The politics of Tamil Eelam in TN – I

“In 1989, the LTTE had an untrammelled run in Tamilnadu, and many of their number were accused of being involved in larceny, smuggling of two wheeler engines and drugs and arms running. The outfit was also involved in fights & shoot outs with other militant organisations like the EPRLF & TELO.”

by B.R. Haran


(November 03, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The ethnic issue, which has taken a heavy toll on the Sri Lankan Island, has seen many twists & turns in the last two and a half decades. This emotional issue has also been utilised to the hilt by the various political parties of Tamilnadu —— more for their selfish interests than for the Eelam Tamils.

Politics had been played with the emotions of the people during the entire part of the eighties, but after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, the LTTE lost its popular credibility & sympathy, resulting in its gaining the ‘terrorist’ tag and a consequent ban in the country.

Even before the assassination of Rajiv, the LTTE involved itself in the elimination of moderate Tamil leaders like Amirthalingam, Sabarathinam and other rebel leaders like Padmanabah of EPRLF (Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front), apart from Sri Lankan Leaders, politicians and Sinhalese and Tamil people.

The organisation gained a foothold in Tamilnadu and formed a meticulous network with the help of the local sympathisers in the form of Dravidian politicians and Tamil separatists. The former Chief Minister and AIADMK President, Late M G Ramachandran had a soft corner for the LTTE and popular belief has that it was he who convinced the former Prime Minister Rajiv to help them and even arranged for a personal meeting between Rajiv and LTTE supremo Prabhakaran.
At one point of time, the LTTE cadres were getting a lot of help in India and eventually Rajiv signed an agreement with the then Sri Lankan President Jayawardane, which led to the formation and dispatch of IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) to Sri Lanka. After the demise of MGR, the DMK’s equations with the LTTE was under focus.

DMK president M.Karunanidhi was a public sympathiser and supporter of LTTE. The latter almost had a free run in the State and grew from strength to strength during that period (late 80s). The DMK was against the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) from the beginning. The TN politicians exerted pressure now and then on the Central government to withdraw the IPKF. Vaiko, who was then very much with the DMK and Dr Ramadoss as the founder of ‘Vanniyar Sangam’ were major megaphone for the LTTE.

In 1989, the LTTE had an untrammelled run in Tamilnadu, and many of their number were accused of being involved in larceny, smuggling of two wheeler engines and drugs and arms running. The outfit was also involved in fights & shoot outs with other militant organisations like the EPRLF & TELO.

The situation was so bad that the the Tamilnadu Government was charged with colluding with the LTTE, and the then Prime Minister Chandrasekhar dismissed the DMK government by the end of 1990. The DMK government was accused of facilitating the LTTE activities and passing on government secrets to the terror organisation. By the time when the general elections were announced in 1991, the AIADMK was well organised under the leadership of Jayalalitha and the Congress party allied with her and during his election campaign in Sriperumpudhur, a Congress bastion, Rajiv was assassinated by the LTTE. Then in the consequent election, Jayalalitha easily captured power. Her government was also instrumental in the enforcement of a ban on LTTE.

In the meantime, Vaiko came out of the DMK and founded the MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazgagam). The period also saw the emergence of self-styled and self-appointed Dalit

leaders like Thirumavalavan, who started the VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi) and Dr.Krishnasamy, who started the PT (Puthiya Thamizhagam). The ‘Vanniyar Sangam’ founded by Dr.Ramadoss was also renamed as PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi). All these parties were generally seen as being pro-LTTE in their leanings.

In 1996, Tamilnadu Congress leader G K Moopanar fell out with P V Narasimha Rao and started the Tamil Manila Congress (TMC) and allied with the DMK to bring down Jayalalitha from power. Between 1996 and 1997, the country witnessed two third-front governments at the centre, one under H Deve Gowda and the other under I K Gujral. The Gujral led government was brought down by the Congress party, when it withdrew support immediately after the release of Jain Commission reports, which indicted Karunanidhi and the DMK in connection with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

The DMK, which was in power at the state then, kept a low profile with regard to the support of LTTE, mainly due to the Jain Commission’s probe. Later, the party joined the NDA and took part in the BJP led government under the Prime Ministership of A.B.Vajpayee. Having gained the share of power at the Centre, DMK again soft pedalled on the LTTE movement and also turned a blind eye on Tamil Militants within the state, who were creating problems by joining hands with the forest brigand & sandalwood smuggler Veerappan. This proved to be a set back for DMK which ultimately resulted in loss of power in the 2001 Assembly elections.

As the Norway sponsored peace negotiations were going on between Sri Lanka and LTTE, the State remained largely peaceful, also due to the fact that the then regime in Tamilnadu was totally opposed to the LTTE. At one point of time, when MDMK leader Vaiko spoke in a public meeting in support of LTTE, Jayalalitha slapped the POTA on him and had him incarcerated despite the fact that he shared power at the Centre with the BJP. He was detained in prison for 19 months.

Interestingly, K Veeramani, President of DK (Dravidar Kazhagam), who was a know supporter of the LTTE, was an ally of Jayalalitha then, and he remained silent without opening his mouth for obvious reasons.

The twist in the tale was all the TN parties in the NDA, utilised the opportunity given by the arrest of Vaiko on POTA, which was a brainchild of BJP, to ditch NDA in the last minute, just a few months before the 2004 parliament elections. When the AIADMK allied with BJP to fight the elections, Sonia’s Congress put aside the bitter memories of the assassination of Rajiv and Jain Commission’s report to align with the DMK, PMK and others. Though politics throws up surprises, it was starnge act from Rajiv’s widow. Tongues are still wagging at the bizarre turnaround and some troubling question still remain unanswered.

DK’s Veeramani also realised the opportunity and came out of AIADMK’s alliance to join Karunanidhi. Vaiko again fell out with Karunanidhi and brashly joined hands with Jayalalitha, who had earlier put him behind bars for 19 months. Thirumavalavan also followed suit and joined her only to come back to DMK led alliance for the local body polls later in October 2006. Jayalalitha, whose downfall started with the parliament elections, lost the assembly elections also due to lack of strong allies and failure to rectify the mistakes.

To be Continued….. - Sri Lanka Guardian