35% of our fighters are Tamils of Indian origin: LTTE

by PK Balachanddran
The leader of the LTTE’s political wing, SP Tamilchelvam, has made the startling revelation that 35 per cent of the fighting cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are Indian Origin Tamils (IOT).

Hindustan Times has learnt that Tamilchelvam made this revelation to some Tamil politicians who had met him recently.

He had also said that Tiger Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran’s personal bodyguards were drawn from the Indian Origin Tamil community.

The leader trusted the Indian Origin Tamils more than he did the indigenous Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamilchelvam is reported to have said.

The one million strong Indian Origin Tamil community lives mostly in the plantation areas of Central Sri Lanka. But small communities of them live in the Wanni area also, in Vavuniya and north of it in LTTE held territory.

It is possible that the IOT, Tamilchelvam was referring to, were drawn mainly from the Wanni area, from within or close to the LTTE-controlled parts. But it may also mean that the plantations in Central Sri Lanka, set amidst Sinhalese villages, has been a recruiting ground.

This should be a matter of concern to the Sri Lankan state.

There has been a growing pro-LTTE sentiment among the IOT in the plantation areas. After all, they are the base for P Chandrasekharan’s Up-Country Peoples’ Front, which is pro-LTTE.

Chandrasekharan, who is now a minister in the Ranil Wickremesinghe government, was in jail some years ago for alleged links with the LTTE.

In more recent times, Chandrasekharan, had pleaded with Prabhakaran to take up the IOT’s cause also. But Prabhakaran had said that the LTTE could not play a direct role. All it could do was to give moral support to a homegrown IOT struggle for rights, led by its indigenous leaders, he said.

The Tamil leaders who had met Tamilchelvam, said that Prabhakaran trusted his IOT cadres more because of the caste factor.

Caste prejudice is deeply embedded in Sri Lankan Tamil society. Prabhakaran comes from the fisher caste, while the dominant caste in the Tamil majority North Eastern Sri Lanka, is Vellala.

Jaffna, the heartland of "Tamil Eelam", particularly, is Vellala dominated.

Vellala prejudice against low castes was one of the factors behind the widespread opposition to a Dalit Mayor inaugurating the rebuilt Jaffna Public Library recently. The Mayor of Jaffna then was Selvan Kandaiyan, who came from the caste of conservancy workers.

Tamil politicians who had met Tamilchelvam came back with the distinct impression that the LTTE was "desperate", to secure India’s support. It seemed that the LTTE cared too hoots about other countries, including the United States, but it definitely wanted India’s support.

A hint of this was given by Tamilchelvam at the press conference in Kilinochchi on November 1,when despite direct questioning, he refused to comment on India’s willingness to sign a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Sri Lanka, which was obviously aimed at the LTTE.

But speaking exclusively to the Sri Lankan Tamils, through the mass circulated Tamil daily "Virakesari", he sang a different tune. He said that India should not put any conditions or give any framework for a settlement of the Tamil question in Sri Lanka, referring to the Joint Statement issued by the Indian and Sri Lankan Prime Ministers on October 21.

Setting such conditions was tantamount to arresting the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Tamil people of the island, Tamilchelvam said.

- Hindustan Times