Updated: January 7, 2013 21:17 IST

Death of a blunderer

K. Venkataramanan
Comment (1)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Prabhakaran Saga. The rise and fall of an Eelam Warrior. Author: S. Murari.
The Prabhakaran Saga. The rise and fall of an Eelam Warrior. Author: S. Murari.

Prabhakaran’s uncompromising stand on Tamil Eelam co-existed with a willingness to use any means

A festering ethnic problem, a seemingly endless armed conflict, diplomatic machinations driven solely by contemporary concerns with little regard for long-term effects, an ill-thought-out military intervention foredoomed to failure, subverted agreements, a difficult peace process, a senseless, no-holds barred war and a brutal denouement that left thousands of civilians dead and the original question unresolved. Much of this summary of Sri Lanka’s recent history is known, especially the events concerning the six-year peace process, and the way in which it unravelled and led to a bloody climax over a year and a half.

Veteran journalist and Sri Lanka watcher S. Murari’s book is one more addition — and a very useful one at that — to the growing body of literature concerning the conflict, and its biggest virtue is that it does not weigh heavily on the reader by claiming to offer a complex analysis or a polemical re-reading of recent events. Rather, it aspires to an objective narration of all the major events that had a bearing on the political and military course of the conflict and succeeds immensely in that aim. In the course of narration, one gets to know the principal actors, their actions and opinions, the reasons why they acted in a particular way. The course that events took comes across so lucidly that without any elaborate discursive foray into any particular aspect, the reader gains a clear insight into what happened and why.

Insightful narration

The author’s familiarity with the subject — a familiarity acquired by innumerable visits to Sri Lanka, including its war zone, over more than two decades — will help the lay reader, who may have only a casual acquaintance with the political history of the conflict, understand the way it played out over the last three decades.

In particular, many who take positions on the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of 1987 and the presence of Indian peace-keepers up to 1990 may not have fully grasped the political and strategic dynamics that decided the course of events between the ethnic riots of 1983 and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the Liberation Tigers in 1991. It is doubtful that anyone would be unclear about this phase of the conflict after going through Murari’s account. It is rich in detail, insightful in narration and covers the period from all angles – the politics of southern Sri Lanka, the rapidity with which India and the main Tamil militant group fell out, the reverberations in Tamil Nadu and New Delhi’s dilemma over how far it could lean on Sri Lanka to find a solution based on devolution of powers without impairing the country’s unity.

Failed proposals

Another phase that finds detailed presentation in the book involves failed attempts, especially by Chandrika Kumaratunga during her first term as President, to put together a set of constitutional proposals that will address Tamil aspirations.

The peace talks of 2002-03 under Ranil Wickremesinghe marked a watershed as it sought to bind the LTTE to a long-term, internationally backed framework of negotiations, and the author terms as a missed opportunity the failure of the government to make the Tamil Tigers stay the course after the organisation put down its vision of an interim administration in writing for the first time.

This is no biographical account of Velupillai Prabhakaran, as the title suggests but a narrative of events that dominated the quarter century spanning the period from India’s covert and overt intervention in the early 1980s in Sri Lanka up to the brutal denouement in 2009 that brought an end to the military dimension to the ethnic problem with the protagonist’s death.

Prabhakaran’s uncompromising stand on a separate ‘Tamil Eelam’ coexisted with a willingness to use any means, including what ultimately turned out to be a series of blunders.

Standing out among them is not only the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, through which he lost the goodwill of India and of much of the international community, but also the cynical manner in which the LTTE helped the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as president in 2005.

There is not much in the book about the other great historical blunder of Prabhakaran – the hostility towards Muslims that stretched to expelling the entire Muslim population from Jaffna in 1990 and a couple of massacres around the same time in the east.

Another area that the book could have explored in greater detail is the role of the international community, especially the Norwegian facilitators and the team of Nordic monitors.

THE PRABHAKARAN SAGA — The Rise and Fall of an Eelam Warrior: S. Murari; Sage Publications, B1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, New Delhi-110044. Rs. 425.

More In: Books

It is well known that the cause for the struggles starts from 1956 Sinhala language importance in Srilanka (SL). Thereafter the Govt. of SL slowly removed all the valid rights of Tamil people. Tamil People try to get their dignified living right in SL by many political fronts eg) Mr. Selvanayam attempt. Finally all went in vain. The Tamil youngsters are forced by SL and other Nations like India and UN not doing anything towards the peaceful living rights of Tamils pushed towards the weapon struggle. Till date the cause exists as such without any remedy. No one is talking about the rights of Tamil people living in SL as a second...third grade citizens. To day they have completely lost, living in dignity. They have the right to live peacefully with all the democratic way. That is not allowed..

from:  Livi
Posted on: Jan 8, 2013 at 13:17 IST
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

More »



Recent Article in Books

Talking to The Hindu, author Akhil Sharma said that writing Family Life was “incredibly difficult” because it was “just hard to relive so many of these
things.” File Photo: Nagara Gopal

Akhil Sharma wins Folio Prize

Family Life is “a novel that will endure,” says judge »