India’s role in the rise of LTTE

Last Updated: Tue, May 31, 2011 21:27 hrs

In the third part of our interview with Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias KP, the LTTE leader talks about the complex relationship between India and the LTTE – One that was shattered beyond repair after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Excerpts:

Part I - Forget UN report, give us food: LTTE leader KP


Part II - 'The Tamil Eelam dream died with Prabhakaran'



How do you look back at the Indian involvement with the LTTE?

In 1980, during Indira Gandhi’s period at the time of the Cold War, Sri Lanka was close to America.
India and the former USSR had a strong alliance. So, when our issue flared up, Indira Gandhi put the hand on that

What do you mean by “Put the hand”?

At that time, Narashimha Rao was the foreign minister. The Diaspora Tamils met him, and the Thimpu Talks* (in Bhutan) with the Indian government followed. 

The Indian government had invited the Sri Lankan side and all the Tamil groups. But the talks failed.


Around that time, the Indian government gave military training to Tamil youth. So the LTTE had a military base in Tamil Nadu. All the four Tamil groups, very strong groups, were trained and armed by India.

Like I told you, this was the Cold War period and the international environment was such. During that time, it was Indira Gandhi’s idea that she may be able to escalate LTTE’s armed struggle to a certain level and use that as a negotiating leverage to settle the Tamil issue in a peaceful way. Unfortunately, she died before that could happen.

After that, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came. He was a modern leader and he was very quick with decisions. His approach was different. By then, RAW was heavily involved with all the Tamil groups.

At that time Chandrahasan**, SAV Selvanayagan’s son, had close links with the TELO***. So the misunderstanding between Prabhakaran and RAW had already started.

Then Sri Lankan President Jayawardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to sort out the issue. But again, the LTTE did not accept the proposals.
Rajiv Gandhi pushed it and LTTE reluctantly signed the India-Sri Lanka Accord. But in reality, the LTTE had internally rejected the agreement.

And then the IPKF came?

When IPKF came here, the LTTE still had cordial relations with India. But after that, there was a misunderstanding, and the LTTE started a war against the IPKF.

Can you tell us for once and for all: Did Prabhakaran plan the Rajiv Gandhi assassination?

Everyone knows who is involved in this murder.  Desavarajan, for example, was a member of LTTE’s intelligence wing headed by Pottu Aman.

Even from those who were arrested at that time, it was very clear who was behind the assassination. It was well planned and done with the concurrence of Prabhakaran and Pottu Aman. Everyone knows the truth.

I want to apologise to the Indian people, and especially the Gandhi family, for Prabhakaran’s mistake. Please forgive us. We beg you. Our people are struggling here. We feel the pain of the children of Rajiv Gandhi.

Are you asking the Indian government to engage with Sri Lanka in a manner that allows for a peaceful settlement, which gives a chance to Tamils in Sri Lanka to forget the past?

Exactly! 50 years ago, our people were first educationally and economically. Today, we are 50 years behind.

So the point is that Tamils in Sri Lanka should have the benefits of modern technology.

In your country, you will see the internet, computers everywhere. Here, if you go to Mulankavil in Vanni (Northern Sri Lanka), there are no facilities. Or in Mulaitivu. These regions are 50 years behind. I feel that our people should live as humans. They have already paid a high price and so they don’t have anything to lose.

Editor’s note: The *Thimpu Declaration comprised a set of four demands put forward by the Sri Lankan Tamil delegation at the first peace talks undertaken with respect to the Sri Lankan civil war. In July–August 1985, the Indian government organized peace talks in Thimpu, Bhutan aimed at bringing an end to the Sri Lankan civil war between Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups and the government of Sri Lanka.

The declaration stated:

  • It is our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the following four cardinal principles:
  • Recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation
  • Recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils of Ceylon
  • Recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation
  • Recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils of Ceylon

The Tamil delegation consisted of representatives from the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).

The Sri Lankan government rejected all but the last principle as they violated Sri Lanka's sovereignty.

** S C Chandrahasan is the son of S A V Selvanayagam, a Tamil leader who was known as the Mahatma Gandhi of Sri Lanka. After the island-nation’s ethnic conflict began in 1983, Chandrahasan founded the Organization for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation. He believes that Tamil militants, especially the LTTE, severely damaged the possibility of a federal solution which his father had enunciated.

*** The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) was a militant group campaigning for the cause of Tamil Eelam. By 1986, nearly 400 of its armed cadres were killed by the LTTE and the group was virtually wiped out. Its surviving members reorganized themselves as a political party. The TELO currently has two Members of Parliament. It is part of the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of Tamil parties which won 2.9 per cent of the popular vote and 14 out of 225 seats at the 2010 parliamentary election in Sri Lanka.

Part I - Forget UN report, give us food: LTTE leader KP

Part II - 'The Tamil Eelam dream died with Prabhakaran'