February 5, 2006AsideForeign Affairs

Sunday Levity: Prabhakaran’s fast

The radios were returned too soon

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Writing of India’s attempts to get both sides of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict to compromise, J N Dixit recounts an incident when the Indian government decided to send a signal to the LTTEs Velupillai Prabhakaran that he cannot take India support for granted’. It was 1986, and the LTTEs operational base was located in Madras.

In a surprise move, the Tamil Nadu police was instructed to capture all the communication equipment of Tamil militant groups, especially the LTTE. This was done and Prabhakaran went on a fast.

This generated tension in Tamil Nadu, with everybody disclaiming responsibility for having taken the initiative to clip the winfs of the LTTE. (India’s Minister of State for Internal Security) P Chidambaram, came out with a statement that the action was taken without consulting the Central government. The Tamil Nadu state government was annoyed with this and returned the equipment to Prabhakaran, persuading him to break his fast. But the more significant political consequence…was Prabhakaran’s realisation that he could not expect unqualified support from Tamil Nadu authorities or the Government of India. He commenced shifting his operational based from Madras to Jaffna by the middle of December 1986.

An anecdote related to Prabhakaran’s fast revealed his personality traits. A Tamil journalist asked him at the time of his breaking the fast as to what his main worry was when he was fasting. Prabhakaran replied that his main worry was that his trigger” finger would become weak due to lack of nutrition, affecting his shooting capacities. [J N Dixit/Assignment Colombo]



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