'Inside an Elusive Mind - Prabhakaran' by M. R. Narayan Swamy was released earlier this month. Published here is the chapter ‘War and Love’.
Headlong into uncharted territory
I never felt lonely at any point of time. -Prabhakaran
The year 1984 was a decisive turning point in Prabhakaran's personal life. Defying his own code of conduct and puritanical ideas, he fell in love with a young student of agricultural science.

This happened even as hundreds of Tamil guerrillas trained by India returned to Sri Lanka and unleashed a vortex of violence the country was not equipped to handle.
After a brief lull following the anti-Tamil violence of 1983, a string of daring and well-planned robberies rocked Jaffna and other areas, leading to huge losses. The targets were state-owned as well as cooperative banks and post offices.

One Tamil militant died in the first known instance of internecine violence while the LTTE executed a couple of men dubbing them "notorious criminals". It was not until March 1984, when Prabhakaran's first media interview was published, that the Tigers carried out their first strike since the anti-Tamil pogrom, gunning down two air force personnel travelling in a bus in Jaffna.

As Prabhakaran was supervising the newly opened training camps in Tamil Nadu and making secret arrangements to get hold of arms in a big way, LTTE guerrillas kept up the attacks on the police and the military, shaking Sri Lanka by its foundation. A sergeant and two constables were killed at a police station in Jaffna, shortly after Sri Lanka announced setting up a National Security Ministry. It was new minister, Lalith Athulathmudali, educated at Oxford, who declared that the battle against the guerrillas "must be specific, cold and calculated". On its side, the LTTE was already executing this policy.

In April, a landmine blew up a military truck in the heart of Jaffna. Three policemen were shot dead separately the following month. One of them, the LTTE said, had betrayed the location of Prabhakaran's friend Seelan to the army the previous year leading to his death. This policeman's killing was made macabre to make it exemplary. His headless trunk was flung near a police station, his head near Jaffna town and one of the limbs elsewhere.

The EPRLF, the small leftist group also trained by India, kidnapped a young American couple working on a US funded water project at Point Pedro, a coastal town in the Jaffna peninsula. They were accused of being CIA agents. The EPRLF demanded a huge ransom. The group wanted the amount deposited with the Tamil Nadu government. An outraged New Delhi came down heavily on the EPRLF, resulting in the release of the Americans.

As violence escalated, the moderate TULF tried to pull itself up by its bootstraps by organizing a day of token hunger strike in Jaffna, where it once held sway. But the LTTE sabotaged the event. Smarting under charges that he was living in the safety of India while Tamils were dying in large numbers in Sri Lanka, the TULF chief Amirthalingam decided to hold a protest in Jaffna. But it was a non-event. LTTE and EPRLF members stormed the venue and heckled the TULF veteran for his parleys with Colombo.

In August, the LTTE attacked a naval boat near VVT, Prabhakaran's hometown, killing six men in the first confrontation between the navy and guerrillas. The next day, a group of 60 Tigers mounted a ferocious attack on a police station in far away Mullaitivu, an area where the northern province meets the east, killing two men. The LTTE made off with four machine guns and 20 rifles. A top police officer was killed in Vavuniya, south of Jaffna.

A powerful landmine blasted an army jeep, instantly killing six soldiers, in the northwestern district of Mannar. The LTTE was clearly widening the domain of its operations. It declared in Madras that it was switching over from "hit and run to a sustained guerrilla campaign". It called upon other guerrilla groups to join hands to fight "our common enemy".

After a deceptive calm, five police commandos died in an explosion in Jaffna. A landmine killed nine soldiers near Mullaitivu. Four Tigers were killed in the shoot out. Two policemen were killed in Killinochchi, south of Jaffna's Elephant Pass, and an attack on a police station in the eastern province of Batticaloa was repulsed.

The situation in Sri Lanka was becoming grimmer by the day. Tamil guerrillas, particularly those from the LTTE, relentlessly attacked police and military personnel all over Sri Lanka's north and east, in contrast to earlier times when the violence was largely confined to Jaffna. The military was now a common sight in the Jaffna peninsula. Jaffna town would get deserted by dusk, with residents scurrying back to the safety of their homes. The only vehicles on the roads until dawn would be convoys of military vehicles laden with heavily armed soldiers.

In a new twist some attacks were carried out by groups of up to 60 guerrillas. In most cases the attackers got away after unleashing a trail of death and destruction. After such incidents, the infuriated soldiers, unable to get the rebels, would hit back at soft targets killing a large number of innocent Tamils. Every time civilians died at the hands of security forces, the Indian government would lodge a strong protest and ask Colombo to bring about order. Sri Lanka would react in a righteous indignation.

The bitter exchanges between the two countries pleased the Tamil guerrillas who were beginning to gain sympathy all over India as they were seen fighting for a just cause.
The increasing involvement of India helped the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka become an international issue. But Colombo, instead of concluding a just settlement with the TULF with India's backing, kept reneging on its commitments of granting autonomy to the Tamil areas. It was a policy many Sri Lankans would rue in due course.

In October, the PLOT announced its presence with a bang by raiding a court and escaping with 72 shotguns. The incident took place in Killinochchi, south of Jaffna. A day later, the EROS carried out a series of dramatic bomb blasts in Colombo, killing three people. This was an ominous signal that the militants were capable of taking the battle to the bastion, the country's capital.

The US government, in the wake of unending speculation that India might send its army to Sri Lanka on the side of the Tamils, warned "outsiders" against meddling in the ethnic conflict. As the Tamil resistance raged on in Sri Lanka, cupid struck Prabhakaran in Madras.

The stage for Prabhakaran's love story was set in January 1984 when the LTTE kidnapped nine students, four girls and five boys, fasting in support of student demands near the University of Jaffna. The LTTE insisted that the era of fasting and peaceful protests was over. Fighting, not fasting, was the LTTE motto.

The incident created bad blood in Jaffna, with many accusing the LTTE of high handedness. Its rivals accused the Tigers of acting much like the army it was fighting. The LTTE argued that it wanted to save the lives of the nine students, who would have died of hunger because Colombo was unlikely to accept their demands.

The boys and girls were eventually spirited away in a boat to Tamil Nadu. Even as they were on their way to India, Prabhakaran alerted Adele, the Australian wife of his political advisor Balasingham, to expect some female company. He had no place to keep the girls. The LTTE's women wing had not been formed yet.

The girls started staying with Adele until arrangements were made to send them back to Sri Lanka. Before that could happen, Prabhakaran, the man who bitterly opposed other guerrillas falling in love, himself slipped in the uncharted territory. He fell for one of the girls.
Mathivathani, known among friends as Mathy, was a pretty student of agricultural science with sparkling eyes. As Adele was to remark later: "Love for a woman filled his heart and he was absolutely besotted with Mathy and she with him". He kept coming to the Balasingham's residence to see Mathy.

The affair created a major problem for Prabhakaran. Until then, he had led a puritan life and made celibacy a cardinal rule of underground existence. Now he was torn between his zeal for the LTTE's ideals he himself had championed and Mathy's grace, appeal and looks.

Balasingham was sympathetic and explained to Prabhakaran that romance and love were not anathema to Tamil history and culture and he should go ahead and marry Mathy. The Balasinghams also felt that the LTTE's strict bar on love and marriage was too straitlaced. After much agitation and vacillation, Prabhakaran felt convinced. He requested Balasingham, highly regarded by the cadres, to explain the situation.

Prabhakaran's decision to tie the knot with Mathy caused an unprecedented furore in the LTTE. As the news spread, many eyebrows were raised. For the first time in many years there were murmurs of discontent at the highest levels in the group. There was bitterness among some of the senior cadres who had renounced their romance for the rebellion.

There were disconcerting questions. Isn't this the same Prabhakaran who passionately argued against family life all these years, saying love and marriage could be impediments to a revolution? Wasn't he the one who ranted against Uma for falling in love with Urmila? How could he make himself an honourable exception?

In a curious development that Prabhakaran had not bargained for, the marriage became a subject of discussion even in LTTE training camps. There was a rumour that an LTTE commander returned to Jaffna in disgust from the Tamil Nadu coast, without travelling to Madras, when he came to know about the boss's affair.
News also reached the families of Prabhakaran and Mathy in Jaffna. Mathy's parents rushed to Madras, to find out for sure if their daughter really wanted to tie the knot with a man wanted by Sri Lankan authorities.

According to Hindu custom, the groom ties a small gold pendant, embossed with a religious symbol, around the neck of his bride on the day of the marriage. Sri Lankan Tamils believe that a jeweller known to the family should make the pendant, called thali, on a chosen auspicious day. Accordingly, Prabhakaran sent word to his uncle in Jaffna, requesting him to arrange four grams of gold, melted from an existing piece of jewellery, for the thali.

The uncle and aunt, who had always been close to Prabhakaran since he was a boy, were pleased and impressed. They knew that Prabhakaran commanded vast resources and he could have easily bought four grams of gold. But the rebel leader kept personal expenses apart. His elated uncle jumped on his motorcyle to spread the good news around in turbulent Jaffna. A thali weighing eight grams was made by a jeweller and sent to Madras through an LTTE emissary. It had an embossed imprint of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god of luck.

Gradually LTTE members agreed that it was best for the leader to get married. Prabhakaran relaxed the fiat on love and marriage much to the cadres' delight. Many fell in love with a vengeance.

In the presence of select friends and family members, Prabhakaran and Mathy exchanged floral garlands at a Hindu temple not far from Madras on October 1, 1984. Prabhakaran tied the thali around her neck, putting the Hindu religious seal on the marriage. The couple posed for photographs. A beaming Prabhakaran wore a tie on the day - for the first time in his life.

Shortly after the marriage, an almost apologetic Prabhakaran broke the news to Nedumaran, the Indian politician who had played host to him after the shootout in 1982 in Tamil Nadu. Nedumaran, a father of three, was somewhat taken aback but happy that the rebel had lost to love. "Why are you feeling shy?" he asked. "I congratulate you!"

Even after his own marriage and his decision to permit weddings in the LTTE, Prabhakaran continued to be a puritan of sorts. In 1985, during a visit to the LTTE office in Madras, he noticed a girl in a neighbouring house waving at his office and disappearing into her house. Intrigued, he made enquiries and was informed that an LTTE member was probably having an affair with the girl, a resident of the area. Prabhakaran did not like the idea of one of his boys falling for an Indian girl. He packed off the young guerrilla to Sri Lanka.

Prabhakaran realized at the same time that he needed to put at rest any misgivings following his marriage. He reassigned responsibilities to senior associates in a bid to placate them. He also dispatched to Sri Lanka a rich arsenal of weapons the LTTE had imported without India's knowledge. It included AK-47 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, pistols, grenades, M-16 rifles, walkie-talkies and explosives.

The replenishment of arms was a rich harvest to the LTTE fighters. Prabhakaran's nuptial saga was soon forgotten as the battle for an independent Tamil state resumed with renewed ferocity in Sri Lanka. Inside an Elusive Mind is co-published by Vijitha Yapa Publishers, Sri Lanka and Konark Publishers, New Delhi.

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