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March 16, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/Cho Ramaswamy

'BJP attitude to Lanka issue unwise'

Cho Ramaswamy was one journalist who consistently wrote against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in his journal Thuglaq, when many other newspapers and magazines in Tamil Nadu supported it in the eighties.

But most had to chew their words and change their stance towards the LTTE after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Cho is still against the LTTE, but he does not react emotionally like many others. He has this uncanny way of substantiating his views with reason. In this interview with Shobha Warrier, he criticises the Bharatiya Janata Party government for its irresponsible handling of the Sri Lankan issue. Excerpts from the interview:

Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had been soft-pedalling on the Sri Lankan issue till recently. But now, he has come out with a statement that the Czech model is the only solution. Why this volte-face?

Karunanidhi always takes great pride in being hailed as a leader of Tamils wherever they live, and there is no Tamil issue as such in India now. Earlier, you had this anti-Hindi platform. Then came the anti-north Indian platform. Now, none of those issues are relevant. So, what is the only Tamil issue available now? It is the Sri Lankan issue. If he doesn't occupy that platform, it will become the monopoly of Ramadoss and Vaiko. He is not able to digest the situation. That is why he wants to go on record as having made some noise about this.

Ramadoss and Vaiko are supporting a banned organisation like the LTTE and a separate Tamil Eelam. Are they behaving like responsible politicians?

No. There must be some link between them and the LTTE.

The LTTE has been banned. Its activities are illegal. They are working and campaigning for a banned organisation. The Centre must take action against them.

Is it only because they are partners in the National Democratic Alliance that the Centre is indifferent to their statements?

Yes. The Centre is more interested in keeping the NDA intact than keeping India intact.

Will it not lead to secessionist forces raising their heads?

Yes. The growth of the LTTE culture in Tamil Nadu will lead to strengthening of secessionist forces. They are now marginal. They can now be even ignored as eccentrics. But if this continues, some people will start supporting it.

Are the people of Tamil Nadu sympathetic to the LTTE now, like earlier?

I am sure that the people of Tamil Nadu are not sympathetic to the LTTE. Otherwise, Gopalaswamy and Ramadoss would have made that an electoral platform already. Even in the coming elections, this will not be an issue on which they will focus, as it will never pay electoral dividends.

Then, why is Karunanidhi taking this new stand now?

Even there he has been careful. He said that if there is no settlement, which would give equal rights to Tamils along with the Sinhalese, a division should be considered. He is making these noises only to see that the Tamil platform does not go entirely to Vaiko and Ramadoss.

India has been asking for international help to fight terrorism. When Sri Lanka asked for India's help in subjugating the LTTE, India refused. Do we not see double standards in India's attitude?

The BJP government's attitude is unwise. It says the creation of Eelam will pose a danger to India. It also says that it will not be conducive to the interests of India. At the same time, it will not do anything to prevent the birth of Eelam. What else is the government going to do? It doesn't want to help Sri Lanka contain terrorism. What is the government planning to do? Perhaps the prime minister is going to order mass prayers throughout the country, so that Eelam may not be created! What is this? I cannot understand this.

Is the central government irresponsible and immature in its response to the Sri Lankan problem?

I do not know whether it is just irresponsible or whether there is any other sinister connotation to it!

Their survival?

Yes. It could be that. May be it feels that if it has to keep all these elements like Ramadoss, Vaiko and DMK with them, they have to do it this way. Or, they feel that the Congress created this problem. Or, they just don't understand the ramifications of this.

What will be the repercussions if Jaffna falls? Will it be disastrous for India?

If Jaffna falls, pro-LTTE forces in Tamil Nadu will again be strengthened. There will be euphoria built up around the LTTE, and after that pro-LTTE campaigning here will become much more intense.

The smuggling of diesel, food and equipment will start from Tamil Nadu to Jaffna. There will be certain outfits here, which will be equipped and trained by the LTTE. Gradually this may help the formation of a terrorist outfit in Tamil Nadu, which would pose immense problems.

A thousand terrorists will be enough to hold the entire country to ransom.

Prabhakarn had declared that his first aim was a Tamil Eelam, and later a greater Eelam which included Tamil Nadu.

Not only Prabhakaran. Even people here, like some Tamil Liberation Army, have also spoken of it. They made their intentions clear at several meetings.

The Centre says it will not offer anything but humanitarian help. What is humanitarian help? The LTTE wants the Sri Lanka forces to vacate Jaffna so that they need not carry on the fight. The LTTE obviously is depleted because of the battle. Probably they have lost some arms also. They do not want a further loss of weapons and men.

They want the Sri Lankan army to leave Jaffna. India says we will help you to quit! That is, we will help you fulfil the conditions set forth by the LTTE! That is the Indian offer. That is the humanitarian offer. There could be nothing more inhuman between one country and another than this 'humanitarian' offer of the Indian government.

Will India not be surrounded by hostile neighbours all around? Pakistan, China and now Sri Lanka.

Pakistan will the greatest problem, not Sri Lanka, even if it is going to be inimical towards you. If it becomes friendly with China or Pakistan, that may pose problems for India. But the immediate concern is to contain terrorism in Sri Lanka. India is not going to do anything to help.

When India is responsible for the growth of the LTTE.

Yes, we have the moral duty to help. We are part of the problem. We helped the LTTE in weapons, training and funding. Otherwise, it would not have grown to these proportions. On the other hand, we have a duty to Sri Lankan Tamils also; the Jaffna Tamils, because we led them to believe that we will help them achieve a federal setup in Sri Lanka with equal rights along with the Sinhalese. But we have not done anything after the Rajiv-Jaywardene accord. So, it is imperative that India intervene.

It should be done properly. The Indian government should ask Chandrika Kumaratunga to declare her immediate acceptance of the terms of the Rajiv-Jaywardane accord, and also set a deadline for creation of a federal setup in Sri Lanka. After achieving this through diplomatic pressure, India could go directly and help, even militarily, if the first two conditions are accepted.


Yes, if other points are accepted. Military help should be given only to see that federal setup comes about there, and that the Lankan government talks. That way, you will help the Tamils there, and also Lankan government to contain terrorism.

When we talk of Tamils, we must remember that Tamils of Indian origin who are there in tea plantations outnumber the Jaffna Tamils. And, Indian origin Tamils do not accept the LTTE as their saviour. I do not know what percentage of Jaffna Tamils accept them.

And, what is this Eelam? It has already depleted because the Eelam concept originally had not only Jaffna but also the east. Now the east is out. So, they are going to get only half of Eelam, if they get it. And, they don't represent the entire Tamil population in Sri Lanka!

Some experts wrote that even in Jaffna, the Tamils did not consider the LTTE as saviours.

Yes. Jaffna Tamils are under threat from the LTTE. So, a substantial section may not support the LTTE. The LTTE has annihilated all Tamil leaders; moderates and militants.

Now that India has distanced itself from what is happening in Sri Lanka, won't others like Pakistan enter the scene?

Naturally. If this goes on for some more time, the Sri Lankan government will seek help from either China or Israel. I do not know whether Pakistan can help. But sometime later Pakistan may need the help of the LTTE to increase Inter-Services Intelligence activities in India.

When China enters, India will have to contend with a situation where a foreign superpower gets a foothold.

P Nedumaran recently said the Brahminical press in Tamil Nadu had ganged up against them on Tamil Eelam and many other issues. He named you.

Much of the Brahminical press is with the LTTE. For example the Ananda Vikatan group had been campaigning for the LTTE. Only after Rajiv's killing that it got disgusted with the LTTE. Even now they are not very much anti-LTTE but they were very supportive of the LTTE in their writings. I do not know who are the other Brahminical press. Dinamani? Dinamalar? I do not know.

Nedumaran said The Hindu.

Hindu was a great friend of the LTTE! After Rajiv's killing, they also changed their stance. So, it is not as if all Brahmin editors are anti-LTTE.

This caste-wise categorisation of newspapers is being done only in this state. It is done on the basis of the caste of the editor. If the editor is a brahmin, then it is a brahmin journal! Well, that way my journal is a brahmin journal, but I have been against the LTTE from the outset.

What about Amruthalingam? Was he a Brahmin? What about Yogeswaran? Was he a Brahmin? What about Padmanabha and the seven others who got killed with him? Were they Brahmins? What about Sabharathinam? Was he a Brahmin? What about the two mayors of Jaffna who were killed by the LTTE? Were they Brahmins? Why should all these people be killed by the LTTE? Were they Brahmins? Were they supporters of Brahmins? Were they champions of Brahmin-hood? Was the sin committed by them a Brahminical sin? So, it is not as if only the Brahmins who oppose the LTTE. Nedumaran must not glorify Brahmins that way!

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