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Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Friendly Neighbour's Betrayal


By Swapan Dasgupta

From the late-1980s till the end of the long civil war in 2009, travelling to Colombo was both a joyous and deeply depressing experience. The happiness came from the warmth and generous hospitality of the Sri Lankans, particularly the residents of Colombo-7 who opened their doors to a Bengali. Legend has it that that Vijaya, the first king of the Sinhalese, came by sea from Bengal.

But this welcome was always tempered by sadness. Many of those with whom I had struck an instant rapport were dead—killed by an assassin’s bullet or a bomb explosion. Their faces still haunt me: Lalith Athulathmudali, one of the most erudite and clever politicians I have encountered; Ranjan Wijeratne, the fiercely outspoken ex-planter; the soft-spoken Tamil constitutional lawyer Neelam Tiruchelvam; and the genial TULF leader A. Amirthalingam whose blood-splattered residence I visited just an hour after he was gunned down. Although Lalith’s murder remains an enduring mystery, the others were all killed by the most vicious terrorist organisations ever created: the LTTE.

Those who haven’t experienced Sri Lanka of those days will never fully comprehend the colossal tragedy of an idyllic island being transformed into the killing fields. Nor will they gauge the horrifying extent to which the LTTE transformed large numbers of a hitherto docile, industrious and peaceable community of Tamils into carbon copies of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. Under the one-party state envisaged by LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, Tamils of the Northern and Eastern provinces had two choices: acquiescence or death. The LTTE didn’t merely kill prominent Sinhalas and Rajiv Gandhi: it eliminated almost every Tamil opposed to it and hounded the Tamil middle classes out of its barbaric Eelam and, indeed, out of Sri Lanka.

Life in South Asia is said to be cheap. The LTTE made it worthless in Sri Lanka. By the middle of the civil war, brutalisation had become the norm in the island that once symbolised serendipity. Tamils killed Tamils, Sinhalas killed Sinhalas, and they both killed each other with a staggering degree of recklessness. When the civil war erupted the Sri Lankan army was essentially a ceremonial force. By the time it dispensed with Prabhakaran’s Tigers in 2009, it had become a redoubtable fighting force.

Of course there was spectacular brutality in the last days of the civil war and civilian casualties were staggeringly high. But ask any IPKF veteran and you will know that the LTTE never distinguished between its fighters and ordinary women and children. Indeed, many of those women and children in civilian clothes turned out to be hardened LTTE fighters. The suicide bomber was the creation of the LTTE well before the Al Qaeda had become a global menace and so was the human shield behind which the Tigers operated.

This is not to justify the trigger-happiness of the Sri Lankan in the last days of the civil when a reported 40,000 civilians were killed. It is merely to indicate that there was a context to the viciousness of the war—as vicious as the last months of the war against Germany during World War II. The human rights lobby that secured the condemnation of Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission debate last Thursday cited civilised niceties and international law to pour scorn on a small country. They didn’t take into account that what happened in the summer of 2009 wasn’t military action against unarmed civilian demonstrators—as happened during the initial stages of the Syrian uprising—but an ugly war.

What is particularly galling is India’s effrontery in voting against Sri Lanka. If any country was secretly delighted and relieved that Colombo had finally put an end to the LTTE menace, it was India. India, after all, had nurtured the LTTE—one of Indira Gandhi’s most short-sighted and cynical moves—before realising that it had created a monster that was potentially capable of infecting Tamil Nadu with its poison. Yet, for the sake of his government’s survival, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meekly acquiesced in the condemnation of a country that had preserved itself against overwhelming odds.

India’s vote was a colossal betrayal of a country that is trying hard to forget the past and begin afresh. 



Sunday Times of India, March 25, 2012

11 comments:

sai said...

Disappointing to see an article comepletely lacking in balance from an eminent journalist like you. You rightly point out that LTTE is one of the most brutal terror organizations in the world. But to paint the sinhalese and innocent victims is simply outrageous. How can you not even mention the decades of cussed majoritarianism of the Sinhalese which drove the tamils to the wall? One could have considered forgiving the immense brutality shown by the Sinhalese Army towards the end of the war if the Rajapakse govt had shown even an iota of sincerity in pursuing reconciliation between the two communities and devolving power to the Tamils. Nothing has been done in the last three years; instead, we again see the triumphal majoritarianism being inflicted on a completely demoralized tamil community. Please spare a thought for the long-suffering tamils.

Anonymous said...

how much biased one can become to add statement like this "many of those women and children in civilian clothes turned out to be hardened LTTE fighters" why don't you mention the root cause of all evil? Even after LTTE is wiped out 3 yrs ago, Tamils are not given equal rights. In pursuit of supporting one country, don't forget the facts. Still tamils are second class citizens there.

Anonymous said...

I am also disappointed with this illinformed article from much respected Swapan Dasgupta.

But CERTAINLY not demoralised and/or despairing. My mother tongue is also Tamil & I grew up in Calcutta & Budge Budge.How much of animosities & violence North Indians in general & lecherous abhadra Bengalis are capable of towards Tamilians I know.

Those fed canards of Cho Ramaswamy,P Chidambaram & ofcourse breastbeating mourners of Rajiv Gandhi like Subramaniam Swamy & the malayali manooses callous HATERS of us Tamilians negotiating piss processes ONLY brand LTTE a (sic) "terrorist organization".

If you saw lots of blood there why did you not say " we koondemn these dastarly attacks" & sipped your sundowners?

I have heard authentic eye witness accounts of the Tamilians being mercilessly persecuted by the Srilankans. Swapan Dasgupta woefully betrays his total lack of knowledge of history.

Do not forget Rajiv Indira Gandhi blahblah are also " ashes to ashes & dust to dust".

Oh btw the other allegedly overerudite Jayakanthan feted in Russia , oxymoronic leftist cum secret God lover in the mind because overcluttered with WORRRYING& WORRYING for society's ills ( boohoo bleeding heart sahitya jnapith yadayada) was so distraught when Indira Gandhi died.

I tossed aside the magazine when I read his overpurple prose " that poomaeni thottaakkalaal " which is actually Karunanidhi's politically correct obituaries.

Carry on Swapan Dasgupta. As the saying goes " you also need to grab your paycheque ".

Anonymous said...

All you eminent journalists & patriotic bloggers blahblah , let me simplify the matter for you.

Don't bother at all about who said what at which chintan baitak while tasting chettinad kozhimilagu curry or coconut milk curry preparation.

India 's religion IS CRICKET. Aaalways. That our own kith & kin Tamil mother tongued were REALLY suffering DID not evoke even mock concern from ALL Indians I saw.

ALL of them were so overwhelmingly attracted to those SRILANKAN cricket players ( NOT our Tamil kith & kin who were branded either as " terrorists " or "ennikko kudipeyarntha plantation labourers AAAAL British only did namakkenna vanthathu)I have never been interested in cricket but for the first time really dumbstruck to see Indians the usual tambrams womenfolk ( modern yuppies oldies,men ) in CHENNAI watching some particular SRilankan man of the match & reaching multiple orgasms. Can't remember his name some thunga bunga long unpronounceable name.

Then when I saw the " unique package" jingoistic mumbaikar feminist who turns men into "marshmallows & pussycats" for the umpteenth time crowning maintenance of washboard midriff soon after delivering twins or triplets wife of another such bungashunga SRIlankan cricketer I understood.

Now all you gullible Tamilian angoor janatha wake up idiots !

Please don't defend her telling :-

" But she took dip in Holy Ganges,has hung a painting of Vedic boys in the livingroom telling BBC reporter ".....have a soft corner for these poor brahmin boys....we are saraswat brahmins...yadayada.

These Tamilians are truly suckers genuflecting before anyone pattering through English ( left & right ennama polanthu thallarah..)

Indian corporates are all heartless mercenaries , period. So what? That is their svatantram. We have our own svatantram.

Thank God for China as they KNOW for sure how cruel the buddhist monks are. Deservedly kicked Dalai Lama blahblah. They are anything but ahimsaic.

Why else would ThiruGnana Sambandhar say:-

>>>>>>buddharodu samanarai vaadhil azhivikkum Annal Thiruneeru Ssemmai Dhidamae....

chinmay said...

I am stunned at how a writer of swapan das calibre could write such an article trying to brush atrocities on tamils under carpet.It is certainly not expected of Mr Swapan das to write such articles eluogising srilankan military success which was achieved at cost of thousands of innocent tamil lives.This has certainly disheartened fans of swapan das gupta like me .After all you are known for your intellectual depth and excellent analysis.I fear you could lose your tamil supporters if you continue to write this way.VAZHGHA TAMIL NADU

Srikanth said...

Very partisan. Swapan, please read the editorial in The HIndu (March 23) and the two articles (March 21).

Anonymous said...

Sorry Swapan,

Your comments are from someone who is totally blind - very much like the blindly paki lovers like Mani Shankar Iyer , Kuldip nayar, Kushwant Singh who will whitewash the sins of pakis, whether it is terrorism, religious fanaticism, extermination of minorities etc . - to the pogrom of Tamils by the Sinhalese which has been going on for the last 60 years after SL becamer independent. One of the first acts of SL govt was to enact the notorious Sinahala only act which reduced the Tamils to second grade citizens of SL. After this act, the Sinhalase who despite being educated, are also fanatically rascist , exihibit infinite hatred against Tamils began the pogrom of Tamils from 1957 onwards where hundreds of Tamils were killed in riots. (1957, 1959, 1961, 1974,1977, 1981, 1983. The dates in 50s may not be exact ). The gandhian protests by Chelvanayagam were crushed with savage brutality. Are you aware of the Bandaranayaka - Chevanayagam pact was violently opposed by Jayawardene ?What did PM Banda do when the chauvisnistic Buddhist clergy - who would put the mullahs of pak to shame - protest against the so called B-C pact ? PM banda pulled out a cigaratte lighter and burnt the pact signed by him. Still a sinhala- buddhist fanatic went on to assassinate Banda for the sin of signing a pact with Tamils. Pl. note such acts gave rise to Prabhakaran and LTTE. The human rights group speak endlessly about the the 1984 riots in Delhi against sikhs .Can you recall anyone - including you - condemn the 1983 riots where 3000 Tamils were butchered in Colombo ? When the Thimpu talks were going on in 1985 between SL and Tamil leaders , SL army went beserk and killed over 500 tamils in the Batticaloa . Indian mediamen including you simply ignored it as usual, though Indian Express - a great supporter of SL- surprisingly published it .

Anonymous said...

It is a well known indisputable FACT Sri.Kaanchi MahaPeriyavar CATEGORICALLY ordered this useless Rajiv Gandhi who accessed Prime Ministership in this GODFORSAKEN India by lighting an ultraostentatious funeral pyre with HUGE LOGS of finest genuine sandalwood pure clarified butter ( does the establishment know anything AT ALL about Vedic Dharma Shastrams , eligibility of who what that it presumptuously states Sathyamaeva Jayathae & oh some rasul pookkutty baakkutty rehmans ilayarajas ---the whole lot apotheosized UNDESERVEDLY grandiloquently opening with " we hail from that soil from which sprang Om , Zero & the sky under which we all coexist pissfully yadayada) with non stop chantings of 'the light is gone ' by duradarshan sycophants & ordering galling pogrom of SIKHS , media churning out 'sympathy wave' installed this Rajiv Gandhi ( Oh really:-( like ThiruNavukkarasar who floated aloft????) NOT TO SEND IPKF / INDIAN ARMY AT ALL or provide any kind of assistance to those inimical to the Tamilians there.

The information filled Cho Ramaswamy also knows all of it.After faux prostrations /nodding he spurned telling " I am a politician & sent IPKF to Sri Lanka.

Rajiv Gandhi's death is also God's Will Be Done /Insha Allah...take your pick & SHUT UP !

Don't coerce us to mourn & mourn against OUR WILL. Thanks to our splendid 'elected representatives' who by default have given us the mantra to chant :-

" we koondemn this dastardly attack(s)".

Anonymous said...

It is a well known indisputable FACT Sri.Kaanchi MahaPeriyavar CATEGORICALLY ordered this useless Rajiv Gandhi who accessed Prime Ministership in this GODFORSAKEN India by lighting an ultraostentatious funeral pyre with HUGE LOGS of finest genuine sandalwood pure clarified butter ( does the establishment know anything AT ALL about Vedic Dharma Shastrams , eligibility of who what that it presumptuously states Sathyamaeva Jayathae & oh some rasul pookkutty baakkutty rehmans ilayarajas ---the whole lot apotheosized UNDESERVEDLY grandiloquently opening with " we hail from that soil from which sprang Om , Zero & the sky under which we all coexist pissfully yadayada) with non stop chantings of 'the light is gone ' by duradarshan sycophants & ordering galling pogrom of SIKHS , media churning out 'sympathy wave' installed this Rajiv Gandhi ( Oh really:-( like ThiruNavukkarasar who floated aloft????) NOT TO SEND IPKF / INDIAN ARMY AT ALL or provide any kind of assistance to those inimical to the Tamilians there.

The information filled Cho Ramaswamy also knows all of it.After faux prostrations /nodding he spurned telling " I am a politician & sent IPKF to Sri Lanka.

Rajiv Gandhi's death is also God's Will Be Done /Insha Allah...take your pick & SHUT UP !

Don't coerce us to mourn & mourn against OUR WILL. Thanks to our splendid 'elected representatives' who by default have given us the mantra to chant :-

" we koondemn this dastardly attack(s)".

Anonymous said...

Correction :-

<<<<buddharodu amanarai vaadhil azhivikkum Annal Thiruneeru Ssemmai Dhidamae....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @March 26, 2012 10:57 AM is stating the truth & nothing but the truth.

When I heard Tamilians have been systematically exterminated in cold blood for many many years which alone led to LTTE formation to defend themselves & punish the CRUEL perpetrators ( yess buddhist clery & their cruelty consult novelist Kalki & Kaanchi Shankaracharya & Sri.Aadi Shankara's brilliant blasting of buddhism gobbledygook ) & not the other way round I could not BELIEVE at all.

Why would someone be targetted for skin colour , ethnicity & religious belief systems so much so as to be raped & exterminated I could not understand.Indian Establishment & media to be blamed squarely. Where else do you get information from.

Eventually when it turned out to be true gorement of India which draws its sustenance from corporate crooks supplied weapons....it is too galling.

This is no nation at all.Some hotchpotch tawdrymoviescricket chimera. Forever talking about sachin tendulkar loves this vadapav takes his son garlic chillipowder melted in their mouth....and this sachin took bank loan for purchasing an apartment & furnishing for his son.

WHY ??? When he has so much money why not spend that money & buy paying various taxes angoor janatha are slapped with ?

What gdpfiscal blahblah when this commonsensical question also brashtacharindia cannot ask ? One mild stroking of Sharad Pawarcheek is converted into aiyo slap ?

LOL....as if we have Porkai Paandiyan taking care of the people:-((

Give lots of holidays when they die. That I always welcome. But no mourning & eschewing of merriment.