Much has been written by many Indian and Sri Lankan writers about the Sri Lankan civil war and India’s role in it. But Professor Rohan Gunaratna’s book, “Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence agencies” stands out among them as it provides a good account of the civil war from the inception till the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the then Indian Opposition Leader. (A second time candidate for Prime minister).
The book provides solid evidence of how India manipulated Sri Lanka’s civil polity by creating, funding, training and arming the various groups of Tamil youths by re-naming them as freedom fighters. Sri Lanka opened its economy (which was a closed one hitherto) to the whole world, especially to the West and with the high literacy rate she boasts of, Sri Lanka had all the ingredients to become the next Singapore in the region, but India thought otherwise. They were busy with persuading frustrated Tamil youths to terrorists who could go at length to kill their own people let alone the enemy. The Tamil youths were converted into members of the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit, the LTTE.
Professor Gunaratna has accessed the photo evidence of Sri Lankan youths being trained in India, even in Uttar Pradesh, let alone Tamil Nadu. Indira Gandhi started the heinous scheme which was taken forward by her son, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who paid the price by being blown up by the very terrorists whom he helped. Apparently the alleged suicide bomber was said to have been gang raped by the so called Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) soldiers whom Rajiv Gandhi forced the then Sri Lankan president J. R. Jayawardene to accept into Sri Lanka.
The book extensively details how the then Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Mr. Jyotindra Nath Dixit masterminded the ugly coup to intervene in Sri Lanka’s political sphere unethically. The unfortunate thing is that most Indians do not believe this and they have been brainwashed by the Indian government and the media with the story that Sri Lankan President requested Indian Premier to send its forces to fight Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil terrorists.
Prof. Gunaratna has done a lot of research to infiltrate into the LTTE to find facts about the most ruthless guerrilla outfit in the world. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the undisputed leader of the LTTE, fires his first bullet to kill Alfred Duraiappah, then an MP for Jaffna from the SLFP. Since then, the former never looked back. Professor Gunaratna gives a detailed account on how the LTTE was formed and how its cofounders were killed by the LTTE itself for it to gain supremacy over the other Tamil militant groups.
Though we blame the LTTE for all the bombings and mass killing today, the book reveals that some of the bombings in Colombo were done by the other Tamil militant groups such as TELO, PLOTE, EPDP, EPRLF, EROS, etc.
Having had the opportunity of interviewing the VIPs from both Sri Lankan and Indian governments, Prof. Gunaratna has firsthand knowledge about how politics worked between Colombo and New Delhi. Characters like Jyotindra Nath Dixit, M. G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi had gone beyond the accepted diplomatic boundaries to enable the LTTE become a powerful force against the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL.) The late President J. R. Jayawardene’s West oriented policies also played a big role here. He should have been more diplomatic with the Indian leaders and solved the problem.
The failure by President Jayawardene to quell the Black July riots in 1983 that killed a few hundred Tamils in Sri Lanka lead the Tamil Nadu and the Government of India (GOI) to be more sympathetic to the militant groups. The latter made use of this sympathy to become stronger politically and militarily. Subsequently, military training camps to train the militants mushroomed in India. Rather than the Indian High Commission, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the intelligent agency of India took care of the relations between the two countries.
Professor Gunaratna details how the deteriorating relations between the two countries resulted in India violating Sri Lankan airspace and subsequent forced Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF.) It was ironic that the IPKF happened to fight the LTTE, who had been trained by the GOI, itself.
Professor Gunaratna also describes how series of peace talks were held between the militants and the GOSL, starting from Thimphu, Bhutan to the Hilton Hotel, Colombo and how the LTTE sabotaged each opportunity to come to a compromise by getting what they wanted. The biggest betrayal of all was the attacking the GOSL forces after allegedly obtaining money and weapons from the then president Ranasinghe Premadasa. This angered him a lot and he appointed Ranjan Wijeratne, the energetic UNP Chairman as the Minister of State for Defense. Having foreseen the impending threat to the LTTE by the minister, they were able to remove him from the scene by using a remote controlled car bomb. Had he survived the attack just like Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa did, the story of the LTTE would have been different.
India’s attitude to Sri Lanka took a different turn after Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister was brutally killed by an LTTE suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur, India in 1991. The LTTE was proscribed in India and the GOI was more helpful to GOSL. The book ends there.
I feel Professor Gunaratna’s book is factually correct to a great extent, but the downside is that it has some grammatical errors. This may cause a credibility issues in the minds of some readers. I hope this could be rectified in any future reprints.