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A Lost Cause Under the Microscope

M.R. Narayan Swamy

By Niromi de Soyza
Meheta Publishing House, Pune, 2012 (first printed, 2011), pp. 308, Rs. 395.00

By S. Murari
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 362, Rs. 425.00


This is a deeply moving, very humane and yet extremely troubling book on the Tamil Tigers. Indeed, I have not read another more honest and candid account of the now vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), that too from the inside. In some ways, this is a confession, a jaw dropping true story of what it meant to be a part of the LTTE, to be a young female combatant on the frontline. Author Niromi was a bright and attractive Tamil Christian girl living in Jaffna when she ditched the comfort of her loving middle class family for the LTTE with her best friend Ajanthi. She was only 17. The year was 1987 when civil war had reached new levels before the India-Sri Lanka pact led to a short-lived truce. Niromi was among the first young women to be trained in warfare in Sri Lanka by the LTTE. Once the LTTE took on the Indian Army, Niromi saw plenty of action. But this book is not just an autobiographical journey. Had it been so, its value would have been limited. This is a rare microscope that takes you into the heart of the LTTE and reveals why a group so many thought was rock solid finally got reduced to pulp. Niromi witnessed the beginning of the tragedy that was to eventually engulf the Tamils when the LTTE shamelessly massacred members of the rival TELO group in 1986, setting fire to the captives after tying them to trees with tyres around their necks. She saw how Benjamin, a mild-mannered EPRLF member and ‘an utterly decent human being’, was tortured and murdered by the LTTE. But ‘we were so in awe of the Tigers we managed to justify everything they did.’v It did not take long for Niromi to transform herself from a passionate pro-LTTE activist in her school to a full-time guerrilla. She was full of hope. So one day she ran away from home, breaking her family’s heart. She refused to return despite her mother’s pleadings. In the LTTE, she found new friends. One Tiger teenager, Roshan, fell deeply in love with her. Niromi noticed the LTTE doublespeak for the first time when, unmindful of the India-Sri Lanka accord it had pledged to support, the Tigers continued to train their combatants. Prabhakaran gloated to his cadres that all the good weapons with the LTTE had been stashed and only ...

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