The Government of India (GoI) has extended the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for two more years. LTTE was first banned in 1991 in the aftermath of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. According to the Home Ministry of India, "LTTE continues to adopt a strong anti-India posture as also continues to pose a grave threat to the security of Indian nationals, it is necessary to declare LTTE as an 'unlawful association' with immediate effect." It also chides the Tamil diaspora for spreading, through articles in the internet portals, anti-India feeling among the Sri Lankan Tamils by holding the top Indian political leaders and bureaucrats responsible for the defeat of the LTTE.
India’s LTTE phobia
The decision to extend the ban, especially in the post-LTTE era begs two basic questions: what does India’s extension of the ban on the LTTE mean? And what are the domestic, bilateral and international impacts of it? This article explores these questions in the light of current politico-security developments.
The GoI’s choice to continue the ban merely reflects the fact that the ‘ghost’ of the ‘good devil’ still haunts the Indian establishment. The LTTE is no longer an entity to deter India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Even if its international wing exists under a different nomenclature, it cannot attract mass sympathy from Tamil Nadu due to the lack of a charismatic leadership. If the GoI is sincerely concerned about the LTTE’s international network, the outreach of this ban could be questioned under the possibility of the organisation reinventing itself under different pseudonyms.
‘Tamilpolitik’ of Tamil Nadu
There was no official confirmation of the LTTE support system operating in Tamil Nadu after the war. This makes the entire allegation factually invalid. Indeed, LTTE activities in the state – till the very end of the war - were successfully curbed with an iron hand by the successive governments led by the Dravidian parties. If such a system continued to exist, as noticed by the ministry, then the war could not have been ended shortly. In fact, the recent intelligence report warned about the growing Maoists activities in the state.
What does this ban intend to achieve? It is quite understandable that the ban was a security imperative for India when the LTTE’s rank and file were active and alive. Domestically, the ban helped Indian investigation agencies to reach a logical conclusion in their quest for bringing the perpetrators of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination to justice. Externally, the ban was a bane for LTTE’s political and military cause. The LTTE had not only lost its logistics support due to this ban but also the moral support from their brethren in Tamil Nadu. With the disappearance of LTTE from the politico-security scene, the ban is not only unnecessary but also counter-productive.
The ban would keep the rumours over Prabhakaran’s death alive and reinforce the popular perception of the LTTE’s resurgence and revival. It could be politically misused by the government to falsely implicate opposition parties under unlawful activities act. It is very clear that there is no strong national security imperative for the ban and, therefore, it could imply possible political connotations.
Politics of Tamil Nadu cannot be separated from the Tamil nationalist and linguistic identity. The Sri Lankan Tamil issue is a core agenda for all the parities, even though they do not stand on the same platform. The irony is that these political parties cry foul over the socio-political plight of Sri Lankan Tamils but pay less attention to the living condition of the same Tamils languishing in the refugee camps across Tamil Nadu, which are poorly maintained. That is the reality of Tamil Nadu politics on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue.
The news about the extension of the ban came when the DMK party president, as well as key ally of the UPA, was planning to revive the buried Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO). The ruling AIADMK Chief shot a letter to the Prime Minister to evict the Sri Lankan armed personnel, who are undertaking training at the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Chennai. Neither the DMK nor the AIADMK have any sympathy towards the LTTE or its leaders. In spirit both take a humanitarian ground of supporting the political rights of Sri Lankan Tamils and are against the ruthless attitude of the Sri Lankan government.
For elusive reasons, the Union government has always been misreading the public perception and sympathy in Tamil Nadu for the political cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The current agitation of Tamils over the Sri Lankan issue was the result of GoI’s apathy towards the issue during the war, and following the war over human rights allegations and the war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military. It is very clear from the consecutive elections that they are not anti-nationals as believed by the establishment; rather they are against the government’s indifference towards the people’s sentiments and rights which are not only pertinent to the Sri Lankan issue, but also other issues such as the Mullaiperiyar Dam, the Kaveri water dispute and Koodankulam.