For a few weeks now newspapers are frenetically reporting on the various seizures of arms, ammunition, aluminum bars and what not, supposedly sought to be transported to Sri Lanka by the Tamil Tigers.
Even more disturbing, a deadly cargo of explosives was intercepted and blown up mid sea by the Indian Coast Guard and Tamil Nadu police.
What exactly is happening? Are Tigers getting desperate?
The semi-official LTTE website, Tamilnet, rather mournfully reported - The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in a statement marking five years since the signing of 22 February 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) with the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), said the CFA formulated with the full support of the international community, had transcended the parameters of Sri Lanka`s majoritarian constitution, recognizing Tamil Eelam`s de facto existence and the balance of power between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the LTTE. However, the international community`s insistence on a solution that does not infringe on the `territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka,` is deeply frustrating for the Tamil people, the statement said.
Tamils are frustrated for many other reasons too, but it is the rebels who are annoyed that they are unable to find a way out of the logjam. Internally they are weakened after Karuna`s revolt and internationally they are almost completely isolated.
At a time when the Rajapakse government, virtually under the thumb of the Sinhalese chauvinists, is making life increasingly miserable for the Tamil civilian population, neither India nor anyone from the West has cared to come forward to even tell Lanka to hold its hand, leave alone condemn it for its all-too-obvious human rights violations. Any reaction is clothed in vague generalities.
Finding itself in such a tricky position of its own making, the LTTE should be desperate to make some dramatic strikes in Colombo. But, unfortunately for it, the authorities there have become the wiser, and the much famed suicide bombers are unable to penetrate the security rings.
With the Indian Navy actively co-operating with the island nation in keeping vigil in international waters, the Tiger supply line could be in serious trouble. In such circumstances they should be finding it difficult even to mount to limited attacks. Hence they have to lap up anything and everything they could lay their hands on, cycle ball bearings or aluminium bars. But even that is not to be, it looks like.
But that is not the concern of many of our Indian commentators. They are worrying themselves to death only apprehending that `sleeper cells` have become active and a second assassination might not be all that far away. Television channels are constantly ambushing the Lanka experts.
Well, in the case of Tigers, your guess is as good as mine. In a fit of mindless rage or just by way of scoring some point, they could do anything, yes. Still I find it difficult to believe that they would be foolish enough to do anything that could alienate them further from the Tamils of Tamil Nadu.
The greatest loser on May 21, 1991 was the Tigers themselves, for, at one stroke, they lost their Indian base altogether. Had only they been more sensible and `put up with Rajiv Gandhi,` they would have enjoyed an easy access to Tamil Nadu for a pretty long time, even if restricted now and then.
In fact the Indian state might have tried to use them as some kind of a trump card against Lanka as and when occasions so demanded.
It is still not clear whether the LTTE was taking revenge for the IPKF atrocities or it was merely a silly attempt to prevent India from forcing some unpalatable peace deal down their throats.
Even assuming that as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi would have tried to turn more screws on them, still such a situation would have been a lesser disaster than what happened after the assassination. Logistically, politically, diplomatically, in every which way you could think, they lost out. Most crucially, they lost all public sympathy.
A decade later it is doubtful whether the LTTE has been able to successfully rehabilitate itself at least in the minds of the Tamil Nadu Tamils.
Remember in his Heroes Day address last year, Prabhakaran had remarked, ` At this historic time when the Tamils are recommencing their journey on the path of freedom, we seek the unwavering support and assistance of the world Tamil community. We express our gratitude to the Tamil Nadu people and leaders for voicing their support and ask them to continue their efforts to help us in our freedom struggle.`
Leaders, the key word. Generally it was taken to refer to Chief Minister Karunanidhi with whom they have had an uneasy relationship. They actually kept him at an arms length, an early instance having been Prabhakaran`s refusal to partake of the funds raised by the DMK in 1986 ? in an attempt to placate MGR.
Even otherwise there have been reports that in their private conversations various LTTE leaders lashed out at Karunandihi as being unreliable. Prabhakaran did extend an olive branch during the IPKF period, calling for the DMK chief`s intervention, but the Rajiv assassination and the DMK`s electoral rout that followed put paid to any chances of further rapport.
Still some leverage Karunandihi would permit by way of flaunting his Tamil nationalist credentials, but he would be the last person to allow anything that could endanger his gaddi or his son`s succession.
The events of the last fortnight clearly are yet another case in point. And after the Chief Minister`s latest warning to the political elements `colluding with the Tigers,` even the pro-LTTE lobby could reduce their decibel level.
Privately intelligence officials discount the possibility of any major strike in Tamil Nadu and say that the rebels are fondly eyeing the state as a key centre of their operations only because of the difficult situation back home.
`But what they don`t understand is that the eighties are gone for good. The Assembly could pass an occasional resolution but the Centre will not move. And the Chief Minister doesn`t seem to care less. Neither the political executive nor the officialdom at any level in this country would do anything to encourage them. They will have to think of routes other than the Palk Straits to replenish their supplies.`
Nemesis has been ruthless in the case of the Tigers. They had torpedoed Chandrika`s sincere efforts in 1994, crippling the peace constituency among the Sinhalese. In the war that ensued, they might have scored some spectacular successes and forced the government to sue for peace. But the terms of the cease-fire in 2002 were not exactly more exciting than what Chandrika was offering them eight years earlier.
The Tigers had sabotaged Ranil Wickremesinghe`s chances in the presidential elections, perhaps calculating that a hawkish state and renewed war would mean greater international support for them. Perhaps it is dawning on them now that the world has more pressing concerns than Eelam.
Signs then are the last act is being played out in the tortured saga of the Liberation Tigers. No tears will be shed for them of course, but one shudders at the thought of what could happen to the Sri Lankan Tamils post-Prabhakaran.