The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Inside an Elusive Mind: Prabhakaran By M.R. Narayan Swamy, Konark, Rs 400

This book is a profile of V. Prabhakaran, leader of the Tamil secessionist movement in Sri Lanka and the “world’s most ruthless” guerrilla fighter. M.R. Narayan Swamy, a journalist, collects information about the enigmatic leader through interviews with people who knew him. The book is divided into three parts, each devoted to three different phases in Prabhakaran’s life. The first, naturally, describes how Prabhakaran came to form the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1976 to fight for a separate Tamil eelam.

Prabhakaran was deeply affected by the discriminatory policies of the Sri Lankan state and the growing insecurity of Sri Lankan Tamils. At the age of four, he was a witness to the Tamil-Sinhalese riots of 1958. He grew up listening to stories of the brutalities being perpetrated by the Sri Lankan army on Tamils. These helped to turn the disciplined, bookish boy into a radical youth by the age of 16 and a militant leader by 18.

As he grew older, his belief in violence as the only solution grew stronger. The LTTE’s first major campaign was in July 1983 when it killed 13 soldiers in Jaffna. Over the years, Prabhakaran has developed a streak of aggression, which has also come to characterize the LTTE.

Prabhakaran, by all accounts, is a self-taught guerrilla and a master tactician. During his long stint in the underground, he conceived of and experimented with military tactics to be used by the LTTE. He formulated the ideology of vengeance and self-sacrifice, which has made the LTTE one of the most deadly terrorist organizations in the world.

The second section of the book is all about the LTTE’s systematic campaign to establish military dominance over rival groups and Prabhakaran’s struggle to get international legitimacy for his organization.

In the Eighties, India became a critical factor in the Sri Lankan conflict. But while seeking to use India to the LTTE’s advantage, he did not hide his contempt for the Indian government. His four-year stay in Tamil Nadu helped him understand the dynamics of Indian politics and transform himself from a “shy, tentative rebel into a focussed, vindictive, ruthless, politically shrewd and militarily accomplished leader”.

If the 1987 peace accord was a turning point in India’s Sri Lanka policy, Prabhakaran’s decision to fight the Indian peacekeepers was a turning point in his life. His success in driving the Indian forces out of the island by March 1990 helped Prabhakaran to consolidate his position in northeast Sri Lanka.

The LTTE is now the sole legitimate representative of the Tamils — the moderates have been almost totally marginalized. Both the government in Colombo and the international community now realize the importance of the LTTE in restoring peace. But the current peace process and the internationalization of the conflict have created a sense of unease in the mind of the LTTE chief. The world expects him to take a reasonable negotiating position and eschew terrorism. But all Prabhakaran wants is eelam and eelam alone.

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