End of Enigma

The death of Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran who has acquired legendary notoriety and his remaining lieutenants marks the end of Asia’s longest civil war, and one of the world’s most enduring rebellion activities. The official figure of human fatality in warfare over the years was about 70,000.

Rebels have been fighting for a quarter century to carve out an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils following decades of discrimination by Sinhalese-controlled governments. In three decades of savage ethnic conflict aimed at carving out a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east, Prabhakaran managed to terrorize the island and even India, perfecting the recruitment and use of suicide bomber units even before any other terrorist group existed. His fighters were notorious for assaults that often left every single enemy soldier dead.

Supporters fete him as a “Sun God”, while his opponents brand him a ruthless fanatic. However, he has been one of the most effective and feared guerrilla leaders in the history of modern warfare. “He was the only man in Sri Lanka who could decide if there should be war or peace.” The assassination of Gandhi was apparently to punish India for its military intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s. But Gandhi’s death ended any sympathy the international community had for the Tigers.

Prabhakaran who was now 54 years old was the Enigmatic figure; he was neither mellowed by age or by his family of three children. His movements between his various jungle hideouts are the subject of great secrecy, and he is reported to have narrowly avoided assassination or capture on numerous occasions. He went on to attract thousands of young men and women to his army. Like the master himself, all LTTE cadres carry a cyanide capsule to commit suicide rather than be captured alive. He banned smoking and drinking within the ranks and enforced a strict code of discipline. Prabhakaran conferred military ranks on his cadres only after their deaths. He built a cult of venerating the dead every street corner in rebel-held territory became a monument to a martyr. He was influenced by the lives of two Indian leaders, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, both of whom were involved in the armed struggle for independence from Britain.

According to Senior Sri Lankan military officials said Prabhakaran was surrounded early Monday with the last of his fighters. He and his top deputies drove in an armor-plated van accompanied by a bus filled with armed rebels toward approaching Sri Lankan forces, sparking two-hour firings Troops eventually fired a rocket at the van, ending the battle, the officials said.

M.R. Narayan Swamy, a biographer of Prabhakaran, said he believes the rebel leader has little choice but to stay and fight. “He can’t give up or can’t be even seen to be giving up,” he said. “A Prabhakaran who fights and goes down will become a legend, at least to his people. A Prabhakaran who runs away will be seen differently by even many of those who have supported him.”

The end of Prabhakaran is seen as the death of the organized militant movement which wasinitiated in 1976. The Tamil Tigers, grew to control significant territory and operate as a state-within-a-state in Sri Lanka. At their height, they controls some 15,000 square kilometers in the country. In their final hours, they had been squeezingly confined into a corner of less than a square kilometer of land.