The recently released pictures of the former LTTE supremo’s son, Balachandran Prabhakaran, that suggest that he was cold-bloodedly shot dead at point blank range, has evoked predictably strong reactions across the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu. Only 12 years of age when he was shot five times in upper torso, Balachandran was no child soldier of the LTTE, which abducted and indoctrinated hundreds of children into brutality of Prabhakaran’s unending war. As the war entered its final stages, where the Sri Lankan Navy blockaded LTTE’s sea exits on the east and the troops were closing in from all sides, it became crystal clear to everybody that Prabhakaran would meet his end at Puthukkudiyiruppu or thereabouts. There was avid speculation if Prabhakaran would send his family across the Palk Straits to Tamil Nadu to relative safety. It still remains a mystery why he did not: there developed an unbridgeable distance between him and reason.
It was a strange situation. Prabhakaran received dubious encouragement from politicians his organisation had helped spawn that he should stand his ground and fight, and victory would surely be his. Perhaps Prabhakaran himself foolishly believed that he would remain unvanquished. The story of the final days of the war has not yet been told in its full atrocious detailing. But we know the LTTE was using Tamils as a human shield at gun point, and there were instances when rebels waved the white flag only to blow themselves up. We also knew that Colombo prevented enough humanitarian assistance from reaching the displaced Tamils. What mainly reached them via Colombo were the bombs that killed them, their women, their children. Thousands died collaterally-on-purpose when bombs fell indiscriminately on them from the air as they were forced to move from place to place at LTTE’s bidding and at gunpoint. Thousands perished in the last days of the war. They died horrible deaths either by bomb or by disease or by starvation.
Some of that blood surely is on the hands of the then ruling DMK and on our conscience as well. After that became obvious, the patriarch undertook a fast so token that it lasted from breakfast till lunch time at the Marina beach. It was clear to all that the DMK’s sympathy for the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka did not go beyond trite lip service rendered fitfully and episodically, like an amnesiac’s occasional lapse of memory. The DMK did not bother to exert sustained pressure on the Central government which, behind the scenes, was a central player guiding the climax as well as the denouement in the island. New Delhi drew no red lines for Colombo not to cross. In war against the secessionists, all Tamils in the north came to represent the LTTE. They were fair game. After all one Tamil less was one Tamil less. It was only after the fast that Colombo’s darkest hours in the campaign began, with the most gruesome events occurring in the next 22 days or so, the period in which Balachandran was no doubt executed. His death was probably one of the cleaner, more humane deaths, all things considered: no rape, no mutilation, just five bullets pumped into him—a minor atrocity at best.
New Delhi’s role during the heat of the conflict is questionable, not debatable. Will the publication of the picture of young Balachandran Prabhakaran now stir New Delhi into taking action? I think all of us know the answer, the DMK the most of all.