Profiles of LTTE and IPKF in modern Sri Lanka

by Dr.Rajkumar Singh 11 August 2019

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist organisation, which from the beginning, waged a violent secessionist campaign and sought to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka. For its avowed purpose the LTTE had carried out civilian massacres, suicide bombings and various other high profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. They invented the suicide belt and pioneered the use of suicide bombing as a tactic. The world leader in suicide terrorism was the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka–they were a Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group. The Tamil Tigers have committed more suicide terrorist attacks than Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Instead, what more than 95 per cent of all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980 have in common is not religion, but a specific goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland, From Lebanon to Chechnya to Kashmir to Sri Lanka to the West Bank, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980s has had as its main objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory that the terrorists prize.

Birth and growth of LTTE

          In Sri Lanka, soon after
its formation, the LTTE emerged as perhaps the most lethal, well organised and
disciplined terrorist force in the world. Its operation area in Sri Lanka can
be divided into three regions: i. In the northern threatre included Jaffna,
Killinochchi and Mullaitivu districts and there the LTTE employed high and
mid–intensity warfare. Since the mid–1990s, semi–conventional and
unconventional insurgent and terrorist methods are also being used, With the
loss of the peninsula in 1996 the LTTE had reverted to unconventional warfare,
mostly sparrow tactics–hit and run methods. In the mainland, mostly in Wanni,
the LTTE engaged the Sri Lankan troops semi–conventionally. This has become
possible after the LTTE acquired artillery and heavy mortars. ii. In the
eastern threatre falls Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Amparai districts where the
LTTE stationed high, mid and low intensity warfare. Dependent on the LTTE force
level, it will engage the troops semi–conventionally or unconventionally.
However, insurgent and terrorist tactics predominate. Iii. In southern
threatre, LTTE’s operations have been largely focussed on the Colombo, the
capital. By targeting financial nerve centres and political leaders this
divisionary tactic of the LTTE had been highly effective. After steadily
shifting the threatre of terror into the seat of the country’s administration,
LTTE’s elimination of political and military leaders has adversely affected the
morale of the security forces.

                Since its formation
the LTTE had continued to pursue its objectives of a separate, independent
Tamil Eelam through its policy of indiscriminate killing of all those the LTTE
considered stood in its way, be they Sinhala of Tamil. Soon after the formation
LTTE had grown out to be massive army with the whole hearted support of the
Tamil people and some years later it maintained thousand of brave soldiers,
with a naval wing that had become a formidable on in the subcontinent. In that
kind of situation the LTTE had become the army that the Tamil people could look
up to in order to put an end to all the troubles and win back the Tamil’s
homeland, Tamil Eelam. Barring a few terrorist attacks earlier, the LTTE
carried out their first major attack on 23 July 1983 when they ambushed a Sri
Lanka army troop transport outside Jaffna in which 13 Sri Lankan soldiers were
killed. The incident led to the Black July riots against the Tamil community of
Sri Lanka. Large scale anti Tamil violence in the form of riots erupted in
July–August 1983 in which at least several hundred people, almost all of whom
were Tamils, were killed. It led many Tamils to spontaneously support all Tamil
militant groups that came up in its wake. In post–1983 period the subsequent
anger amongst the Tamil community resulted in numberous Tamil youths joining
Tamil militant groups to fight the Sri Lankan government, in what is considered
start of the insurgency in Sri Lanka.

                From here onwards
the LTTE had begun its armed conflict with Sri Lankan government and relied on
guerilla strategy that included the use of terrorist tactics. The Tiger had
integrated a battlefield insurgent strategy with a terrorist programme that
targeted not only key personnel in the countryside but also senior Sri Lankan
political and military leaders in Colombo and other urban centres. After it the
LTTE had made its organisational structure wide and placed immense emphasis on
the cult of martyrdom. It maintained a fleet known as Sea Tigers and carried
out air raids using Czechoslovak–built propeller–engined trainers. Since the
late 1980s the LTTE had conducted approximately two hundred suicide attacks.
Targets have included transit hubs, Buddhist shrines, and office buildings.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the LTTE invented the
suicide belt and pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks. In later years
the LTTE had strengthened itself significantly in Sri Lanka and abroad.

Indo-Sri Lanka treaty of 1987

                Viewing the gravity
of ethnic situation in the country J.R. Jayawardene, the president of Sri
Lanka, on 19 July 1987 proposed the creation of an autonomous unit comprising
the Northern and Eastern provinces and other related provisions were also made
in the scheme. In post–1983 period India tried out all possibilities supporting
the Tamil cause and militancy, helping the Sri Lanka government and the Tamils
to resolve their differences across the table, working with Sri Lanka to help
evolve a consensus on devolution of Tamils and lastly, underwriting an
acceptable minimum package for Tamils in Sri Lanka through the accord.On
29 July 1987an Accord was signed between India and Sri Lanka under which New
Delhi committed to uphold Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on
the condition that Colombo would grant a reasonable amount of autonomy to
Tamils to their satisfaction. Following the provisions of the accord India sent
a peace–keeping force to ensure that peace returned to strife–torn Tamil areas.
In operational terms this meant the disarming of the LTTE cadres. Before India
intervened in 1987, more than 37 Tamil militant groups came into being. All
these groups except the LTTE surrendered arms after signing the accord in 1987.

Consequences of the treaty

                The refusal of the
LTTE made the accord irrelevant in context of establishing ethnic peace in the
country. But processes–surrender of arms as well as cessation of hostilities
were repudiated by the LTTE leadership on 7 October 1987 when they retaliated
against the capture at sea by Sri Lankan forces of thirteen of their senior
cadres. The Indian Peace–keeping Force (IPKF) which came to the island nation
as part of the Accord had to face a rough weather in the trouble- plagued Sri
Lanka. The 1987 Accord ran into trouble within months after the LTTE took up
arms against the IPKF. In response IPKF inaugurated their own military campaign
against the Tigers on 10 October 1987 which lasted for about two years. Now the
IPKF got bogged down in a guerilla war against the Tamil Tigers which made
essential a progressive increase in its numbers as well as in the number and
range of its weaponry. The
operation which started off as a conventional one in 1987 quickly changed into
a full–fledged country insurgency campaign. However, on this count the LTTE
proved itself.

                As a result of IPKF
campaign against the LTTE, the latter confined to the Wangi jungles and within
a year it became a spent force in Sri Lanka. Within a year of the IPKF
completing Operation Checkmate–1, normal life was restored in the northeast.
The direct fight of LTTE cadres against the Indian Peace–keeping Force caused
the death of 1,255 Indian soldiers on Sri Lankan soil during their two years’
stayal in the island nation. But it was not so good for the health of LTTE
because its strength as the most powerful of the Tamil guerilla groups in the
island had depended to a large extent on the moral and material support that it
derived from Tamil Nadu state, at times both from the government and opposition
ranks in the state, generally from the Tamil public and on occasion even from
central government agencies such as Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). On the
other the ruthlessness of Operation Pawan, launched to win control of the
Jaffna from the LTTE, this campaign and the Indian army’s subsequent anti–LTTE
operations made the IPKF extremely unpopular among many Tamils in Sri Lanka.

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Author: Dr. Rajkumar Singh

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