Terror unleashed on Tiger supporters in North-East

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Terror is not  the sole monopoly of a single entity. Violence does not continue
according to a predictable pattern at all times. In the memorable words uttered
by Malcolm X when John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963  "the chickens
have come home to roost"- Yet Malcolm X too was killed a short while after.
What goes around truly comes around.

It is now the turn of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to learn the bitter
lesson about the cycle of violence and terror. For a very long time the tigers
instilled fear into the hearts and minds of their opponents and the Tamil people
at large through selective violence and systematic terror. They were thus able
to impose themselves upon the Tamil people as the self - appointed sole
representatives of the Tamil people.

Now the LTTE is at the receiving end of violence and terror, directly in the East
and  somewhat indirectly in the North. In the east the process began after the
Karuna revolt. Initially the LTTE was cruelly arrogant. Despite well - meaning
advice to the contrary the mainstream tigers unleashed violence on Karuna
cadres and their supporters. Initialy they thought they had won. But things
changed.

Members of the Karuna faction began fighting back. The "clandestine" agencies
of the state were ever ready to embrace the Karuna cadres. In spite of many
denials by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga it was an open secret that
the Karuna cadres were receiving patronage, protection, sustenance and
support from the state. The violence of the LTTE was challenged by the counter
- violence of the renegades.

Today the LTTE movement in the East has been severely curtailed. The tigers
are restricted to certain areas in the Western region only. Moreover the hunted
have become the hunters. The Karuna faction goes in search of the LTTE and
its supporters and kills them. Statements are made proudly about ambushes
inflicting losses on the LTTE.

The shadow war of the East has moved to the North too. It was this column
which first  highlighted this fact when Kopay Christian College Principal Nadaraja
Sivakadatcham was shot dead by alleged EPDP cadres. The stealth war had
actually started a little earlier in the North when some tiger supporters like a
video shop owner in Uduvil were killed.

This violence targeting tiger supporters and sympathisers continued with those
involved in Great heroes day celebrations being targeted. When two such
persons were killed in Neervely the LTTE retailiated with what it termed the
Makkal yutham or peoples war. In a combination of Palestine style Intifada and
Iraqi resistance  hostile violence against the security forces was stepped up.

Security vehicles were landmined; RPG 's were fired. Bombs and grenades were
thrown. Soldiers were shot at. Parallel to these developments hartals,
demonstrations, stone throwing etc were also conducted. All these were done in
the name of the people. An umbrella front called" Pongiyelum  Makkal Padai" or
"Resurgent  Peoples force" claimed credit in the name of the people.

The LTTE disclaimed responsibility and insisted tongue - in - cheek that the
people were rising up in protest. It was an open secret that the LTTE was
responsible for instigating and promoting the violence through overt and covert
logistical support. It was even known that some acts were perpetrated by tiger
cadres themselves. The claymore mine attacks being good examples. Yet the
tigers persisted with the flimsy explanation that it was the people and not
themselves engaging in violence.

The tigers had extensively publicised the arms training given by them to Tamil
civilians. The actual extent of the training is not known. But now the tigers
projected the viewpoint that the people so trained were revolting against the
army presence in Jaffna. It was the people who were demanding that the
security forces should quit or would be made to quit Jaffna. (Velieru allathu
velietruvom".)

What the tigers were doing was unbelievable in the annals of guerilla warfare.
According to Mao the guerillas are among the people like fish in the ocean. But
the here the fish was taking nipping the "enemy" and blaming the ocean for
it.The so called liberation fighters were blaming the people for whose sake they
were claiming to fight as being responsible.

It has been the practice in the past for the security forces to kill civilians and
then say they were tigers. This in turn was hotly disputed.It has also been the
practice to inflict collective punishment upon the people in retaliation for tiger
violence. The people were asked very unjustly to bear vicarious responsibility.
Draconian legislation like the PTA reversed the presumption of innocence until
proven guilty dictum and held that all arrested Tamils were guilty unless proven
innocent.

All these unjust acts of omission and commission by the state were resisted
strongly by Tamils and sympathetic human rights activists.But now the LTTE
was handing over the Tamil people of Jaffna to the security forces on a platter.
The claim that the people were responsible for the violence and the declaration
that the "people were the tigers and the tigers were the people" made every
civilian vulnerable. The distinction between combatant and civilian was being
blurred not by the "enemy " but by the so called protectors of the Tamil nation.It
was now open season on Tamil civilians.

The LTTE may have thought that raising the level of violence against the
security forces in Jaffna and elsewhere would have pressurised the state to
bend but the tigers were mistaken. The head of state was not Chandrika
Kumaratunga or Ranil Wickremasinghe but Mahinda Rajapakse. The people
around him were hawkish hardliners like Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Sarath
Fonseka, Gorhabaya Rajapakse, HMG Kotakadeniya etc. The attitude was in
the Mosaic tradition. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

With the "guerilla fish" stating the "ocean" was responsible for the violence the
logical option was to drain the ocean out. Besides there was another angle. The
LTTE by pre- maturely escalating violence in the name of the people had
revealed what could have been their trump card - the presence of a fifth
column. The "peoples force" behind enemy lines in Jaffna could have easily
commenced a coordinated campaign against security forces if and when open
war began. They could have conducted many ambushes wreaking havoc in the
rear.

But now the security forces were alerted to the potential danger. The fifth
column threat had to be eliminated or minimised. It was going to be a case of
fighting fire with fire. Terror was to be met with terror. If the tigers had the civilian
militia the state too had an ace up its sleeve - the non - tiger groups derisively
called paramilitary by the LTTE.  An insidious yet effective politico - military  
counter - strategy was devised.

The Rajapakse regime was not going to play into the hands of the LTTE by
declaring open war. Overtly the government was going to publicise the tiger -
inspired violence and solicit international sympathy. Rajapakse would
repeatedly request the LTTE to come for talks in statesmanlike fashion. But
covertly the stealth war against the LTTE was to be intensified and accelerated.
Since "known" tiger cadres had retreated from Government controlled areas
those suspected of being tiger intelligence or pistol groups along with
supporters and suspected supporters were to be targeted.

The actual "dirty work" was to be done by members of Tamil groups but with
support rendered by security forces. Members of five groups have been
enlisted for the purpose. Cadres of the EPDP, ENDLF, remnants of the PLOTE
MOhan group, members of the EPRLF "Razeek" group and also members of the
Eastern Karuna faction have been deployed on this campaign of violence. It is
alleged that cabinet minister Douglas Devananda bears "unofficial"
responsibility for those involved in the operation.All financial dealings are
through the EPDP it is alleged.

Apart from regular payment an incentive scheme based on the quality and
quantity of operations carried out has also been introduced. The assassins
work according to instructions given by military intelligence handlers. The goon
squads are housed in military camps on a rotational basis. Lists of suspected
tigers or tiger supporters are being targeted. It is a case of "crying Havoc" and
"let slip the dogs of war".

December 2005 and Jan 2006 has seen a massive rise in the violence against
those perceived to be tiger or pro - tiger in the peninsula. At the same time tiger
violence also continues in Jaffna. But while LTTE inspired violence has been
progressively decreasing levels of anti - tiger violence  has been rapidly
increasing. Unfortunately for the tigers all violence committed in their name gets
ample publicity but the terror unleashed against tiger supporters does not get
adequate publicity. Ironically sections of the media portray such violence as
being committed by the tigers themselves. The EPDP media play a big role in
distorting reality in this respect.

Members of the security forces are also involved as accomplices in many of the
abductions, disappearances and killings. A striking feature in the attire of some
soldiers in the north is the wearing of black cloth or "balaclavas" covering their
faces. The reason given is that they are wearing these to get "protection from
dust".It is funny that after being in Jaffna for decades the  soldiers have only
now discovered the need to seek protection from the dust. Whatever the
excuses the reality is that balaclavas help disguise identities of soldiers. This
balaclava phenomenon adds to Tamil fears in Jaffna.

There is clear evidence in many cases of security force complicity in the killings
and abductions. Tamil goondas are able to move about freely through areas
saturated with security force personnel and carry out their operations. Soldiers
are very often present at scenes of violence to see that no one intereferes with
the perpetrators. In some instances a collaborative effort where  Tamil goons do
the actual shooting while Sinhala soldiers look on approvingly also takes place.

Unaware perhaps that state terror is being  unleashed  on perceived "tiger"
targets in Jaffna the International community showers praise on President
Rajapakse and the armed forces. Mahinda is being commended for his restraint
and patience.While Rajapakse basks in this undeserved glory the killings and
disappearances continue in the North.As is usual in situations of this sort many
of those victimised are totally innocent without any tiger links. Some are related
to tigers or tiger martyrs. Others have some connection flimsy at the most with
the LTTE.

The notorious "vellai van" or white van spectre rides the streets of Jaffna. These
vehicles are with tinted wndows an unmarked number plates. People are
abducted and pushed into these vehicles. The vehicles have no problems with
the Police or Army when going on roads. People who are taken in this way are
not heard of thereafter. When relatives go to the Police or Army they are told
that there is no record of their arrests. At least 23 complaints of disappearances
have been registered with authorities so far in Jaffna. There are more cases not
reported yet.

One example of people being taken away in this manner was the incident at
Point Pedro.30 year old Narayanamoorthy Kandeepan and 28 year old
Thambiah Tharmasiri are employees of the Danish de - mining agency .
Tharmasiri is married to Kandeepans sister and both stayed together at Power
house road in Odaikkarai, Point Pedro. They left on Jan 11th for work on
Kandeepan's motor cycle at 5. 30 am as usual.

After some time people of the area came to the family home and said the two
were seen being bundled into a white van manned by youths speaking Tamil.
The motor cycle was put into an army truck. The incident happened near the
Odakkarai - VB road junction. The residents also discovered ID cards at the
scene. The Police and Army deny any record of arrest and are unable to give
out any details. Apparently the abduction was a  security force - Tamil group  
joint operation.

In another instance 21 year old Balakrishnan Rajeevmohan of Ilavalai was
abducted on Jan 9th. The youth had been working for 20 months at Doha and
returned home four weeks ago after losing his job. He was worried about that
and the future.Some Tamil youths jumped over the padlocked gate at night and
banged on the door asking it be opened . When the mother hesitantly opened
they barged in and soon dragged Rajeevmohan out.

They ordered the padlocked gate be opened and assaulted the father for
fumbling with the key. The abducted youth was pushed into a white van. Fan
which sped off. Family members saw about 25 soldiers wearing balaclava
crouched against the outer compound wall. They cheered loudly in Sinhala and
got into two parked vehicles and took off. There is an army camp only 100
metres away from the house. When family members complained the security
forces feigned ignorance of the incident and suggested that the youth may have
joined the LTTE.

A gruesome incident was the shooting of five family members at an incident in
ManipayOn Jan 14th Thai Pongal dau  in which three women died.56 year old
Nagendran Bhojan with his family  had  been living at 17 Kanagasabai mudali
street at Manipay. The family was originally from Kollankaladdy but had moved
to Manipay after they were evicted from the ancestral home because of the High
security zone extension. One of  the Bhojan children was a tiger martyr.

Bhojan was a Scout Commissioner in the district and had worked many years for
St. Johns Ambulance prior to retirement.His wife Arthanareeswary 51 as well as
daughters Renuka (30) and Shannuka (23) were all old students of Mahajana
College at Thellipalai.Renuka a B Com graduate was teaching at Thivyabharathi
Vidyalayam school in Manipay.She had been registered in marriage three
weeks ago before the shooting.

Shannuka was an undergraduate. She had also acted in films and plays
produced by the LTTE films and drama division. Her brother Ullasan (26) was a
maths teacher at Jaffna Central College. The Bhojan family was English
educated and regarded as being sympathisers of the LTTE.

The family from the upper floor of their two - storeyed house had seen many
soldiers standing in front of their gate for nearly two hours in the night. Naturally
they were worried.The soldiers left at about 10 pm. The relieved family knocked
lights off and were just settling in for slumber when around nine or ten armed
Tamil youths jumped over the gate and banged on the door. When the father
and son opened the door they were asked at gun point to sit down . The
younger daughter Shanukka then came to the door  and was shot dead. The
assassins then entered the house and sprayed bullets at Renuka and her
mother Arthanareeswary. The new son in law crouched under the bed in
darkness and was saved.

While leaving the assassins fired at the father and son. Bhojan received bullets
in his thigh and knee and slumped. Ullasan shot in the waist yried to get up and
run. He was fired upon and brought down. After the assassins left few
neighbours were brave enough to venture out. Besides there were army
checkposts at both ends of the road. No one was prepared to take the shot
people to the hospital. All three women were dead while the bleeding males
were alive still. Finally Bhojan used his St. Johns Ambulance contacts to get an
ambulance down after two hours.

Word began spreading in Jaffna that the Bhojans were killed by the EPDP.
LTTE political chief for Jaffna Ilamparithy issued a statement to that effect. The
EPDP denied responsibility and accused the LTTE of killing them. The EPDP
charged first that the Bhojans due to their English proficiency had aroused tiger
suspicion. They then changed the story and said that the Bhojans being a
Great hero family was asked to relocate to the Wanni by the LTTE but had
refused and so were killed.The EPDP also discovered that the Bhojans were
related to former EPDP Parliamentarian and Palmyra board chairman
Sivathasan and highlighted the fact. Few believed the EPDP denial.

In another incident at Katkovalam in Point Pedro on Jan 6th 27 year old
Aiyathurai Bhaskaran was shot dead at his house. The 27 year old fisherman
cum mason had been arrested twice in 1997 and 1999 as a tiger suspect . He
had been released after interogation with torture. He had married in 1999 and
had two children. He was from Kudathanai but had moved here after the
tsunami.

His home was searched from 5 to 9. 30 pm  and Bhaskaran  too was intensely
grilled. The security forces left and the family went to sleep with the idea of
moving to the Wanni for safety. At 11 pm someone called out to Baskaran. He
went out to see gun toting Tamil goondas at the door. Realising what lay in
store Baskaran began pleading. His wife too begged the killer squad. The
interlopers asked Baskaran to state his last wish. He said he wanted to see his
children. The killers asked the weeping wife to go and bring the children. Even
as she went in there were shots and her husband lay in a pool of blood.

When people of the area tried to go to the house they found their way blocked
by security forces. Vehicle drivers were prohibited to take Bhaskaran to the
hospital. He died in a few hours. The family and neighbours were threatened
with death if the truth was told about the killing. So the frightened wife told the
magistrate at the inquest that she only heard the shots and saw her husband
lying dead.

The list of Tamil victims having or suspected of having LTTE connections is
long. There are the two barbers Ganesharatnam and Krishnan of Kaithady.
Both were related to SP Thamilselvan and had often boasted of their LTTE
connections. They were killed by assassins in a three - wheeler as they were
cycling home from work. There is the case of a 15 year old student in
Kodikamam who resisted the killers aiming to assassinate his ex - tiger brother
in law. There is the case of another 17 year old student at Chuttipuram who
stayed behind to continue his studies though his family had left for Kilinochchi in
fear because another son was a tiger martyr. The boy was shot dead on the
road as he cycled home from class.

Another set of targets are Tamil businessmen with LTTE sympathies or
connections. Many such persons have been killed in Kayts, Chavakachcheri ,
Kopay etc. Targeted Tamil businessmen are first asked for money by EPDP
members. Those who pay up are spared but those who refuse to pay up are
killed. In one incident a businessman was killed at the Chavakachcheri market.
Though there are checkpoints all around the area and a base camp is only
about 200 metres way there was a "mysterious" absence of security personnel
in the vicinity when the goondas opened fire.

So terror spreads in Jaffna as the EPDP led assassins go about killing tiger
supporters with vengeful glee. The wheel has turned full cycle. The very same
EPDP that spoke about human rights when the LTTE was killing them is now
violating the rights of perceived LTTE supporters mercilessly. The very same
LTTE which arrogantly dismissed remonstration from human rights activists
when they were dishing out death are now extremely concerned about human
rights after being at the receiving end.

The cumulative effect of all these has been the mass relocation - through fear -
of tiger or tiger martyr families to the Wanni. At least 3500 families have fled in
the last two weeks. Another 1200 families in Trincomalee and 200 families from
Mannar have also siught refuge in Kilinochchi. The violence  though deplorable
has taught the LTTE a bitter lesson that the state can inflict terror too.

LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham has announced in Kilinochchi that the
leader "climbed down" and provided Mahinda Rajapakse with another chance
for peace only to end the violence against the Tamil people.Bala  said the
violence against the Tamil people must stop if the talks are to start in Geneva.
This assertion shows that the state must restrain its "running dogs" and curtail
the state terror if a dialogue is to be resumed. Unless this is done the talks wont
get off the ground. Even if talks do start they are doomed to fail unless the
violence ends.
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