How a guerrilla chief grew drunk on blood

By M.R. Narayan Swamy

(May 20 , New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) He may have wallowed in luxury at the fag end of his underground life in Sri Lanka’s forested region, but there was a time when Velupillai Prabhakaran battled with hunger because he had no money to buy food. Those were the days when he was an unknown figure though he had taken the first steps into militancy. If and when the police hunt in Jaffna became too hot, Prabhakaran would sail off to Tamil Nadu. But life was tough, he had few friends and money was always in short supply. There were nights when Prabhakaran and his young colleagues from Jaffna could get to eat only cheap curd-rice. When they had absolutely no money, they went for small helpings of "prasad" given away at Hindu temples. On very unlucky days, they would buy sleeping tablets and hit the bed so as to beat hunger.

But Prabhakaran and his friends of the early 1980s were too proud to beg for food even from their Indian friends when they had started to make Tamil Nadu their part-time sanctuary. Recalls K.S. Radhakrishnan, a Chennai-based advocate, who first met Prabhakaran in 1982, shortly after he had been arrested and given bail following a shootout in the city with a rival Tamil from Jaffna: "There were times when they all looked hungry. We would ask him: ‘Have you had dinner?’ They would say, ‘Yes’, but it was only much later we realised they were not saying the truth. Basically, they were too proud to admit what they lacked".

Both in Tamil Nadu — Prabhakaran spent time in Chennai and lived for months in Madurai — and in northern Sri Lanka, the guerrilla in the making was committed to the welfare of his friends. If a friend fell sick, he would nurse him with devotion. In Vavuniya, in Sri Lanka’s north where he had founded a training camp in the jungles, he would hunt a wild chicken and cook it for ailing friends.

He was paranoid about his security, always telling his associates to arm themselves with at least a kitchen knife. He would rarely sleep two nights in a row at the same spot. This helped him to always remain one step ahead of the state even after he became a wanted man. And although he ended up building a mammoth and lethal organisation, he trusted few people. Once when a long-time friend offered him a Coke in Jaffna, Prabhakaran looked at it carefully, asked his friend to take a sip, and consumed the rest only after convincing himself that it was not laced with poison.

Prabhakaran may have presided over a killer machine, but he had a human side too. He was meticulously clean. In those early days he spent in India, he washed his clothes himself. Asked why, he would reply: "Why waste spare time doing nothing?" In the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) office in Madras (now Chennai), he would be furious if he saw cobwebs. His juniors would be pulled up if he saw dust on the furniture. The toilets were to be kept clean by LTTE cadres. The keys of motorcycles the LTTE owned were hung in an orderly fashion — akin to room keys in hotels.

But he warned his guerrillas against getting too friendly with Indians, particularly officials, so as to avoid infiltration into his group. A young boy often came up to the LTTE office in Chennai to play with the young men there. "It is okay if you play with the boy, but never go to his house", he told his men. Once he found out that one of his guerrillas had fallen in love with a young woman in the Chennai neighbourhood. When he realised that she was an Indian, the suspicious Prabhakaran packed off the man to Sri Lanka. Yet Prabhakaran himself fell in love at first sight with a young woman from Jaffna and promptly married her although love was taboo in LTTE till then.

Prabhakaran’s character underwent a radical change as he’s stature grew bigger. He remained wedded to the cause of Tamil Eelam but did not hesitate to kill other Tamils simply because they disagreed with him. He called India a friend but did not trust it fully. He took weapons from India and sanctuary in India but remained fiercely independent. Che Guevara fascinated him but he rejected the liberal values of the Argentine. He sought and accepted help from Tamil Nadu politicians but had a streak of disdain for them.

By the 1990s, proud that he had sent the Indian Army packing from Sri Lanka, he had become arrogant about his own strength. He also began to exhibit extreme cruelty. The Indian Army once intercepted a wireless message from him asking a colleague to kill two rival Tamils and deliver their severed heads to him. When a young male and female guerrilla, who were part of his security ring, were found to have had sex while on duty, he rejected mercy appeals and ordered that they be executed. In 2004, after the revolt by his colleague Karuna, three senior guerrillas who had sided with the eastern regional commander sent word that they would like to return to the LTTE. But knowing the ways of the LTTE, they were not sure if they would be spared. Prabhakaran sent word to them through a Christian priest that they had nothing to fear. But when they entered the LTTE lair, they were killed for treachery.

In the end, the man whose credo was violence and who dispensed death to countless men and women himself died a terrible and violent death.

Until the very end, he remained a doting father to his three children. But his large-heartedness did not extend to the numerous Tamil children, many as young as 10-years-old, who he ordered to be recruited forcibly into his army to fight for a goal that had turned into a mirage a long time ago.

M.R. Narayan Swamy, executive editor of IANS, is the author of a biography of Prabhakaran, Inside an Elusive Mind
-Sri Lanka Guardian
Unknown said...

Sri Lankan (EELAM) Tamils Never Believed Bramins who will sell their wifes and mother for their own gain. Narayana Swamy is a hardcore Bramin. I dont know how he can write a auto biography of a man who dont even knw 10%