"On Wednesday 13
January 1993 the ship, M.V.Ahat was unlawfully intercepted by the Indian
Navy in international waters in the Indian Ocean. The ship was intercepted
about 290 miles east of Hambantota in the south of the island of Sri Lanka
and about 440 miles south east of South India (Latitude 6 degrees North,
Longitude 85 degrees East).The boat was carrying Sathasivam Krishnakumar,
(also known as Kittu), one time Deputy Leader of the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (and one of its founding members), and several other members of
the LTTE. The ship was then forced to travel towards the South Indian coast
by Indian Navy frigates. New Delhi's intervention in international waters
was an act of piracy. Under the Law of the Sea Convention, which constitutes
customary international law and to which India is a party, India has no
right to exercise a police jurisdiction on the high seas. Kittu and 9 others
took their own lives rather than face capture and torture in the hands
of New Delhi's agencies." India's
Act of Piracy
Krishnakumar, speaking in Zurich, on Maha Veerar Naal, in November 1990...
''I was once asked by an Englishman connected with the British Refugee
Council: 'You say Tamil Eelam, but where are the boundaries of this Tamil
Eelam that you talk about? Show me.' I was taken aback by the directness of
the question. I thought for a while, searching for an appropriate response.
Then I replied: 'Take a map of the island. Take a paint brush and paint all
the areas where Sri Lanka has bombed and launched artillery attacks during
these past several years. When you have finished, the painted area that you
see - that is Tamil Eelam.'''
Interview with Melbourne Radio, 1991 "Q. What is the role of
expatriate Tamils in relation to the struggle?
A. Wherever we may live
in the world, we are Tamils... In Tamil Eelam, our brothers and sisters
are suffering great hardship. They are being killed every day because they
are standing up for that which is right. That which we should do first is
that we should let them know "we are with you, we support your struggle,
your struggle is our struggle". Five lakhs of our people living outside
Tamil Eelam, should be moved to say: "We will support you, we will give our
hand, we will give our voice." It is that which we expect from expatriate
"The Tamil national liberation struggle is
no afternoon tea party. Freedom will not be served on a
wrote many years ago '..It is a vain dream to suppose
that what other nations have won by struggle and battle, by
suffering and tears of blood, we shall be allowed to
accomplish easily, without terrible sacrifices, merely by
spending the ink of the journalist and petition framer and
the breath of the orator...'.. "We are building a road,"
Kittu would often say. "I do not know whether I myself will
be alive to see the road being completed. But that does not
matter. Others will arise to take the road further." The
struggle was Sathasivam Krishnakumar's life and in the end
he gave his life so that the struggle may continue to live.
And as we salute Sathasivam Krishnakumar let us also re
dedicate ourselves to the cause for which he gave his life."
Krishnakumar whose 33rd birthday fell on January 2 is no
longer with us.
I had known Kittu for a relatively short period of three
years. And as I write I am mindful that there are many
others who have known and worked with him for much longer
periods of time; who have known and worked with him since
the early days of the Liberation Tigers when they numbered
only a handful to the days when he functioned as Commander
in Jaffna. I am mindful also of the thousands of others in
Tamil Eelam and in many other parts of the world whose
lasting affection he has won. And I count myself as one of
During these last three years, I have gained many
insights both of Kittu, as a leader of a people and of
the movement of which he was such an illustrious part. I
have been enrichened in the process.
Mahatma Gandhi was once asked whether he sought power.
He replied no, I do not seek power. I seek to serve. But, he
added truthfully: "I know that as I serve power will accrue
Sathasivam Krishnakumar served his people and
served them well. As he served his power to influence
and direct his people grew. It seems to me that in the
end, that is what charisma is about. Kittu was a
His commitment to the struggle and to the leader of that
Pirabaharan was total. I remember a story he once
related about a conversation that he had with a long
standing Tamil expatriate supporter of the struggle whose
commitment to the struggle was unquestioned. He said that he
had told this Tamil expatriate:
"You know, I would rate your commitment, at say 50%
or 60%; in fact I would rate my own commitment at
perhaps 85% or 90% compared with Thalaivar Pirabaharan's
commitment of 100% - after all that is why he is the
leader and we follow"
It was Kittu's way of saying that in the end
'commitment' must be measured, not simply by the words
one utters but by what one gives to the struggle in
terms of oneself.
Some six months ago I was in Lucerne in Switzerland. I
was taken around some excavations of pre ice age rocks by a
young Eelam Tamil activist. As we came out, at the exit
there was a geological clock which illustrated the reality
that on a 24 hour time scale, man's own existence may be
counted in seconds.
The young Eelam Tamil activist was quick to respond. He
''Annai, what you say is true. But how many of us
truly live our lives on the basis of that perception. In
the case of Pirabaharan, he has committed his life to
what he believes must be done, here and now''.
This young Eelam Tamil activist, who if not for
standardisation, may have made his own contribution to
further intellectual thought in some university, was
making a succinct point: ''No
It was persons such as this young Eelam Tamil activist in
Lucerne that Sathasivam Krishnakumar nurtured, enthused and
cultivated. Kittu once said to me: ''Orators do not become
leaders but leaders may become orators.''
Words which were not related to deeds were worthless.
Aurobindo's words: "Truth and knowledge are an idle
gleam if they do not bring power to change the world."
Sathasivam Krishnakumar belonged to the true
intelligentsia of Tamil Eelam. Not to the pseudo
intelligentsia which reads books that other people write to
find ideas which they can then expound or worse still, pass
off as their own. Not to the pseudo intelligentsia which
writes and thinks in English and has little understanding of
that which is felt and thought by the Tamil people. Not to
the pseudo intelligentsia which quarrels endlessly about
what ought to be done without knowing how or when to start.
Not to the pseudo intelligentsia which, deprived of
direction, is intent on getting there fast.
Sathasivam Krishnakumar, abstracted and
conceptualised his own experience, read widely, sought
to integrate that which he read with his life and then
set about influencing a people to action. To him, theory
was a very practical thing.
He was an intellect with a deep understanding and a great
breadth of vision. His interests covered a wide spectrum:
culture to human rights; methods of warfare to diplomacy and
political manoeuvre; providing children with playgrounds and
nurseries to the emancipation of women. Every thing was
related to the need of the struggle back at home.
He once said to me about the Tamil Nation monthly
which I edited:
''Annai, what you write, I like to read but the
sentences are some times long and difficult to follow.
There may be others like myself who may have difficulty
to read in English but they too should be able to read
I learnt, and tried to change as best as I could.
At the same time, he was not small minded. He was strong
enough to praise. He had an understanding of layout and the
need to marry content with form.He would praise the lay out
of the paper - not generally but in relation to specific
pages and photographs - but always prefacing his comment
with ''I do not say it simply to praise''.
He was interested in photography as an influential
instrument of communication. It was not surprising that
during recent months he should have sought to express
himself in painting in oils and in acrylic.
He was a perfectionist in all that he did. The video,
the booklet, even appearance at a conference in Geneva.
''If you are appearing as a representative of a
nation amongst other nations, appearance too is
He was always thinking and reflecting about the struggle
and urging others to do the same. Ideating - almost
compelling others to ideate, he was a restless engine of the
struggle. There was an enthusiastic eagerness to learn and
apply that learning which was infectious.
He was a good cook and he enjoyed his cooking. There was
an occasion, about an year ago, when he said: ''Annai: today
I will cook.'' He turned out an excellent mutton curry. It
was rather spicy and hot, but, perhaps that was not
"You know, every one in the struggle on the ground
had to learn to cook. At best, we had only one meal a
day. We took turns cooking. But those who cooked simply
because it was a duty to be done, did not turn out tasty
food. Those who put their heart into it were the good
cooks. After cooking, when I shared the food with the
others I began to have some understanding of how my
mother must have felt when she cooked for her
"Recently, a book written by some Tamil academics
tried to trivialise this by saying that 'cooking' is the
only ideology that we have. These so called 'academics'
seem to have little understanding about how a struggle
takes shape on the ground and the human relationships
that are built."
He would talk of the early beginnings when they were but
a handful. How Pirabaharan picked his early team members -
many of whom were now dead. He would talk about his days in
Jaffna as Commander. About the small zoo where the children
came to see the animals, the leopards and the monkeys. How
the children called him Kittu Mama. His eyes lit up and the
listeners also caught something of his enthusiasm and
He would speak of
action in battle - how single minded one needed to be
once engaged in battle. There could be no wavering. No
question of a Hamlet like 'to be or not to be'. He would
pause reflectively and say:
"It was almost as if one was transformed in the heat
of battle into another being."
He was a disciplined follower of his leader. A steadfast
fighter in the struggle for freedom. He talked about the
Mahatma Gandhi wielded and the importance of rooting a
movement in the people. He disliked labels for spiritual
endeavour. He rejected established religions. At the same
time there was a recognition by him of the spiritual in man.
He once asked: ''What is the proper Tamil word for
that which you call
spiritual?'' We ended up by agreeing that we may
call it 'athmeeham'. At the same time, he recognised
that this too was a label. Again there was always the
seeking for the roots of spirituality in our own people,
in the growth of our own Dravidian
culture and traditions. He was an opponent of
casteism and Brahminism and rejected it at every turn.
Above all else he was a leader of people. He commanded
not simply the respect but also the loyalty and love of
those with whom he worked. He had difficulty with reading in
English, but as each month went by his command of the
language became better.
He was interested in reading about detailed
organisational methods - the training of individuals to
better perform their tasks. He would say it is not enough to
simply meet together for the particular project in hand. A
freedom movement cannot be built that way. He would urge:
"You need to get know people, move with them, go to
He agonised over the role of Tamil expatriates. The need
to mobilise their support for the struggle was paramount in
his mind. At the same he was concerned that somehow this was
not as successful as it should be.
Sometimes he would ask:
"Are we doing it wrong? Don't they know that we
already know many of the things that they are telling
us? That they can help to strengthen the legitimacy of
the struggle and create the political space in the
international arena for the struggle on the ground to
International Federation of Tamils was a brainchild of
Kittu. He did not see it as some elitist grouping of the
Tamil middle class in the capitals of the world but as an
organisation rooted in the Tamil struggle for recognition as
a people - which could link the young Tamil speaking
activist with the older, often English speaking middle aged
Tamil with English speaking children.
It was an interaction from which both would gain.
Tamil nationalism was not something to give learned
lectures in academic circles. He urged some of us to
write in Tamil. He said there was a need to disseminate
our reflections to reach our people and "our soil".
Tamil Eelam Leader, Velupillai Pirabakaran with
Kittu's Mother at the Funeral
That Kittu should have found it difficult to find a home
outside Tamil Eelam is perhaps not surprising. That he
should have died on 16 January whilst he was so close
to the land of his birth, the land and people which were so
much part of him - that will bring tears of anguish to those
who have come to know him and share in some small measure
the vision that he had. But let not our tears be simply
tears of grief.
The Tamil national liberation struggle is no afternoon
tea party. Freedom will not be served on a silver platter.
Sri Aurobindo wrote many
years ago '..It is a vain dream to suppose that what
other nations have won by struggle and battle, by suffering
and tears of blood, we shall be allowed to accomplish
easily, without terrible sacrifices, merely by spending the
ink of the journalist and petition framer and the breath of
"We are building a road," Kittu would often say. "I do not know whether I
myself will be alive to see the road being completed. But that does not
matter. Others will arise to take the road further." The struggle was
Sathasivam Krishnakumar's life and in the end he gave his life so that the
struggle may continue to live. And as we salute Sathasivam Krishnakumar let
us also re dedicate ourselves to the cause for which he gave his life.