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Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
The ban on LTTE and Tamil Nadu politics
23 May 1992
The Indian Home Minister, Mr. S.B. Chavan, whose comment that his government did not have sufficient evidence to ban the Tigers has now said in the Indian Parliament that he was misquoted. He has also said that a decision on the ban will be taken before May 21 ( the day on which Rajiv was killed last year). But his clarification indicates that it is not an open and shut case. There have to be more deliberations on the matter.
Some Indian officials refer to 'technical aspects' which have to be taken into account in case of such a ban; the most important of which is, how do we ban an organization that belongs to and operates in another country?
The ban it is said, in some official quarters will not be effective unless it contains measures which can prohibit and deter any political party from speaking in favour of the LTTE on India soil.
But the problem is that if that were to be the case then Ms Jeyalalitha, who has already mad extensive use of the draconic TADA Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act -to suppress some of her important political opponents, can with much ease silence even those political forces in Tamilnadu which Narasimha Rao is hopeful of cultivating with a view to strengthening his position in their Congress.
In Tamilnadu the most vehement opposition to S B Chavan's purported statement came from Vazhapadi Ramamurthy the current leader of the Tamilnadu congress 1. Ramamurthy has generally taken a line from the time of the Cauvery Waters dispute that has been more in line with Ms Jeyalalitha's wishes than with Mr Narasimha Rao's views.
The congress in Tamilnadu has two factions, one under Ramamurthy and the other under G K Moopanar, functioning mostly as separate political bodies.
G K Moopanar was conspicuous by his silence on the issue. Ramamurthy, on the other hand has a personal interest in being the most vociferous advocate of banning the LTTE.
His faction believed that G K Moopanar and his supporters in the party had orchestrated a smear campaign recently which attempted to implicate Ramamurthy and some of his colleagues in some events that lead to Rajiv's murder. It was not only said that members of his faction had known Dhanu (the woman suicide bomber) and her accomplices but that 'one-eyed' Silvarasan himself had posed for a photograph with him. Ms Jeyalalitha has considered Ramamurthy her best bet against the manoeuvres of the congress I leadership to undermine her powers in Tamilnadu.
Narasimha Rao's interest within the Congress party in Tamilnadu is to gradually erode Vashapadi's credibility and strengthen the Moopanar faction.
Ms Jeyalalitha and Ramamurthy built up a momentum on the issue of banning the LTTE after the assassination of Rajiv last year. The momentum was useful in as much as it helped them to silence Karunanidhi, who was seen as G K Moopanar's potential ally. Karunanidhi had taken great interest in cultivating his impression while he was in power.
S B Chavan's statement, came as a big blow to the political credibility of Ms Jeyalalitha and Ramamurthy. Any ambivalence on the part of Narasimha Rao's government in banning the Tigers can seriously jeopardize her case against the D M K, which has thus far provided her with enough pretexts for crying treason at Karunanidhi and scaring away his political activity.
The Pattali Makkal Kadchi has been persistently challenging her position from the time she began to vehemently call for the ban of LTTE on Indian soil, while her changes that they had colluded with the Tigers adopted a very ambiguous view towards the Tigers and the Eelam cause.
The PM has been reiterating its position that it supports the LTTE despite their alleged involvement in Rajiv's killing. There are some individuals, like Nedumaran and some organisations like Thileepan Manram who have been attempting to challenge the legal status of the TADA and the court proceedings instituted under it against the accused in Rajiv's case.
They have promoted views in the Tamil press that the proceedings under TADA cannot dispense justice because the act itself violates human rights and is contrary to normal Indian law. They have also argued that the pronouncements of the Jeyalalitha government asserting categorically that the Tigers were responsible for Rajiv's murder, have prejudiced the proceedings.
These views and arguments have been taken up by the LTTE's international lobby as well.
An Indian official attributed the delay to the process of the central government of India consulting its relevant agencies about the pros and cons of banning the LTTE. The most important of these are the ministry of External Affairs, the RAW and the Ministry of Defence. The diplomatic point of view considers the Tigers in the overall Sri Lankan scenario. Therefore any decision to ban would necessarily take into account India's current approach to the Sri Lankan question. Theoretically the LTTE remains a tempting long term option.
As long as Sri Lanka is chairman of SAARC India's policy options and instruments in dealing with the Premadasa government will remain limited. Therefore this period may have been viewed as being not appropriate for foreclosing a major policy option and instrument in Sri Lanka.
Another view has been associated with the Indian defence establishment. Ex-Indian Military man who have commented on India's attitude towards the Tigers have been very critical of Delhi bureaucracy's line.
Major Shankar Bhaduri and Major General Afsir Karimsay "The question is, why could not India bring the LTTE to the negotiating table? The short answer according to us is because India followed an arrogant and one track policy." (The Sri Lanka crisis. Lance Paper ! p.85).
Arjun Katoch who led the para-commandos of the Indian army against the LTTE in Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Batticaloa has recently argued that President Premadasa's approach to the Tiger question is the most appropriate, and that India bungled its military mission by adopting the wrong attitude towards the LTTE.
The issue of India banning the Tigers might have made one thing clear to policy makers in Colombo, that Delhi's priorities and options are determined by a set of interests which converge with theirs in appearance only.