Sunday, 05th October 2014
By Camelia Nathaniel
India is one of the world’s most corrupt countries. When the Indian courts sentenced Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, to prison on September 27, 2014, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was hailed worldwide, for not interfering in the judicial process. Special Judge, John Michael D’Cunha, convicted the Chief Minister for owning Rs 66.65 crores (INR 100 Million = One Crore) of assets which included 2,000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and 12,000 saris – all of which were deemed as being disproportionate to her sources of income during her tenure at the Chief Minister during the period 1991-96. The judgment invoked fear in the minds of other corrupt politicians not only in India, but in the neighbourhood countries, including in Sri Lanka. The political non-interference in the judiciary demonstrated the promise and potential of India’s rise.
Sentenced to four years imprisonment and fined Rs 100 crore by the Special Court in Bangalore, Jayalalithaa is now in jail. Based on an Income Tax Department report, the 18-year-old disproportionate assets case was launched by Subramanian Swamy of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on August 20, 1996. Jayalalithaa’s aide, Sasikala Natarajan, her niece, Ilavarasi, and her nephew and foster son, Sudhakaran, were also sentenced to four years in jail and fined Rs 10 crores each.
The reaction in Sri Lanka to the verdict was mixed, given that the nation had suffered gravely due to Tamil Nadu politics. All Tamil Nadu politicians exploited the Sri Lankan issue – either to stay in power or to capture power. Jayalalithaa was no exception. However, unlike other Tamil Nadu politicians such as M.G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa took an anti-LTTE stand until the fight against the LTTE ended. Although Jayalalithaa was close to Ramachandran, she was cautious not to support the LTTE after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Having patronized the LTTE, Ramachandran had given the LTTE Indian Rupees 400 million in 1983, and facilitated the terrorists to build a vast support base in Tamil Nadu from that time onwards. Although Karunandhi had patronized rival LTTE groups, notably the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) in the 1980s, he turned pro-LTTE once he came to power in 1989. After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, the Indian security and intelligence services claimed that Karunandhi as the then chief minister, had turned a blind eye to the activities of the LTTE, and may have even assisted the terrorist group. The Centre dismissed Karunanidhi’s government for compromising Indian security, a charge he could not refute.
A former critic of the LTTE
Assuming office as Chief Minister soon after Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, Jayalalithaa dismantled the LTTE’s operations, openly, in the state. A Wikileaks report had stated that Jayalalithaa had ordered a senior official to do ‘whatever it takes to finish off the LTTE’ in Tamil Nadu, even if it required extrajudicial killings of LTTE associates in the state, according to a dispatch sent by the then US consul general in Chennai, Andrew T. Simkin. The cable further added that she is an “iron lady” and “even her fiercest critics acknowledge that Jayalalithaa’s aggressive approach went a long way towards pushing the LTTE out of Tamil Nadu.”
When the LTTE was defeated in May 2009, the then DMK leader, Karunanidhi, was the Chief Minister. His rival, the AIDMK leader, Jayalalithaa, was in the political opposition. In the lead up to the defeat of the LTTE, neither Karunanidhi nor Jayalalithaa had supported the LTTE. The DMK was allied with the then ruling party in India, the Congress Party, when Karunandhi came to power on May 13, 2006. When the LTTE was struggling to survive in the lead up to its defeat and destruction in 2009, none of the major parties in Tamil Nadu or in the Centre had supported the LTTE. However, in the lead up to Tamil Nadu elections of 2011, all the parties had tried to use the Sri Lanka issue as a political football.
Jayalalithaa had turned anti-Sri Lankan government to obtain the support of the Tamil Nadu public. As the then ruling party of India was the Congress Party, Karunanidhi’s ally, Jayalalithaa, had turned anti-Congress. Even after Jayalalithaa had defeated Karunanidhi in the May 16 elections, she had remained hostile towards the Sri Lankan government. In her pursuit to become a champion of the Tamil cause, Jayalalithaa had supported the LTTE’s propaganda. Through its front organizations in Canada, US, Europe and Australia, the LTTE had funded Jayalalithaa’s close associates. They played a key role not only in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council in presenting a distorted version of what had happened in Sri Lanka but also in Chennai and in New Delhi.
A resolution was passed by the Tamil Nadu State Legislative Council against Sri Lanka on March 27, 2013 urging the Indian government to slap economic sanctions on Sri Lanka, and demand for the formation of a separate state for the Tamils. Reflecting the massive propaganda campaign by the LTTE activists in Tamil Nadu, the resolution which was proposed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, was unanimously passed at the Assembly. The resolution that was crafted by the LTTE activists demanded the formation of a separate state in Sri Lanka, through the means of a referendum by a resolution at the UN Security Council which should be conducted among Tamils in Sri Lanka and other displaced Tamils across the world. The resolution also called on the Indian government to stop considering Sri Lanka as a ‘friendly country’ and impose economic sanctions, as well as calling for an international inquiry into ‘genocide and war crimes’ against Sri Lankan Tamils, the exact words the LTTE had used.
Some of the atrocities committed
Jayalalithaa had failed to act as the LTTE through their front organisations in the West, that had hitherto funded terrorism in Sri Lanka, had infiltrated deeper into the Tamil Nadu political structure, and society. In Tamil Nadu, the LTTE had instigated students to protest, incited attacks on pilgrims, as well as attacks on Buddhist monks. Furthermore, Jayalalithaa’s complacency had led to a continuation of attacks in Tamil Nadu until Sri Lanka had issued a travel advisory and had threatened to shift the office of the Deputy High Commissioner from Chennai. The most visible attacks were:
September 2011: The Maha Bodhi Society office in Chennai was vandalized by the Naam Thamizhar Group.
January 10, 2012: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cousin’s husband, Thirukumuran Nadesan, was attacked by MDMK activists while coming out of a temple in Rameshwaram.
September 2012: 184 Sri Lankan pilgrims visiting churches in Velankanni and Poondi Matha were attacked by pro-Eelam groups and had to be evacuated by a special flight operated by Mihin Lanka.
7 February 2013: The Bank of Ceylon Branch in Chennai was attacked by a mob of 15 people.
March 2013: Mihin Lanka sales office in Madurai was attacked by pro-Tamil Naam Thamizhar Group.
16 March 2013: A Sri Lankan Buddhist priest who was a student of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), was attacked by a group of Tamil political activists while visiting the Thanjavur temple complex. Later, three buses carrying the priest and the rest of the students to the Tiruchirapalli airport were attacked by Tamil outfits.
18 March 2013: A group of men attacked a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk who was on a pilgrimage at the Chennai Central Railway Station.
The depths to which Tamil Nadu politicians had sunk to remain in power or capture power, had shocked many Indians. In February 2014, Jayalalithaa attempted to free Rajiv Gandhi’s killers. After the Supreme Court had commuted the death sentences of three convicts, the General Secretary of the pro-LTTE Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, V. Gopalasamy, alias Vaiko, had said: “This is a great victory and we now appeal for the release of those in jail.” The next morning, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa, had announced that all seven convicts serving a life term for being involved in the assassination would be released. Despite his alliance with the DMK, in an interview to NDTV, Karunanidhi had called the LTTE chief, V. Prabhakaran, a “good friend.”
Under Jayalalithaa’s watch, the LTTE had re-infiltrated Tamil Nadu from the West, built a dozen cells and had commenced training in handling explosives. The terrorist cell led by Deivihan, staffed by Appan and Gopi, was located in Tamil Nadu. Terrorist activists from its front groups had visited Tamil Nadu and had met with corrupt politicians. As Tamil Nadu parties are among the most corrupt in India, the LTTE had successfully infiltrated them and had attempted to revive the LTTE in the state. Tamil Nadu remains an important base of operations for the LTTE to revive the terrorist movement in Sri Lanka since its defeat in May 2009.
At a political level, Jayalalithaa was repeatedly approached by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), but she had remained cautious. Unlike other Tamil Nadu leaders, Jayalalithaa did not entertain them openly. In contrast, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had met with a delegation of the TNA in New Delhi on August 23, 2014. The six-member delegation comprised the then leader, R. Sampanthan, Mavai S. Senathirajah, K. (Suresh) Premachandran, P. Selvarajah, Selvam Adaikkalanathan and M.A. Sumanthiran.
With Jayalalithaa being incarcerated, the LTTE and its front organisations will look for other political figures they can manipulate in Tamil Nadu. With the end of the Sri Lankan conflict, a segment of the TNA politicians still entertained ideas of separatism. Unprincipled politicians such as Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi had played cheap politics by entertaining separatists to destabilize Sri Lanka. What the LTTE had failed to obtain through threats and violence, the TNA had wanted to acquire with the help of Tamil Nadu politicians, through deception and divisive politics. The pro-LTTE elements of the TNA still maintain links with LTTE leaders and their front groups overseas, and they are determined to build more Tamil Nadu support. Many were seen rubbing shoulders at events organized by pro-LTTE groups from Geneva to Chennai, and conspiring about ways and means to seek revenge from the Sri Lankan regime for eliminating the LTTE.