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Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 3

June 13, 2011

Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 3

Edited version of what was first published May 23rd 2009 02:54

Rajiv Gandhi moments before he was killed

How did the Sri Lankan Armed Forces Defeat the LTTE?

Mistake Number One: Killing Rajiv Gandhi.

One thing you have to accept is that the LTTE were a powerful force to be reckoned with. For 25 years they could match the Sri Lankan Government on the battle field. They could even match the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) on the battle field when. The LTTE had in just 25 years contributed as much to the myth that terrorism cannot be defeated as any insurgent group around the world. When the IPKF arrived in Sri Lankan they expected to end the civil war in just a few weeks. The peace keeping dragged on and the bodies of Indian soldier mounted up in what was a very unpopular operation in both Sri Lanka where foreign troops were resented and in India where they had their own domestic issues.

The historical setting of the mid-eighties till the early nineties was turbulent for the subcontinent. Not just Sri Lanka that was fighting a three-way civil war but also for India. This was the same era where Indira Gandhi had ordered the storming of the Sikh Golden Temple to put an end to a potential armed separatist revolution of its own. It is also where the pogrom in Sri Lanka sent thousands of refugees into camps in Tamil Nadu. There was a sense in parts of Southern India that the Tamils in Sri Lanka were their people also. Sri Lanka only allowed the IPKF in after enormous pressure from the Indian Government.

Within a short period of time things started to go wrong for the Indian Army as the LTTE developed its suicide vests and recruited child soldiers. Things went worse for Indira Gandhi as some of her own elite Sikh soldiers assassinated her. Her son Rajiv was the obvious successor.

Ironically Rajiv Gandhi did meet personally with the LTTE leader Prabhakaran when he was residing in India. Reports of the meeting say that it was polite and cordial. Rajiv was apparently impressed by Prabhakaran and told his aides that he trusted his sincerity. Soon Rajiv would withdraw his Army from Sri Lankan soil and in 1991 the LTTE would send a female suicide bomber to assassinate him.

The brutality of the attack and its callous disregard for the innocent bystanders shocked the whole world.

The Turning Points in the War
Four major mistakes were made by the LTTE in their war for a separate state. The most obvious was the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Though the LTTE denied doing this at first, overwhelming evidence showed otherwise. One of the female suicide bombers was captured alive and the trail of investigation would lead right back to an LTTE operative called One Eye Jack. When the Indian arm finally pounced on ‘One Eye Jack’s’ headquarters they found that he and nearly forty of his team had all committed suicide. There was no doubt that ‘One Eye Jack’ was a known LTTE terrorist acting on orders from higher up. Later it was revealed that those orders came directly from Prabhakaran.

Rajiv Gandhi was one of the best-protected leaders in the world, especially after his mother’s assassination, and the brutality of the way he was killed shocked India to its core. He was at an election rally mingling with the people when a young female called Dhanu came forward. As she bowed to touch his feet (a traditional way of showing respect) she detonated herself killing all around her, including the Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi. A backlash against the LTTE was inevitable.

This innocent faced girl was had also strapped on an explosive vest just in case the first girl failed. She is now serving a prison sentence in India.

Instantly the Indian government took action and closed down the training camps that the LTTE had established on their soil. They arrested LTTE terrorist and shut illicit weapons factories in Tamil Nadu. In one blast the LTTE had gone from freedom fighter darlings to enemies of the state. It took the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi for Indian public to realize that the LTTE was a serious threat to its own national security. The action that the Indian Government took as a result of this assassination was the biggest setback that the LTTE has ever faced. They would become, for the first time in India, a prescribed banned terrorist group. More nations were to follow suit banning the LTTE and their fundraising activities. As a result, Prabhakaran could no longer set foot on Indian soil.

The Supreme Court of India tried Prabhakaran in absentia for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. He was found guilty despite not being present at the trial was sentenced. In recent years Prabhakaran would reflect that he regretted the death of Rajiv Gandhi as a mistake.

Up until the day Prabhakaran was officially confirmed dead the Indian Government demanded that if Prabhakaran was captured that he should be extradited to serve his sentence in an Indian prison.

Back in 1991-1992 the LTTE were not interested in regrets. They had ceased control of all the areas that the IPKF had vacated and were celebrating their success at killing Premadasa, the President of Sri Lanka. They were in control of nearly one third of the island of Sri Lanka and had done what no other terrorist group had ever done prior or since: They had managed to assassinate two world leaders.

For years the LTTE traded off their successes and raised money to continue the Civil War. One can only imagine how much more deadly they would have been if they had not have turned the Indian government against them with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Yet the LTTE were not invincible and made further mistakes that I will discuss in future posts.

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