Rajiv Gandhi Assassination

Rajiv Gandhi Assassination and India's Anti-Tamil Actions in the Sri Lankan Civil War

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2008 (ID. 2008-04-01)
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OUTLINE

1. Background

2. A Critical Assessment

2.1 How Many Indians did Sri Lanka Kill?

2.2 Indian Soldiers in East Pakistan/Bangladesh (1971)

2.3 Indian Soldiers in Northeastern Sri Lanka (1987-1990)

2.4 Tamilnadu Fishermen (Current and Ongoing)

3. Concluding Remarks

Feedback

ABBREVIATIONS

LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

1. Background

Indian policies and actions in the ongoing ethnic war in Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been decidedly anti-Tamil in nature. Not only India provides military assistance to Sri Lanka [Reference 1] it also provides much needed financial assistance. Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a population of about 60 million and they are linguistically, culturally and ethnically tied to Sri Lankan Tamils. Whenever someone in Tamilnadu voices opposition to India's anti-Tamil policies, Indian government counters it by bringing up the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (presumably by Sri Lankan Tamil rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)). Thus Indian government justifies its support for the Sri Lankan military. For the purposes of this article, we will consider that LTTE was responsible for the assassination.

Is India using Rajiv Gandhi assassination merely as an excuse to justify its anti-Tamil actions? Let us examine it critically.

2. A Critical Assessment

2.1 How Many Indians did Sri Lanka Kill?

There are two sides to the Sri Lankan ethnic war--Sri Lankan military (the Sinhala/government side) and the LTTE (the Tamil side). Indian government repeatedly brings up Rajiv Gandhi assassination as its reason for supporting one side (the Sri Lankan military/government).

In the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination, eight people were killed. What about the other side? Has the Sri Lankan government done anything against India? Has it caused any deaths of Indian citizens? Let us examine.

2.2 Indian Soldiers in East Pakistan/Bangladesh (1971)

India and Pakistan fought a major war in 1971, primarily in East Pakistan (that later became Bangladesh). West and East Pakistan were not land-linked. They are separated by miles of Indian territory. Pakistan had to move military supplies and soldiers from West to East by going around the Indian peninsula. The only landmass on this circuitous route is Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka allowed Pakistani aircrafts to land and refuel in Sri Lanka. This is a decidedly anti-Indian action on the part of Sri Lanka. This is an unprovoked anti-Indian action because there were no quarrels or conflicts between India and Sri Lanka at that time. How many additional Indian soldiers died in the 1971 war because of this Sri Lankan action? 10, 20, 100? Whatever the number, are the lives of those Indian soldiers any cheaper than Rajiv Gandhi's life? Why those soldiers' lives were conveniently forgotten and India helping Sri Lanka?

2.3 Indian Soldiers in Northeastern Sri Lanka (1987-1990)

India sent its military into the Tamil region of Sri Lanka (northeastern Sri Lanka) in 1987 and stayed there until 1990 to enforce the India-Sri Lanka Peace Accord of 1987. Although Indian military captured territories held by LTTE, it was unable to destroy LTTE. The newly elected Sri Lankan President Premadasa started peace negotiations with LTTE and asked Indian military to leave immediately. India refused and said that it would leave at an unspecified later date. Angered by Indian refusal, Premadasa secretly supplied truckloads of weapons and ammunition to LTTE to fight the Indian military in northeastern Sri Lanka. LTTE and Indian military were at war with each other. Indian soldiers were killing LTTE and LTTE was killing Indian soldiers. Sri Lanka, while not fighting the Indian military openly as LTTE did, surreptitiously supplied weapons and ammunition to kill Indian soldiers. At the same time it was keeping "friendly" relations with India. 

How many additional Indian soldiers died because of Sri Lankan weapons? 10, 20, 100, 200? Whatever the number, are the lives of those Indian soldiers any cheaper than Rajiv Gandhi's life? Why those soldiers' lives were conveniently forgotten and India helping Sri Lanka?

2.4 Tamilnadu Fishermen (Current and Ongoing)

Even now Sri Lanka is killing Indian citizens. Sri Lankan Navy is shooting and killing Tamil Nadu fishermen for over a decade. Death count is well over 100. The latest killing, as of this writing (March 2008), was in February 2008. Are these hundred plus lives of Tamil Nadu fishermen any cheaper than Rajiv Gandhi's life?

3. Concluding Remarks

India justifies its military and financial support to the Sri Lankan government in its war with Tamil freedom fighters (LTTE) on the basis of the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by LTTE. In our opinion this is merely an excuse to pacify protests in Tamilnadu opposing its actions. If India's actions are based on lost Indian lives, let us look at the balance sheet. Presuming LTTE was responsible for Rajiv Gandhi assassination, total number of Indian lives lost during the assassination is 8. So death count due to LTTE actions is 8.

What about the death count from Sri Lankan actions? As described in Sections 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4, Sri Lanka is responsible for the death of dozens (may be, hundreds) of Indian soldiers and over one hundred Tamilnadu fishermen. If lost Indian lives is the criterion for supporting one side or the other in the Sri Lankan ethnic war, then India should not be supporting the Sri Lankan government. Both sides, Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, are responsible for Indian deaths, then why support one side even though that side is responsible for more deaths? Indian government and Congress Party repeatedly bringing up Rajiv Gandhi assassination to justify its support for Sri Lanka is thus an empty excuse. Real reason is that Indian government does not want Tamil people getting any type of self-rule either as an independent country or as a province in a truly federal Sri Lanka with maximum devolution. They cannot tell this real reason to the people of Tamil Nadu. That is why Rajiv Gandhi assassination is used as a convenient excuse for its anti-Tamil actions.

Is Rajiv Gandhi's life more important than the lives of all those Indian soldiers who died because of Sri Lanka's anti-Indian actions? Will the Indian government dare to say that to Indian soldiers currently stationed in its northern borders facing enemy guns? Is Rajiv Gandhi's life more important than the lives of over one hundred Tamilnadu fishermen killed by Sri Lankan Navy? Will the Indian government say that face to face to the grieving widows, parents and children of the fishermen?

(Nalankilli - Nalangkilli)

FEEDBACK

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2008 (ID. 2008-06-f1-a-x)

You state that Sri Lankan government is responsible for the deaths of scores or hundreds of Indian soldiers. I will grant you that point but you conveniently leave out the hundreds of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) soldiers that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killed between 1987 and 1990. What do you say to that?

M. Perera
May 3, 2008

Author's Response

Yes, LTTE did kill hundreds of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) soldiers between 1987 and 1990. What was the context? There was a war between IPKF and LTTE. Indian army was killing LTTE cadres using its army, air force and navy. LTTE fought back. LTTE did not come to Indian soil to fight the Indian army, it was India that sent its military to their soil to fight them. I also want to point out that it was LTTE blood that was spilled first. It was IPKF that fired the first shot. IPKF killed more LTTE fighters than Indian losses. In addition, IPKF also killed hundreds of Tamil civilians.

India was never at war with Sri Lanka. India never killed a Sri Lankan soldier. What Sri Lanka did was stabbing in the back while outwardly having cordial relations (see Sections 2.2 and 2.3 of the article).

REFERENCES

1.Indian Duplicity in Military Aid to Sri Lanka as Impotent Tamil Nadu Watches: Part I (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2007 (16 KB) (te)

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