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Blood on our hands, but this too shall pass

May 19, 2009 17:10 IST

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran's death circa May 19, 2009, in circumstances we would never quite get to know, concludes a morality play.

As the curtain comes down and we leave the theatre, the spectacle continues to haunt us. We feel a deep unease and can't quite figure out the reason. Something rankles somewhere. And then we realise we have blood on our hands.

Not only our hands, but our whole body and deeper down, our conscience -- what remains of it after the mundane battles of our day-to-day life – is also dripping with blood.

Prabhakaran's blood. No, it is not only Prabhakaran's, but also of 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils who have perished in the unspeakable violence through the past quarter century.

All the pujas we may perform to our favourite Lord Ganesh each morning and evening religiously before we march ahead in our life from success to success cannot wash away the guilt we are bearing -- the curse of the 70,000 dead souls.

Our children and grandchildren will surely inherit the great curse. Oh, God, what a bitter legacy!

A long time ago, we created Prabhakaran. We picked him up as an urchin from nowhere. What we found charming about him was that he was so thoroughly apolitical -- almost innocent about politics. He was a simpleton in many ways, who had a passion for weapons and the military regimen. He suited our needs perfectly.

Which was  to humiliate the J R Jayewardene government in Sri Lanka and teach it a hard lesson about the dangers of being disrespectful to India's status as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean. Jayewardene was too Western-oriented and behaved as if he never read about the Munroe Doctrine when he read history in Oxford. We didn't like at all his dalliance with the Israelis and the Americans in our very backyard.

So, we fostered Prabhakaran and built him up as a pinprick on Jayewardene's vanities -- as a Bhindranwale of the Deccan.

Then, as time passed, we decided that he had outlived his utility as we had come to develop an entirely different outlook towards the pro-Western orientation of the Colombo government by that time. Our egotistic leader in New Delhi who detested Jayewardene was no more in power and the new soft-spoken leader didn't share his predecessor's strong political antipathies.

So, we arm-twisted Prabhakaran to tone down and fall in line with our changed priorities. But we didn't realise that by then he had become a fully-grown adult.

He resisted our blackmail and pressure tactic. When we pressured him even more and tried to collar him, he struck back. He dispatched assassins to India and killed our beloved leader. And he became our eternal enemy.

Yet, we couldn't do anything to harm him. He had already become so strong -- an uncrowned king among his people. So we waited. We are a patient lot. Who can match us in infinite patience, given our 5000 years of history? Our cosmic religion gives us a unique wisdom to be patient and stoical and to bide our time.

And then, the opportune time came. We promptly moved in for the kill by aligning ourselves with Prabhakaran's enemies. We armed them and trained them in better skills to kill. We guided them with good intelligence. We plugged all escape routes for Prabhakaran. And then, we patiently waited as the noose tightened around Prabhakaran's neck.

Today he is no more. Believe it or not, we had no role in his death. How and when he died shall forever remain an enigma wrapped in a mystery. We will of course never divulge what we know.

All that matters is that the world woke up to the death only after the May 13 polling in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Otherwise, the parliamentary election results may have gone haywire against us. Strange are the ways of the Indian democracy. 

We have had our revenge. Nothing else matters for the present.

What lies ahead? We will continue to make noises about a "political solution" to the Tamil problem that Prabhkaran championed through violent means.

Of course, let there be no doubt that we will periodically render humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians who have been herded into camps and may languish there till the dust settles down. We will demonstrate that we are indeed capable of the milk of human kindness. After all, the Sri Lankan Tamils are part of our historical consciousness.

But we must also be realistic. We know in our heart of hearts that the scope for a political solution in the fashion in which our leaders seem to suggest publicly is virtually nil.

The Sinhalese will never allow the world to dictate to them a political solution. More so, they will promptly and conclusively rebuff any attempt by us to seek a role in what they will now onward insist as strictly their internal affair.

Always remember that Sri Lanka is the last bastion of Theravada Buddhism and preserving that legacy is the Sinhalese people's precious tryst with destiny. At least, that is how they feel. We have to accept the weight of their cultural nationalism.

They see Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhalese. How would they allow us Indians who wiped out Buddhism with such ferocity from the subcontinent interfere with their keen sense of destiny as the custodians of that very same great religion? Never, never.

If we try to pressure the Sinhalese, they will approach the Chinese or the Pakistanis to balance our pressure. They are capable of doing that.

The Sinhalese are a gifted people. We all know few can never match their terrific skills in media management. They have always lived by their wits.

Equally, they are fantastic practitioners of diplomacy. We suspect that they may in fact have an edge over us on this front, for unlike us who are dissimulating from day to day as if we're a responsible regional power and dissipating our energies in pastimes such as hunting down Somalian pirates in distant seas, they are a highly focused lot.

They have the grit because they are fighting for the preservation of their country's future identity as a Buddhist nation.

Only last week, they showed their diplomatic skill by getting the Russians and the Chinese to stall a move in the United Nations Security Council to pressure them.

The Europeans fancy they can try the Sinhalese for war crimes. What naivety!

We asked the Sinhalese in private many a time how they proposed to navigate their way in the coming period. They wouldn't divulge.

But we know that it is not as if they have no solution of their own to the Tamil problem, either. We know they already have a blueprint.

See, they have already solved the Tamil problem in the eastern provinces of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. The Tamils are no more the majority community in those provinces.

Similarly, from tomorrow, they will commence a concerted, steady colonisation programme of the northern provinces where Prabhakaran reigned supreme for two decades. They will ensure incrementally that the northern regions no more remain as Tamil provinces.

The Tamils will be made into a minority community in their own northern homelands. They will have to live among the newly created Sinhalese settlements in those regions to the north of Elephant Pass.

All this will indeed be within Sri Lanka's "federal structure". Sri Lanka will continue to adhere to parliamentary democracy.

Give them a decade at the most. The Tamil problem will become a relic of the bloody history of the Indian subcontinent.

The Sinhalese are good friends of India. Our elite and their elite speak the same idiom. We both speak good English, play golf and like chilled beer. We should, therefore, wish them well.

As for the blood on our hands, true, it is a nuisance. But this is not the first time in our history that we're having blood on our hands.

Trust our words. No lasting harm will be done. Blood doesn't leave stains.

(The writer is a former Indian diplomat who served in Sri Lanka in the 1980s)

M K Bhadrakumar