Cho Ramaswamy, the editor of Thuglaq magazine, is one of the most respected political analysts in India.
Cho tells Shobha Warrier about the Sri Lankan crisis and the LTTE in his inimitable style.
Why do you think all political parties in Tamil Nadu are suddenly interested in the Sri Lankan Tamils?
It all started with the Communists. They didn't have any particular platform here, and they know that the nuclear deal issue was not going to reach the people. They have been supporting the DMK government and the centre all along. So, this issue came in handy for them as they were in search of a platform. They thought it was a great blessing.
J Jayalalitha immediately issued a statement condemning the attitude of the centre and the state government. Vaiko has been doing it in and out of season. To get better than Vaiko, Ramdoss spoke about it. So, Karunanidhi didn't want to be left out. After all, he calls himself the leader of Tamils wherever they live. To maintain that facade, he had to do something. That is why he is doing all this.
If he was so seriously concerned about the issue, he would have resigned and asked for the dissolution of the assembly and said, I am going to the people. He didn't do that.
We are also aware that the Congress was also a party to the state resolution. No one would have imagined that the Congress MLAs would threaten to pull the central government down!
Do you think there is sympathy for the LTTE among the people in Tamil Nadu?
There is no sympathy for the LTTE in Tamil Nadu. There may be sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamils but it will not go the extent of the people here accepting it as an election issue. The people will not vote on it.
To what extent are they sympathetic to the Sri Lankan Tamils?
They would like the Sri Lankan Tamils to live in peace first and with equal right to the Sinhalese. That anybody would. Even I, a vehement critic of the LTTE and also very much against the Centre intervening the military action against the LTTE, have been saying that the Indo-Sri Lankan accord must be implemented in full by Sri Lanka.
It ensures that the Tamils will have their provincial governments, and that they will have equal rights with the Sinhalese, and they will live in peace. It is a wonderful thing to happen. Unfortunately, it is again the Tigers who spoiled the Indo-Sri Lankan accord.
Do you expect the Sri Lankan military to capture the areas dominated by the LTTE? The Sri Lankan government says, they will do it soon. But when I spoke to Pazha Nedumaran, he said, they were bluffing...
It is a war-like situation there. In such situations, both sides indulge in propaganda. You don't get news; you get only propaganda. So, you cannot take the claims by the Sri Lankan government or the LTTE on face value. The truth may be somewhere in between. Or, one side may be right or wrong but we do not know.
The fact is the military is advancing. The fact is the LTTE is losing but this kind of situation was there earlier also. The military captured Jaffna but that was not the end of the matter. I do not know what is the situation there. So, I am not ready to say the military has an upper hand, and the LTTE is losing though I would like that to happen.
How much has the international ban affected the LTTE?
It has affected the LTTE. It has become difficult for them to obtain funds and arms.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa says there will be a political solution once they capture the north. Do you believe him?
The LTTE is supposed to be working for the interest of the Tamil people there but it is not so. But at least they are there as representatives. They have wiped out all other representatives of the Tamils. All moderate leaders, all militant leaders, academics have been wiped out by the LTTE and not by the Sri Lankan government. They have killed thousands of Tamils. They did it because they wanted to be the sole representatives of the Tamils. To a great extent, they have achieved it.
So, when the LTTE is almost crushed and immobilised militarily -- I will not use the term exterminated because they have been there for a long time -- India must intervene. In such a situation, the Sri Lankan Tamils may be left without a champion there.
India must intervene and apply enough pressure to see that the Sri Lankan government implements the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayawardene accord fully. There must be a federal set up ultimately in Sri Lanka like in India, and the Tamils must have equal rights with the Sinhalese.
When India intervenes, what if Sri Lanka says it is an internal matter?
India has enough clout with them to achieve it. They said it earlier also. Ultimately one President asked for the Indian Peace Keeping Force.
How much do you think Karuna's exit has weakened the LTTE?
It has weakened the LTTE in the east, no doubt about it but not in the northern parts. The Sri Lankan government has managed to bring a provincial government there (in the east) with a Tamilian leading it in spite of the fact that there were not enough Tamil representatives in the forum. We have to give Rajapaksa credit for that.
If the political parties in Tamil Nadu were very serious about the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils, they would have applied pressure on Prabhakaran, on the LTTE to see to it that the Tamilians, in the areas attacked by the military go to other areas. Now, they are preventing it so that they will be used as human shields. It is also to show the plight of the civilians to the international community as evidence of the practice of genocide by Sri Lanka. It is not genocide.
Ananda Sangaree, the Tamil United Liberation Front leader after Amrutalingam, has issued a statement saying that it is ridiculous to call this a genocide. He has also said that it is the LTTE which is preventing the Tamils from moving to safer areas.
So, it is to the LTTE that the Tamil parties here should appeal, not to the Centre or to the Sri Lankan government.
Do they have enough hold on Prabhakaran to make such an appeal?
Do you think the parties here have no say with Prabhakaran? Except Jayalalitha's party and the Congress, all the others have a say with him; some like Vaiko, Thirumalvalavan and Ramadoss and the DMK more, and some less.
If they are really interested in the Tamils of Sri Lanka, they must say that. But if they are more interested in Prabhakaran than the Sri Lankan Tamils as such, this is the way they should go, and they are doing it.