Rajiv Gandhi ordered Prabhakaran assassination but…
by Shenali Waduge on 20 Aug 2013 14 Comments

Maj Gen Harkirat Singh, commander of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), claims he was ordered, not once, but twice, to eliminate Prabhakaran when he arrived to meet the Indian Generals in Palaly in September 1987. What is poignant about this revelation is that it was only on June 3, 1987 that India violated Sri Lanka’s territory by dropping parippu (food aid), threatening Sri Lanka not to retaliate. Thereafter on July 29, 1987 Sri Lanka was forced to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord and amend its constitution and introduce the 13th Amendment alongside the Provincial Council system.


On July 30, the IPKF landed and on August 2, Prabhakaran, who had been saved by India and flown out of Sri Lanka and kept in India until the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord, returned to the country. It was also just weeks since a supposed handing over of arms, though having supplied arms to Tamil militant groups, India would have known that the decrepit arms handed over were not what India had gifted these militants.


So, why would India order its General to assassinate the head militant that India saved at Vadamarachchi and to whom Rajiv Gandhi himself had presented his personal bullet proof vest, unless India was only interested in getting Sri Lanka to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord, amend the Constitution so that it would facilitate India’s incursion? Twenty five years on, we realize that the entire “we are concerned about Sri Lankan Tamils” was a bogus charade, which Prabhakaran realized and assassinated Rajiv Gandhi before he himself was assassinated.


Thus, we can safely say that the Jain Commission report following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination clearly puts in perspective the fact that Indira Gandhi’s orders to destabilize Sri Lanka meant that Indian officials were tasked to gather Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups, train and arm them on Indian soil in a clandestine operation handled by former Indian military personnel and India’s intelligence agency as far back as 1977, well before July 1983 riots.


This puts to rest the bogus notion that LTTE emerged to save the Tamils against the Sinhalese after the July 1983 riots. What the riots did was to facilitate and give justification for the militancy, and what India was clandestinely doing could be put into the open as a justification for helping the Tamil militants. People tend to ignore the timelines that would set the story straight, and it becomes easy for the media to omit the key fact and join the two separate incidents to justify LTTE militancy and Indian intervention. The July 1983 riots were monopolized and manipulated to give acceptance to Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka, India, and the rest of the world, as well as plug India directly into the picture as “negotiator” and “savior of the Tamil people”. 


Fuss over Prabhakaran’s death in 2009


Rajiv Gandhi was blown to bits on May 21, 1991. Many questions have arisen with no answers still. Yet, in 1998, after 300 witness accounts, India concluded the case on his assassination. Justice V Navaneetham convicted Prabhakaran and 28 others for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi – 25 accused were sentenced with death (a rarity in India). Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman and Akila were sentenced with death in absentia; so what is India’s fuss about Prabhakaran’s death in 2009?


Rajiv Gandhi died along with 17 others at a political rally near Poonamallee in Tamil Nadu, where a Tamil girl suicide bomber offered him a garland of flowers and set off plastic explosives packed with metal pellets. The decision to hold the rally in Sriperumbudur is itself controversial as it was not part of Rajiv’s tour itinerary and the Tamil Congress head Maragatham Chandrasekar and her son (married to a Sri Lankan Tamil, coincidentally with LTTE connections) had personally gone to Delhi to secure the event in Sriperumbudur.


Moreover, Sivarasan, travelling by bus to the meeting, knew of the change in venue and other details though there were no mobile phones or GPRS tracking systems at that time. Similarly, conspiracy theories abound including the omission of Rajiv’s security head at the venue, various other tapes not submitted to the investigating team or to the Jain Commission itself, as well as the loss and exposure of key photographs. Conspiracy theorists would love it when RAW’s senior officer Kunnikrishnan was involved with a planted Pan Am air hostess who extracted information on India’s plans, leading to Kunnikrishnan’s indictment. 


Still, we cannot ignore that the LTTE does not apologize for its crimes easily. When in 2006, with Prabhakaran by his side, LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham said let bygones be bygones, and the LTTE arms procurement head KP confirmed that Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was its biggest mistake, we must ask if LTTE did planned the killing itself or under orders of a third party.


It is baffling that Anton Balasingham’s apology was responded to by Indian External Affairs Minister Anand Sharma, who said, “The people of India cannot forget the dastardly crime that was committed by the LTTE …. confession on their part of their complicity in the assassination of our former prime minister. This has been a well-known fact for the last 15 years. LTTE leaders have been charge-sheeted and declared proclaimed offenders.” When Balasingham appealed for “magnanimity” from India, Sharma responded, “that would be tantamount to endorsing the philosophy of terror, violence and political assassination.”


So what was all the shuttling about prior to the fall of the LTTE in May 2009, wherein India was sweating at the idea of an LTTE defeat and the possible extermination of Prabhakaran, an order India first gave to its army way back in 1987?


The order to kill Prabhakaran was revealed when Maj Gen Harkirat Singh in his book, “Intervention in Sri Lanka”, claimed he was twice ordered by India’s High Commissioner in Colombo, JN Dixit, to kill Prabhakaran on September 15, 1987 in Palaly, when Prabhakaran arrived to meet the Indian Generals. As Commander of the IPKF, Singh had refused to do so after being told by Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh that an orthodox army does not shoot people in the back, given that the LTTE leader was coming for the meeting under the white flag.


The General reveals that at one stage the IPKF was even saluting Prabhakaran! He confirms that the IPKF was not given maps of the area, which meant they were ill prepared for the job, and questions what India had in mind by sending its army without proper preparation given that it knew the capabilities of the Sri Lankan Tamil militants, having trained them? The Indian army is not made up of men who speak Tamil only – hence the IPKF was clueless how to discern who was Tamil, who Sinhalese and most of all who LTTE.


Timelines are extremely important as it is these hard facts that help to negate false notions and theories:

-  India provided covert aid and training to Sri Lankan Tamil militants from 1977-1987

-  May 1987: Vadamarachchi Operation – Prabhakaran cornered. Sri Lanka ordered by India to stop onslaught. Prabhakaran escapes capture

-  June 3, 1987: India violates Sri Lanka’s territory and drops food aid, giving 30 minutes notice and threat to not retaliate

-  July 21, 1987: Six helicopters sent to Sri Lanka from India to bring Prabhakaran, his wife and family to Delhi. The helicopters were to fly undetected by the Sri Lankan Air Force and onto a temple area under LTTE control

-  July 27, 1987: Prabhakaran and entourage airlifted to Delhi. Indian High Commissioner Hardeep Puri present

-  July 28, 1987: Prabhakaran and entourage at Ashoka Hotel, Prabhakaran meets Rajiv Gandhi

-  July 29, 1987: Indo-Lanka Accord is signed amidst island wide curfew, minus media, in the absence of Sri Lankan Premier and other senior Ministers

-  July 30, 1987: IPKF arrives, by 1990 over 100,000 stationed in Sri Lanka

-  August 2 1987: Prabhakaran flown back to Jaffna after Rajiv Gandhi returns to Delhi

-  September 15, 1987: IPKF Commander ordered to kill Prabhakaran, citing orders from Rajiv Gandhi. RAW now training and arming Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF), wants LTTE out of the way

-  September 19, 1987: Dixit writes to Indian Government that IPKF totally unprepared for task at hand. What was that “task”? Dixit charges that IPKF soldiers “even saluting” to Prabhakaran and recommends changing the GOC 54 Division (deployed over 540 km)

-  October 3, 1987: Interception of speedboat carrying LTTE leaders, including Pulendran, wanted for several murders. Sri Lankan Army was to take detainees to Colombo, but India wanted them to remain in Palaly where even Prabhakaran had visited them.

-  October 5, 1987: News received that LTTE detainees were to be flown to Colombo but bit into cyanide capsules, 15 of 17 dead; bodies were picked up by LTTE

-  October 6, 1987: LTTE white van approaches IPKF post in Jaffna and throws 8 dead bodies of Sinhalese policemen who were to be released, in retaliation for dead LTTE detainees; attack Sinhalese dwellings, killing over 200 Sinhalese civilians

-  October 8, 1987 IPKF declares war on LTTE

-  IPKF deployed from July 1987 to March 1990; 1155 Indian soldiers killed by LTTE using arms gifted by India; over 4000 Indian soldiers wounded. It took over two decades for India to even commemorate the dead Indian soldiers!

-  Rajiv Gandhi assassinated in Tamil Nadu (Land of Tamils) on May 21, 1991


Neither Rajiv Gandhi nor JN Dixit is alive to confirm if orders were given to exterminate Prabhakaran, but questions do arise about the exact nature of India’s agenda in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the Tamil factor. To send an army to guarantee an end to Sri Lanka’s problem by getting the armed Tamil militants to hand over the very arms India had gifted, and then within less than two months start an all-out war, makes us wonder what India planned to do after disarming the Tamil militants and killing Prabhakaran while arming and training the ENDLF?


More so when Dixit said, “General, please ensure that the actions of the IPKF are in line with my discussions with the Prime Minister … You should adopt a posture of gradual change from negotiations to coercion”. The golden question is - if India assured Sri Lanka it would disarm the militants in 72 hours, what was India doing arming and training ENDLF in Sri Lanka, an issue that LTTE began to get suspicious about? Sri Lanka is indebted to just one man – late Prime Minister VP Singh, who did the honorable thing and recalled the IPKF.


Many mistakes have been made by former Sri Lankan leaders and the public will hold them accountable. We need to think deeply over the 13th Amendment; the greater good of the country must prevail. 

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