Video on atrocity stokes Tamil rage

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  • Published 5.11.13

Chennai, Nov. 4: A video that suggests an LTTE presenter was killed in captivity by Sri Lankan soldiers has further hardened feelings in Tamil Nadu where parties have been demanding that India stay off a Commonwealth meet in Colombo later this month.

The video, released by London’s Channel 4, shows Isaipriya, a newsreader at the LTTE’s Tamil channel, being led away half-naked and being given a cloth to cover herself by people in military uniform who are heard saying they had found Tamil Tiger rebel leader Prabhakaran’s daughter.

Isaipriya, whose body was found at the end of the war, is seen telling her captors: “No, I am not her.”

According to a list released by the Sri Lankan government along with photographs, “Lt Colonel Isaipriya” was among the LTTE leaders killed in the final combat in May 2009 as government troops advanced on the rebels fighting for an independent homeland. The photographs showed her lying dead, half-naked, with a bleeding facial injury.

Channel 4 has claimed that its footage clearly established that Isaipriya was killed in cold blood after being captured by the Lankan army.

The video has hardened the anti-Lanka sentiments in Tamil Nadu where parties led by the ruling AIADMK and the Opposition DMK have been demanding that India boycott the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting starting November 15.

The state Congress had been divided on how to respond to this emotive challenge. At first, only Union shipping minister G.K. Vasan had been saying that Manmohan Singh should not participate in the summit. But after the release of the video, other Congress ministers from Tamil Nadu, P. Chidambaram and Jayanthi Natarajan, have also started saying the Prime Minister should stay away in deference to Tamil sentiments.

“After the Isaipriya video the Congress cannot look the other way citing diplomatic compulsions, especially after (Lankan President) Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own minister, Douglas Devananda, has sought retribution against the offenders,” said a state Congress MP.

The state Congress, already on the back foot because of India’s continuing bonhomie with Lanka, is averse to Delhi sacrificing its political interests in Tamil Nadu while trying to humour Colombo.

The logic in Delhi is that India cannot completely boycott Sri Lanka because that would not only deprive it of any leverage in the Lankan Tamil issue but also help China entrench itself as Colombo’s trusted ally.

“It’s a double-edged sword for India, especially the Congress since it’s seen by pro-LTTE groups as a villain that had helped the Lankan army finish off the LTTE. On the other hand, it has to keep Delhi diplomatically involved in Sri Lanka for strategic reasons,” said Col R. Hariharan, a foreign policy expert and former IPKF intelligence chief.

If the Prime Minister decides to boycott the meet and eventually sends a team led by foreign minister Salman Kurshid, the state Congress could benefit from a short-term gain in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as the party does not have any ally in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK had walked out of the UPA in March, blaming India’s weak response to Lanka’s war crimes before a UN body. Although DMK chief M. Karunanidhi has asserted that “India should not be represented even by a speck” at the CHOGM, he has apparently been convinced by Chidambaram that the Prime Minister’s absence would be enough to send a message to Lanka.