Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Death of a tiger

If you have traveled through the Shivajinagar area of Bangalore, India in the 70s and 80s, you would have seen a large photo of Vellupillai Prabhakaran next to the bus stand, in one of the many Tamizh-owned shops on the busy main road. That area was dominated by the Muslim and Tamil communities in those days, and some Dravida party candidates even won elections in those areas. VP was finally killed in North Sri Lanka yesterday. Looking at the newly released photos of him with what sure looks like a beautiful family is surreal, and triggers a lot of questions. VP's actions have several dual elements to it, riddled with noise as usual.

Like the old west, the gunslinger turned lawman is the hero everybody desperately wants until his heroic shootout. The dual aspect is that he then becomes the only guy in town with a lethal gun and therefore a nuisance, and ideally one who should have gone down while taking the outlaw out. Gunmen who outlive their welcome become the very problem they eliminated in the first place. Like all maoist/militant groups, the LTTE also falls in this category. They do not want to relinquish the power earned from the barrel of a gun. They first fight the fanatics (in this case, the Sinhala Chauvinists), but they reach a certain point where they become what they fight against. It's a classical but vicious fratricidal, boom-and-bust cycle - of who is more fanatic. LTTE's ruthless elimination of all common-sense, moderate Tamizh leaders is well documented. Ultimately, the movement is in tatters since the most fanatic are rarely the smartest, and are doomed to die a lonely death. If the Sinhala majority will allow for pluralistic views based on mutual self-respect, then a new LTTE will not spring up, else the new, deadlier VP is 10 years old today. Muthiah Muralitharan is an good positive example. He is the most successful cricketer in the history of Lanka, and is Tamizh, and morever, has been fiercely defended by (Sinhala) team-mates through all controversies. On the field, they are all Lankans. (Cricket rules!)

That photo of VP captured my imagination. India supported these freedom fighters too. That quickly disappeared when VP's gunmen entered an apartment in Madras and wiped out entire Tamizh families in cold blood. Folks who cry for VP today should also pause to reflect about these families and their offspring that never will be because of this man and an entire generation of smart Tamizh leaders who were wiped out, who will not be there today to provide leadership. In short, after all the fighting and the 100,000 deaths, the Lankan Tamizhs are worse off than just being back to square one. A new and smarter leadership for the 21st century has to arise, but from where?

The war nerd always has a wacky take on the LTTE.

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