The Sri Lankan ethnic war -How it started, how it progressed and how it ended – all the three phases are described in minute detail by S.Murari, the veteran journalist who has had a very long relationship with Sri Lanka.
Murari explains the ethnic problem from 1956 when the Sinhala Only Act was passed. We get to know about the Sri Lankan political situation, the inner political workings of the Sri Lankan government, the tussles and skirmishes that shaped the country’s journey and with that, how the Tamil problem evolved over these long years.
Murari speaks from personal experience from his many travels to Sri Lanka, his friendship with many veteran tamil leaders as well as the
militant leaders like Anton Balasingham, Sri Sabarathinam, moderates like Amirthalingam, Kadirkamar, Neelan Thiruchelvan and Sri Lankan politicians Chandrika Kumaratunga, Ranil Wikramasinghe and Premadasa.
What we get to learn from this long and often repetitive narration is that lasting peace in Sri Lanka was a possibility but the intransigence of either the militants or the government or both lead to the the present situation where in tens of thousands of innocent Tamils have been killed or displaced.
The stellar role played by India, especially Rajiv Gandhi, the impressive role played by the IPKF that lost more than 1000 Indian soldiers in Sri Lanka, the double games played by Karunanidhi and Prabhakaran – all these are made visible to the reader. Murari also criticizes the 72 hour timeline given to IPKF to effect a complete arms surrender. The time was too short and the LTTE were never willing to surrender arms either.
What we get to see is that, but for the LTTE ideologue Balasingham, Prabhakaran wouldn’t have survived this long. For Balasingham was highly successful in hiding Prabhakaran’s often maniacal actions by his clever explanations and reasoning. But, as Balasingham admits later, he has not been able to justify Rajiv’s assassination that alienated the Indian Tamils as a whole and India as a nation from the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. Even Prabhakaran admits to the blunder but it seems to have come in too late in the game.
When Balasingham dies, with him the worldly wise and pragmatic Sri Lankan is also gone due to which Prabhakaran doesn’t have a clever strategist. That, with the post 9/11 world scenario that Prabhakaran didn’t understand till his very end, result in the complete decimation of a 30 year long rebellion. End result is the wholly unnecessary death of more than 1,00,000 civilians and displacement of several thousand.
Murari glitters with his often unbiased approach in the book’s rendition. Kudos to the author for upholding the highest journalistic ethics.
Any student of the Tamil ethnic problem needs to read this book, in full.