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The wake of the Indian offensive of October 1987 saw civilian deaths and disappearances on a large scale. The death toll is put at above 1500 by NGO sources. By all indications the strategy of the LTTE seemed to be one of wearing down the IPKF by guerrilla attacks and by paralysing the general administration of the North and East. A death penalty was presumed for those collaborating with the IPKF. Interpretations varied with local leaderships. The IPKF’s strategy until the Provincial Council elections were announced in October appeared to be one 6f pressurising the LTTE through military action to come forward and negotiate for a position of influence under the terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord. To this end, India hoped to use other militant groups, all of whom, with the LTTE, had at one time been trained and armed by India. Shortly after the October offensive, notices went up near IPKF camps calling upon LTTE cadres to surrender and take up the ‘golden opportunity’ of rehabilitation. About the same time notices also went up calling members of other militant groups to report. It is known that a large number of member& of other militant groups were disillusioned, especially after the LTTE cracked down on them in 1986, and they had tried hard to get back into civilian life or had plans of going abroad. Despite hard feelings against the LTTE, these persons were generally intent on resisting being dragooned into carrying arms again. But as it turned out, many of them were given little choice. Several of them who turned to extortion of bus passengers, embarrassingly close to IPKF camps, openly admitted that they would go abroad once they were in possession of the required funds. To many of them, this was the only realistic alternative to a life of the hunted.

An important group of persons who had taken over several of the functions of erstwhile elected MPs were members of Citizens’ Committees, many of whom were elderly. By the end of 1986, most of those not having credentials acceptable to the LTTE were obliged to resign. Those remaining had to accept, at least implicitly, the LTTE’s political dominance. Nevertheless several of these people, like the Mallakam Citizens’ Committee, did to a commendable extent preserve their independence and continued their humanitarian work with refugees. The Mallakam Citizens’ Committee decided to dissolve itself in March 1986, following the assassination of its senior member, TULF politician and former chairman of the defunct DDC, Mr. Nadarajah.

Several Citizens’ Committee leaders were used by the IPKF as go—between in negotiations with the LTTE. On the whole, Citizens’ Committee leaders gave voice to a widespread feeling that there could be no settlement without LTTE participation. Again, as with the majority of people, the role of the IPKF was accepted as a fait accompli, and was not challenged. Theirs was a passive demand for the antagonists to end hostilities and put a stop to civilian suffering.

The manner in which Indian policy used the divided loyalties of a fractured society served to deepen both new and traditional antagonisms, bringing about suspicion, irrational hatred and murder. The opposite of  the rehabilitation of the militant youth was set in motion. Many of them  were forced to flee or to carry arms. Privately, Indian officers were

often contemptuous of these unfortunate persons they were trying to use. Whether they would be given any power too depended on the LTTE. This was amply demonstrated when the September 28th 1987 agreement with the LTTE gave no representation to the other groups on the interim council.

From the end of 1987 the LTTE launched a campaign of assassination against civilians suspected of being collaborators with India or potential opponents of LTTE. Several of those killed were persons who as Citizen’s Committee members had dealings with the IPKF to sort out the day-to-day needs of ordinary people (such needs arose from arrests of relatives, or from the gaining of access to homes they had fled during the war). Such persons were of a traditional political mould and often acted on the basis that whoever held power was to be respected or honoured This was offensive to the LTTE when the power was not held by themselves.

Many of these assassinated were former members of other militant groups, killed on suspicion of wanting to re associate with their former units. To many LTTE sympathisers this policy seemed justified in view of India’s position on the matter. But for members of other militant groups it became a matter of choosing between a longer life or a shorter one. In the course of such a utilitarian approach, the IPKF’s attitude towards civilians was instrumental. Civilian resentment was treated as a sign of approval of the LTTE. A major cause of this resentment resulted from reprisals against civilians in response to attacks on the IPKF by the LTTE. There came about a cumulative process in which the IPKF began to treat civilians as pro-LTTE, and the gulf of distrust widened. Civilians too found Indian ire against pro-LTTE sentiments puzzling, especially since India had given material and propaganda support for the LTTE scarcely one year earlier. India started blaming the civilians for the conspicuous failure of a policy of which India had been the prime mover, and in the course of which civilians had been marginalised. When India declared a ceasefire in September 1987 and called for Provincial Council elections, the tone of the Indian Ambassador Mr. J.N. Dixit’s message, though unreal, was one of holding the civilians to ransom in order to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table.

When the LTTE did not come forward, India decided on backing the EPRLF for the provincial leadership. There followed a series of killings of persons seen to be sympathetic to the LTTE. Those killed sometimes included relatives. Down Sankilian Lane, in Nallur, the mother of art ex-LTTE cadre was killed by electrocution. Mr. Sivanandasundaram and Mr. Rajasangari, prominent Citizen’s Committee leaders, were assassinated during the course of October 1988. Many witnesses testify to having seen persons in Indian army uniform in the vicinity of several killings. The objective of these killings seems to have been to create fear among LTTE sympathisers and to cause them to flee. The killings diminished sharply after the conclusion of the Provincial Council elections on 19th November 1988. There is little doubt that the situation will continue to remain fluid.

The cases documented below are not meant to be exhaustivebut are intended to give some indication of the pattern and the human situation.[Top]


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