Karuna’s Boast: Why Are We So Shocked?
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan is making news again. Popularly known by his nom de guerre ‘Colonel Karuna Amman’, he first made news with his well-publicised defection from the LTTE in 2004. Since then he provided valuable intelligence on the LTTE, which marked a turning point in the three-decade long separatist conflict. He has since been engaged in mainstream politics.
More than 10 years after the war ended, he is again in the news after making a controversial statement: that he killed 2,000-3,000 soldiers in one night in the battle to wrest control of Elephant Pass from Government troops.
Soon after, this claim was widely circulated in the Media. All politicians, on both sides of the divide were quick to condemn the statement; the Acting IGP ordered the CID to immediately question Karuna; and there’s a massive public outcry and wide condemnation of the claim.
Many experts have already disputed his claims. Journalists who covered the war extensively have already written reams explaining that the death figure quoted by Karuna was impossible, and that he was not involved in the Elephant Pass battle, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight!
But, the question is, why are we so shocked and outraged by Karuna’s statement?
Before his defection, Col Karuna was a high ranking member of the LTTE for more than 20 years. So much so that he served as the bodyguard of LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran at one time. He was also the Eastern Commander of the LTTE, and was also known as Prabhakaran’s right-hand man, which effectively made him Number Two in the militant wing of the proscribed terrorist organisation.
During his time with the LTTE he was responsible for a number of attacks against the Armed Forces, Police personnel and civilians. He was accused of conscripting children to fight for the LTTE. As the second most powerful militant in the organisation, and as the Eastern Commander, it is not incorrect to say that all major operations where a number of Armed Forces personnel and civilians were killed, were either planned by him or received his blessing.
The Eastern theatre was one of the regions where a number of mass atrocities were committed during the war, particularly under Karuna’s command.
Perhaps the most chilling massacre reported from the East was the cold-blooded killing of 600-774 unarmed Police Officers inside a Trincomalee jungle in June 1990 during a ceasefire. The LTTE cadres had lined up the officers, who had surrendered on the instructions of the highest echelons of Government at that time, tied their hands behind their backs and shot them dead.
Col Karuna was also allegedly involved in other massacres that took place in the Eastern Province. In July 1990, Karuna’s forces allegedly halted a convoy of Muslims crossing through the Batticaloa District, and executed 75 of them, including women and children. In August 1990, Karuna’s forces allegedly executed more than 200 civilians in two incidents – known as the Kattankudy Mosque massacre and Eravur massacre.
And the list goes on.
On the other hand, the question arises whether Col Karuna defected from the LTTE because he was disillusioned with their separatist cause, or because of some other reasons. When, in 2004, Karuna broke ranks claiming that the LTTE was ignoring the interests of the Tamil people in the East, he also claimed that he renounced violence.
However, the LTTE retaliated by saying their intelligence had gathered enough evidence of Karuna’s financial and personal misconduct, which they claimed prompted Karuna to escape to the Government side, to evade an inquiry. They also claimed that his break was only a ‘temporary aberration’.
Absolutely nobody in this country, particularly those who lived through and experienced the horrors of war, is naive enough to believe that Karuna had no part in mass atrocities that took place in the North and East, and perhaps in other parts of the country too.
Then, why are we so shocked and outraged when Karuna Amman comes on an election stage and boasts that he killed thousands of soldiers? Why would we expect anything less from him? For 22 years, before he broke ranks, that was his life, his duty, his mission: To kill as many soldiers and civilians as possible in order to further the LTTE’s cause.
The point, we should make here is that Col Karuna never underwent a process of rehabilitation. Ideally, soon after his defection – or at least after the war ended in 2009 – Karuna and his cadres should have been sent through a process of vigorous rehabilitation. This never happened.
What happened was, he quickly went from a separatist militant to a Government ally to a politician, with no break in the middle.
The reality is that we, as a nation, have been celebrating the post-defection usefulness of Karuna in finishing the war that we have collectively forgotten the atrocities he personally committed and commanded to commit during his time as an LTTE militant. Last week’s incident was a stark reminder!