Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Anita Pratap on Prabakharan

I've mentioned before that I have run out of books to read, so I've been upturning the shelves at home, looking for something that would help while away the time. 

I stumbled on Bill Bryson's Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, a delightful read not just of the history of English in America, but of many quirky historical facts, for which alone the book is worth reading.

I have also been reading Anita Pratap's Island of Blood, which has proved to be more interesting than I thought. A friend of mine gave me his copy a couple of years ago and suggested I read it. I never bothered, I had heard a lot of hype about it and had thought it overrated, but in my desperate search for reading matter picked it up a few days ago.

She has no style to speak of, there is no elegance or grace in her writing. Nor so far have I seen anything remotely erudite or philosophical, this is just straightforward, punchy reportage, but quite readable. She tells a fairly good story and the writing has a ring of authenticity to it. A couple of passages are worth summarising. I will try and put them into context .

(The interview takes place some time after the battle of Elephant Pass.  She notes that he is now a lot more assertive and cadres treat him with a new deference. No one calls him 'Thambi' anymore, there is none of the backslapping camaraderie between Prabakaran and the cadres that was there a year ago).

I asked Pirabhakaran the question that had been haunting me for a year and a half: Why hadn't he opted for peace when it was in his grasp? After all, Premadasa had virtually given Eelam to them on a platter. Pirabhakaran denied that they had started the war and laboured the Tiger version of events, that the Sri Lankan army had violated their agreement and come out of their barracks. And anyway, he said, 'We don't want Eelam on a platter. We will fight and win Eelam. 

That then, was the crux of the matter, the reason for the fresh violence. Pirabhakaran did not want anybody else's version of Eelam -he wanted his own, an Eelam that he liberated militarily. 'Thousands of my boys have laid down their lives for Eelam. Their death cannot be in vain. They have given their life for this cause, how can I betray them by opting for anything less than Eelam? he asked. 

He didn't see the conundrum they were in-by fighting for the dead he was engineering the death of the living. Unable to bury the past, he was digging a burial ground of a nation. I told him that at the rate he was going, it would have not be an Eelam but a graveyard that he would create. If Eelam finally dawned, expatriate Tamils would rejoice but by then, most Tamils in their homeland would be six feet under. Pirabhakaran scoffed at the idea.

In some ways those words would prove to be strangely prophetic.

These remarks also reaffirm, in my mind, that Prabakaran never wanted peace except on his own terms, which is why he undid the CFA, first by ensuring that the UNP was defeated and second by restarting the war, breaking the ceasefire. It was CBK who precipitated the fall of the UNF Government by seizing the ministries, but the Tigers eagerly seized the opportunity to boot the Government out.

The Tigers brought a terrible end on themselves and they took the Tamil people down with them. 




n said...

Pratap's book was very interesting and quite prophetic as you mentioned. Btw would highly recommend Bill Bryson, read most of his books and he's one of the best travel writers around, him and Paul Theroux, thuogh the latter is way more cynical.

Jack Point said...

Yes, have read a couple of Bryson's books, very readable.

A Short History of Nearly Everything was super.