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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of Struggle for Tamil Eelam > India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > The Indo Sri Lanka Agreement
India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam
The Indo Sri Lanka Agreement
13th Amendment to Sri Lanka Constitution
The article is a revised version of talks given under the auspices of the London Tamil Forum in London in January/March 1988 and examines the terms of the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement signed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President J.R. Jayawardene of Sri Lanka on 29 July 1987 in the context of India's geo political interests and the impact of the subsequent offensive launched by the Indian Peace Keeping Force on the Tamil people.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President J.R. Jayawardene of Sri Lanka entered into the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement on 29 July 1987 with the stated objective of bringing 'peace and normalcy' to Sri Lanka. Velupillai Pirabaharan, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (who were recognized as 'combatants' by the Agreement and who had emerged as the leaders of the Tamil national struggle) declared:
On 10 October 1987, the so called Indian Peace Keeping Force, which had arrived in Sri Lanka 'to keep the peace' launched a widespread, indiscriminate and sustained attack on the Tamil people with the objective of securing their unconditional support for the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement. A reward of one million rupees was offered for the capture of Velupillai Pirabaharan, dead or alive.
Context of the Peace Accord - The Exchange Of Letters
On the 29th of July 1987, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayawardene signed the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement to 'establish peace and normalcy in Sri Lanka.' The preamble to the Agreement acknowledged 'the imperative need of resolving the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka, and the consequent violence, and for securing the safety, well being and prosperity of people belonging to all cities in Sri Lanka'. The Peace Agreement is an important and significant document not only because of that which it offers as the solution to the ethnic problem', but also because it serves to underline India's role as a regional power in South Asia. On both counts, the Peace Agreement merits reasoned consideration.
The Peace Agreement should, be placed in its context - a context that was made public by the exchange of letters of the 29th of July 1987 between the President of Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister of India. Clause 2 of the letter dated the 29th of July 1987 from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to President Jayawardene states
An Exchange of Letters Concerned with India's Geo Political Interests
Let us pause and ask in what way are these provisions connected with the 'imperative need to resolve the ethnic problem' between the Tamil people and the Sinhala people? The ethnic conflict was a conflict between the Sinhala people and the Tamil people. In what way was the resolution of that conflict helped by India exercising control over the use of Trincomalee? Again, in what way was the resolution of the conflict between the Sinhala people and the Tamil people helped by India securing that foreign broadcasting facilities in Sri Lanka were not used for military and intelligence purposes?
Let us ask: what are these 'military and intelligence' purposes to which broadcasting facilities may be put to use? We live in an age of space satellites which can photograph with clarity and accuracy movements on the ground. What then are these military and intelligence purposes' which are beyond the capacity of space satellites?
We know that one such area beyond the reach of space satellites is communication with and monitoring nuclear submarines under water - radio signals from space satellites are too weak to travel through water and reach nuclear submarines. It would seem that India is concerned that Sri Lanka based broadcasting facilities may be used to monitor and communicate with nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean. But whose submarines?
At the time of the Agreement, India did not have nuclear submarines. The two countries in world with sizable fleets of nuclear submarines are the USA and the USSR But the broadcasting facilities in Sri Lanka about which India was concerned were the Voice of America installations. India was concerned to secure that these VOA installations were not used by the United States for military and intelligence purposes.
A 6th of January 1987 report from Associated Press that India had taken delivery of a Soviet nuclear submarine on lease gives a certain practical significance to the exchange of letters in July 1987 - an exchange of letters which had everything to do with the elemental premise of India's strategic policy in the Asian region - namely to deny any intermediary role to extra regional powers in the affairs of South East Asia - and thereby secure its own status as THE regional power in the Asian region.
But the question remains: what do these provisions have to do with the resolution of the ethnic conflict between the Sinhala people and the Tamil people. Clearly, these provisions have little to do with India's helpful humanitarian role on behalf of the long suffering Tamil people or for that matter its role as an 'honest broker in the ethnic conflict.
Fortunately, Prime Minister Gandhi's letter of the 29th of July 1987, does not leave us in animated suspense on the nature of this vital 'connection'. Clause 3 of the letter expressly declares that, "in the same spirit" as Sri Lanka has agreed to respond to India's concerns about the use of Trincomalee and the use of foreign broadcasting facilities, India will
The Quid Pro Quo is out of the Bag
The cat, in this instance, the quid pro quo, is out of the bag. The letter makes it abundantly clear that in return for Sri Lanka agreeing to Indian control of the use of Trincomalee and limiting the use of the foreign broadcasting facilities to 'public broadcasting', India will deport all Sri Lanka citizens who are found to be engaging in terrorist activities or advocating separatism or secessionism and that it will itself provide training facilities and military supplies to Sri Lanka.
Herein lies the connection of India's geo political interests with the resolution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. The inference is clear: if Sri Lanka had not responded to India's concerns about the use of Trincomalee and the use of foreign broadcasting facilities, then India would not deport 'terrorists' and those who advocated separatism and secessionism and India would have continued to support the Tamil militant movement until such time that Sri Lanka did respond.
President Jayawardene confirmed this when he told a Voice of America correspondent in an interview reported in the Asian Weekly, New Life of the 13th of November 1987, that the Voice of America had become a 'voice of problem' between India and Sri Lanka because Indians feared that VOA transmitting facilities were being used for military purposes. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi admitted almost as much in the Indian Lower House in early November 1987
Who are these 'terrorists' who India says it will deport? Would they include those who had been invited by India to participate in the Peace Talks at Thimpu in August 1985? Would they include those who had been recognized as 'militants' and 'combatants' by the Peace Agreement itself? The letter does not spell that out.
But, the letter states that India will deport not only 'terrorists' but also all Sri Lankan citizens 'advocating separatism or secessionism'. The Indian Government was ready to go to the extent of providing its own sanction to the 6th Amendment of President Jayawardene's Government. The 6th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution made it an offence for anyone in Sri Lanka to advocate separation, even peacefully and it was an amendment which Paul Sieghart of the International Commission of Jurists had in 1984, declared to be "a clear violation by Sri Lanka of its obligations in international law under the Covenant".
And so it was India itself which signed the Peace Agreement - a wholly inappropriate and illogical procedure, if the Peace Agreement was intended to be an accord between Sinhala people and the Tamil people - but a wholly appropriate and logical procedure if the Peace Agreement was no more and no less than an Agreement between India and Sri Lanka.
But, Does the Accord Secure the Interests of the Tamil People?
But then are there are those who may say: yes, it is true that India has pursued its geo political interests but all states have their geo political interests and that the Tamil people must recognise and accept this reality. And they are right. It is a point of view that cannot be faulted.
But, an essential part of realism is that we should also surface in the open, the real political interests of the signatories to the Peace Agreement. Realism is not timidity. India is our friend - upto a point.
Because it would seem that our friend has his own interests as well. but then many friends are like that - and let us not be too disappointed. The question is: where does friendship end and where does our friend's self interest begin?
And so, though the context of the Peace Agreement shows that India was concerned to secure its geo political interests, the question remains to be determined whether the terms of the Agreement nevertheless secure the legitimate interests of the Tamil people. Here Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has recently stated in December 1987, at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu:
Was Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi right when he declared that the Peace Agreement will ensure the rights of the Tamils of Sri Lanka? Was he right when he declared that the Peace Agreement went beyond anything that the Tamils had ever put forward? What does our reason tell us?
When we turn to examine the contents of the Peace Agreement what is it that we find? The positive feature of the Peace Agreement was that it legitimised the Tamil militant movement. The Peace Agreement was an agreement entered into between two sovereign states and it openly recognised the Tamil militant movement as a militant movement and describes those who constituted it as combatants'. In international law, the Peace Agreement served to further consolidate the legitimate status of the Tamil resistance movement.
The Accord Put the Cart Before the Horse
But having legitimised the resistance, the Agreement sought to disarm the militant movement, before agreement had been reached on the central issues of the struggle in which the militant movement was engaged. The Peace Agreement provided in clause 2.15 that it is conditional to 'an acceptance of the proposals negotiated from4.5.86 to 9.12.86' and that 'residual matters not finalised during the above negotiations shall be resolved between India and Sri Lanka within a period of six weeks of signing this agreement.'
On the one hand the Peace Agreement required the surrender of weapons within five days of the agreement. On the other hand, it left open for a further period of 6 weeks the resolution of the central issues relating to the Tamil struggle.
It was this which led former Indian Foreign Secretary, A.P. Venkateshwaran, to declare on the 13th of August 1987:
The trouble with putting the cart before the horse is that the cart does not move. The agreement that was signed on the 29th of July 1987 failed to address itself to the central issues of the Tamil struggle, which were crystallised in the joint and unanimous stand of the Tamil militant movement at Thimpu in August 1985:
The recognition of the Tamil people as a nation was central to the struggle of the Tamil people. The Thimpu Declaration sought to question openly and directly the claims of an exaggerated Sinhala nationalism which had for decades sought to masquerade as a 'Sri Lankan nationalism' and which had sought to 'assimilate' and 'integrate' the Tamil people into a so called 'Sri Lankan nationality' by denying the existence of not only the Tamil nation but also the Sinhala nation in Sri Lanka.
It is a Sinhala chauvinism which has tried to 'assimilate' the Tamil people within the confines of a unitary state which gave a built in, permanent and dominant majority voice to the Sinhala people. It was this attempt at 'assimilation' which had led to the armed struggle of the Tamil people. It was a recognition of this basic reality which led the Tamil delegation to declare at Thimpu:
A political resolution of the conflict between the Sinhala people and the Tamil people should, after all, begin by recognising the existence of the Sinhala people as a people, and the Tamil people as a people. But the Peace Agreement refused to face up to this real political need.
Accord Seeks to 'Devolve' Power not 'Share' it
Again, since the Peace Agreement did not recognise the existence of the Sinhala nation and the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka, it also did not see the need to share power between two nations within a genuine federal constitutional structure. And in the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which the Sri Lankan government presented in fulfilment of its obligations under the Peace Agreement, there is lip service to the devolution' of power.
But, devolution means that power 'devolves' from a higher body to a lower body. Who is the 'higher' body from whom power is to be devolved? Is that higher body a Sinhala dominated Central government?
And if power is so devolved, is it not also true that that power can always be taken back, and, what is more, controlled and regulated at all times by that higher body. After all that is what distinguishes 'devolution' from 'federalism' in constitutional theory and practise.
In the words of Professor Claire Palley:
Under the Peace Agreement, power will continue to reside in a Sinhala dominated Central government, within the frame of an unitary constitution. And before the Constitutional Court in Sri Lanka, Counsel who appeared for the ruling United National Party declared:
Devolved Powers less than those in B-C Pact
The extent of the powers that will be 'devolved' on the provincial units by the Peace Agreement will not go even as far as the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayagam Pact which provided that regional councils shall have powers "over specified subjects including agriculture, cooperatives, lands and land development, colonisation, education, health, industries, and fisheries, housing an social services, electricity, water schemes and roads" and further that such powers shall "include the power to select allottees to whom lands shall be alienated"
Dr. H.W. Jayawardene, who appeared on behalf of the President Jayawardene before the Constitutional Court was clear and specific:
The Provincial Councils will no doubt have the right to license pawnbrokers. But the struggle of the Tamil people was not about licensing pawnbrokers. In respect of the extent of the powers devolved, the provisions of the Peace Agreement, backed by the armed might of the Indian Army, did not secure for the Tamil people even that which had been agreed in the Bandaranaike Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957. But Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declares that the Peace Agreement "went well beyond anything that the Tamils had ever put forward"
Again, on the important question of the control of the internal security forces within the area of the provincial units, the Peace Agreement provides in clause 2.10:
Dr. H.W. Jayawardene, appearing on behalf of president Jayawardene before the Constitutional Court was at pains to declare:
Unlike, the case of Tamil Nadu and other states in India, the provincial units under the Peace Agreement will not have control of the police force.
Provincial Units Dependent on Centre for Finance
In the critical area of finance, the Peace Agreement refuses to secure a measure of meaningful independence for the provincial councils. It refuses to recognise the principle of block grants from the Central Government to be computed on a principled basis by a truly independent Financial Commission. It refuses to recognise that which was recognised in the Bandaranaike Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957 which provided:
The Peace Agreement refuses to accept even that which was contained in the Annexure 'C' proposals of December l983 agreed between the Sri Lankan Government and tile late Indira Gandhi's Indian Government that:
The Peace Agreement is content to allow the provinces to be dependent on the arbitrary discretion of the Central government for their finances and in a Third World country such as Sri Lanka, with scarce resources, the distribution of such resources will always be heavily weighted in favour of those who wield power in the Centre.
The Tamil people cannot forget that it was this dominance and discrimination which led to the Tamil struggle in the first instance. But Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asserts that the Peace Agreement was " an agreement which for the first time looked at almost every single problem of the Tamils" and "found answers to those problems".
Curiously Worded Language Provision
On the question of language, the Peace Agreement has a curiously worded provision. It says in clause 2.18:
The provision perpetuates the 1956 slogan: "Sinhala only - Tamil also'. If it was "Sinhala only", then in what way was it possible to have "Tamil Also". It was a contradiction in terms. And today, we have a Peace Agreement which states in clear terms: "THE official language of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala". If THE official language of Sri Lanka is Sinhala then what is meant by adding that "Tamil and English will also be official languages"? Are they 'subsidiary' official languages? If it was the intention of the signatories of the Peace Agreement to give parity of status to Sinhala and Tamil, why did not the Agreement simply say so and declare that "THE official languages of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala and Tamil"?
The Peace Agreement carefully refrains from using such simple and straightforward language. Let us remember that under the 1978 constitution Tamil was a national language - and therefore presumably, 'official to that extent. Is the Peace Agreement saying anything more than that which was contained in the 1978 constitution? The question is: how official is "official"?
The Peace Agreement clearly does not give parity of status to Sinhala and Tamil. It will not secure that all official records will be maintained in Sinhala and Tamil. It will not secure that all public servants shall have proficiency in both Sinhala and Tamil. That would have been the practical consequence of declaring that both Sinhala and Tamil shall be THE official languages of Sri Lanka and that the signatories to the Peace Agreement were not willing to do.
The Peace Agreement in effect adopted the old subterfuge - Sinhala Only but Tamil Also - and the gulf between law and implementation, between theory and practise will be allowed to continue as before.
It is therefore not surprising that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution presented by President Jayawardene in September 1987 in purported compliance with that which was agreed in the Peace Agreement, makes no attempt what ever to amend the 1978 constitutional provision that Sinhala shall be THE official language.
ACCORD REFUSES TO RECOGNISE THE TAMIL HOMELAND
And on the vital question of a homeland, the Peace Agreement attempts to face both ways at the same time. Clause 1.4 declares
What is the Peace Agreement saying - that is if it is saying anything at all? On the one hand it is saying that the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of the Tamils. Then, it goes on to say, that the Tamils have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic groups. According to the Peace Agreement, even in Jaffna, Tamils have 'at all times hitherto lived together with other ethnic groups'.
But even apart from statements of such doubtful historical veracity, the basic political message is that the Peace Agreement refuses to recognise the existence of a Tamil homeland. On the one hand, it refuses to recognises the existence of a Tamil nation and an the other hand it refuses to recognise the existence of a homeland where such national consciousness ties in fact grown.
The Peace Agreement rejects not only the first tenet of the Thimpu declaration but also the second, and a fortiorari, the third as well - because the Peace Agreement denies the right of the Tamil people to sit as equals with the Sinhala people and determine the political structure within which the two people may live in equality - and that after all is what the right of self determination is about.
And Engages in the Subterfuge of a Referendum
But it would appear that the signatories to the Agreement were not unmindful of the difficulties that would arise from their refusal to recognise the political reality of Tamil national consciousness. The Peace Agreement engages in a cover up and attempts a subterfuge - the subterfuge of a referendum.
The Peace Agreement whilst refusing to recognise the existence of a Tamil homeland, provides that the Northern and Eastern Province shall be joined together as one administrative unit subject to a referendum to be held before December 1988 whereby the Eastern Province by a simple majority may decide to separate and opt to have its own administrative unit.
Why join the two Provinces, together unless it was recognised that the Tamil people as a people had a prima facie claim to the North and Eastern Province as a homeland. And if the Tamil people had a prima facie claim, in what way can such claim be defeated by the result of a referendum confined to a section of that people resident in the Eastern Province?
But the reality is that one of the signatories to the Peace Agreement had openly stated that the joining of the two provinces was a temporary expedient to get over a temporary difficulty. A few days before the Agreement was signed on the 29th of July 1987, President Jayawardene addressing the 1200 strong National Executive Committee of the UNP on the 26th of July 1987 declared:
At a press conference immediately after the Agreement, President Jayawardene confirmed that he would campaign against the merger. [Sri Lanka News - 12th August 1967]. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the other party to the Agreement, at no stage repudiated that which had been said by President Jayawardene.
So, the terms of the Peace Agreement emerge clearly. It was an accord entered
into between India and Sri Lanka. The Agreement secured the geo political
interests of India in the Asian region. If Sri Lanka had not agreed to India's
concerns in this regard, India would have continued to support the Tamil
militant movement until such time as Sri Lanka agreed.
The Agreement seeks to 'devolve' power an nine provincial units, and thereby enable a Sinhala dominated Central government to control and regulate the exercise of such 'devolved' power. And the extent of the power so devolved on the provincial units does not go even as far as that which was provided in the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957 - and excludes land alienation. In the critical area of finance, the Peace Agreement is content to let the provincial councils be dependent on the largesse of a Sinhala dominated Central Government.
Accord Fails to Secure the Interests of the Tamil People
The Peace Agreement will do nothing to prevent continued state aided Sinhala colonization of the Northern and Eastern Province because this is a matter of 'national policy' and therefore within the control of the Central Government.
The Peace Agreement will do nothing to prevent standardisation of admission to Universities, because that too will remain within the ultimate control of the Central Government.
The Peace Agreement will do nothing to secure an equitable allocation of resources to Tamil areas, because such allocation will be within the arbitrary control of a Sinhala dominated Central Government.
The Peace Agreement will do nothing to control the exercise of Emergency Powers under which thousands have been held without trial, because such Emergency Powers will continue to be vested in the Central Government.
The Peace Agreement will do nothing to prevent the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act whose provisions were described by the ICJ as a 'blot on the statute book of any civilised country because this too will be within the legislative competence of the Central Government.
The Peace Agreement will do nothing to prevent the operation of the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution - an amendment which was described by the ICJ as a violation of democratic freedoms. On the contrary, the Peace Agreement will give its own sanction to such violation.
And the Peace Agreement will do nothing to energise and mobilise the Tamil people to work for the rehabilitation of their homeland, because the Peace Agreement refuses to recognise the existence of that homeland.
But Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, says that the Peace Agreement 'went well beyond anything that the Tamils had ever put forward'. He also says that the Peace Agreement was "an agreement which for the first time looked at almost every single problem of the Tamils" and 'found answers to those problems".
But what does reason say? Reason says that the Peace Agreement, fails to address itself to the central issues of the Tamil struggle. The Indo Sri Lankan Peace Agreement which secured India's geo political interests failed to secure the legitimate interests of the Tamil people - a people who had been used by India - and supported up to a point.
Stand of the LTTE on the Accord
Velupillai Pirabaharan the leader of the LTTE declared on the 5th of August 1987 at the public meeting in Jaffna before more than a hundred thousand Tamil people, on his return from New Delhi:
Velupillai Pirabaharan reiterated this approach in an interview reported in the Hindu on 13 August 1987:
Was Velupillai Pirabaharan Wrong?
Let us ask:
Peace Accord Set the Stage for the Tragedy that was to Follow
What does reason say? Reason says that the Peace Agreement denied reason to the Tamil people - and set the stage for the tragedy that was to follow. The Indian Government denied reason and set on the path of 'bending' the LTTE and the Tamil people to its will. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Natwar Singh declared in India Today, three months later when questioned about the military offensive launched by the Indian Army in Jaffna:
As early as August 1987 the Indian Government took the preliminary steps to tie up 'the obvious loose ends' and prepared the ground for its high cost option. Around 30,000 troops were brought into the Northern and Eastern Provinces, ostensibly, to 'protect' the Tamil people. The Sri Lankan government, for its part, in anticipation of the provincial elections and the referendum, began to take steps to settle Sinhala people in the Eastern Province and thereby secure the majority that President Jayawardene had spoken about an the 25th of July 1987. Velupillai Pirabaharan warned an the 13th of August 1967:
On the 7th of September the Sinhala owned Sri Lankan Sun reported:
And at about the same time, the state sponsored Sri Lanka News carried a news report datelined 12 September 1967 under the heading 'Peace or death' PLOT call to LITE:
PLOTE which accepted this unprincipled Peace Agreement 'to the hilt' was prepared to die for some 'cause'! The Tamil people will no doubt be concerned to ask: what cause and whose cause?
Simon Freeman reported from Jaffna in the Sunday Times on the 25th of October 1967;
Thileepan's Fast, Arrest of Tamil Leaders and the Indian Offensive
It was India's attempt to manage the LTTE and secure the LTTE's unconditional support for an unprincipled Peace Agreement, that led to the LTTF- leader, Thileepan's fast in September 1987, the arrest by the Sri Lankan Army of leaders of the LTTE and the effort to send them to Colombo. It was an attempt which inevitably backfired and resulted in massive public support for the stand taken by the LTTE.
Then came the massacre of Sinhalese civilians in the Eastern Province - a convenient massacre which provided the rationale for the Indian offensive which was launched against the LTTE in October 1967. But who was responsible for this convenient massacre?
The New York Times reported on 12 October 1967:
Again, London I.T.N reported an the 15th of October 1987 the words of a Sinhalese victim of attack in Trincomalee:
Are these statements made to independent news agencies true? If these statements are true is it suggested that the Indian army was assisting the LTTE - in this attack? These statements assume a special significance because the LTTE has consistently denied in engaging in these attacks.
Indian Army's Widespread, Indiscriminate & Sustained Attack
Be that as it may, under cover of the climate created by the killings of the Sinhalese civilians, came India's offensive on the LTTE and the Tamil people. It was an Indian offensive in which many thousands of Tamils have died. Many more thousands have been rendered homeless. Every Tamil, without exception, can relate his own personal tale of loss and suffering.
Suffering is a great teacher. It will teach the Tamil people that a Peace Agreement that denied reason cannot bring peace. Every Tamil can bring to bear his or her own testimony to support the truth of that which Eduardo Marino, an independent observer sponsored by International Alert and who visited Jaffna, summarized in a report in December 1987:
But the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka would have had the world believe that the Indian Army was fighting with one hand tied behind its back. The Guardian of the 19th October 1987 reported:
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declared in the Lak Sabha on the 9th of November 1967:
The exemplary Indian Army fought with one hand tied behind its back and the result was that 100,000 Tamils became refugees in their own homeland. The exemplary Indian Army was sparing in its use of heavy artillery, but sustained artillery shelling destroyed more than 50,000 homes in the Jaffna Peninsula. And Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi would have his members of Parliament believe that the Indian Army acted with 'outstanding discipline and courage' accepting sacrifices 'for protecting Tamil civilians'.
Derek Brown reporting from Colombo declared in the Guardian of the 21st of October 1987:
The exemplary Indian Army was assisted in its efforts by the equally exemplary Sri Lankan armed forces. Michael Hamlyn reported in the Times of the same date:
International Herald Tribune reported on 21 October 1987:
Simon Freeman reported from Jaffna in the Sunday Times on 25 October 1987:
When questioned about atrocities committed by the Indian Army, the Chief of Operations of the Indian Army cheerfully admitted that some Indian soldiers may 'have cracked under the strain':
Derek Brown reported from Jaffna in the Guardian on 27 October:
Bruce Palling reported from Colombo in the Independent on 22 October 1987:
Simon Freeman reported in the Sunday Times:
Eduardo Marino reported to International Alert in December 1987:
Indian Army Sets About Raping Tamil Women
The Indian Army concerned as it was to maintain friendly relations with the Tamil people, set about raping them as well. On the 15th of January 1988, the Sri Lanka Sun reported that four members of this exemplary Indian army which had one of its arms tied behind its back, had been court-martialed for rape:
But Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declared in the Lok Sabha on the 9th of November 1987:
The Indian armed forces continued to act with these 'high moral standards' in January 1988 as well. On the 19th of January 1987 , the Sri Lanka Sun reported that:
That was in mid January 1988 - not in the thick of the battle for Jaffna, where they may have 'cracked under strain' but in the Eastern Province, more than two months later. And in February, the Tamil people were threatened with a battle for Batticaloa - presumably on the lines of the battle for Jaffna - a battle for Batticaloa by an Indian Army with one hand tied behind its back - disciplined and with high moral standards - not angels but humans like the rest of us.
What Did the Indian Army Seek to Achieve?
But faced with that which the Indian Army has done in our homeland and that which it seeks to do, let us ask what is it that the Indian Army seeks to achieve by this offensive against the Tamil people - an offensive which has gathered momentum, and which has not stopped. As a reasonable people let us listen to that which the Indian government says are the reasons for its onslaught.
The Indian government has issued thousands of leaflets in English and in Tamil to the people of Jaffna stating the reasons for the offensive. What does the Indian government say? One of the leaflets declares -
"The Indo Sri Lankan Agreement of 29 July 1987 serves the interests of Tamils and gives them the powers to administer both Northern and Eastern Provinces.
The 'Unselfish' Concern of India
The position of the Indian Government is clear. The Indian government seeks to deal 'firmly' with the LTTE which it says is not even 'bothered' about the Tamil people. The indiscriminate, widespread and sustained shelling which rendered 50,00 Tamils homeless was due to the unselfish concern that the Indian Army had for the Tamil people.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declared at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu on the 21st of December 1987:
The fourth largest army in the world, with around 35,000 troops on the ground in Sri Lanka, continued to struggle for days against this 'small outfit', 'which represented nobody but themselves', and which did not have the support of the Tamil people.
The Indian Government showered the Tamils of Jaffna with thousands of leaflets calling upon them not to support the LTTE - which, according to the Indian Government did not have the support of the Tamil people anyway.
What does reason tell us? Reason tells us that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was simply trying to diffuse the reaction of Tamils in Tamil Nadu - a reaction to a merciless attack by the Indian Army on the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. Reason tells us that the Indian Army was engaged in implementing an Agreement which according to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi 'had met some of India's important security concerns' but which denied reason to the Tamil people.
In its efforts to save the Tamil people from the LTTE, it would seem that the Indian Government echoed the sentiments of a Sri Lankan Minister who declared to the London Times that 'ideally, they would like to see eight of the top leaders of the LTTE wiped out'.
Bruce Palling reported the Independent on 22 October 1987:
But according to the Indian government it is the LTTE which is selfish. India is a self less guarantor of the interests of the Tamil People - a self less guarantor who at the same times seeks to secure its geo political interests in the Asian region.
And so, the Indian government seeks to 'deal firmly' with the LTTE by killing them if necessary, by capturing their arsenals and ammunition depots. Again, since no 'low cost options' were available, it was prepared to shell Tamil homes and strafe them from the air as well. By doing all this the Indian Government seeks to impose the Indo Sri Lankan Peace accord on Tamil people - an Agreement which according to the Indian Government 'best serves the interests of Tamils and gives them the powers to administer both Northern and Eastern Provinces'. The Chief of Staff of the Indian Army declared in December 1987 that this will be done 'at any price'.
But what does reason say? Does the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement 'serve the interests of the Tamil people' as the Indian Government claims or does the Agreement serve the interests of the Indian government, as reason tells us?
Does the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement 'go beyond anything that the Tamils have put forward' as the Indian Government claims or does the Agreement fail to go even as far as the Bandaranaike Chelvanayagam Pact, as reason tells us?
Does the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement 'look at almost every single problem of the Tamils' as the Indian Government claims, or does the Agreement fail to address itself to the central issues of the struggle which were crystallised at Thimpu, as reason tells us?
Was it that the LTTE was not 'bothered about the Tamil people' as the Indian Government claims, or was it that it was India which was not bothered about the legitimate interests of the Tamil people when it sought to secure its own geo political interests without first securing agreement an the central issues of the Tamil struggle?
Was it that the LTTE demands regarding the Interim Administration Council were conceded as the Indian Government claims or was it that the demands were conceded only after Thilleepan's fast and that too only after Thileepan's death, as reason tells us?
Again, why did the Indian Government wait till Thileepan's death to concede reason? And was it thereafter unhappy that it had been compelled to concede reason?
Was that why, it subsequently refused to intercede to prevent the transfer of 14 arrested LTTE leaders from Jaffna to Colombo? Was it that India was powerless to prevent this attempted transfer or was the transfer yet another attempt by the Indian Government to manage the LTTE and bend the LTTE to India's will?
Does anybody say that that which was stated in thousands of leaflets showered on the Tamil people by the Indian government that the leaders of the LTTE 'are bent on serving their own personal interests and are not bothered about the Tamil people' is a statement of truth from the land of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi?
Or is it the truth that it was the LTTE alone amongst all the militant groups, which stood up firmly for the Tamil cause and for the Tamil people in a selfless heroism which will be remembered by thousands upon thousands of Tamil people for decades to come? What does reason say?
Reason tells us that the central failure of the Indo Sri Lankan Peace Agreement was its refusal to recognise the political reality of the Tamil Eelam nation. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi should have lent his powerful support to secure constitutional frames which recognised the existence of the Tamil nationalism rather than to a Peace Agreement which sought to deny its political force.
Tamil Eelam cannot be snuffed out. It can be reasoned with. To reason with Tamil Eelam you must first recognise it. To recognise it you must first understand it. Tamil Eelam is not a mere intellectual concept. It would be lifeless if it were. Neither is it the expression of emotion alone. It would not be sustained for long if that were true.
Nor is it a matter merely of a people securing food clothing and shelter and their material conditions of existence. Because, that would deny to Tamil Eelam its rich cultural heritage. Tamil Eelam is all these - and more. It is all these together as an integrated whole - an integrated whole which is greater than the sum of its constituent parts - and an integrated whole which has taken shape through a process of opposition and differentiation.
Every inside has an outside. It was continued Sinhala discrimination during a time period of several decades, which consolidated the growth of Tamil Eelam. That which was treated separately, became separate.
It is when you begin to understand all this that you will also understand the sacrifices and the suffering undergone by the Tamil people and the militant movement in the name of the Tamil nation - understand the martyrdom of Thileepan who fasted for more than ten days without food or water, and who gave his life to the Tamil nation - understand the answering response from thousands of Tamils and understand the increasing togetherness of the Tamil people.
It is when you understand all this that you will also understand the growing political force of Tamil Eelam and its power to direct and influence the conduct of thousands.
A Spectre is Haunting the Indian Sub Continent
It would seem that a spectre is haunting both the Sri Lankan Government and the Indian Government - the spectre of Tamil nationalism. And in their fear they are hugging each other. And if both the Indian Government and the Sri Lankan Government are hugging each other in fear of the political force of Tamil nationalism, then clearly it is a political force which must be reckoned with.
Tamil Eelam is not without power and influence. Tamil Eelam will not quietly go away and disappear from the political arena merely because the Indian government and the Sri Lankan government refuse to recognise its existence. Selvarajah Yogachandran's words in a musty court house in Colombo when ha was sentenced to death in 1962 continue to be relevant - 'You may take my life, but for the life of each Kuttimuni you take, there will be ten more who will be born'.
Neither will Tamil Eelam disappear in the world arena, merely because today both the Soviet Union and the United States have supported an Indo Sri Lanka Peace Agreement which fails to recognise the political reality of Tamil Eelam. Both the Soviet Union and the United States may take the view today that the stability of the Indian region will be secured by supporting Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's government.
But, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's government will secure stability in the Indian region only if it has the strength to openly recognise that both India and Sri Lanka are multi national states - and only if it uses that strength to put into place constitutional structures which reflect that political reality.
By all means let us support India if it is willing to lend its powerful support to secure a constitutional structure in Sri Lanka which reognises the political reality of Tamil Eelam. By all means let us support the endeavours of the Indian Government if its endeavours are based on the recognition that the long term political stability of India cannot be achieved without securing the legitimate interests of the Tamil people as crystallised in the Thimpu Declaration. By all means let us strengthen Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi if that is what he seeks to achieve.
The Tamil people do not take an exaggerated view of nationalism. The Tamil people are not chauvinists. Nations do not exist by themselves. They coexist with other nations. The question is: an what terms? The Thimpu Declaration set out a reasoned and principled framework within which the Tamil nation and the Sinhala nation may live in Sri Lanka. And today, the Indo Sri Lankan Peace Agreement cannot achieve its stated aim of securing 'peace and normalcy' in Sri Lanka by denying reason to the people of Tamil Eelam.
The way forward at this critical juncture in the Tamil struggle is clear. Reason tells us that it is by strengthening the capacity of the LTTE to represent the Tamil people that the Tamil cause will be furthered.
The words of Sri Sabaratnam, the leader of TELO, in Madras in August 1985 continue to have their significance. He said "You know, there are two types of power one, 'thongura' power, where you seek to derive power by hanging on to some one above and the other, 'makkal' power, power that you derive from the support of your own People: 'thongura' power is nothing because you are powerless to do anything for your people. The only power which is true power is that which accrues to you when you serve your people.'
Nadarajah Thangathurai, Selvarajah Yogachandran and Sri Sabaratnam were brave and honest humans whose commitment to the Tamil cause was unquestioned. But neither their memory nor the cause for which they gave their lives, will be furthered by quisling Tamil groups engaged in a sectarian search for revenge and who thereby serve not the Tamil people but who at best, may secure some crumbs from their masters table for themselves and their hangers on.
Today, upon the LTTE has fallen the heavy and onerous duty of mobilising the strength and support of the Tamil people around the Thimpu declaration. If that is what our reason tells us, what does our heart say? Our hearts will tell us: let us not at this critical juncture let down thousands and upon thousands of our brothers and sisters who have had the courage to stand up for that which was right. Let not history record that we as a people were found wanting in our commitment to support that which reason tells us is right.
The passive acquiescence of the Tamil people yielded to the reaction and the heroism of the militant movement. But out of that militant response has come the purified stand to which Mahatma Gandhi gave his life and which Thileepan of the LTTE exemplified.
True non violence requires even greater courage than violence. It requires more than ordinary courage to say with Mahatma Gandhi: 'yes, I am prepared to give my life for my people but there is no cause for which I prepared to kill'.
A people who have gone through an armed struggle, become strong. They are also purified and perhaps the time will come when the Tamil people as a people will have the strength to follow the path that Thileepan has shown. Let us reason with each other to unite and let us unite around reason - and it is only then, that we shall acquire the strength to translate our words into deeds.
Let us as a people stand up together in support of the Thimpu Declaration and let us strengthen the capacity of the LTTE to represent the Tamil people and give coherence and direction to the Tamil national struggle.