Vaiko has been an undisguised supporter of the LTTE

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS,

New Delhi : Sri Lanka’s decision to make public videos and photographs showing Vaiko with Velupillai Prabhakaran is bewildering since the Tamil Nadu politician’s association with the Tamil Tigers chief has never been a secret.

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Nor is it unknown that Vaiko defied the laws of both India and Sri Lanka to make a clandestine visit by sea to the Tamil Tiger lair in the island’s north in 1989 when he was an MP and when Indian troops were battling the rebels.

Vaiko was then in the DMK, and his secret journey, undertaken without the knowledge of the party as well as its leader M. Karunanidhi, strained his ties with the latter. Eventually, Vaiko – then known as V. Gopalasamy – left the DMK and went on to form the MDMK that he now heads.

Vaiko is an undisguised supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The association began, like with many in Tamil Nadu, a long time before the LTTE was outlawed in India for assassinating former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally near Chennai in May 1991.

When the police in Tamil Nadu and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) cracked down on the LTTE after Gandhi’s killing, they uncovered 464 videos produced by the Tigers besides a mountain of photographs.

One of the videos was exclusively devoted to Vaiko’s trip to Sri Lanka during which he met Prabhakaran and many LTTE leaders in camps even as Indian troops hunted for the Tamil Tiger chief.

In that video, Prabhakaran tells an amused Vaiko how the LTTE intelligence chief acquired the nom de guerre Pottu Amman.

In his discussions, Vaiko refers to Prabhakaran as “thalaivar” (leader) while the LTTE chief addresses the Indian as “anne” (brother).

Among the others Vaiko met in LTTE camps were Gopalasamy Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya, the once-number two in the LTTE, and his associate Yogi.

Details of Vaiko’s trip are known in India. Some of the LTTE cadres who provided security to the Indian politician in Sri Lanka now lead quiet lives in the West.

Indian investigators, for reasons both political and diplomatic, refrained from publicising any of the meticulously preserved photographs, videos and LTTE documents they seized, some dating back to the 1970s.

When the Gandhi killing was being investigated, detectives found a diary belonging to Sivarasan, the “one-eyed Jack” who witnessed the assassination from close quarters and who reported directly to Pottu Amman.

One noting in the diary puzzled the police. It read in Tamil: “V Ko”.

Detectives initially feared that “V Ko” might be “Vaiko” in short and it could signify that the politician was perhaps secretly meeting Sivarasan, who was from the LTTE intelligence.

However, a police officer soon realised that the code stood for “Valluvar Kottam”, a place in Chennai where Sivarasan had been meeting his contacts.

The reality is that Vaiko, like most Indians, was blissfully unaware of the LTTE’s plot to kill Gandhi. But he did tell a friend shortly after the death of Gandhi that he feared he might be arrested.

From the pile huge of photographs and videos seized in Tamil Nadu, the CBI used only 10-12 videos to build up its case that the LTTE had indeed killed Gandhi.

The photographs and videos made public by Colombo also show Tamil Nadu politician P. Nedumaran with LTTE leaders. Formerly the head of the Congress in Tamil Nadu, he is clearly Prabhakaran’s oldest ally in India.

Unlike Vaiko, Nedumaran is low profile and does not any more take part in electoral politics.

When Prabhakaran was given bail by a court in Chennai (then Madras) in 1982 after his dramatic arrest in the city following a shootout, the then unknown rebel lived with Nedumaran in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai town for around six months.

Nedumaran threatened to sail to Sri Lanka in 1983 in a boat but had to return to shore after the vessel began to leak.

In 1985, he paid a clandestine visit to the LTTE lair in Sri Lanka’s north, spending days there. He wrote a book on his journey and followed it up with a slim biography of Prabhakaran, both in Tamil.