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|December 9, 1997||
The Rediff Interview/K Mohandas
'Prabhakaran is more terrorist than patriot'
K Mohandas was arguably the second-most powerful man in Tamil Nadu during M G Ramachandran's tenure in power. Then the director general of police, Mohandas -- often described as "MGR's eyes and ears" and the only man ever to have arrested LTTE leader V Prabhakaran -- was an eyewitness to the Indian government's sponsorship of the Tamil Tigers.
Shobha Warrier spoke to this survivor of the MGR era, to find out more about the government-LTTE nexus, and the sordid events that led to the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.
It is said that sympathy for Sri Lankan Tamils started in Tamil Nadu during MGR’s period. You were then the topmost police officer. When did you realise that MGR was sympathetic to the Tamil militants?
It is not correct to say that MGR was sympathetic to Tamil militants. The political circumstances forced him to take an attitude in which he had to support the militants, particularly because of the attitude of the Government of India.
Does that mean the Centre was more sympathetic to Tamil militants than Tamil Nadu?
As I was chief of intelligence, Tamil Nadu from 1977 to 1986, I was in a rather privileged position to study and analyse the twists, turns and gyrations of India’s Sri Lankan policy, a policy which in all probability had a bearing on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The hallmark of India’s Sri Lankan policy, which was created at the time of Mrs Gandhi by her foreign policy advisors led by G Parthasarathy, was what I may call its ‘consistent inconsistency’. India first created the LTTE monster, then maintained it, and now seeks to destroy it.
Had MGR no hand in the policy?
At that time he had no hand in it. The policy was formulated by G Parthasarathy, chairman of the Planning Committee, and M K Rasgotra, the foreign secretary, reportedly based on inputs from the intelligence agencies, RAW and IB headed respectively by Girish Saxena, R K Kapoor, and their successors. I must tell you one thing, the intelligence agencies work in such a top secret fashion on such sensitive issues that there is little scope for documentary and or other evidence being left behind; they are normally destroyed. Anyway, let me say that it was a dual policy. Being committed to Sri Lanka’s integrity on the one hand and permitting training of militant groups on Indian soil on the other.
No wonder Rajiv Gandhi, while inheriting the policy, had reportedly said he had his own reservations about the inherent contradictions in the policy. He asked, how can we then charge Pakistan with helping militants in Punjab and Kashmir? But the policy advisors and intelligence agencies, who had vested interests in continuing the policy, blocked Rajiv Gandhi on some pretext or the other from putting the block back.
Who were the vested interests?
One: egoism of the top, behind the scene men. Two: when a person sets on a course, he is forced to continue the same line despite adverse factors arising during the course because he is afraid that his original stand may be questioned. Large unaudited finds are placed at the disposal of intelligence agencies for secret operations. There were reports in Indian Express dated 9th and 10th July 1992 that some members of Parliament had called for expenditure incurred by RAW to be sanctioned by a parliamentary intelligence committee in view of suspected embezzlement.
You said political circumstances forced MGR to take a supporting attitude to the Tamil militants. But that is not the general belief. What was his real attitude to militancy?
That is not a correct thing to say. MGR, like any other person in power, was only interested in continuing in power. When the Centre said do this, he did that. He might have had his own reservations. We are not able to say what was in his mind because he was the most difficult man to understand.
You were then in charge of the police. Didn’t he ever express his feelings about militants to you?
He always gave the impression that we must follow whatever the Indian government said. What he said was, after all Tamil Nadu is a state of India and this particular policy comes under foreign affairs in which the states have no option.
It was reported that there were camps for the militants here and they were getting arms supplies too. Is it not true that the people and politicians of Tamil Nadu backed the militants more than the people of any other state in India?
This influx of Tamil militants to Tamil Nadu happened firstly because of the persecution policy followed by Sri Lanka. Secondly, this decision to bring those militants here to give them training was taken in Delhi. Whatever Delhi said, MGR followed. I told him several times that it was a very dangerous policy because Tamil Nadu was becoming a land of gun-and-bomb culture.
Was he not scared of the bomb culture that was growing here then?
That is not a right question in the sense that nobody in power in afraid of bombs and guns because they know how to protect themselves. Do you know the politician despises the professional?
But many leaders could not protect themselves. It boomeranged in the end. Whether it was Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi.
These are very sensitive past issues. There is no point in talking about it now. But the influx of Tamil militants was not confined to Tamil Nadu alone. They were given training in many places in north India as well.
There were more training camps in Tamil Nadu and they got more publicity too.
It might have been so. But the quality of the training is more important than the training itself. Yet, it is all very well known. The photographs of the places where the training camps were held also got worldwide publicity. There were training camps in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi. But they were trained by central agencies and there were no training centres run by Tamil Nadu. Is it news to you that the Tamil Nadu government did not run any training camps?
Yes. I thought the state government had a hand in it.
But MGR did one thing. He gave financial support to them. The training camps were done in a hush-hush manner, but he gave money to them openly. It was the government’s money.
That means he was sympathetic to the Tamil militants.
You are jumping to conclusions. He gave money. You may give money to help them, you may also do it to help yourself. When people are scared, they do that.
K Mohandas's photographs: Sanjay Ghosh
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