Velupillai Prabhakaran

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Early life

Source: From the archives of India Today, May 23, 2009

Rise and fall of Prabhakaran

The child soldier:

Born on Nov 26, 1954 in Velvettithurai on the Jaffna peninsula, he was the youngest of four children of a government clerk. He dropped out of school and joined the cause for Tamil independence. In May 1976, he formed the LTTE.

Indian connection

India helped groom him and other Eelam groups like the EPRLF, PLOTE, ENDLF and EROS for strategic reasons right till the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord in 1987.

Signed by Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayawardene, the accord ended the civil war in Sri Lanka. The Indian Army was sent in to disarm the militant groups and supervise the setting up of an interim council where political power would be devolved to the Tamils.

The rebel leader

The accord broke down after the Tigers refused to disarm and soon the IPKFwas locked in a bitter battle with the LTTE for nearly two years. The Indian peacekeepers withdrew in 1990 after governments changed in both countries. The assassin: One year after the IPKF withdrew, Prabhakaran sent a suicide bomber to kill Rajiv Gandhi, a strategic mistake that cost him Indian sympathy. Two years later, he eliminated President Premadasa. They were the first of dozens of leaders, Tamil and Sinhalese, that Prabhakaran murdered. The LTTE soon emerged as the sole representative of militant Tamil nationalism.

The comeback kid: In a series of military campaigns, beginning with the capture of Killinochhi in 1995 and culminating with the overrunning of the military garrison at Elephant Pass in 2000, Prabhakaran inflicted multiple defeats on the Sri Lanka Army.

Eelam boss

Soon Prabhakaran controlled nearly one-third of Sri Lanka, the north and east and ran a quasi-state, collecting taxes and running an administration.At his first-ever press conference in 2002, he announced an unconditional ceasefire. But like so many other ceasefires before, it was merely a ruse for him to buy time to rearm for Eelam War IV. Middle age crisis: The biggest secret of the reclusive guerrilla was his family life, his wife and three children—two sons, Charles Anthony and Balachandran, and a daughter, Duwaraha. In his later years, he was plagued by obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

End game: A fallout with his Eastern Commander, Karuna, cost him the east. Yet, in the end, the biggest mistake for the Tigers was to abandon guerrilla warfare and fight like a regular army. In the face of a well-trained new Sri Lankan military machine, which innovated and fought like guerrillas, the Tigers didn’t stand a chance.

The determined thrust in 2007 did not end for two years till the Tigers were cornered into a tiny sliver of land on the northern sea coast, where they had withdrawn with over two lakh civilians as human shields. The entire LTTE leadership was wiped out and Prabhakaran’s death was one of the last in a conflict that has claimed over 70,000 lives in 25 years.

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