Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"The Big Fat Sri Lankan Lie"

LTTE-Sri LankaFollowing the death of LTTE chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran the communication from the Sri Lankan government invited attention owing to the many loopholes it had. The latest edition of "The Week" magazine has a complete article which brings these loopholes to light.

Lion, Tiger and lies


Too many loose ends in Lankan army's version of Prabhakaran's death

By Anita Pratap

Precisely because he is many things to many people, LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran’s death has been greeted with joy by the Sinhalese, grief by his Tamil supporters, and relief by many who hope his death will bring peace to beleaguered Sri Lanka.

But is he really dead? Speculation is rife only because journalists are not allowed in, and independent verification is impossible. I was sceptical of the first report, which said he was killed while fleeing the war zone in an ambulance. No way. Prabhakaran would not do something so idiotic. Remember, the Sri Lankan army told us that Prabhakaran and his cadres were surrounded in a tiny patch of land, less than 1 The area was so small and so well surrounded that anyone coming out on a bicycle would be spotted and stopped.
(Image Inset:
A war crime? The death of Charles Anthony, Prabhakaran's son, raises questions)
So logically, what chance would an ambulance have of sprinting past unnoticed? If he had to flee from such a tiny war zone, he would have scurried out through an underground tunnel.
And then came the picture of Prabhakaran’s corpse. The first question: if he was killed in an ambulance, how come his body was discovered in a lagoon? The picture looked fake. Top of the head was blown off, but the face was clear and the eyes wide open. Prabhakaran’s most distinguishing feature are his eyes, which seemed artificially wide, as if someone was trying to prove it was indeed him by grabbing attention to his eyes. It reminded me of the front-page picture of the terrorist killed in a shootout in Ansal Plaza in New Delhi a few years ago. I had said then that I found it hard to believe that the terrorist had died that way with the gun in his hand. I have seen innumerable civilians, soldiers and guerrillas lying dead in battlefields. They don’t look like this. I instinctively felt the picture was stage-managed. Forensically, I did not see how it was possible that a guy involved in a massive shootout could die so perfectly posed. Subsequent investigations reinforced these doubts.

That is the same feeling I had when I saw the picture of Prabhakaran’s corpse. Far from setting my doubts to rest, the picture convinced me that something was fishy. The initial version was that soldiers had “shelled” the ambulance, which caught fire and was destroyed. If you pummel an ambulance with artillery shells or rocket propelled grenades, it will explode. So, if Prabhakaran were inside, his body would have been blown to bits. At the very least, charred. And when his dog tags and identity cards surfaced, the whole thing seemed even more of a set-up. Besides, Karuna’s and Daya Master’s identification of Prabhakaran’s body has as much credibility as a confession extracted in police custody.
I am not saying that I know for sure Prabhakaran is alive. What I am saying is that this version of his death does not ring true. I have said before that Prabhakaran will never be captured alive. But there is one more thing I would add. If he knew there was no way out, he would not only have killed himself but have made sure his body was not found. There are two reasons for this. One, he is a keen student of military history and knows if his body were found, it would be desecrated by the victorious Sinhalese soldiers. All triumphant soldiers have done this through history. I can still vividly recall the dead Afghan leader Najibullah hanging from a Kabul lamp-post, cigarette stuffed in his nose, body bloated and beaten black and blue by the victorious Taliban. I have seen videos of dead female LTTE soldiers being stripped naked and paraded by gleeful Sinhalese soldiers.
Many detest him, but one must understand Prabhakaran’s psyche. He is an extraordinarily proud man, one who believes he is fighting to restore the honour and glory of the Tamils. There is simply no way he will allow himself to be desecrated and bring eternal shame and dishonour to his people. So not only will he swallow his cyanide, have his bodyguard shoot him to make his death doubly sure, but he will ensure that his body is blasted to bits, so that no corpse ever surfaces.

That brings me to the second reason why he would ensure his body was never found if he had to commit suicide to evade capture. Remember, one of his favourite heroes is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Even today, there are people who believe that Bose is still alive. The mystery and the mystique remain. If Prabhakaran’s body is never found, no one can be sure whether he is really dead or alive and the conspiracy theories will spin forever—keeping him alive in people’s imagination. Purpose served, especially if he is dead.

I do not rule out Prabhakaran’s death. I don’t think he was killed, more likely he took his own life. If I were to pick a day that he decided to commit suicide with his top cadres, it would be May 16.
In my last article published a month ago in THE WEEK (Crouching Tiger, May 3) on what I expected Prabhakaran’s next move to be, I had written, “He will be watching the Indian elections closely to see which dispensation takes charge in New Delhi. He will be watching to see if there is a popular upsurge of support in Tamil Nadu for the plight of Tamils across the Palk Strait. …He will be watching President Barack Obama who rightly analysed that conflicts stem from our perception of the other.”
On May 13, referring to the “desperate, humanitarian crisis” in Sri Lanka, Obama urged the Tigers to “lay down their arms” and the government to stop the “indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives”. Tiger spokespersons said they were willing to accede to Obama’s request, but the Sri Lankan government refused to slacken or halt the final onslaught to wrest the last piece of land from Prabhakaran’s grip. On May 16, the Indian election results came out and contrary to media punditry, the Congress made a resounding comeback. That spelt doom for Prabhakaran: his implacable foes will remain in power for another five years. Instead of an upsurge in Tamil Nadu, staunch LTTE supporters like Vaiko were routed. Prabhakaran has been waging this battle alone for the last three years and he knows what it has cost him—his cadres, the Tamils civilians and the diaspora. It has been truly horrific. Surviving another five years of this isolation with a hostile Congress establishment at the helm in India and an impotent international community is very hard. Getting Eelam in the near future in such hostile international circumstances is impossible.
In the past, after he was routed, Prabhakaran started all over again from scratch. That is why I had said I could envision him continuing the war. But with Congress’s victory, Tamil Nadu’s political defeat and adamancy of the Sri Lankan state to disregard even the American president, I can see why he saw the futility of continuing his struggle, deciding then to fight unto death.
In his introduction to an absolute must-read 1964 book, The World of Yesterday by Austrian author Stefan Zweig, Harry Zohn talks about the three times that Zweig had to start his life all over, caught up as he was between the two world wars. Writes Zohn: “Too exhausted to start a fourth, Zweig took his life in Brazil soon after completing his autobiography, at a time when the prospects for the realisation of all that he had ever striven for looked particularly bleak.” Zweig and Prabhakaran are complete opposites. But this, I think, sums up Prabhakaran’s mood on May 16. What lends some credence to my theory is that several members of the Tamil diaspora said they began getting calls from their LTTE contacts in Vanni, tearfully bidding farewell. That most of the top rung of the LTTE’s military wing are dead, points to mass suicide.

Rumours began circulating in the blogosphere on May 16 that Prabhakaran and 300 of his top cadres had committed mass suicide and blown themselves up. In fact, Sri Lanka’s army website posted an item at 17:51 on May 17 from the battlefront: “Self-ignited LTTE explosions [were] heard and witnessed in close vicinity. Likelihood of Tigers committing suicide en masse or burning of LTTE assets on their own has not been ruled out.” Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced victory and end of war. On May 17 afternoon, the LTTE, issued a statement: “This battle has reached its bitter end. We remain with one last choice—to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns.” The statement blamed the silence of the international community, the impunity with which the Sri Lankan government ignored urgent appeals, used words like “desperate” and “saddened”, referred to “bitter end” twice. And added: “Against all odds, we have held back the advancing Sinhalese forces, without help or support…. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out any longer.” It reads like a suicide note.

For an even more absurd reason, I am inclined to believe that he could have committed suicide on May 17. Prabhakaran was very superstitious and once confessed to me that the number 8 is very unlucky for him—even though he is born on November 26. So he never undertook major offensives on 8th, 17th and 26th of a month. I reported that. And the Sri Lankan army took it easy on those days. But Charles Anthony, his son, couldn’t care less about superstition. Many of the operations he commanded were on 26th, precisely to surprise the army. On April 26, 2006, an LTTE suicide bomber tried in vain to assassinate Sri Lankan army commander, Sarath Fonseka, who since then became Prabhakaran’s mortal enemy. From this superstitious perspective, it is perhaps not a coincidence that the likely date of Prabhakaran’s suicide is May 17. When Prabhakaran told me about his superstition regarding numbers, I read Cheiro. According to Cheiro, people born with the birth number 8 are destined for great successes and great failures! If he has indeed committed suicide, this prediction certainly rings true for him!
On May 18 at 3 a.m. Vanni time, the LTTE political chief B. Nadesan and its peace secretariat director Puleedevan telephoned their European contacts requesting them to ask the ICRC to evacuate about 1,000 of their wounded cadres and LTTE’s civil officials. But a few hours later, the Sri Lankan defence ministry claimed they had found the dead bodies of Nadesan, Puleedevan and Anthony. The LTTE accused the Sri Lankan government of “treachery”. Their version is that their international contacts told them that arrangements had been made with the Sri Lankan military to discuss “an orderly end to the war”. So as instructed, Nadesan and Puleedevan, unarmed and carrying white flags, contacted the 58 division of the Sri Lankan troops operating nearby. But they were shot and killed. If this is true, under international conventions, this would be a war crime. The number of dead bodies shown on Sri Lankan websites indicates that this war on terror ended with a bloody massacre.

Sri Lankan army released pictures of Anthony’s corpse on May 18. Up until then, they had been releasing old pictures of a bulky Anthony in battle fatigues looking at the camera sulkily. But now two photos were released—one in which he is alive and the other his corpse. The strange thing is in both pictures he is wearing the same blue shirt. The explanation then could be that he, with Nadesan and Puleedevan, had gone dressed in civilian clothes with white flags to the 58 division. Pictures were taken, where he looks clean-shaven, relaxed and neat. And then something went wrong and a massacre followed some time later (the dead Anthony’s face has stubble). All Tiger fighters wear combat fatigues, so if he was fighting, Anthony should have been wearing battle dress. But the army’s version is that Anthony and others arrived dressed in civilian clothes on what was a suicide mission. But then that doesn’t explain the picture of Anthony alive.
Intriguingly, it took another whole day before the government released the picture of Prabhakaran’s dead body. If Prabhakaran did indeed blow himself up along with his top cadres, then there can be no body to parade. In which case, the Sri Lankan government came up with a Prabhakaran “double”. How weird is that? But the answer could be simple—the army was under pressure to show a dead body as proof. No one will believe otherwise that Prabhakaran is dead. If the Sri Lankan military has evidence that Prabhakaran did indeed blast himself, then they can be certain he will not surface to dispute their claim. On May 20, Sri Lanka’s defence ministry website carried a bizarre announcement: “We are not going to comment on how he died.”

But the story gets more curious. The LTTE is silent about Anthony, but has issued a statement that Prabhakaran is alive and safe. But few believe the LTTE, so rumours are now rife that Prabhakaran will give a television interview to prove he is alive. That will be a bombshell if it happens, suggesting he had waged an elaborate war of deception, complete with his own “double”. Any move he makes will be picked up by the Sri Lankan intelligence. But that is if he is alive. A Sinhalese blogger said: “He is alive and well—in hell.

But all these conspiracy theories can be quelled. The international community can force Sri Lanka to share the DNA tests done on Prabhakaran and Anthony and verify if they match Prabhakaran’s sisters’ who live in Canada and Europe. If they match, all speculation can be put to rest. India and the four co-chairs—the United States, Europe, Japan and Norway—should insi
st on this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Week 20 - 21: Roger that mate!

Well, a usual Monday morning on week 20 of the year '09 in India,
  • Most normal people cribbing about Monday morning blues.
  • The media was busy with their follow-up to the nations verdict of elections 2009 which was to be on saturday of week 20
  • The Sri Lankan army busy fighting the LTTE (a fight that has been prevalent over 3 decades)
  • The sensex hovering around the 11000's
  • The Royal challenger's Bangalore (RCB) just back from their loss to Mumbai Indians in the IPL pushing them further down after a promising start to their second IPL campaign
  • Chelsea fans elated about thrashing rivals Arsenal at the Emirates :)
  • I was all set to receive my Doctorate from Harvard (Location: Rajiv's subconscious state of mind!!)
Tuesday's Twister
RCB win a humdinger against Kolkata Knight Riders(KKR) in the Indian Premier League. KKR somehow manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, its a Ross Taylor show.

Wellness Wednesday
My friend MJ was close to having his first day at work and I had finished receiving my doctorate and was just shaking hands with the President of India immediately after a 2 hour press conference(Location: Rajiv's subconscious state of mind)!!

RCB Thursday
RCB continues with their unexpected second victory in a row against Chennai Super Kings(CSK) in the IPL

Friday the 15th
CNN-IBN and NDTV the most watched channels and they give a over-exaggerated build up to India's 15th Lok Sabha elections. Every news channel predicts a close fight and expects UPA to have a slender lead.
The post-poll prediction of news channel reveals an unexpected loss for the the opposition party leader Selvi Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu

Sensational Saturday
The nation gives a clear mandate for Congress and its allies the UPA. The UPA has finally borne fruit for its exceptional track record in its previous term 2004-2009. The Indian PM Dr.Manmohan Singh would now be only the second PM after Jawaharlal Nehru to do a second term in office. Rahul Gandhi's unrelenting efforts are rewarded as the UPA does an emphatic job in the state of UP. Rahul is labeled 'The Mastermind of the Congress'!
In the other side of the globe the English Premier League title has been retained by Manchester United for a 3rd straight year (sob :'( )

Simple Sunday
Most people if not all have a lazy sunday morning by making up for all lost sleep through the week and the late saturday night bash. News channels are gaga about the election 2009 results. CNN-IBN boasts of being the best to predict the outcome of the elections.
The famous ex-railways minister accepts his mistake of ditching the Congress just 1week before the elections and sees that as the primary reason for his poor show in the Elections

Golden Monday
The Indian Stock Market creates history. For the first time the sensex hits the circuit breaker twice and trading is stopped for the rest of the day. The first circuit was hit when it increased by 10% in just 60seconds and the second circuit breaker was hit when it touched 20% in a mere 15seconds. Traders elated and the Sensex closed at 14272 with a 2110 point gain over its opening price
Another shock as the KKR beats CSK by mistake as many would call it in the IPL. Its is their 2nd victory in 13 games! :)

Tuesdays are always twisted
Sensex starts to stabilize. PM having resigned along with the resignation of his previous cabinet is busy deciding portfolios. Speculation has its say on whose going to be a minister in the Cabinet.
In a country not so far away, one of India's troubled neighbour's Sri Lanka declares that the LTTE Chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran is dead and releases photographs of the same. The Sri Lankan president has annouced that the war against terror is over and rehabilitation process would start soon. But the evening has its own twist as there seems to be a lot of inconsistencies on the news about Prabhakaran's death. There are two different versions of his death from the President and the Army chief, the LTTE chief's ID card is recovered from a combat site(highly improbable) and the DNA reports are ready in a mere 12hours!

Now guess that's quite an eventful transition!! Phew!!
What's in for the rest of week 21? Only patience can tell.
But with such an eventful back-drop be sure to expect something that would take your breath away!!!
Cheerz and happy week people!! :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Its "Nano-ing" from the house of the TATA's!

First a successful launch of the Tata Nano - "The world's cheapest car", which helped Tata's raise about 25billion rupees ($500million) with over 2.03lakh bookings even before the car's release.

And now its time for 'Shubh Griha'.. Wondering what that means?
Well, it is the name of Tata's next project. It is again targeted at that segment of the Indian population that has for long been ignored. Tata's are now building Nano Housing in a place called Boisar in Mumbai.

These houses would be priced between Rs 3.9 lakh-Rs 6.7 lakh. It would have three variants:
  • A one-bed room flat with a hall and kitchen in an area of 465 square feet
  • A one-room flat with a large kitchen in an area of 360 square feet
  • A one-room flat with a small kitchen in an area of 283 square feet
TATA Housing has tied up with State Bank of India (SBI) and HDFC to help buyers with finance options. Application forms will be available at SBI branches across Mumbai at a cost of Rs.200 and booking should be made in next 20-days along with the initial booking amount of Rs 10,000 through bank pay order at selected branches of SBI across mumbai

Again it is evident that TATA has always aimed at catering to the common man. So guess this is something for the general Indian public to cheer about amongst all this pointless election hungama...
Kudos to The Visionary himself 'Mr. Ratan Naval Tata"!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When I spoke to the whole of Namma Bengaluru...

Rajiv S Perumal
About a couple of weeks(21st April 2009) ago I got a chance to write an article on Elections 2009 in India which was published in India's leading newspaper 'The Times of India'. Just wanted to share the article which gave me my one day to fame. :)

The e factor of Elections '09

Just when you thought you’ve had enough of banners, flags, pamphlets and the like, here comes another blow for all netizens who thrive on the Internet and cringe at the mere mention of politics. I’m hinting at the various social media advertising initiatives, which one has been forced to endure, with the coming of Election 2009.

There are user profiles made on networking sites like Orkut, Facebook and Twitter by numerous politicians which are updated on a regular basis. Not to mention the BJP ads featuring in Orkut. That’s not where it ends, we also have text messages pushed to mobile phones throughout the country. To add to it, tech-savvy states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra & Goa have people receiving auto-dialler calls. If you thought this is an invasion of privacy, then I wonder how you would react to Bluetooth downloads sent to over millions of people every day, in strategically chosen areas, that have high footfalls.

S.Niranjan Kumar, an engineering student from Bangalore says, “I hate the fact that whenever I open my Orkut homepage, which is customized to suit my needs, I see a banner ad canvassing a party below my friend list.”

Priyanka Shetty, a techie from Bangalore says, “I don’t see how social media advertising helps, because I surely wouldn’t consider changing my vote after reading ads online. Besides, I’m sure this would be the view of any educated netizen”

In contrast, there exist companies like BuzzGain which have been involved intracking traffic and monitoring webpages, who point out that ‘Advani’s website has about 25,000 hits per day and Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram are among the most frequently mentioned names in various blogs’. Youngsters are under the notion that election campaigning this year has an online arm to it.

With the number of internet users being only a small percentage of the Indian population, I don’t subscribe to the opinion that social media advertising will have a telling effect on the upcoming elections. Yet, the million-dollar question still remains, “Will this response to online advertising have an impact on the voting pattern?” Only time will tell!