What is a terrorist group? Was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a terrorist group? What factors drive common people to take up arms? Did the minority pay the price for what was truly their right? Where is the line between terrorism and fanaticism drawn?
Well, what happened in Sri Lanka answers the above queries. The belief that the Tamils needed a better life, means to livelihood, were denied their basic needs and had to fight for them was what the war was about. Necessity became fanaticism and escalated to terrorism.
Fact 1: In Sri Lanka, ethnic divide was building up from pre-independence times on the basis of education, language, politics, employment and land. Laws were introduced to make Sinhalese the official language and also the medium of education in schools. Government services required knowledge in Sinhalese, rendering many Tamils jobless, as early as 1949.
The Tamils occupied the Northern Province to a large extent, and parts of the Eastern Province. The Official Languages Act of 1956 reinforced the usage of Sinhalese as the Official language. People were also divided on the basis of Buddhism, Hinduism, Muslim and Christianity.
The Sinhalese educated rural people did not get their much awaited power, status and cultural independence even after their country became free of colonial rule in 1948.
Fact 2: The Indo-Ceylon Agreement of 1964 saw the repatriation of about three hundred and fifty thousand Tamils to India. The government of Ceylon conferred citizenship to the remaining six hundred fifty odd Tamils, reducing their electoral leverage.
Sincere efforts were made by Tamils to get their dues, by way of talks, negotiations and signed agreements. The Sinhalese did not keep up their end of the bargain. Tamils were forced out of their homes, women raped and children left to fend for themselves in all the mess. Tamils were pushed to the Northern Province from the rest of Sri Lanka.
Fact 3: Mr. Chelvanayagam, in the 1950s advocated federalism and a non-violent movement for Tamil freedom. This movement evolved to Tamil Aracu Katcchi, a party for voicing concerns of the Tamils. Peaceful measures adopted were met with violence by the State, thus provoking the Tamils. The Sinhala language and people came to stay. The State sponsored anti-Tamil programs. This was the state of affairs by the year 1958.
Fact 4: When all non-violent measures by the Tamils were ignored, they took up arms and formed the LTTE or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on May 5th, 1976 under the leadership of V. Prabhakaran. The Tamil Students Movement was formed in 1970 to protest against discrimination of students in university admissions. Many more groups were formed to attack the government. What began as a right, took demonic proportions. War began.
Fact 5: The Tamils wanted a separate state consisting of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The first Eelam War started in 1983. Peace talks in 1985 between the Government and the LTTE failed.
Fact 6: The Second Eelam War was fought in 1990. Sri Lankan President Premadasa was killed by an LTTE bomb attack in 1993.
Fact 7: In 1995, the Third Eelam War began after peace talks with President Kumaratunga failed and the rebels sank a naval craft. The war continued till 2001. In 2002, ceasefire was mediated and it held till 2004. The Tsunami in 2004 devastated the coastal regions of Sri Lanka.
Fact 8: Violence began again in 2006, military resorted to air strikes. Government drove Tamil Tigers out of the Eastern Province. Peace talks in Geneva failed.
Fact 9: In June 2007, hundreds of Tamils were forced out of the Capital by the government, citing security reasons. In January 2008, government launched massive attacks. Human rights were violated. Thousands of Tamils were repeatedly subjected to humiliation, rape, torture, displacement, hunger and were taken prisoners of war. In May 2009, the LTTE Chief Prabhakaran was said to have died in the military attack, bringing an end to the war.
Fact 10: Eye witnesses recount the horrors of the 2009 genocide of Tamils. Scores of Tamils were killed, rendered homeless, made to flee the country, orphaned, widowed, kept behind barbed wire- fenced internments, Jaffna peninsula came to be called an open prison, lack of food, medicines, detention without trial, widespread abuses, forced starvation, use of chemical weapons were reported. International media was not allowed in the war zone.
In March 2012, the UN adopted a resolution urging the Sri Lankan government to investigate abuses during the final stage of the war with the LTTE.