Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Spin and Swing of the RAW Orchestra

By Sachi Sri Kantha

It does not take even ten seconds, for Tamil music fans, to identify the characteristic voices of star performers like M.S. Subbulakshmi, Madurai Mani Iyer, Chidambaram Jayaraman and Sirkali Govindarajan.  The tonal markers of sweetness, swing and lilt of each such musician’s voice are too distinct, unless one is tone deaf.  Similarly, for the past 15-20 years, it has not taken even a minute for Eelam watchers to check out when the infamous Research and Analysis Wing of India [RAW] Orchestra sings.  The RAW Orchestra sings loudly in the media whenever something surprises them.  But the tasteless tones of the RAW Orchestra, if one bothers to listen, are an insult to the average Tamil’s intelligence. 

According to a RAW watch site – FAS Intelligence Resource Program [ www.fas.org ], RAW has a "total of an estimated eight to ten thousand agents and a budget that experts place at Rs.1,500 crore, alternately estimated at $145 million" [entry, updated on July 26, 2002].  One wonders what slice of this $145 million annual budget is directed toward Sri Lankan territory.  $25 million is a not unreasonable guess, which in turn, works out to more than $2 million per month.

Two recent events which have ‘surprised’ the RAW’s Poo-Bahs are, (1) Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination on August 12th, (2) the news item that the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE will hold talks on the 2002 Cease-Fire Agreeement.  Now, within a span of two days [August 20-22], we notice, three singers providing a chorus line for a RAW-inspired performance.  The message of their song is nothing but "Bring Karuna to the Center."

D.B.S. Jeyaraj, the token Tamil pontificator for the Sunday Leader, screams in high decibel that Karuna "should be recognized as a separate entity by Colombo and Kilinochchi.  Karuna and his followers should be brought into a separate tripartite ceasefire facilitated by Oslo.  Thereafter Karuna should be brought into the mainstream as a politico - military force and encouraged on the path of democratic politics."  This is another of Jeyaraj's thought balloons, filled with RAW air.

The human rights activist Rohini Hensman supportingly coos, "The new CFA must recognise that de facto, there are three parties to the conflict: the Government, the Prabakaran faction and the Karuna faction; indeed, most of the fighting during the ceasefire has been between the two latter parties.  Thus a cessation of fighting necessitates a three-cornered ceasefire."  Hensman’s as well as Jeyaraj’s logic is flawed.  In the Eastern front, only two parties hold territory; the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.  Karuna’s faction has not held territory since Karuna’s ‘flight for life’ in April 2004.

In addition, the Indian journalist P.K. Balachanddran ponders whether ‘the Karuna issue’ will be the focal point in the forthcoming Government of Sri Lanka – LTTE discussions.

The bottom line of this chorus team is nothing but a ploy for giving legitimacy to Karuna, who left them high and dry last year.  And this is RAW’s urgent campaign. 

For the first time in nearly two decades, RAW’s Poo-Bahs find themselves in a pickle.  They are now devoid of a strong ‘transmission line’ to the Cabinet happenings in Colombo.  From the mid 1980s to 1994, the UNP’s Gamini Dissanayake served as the prime informant for them.  Gamini Dissanayake even represented RAW’s interests in delivering ‘an arresting funeral oration’ of TULF leader Amirthalingam and his junior colleague V. Yogeswaran, in July 1989.  Following Gamini’s demise, Lakshman Kadirgamar stepped into Dissanayake’s shoes and performed splendidly.

Now, after Kadirgamar’s demise, RAW’s ‘transmission line’ has snapped abruptly.  Gamini Dissanayake had gravitas within the UNP.  For nearly ten years [and especially until estranged brother Anura Bandaranaike joined her in late 2000] Kadirgamar had gravitas, in President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s eyes.  Thus RAW’s field agents did not have to sweat much in Colombo in receiving their field notes.

Now, RAW’s Poo Bahs are left with only Minister Douglas Devananda, the militant impostor-turned "democrat", to pry into President Chandrika's affairs.  Devananda, however, hardly belongs to President Chandrika’s inner circle.  In the eyes of President Chandrika, Devananda does not exude gravitas either as a legal henchman or as a miltant.  Thus, the spin and swing of RAW’s Orchestra is in full blast now to endear Karuna [in the role of true militant-turned "democrat"] to President Chandrika.

I present below, relevant excerpts from the original texts of three chorus singers for the RAW Orchestra.

(1) P.K.Balachanddran [Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Aug.20, 2005]

"…For the LTTE, it is a matter of life and death in the eastern districts where its hold is still shaky and where the ethno-political situation is in any case not very favourable to it.  Karuna may not be visible to the naked eye, but he, along with other Tamil groups, which the LTTE says are nothing but Tamil paramilitaries attached to the army, are posing a serious threat to its unarmed political cadres.

Though LTTE often downgrades Karuna as being an insignificant factor, his name comes up too often as a threat. The LTTE knows that it is only Karuna's men, having been in the LTTE themselves not so long ago, who can carry out the kind of operations that are carrying out.

The Karuna issue will be a major challenge for the government.  Going after Karuna or even suspending any support for him may not be an easy option for it.  Assuming that the government or a section of the Armed Forces does support Karuna, it may not be politically easy to take a decision to drop him like a hot potato.  This is because Karuna is a hero in the Sinhala south, the government's main political constituency.  Karuna is seen by this constituency as the best weapon to fight Prabhakaran and the LTTE and weaken the two before re-starting peace talks.

Indulging in military action to curb Karuna may itself be a violation of the CFA.  Secondly, as Peace Secretariat chief Jayantha Dhanapala put it, going after Karuna may lead to inadvertent clashes with the mainstream LTTE…"

(2) D.B.S. Jeyaraj [Sunday Leader, Colombo, Aug.21, 2005]

"The only way out for the LTTE is for the Tigers to swallow their arrogance and accept the reality of Karuna.  He should be recognized as a separate entity by Colombo and Kilinochchi.  Karuna and his followers should be brought into a separate tripartite ceasefire facilitated by Oslo.  Thereafter Karuna should be brought into the mainstream as a politico - military force and encouraged on the path of democratic politics.  The tactic of using Karuna as the ‘running dogs of war’ must cease.

Given the experience of all other disarmed Tamil groups at tiger hands after the ceasefire it would be naive to expect Karuna to lay down arms.  Karuna can lay down arms only when Pirapakaran lays down arms.  But a non - confrontational mode of co - existence could be realised in the interim.  For this the LTTE must accept reality and mend fences with Karuna.  If the Tigers are unwilling as they are most likely to be the Eastern fratricide will continue.

Whether the LTTE or Karuna gains the upper hand does not matter because the ultimate sufferer will be the ‘Kilakkuth Thamilar’ in particular and the ‘Thamilinam’ in general."

(3) Rohini Hensman [The Hindu, Chennai, Aug.22, 2005]

"The new CFA must recognise that de facto, there are three parties to the conflict: the Government, the Prabakaran faction and the Karuna faction; indeed, most of the fighting during the ceasefire has been between the two latter parties.  Thus a cessation of fighting necessitates a three-cornered ceasefire.  However, even if the Prabakaran faction refuses to sign the agreement but the Government signs it with the Karuna faction, it will reduce the threat of war and human rights violations quite significantly, and is therefore a goal worth pursuing."

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Posted September 3, 2005