The Prabhakaran Saga – a review

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.

41jqymo3psl-_sx319_bo1204203200_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.

This Divided Island – a review

War between nations displaces people and is a tragedy; when it happens within a country between two or more ethnic groups, tragedy quotient increases manifold. Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife is one such.

The fact that the Sri Lankan strife was initiated 40 long years ago by the government of the day and that it has taken until 2009 to conclude, adds to the monstrosity of the war. Can you call that ‘war’? Is that a genocide? Is that a holocaust? It is a mixture of all the three and the perpetrators of this civilizational destruction are also three – the SL govt. the militants and the international powers.

This book has four parts – The Terror, The North, The Faith, The End Games.

How, when and why the distrust began between the govt and the Tamil minority, how, when and why distrust developed and led to militancy,
how, when and why militancy turned into terrorism – all these aspects are dealt with in this well-written book.

The rivalry between Sinhalese and Tamils date back to the times of the Buddha, it seems. The need to maintain Sinhala rule, and for that the need to eliminate or subjugate the Tamils are often quoted by the Buddhist clergy from the Sinhala book ‘Mahavamsa’. And that lends a historical perspective to the strife. Kudos to the author for bringing this into the public domain.

When the SL govt is often seen to fail in its duty to protect its citizens irrespective of due to the latter’s ethnic affiliation, the book details
how the govt actually became the perpetrator of many of the crimes against its own people.

Not to be left behind, the militants, the LTTE under it demonic leader Prabhakaran, also indulge in some of the most horrific crimes against the very Tamil people in whose interest they were supposed to have taken up arms. The transformation of the militants from an extremist organization to a terrorist one happens when the LTTE indulges in internecine warfare to eliminate fellow militants from other rebel groups. Their transformation is complete when they begin killing moderate Tamil leaders and ordinary Tamil populace.

The book contains interviews with people who were affected by the govt, and the Tigers. At one point, it becomes difficult to understand who the actual tormentor of the innocent is?

The sketchy details of how child soldiers were recruited ( abducted?) by the Tigers, the gory descriptions of the sufferings of ordinary folks at the hands of the govt as well as the Tigers, the treatment the Tigers had given to the Muslims bring upon the reader a sense of utter helplessness and despair at where humanity is headed towards.

Beyond a point, as the killing gets so much repetitive and cruel that the victim’s names escape our mind. What happened during the final stages of the war, how the Tigers, due to Prabhakaran’s intransigence and an Indian Tamil politician’s ‘assurance’ of help ensured the annihilation of tens of thousands of innocent civilians thus resulting in a human tragedy of  gargantuan proportions, is depicted in detail by Samanth Subramanian.
What happened after the Tigers were subdued, is also presented, replete with minute details.

Could the carnage have been stopped? Yes. Who could have stopped it? The Tigers. But they did not do so as the organization transformed itself into a ruthless killing machine acting as per the whims and fancies of the maniacal leader, Prabhakaran. He could have understood that the world had changed post 9/11 and that armed struggle was not going to win them friends anywhere.

If only wishes were horses…

An absorbing & disturbing read. Get it as soon as you can.