Thursday, May 28, 2009

ISI HQ Hit in Lahore

Suspected Taliban militants on Wednesday brazenly targeted the provincial headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence in Lahore , detonating an explosive-laden car, leaving at least 35 people dead and over 250 wounded.

Though heavily armed militants, believed to be two to four in number, failed to reach the main premises housing the ISI office, they detonated the explosives, which damaged the building and totally flattened the nearby city police rescue office.

The terrorist hit squad headed their vehicle towards the two buildings located just off the Mall Road, but as heavily armed guards stopped them, they came out and exchanged fire with the guards, before setting off a massive blast.

District Coordination Officer Lahore Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta said a car loaded with explosives rammed into the barriers on the road leading to the buildings housing ISI and the Lahore police office.

Though the Punjab government officials confirmed that only 18 people were dead, the privately-run Ehdi Ambulance Service has put the death toll at 35. The hospital officials said 13 of the dead were policemen and seven were ISI officials.

Commissioner Lahore Khusro Pervaiz said that 18 persons, mostly policeme, had been confirmed dead so far and 187 people had suffered injuries. Police chief Pervaiz Rathore estimated that over 100 kg of explosives had been used in the blast. He said the death toll could rise as a number of people were still trapped under the rubble.

"A white car approached the ISI headquarters and opened fire on the police guards and also threw grenades before heading towards it," Abid Ali, an eyewitness, told PTI.

Lahore is the second largest Pakistani city and today's attack was the third major terrorist assault on the metropolis this year, heightening fears that militancy may be creeping into the Pakistani heartland.

No organisation immediately took responsibility for the blast in the city. The blast comes less than two months after the attack on the police academy at Manawan, close to Lahore, on March 30 this year, when armed gunmen laid a siege resulting in the deaths of 10 people, including eight policemen.

Lahore was also the scene of an attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3, in which eight people, including six police officials, were killed and six cricketers were injured.

"Apparently the target was ISI," a witness said, adding that the terrorists first opened fire on police guards and then rammed the vehicle into the barrier in a bid to hit the buildings.

TV channels reported three suspects have been arrested. The attack came a day after Taliban spokesperson Maulvi Mohammad Omar threatened attacks across Pakistan if the military operation in Swat was not stopped immediately.

A police source informed PTI that some suspects involved in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team were being interrogated in the ISI building.

In March 2008, some suspects involved in the Naval War College attack were being interrogated at the Federal Investigation Agency building, when a mini-truck loaded with huge explosives ran into it, killing 30 people, mostly FIA officials.

TV channels reported that approximately 40 vehicles were destroyed in the blast, which also caused considerable damage to nearby buildings. Soon after the incident, the army personnel cordoned off the area. The Special Investigation Group of FIA also reached the spot and collected forensic evidence.

The impact of the blast was so powerful that windowpanes of government buildings, private offices, schools and a cinema hall within one kilometre radius were broken.

Two schoolchildren were reportedly also killed in the attack. The injured were shifted to the major hospitals in Lahore.

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History of Tamil Persecution

Tamils, belonging to the Dravidian Race are the original inhabitants of India. They have been persecuted since ages. The first attack on Dravidians are done by the nomadic Aryans who were looking for an ideal country to settle in. This happened couple of thousands of years back.

There is a language called Brahui, which is spoken in parts of Balochistan Province in Pakistan. This language belongs to the Dravidian Family of languages. Some historians consider that Brahui might be a remnant of the language spoken in the Indus Valley Civilisation. This itself proves that Tamils are persecuted since hundreds of years.

As Aryans advanced, Tamils were pushed into what is called as the present day Tamilnadu in Southern part of India. The Britishers took Tamils to Srilanka and Malaysia to work in the Tea Gardens. Even for this day, Tamils in Malaysia are persecuted by the Muslim majority country through its "Bhumiputra" policy.

British policy of Divide and Rule placed the minority Tamils capturing most of the Government jobs in British Srilanka and once Independence was granted to Srilanka in 1948, the majority Sinhalese saw this domination of Tamils in Government jobs as a strategy to keep the majority sinhalese in Control and in 1956, they came out with a "Sinhala Only Language" (Official Language Act) making Sinhala as the only official language of Srilanka.

This enraged the Tamils and they protested through Satyagraha (Non Violence). Sinhalese mobs reacted through violence and killed more than 300 Tamils in what is called as the "58 Riots". Sinhalese gangs attacked Tamil labourers in Polonnaruwa farms. Tamils who tried to hide in sugar-cane fields were surrounded there and the fields set ablaze by the mobs. Those who fled were clubbed down or hit by machetes. In Hinguarkgoda, rioters ripped open the belly of an eight-month-pregnant woman, and left her to bleed to death.

Here is a list of Anti Tamil Riots in Srilanka:

* Gal Oya (1956)
* 1958 riots (1958)
* 1977 riots (1977)
* Jaffna library (1981)
* Black July (1983)
* Welikada (1983)
* Kalutara (1997)
* Bindunuwewa (2000)

All these riots let to the formation of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Background for Black July Riots:

The events dubbed Black July began after members of the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the Tamil Tigers or the LTTE) organization ambushed a military convoy in the North of Sri Lanka on the evening of July 23, 1983 outside the town of Jaffna in the North of Sri Lanka.

In the July 23 massacre of 13 soldiers, initially, a road-side bomb was detonated beneath the jeep that was leading the convoy, injuring at least two soldiers on board. As soldiers traveling in a truck which was following the jeep dismounted to help their colleagues, they were ambushed by a group of Tamil Tiger fighters, who fired at them with automatic weapons and hurled grenades at them. In the ensuing clashes, one officer and 12 soldiers died immediately, while two more were fatally wounded, bringing the total death toll to 15 along with number of terrorists.Kittu, a regional commander of the LTTE later admitted to planning and carrying out the ambush.

This enraged the Sinhalese and in the following days, massacred 3000 Tamils.

Now, with LTTE wiped out of Srilanka, India should ensure that Tamils were given equal powers along with Sinhalese in the Government.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

How the Lankan Army Crushed the LTTE

The modern world has rarely seen a force as deadly as the LTTE who fought the Sri Lankan State for almost 30 years. The LTTE's courage and commitment for their cause was legendary and never doubted. But the ground situation in the LTTE strongholds around Killinochi, Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara started changing, perceptions of supremo V Prabhakaran and the legend of the ferocious Tigers started unravelling once President Mahinda Rajapakse's government decided to take the battle head-on in August 2006.

The abortive attempt on Sri Lanka army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonsenka by a suspected pregnant LTTE woman cadre inside the military headquarters in April 2006 in a way can be termed as the beginning of the last war fought by the LTTE under Prabhakaran's command. A seriously injured Fonseka escaped death by a whisker and spent the next five months in hospital.

Rajapakse, who was elected as president in November 2005, had fought the election against his rival and former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the plank of wiping out terrorism from the island nation and the military defeat of the LTTE. Ironically, the Tigers helped Rajapakse's ascent to the most powerful position in Sri Lanka by its diktat to the Tamils, who traditionally supported Wickremesinghe's party, to boycott the election. Despite this generous help from the LTTE, Rajapakse won the election only by a margin of 150,000 votes.

He got the much needed opportunity to launch a military offensive against the Tigers in August 2006 when the LTTE blocked the sluice gates of an irrigation canal in the east over a dispute with the government on execution of a development project in the province.

What began as a fight between the government and the LTTE over the canal issue escalated into a full-fledged war. It was the beginning of the end of the LTTE with the military notching one victory after the other.

The first flashpoint that lead to the LTTE defeat

"This war against the LTTE started in August 2006. The LTTE blocked an irrigation canal in the Eastern provinces which were controlled by the Tigers. The government objected to it. They said this is a cruel thing to do because hundreds of farmers's livelihoods were dependent on it. The LTTE claimed they created an obstacle in the canal project only because the government had not delivered on some other plans and broken promises to release money for development projects for Sri Lankan Tamils.

The tussle over the canal was the first flashpoint that has now ended in the decimation of the LTTE.

The government chalked out a plan to get aggressive. In just a few days, on August 10, 2006, the government closed highway A-9 that connected Jaffna to Colombo. In one stroke that decision affected some 600,000 Sri Lankans who were completely got cut off from the rest of the world.

A-9 is not an ordinary highway. It was a cash-cow for the LTTE. Every item that entered north of Killinochi from the south and mid Sri Lanka was taxed by the LTTE.

The money collected on A-9 was the main source of finance for the LTTE. Their military was strengthened from the tax collected from A-9. The government erected their own entry and exit points on A-9. It was a huge blow to the Tigers.

The LTTE understood the game. On August 14, 2006, two very important events took place. Pakistan High Commissioner retired Colonel Bashir Wali was unsuccessfully attacked.

The same day the government conducted an aerial raid on a school in Mullaitheevu district; 53 girls were killed. The government defended the action, saying the school was training 'suicide bombers'.

In December 2006, a suspected LTTE suicide bomber rammed an autorickshaw into a convoy with Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse, the president's brother. He had retired from the Sri Lanka military two decades ago and ran a store in the US. A green card holder, Gothabaya returned to the island at the government's invitation to take over the defence establishment.

The Gothabaya Rajapakse-General Fonseka combination proved lethal for the LTTE. In early 2007 the Rajapakse government took a clear and firm decision that the time had come to hit the LTTE in its heartland.

The east liberated, the LTTE pushed back

The government directed the military to clear the eastern province, parts of which were under the LTTE's control, on the ground that the presence of the Tigers in the coastal towns of Trincomalee and Ampara were a threat to Lankan military assets and posed a serious threat to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the island nation.

The army first neutralised those areas and safeguarded its military assets. Around July 2007 the operation to liberate the eastern province from the LTTE was completed.

Even as the military operations in the east were on, the Rajapakse government marched a brigade to Mannar to take on the LTTE. The east was declared as 'liberated' in July 2007. Another operation commenced in September 2007 from Vavunnia in the north-east.

It was obvious that because of the frontal attacks, the LTTE went deeper and deeper into the Wanni area, perhaps as part of its so-called 'strategic retreat'.

The confrontation went on and on and on. The LTTE would normally know when the major attack would come, so a week or so earlier they would retreat from the area along with the entire population.

They safeguarded themselves with the 'people.' The Tamils in these areas have always found the Lankan army racist in its approach. They have been indoctrinated by the LTTE that only the Tigers could save them.

As the military offensive began some 300,000 people took a decision to stay with the LTTE and not the military. They took their jewellery, children and belongings to move along with the LTTE. They had faith in the LTTE's invincibility.

In March 2007, the LTTE conducted a stunning operation that may have influenced the Tamil population's decision. Two members of the LTTE's Black Air Tiger suicide squad flew two light aircraft, carried out a daring attack and returned to LTTE territory. The LTTE released photographs of the pilots with Prabhakaran. The world took notice of the LTTE's airpower.

The beginning of the end

The LTTE kept losing territory in the north as a determined military breached LTTE defences in town after town, forcing the Tigers to retreat almost on a daily basis. The LTTE suffered loss after loss. By September 2008, the LTTE had lost some 10,000 square km of land. They were left with less than 5,000 square km.

The army resorted to all out war. They didn't succumb to public concerns, outside opinion and marched on. In the last week of September 2008, the government directed non governmental organisations and United Nations agencies to quit Tiger-held territory on the ground that their safety could not be guaranteed. They set a deadline for people to escape to safer areas.

From all quarters pressure was applied on the Lankan government and military, but they went on. By October-November 2008, the real war started. It was a full scale operation supported by planning, strategy, resources, intelligence and passion.

The first turning point and the beginning of the LTTE's end was there for the world to see when Killinochi fell. On his birthday (November 27), in his Heroes Day speech, even Prabhakaran said, 'The land of Tamil Eelam is confronted with an intense war as never before. Rearing its head in different parts of Wanni, the war is gathering momentum. As the Sinhala State is committed to a military solution, the war is becoming intense and widespread.'

'This war has affected Tamil civilians more than anybody else,' he said. 'By turning the heat of war on our people and by burdening them with immeasurable sufferings, the Sinhala State is aspiring to turn our people against the LTTE.'

It was quite clear that the pressure was on the LTTE. He praised India in that speech. 'I wish to express my love and gratitude at this juncture to the people and leaders of Tamil Nadu and the leaders of India for the voice of support and love they have extended. I would cordially request them to raise their voice firmly.' The message was a petition to India to help him out.

300,000 people moved along with Prabhakaran

Some 300,000 people were moving along with Prabhakaran. He was under strain and he needed respite from war. He thought the people were his insurance and no one would dare to kill 2,000 or more people. He was seeking an end to the war, but the Sri Lankan government had other plans.

December 31 and January 1, 2008, Killinochchi was under the army's control. Weeks before the military marched into Killinochchi town, the LTTE's administrative and political headquarters, the Tigers had moved to other areas. The Sri Lankan army moved into a deserted and desecrated Killinochchi. Barring dogs and cows, the town was left with no human body or soul.

Prabhakaran, the LTTE and Tamils had shifted to Mullaitheevu much before the military arrived in Killinochchi. The military shifted its focus to Elephant Pass which was with the LTTE since 1996. This was very important because it is the entry point to Jaffna.

Prabhakaran tried all ways to drew the world's attention to the plight of 300,000 people. He kept saying it is a genocide against the Tamils.

Back in India no one else but CPI leaders went on a fast in Chennai on October 2, demanding an end to the war on the ground that it was costing too many people's lives. Karunanidhi did his bit by putting pressure on the central government. He forced the government to act before the deadline. He said his ministers would resign if the military offensive against the Sri Lankan Tamils was not reduced. Rajapakse gave a favourable response in words, but the march of his military went on.

The Sri Lankan military's speed was unthinkable for the LTTE.

Mullaitheevu town was captured on January 25.

The actual war accelerated after this date. It was a ferocious war fought by the Sri Lankan army against its own rebels and people. From Mullaitheevu town, Prabhakaran moved people to Puthukkudiyiruppu.

The war here was different from other battles. In Killinochchi and Mullaitheevu, the Tamils retreated or escaped and left behind a ghost town, but in Puthukkudiyiruppu the battle was fought between the LTTE and army and the casualties on both sides were believed to be high.

The Tigers lost most of its fighting force in this battle along with several middle rung leaders. The town was turned into rubble. The LTTE had built some 100 km long earth-walls cum ditches up to 12 feet deep to stop the army's march.

Walls were built to stop the people from moving out and to prevent the army from getting in. Imagine what kind of effort must have gone in before the LTTE was defeated.

The idea was to get the advantage of height and depth, but the LTTE was defeated soon. The LTTE never expected the army would breach the earth walls so quickly.

The Lankan army's final push

The success of the military in breaching the three square kilometre earth wall in Puthumattlam, about 3 km from Puthukkuduriyippu, proved to be a turning point in the war.

From April 20 to 23, over 125,000 civilians fled from the Tigers's clutches and went over to the government side.

The Lankan government described it as the single largest hostage rescue mission ever undertaken in the world. Daya Master, George Master and other senior Tiger officials and other LTTE men surrendered. The people were hungry, tired, defeated, destroyed, and scared.

This was the defining moment when Sri Lankan Tamils emerged from the war zone. The LTTE and thousands of people were shrunk into a 12 square km area. The entrapment was real, but they didn't surrender.

Outside the war zone the government declared 20,000 people were with the LTTE. UN agencies estimated the figure at 50,000, but there were actually 70,000 people with the Tigers.

Meanwhile the election was on in India and the voting for the first phase ended on April 16. On April 27, to help decrease the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's pressure on the Congress-led government, President Rajpakase issued a cleverly drafted statement that his government's military objective was over and the focus was now entirely confined to rescue people. He said the army would not use heavy weapons.

On May 11, when Sonia Gandhi held a rally along with Karunanidhi, the Sri Lankan military went on a big offensive and shrunk the area under the LTTE's control to 5 square km. Voting in Tamil Nadu concluded on May 13.

From May 14, the military applied maximum pressure on the Tiger cadres and leaders holding onto the last stretch of land they were boxed in. After being encircled, the Tigers had no option but to let the remaining civilians escape from the area.

In less than 24 hours, President Rajapakse, who was at the G-11 summit in Jordan, declared that the LTTE was defeated and that in 48 hours his government would finish its humanitarian operation of the last stretch.

The LTTE understood that the end had come, the game was over. Probably, Prabhakaran and a few of his men were in the last 500 square metre area. On May 15, 16 and 17, the last bunch of 70,000 people came out.

The army captured LTTE sea-war expert Soosai's wife, son and relatives while fleeing the island via the sea. It was the first sign that Prabhakaran had lost control over the organisation, and even his senior comrades were contemplating escape.

At the last minute the president made an offer from Jordan through the Red Cross that the government was ready to accept the surrender of the LTTE top brass. It is not clear what actually happened in the negotiations.

Perhaps the Tiger top brass wanted to surrender to a third party and it was not acceptable to the military. The time had passed for every sane action.

On the morning of May 19, the LTTE's elite commandos and suicide squads fought their last battle. All of them were killed on the battlefield. Prabhakaran's bullet-ridden body was recovered by the Sri Lanka military in the early hours of May 19. Within hours his former trusted commander Colonel Karuna flew down and confirmed his identity.

One bloody chapter of history of this small nation ended that day, May 19, 2009.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Did Dick Cheney order Benazir's death?

An 'executive assassination ring', answerable only to former US Vice President Dick Cheney, played a role in the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, noted American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has alleged.

In a May 12 interview with Gulf News TV, Hersh claimed that Cheney ordered the hit on Bhutto because in a November 2007 interview with Al Jazeera TV, she had indicated that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was already dead.

Bhutto apparently added that it was Omar Saeed Sheikh, an Al Qaeda terrorist imprisoned in Pakistan for beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl, who murdered Osama. Speaking to the UAE-based Gulf News, Hersh opined that the Bush White House had Bhutto assassinated because it did not want Bin Laden to be declared dead, as such an event would seriously dent their credibility in continuing operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But the interviewer, award-winning British journalist David Frost, recently depicted in the acclaimed Hollywood film Frost/Nixon, removed her claims for the final edited version of the interview, Hersh alleged.

Hersh, a Pulitzer prize-winner who writes for the New Yorker and other well-regarded publications, is famous for breaking the My Lai massacre story, in which US soldiers massacred 347 to 504 unarmed citizens in a Vietnamese village; he also helped break the Abu Gharib prison abuse story in 2004.

In the interview, he also pointed to former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafique Al Hariri and a top Lebanese military officer as two more of Cheney's team's executed targets. Hersh said they were murdered for not protecting US interests and refusing to allow US to set up military bases in the country. Ariel Sharon, who at the time was prime minister of Israel, also played a key role, Hersh has alleged.

The man at the centre of these allegations, former US Vice President Dick Cheney, has spent the past few weeks in the public eye, as the debate over America's tactics in the War on Terror has intensified. Appearing on talk shows and in other interviews, Cheney has worked to justify using interrogation techniques widely considered to be torture, such as the controversial practice of waterboarding.

Interestingly, though he's become very forthright when speaking to the media now, during his time in the White House Cheney was often considered a shadowy figure and difficult to get on the record. Media commentators have attributed this recent about-face to Cheney's concerns that he and his peers may be prosecuted for their roles in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, specifically for their authorisation of torture.

Hersh too has been in the spotlight as of late. He recently gave a speech to the American Civil Liberties Union, wherein he accused Iraqi military personnel of sodomising children in front of their mothers in order to obtain information. What's more, he added, is that the US Department of Defence has tape of the incidents and were aware of such acts of barbarity.

Sources: (Did Dick Cheney order Benazir's death?)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Prabhakaran: The Life and Death of a Tiger

Velupillai Prabhakaran, 54, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE) who was declared killed by the Sri Lankan government on May 18, had decades to think about how his end would come. It could have come from the cyanide capsule that he - like many Tiger fighters - wore around his neck, a pledge to commit suicide in case of capture by the Sri Lankan Army. He had been fighting a war for an independent homeland, or eelam, for the island's Tamil minority since 1983, and the Army pursued him throughout the jungles of the north and east for decades. In 2002, during a press conference near the beginning of a four-year-long ceasefire, Prabhakaran revealed that he had asked his aides to kill him if capture was near and he was unable to kill himself.

The end, when it came, happened in an armored vehicle in which Prabhakaran was trying to flee with his trusted lieutenants, according to the Sri Lankan government. The group came under fire, and Prabhakaran was one of 18 top LTTE leaders killed in the early morning ambush, the government said. On May 19, the Army released images to Sri Lankan television of Prabhakaran's body, still in its uniform, in which his face is clearly visible. For the generation of Sri Lankans who have grown up knowing only a nation in conflict, the image of Prabhakaran has loomed over their lives, either as enemy or savior. More than 70,000 people have been killed in 26 years of war in Sri Lanka, and there are those who will not believe the elusive figure is gone until they see proof.

The rest of the world might never understand the violence Prabhakaran stood for, but its imprint on Sri Lanka is wide and deep. At the height of his power, just before the 2002 ceasefire, Prabhakaran was the unquestioned leader of a de facto government that controlled more than 15,000 square kilometers of territory in the north and east of Sri Lanka and had its own system of taxes, roads and courts. By the final weeks of conflict, he was believed to be using thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields against the advance of the Sri Lankan military. At the time of his death, 250 core LTTE members stood with him. Few will mourn the end of a man who ruthlessly ordered the murder of his opponents, demanded absolute fealty and pioneered the use of suicide bombings.

Prabhakaran was the youngest of four children, born in a middle class family in Valvettiturai, a fishing town on the northern coast of Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula. Very little is known about his early life. "My childhood was spent in the small circle of a lonely, quiet house," he said in a 1994 interview. He described a deep-seated anger against the military and remembered an 8th grade teacher who exhorted students to take up arms against them. "It is he who impressed on me the need for armed struggle and persuaded me to put my trust in it," he said. Jaffna was then considered the heart of Tamil culture and literature in Sri Lanka, and also the center of the growing Tamil nationalist movement, calling for greater autonomy for Tamil-majority areas to protest what they considered discrimination against Tamils by Sri Lanka's Sinhala-speaking majority. The most radical groups wanted complete independence and struck out at symbols of the Sri Lankan state, including fellow Tamils whom they considered collaborators.

Prabhakaran's own life as a fugitive began in 1975, with the assassination of Alfred Duraiappah, then mayor of the northern city of Jaffna. A group calling itself the Tamil New Tigers, of which Prabhakaran was a leader, claimed responsibility. The next year, Prabhakaran founded the LTTE. What began as a guerrilla movement escalated into full-scale civil war in July 1983. The LTTE killed 13 Sri Lankan Army troops in an ambush in Jaffna. In retaliation, as many as 3,000 Tamils, mainly in Colombo, were killed in several days of violence at the end of July. Human rights groups and other researchers say that Tamil homes and businesses were systematically targeted by organized mobs. The 1983 violence, known as Black July, marked the beginning of Sri Lanka's civil war and the rise of Prabhakaran from radical nationalist to feared terrorist. "The '83 July holocaust has united all sections of the Tamil masses," Prabhakaran said in a 1984 interview with an Indian magazine. Sri Lankans came to fear the month of July, which the LTTE commemorated with bombings and assassinations.

Over the following decades, Prabhakaran honed his movement into a cult of personality that glorified violence. "Armed struggle is the only way out for the emancipation of our oppressed people," he said in 1984. The LTTE steadily acquired massive caches of conventional weapons but pioneered two of the most brutal tactics of modern guerrilla warfare: child recruitment and suicide bombing. Children as young as 10 were used to kill women and children in remote rural villages, according to a 1996 UN report. In combat in the 1990s, between 40 and 60 percent of the dead Tiger fighters in Sri Lanka were children under the age of 18, according to a 2004 Human Rights Watch report. In 1987, the LTTE established the Black Tigers - suicide cadres, many of them young women, who would be honored with a private meal in the company of Prabhakaran before being sent out on their missions. Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991 was the apotheosis of this new tactic. Killed by a female suicide bomber on a campaign trip in a small town in Tamil Nadu, Gandhi had been targeted because of his decision to send in Indian peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka in 1987 while he was Prime Minister. The Tiger leader became a wanted man in India, and the tide of public opinion in India turned decisively against the LTTE. India has a large population of ethnic Tamils, and many of them had been sympathetic to the cause of oppressed Tamils in Sri Lanka. In 2002, when pressed by journalists on his involvement in the killing, Prabhakaran refused to comment. "It is a tragic incident that happened 10 years ago," he said. "We are not in a position to make a comment."

The group's attacks continued to grow more audacious, culminating in a 2001 suicide mission at the international airport in Colombo. By the time of the 2002 ceasefire, the LTTE was essentially governing Sri Lanka's northern and eastern provinces and had the trappings of a state military complete with a rudimentary air force and navy. Prabhakaran appeared with fanfare to sign an agreement with the Sri Lankan government that year, but during four years of negotiations that followed, neither side could agree to political compromise on autonomy for Tamil-majority areas. Confrontations between the Tigers and the government increased, and the assassinations resumed. The LTTE itself began to splinter, and one of Prabhakaran's top lieutenants, known as Karuna, broke away. With Karuna's help, the eastern provinces came under control of the government in 2007.

That left Prabhakaran with control of the north, secured by several thousand soldiers. But the transformation from running a guerrilla force to a conventional army may have been the leader's undoing. The nation's current president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, took office in 2005 and vowed to pursue a military solution. In a conventional war against an Army many times its size, the LTTE was sure to be outmatched, and eventually it was. Prabhakaran never again appeared before the press after 2002, but continued to release photos and speeches every year. "With its greed for land, Sinhalam [Sri Lanka] has entered a militaristic path of destruction," he said in his last speech in November 2008. "It has sought to build the support of the world to confront us."

Prabhakaran was correct. The LTTE had been banned by the U.S., the European Union and several other countries as a terrorist organization, and Rajapaksa pursued what he called a "war on terror" against the LTTE despite the repeated concerns of the UN and other groups about human rights violations and civilian casualties inflicted by both sides. More than 220,000 Tamil civilians are still being held in the north in internment camps, and it is not clear when they will be allowed to go home. The United Nations estimates that 40,000 to 60,000 are en route to the camps from the war zone. Another two million Tamils live in Colombo, under increased monitoring by the state. Nearly all of Sri Lanka's moderate Tamil politicians have been eliminated by the LTTE, which insisted that it was the only legitimate political voice for the Tamil minority. With the end of the LTTE, the Tamil National Alliance may play a greater role in negotiations for Tamil rights. There is still some hope of a political settlement that will grant Tamils some protection and greater autonomy; the Sri Lankan government is expected to ask for millions in international aid to rebuild the north. But the dream of eelam may be dead.

In its final offensive, the Sri Lankan Army hunted Prabhakaran for months, even as rumors floated that he might have escaped by boat to the Persian Gulf, East Africa or Southeast Asia. By the end, he was reduced to his core group of about 250 loyalists. The body of Prabhakaran's son, Charles Anthony, was recovered first and displayed on television within hours of his death. Prabhakaran's life ended in Mullivaikal, a strip of land on the northeastern coast, a place not much different from where he began.

Sources: Time Magazine and Yahoo News

After Prabhakaran, what next?

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is in its death rattle. It was decisively defeated by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces weeks ago, but a handful of its leadership headed by Prabhakaran has cynically and cruelly prolonged the agony of the Tamil civilians by using them as a buffer and human-shield in order to delay the re-establishment of the writ of the Sri Lankan Government in a miniscule piece of territory (about 20 sq.kms), which has been declared by the government as a no-fire zone to avoid collateral casualties among the civilians still under the control of the LTTE and to enable them to escape from the clutches of the LTTE.

Prabhakaran is a leader with a split personality. During the 26 years he has dominated the Tamil landscape in Sri Lanka , he had shown a remarkable organizing capacity and an ability to motivate his followers to perform virtual miracles. His motivation of his cadres to acquire a capability for action by air and sea would go down in the history of insurgency and terrorism as indicating an organizing capability of a high order. The LTTE under his leadership managed to bring almost the entire Tamil-inhabited territory in the Northern and Eastern Provinces under its control. The determined manner in which the LTTE fought against the Indian-Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the late 1980s and frustrated its efforts to defeat it spoke highly of its capabilities for a conventional warfare.

If Prabhakaran had the activities of the LTTE confined to conventional warfare and developed the LTTE as a purely insurgent force, which targeted only the Armed forces and not innocent civilians, he would have acquired greater support from the international community for the Tamil cause. The rational side of his personality as illustrated by his organizing capabilities had to constantly contend with a highly irrational side, which drove him to simultaneously take to terrorism of a shockingly brutal kind.

The targeted killings by the LTTE of many Sri Lankan Tamil leaders, who were perceived by Prabhakaran as possible impediments to his rise as the unquestioned leader of the Tamil community, and its brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 were the outcome of the irrational side of his personality. No other Indian leader had done more to help the Sri Lankan Tamil cause than Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Only a sickly and sickening irrational mind could have ordered the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and Laxman Kadirgamar, a highly-respected Tamil leader, who was a senior adviser on foreign policy to former President Chandrika Kumaratunge. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on Prabhakaran's orders shocked Indian public opinion----including public opinion in Tamil Nadu--- and weakened Indian support for the Tamil cause. The assassination of Kadirgamar shocked the Western public opinion and led to the declaration of the LTTE as a terrorist organization by the Western world, thereby denying the last vestiges of Western support for the Tamil cause.

As the LTTE faced one defeat after another during the last three years from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces---initially in the Eastern Province and finally in the Northern Province ---- the irrational side of Prabhakaran's personality erased his rational side. His shocking use of the Tamil civilians in order to delay the final end of the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaign undertaken by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces is driven by this irrational streak in him, which now dominates his personality.

The prolonged agony of the Sri Lankan Tamils caused by the final bout of Prabhakaran's irrationality and loss of lucidity in thinking has to be ended. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces, which have shown patience till now and deliberately slowed down their operations, cannot be faulted if they have come to the conclusion that the time has come to liberate the no-fire zone too from the clutches of the LTTE by undertaking limited operations with small arms and ammunition even at the risk of some collateral casualties to the civilians.

The desperate attempt of Prabhakaran to use civilians to protect himself from the advancing Sri Lankan Army can be attributed to the total loss of lucidity in his thinking and his consequent inability to face the bitter truth that he and his organization have been defeated decisively by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and that there is no chance of their staging a come-back.

The requiem for the LTTE could be written without fears of going wrong, should the LTTE stage a comeback as it had done on occasions in the past. It has been defeated beyond recovery. His conventional as well as terrorist capabilities are in shatters. Earlier conventional wisdom that small groups of the LTTE might still be able to keep indulging in sporadic acts of terrorism in different parts of Sri Lanks needs re-consideration.

His desperate delaying action at the cost of immense suffering to the Tamils, whose cause he claims to espouse, is meant to give him an opportunity to seek safe sanctuary either in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere from where he could try to re-start his fight against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. It is in the common interest of India and Sri Lanka that Prabhakaran is finally able to make peace with his maker by either being killed by the Armed Forces or by taking his own life. A defeated Prabhakaran, if left alive in India or elsewhere, would not be a threat, but could be a nuisance for both the countries.

After the death of the LTTE, which is expected any day, what is the future of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause? Would a requiem for the LTTE also mean a requiem for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause? Hopefully not. It is in India's interest that the LTTE as a terrorist organization is destroyed once and for all, but it is not in India's interest that the Sri Lankan Government and Armed Forces proceed from the destruction of the LTTE to the destruction of the Tamil aspirations for greater political and economic rights in their traditional homeland and for greater human dignity.

Let us not forget that ever since our independence in 1947, the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan, the Balochs and Sindhis of Pakistan and the Tamils of Sri Lanka have been India's natural allies. It was this reality which persuaded Indira Gandhi to assist the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan to achieve their independence. Even though successive governments in New Delhi refrained from supporting the causes of the Sindhis and the Balochs, Indian public opinion sympathized and continues to sympathise with their cause. It was sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause at New Delhi when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and in Tamil Nadu, which induced India to take up their cause in the 1980s.

There is no reason why India should not pride itself and seek to be the paramount power of the region. To emerge and remain as the paramount power, we need natural allies in the region around us. We should not let the legitimate aspirations of our natural allies---whether they be the Sindhis and Balochs of Pakistan or the Sri Lankan Tamils--- be crushed by a brutal regime--- whether in Islamabad or in Colombo.

Since 1947, the Balochs rose twice in revolt in favour of independence for their homeland. On both occasions, they were defeated by the Pakistani Armed Forces as decisively as the LTTE by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The Pakistani leadership brutally used the Air Force against the Balochs to crush their freedom struggle. Undaunted by this, the Baloch people, under a new leadership, rose in revolt for a third time two years ago and their third war of independence is still going on.

The remarkable victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces against the LTTE was partly due to their improved counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism capabilities made possible by Indian assistance in the form of training and sharing of intelligence and partly due to their emulating the Pakistani Armed forces in the brutal use of the Air Force against people whom they portray as their own. Just as the Balochs were defenceless against the brutal Pakistani air strikes, the Sri Lankan Tamils were defenceless against the Sri Lankan air strikes.

The US has used air strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan----but in foreign territory and against foreign nationals. Only three countries in the world have used air strikes in their own territory against their own people---- the Pakistanis against the Balochs, the Russians against the Chechens and the Sri Lankans against the Tamils.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has repeatedly promised that once the LTTE is defeated, he would be generous in meeting the political aspirations of Tamils. He gives the impression of being a sincere man, but will the Sinhalese Army with its head bloated by its success against the LTTE allow him to do so? The indications till now are not encouraging. Many Sri Lankan officers might have been trained in India, but their mindset and their attitude towards the minorities have more in common with those of their Pakistani counterparts than with those of their Indian counterparts. Therein lies the danger that after winning the war against the LTTE, the Government, strongly influenced by a victorious army, might trey to impose a dictated peace on the Tamils.

If the angry Tamils once again look up to India, there is no reason why we should not reciprocate provided a new leadership emerges in the Tamil community and it has drawn the right lessons from the brutalities of the LTTE.

The LTTE is deservedly dying, but long live the Tamil cause.

LTTE may be defeated, but India must be careful

This a very nice article from which is written by Mr.B. Raman.

According to reports from the Sri Lankan Army, it has completed the liberation of all the territory under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and decimated its entire leadership including its chief V Prabakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman, Soosai, the chief of the Sea Tigers, and others. No leader based in the Northern Province appears to have succeeded in escaping.

It is likely that at least some of its trained cadres remain to be accounted for. It is going to be difficult for the Sri Lankan Army to trace all of them and arrest them. This will be a long-drawn-out exercise. The surviving cadres would not remain in groups. They would have dispersed individually and merge with the civilian population since it would be difficult for them to escape abroad.

Will the surviving cadres have the capability to indulge in sporadic acts of terrorism in other parts of Sri Lanka? A significant aspect of the confrontation between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE for over eight weeks now was the total absence of any diversionary attack by the LTTE in other parts of Sri Lanka. The last successful diversionary attack was on a Muslim procession in Matara in the southern province on March 10. One would have expected that facing severe pressure from the army, the LTTE would have tried to organise more diversionary attacks outside the Tamil areas.

The fact that it was not able to do so indicated that it had no human and material resources left to organise diversionary attacks. The loss of its capabilities in the Tamil and non-Tamil areas was immense. Despite this, the SL army cannot afford to be complacent that there could be no more major acts of terrorism by the LTTE.

The danger in the coming months will be from angry individual Tamil elements indulging in acts of reprisal terrorism directed against Sri Lankan leaders, officers of the security forces and even civilians. Organised, centrally-commanded and politically-motivated terrorism can give way to sporadic individual acts of reprisal terrorism against Sri Lankan targets -- Sinhalese as well as Tamils -- in Sri Lanka itself as well as abroad.

Indian intelligence and security forces should also take precautions against possible acts of reprisal terrorism against Indian targets in Indian territory by sympathisers of the LTTE.

The fact that the Sri Lankan Tamil issue failed to make much of an impact during the just-concluded elections to the Lok Sabha should not give rise to a complacent feeling that there cannot be any major act of violence in Indian territory. There are elements in Tamil Nadu who could get emotional over the death of Prabakaran and self-motivate themselves to give vent to their anger through terrorism. There is a need for a heightened alert for at least some months.

The end of the LTTE is not the end of the humanitarian problem. It will be the beginning of a new phase of it. The state of the Sri Lankan economy may not enable the Sri Lankan government to deal with it adequately. Till now, mainly India and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been allowed by the Sri Lankan government to undertake humanitarian relief work.

It is necessary for the India to expand the magnitude of its humanitarian relief work immediately in co-ordination with the Sri Lankan authorities. The immediate priorities would be food, water, medicines and other kinds of medicare. Post-conflict rehabilitation of the Tamil civilians displaced would essentially be the responsibility of Colombo, but India should monitor the situation closely to see that this is not neglected or affected by any spirit of vengeance.

Tamil anger in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora abroad would pose new threats to security in the months to come. Addressing and mitigating this anger should be given top priority. One should remember what happened in India due to the Sikh anger after Operation Blue Star [Get Quote] in June 1984 and what has been happening in Pakistan due to the Pashtun anger after the commando raid on the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July, 2007. Organised terrorism gave way to individual self-motivated terrorism.

Prabhakaran Shot Dead

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran was on Monday shot dead by Sri Lankan special forces as he tried to stage a dramatic breakout from the army encirclement, a military spokesman said.

"They (LTTE leaders) were all killed by the army during combat. They did not commit suicide. We are now in full control of the country," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, who is considered to be the strategist who plotted the current military campaign against the LTTE, said, "Our armed forces have militarily defeated the LTTE and freed the nation from three decades of terror".

His spokesman Nanayakkara said, "We believe Prabhakaran was amongst those 250 LTTE cadres who were killed. No DNA tests are to be carried out. We are identifying the bodies based on the intelligence information we have".

Prabhakaran and his top aides came out of their last hiding place in a small convoy of van and an ambulance and tried to drive out of the war zone, but were gunned down, he said.

The Tiger chief was killed with two others, who are yet to be identified but believed to be his closest associates LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Sea Tigers' chief Soosoi.

The deaths of the top LTTE leaders came a day after Tamil Tigers conceded defeat, saying the decades-old battle has reached its 'bitter end' and they have decided to 'silence' their guns.

Earlier in the morning, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara had said that Prabhakaran was still alive but completely encircled by advancing Sri Lankan forces in a tiny jungle area north of Vellamullivaikkal, after most of the LTTE's top leaders were found killed.

The army said that its special forces had encircled Prabhakaran, Pottu Aman and Soosoi, who were boxed into a 100m x 100m area. The killing of Prabhakaran came as officials confirmed that more than 220 frontline rebel cadres, including his elder son Charles Anthony, LTTE political head Balasingham Nadesan and LTTE peace secretariat chief S Pulidevan had been killed in fierce battles in the last 12 hours.

The other slain top LTTE leaders include Black Tigers' chief Ramesh, Tigers' police wing chief Ilango and senior leaders Sundaram and Kapil Amman. The body of 24-year-old Anthony, chief of LTTE's air wing, was found during mopping up operations in the last rebel-held territory in the no-fire zone this morning, the defence ministry said.

Nadesan, a former constable of the Sri Lankan police, was heading the political wing of the Tamil Tigers. S Pulidevan was the head of the 'LTTE peace secretariat' while S Ramesh was the chief of Black Tigers.

According to the defence sources, the body of Anthony was found after an unsuccessful attempt by the Tamil Tigers to evacuate their leader's son early this morning. Anthony was known to be the head of the Information and Technology department of the LTTE. After being cornered, the LTTE had on Sunday said it had no other option but to silence its guns.

We remain with one last choice -- to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns," LTTE's chief of international relations Selvarasa Pathmanathan had said.

"This battle has reached its bitter end," Pathmanathan said, adding that "our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer." The rebels' statement followed President Mahinda Rajapaksa's declaration on Friday in Jordan that the LTTE has been defeated militarily.

"My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation, finally defeated the LTTE militarily," Rajapaksa had said.

The over three-decades old conflict for a separate Tamil state, waged by the LTTE, has left more than 70,000 dead in pitched battles, suicide attacks, bomb strikes and assassinations.

Tamil Tiger Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, whose outfit conceded defeat, was very clear about his demand for an Tamile Eelam and asked his cadres to shoot him if he ever swayed away from it, his former confidante has said.

"But his commitment for Tamil Eelam could not be doubted. He even told the LTTE members that in case he (Prabhakaran) swayed away from the desire to carve out a separate Tamileelam, then he should not be spared and killed," said his former aid turned foe D Siddharthan, who formed the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Ealam after falling out with the LTTE leader.

Siddharthan, who along with former LTTE leaders Krishnan and Guhan opened the first LTTE office in London in the 1970s, split with Prabhakaran following differences.

Their enmity became so acute became that Prabhakaran had ordered his cadres to kill Siddharthan.

The PLOTE leader said that Prabhakaran failed to realise the ground realities because of his 'intransigence and lack of understanding of the geo-political reality'.

"Prabhakaran failed to use the military might to benefit the Tamil community. He pushed the Tamils into an abyss," he said.

Prabhakaran, who led a ruthless movement for more than three decades, was a dogged fighter for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka, but his opponents saw him as a megalomaniac who never tolerated dissent.

The 54-year-old son of a government officer and a school dropout gave a new dimension to militancy by pioneering suicide bombing and cynaide death for cadres under attack in the war for Tamil Eelam, which that consumed more than 70,000 lives including a score of Sinhalese and Tamil leaders, apart from former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Started in 1972 as Tamil New Tigers by a group of young boys headed by him and renamed as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1975, the outfit became more aggressive after the infamous Wellikade jail massacre, in which separatists leaders Kuttimani and Jagan were eliminated by the forces.

Though the LTTE occasionally paused for diplomacy, first initiated by India in Thimpu in 1985 and later by Norway in 2002, there was no looking back for the dreaded organisation from its chosen path of violence. Prabhakaran led the LTTE from the secret jungles of Wanni in northern Sri Lanka and survived many a battle, but the current assault from the Lankan forces ended his dream as well as his life.

A 'freedom fighter' for his supporters and a dreaded terrorist for others, Prabhakaran was wanted by Interpol and many other organisations since 1990 for terrorism, murder and organised crime.

Known as 'thambi' (younger brother), Prabhakaran was responsible for the elimination of Sinhalese leaders -- President Premadasa, Damini Dissanayake (UNP Presidential candidate) and Ranjan Wijeratne and moderate Tamil leaders -- Appapillai Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and his wife and Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was a foreign minister.

He did not spare his comrade-in-arms like PLOTE leader Uma Maheswaran, TELO's Siri Sabarathinam, EPRLF's Padmanabha and 14 of his colleagues in Chennai, besides his own LTTE dissenters like Mahthiah.

What started as a liberation movement in the late 1970s to attain freedom for 'oppressed' Tamils, later evolved as a ruthless organisation for which violence became a legitimate tool to eliminate political opponents.

After the LTTE's battle with the IPKF in the jungles of Sri Lanka, Prabhakaran targeted Rajiv Gandhi and chose Sriperumbudur near Chennai to kill him during the election campaign in 1991, by using a suicide bomber. The LTTE had a grouse that Gandhi had imposed a peace agreement on the Tamils forcibly in 1987 and the IPKF was used to attack its cadre.

In his outfit's struggle for the separate Tamil homeland, Prabhakaran introduced suicide bombers, mostly young women, and targeted major installations of the Sri Lankan government, including military headquarters and the lone international airport in the country.

Born on 26 November, 1954 in the northern coastal town of Velvettithurai on the Jaffna peninsula, Prabhakaran, the youngest of four children, began attending political meetings and practising martial arts and soon became involved in the Tamil protest movement. Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in the late 1970s and carried out his first political murder against the mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappah, a fellow Tamil, by shooting him at point blank range while he was about to enter Hindu temple at Ponnaalai.

Though no one is sure about Prabhakaran's personal life, he got married to Madhivadhani on October 1, 1984 in Tirupporur near Chennai and has daughter named Duwaraka -- two sons -- Charles Anthony and Balachandran.

While Charles was in the battlefront during the final phase of the war, the whereabouts of others are not known, but it is widely speculated that they are not in Sri Lanka. Though his followers consider him as a freedom fighter struggling for Tamil emancipation from Sinhala oppression, various nations, including India, have banned the organisation and branded him as a terrorist.
The LTTE is the only terrorist outfit in the world to have three armed forces wings -- Tigers (ground), Sea Tigers (Navy) and Air Tigers -- (Air Force). Interestingly, Black Tigers, the suicide wing of the LTTE, came into prominence when the Tigers launched their first suicide attack against a Sri Lankan army camp, killing 40 soldiers. The outfit has also earned the ire of human rights groups who allege that the LTTE recruits young children to fight against the army.

LTTE, which is believed to be funded by Tamils living in Europe and other countries across the world, agreed for a ceasefire with Sri Lanka in 2002.

But both the sides continued to violate the agreement, which was brokered by Norway, until it was formally abrogated by the Mahinda Rajapakse government.

Prabhakaran and the LTTE received a major blow when his confidant Colonel Karuna parted ways and formed his own outfit.However, he later converted as an opponent of the Tamil movement and is now serving as a minister. An estimated 4,000 cadres have been killed since then, including over a hundred in 'Black Tiger' suicide squads.

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BJP needs to be Centriest

This is a very interesting article that I read in where the columnist stresses that BJP must reform itself and move from being "Rightist" to "Centrist". This is something that even I support. BJP will then end up becoming Congress-2.

The day of the psephologist is over. It is time for the political analyst. The election results are not just numbers, they define a nation's ideological contours. Much of the post-poll discussion has been focused on personalities. Its time to reflect on policies.

The verdict of the 2009 general election has once again brought the 'centre' in Indian politics to centre-stage. India has returned to an even keel.

I learnt the ABC of Indian politics from a Communist ideologue called Mohit Sen in his Narayanaguda flat in Hyderabad in the early 1970s. The one thing he kept drilling into my teenage mind all the time was the idea that India can only be ruled from the 'political centre.' That is how he justified the Communist Party of India's support to Indira Gandhi and that is why he was finally excommunicated by the Communists.

Analysing Indian policies and politics over the past two decades, watching these being shaped in the Prime Minister's Office for over four years, and writing speeches for the prime minister, I often recalled Mohit Sen's wise words. India can not be governed either from the 'right' or the 'left'. India can only be governed from the 'centre'.

Individual states could lurch in one direction and remain there for long periods of time, like West Bengal on the left and Gujarat on the right. But this sub-continental, civilisational republic can only be governed from the political 'centre'.

That political centre has been empowered once again by the results of the 2009 general election.

The Indian National Congress always occupied the political centre. It may have lurched to the left at times and to the right at times, but its destiny was in the centre because it emerged as the consensual voice of a plural nation. All those political scientists who theorised about the so-called 'era of coalitions' in the post-Emergency period forgot that the Congress party was always a coalition. Its success is defined by remaining so.

The Congress entered the 2004 campaign on a weak wicket because Atal Bihari Vajpayee had tried, fairly successfully, to usurp that centre space from the Congress. I was pilloried by many in the Congress and on the left for writing an editorial entitled 'Atal Bihari Nehru.' But that precisely was Vajpayee's project, and that is why he became the first non-Congress prime minister to serve a full term in office.

Because the BJP grabbed a bit of that centre space, the Congress was forced to turn left to regain ground. The problem with the 2004 verdict was that the Left Front, and some in the Congress, actually interpreted the result to mean India had moved left.

The Left's '60' in 2004 came from a pro-Achutanandan wave in Kerala , after he was initially denied a ticket by the party bosses in Delhi , and a pro-Buddhadev wave in Bengal. Recall those T-shirts Thiruvanantpuram's teenagers wore with 'VS' emblazoned on them?

The ideologues of the left however interpreted this 'regional' result as an endorsement of their political platform, and tried to impose this on the Congress through the National Common Minimum Programme. Many in the Congress happily walked into this trap because they were so dazed by the result and were so happy to return to government after almost a decade.

In a classic Communist party manoeuvre Prakash Karat took charge of the Communist Party of India-Marxist by staging a virtual coup at the Party Congress in 2005 and tried to push the entire United Progressive Alliance leftwards. He tried to put the Congress on the defensive by charging it of abandoning the nationalist platform on foreign policy.

The Left painted Manmohan Singh as a 'neo-liberal' economist, knowing full well that he was and has always been a 'Keynesian' liberal, and charged him of a pro-US bias.

Some in the Congress, like Mani Shankar Aiyar , seemed to fall into this trap and echoed the Left view that the 2004 verdict was in favour of pro-left policies. This created an ideological confusion within the Congress that the Left exploited by seeking to drive a wedge between the party and the government. The India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement was used as an instrument to stage that coup.

In the meanwhile, the BJP dumped Vajpayee's centrism and moved right without reflecting on why Vajpayee had tried to take the party away from its core ideology. Vajpayee was trying to 'Congressise' the BJP. Once the BJP abandoned that project under the leadership of Lal Kishen Advani and Narendra Modi it lost 'middle India'.

So what contributed to the revival of the Congress? I believe it was the Congress' decision to strike out on its own, unencumbered by the ideological prejudices of the Left and the caste-based and regional parties. The Congress re-asserted its independent centrist identity. It remembered that it was in fact the original political coalition in India.

Early in the election campaign Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hit out at casteism and regionalism and identified these as equally damaging as communalism to the future of our Republic. Further, by rejecting the Third Front's attempts to give the Congress a character certificate on nationalism, the Congress regained the centre space that they were trying to take away.

The Left's stance on the India-US nuclear deal was motivated by a Bolshevik instinct to hijack the Congress agenda. By guilt tripping the Congress and accusing the prime minister of abandoning 'an independent foreign policy' they were hoping to shape Indian foreign policy in the manner they sought to shape economic policy in the past.

If the Congress had gone along with the Left and dumped the nuclear deal it would have once again surrendered 'its' political space to the Left.

Wisdom lay in asserting its own independence and, above all, in reclaiming the centre space of Indian political life for itself. That is precisely what the Congress did in 2009.

Returning to the ideological centre, enabled the Congress to return to the Centre.

Sanjaya Baru served as media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, from 2004 to 2008.