Why LTTE is dreaded even after its eclipseCHENNAI: As the Union home ministry renewed the ban on the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) on Tuesday, a representative of the transnational government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) met select media representatives in Chennai to announce a ‘tree sapling planting programme’ to mark the ‘Mullavaikal genocide’ on May 18. Professor Saraswathi Rajendran was referring to the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka in which the LTTE was annihilated. Later in the day, the TGTE ‘member of parliament’ quietly left the country.
Formed after the defeat of the LTTE, the TGTE is a government-in-exile with Visvanathan Rudrakumaran as ‘prime minister’. "Internationally, the ex-LTTE members have organized themselves in two or three factions, including the TGTE. But, the ban is aimed at keeping fringe groups like Seeman’s Naam Thamizhar Katchi or the May 18 movement in check," said security analyst and former head of Intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka Col (retd) R Hariharan. "The government does not want these fringe groups to raise ‘Eelam’ banner or revive the slogan of an independent Tamil nation."
The Centre’s extension of the ban for five more years is aimed at squeezing the remnants of the outfit, suspected to be lying low in the form of sleeper cells across the globe after the ethnic war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009 with the elimination of the LTTE top brass, including its self-styled chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The Easter Sunday bombings brought back horrors of the three-decade-long war with military and police officials stoking talk of possible LTTE links. Sri Lankan army commander Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake told a television channel that the suicide bombers led by Zahran Hashim may have had "some sort of links with ex-LTTE cadres in terms of online propaganda, explosives and weaponry, which are hidden in the north and east [of Sri Lanka]."
Security experts in Lanka are wary of a revival of the LTTE. "We have information that they are re-organizing in Canada and Europe," said renowned international terrorism expert Professor Rohan Gunaratna. "As long as attempts are being made to propagate LTTE ideology, India should continue to extend the ban."
Though a ban has been in place for close to three decades, Tamil nationalist groups like actor Seeman’s NTK and Thol Thirumavalavan’s VCK besides MDMK leader Vaiko have been flaunting their ideological affinity with the LTTE with impunity. They have been hailing Prabhakaran publicly and putting up photos and posters. The Centre and state have turned a blind eye to this as LTTE-sponsored violence is non-existent in TN. It is the same TN government that had arrested Vaiko in 2002 under the dreaded POTA for making pro-LTTE statements.
"The ban is aimed at suppressing legitimate movements," alleged May 18 movement leader Thirumurugan Gandhi, who faces 45 cases, including sedition. "The Supreme Court has never said we cannot talk in favour of LTTE or any other banned outfit. But, the government uses the ban to stop democratic and legitimate gatherings," said Gandhi, who started the movement in 2009 soon after the end of the ‘Eelam’ war.
"The LTTE as an organization does not exist. If anybody is banning it, it is only trying to tell its constituency that it shows zero tolerance to terrorism. Immediately after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, there was a dire need to crush the outfit, because its infrastructure was active in Tamil Nadu at that time. That is no longer the case. But ban or no ban, many Tamil nationalist outfits have been vocal about their affinity for the outfit. The governments do not bother either. It is not that the Centre or state wants to encourage pro-LTTE organizations. The fact is that they cannot afford to antagonize and alienate Tamil sentiments," said analyst T N Gopalan.
The present ban is unnecessary when SL has been claiming that LTTE is eliminated, said former Congress leader and Tamil nationalist Pazha Nedumaran. "Tamils in TN and Lanka are linguistically and culturally same. It is natural that when they suffer, people here feel strongly about it. But it does not mean that Tamils in TN will propagate secessionist ideas. There is no such issue here, because there is no discrimination against Tamils in India. In SL, a Tamil cannot become President or Prime Minister. They live like second-grade citizens in their own country," said Nedumaran.