The latest Wikileaks revelations throw light on how the LTTE influenced political parties in Tamil Nadu in the 1980’s and 1990’s, starting from the IPKF days till the crackdown on the dreaded outfit after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
Two dispatches sent by the US mission in Chennai to Washington – one in April 1990 and the other in March 2009 – compare contrasting approaches of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and DMK chief M Karunanidhi towards the LTTE.
Assuming office as chief minister soon after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Jayalalithaa “ordered crackdown on the LTTE, which for long had operated openly in the state. A bureaucrat, who held a key security portfolio at the time, told post (embassy officials) that Jayalalithaa ordered him to do ‘whatever it takes to finish off the LTTE’ in Tamil Nadu, even if it required extrajudicial killings of LTTE associates in the state,” said a dispatch sent by the then US consul general in Chennai, Andrew T Simkin. The cable further added that she is an “iron lady” and “even her fiercest critics acknowledge that Jayalalithaa’s aggressive approach went a long way towards pushing the LTTE out of Tamil Nadu”.
On the contrary, the US mission officials had written to their bosses in April 1990 that then chief minister M Karunanidhi was tilting towards the LTTE. The cable sent almost a year before his government was dismissed, said his pro-LTTE stand was generating widespread controversy and dismay in Tamil Nadu, particularly in the light of his strained relations with the Tigers in the past.
He was burning bridges with Delhi because of his hardliner pro-Tamil Eelam stand, the cable said and added that it may be at significant political cost. The US mission also raised suspicion as to whether Karunanidhi had put up with the LTTE activities in Tamil Nadu out of fear for the terrorist group.
One should not discount the role of the government of India in supporting the LTTE. It should not have permitted the LTTE to operate from Indian soil, said G Parthasarathy, former diplomat, who was in Rajiv Gandhi’s office from 1986 to 1989. “Karunanidhi was viciously critical of the LTTE in the past. But once he returned to power in 1989, he turned an LTTE supporter,” said Parthasarathy. His mistake was that he allowed the constitutional machinery to break down in Tamil Nadu as LTTE ran riot, he said. The 1991 electoral verdict was against the LTTE and terrorism and Jayalalithaa was just fulfilling her constitutional duty in flushing them out, Parthasarathy added.
In another leaked wiki leaks cable dated April 5, 1988 it cites newspaper reports, which quoted J N Dixit, then Indian envoy to Sri Lanka that a stipend was agreed upon and was to be paid to the LTTE by the Indian government in view of the tax loss it suffered after IPKF was sent. The US cable said Rs 50 lakh was the compensation paid to the LTTE in July 1987 and only one payment was made before September that year when LTTE walked out of the deal over its participation in the interim council.
An unnamed LTTE spokesman in Madras is quoted in the cable as saying that the payment was part of a larger secret package of guarantees, which Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi offered LTTE leader V Prabhakaran in July 1987 to get him to agree to the bilateral accord. “We were in the jungles when the amount was said to have been paid to the LTTE. There was no communication from the ministry of external affairs to us about the payment made to get Prabhakaran to agree to the terms. It must have been a move by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW),” said Col (retd) R Hariharan, an analyst of Sri Lankan affairs, who served in the IPKF.
Other features of the package for the LTTE included an assurance of an offer of 7 out of 12 seats to enable it to form a majority in the interim provincial council in the north and east of Sri Lanka. India said it would route Rs 1 billion through the interim council to rehabilitate Jaffna besides $40million that was agreed upon by New Delhi at an earlier consortium meeting in Paris. The Indian government also promised to develop a police force after the formation of the interim council. Despite all this, the deal fell through almost the same day, said the cable.