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A Life Lived by the Gun Alone

Maj. Gen. D. Banerjee

By M.R. Narayan Swamy
Konark Publishers, 2003, pp. 290, Rs. 400.00


As Sri Lanka remains suspended between peace and the possibility of the resumption of conflict this is a book that addresses perhaps the most important question of all: what lies inside the elusive mind of the most ruthless terrorist in the world? No single book can perhaps capture the full complexity. For, Prabhakaran is indeed a creature of the circumstances that has led to the violent situation in the island and that history is both tragic and long.       The book begins at midnight of 23/24 July 1983 at Urumpirai in Jaffna. In a daring ambush 13 of 15 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed by the LTTE under Prabhakaran. Their bodies were flown to Colombo for cremation which set off a violent island wide communal backlash against the Tamils. Anita Pratap tells the story in her book, Islands of Blood and vividly captures the tragedy that finally destroyed communal harmony in the island and led to one of the most intense and most persistent internal conflicts in the world. In turn it has led to the assassination of one serving President and a near miss against another and the killing of countless others in the country. It also saw the humiliation of the formidable Indian Army and the assassination of a former Indian Prime Minister. In the process it created probably the most complex international terror network, comprising money collection centres, arms smuggling enterprises and money laundering networks. At its centre lies this one ruthless individual – Velupillai Prabhakaran.       The full story of course begins much earlier, depending on how far back you are willing to look. From time immemorial when the Tamils settled in the north and retained their distinct identity and religion? Or, to the British policy which united the nation but divided the people and favoured the Tamils? Definitely from the 1950’s when through legislation the Tamils were severely discriminated against and their livelihoods endangered. The terrorist phase began in July 1975 when the Jaffna Mayor, Alfred Duraiappa was assassinated by none other than Prabhakaran.       Swamy’s book is an attempt at more than to penetrate the mind of this killing machine, it is a history of the conflict itself. A story that is a result of detailed and penetrating research, interviews with key interlocutors and a thorough study of the conflict that spans a couple of decades. Details of Prabhakaran’s long stay in Tamil Nadu where he endeared himself to Chief Minister, ...

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