The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist-cum-insurgent organisation is dead. So is most of its leadership at the senior levels, including Prabakaran, its head. One cannot say with equal confidence that all its trained cadres----whether in insurgency or terrorism or both----have been fully accounted for----either killed or captured.
Its dead leaders have not left detailed documentation of their set-up giving details of the number trained, the number of losses, the number still alive towards the end of their fight with the Sri Lankan Army, their deployment, their capabilities, weapons-holdings etc. As a result, it is difficult to assess with some accuracy the risks of a revival of the Tamil militancy in some form or the other in Sri Lanka as well as in Tamil Nadu.
2. One can assess with some confidence that there is little likelihood of the revival of a Tamil insurgent movement. The losses in trained personnel and capabilities suffered by the LTTE at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army will rule that out. The enhancement of the deployment of the Army in the Tamil areas----already under way---- will ensure that Tamil insurgency cannot stage a come-back in Sri Lanka like the Taliban did in Afghanistan.
3. However, one cannot rule out the dangers of a revival of a terrorist movement by the unaccounted for remnants of the LTTE in Sri Lanka as well as in Tamil Nadu. The LTTE had trained an unquantified number of its cadres----men and women--- in different kinds of terrorist operations, including suicide terrorism. One does not know how many were trained, how many were killed or captured by the Sri Lankan Army and how many have managed to evade capture and are biding their time in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. They have a high level of expertise in the use of terrorism as a modus operandi as well as in the fabrication of explosive material by using substances easily available in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.
4. So long as these remnants with the required expertise are available, a determined and motivated Tamil leader can rally them round and create sleeper cells for a new Tamil militant movement. A new generation of Tamil militant leadership is not yet on the horizon a year after the decimation of the LTTE. However, there is still anger in pockets of the Tamil communities in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu over the manner in which the Sri Lankan Army carried out its counter-insurgency operations and over what is seen as foot-dragging by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in carrying out his assurances for a fair political settlement made to the Tamils before the LTTE was crushed. Now that the LTTE has been crushed, he is no longer showing a sense of urgency and fairplay in addressing the problems and grievances of the Tamils.
5. The fact that this anger is present not only in the Tamil community of Sri Lanka, but also of Tamil Nadu became evident recently from the protests in Tamil Nadu over an Indian film festival held in Sri Lanka, which was boycotted by Tamil actors, the protest demonstrations during the recent visit of Mr.Rajapaksa to New Delhi and the unsuccessful attempt by some unidentified persons believed to be sympathisers of Prabakaran to cause a derailment with locally-procured explosives in Tamil Nadu in the early hours of June 12. The Kumbakonam-Chennai Rockfort Express escaped what could have been a tragedy when two alert drivers---one of a train which preceded the Rockfort Express and the other of the Express---- noticed a possible terrorist attempt to cause a derailment. According to media reports, pamphlets purported to have been drafted by supporters of the late Prabakaran claiming responsibility for the attempt were found on the spot. Only a police investigation can establish whether the attempt was made by supporters of Prabakaran as claimed in the pamphlets or by Maoists as a mark of solidarity with the LTTE. In the past, when Prabakaran was alive, there were unconfirmed reports of contacts between the LTTE and the Maoists.
6. Anger is often the mother of militancy and terrorism. The LTTE is dead. Most of its senior leadership is no more. But anger in sections of the Tamil community is still there. Motivated individuals, who are prepared to give vent to their anger by using terrorism, are available. Only leadership to rally them round is not there. The post 9/11 history of terrorism shows that the absence of a leadership capable of uniting the terrorists and orchestrating their activities does not mean the end of terrorism. Autonomously operating individuals itching to give vent to their anger have been behind many recent acts of terrorism. Terrorism analysts have been speaking of an emerging phenomenon of leadersless terrorism due to acts of angry individuals.
7. Till the cause of the anger of the Sri Lankan Tamils is satisfactorily addressed, the danger of a revival of terrorism in sections of the Tamil community will remain present. (ENDS)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presetly, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )