Pirapaharan at Sixty: The Meaning of the Man

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 8, 2014

Originally published on Sangam

Is Pirapaharan dead?

Ten years back, TamilNet senior editor and military analyst Taraki Sivaram wrote a brilliant piece on the political legacy of Pirapaharan at fifty.  Come 26 November this year, the founder-leader of the LTTE and one of the most brilliant military minds of South Asia will turn sixty.  Quite a lot has been said, by both admirers and adversaries, about the life of the man.  But what is his meaning?

It is impossible to understand Pirapaharan unless one understands the interrelated essences of Sangam poetry – love and war – and its influence on the Tamil military tradition.  The ethics of Tamil akam poetry, that of unconditional love towards the object of concern influences the ethics of the puram poetry, which calls for unconditional fidelity to the king and the kingdom.  However, even this unconditionality carries within it a condition that reinforces the unconditionality.  For instance, the woman of virtue (Tamil progressives will, and with ample justification, criticize this, but let us leave discussions about gender problems in epic poetry for another day) is the object of love because she is a woman of virtue, the love has a platonic character because of the virtuous nature of the object.  Likewise, the soldier’s fidelity to the king is because the king is loyal to the kingdom, and the king’s loyalty to the kingdom commands the soldier’s fidelity.  The object of love and the object of fidelity function as cornerstones in a discursive network, without which the network would collapse.  In other words, they provide meaning to the meaning of things.

In a sense that is Pirapaharan.  At sixty, in what some call the ‘post-conflict era’, the symbolism of Pirapaharan speaks that Tamil nationalism is alive and kicking.   The 5 lakh students who got out on the street in Tamil Nadu in early 2013, and thousands of protestors in the diaspora who challenged the injustice of the international community carried his image.  These activists believe that this image signifies Tamil nationalist resistance to oppression.  But isn’t this ‘idol worship’ problematic?

Commenting on the veneration of revolutionary leaders, Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle writes “‘Hero-worship’ becomes a fact inexpressibly precious; the most solacing fact one sees in the world at present.  There is an everlasting hope in it for the management of the world.  Had all traditions, arrangements, creeds, societies that men ever instituted, sunk away, this would remain.  The certainty of Heroes being sent us; our faculty, our necessity, to reverence Heroes when sent: it shines like a polestar through smoke-clouds, dust-clouds, and all manner of downrushing and conflagration.”  An oxymoronic, mostly moronic, ‘liberal left’ discredits the idea of leadership.  No less a person than Lenin believed that a revolution required revolutionary leaders who stuck to their principles, and were willing to make decisions that the ordinary could not make.  This belief is reinstated by contemporary philosophers like Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou, who also argue that a true revolutionary leader represents a Universal over and beyond narrow particulars.

While Lilliputian minds would fix a region, religion or caste label to Pirapaharan, the real ideological significance of Pirapaharan is that he transcends these narrow particularities and serves as a Universal referent for Tamil nationalists.  Not only is Pirapaharan now a symbol of Eelam Tamil nationalism, he has also transfigured as a symbol of Tamil civilizational consciousness.  What else explains the tens of thousands of youth in Tamil Nadu considering an Eelam Tamil leader as their own Tamil hero who provided a promise of Tamil renaissance?

But every great uniter is also a divider.  As Pirapaharan becomes the symbolic standard that unites patriots, he is also the standard that separates traitors.  The Pirapaharan school of thought, which is the radical extension of the thoughts of V. Navaratnam and SJV Chelvanayagam, as much as it is a standard for evaluating patriotism, also becomes the scale by which treason is judged.  To be a true Christian, it is imperative to believe in the struggle between Good and Evil, not just external Evil, but also the Evil that is internal.  Likewise, to be a Tamil nationalist in the footsteps of Pirapaharan means not just an opposition to the Sinhala state and its allies, but also traitors who undermine the struggle from within.  And for that, we need to keep reminding ourselves what Pirapaharan means, what is the idea of Pirapaharan.

Coming back to the original question – Is Pirapaharan dead?  This might confuse some people, but I would say that Pirapaharan the individual died when he founded the LTTE. Ever since, what has existed is an idea.  An idea that means sovereign Tamil Eelam; the creation of a society that is based on universal principles of justice and equality; a society without regionalism, communalism, sexism or casteism; a society where the love of heroic passions replaces the lust for trivial sentiments; a society without particularist chauvinism or cheap liberal cosmopolitanism; the creation of a people who resonate the glories of the Tamil past purging it of all darkness and enriching it with the emancipatory narrative of a universal future; the idea that the impossible can be made possible by the Will to Freedom.

And ideas, like heroes, are immortal.

Finally, when people ask questions like “Will Pirapaharan come back,” I remember a conversation I had with a Jesuit in Chennai.  I asked him “Do you really believe in the Second Coming of Christ?”  He replied nonchalantly, “I do not know if he will come or not. But if he does, I want to be sure that I have remained a true Christian, that I have done all in my power to serve the humanity he so loved so that he will be pleased on arrival.”  This is precisely the spirit that Tamil nationalists must adopt now.


Transcript of my Speech at Kurdish Mass Demonstration on Jan 13, London

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on January 14, 2013

More info about the demonstration can be found here

Her Biji Pishtgiri ya Shoreshgeri (I was told this means Long Live Revolutionary Solidarity)

Comrades, as I am honored to be in front of all of you today, I am also deeply saddened of the loss of the Kurdish nation of three beautiful flowers, of three revolutionaries. It is not your loss; it is our loss as well. Paris has a history of being a place filled with the blood of revolutionary martyrs. Be it the martyrs of the French Revolution or the martyrs of the Paris Commune. And that legacy, that tragic legacy, is continuing today. That day, it was the great revolutionary Maximillien Robespierre, it was the revolutionary Babeuf. In November, in November 2012, it was a Tamil activist fighting against the genocidal Sri Lankan state and fighting for the freedom of his people. And now, it is our wonderful Kurdish comrades. Sekine, Fidan and Leyla are not names of Kurdish women. They are the names of the Kurdish revolution. In Tamil, in the Tamil revolutionary movement, in our liberation struggle, we have a saying – “poaraaligal puthaikka paduvathillai vithaikka padugindraargal”. Our fighters are not buried, they are sown as seeds to rise again. But today we watch France, which is becoming a grooming ground for rogue oppressors who are killing activists, who are killing our comrades who are fighting for revolutionary peace, revolutionary justice and revolutionary freedom. But will the Kurdish nation be intimidated by this? We say, no! Will the Kurdish nation be afraid of this? We say no! Will the Kurdish nation cower before the bullets of assassins and rogues who are in the government and among oppressors over here? We say, no! For every Sekine they kill, for every Fidan they kill, for every Leyla they kill, there will be hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands of them. I conclude with a short verse of Pablo Neruda – “You can kill all the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring.” And this, we will tell to our oppressors.

Biji Kurdistan. Long live Kurdistan.
Long live Tamil Eelam.

PJAK’s solidarity message on occassion of Tamil Eelam Heroes’ Day

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 4, 2012

Original article here

Happy Tamil Eelam Heroes’ Day to Tamil Nation
Revolutionary greetings for the heroic and steadfast nation of Tamil

Dedicating campaigners and activists of Tamil’s freedom path; our pains and sufferings, our hopes and aspirations are the same. Not we do only share them together, but with all the oppressed peoples in the world who are struggling to attain freedom. In the same manner; all the inhumane fascists and chauvinists in the world share their way of thinking, ideology and paradigm.

History of the world has been full of clashes between the occupiers and the occupied. As a result of struggles, resistances and sacrifices more of the occupied people have been liberated and the fascist and chauvinist occupiers are being destroyed successively.

In the last century more than 122 nations have been liberated and achieved their rights. Many more are leading liberation struggles and the bodies of their daughters and sons are becoming the fuelling logs of revolution blazes while their villages and cities are being destroyed; the Tamil and Kurdish nations are just samples of those peoples.

History and the philosophy of those liberated nations give us a lesson as the campaigners of liberation. The lesson is that campaign for freedom means; struggle, devastation, resoluteness and resurrection; struggle again, devastation, resoluteness and resurrection; once more struggle, devastation, resoluteness and resurrection; and ultimately triumphant and freedom will prevail.

Each damage and devastation would push us a step forward once we stand up, this is the dialectic of struggle for freedom and liberation. We have also experienced damages and devastations, but we never gave in and stood up again. Any nation who is scared of damage and devastation will never triumph. We should learn how to stand up from the way we get damaged and are devastated, any nation who learns how to stand up, will triumph.

In the hope of revitalization of the heroic nation of Tamil Eelam, in the hope of triumphant and freedom for the resolute and revolutionary nation of Tamil Eelam; never rest unless triumphing!

The Secretary General of Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK)
Rehman Haci Ehmedi 29-11-2012

A Hero’s Appeal

Posted in Poetry by Karthick RM on October 14, 2012

Dont just tell the world
how we fell
Tell the world
how we stood

Dont just tell the world
how we suffered
Tell the world
how we endured

Dont just tell the world
how we broke
Tell the world
how we struck

Dont just tell the world
of our fate
Tell the world
of our destiny

Dont just tell the world
of our sorrow
Tell the world
of our hope

Dont just tell the world
of our pain
Tell the world
of our power

Never surrender. Never capitulate.

Dont just tell the world
of our deaths
Tell the world
of our life eternal
of our sacrifice unparalleled
of our love supreme
of our struggle sublime

Tell the world
Tell your children
Tell yourself


For we wait
We listen

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Mullivaikaal – The Time For Mourning Is Over

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on May 14, 2012

Originally published on Countercurrents

What happened three years back at this place called Mullivaikaal?

Some called it a climax of a long story. It is a turning point. Some called it a full-stop. It is a comma. Many call it a tragedy. Of Epic proportions in the history of the Tamils.

Tragedies are often best expressed in verse. I found the best description of what happened in Mullivaikaal in the verses of Pablo Neruda.

In defiance of the assassins: Holding the Tamil flag high

“Here they brought rifles loaded
with gunpowder, they ordered bitter extermination:
here they found the people singing,
a people united by duty and love,
and the slender child fell with her flag,
and the smiling young man rolled wounded beside her,
and the people’s stupor saw the dead fall
with fury and with grief.
Then, on the site
where the assassinated fell,
they lowered the flags to bathe them in blood,
to raise them again in the assassins’ presence.”
(Canto General)

In defiance of the assassins in Colombo, and those who armed them, the Tamil Eelam standard still flies wherever there are Tamils in the world, remembering Mullivaikaal.

Adorno had said that poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. In a somewhat similar vein, a Tamil scholar told me that Mullivaikaal rendered the veneration of Tamil classics pointless. He argued that ‘puram’ poetry, that aspect of Tamil poetry that deals with themes pertaining to war, heroism, sacrifice, military code etc. was outdone in Vanni, and that the depiction of the same in Tamil classics were but dust in front of those Tamils who stood their ground against insurmountable odds in Eelam War IV. Rather than the classics setting standards to gauge Tamil values, the martyrs of Mullivaikaal set a standard to gauge classics, he contended. I could not disagree.

In Mullivaikaal, we witnessed the zenith of Tamil civilization. We witnessed an unimaginable heroism of the fighters for Tamil sovereignty and the people who nurtured them, the people for whom they acted as human shields against a genocidal army. We saw them enduring starvation, thirst, disease, Kfirs, shells, claymores, cluster bombs, chemical weapons. We saw people whom we called amma, anna, thambi, machaan, appa, akka getting killed, tortured, raped and crippled by the tens of thousands. We saw families evaporating, widows becoming staggering statistics, and numbers replacing persons. In ways more than one, we were left orphans.

Award winning film-maker Beate Arnesatd’s latest documentary “Silenced voices” has a clipping of a child wailing before the corpse of her mother, a scene that left many Tamils in tears, both during its screening in Oslo and at a closed-door show in London. The child cries (quoting from memory. The actual sentences are more or less the same.) “You have left us as orphans… now who will take care of us? Our real suffering is going to begin now.” A friend who also saw the documentary gave me an interpretation of this moving sequence – the little girl’s words reflected not just her personal loss, but also a portrayal of the state of the Tamil nation after our de facto state was crushed with the aid of the world powers, with the Sinhalese acting as executioners. The protracted genocide that is still unfolding in Tamil Eelam occupied by the Sinhala state is open for the world to see. If it would see, that is.

Likewise, we also saw the nadir of Sri Lankan barbarism in Mullivaikaal. We are witness to what the Sinhalese were willing to do to ensure the permanent victory of their state. We see how they trample upon everything that we cherish as a nation, our identity, our language, our culture, our family, our land and above all, the memory of those who loved us so much that they fell so that we may stand. And we also bear the brunt of the brutal jokes that they throw to us, calling rape as reconciliation, plunder as peace, and death as development. As we are compelled to hand control of our lands, bodies and minds to their coercive power, we see them celebrating their festivals in our cultural capital with a conqueror’s mentality, replacing the names of our towns with their language, settling their people in our lands, and forcing us to be things that we never can be without being permanently mutilated. To paraphrase Sartre from his stunning preface to ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, we know our oppressors by our wounds and shackles; that is what makes our testimony irrefutable – we only need to know what they have done to us for them to realize what they have done to themselves.

But the priority is clear. The onus is on us. We are not facing any form oppression – we are facing THE form of oppression. Genocide. If we are going to be dreaming about a time when a genuine realization comes in the other side or in the world of how moral we were, by that time there would be no Tamil nation on our side to fight for. Gauging by the way things are proceeding in the Tamil homeland, in ten years the Tamils are bound to become a scattered minority, with no sense of territory or identity. The morality of our position alone will secure nothing. If morality decided affairs in politics, then the Native Americans, the aborigines, the indigenous tribes of Latin America should be having control of the lands they lost. As a good Tamil friend pointed out to me citing Bertrand Russell, war does not determine who is right, it determines who is left. Sri Lankan war on the Tamils continues and will continue till there are no Tamils as a nation left in the island.

We have mourned enough for Mullivaikaal. Mourning can unite people and give them a sense of identity in abstract. But for concrete identity politics, there is no substitute for using the moment to convey a consensus of a political position. So let the occasion not just be a time to shed tears for those butchered, but also a time when we try to live up to the standards of those who fought till the end for what they believed in, for what is our right. Let the month of May be a time we undertake a ruthless analysis of where we stand and why, a cold assessment of who our friends are and who our enemies are, and frame a strategy that will deliver the primary political goal of Tamil Eelam. While symbolism is important, let us realize that in politics, symbols are meaningless unless they are used to take a people to material political goals, and that symbols themselves should be interpreted in a way that they conform to the primary political objective.

For instance, the Tamil youth in Canada have decided to call the occasion as ‘Tamil Uprising Day’. That probably is the closest tribute to the spirit of those Tamil women and men who went down standing in May 2009.

Heroes Day Celebration at JNU

Posted in Pamphlets and Reports by Karthick RM on November 28, 2009


The exhibition seeks to cover the course of the struggle of the Eelam Tamils for their home land. The majoritarian-racist Sinhala-state has sought to crush the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils ever since the 50’s through a series of chauvinist policies. Systematic attempts were made by the Lankan state to destroy the national culture, language, heritage and economy of the Tamils. Institutionalized discrimination, pogroms, repressive laws and state terror were used to render the Tamils as third-class citizens. These measures continue even today in a far worse manner – thousands of displaced persons generated by the Lankan state’s brutal ‘war on terror’ have been herded into concentration camps where they are subject all forms of atrocities imaginable. This only further legitimizes the position that an independent state of Tamil Eelam is the only solution for the problems of the Tamils.

The Tamils have heroically fought for their homeland against imperialist backed Sinhala aggression and will continue to do so.

On the historical occasion of Heroes Day, a day to commemorate the martyrs of the Eelam struggle, this exhibition is organized to express our solidarity with the Eelam Tamils.


Date: 27th November, 2009 (evening)
Venue: Ganga Dhaba
Delhi Tamil Students Union

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