. I myself took the decision and went straight to join the LTTE. I was regularly visiting LTTE office at Indira Nagar. I was incharge of Tamil literature. I was looking after literature side."
7.14 A Note furnished by an Intelligence Agency before the Commission gives details of the growth of the LTTE and the profile of its leader V. Prabhakaran and other prominent personalities of the LTTE during the relevant period (1981 - 1986). The relevant extracts are reproduced below :-
Extracts from the note - LTTE : its origins and growth - (Ex 158 (B),(Annexure M-2))
(Paras 5 to 10) -
"The LTTE shot into fame in July ,1983, after the famous ambush at Tinnevelly Road, Jaffna, when 13 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed that subsequently triggered off riots in Colombo and other parts of the south. A large number of LTTE cadres including Prabhakaran came over to Tamil Nadu leaving the leadership to Kittu in Jaffna, Mathiasri in Vavuniya and Santhosham in Trincomalee. It was not until January,1987 , that Prabhakaran returned to Jaffna although the local commanders had been pleading with him to visit them at least once. Two unrelated reasons made Prabhakaran return. One was the genuine feeling for the suffering Tamils in the peninsula when the Sri Lankan Government introduced the ban on movement of fuel, and two, he did not want Kittu, who had attained fame in the earlier operation "Short Shrift" when the LTTE successfully pushed back the Sri Lankan forces into their camps in April,1986, to consolidate his standing among the people of Jaffna.
In terms of strength and influence of the militant groups, towards the end of 1983, the PLOT was the foremost followed by the TELO and then the LTTE. The PLOT destroyed itself by planning a Red Army march into Tamil area at a later date which never came, and in the meantime the cadres got disappointed and discipline, which was never a strong point with the PLOT, declined to such an extent that an open split became unavoidable. The TELO were to blame themselves for their destruction. They were ridden with factions and serious internal quarrel between their two leaders Das and Bobby which ended in the former being killed.
The LTTE on the other hand, maintained iron discipline and there were no killings of those who desired to leave the organisation. Prabhakaran was able to influence a sense of belonging to the most adventurous revolutionary organisation. In the earlier stages his group 's actions in creating incidents and exposing the innocent public to the wrath of the security forces came in for a lot of criticism. There were serious discussions within the group regarding the efficacy of carrying a cyanide capsules which sent the cadres to death without getting a chance to wait for another day. But Prabhakaran stood firm on both grounds and everyone else had to toe the line.
What helped Prabhakaran most in the early stages was the total support given by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister . Prabhakaran was always very respectful towards MGR and used the right phrases and right gestures. He admired MGR for the immense popularity he evoked in the Tamil masses and wanted to emulate him. On the other hand, Prabhakaran was seen as a real life hero. Enormous funds were made available which helped LTTE to sustain themselves until they were in control of Jaffna peninsula and started collecting taxes. On one or two occasions arms shipments were reportedly cleared and this gave a decisive edge to the group by the end of 1984. This support added to the edge Prabhakaran had in his leadership and the ability to invoke a kind of mad and total loyalty in his followers. He was a self- constructive strain in him which he has successfully passed on to some of his close followers. If driven to a corner, Prabhakaran is capable of committing suicide rather than face humiliation. He has a love for guns and his face is said to glow when he sees a good weapon. He would always carry the latest pistol available in the world market, and is a good shot too.
At the moment, Prabhakaran does not carry any threat to his leadership. Only two persons could have posed a threat. Of those, Kittu is now in Madras to get an artificial leg, and though he is consulted on all matters his disability and absence from the scene are big handicaps.
In the early days when Kittu wanted to marry his girlfriend, Prabhakaran prevented it on the ground that a revolutionary should be wedded to the revolution, though he himself fell in love with one of the fasting girls of Jaffna University who were brought to Madras by the LTTE, and got married to her. Kittu continues to hold this against Prabhakaran.
Mathiasri could claim seniority even over Prabhakaran as he has continued with the Tigers while Prabhakaran briefly joined TELO. Unlike Prabhakaran, Mathiasri is a very ambitious and the way Mathiasri has taken precedence over Dileep Yogi (who joined the movement only after 1983) has not gone unnoticed.
Other persons who are considered to be very close to Prabhakaran would include Raghu, personal bodyguard of Prabhakaran, and Thilagar , a Political Adviser , and Shankar alias Swarnalingam who helped the LTTE in procuring arms and other equipment from abroad.
Anton Balasingham , the Political Adviser (he is no doctor and does not hold a Ph.D) is more a spokesman who, as he himself had remarked, is there to justify the action rather than advise on actions to be taken.
Balasingham, after taking his post -graduate degree in Jaffna, briefly dabbled in journalism before taking up a regular job in UK High Commission. In the 1970s he went over to UK and in due course obtained British citizenship. He lost his wife in London and married the Australian Nurse who was attending to her in the hospital. He is known to be shrewd and has slowly eliminated all other intellectuals who could have given sensible advice to Prabhakaran.
Except for Balasingham, Prabhakaran is surrounded by a group of school and college dropouts. At this moment the rank and file is well-knit as the LTTE has the muscle and money which would come to over an estimated 15 crores of Sri Lankan Rupees. The powerful motivation for attainment of Eelam is no longer present and the problem would be how to keep the cadres together with an alternate motivation. This is a major problem for the group."