Part 2

'They sang the LTTE national song,
praised Prabhakaran'

George Iype

Read Part 1

It was not the Dravidian movement but the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that convinced certain groups in Tamil Nadu that armed rebellion is the only way to a separate homeland for the Tamils.

One month after Dr Rajakumar's abduction, a dozen extremists of the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army and the Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troops observed September 1 as martyrs day in the Sathyamangalam forest area. Present on the occasion were a number of pro-LTTE Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.

According to a police source, it was not just another commemorative day for the militant outfits. "They sang the LTTE national song, praised LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and pledged to whip up an armed struggle in Tamil Nadu," says a police officer.

The police, who got to know of the mini conclave from newspaper reporters, are not surprised. They point out that extremist outfits in the state grew after 1983, the year the influx of refugees and LTTE members to Tamil Nadu began.

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  • "Extremist groups like TNLA and TNRT were raised, trained and fostered by the LTTE. The LTTE has supplied money and equipment to the Tamil nationalistic forces because Prabhakaran found that they struck a chord with his own cadres fighting for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka," points out a senior police officer.

    As the influx of refugees to the state increased, the LTTE lured many unemployed youth to join the Tamil nationalistic movement. The LTTE's political wing convinced them that their struggle was part of the Dravidian movement.

    Tamil extremists
    Soon the LTTE began recruiting youths from all over the state and training them in the jungles of Jaffna and Vanni. According to police records, nearly 170 Tamil youth passed out from the LTTE's military schools.

    Prominent among those who returned to battle for a Tamil homeland were Ponparappi Tamilarasan, Nagarajan, Lenin, Aruppukottai Ravichandran, Coimbatore Suseendran, Muthukumar and Dandapani.

    THE LTTE trained TNLA and TNRT extremists in guerrilla warfare. The police arrested some of them soon after they landed in Tamil Nadu in 1996, for unauthorised possession of firearms, and smuggling diesel, petrol, medicine and other essential commodities to the LTTE.

    Lavishly funded by the LTTE, these Tamil radicals, led by Tamilarasan, floated the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army. But soon Ravichandran, Tamilasaran's competitor in the outfit, fell out with the latter and formed what is today called the Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troops.

    Tamil Extremists Ravichandran made Dindigul, the political base of Pattali Makkal Katchi chief Dr Ramdoss, his base. Tamilarasan, who had earlier worked with the People's War Group in Andhra Pradesh, established links with his former Naxalite colleagues and began operating from the Tiruchi-Perambalur belt.

    Both outfits owe their origin to the Naxalites, especially to the movement in the Vaniyar belt of Tamil Nadu in the 1970s. Their heroes were Naxalbari leaders like Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal.

    But soon the LTTE funding dried up, and the extremists living on the edge of poverty resorted to smuggling and looting. Their armed movement got nearly decimated when TNLA's Tamilasaran, considered the founder of the ultra groups, was lynched to death by a group of villagers when he tried to loot a bank in his native village, Ponparappi.

    Similarly, Ravichandran's TNRT was considerably weakened when he and two associates were arrested in connection with Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991. Nagarajan then led the group till the police shot him dead in 1992.

    Muthukumar, another TNRT member, took over. But he was arrested after he attacked a police station.

    Some of Muthukumar's followers are still at large in Dindigul and Pudukottai regions today.

    After Tamilarasan's killing, a power struggle arose between two TNLA members -- Koovagam Ramaswamy and Ilavarasan. It resulted in the brutal killing of the Ramaswamy gang by the Ilavarasan group.

    The TNLA and TNRT leadership then fell into the hands of Maaran alias Senguttuvan. It is Maaran who is today credited to have established contact with Veerappan in the jungles.

    SALEM Deputy Commissioner of Police K Gopalakrishnan says the ultras have accepted Veerappan as their thalapati [commander] because they know the jungles where Veerappan is king would provide them a very good base to operate from.

    "Both TNLA and TNTR are active because they have managed to win over Veerappan. It is a deadly combination. For Veerappan, joining hands with the Tamil ultras has ensured that he emerges as a Tamil nationalist. For the TNLA and TNTR, Veerappan is a strategic commander of jungles," says Gopalakrishnan.

    "It seems Veerappan wants to be like LTTE chief Prabhakaran. He wants to become a Tamil nationalist," says Rangaswamy Muthu, a social activist in Sathyamangalam.

    According to social scientist Professor V Suryanarayan, the LTTE wanted its cause to be legitimised and that is why it helped float the extremist outfits.

    "After all, since the mid-1980s, the call for a homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka has become synonymous with Tamil pride. The LTTE wanted to infuse the same fervour here in India," says Professor Suryanarayan.

    Secession of Tamil Nadu is the cause that Maaran and his followers espouse. Maaran wants to transform his outfit into a deadly fighting force like the LTTE.

    Part 3
    'If not for Maaran, Veerappan could not have kidnapped Rajakumar'

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