The rise and fall of Prabhakaran
By Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign
Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri
Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran’s
death circa May 19, 2009, in circumstances we will 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 realize 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 –
are 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 favorite Hindu god, Lord Ganesh,
for good luck each morning religiously so that 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.
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 Junius Richard 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 Monroe 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 prick on
Jayewardene’s vanities – like Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale of
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 Delhi who detested Jayewardene was no more in power
and the new soft-spoken leader didn’t share his predecessor’s strong
So, we arm-twisted Prabhakaran to tone down and fall in line with our
changed priorities. But we didn’t realize that by then he had become a
He resisted our blackmail and pressure tactics. 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
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 5,000
years of history? Our cosmic religion gives us a unique wisdom to be
patient and stoic 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 Prabhakaran 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 one of the last bastions 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 could they allow
us Indians who wiped out Buddhism with such ferocity from the
sub-continent 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.
(A tiny nation has the capacity to play one power against the other)
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. (Now they are trying their wits with Narendra Modi)
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
Somali pirates in distant seas, they are a highly focused lot. (They
are so thick skinned they will seize Modi’s invitation and be in Delhi
smiling, as if nothing had happened earlier)
They have the grit because they are fighting for the preservation of
their country’s future identity as a Buddhist nation. (So the driving
out of the Tamils and the Muslims from SL is justified)
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 (not UNHRC, Geneva) 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
colonization program 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. (Land grabs and
Sinhala colonisation is at the moment taking place at an exhilarate
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 sub-continent.
The Sinhalese are good friends of India. Our elite and their elite
speak the same idiom. We both speak English well, play golf and like
chilled beer. We should, therefore, wish them well. (They have already
started building friendship with BJP, but Modi doesn’t play golf or
drink beer; they will find a substitute.)
As for the blood on our hands, true, it is a blessed nuisance. But this
is not the first time in our history that we’re having blood on our
Trust our words. No lasting harm will be done. Blood doesn’t leave stains.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian
Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South
Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait