By Michael Roberts –
A gnawing fear resides today in my guts. I fear that one or more of the Sri Lanka cricketers at the IPL matches in India will end up maimed or dead. This is an imminent and distinct possibility – a slim one I admit, but not wholly fanciful. I earnestly wish I am wrong; but I think that either a lone ranger or a clique of Tamil zealots is quite capable of carrying out such an attack in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi or Calcutta. Security precautions can go only so far. Individual cricketers are highly vulnerable.
The danger will be that much greater if an operation mounted by a body of zealous Tamils residing in India has established links with the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam or the Global Tamil Forum. In my surmise however, the greater likelihood is the emergence of a few independent extremists who have decided to strike a retributive blow for the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils by targeting a Sri Lankan symbol. Let me remind readers that, on 17th May 2009 during the height of simmering Tamil fury worldwide as the LTTE slid to a comprehensive military defeat, a few Tamils, including Amalathepan Srikantharajah, invaded the home of some young Sinhalese Sri Lankans at Westmead in Sydney and threw acid on one and left another with a broken leg and stab wound to the stomach (Drummond 2009).
Just last month on 28th March 2012 sacrificial commitment towards the Tamil cause was displayed in flaming self-immolation by a thirty-year old male member of Viduthalai Chiruthikal Katchi acting in protest against the Sri Lankan government. Six months previously a 26-year old auto-driver named Vijayaraj attempted self-immolation at Salem as an act of protest when President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Sanchi much further north in order to lay a foundation stone for a Buddhist university.
Both men seem to be Tamilnadu Tamils. It is possible that they had personal reasons for such extreme action. Though extreme, there is a long history of self-immolation in protest – or sometimes in sympathetic grief — in southern India, with popular respect accruing to these persons as martyrs for their cause. The recent acts of immolation acts have been interpreted by Tamils worldwide as Tamil nationalist acts directed against Sri Lanka. The CTK man’s act seems to have been inspired by the student movement in Tamilnadu launched recently in condemnation of Sri Lanka, an upsurge seemingly provoked by the latest Channel Four documentary and the focus on the alleged killing of young Balachandran Prabhakaran.
In Tamilnadu generally the agitation over the last few years appears to have seen the Sri Lankan conflict as a case of a “Tamil struggle” and not as a LTTE struggle. This is a significant twist. The advocacy adopted by the recent student campaign suggests that its violence against Lankan travellers has been seeded by this line of political thinking; though there also is widespread unhappiness with the degree to which the central government in Delhi caters to regional needs. Maya Ranganathan insists that the student bodies are not cats-paws of either the Chennai government or leading politicians. Indeed, they turned away three politicians who attempted to foist themselves upon their protest campaign (skype chat, 5 April 2013).
Nevertheless one has to take note of the fiery rhetoric in condemnation of Sri Lanka expressed in recent months by leading Tamilnadu politicians and the prominent film director, Seeman. The Tamilnadu government has now gone to the extreme of banning Sri Lankan cricketers from IPL matches in Chennai. Such expressive actions by prominent personnel, clearly, are catering to their popularity and/or electoral ambitions. But they also provide justification, and thus encouragement, for initiatives of all types. The recent spate of assaults on Sri Lankan bhikkhus and travellers in Tamilnadu as well as the self-immolation at Salem seem to be outcomes of this climate of fervour promoted both by the students and prominent personalities.
This does not mean that all individual political acts are engineered from above. Tamil zealots worldwide are usually inspired by a deep attachment to Tamilness. They are staunch patriots. The Dravidian movement of the mid-20th century may be relatively dormant now because the threat from the Hindi language and the central government in Delhi are distant memories. But sentiments of Tamilness remain strong in some quarters, providing a seed bed for expressive action when some issue sparks the ‘carburettor’ – in much the same manner as the Sinhala Buddhist ideology of the 1956 era has served as a seed bed for virulent animus towards the Muslims in Sri Lanka in recent times. Indeed, in 1991 a few Tamils were ready to join the LTTE in the plot to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. Here, Tamil patriotism trumped Indian patriotism. Needless to say, in terms of self-justification killing a Sri Lankan is that much easier for a Tamilnadu-Tamil zealot.
We need not go that far. There are also many Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamilnadu — perhaps as much as 120,000 or thereabouts. Some of them have resided in southern India for over twenty years. Some of them were LTTE supporters in the past and a few were LTTE functionaries of some consequence. Where some of these people remain attached to the idea of Eelam, there bitterness will run deep. Bitterness spawns vengeance.
In brief, therefore, one has two bodies of personnel in India, mostly in the southern reaches, but also elsewhere, from whom an organisation can recruit assassins; and two bodies of personnel who may spawn lone-ranger missions bent on making their individual mark on world politics by proclaiming the vitality of the Eelam cause for Tamil patriots. SO, then, we see the reasoning that leads me to raise the prospect, however slim, of imminent danger for individual Sri Lankan cricketers at the IPL.
Just as Godse sought to eliminate a symbolic figure (Gandhi) who was deemed to have divided Greater India, in these circumstances in India today, then, one has the possibility of a few extremists from Tamilnadu travelling by train to any one of the Indian cities where they have acquaintances who serve as a base for a symbolic act of assassination or maiming.
This awesome spectre is raised here as one step in a set of reflections seeking to explore the makings of zealotry of an ethnic, nationalist or religious kind. The intention is to separate underlying long-standing factors identified as a “seed-bed” reproduced (and thus altered within continuity) over time from the immediate causes of extremist expressions in the name of the ethnic/nationalist collective. These measures of reflection in their turn seek to focus on HATE-SPEECH. This focus seeks to counter the overemphasis on the perpetrators of violence to the detriment of those who incite. The stirrers are key forces in the generation of violence. They are not restricted to the activists who occupy political platforms or address impromptu crowds. Ordinary folk who purvey rumour or concoct tales of some heinous act by a named enemy other are incendiary elements contributing to the violence of assassinations, affrays, riots and pogroms. They are part of the circuits of virulence and hate-speech.
Rumours and tales of atrocity often embody exaggerations, distortions and fabrications as part of their incitement to strike back at the atrocious Other. Motives of revenge reshaped as just acts of retribution are powerful gunpowder. It is towards this verdict that my initial warnings about the IPL scenario via the very real case of victimisation that occurred in Sydney in mid-May 2009 are presented. Ultimately, the purpose is to encourage self-reflection and to caution one against the virulent excesses that enter street-talk and salon-talk as well as the blogs and messages on internet and social media.
|ABC 2009 “Sri Lankans ‘petrified’ after Sydney acid attack,” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-05-18/sri-lankans-petrified-after-sydney-acid-attack/1686912Drummond, Andrew 2009 “Man charged over acid attack,” http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/man-charged-over-acid-attack-in-sydney-20090701-d4jl.html.Hudson, Dennis 1990 “Self-Sacrifice as Truth in India,” In M. Cormack (ed.) Sacrificing the Self.Perspectives on Martyrdom in Religion, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 132-52.Jaffrelot, C. 2003 “Opposing Gandhi: Hindu Nationalism and Political Violence,” In Violence/Nonviolence. Some Hindu Perspectives. Denis Vidal, G. Tarabout and E. Meyer, eds.New Delhi: Manohar. Pp. 299-324.Jeyaraj, DBS 2013 “Attacks on two Sri Lankan Buddhist Monks in Tamil Nadu,” http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/dbsjeyaraj-column/27102-attacks-on-two-sri-lankan-buddhist-monks-in-tamil-nadu.html|
Kaarthikeyen D.R. and R. Raju 2004 The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination. The Investigation, Slough: New Dawn Press Inc.
Nandy, Ashis 1980 “Final Encounter—The Politics of the Assassination of Gandhi” in Nandy, At the Edge of Psychology, Delhi: Oxford University Press,
Ramaswamy, Sumathi 1997 Passions of the Tongue, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Ranganathan, Maya 2013 “The ‘counter-hegemonic’ to the ‘national nodal-point’: frames in press coverage relating to Sri Lankan Tamil issue in Tamil Nadu, India,” Mss in process with journal.
Roberts, Michael 1996 “Filial Devotion and the Tiger Cult of Suicide,” Contributions to Indian Sociology 30:
Roberts, Michael n. d. “Selfless Sacrifice and Living Gods among the Tamil Tigers,” Mss in process.
Roberts, Michael 2010 “Killing Rajiv Gandhi: Dhanu’s sacrificial metamorphosis in death?” South Asian History and Culture, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2010, 25–41.
Seeman 2013 “Seeman Live from Geneva – About Prabhakaran, SriLanka and Congress,” 20 March 2013http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAMvg9ON-VA.
 He is the son of a restaurant owner at Seven Hills in Sydney and it is believed that he was identified via DNA (info from a friend in Sydney, 4 April 2013). He did not divulge the name of his accomplices. See Drummond 2019; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01G0WpNYiZ8 and http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-05-18/sri-lankans-petrified-after-sydney-acid-attack/1686912.
 The Sinhalese men were Jayasri Watawala (22) and Chathurika Weerasinghe (27).
 It is surmised that acid was acquired from their association with cleaning businesses in the city.
 They had set out on this “mission” after an altercation with some Sinhalese on the 17 May which followed from a Tamil demonstration (grapevine information and Drummond 2009). One has to absorb the hate speech on blog comments in Tamil and Lankan web sites during the first half of 2009, and study the faces in the photographs of demonstrations in Western cities to comprehend the virulence and fervour that coursed through the activists.
 See Roberts 1996 for references to such suicides in the southern parts of India after Mrs Gandhi was assassinated.
 Email note from Maya Ranganathan, 5 April 2013 and Roberts 1996.
 Tele chat with Arun Ambalavanar 4 April 2013 and Email note from Maya Ranganathan, 5 April 2013.
 Note Ramaswamy 1997 for some understanding of this movement.
 See Kaarthikeyen and R. Raju 2004 The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination and Michael Roberts, 2010.
 Hudson 1990; Jaffrelot 2003; Nandy 1980 and Roberts n. d;