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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

The Suicide Bombers since Captain Miller

By Kusal Perera

After many escapades with life before, EPDP boss Douglas Devananda on 28th November escapes from yet another Tiger suicide bomber, who exploded herself at his Ministry in Colombo. How many more suicide bombers were there before Vagamanan Sujatha from Vavuniya ? The mass production of suicide bombers in the Wanni is something that irks many including me. How is it possible to develop the sacrificial psyche in the minds of these Tamil youth who turn up in Colombo, blend with the normal Colombo life for many many long months, perhaps enjoying a luxury they never ever thought they could have whilst growing and living in the remotest of the Wanni land and then with their coolest mind carry out the assignment given?The statute of Captain MillerThe statute of Captain Miller

This is a brief attempt at understanding that psyche within the Tamil culture. This is also an open invitation for serious comments (only) in opening up a discourse that would throw more light on the issue of Tamil suicide bombers and their sacrificial psyche.

Understanding the suicidal psyche within Tamil Culture

Dravidian culture which is dominant in the Sri Lankan Tamil psyche is the driving force behind the molding of “Suicide bombers” by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Dravidian culture grew in South Indian soil, expanding its dominance across the seas during the Chola Empire and impacting initially on the Sri Lankan polity since its invasions on the island nation from circa 09th century.

The Dravidian culture which is markedly different from the North Indian Hindu culture, has within it a glorified trait that demands from the pious, an uncompromising obligation for the ‘giver’ the King. This ‘obligation’ which is the ultimate in sacrificial mentality within the Tamil psyche, bases itself on other characteristics that had grown through history outside “Hinduism” as its central cultural life, binding society together.

This historical development was through the establishment of the powerful Chola Empire which at one time extended East annexing Malaysia and also ancient Lanka. Dravidian culture and religion thus became a very powerful force that gave Chola Kings supreme authority and veneration over a subordinate society. The strength of Dravidian religion so developed which is not “Hinduism” as commonly or wrongly perceived, is manifest in its rejection in subordinating to both Buddhism and Jainism. These two Northern religions extol the virtue of life and deny any importance to sacrifice of life on obligations and martial glory, a marked difference to the Dravidian religion. The merging of Tamil religion with Hinduism comes after the fall of the Chola Empire, only at the expense of accepting and integrating with all the ideals of sacrifice and martial glory as an obligation.

These cultural traits thereafter were handed down in history through art, literature, religion and social tradition. Towards the 19th century, with the revival of Tamil nationalism, the virtues of sacrifice, martyrdom on martial glory and obligation is brought back as the basis of a Tamil nation, with a heroic Tamil heritage. This new revival of Tamil politics had its impact on Sri Lankan politics, first in the Western coast among the elite Tamil minority and the plantation Tamil population, obviously with its roots in South Indian Tamil society.

Introduction of Tamil language in school texts took them up in their grammar lessons and poetry, which has an abundance of heroic episodes glorified and religionised. In fact even the epic “Ramayanaya” has a Tamil interpretation which defines Ravana as a hero in terms of Tamil cultural perceptions. Thus inculcating in the child’s mind the greatness of martyrdom, the masculinity and glory of performing martial art, heroism in Dravidian history and the conviction of obligation one carries during life time. It is note worthy here to insert that the term “senchorkadan” (literally translated as ‘red rice death’) which even within the ordinary Tamil psyche today means ‘obligation to some one who was charitable’ comes as a non-compromising obligation that one day would have to be fulfilled. Yet has its roots deep in the martyrdom and sacrificial ideals of the ancient Tamil culture. This Dravidian culture thus created for itself the other aspect of respecting heroes that is evident in the “Great Heroes” (Maha-veer) concept.

These historical values were later taken up by the ever popular Tamil film industry in South India within modern political interpretations. ‘MGR’ who later became a very populist Tamil Nadu politician and Chief Minister was turned out as the new cult in this cultural tradition within the Tamil film, portraying the heroic, ‘people’s leader’ role. Songs and dances in his films epitomized the idealism of such martial glory. His influence was extremely strong within the Sri Lankan Tamil society, with an abundance of South Indian films screened in Sri Lanka from early 1950’s. To this influence was added the sentimental bond of MGR as a Sri Lankan born Tamil, from the plantation sector. While this trend faded off in South India after the Tamil nationalistic politics compromised within the Indian nation, they nevertheless remained as cultural traditions in Tamil society.

The grooming of the “suicide bomber” is based on this historical and cultural traditions that was kept alive through education, art and literature and their religion, ‘Hinduism’. With the radicalization of Tamil politics in Sri Lanka, the Federal Party used these cultural traditions in their rhetorical politics as a means to mobilise the Tamil polity. Then with the entry of militancy into Tamil politics from early 70’s, the historical roots of Tamil nationalism were sought after to radicalise Tamil politics. It is within this context the LTTE worked on Tamil cultural idealism in motivating their own cadres. The trend was conspicuous from the beginning within the LTTE, with the ‘cyanide’ on their neck, ready to die for the ‘leader’ who is the projection of the Tamil cause. And the leader himself personifies the sacrificial idealism by wearing a cyanide triplet.

The next stage of developing the Black Tiger cult, the “ultimate” supreme life bomb “Ayur Ayudham”, was with the offering of his life by “Captain Miller”, the youth who ravaged the SL Army billet at the Nelliadi Central College, killing all the 120 odd army personnel there in 1997 May, after the Vadam?rachi attack in the Jaffna peninsula.

RavanaRavanaThe developing of the Black Tiger movement within the LTTE is a revival of all these Tamil cultural aspects given a new dressing with military regimentation. This is being achieved through a hyped campaign on Tamil idealism based on martial glory and martyrdom that lifts social thinking in accepting sacrifice for the cause as obligatory. This is further heightened with the new leadership cult of Prabhakaran and the glorified opportunity the fully trained Black Tiger is afforded in having the “passing out meal” with the “leader” as “senchorkadan”, the most supreme obligation of sacrificing life for the Tamil nation. And therefore selection as a ‘trainee’ Black Tiger is not considered a recruitment but as ordaining and thus confers on the person and on the family a privileged heroic acceptance within their own local Tamil society, both before the sacrifice and after.

The moulding of the Black Tiger is therefore not mere political ‘brainwashing’ as most would wish to understand, but a ritualistic training in society that accepts martial art as a glorified ancient historical fact, with an obligatory sacrificial idealism for the motherland, duly respected with the annual “Maha-veer” day. A Tamil nation that commits to evolve with the “Tiger” emblem of the Chola empire as its symbol of warrior power.

My Thoughts by Kusal Perera, Bellanwila, Colombo, Sri Lanka

- Asian Tribune -

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