Killing Rajiv Gandhi Was a Disaster: Book on LTTE Confession

LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham said assassinating Rajiv Gandhi was the Tamil Tigers’ biggest mistake.

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Supporters of former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi follow his coffin during the funeral procession in New Delhi on May 24, 1991. (Photo: Reuters)

Assassinating former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was the Tamil Tigers’ biggest mistake, a new book quotes the late Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ideologue, Anton Balasingham, as saying.

Balasingham told Norway’s former Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and his feared intelligence chief, Pottu Amman, initially denied their involvement in the killing.

Perhaps most controversially, in terms of official LTTE policies, Balasingham conceded that the killing of Rajiv Gandhi was the biggest mistake the LTTE had ever made.
Excerpt from the book

But they admitted the truth to Balasingham “a few weeks” after the assassination took took place on May 21, 1991, says Mark Salter’s book, To End A Civil War.

The newly released 549-page book is the most exhaustive account of the Norwegian-led peace process that sought to end three decades of conflict in Sri Lanka.

The conflict finally ended when the Sri Lankan military crushed the LTTE in May 2009, wiping out its entire leadership including Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman.

The LTTE has never officially admitted to killing Gandhi, who was blown up by a Sri Lankan Tamil woman suicide bomber at an election rally near Chennai.

Privately, Balasingham told the Norwegians that Gandhi’s killing “was a complete disaster”.

According to Solheim, Balasingham put the decision to kill Gandhi to Prabhakaran’s desire for revenge for Tamils killed by Indian troops when they were deployed in Sri Lanka in 1987-90. The revenge was also furthered by a belief that Gandhi may send the troops again to Sri Lanka if he returned to power.

Solheim also says that although Balasingham (who in his final year was based in London and died of cancer in December 2006), wanted to reach out to the US and Europe, his real affinity was with India.

Thus at the end of his life in 2006, Balasingham went so far as to try and ‘apologize’ to India for this misdeed (assassination).
Erik Solheim, Norway’s former Special Envoy to Sri Lanka

After Gandhi’s killing, India outlawed the LTTE – which was earlier based in Tamil Nadu and enjoyed New Delhi’s blessings – and declared Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman proclaimed offenders.

The book quotes Solheim as saying that Balasingham once referred to Prabhakaran as a “warlord” and said the LTTE needed to transform into a political entity.

Balasingham also told Solheim, who is now based in Paris:

You must never underestimate the capacity for violence of these guys (LTTE).

According to Solheim, Balasingham “was very frank with us, including admitting to the LTTE’s mistakes.”

Over time I came to regard Bala highly and to consider him as a great human being as well as a good friend.
Erik Solheim, Norway’s former Special Envoy to Sri Lanka

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