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Updated: February 24, 2013 04:36 IST

Killing a 12-year old

Sridhar Krishnaswami
Comment (17)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Balachandran Prabakaran. Photo: Special Arrangement
Balachandran Prabakaran. Photo: Special Arrangement

“Did you see the picture of that little boy in The Hindu … he reminds me of my son who is only a few years younger. I am outraged,” thundered a colleague as she barged into my cubicle.

By now, there have been enough pained people in India and abroad seeing the images of a 12-year old munching on a piece of chocolate, biscuit or whatever, little realising that this perhaps was going to be his last meal before being pumped with bullets. And for what reason? Just because he happened to be the son of a world known terrorist. And was it his fault that the dad chose a different way of life?

A picture tells a thousand words. What struck me in the images was the innocent eyes of the kid, perhaps even looking at his killer in the final moments. I don’t have any sympathy for Vellupillai Prabakaran or those of his ilk who have mercilessly slaughtered hundreds of innocent civilians, including Tamils, and even gone to the extent of assassinating a former Prime Minister of India. But do two wrongs make a right?

Colombo owes an answer to the world on what has been put out by Channel Four. Trotting out the expected excuses or desperately trying to make the point that there is a political angle to this picture against the backdrop of the forthcoming Geneva session is simply not going to work.

In his heyday, Prabakaran was known to be actively involved in forcibly recruiting children in his war efforts, using women, children and the elderly as human shields and ruthlessly gunning down his opponents even within his own organisation. But killing a 12-year old is not only against all norms of warfare but also begs the question of humanitarianism.

The brutal gunning down of Balachandran Prabakaran reminds many of those tyrants and maniacs who killed people not because of what they were but because of who they were. Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ta Mok were known for the infamous Killing Fields of Cambodia in the late 1970s; prior to them was Adolf Hitler who gassed millions of people just because they happened to be Jews; and then came Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and his Generals who let loose a reign of terror in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As the world awaits a fuller and complete answer from the Government of Sri Lanka, it would be appropriate to recall two persons at this time. Lieutanent William Calley of the My Lai massacre. In March 1968, as many as 500 people — mostly women and children — were killed in a bloody rampage by American soldiers and Lt. Calley, after a court martial, was given the life term in prison (subsequently reduced by President Richard Nixon and he served three years under house arrest) for the pre-meditated murders of 22 civilians. Many were numbed to find higher ranking officers let off.

The other person that comes to mind is Telford Taylor, the Counsel for the Prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials and his book Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy, a classic work that argued that the principles adopted at the Nuremberg Trials were not applied in Vietnam — a blunt message that the American conduct in Vietnam and Cambodia was as criminal as that of the Nazis. Maybe, this is the time to re-visit the past and remind world leaders that Telford Taylor may no longer be with us but there are still those with a conscience and a memory.

And in all this there is a lesson for Official India as well. Last time, New Delhi extracted a price for going along with the U.S.-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka by watering down the substance. This time round, there should be no such attempts because India will also be shamed if it comes to the rescue of Sri Lanka.

(A former senior journalist, the writer is currently Head, School of Media Studies, SRM University, Chennai and can be reached at The views expressed here are personal.)

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The author had sadly missed the Jalliane Wallabagh in his list. The
explanation in the killing of Balachandran can only be given by the
teachings in the Hindu religion - that the father's sins embrace the
children and bring calamity in their lives also. Whether one likes it or
not the fact remains that Prabhakaran abducted young children (boys and
girls) only to brainwash them, train them and use them in his quest for
an upperhand in the island's power struggle.

from:  S.Y. Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Feb 26, 2013 at 11:21 IST

For those who have responded with comments either directly stating or
alluding that LTTE was not a terrorist organization, please go back to
your notes and find out how this 'warrior' Velupillai Prabhakaran
usurped the 'leadership' of all Lankan Tamils by ruthlessly gunning down
the leaders of Other Tamil Organizations like TELO, etc - at Zakaria
Colony, Kodambakkam. One who rules by the sword is destined to die by
it. In this case, even his kin were to meet with the same destiny - as
in this young boy of his.

from:  S K Iyer
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 22:41 IST

Prabhakaran is not a world known terrorist. He is a world known

from:  D.S.Vigneshwaran
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 14:55 IST

The circumstances under which the boy was killed were extremely unfortunate, but it is important to look things in the context. Srilankan army and LTTE were in the middle of a final phase of a brutal and unforgiving war. Its for the Srilankan people to investigate any war crimes and bring the culprits to justice. There is no need for international community to get involved. Lets not forget that more innocent children would have met violent ends if not for the elimination of LTTE.

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 13:55 IST

First,LTTE is not a terrorist organisation.Author has misquoted by
using the word.They fought for the rights and liberation of the Tamil
peoples under the dominance of sinhalese.Should we call the left
extremist a terrorist ,same way LTTE for fighting for the freedom for
3 decades.Every freedom fight have every aspects which may be not
acceptable of some groups.So in same may be peoples have differed
opinions.Also when the whole issue was in international table,the
article not a need of the hour.Just to tarnish the LTTE and to gain
political momentum the same was published.

from:  venumathan
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 13:05 IST

I agree with the able writer. One thing that would have added more
truth is what has been happening in our own courtyard in India: the
atrocities committed by Indian military in Kashmir and the North-
East; the killing fields of Gujarat and terrorizing the families
and children of Naxalites. The West is seven seas beyond and Sri
Lanka an ocean away but India is our Home. Our military and police
is raping, harassing and killing women, children, and youth just
because they happen to be the 'others'. I recall a few lines of a
ghazal sung by Jagjit Sing: "Apna gham layke kaheen aur na jaaya
jaaye / Ghar mein bikhri huwi cheezoan ko sajaaya jaaye". Thanks.

from:  Saleem Ahmed
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 03:46 IST

The photo itself speaks. He is an innocent boy. As we can see, he is sitting inside Srilankan
military bunker and having snack and a cup of water. Does he pose any threat to any one.
Look at his eyes and face. He looks like my son or any of yours. Killing this innocent boy by
Srilankan army is barbaric and punishable. I am sure the soldiers who feed him is not the
one who did this killing but some of their seniors. It is a must that the culprits get punished
for what they did.

from:  Zakir Hussain
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 02:35 IST

All this talk is hypocrisy . We have enough mess on our plates to worry about before we go and show solidarity with events happening in a foreign country. Our civil courts cannot provide justice to heinous crimes and we have no will to combat terror. Why are we making such comments?

from:  Shivdeep
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 02:34 IST

"Athu oru thunbial sambavam. Ean Athaiya pesi kondu irukireergal" prabhakaran's response when asked about Rajiv Gandhi's Assasination 11 years ago. That means "It was a Monumental Tragedy. Why are you keep talking about that". He told this when there was a chance for peace 11 years ago through Norway mediation. Now again there is chance for solution to tamil's problem. so why talk about past. Let us look into future where all srilankans live with equal rights.

Let us remember along with Rajiv Gandhi, many innocent people lost their lives. A family of widow and her 14 year old Girl was wiped out.

from:  j Goutham
Posted on: Feb 25, 2013 at 02:14 IST

Killing of the young 12 year old Balachandran Prabakaran, is a brutal
act done by Sri Lankan Army. The question that is still unanswerable
is this that why was 12 year old boy punished for the his father's bad
deeds? On closely observing the picture one can easly depict that the
boy looks white lipped. He knows somewhere that his end is near. He
dont even have the guts to look into the eyes of the his killer.Hope
Mahinda Rajapaksa will answer the questions raised on his and the
country's act in the upcoming Geneva session.

from:  Aseem
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 23:08 IST

Two wrongs don't make a right? Killing of a 12-year old innocent boy for the sins of his father is not acceptable conduct. But politics is not about what is good or what is bad? Are the lessons of history to tell us about what is good or bad either? No, it is about the successful. Looking a century back into history of the subcontinent we mention often the rise of violent nationalism. Hidden among these and often unspoken is the Direct Action of 1946 when a progrom on Sikhs and Hindus was unleashed by none other than Jinnah and it is still justified as being a necessity. He was rewarded with Pakistan. The sword of violence displayed by Prabhakaran was also soaked in innocent blood too. Had he succeeded he would have the Tamil Eelam and his son the inheritor of that Eelam. This is the only truth. It was simply his destiny to die in this unsavoury way however much regrettable.

from:  Swapan Chakravarthy
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 18:20 IST

what is TH trying to gain by publishing this again, especially when this matter has already been taken at all level and by many countries? Gift to Jayalalita or a war coz of hatred feelings initiated by TH !!!

from:  Sourabh
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 18:02 IST

Three decades of civil war is too long and it is but natural Sri Lanka preferred to be tough. But for the stern and tough action by Lanka,even today civil War, bloodshed and an economy in shambles will be the order of the day. At least today, economy is looking up and terrorism given way to tranquillity.

from:  S Raghavan
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 16:17 IST

Human memory is short. Deeds live longer than life but the evil pales into insignificance along with the name. This article vindicates the commonly prevailing trait.
The author claims that killing a 12 year old is against norms and ideally he should have been spared on human grounds notwithstanding his paternal background. If this logic is to be accepted, conversion of public places into an inferno through bombing, taking the toll of several innocents is also against acknowledged ethics. LTTE megalomaniac ruthlessly killed every human as long as they differed in opinion. With his dictatorial attitude, he never believed in gathering emotional support to achieve his mission. In this century, history has not recorded an instance where Peace in return for terrorist act has been an effective tool. On the contrary, countering terrorism with equivalent attacks alone has sent shock waves and quelled extremists. Three decades of civil war is too long and it is but natural Sri Lanka preferred

from:  S Raghavan
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 16:15 IST

2. Strictly speaking it is not necessary to decry the LTTE and
Prabhakaran for all that have been said of him as a “ world known
terrorist”.May I record that there are many even outside Eezham who
admire the LTTE leader for his efforts to achieve the cause of Thamizh
Eezham against all odds like the perfidy of Indian politicians in New
Delhi. I have read him say ( in a TV show recently ) : “I am aware
that one’s life is too divine. But more divine are the right and
liberty of the people” (oru uyirin punithathai naan ariven. anaal
makkalin urimaiyum suthanthirtamum athaivida punithmanathu” May I say
that having commited to the cause of Thamizh Eezham, he eliminated all
those who interfered in his way. Of course some of them were very
very unfortunate persons like thiru.A.Amirthlingam and the lawyer
thiru. Neelan Thiruchelvan . One would like to know why India must
detest Thamil Eezham, voted overwhelmingly by the eezhamte tamils in
1977 parliamentary elections of the island.

from:  P.Padmanabhan
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 14:44 IST

I can't describe how I feel when look at this boy's photo except to say every time I
look at it, from his eyes to his innocence and the way he is sitting and having a bite of
the biscuit, before his cruel & brutal murder by a Sri Lankan soldier.
The responsibility for bringing justice to this boy and many other innocent
women,children and others rests with the international community especially Indian
politicians and citizens. We heard enough lies and denial from Colombo who are
burying a whole pumpkin in a small ball of rice;it won't work.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 14:26 IST

India should not sacrifice the truth for political convenience. It
should stand up for what is right and vote against Sri Lanka this time.

from:  R. Selvaraju
Posted on: Feb 24, 2013 at 05:28 IST
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