In an anthology of articles titled Viduthalai (Liberation), brought out recently in the United Kingdom, Balasingham has made several sensational disclosures, including the gift of an AK-47 to MGR by Prabhakaran. His almost unrestrained eulogy of MGR and tacit admission that the LTTE leaders played on his ego are quite revealing.
Their very first encounter, in 1984, came through in some unusual circumstances. At the time a number of Lankan militant groups were operating in Tamil Nadu, and MGR, in an attempt to unite them, had called a meeting of the leaders of those groups.
But DMK leader Karunanidhi, in an attempt to show off his commitment to the Lankan Tamil cause, also called a meeting of his own, a day earlier. Not wanting to get caught in the internal politics of Tamil Nadu, the LTTE kept out of the meeting convened by Karunanidhi. They decided not to meet MGR either.
But as it happened, when the meeting between Karunanidhi and three LTTE leaders made a splash in the media, a cut-up MGR peremptorily cancelled the meeting he had called. At the same time, he sent a senior police official to persuade the LTTE leaders to meet him at his residence. And Balasingham agreed, but only on condition that no other rebel leader would be present at the meeting.
(Prabhakaran, though still in Madras then, was not that easily accessible, even to the chief minister of the day. He would not meet MGR at the time, but would do so at a later stage.)
Balasingham and his associates quickly managed to strike a rapport with MGR, two key factors being their badmouthing his rival Karunanidhi for â€˜â€˜playing politicsâ€™â€™ in an issue involving the very future of the Lankan Tamils and unashamedly flattering MGR on his face about his social concerns. His face lighted up when they described him as a â€˜â€˜social revolutionary,â€™â€™ equating him with Prabhakaran himself, Balasingham writes.
And as the conversation proceeded apace, Balasingham slips in his request for money, towards training his cadres and for arms. MGR asks: â€˜â€˜How much?â€™â€™ Rather hesitantly, Shankar, a senior leader of the LTTE, mumbles, â€˜â€˜Rs 2 crore.â€™â€™ The response was prompt: â€˜â€˜Come tomorrow and collect it.â€™â€™ Later the LTTE team wondered whether they should not have asked for more. The next evening Balasingham arrives at MGRâ€™s residence in a van, is taken to the basement wherein he finds boxes (of what type, he doesnâ€™t describe) stacked to a height of ten feet. MGR tells the security guards in Malayalam to take out ten of the boxes and pile them up in the van.
It is late in the night, and the LTTE folk are worried about the security and possible police interception. â€˜â€˜No problem,â€™â€™ MGR says and the team goes to its destination under police escort.
Thus the foundation for a historic friendship was laid, Balasingham remarks and says that at the time it was essentially MGRâ€™s money that kept the LTTE wheels moving.
Still later, Prabhakaran demanded Rs 5 crore. This time MGR chose to dip into the funds collected by the government for the rehabilitation of the Lankan Tamils affected by the 1983 riots. A project for their health care, to be managed by an LTTE-front organisation, was to be the cover. After some hassles, Balasingham was handed a cheque for Rs 4 crore at the secretariat. (Only that much had been collected by the government.) But the media exposed the transaction, and all hell broke loose. (Incidentally, Balasingham mentions only the this website's newspaper and not the upcountry newspapers in that connection.)
The then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, spoke to MGR rather sharply. The LTTE spokesman says that MGR was dismayed and wondered what wrong there could have been in handing the money meant for Lankan welfare to an organisation that was fighting for their rights.
But not wanting to lock horns with the Centre, MGR got the cheque back and compensated the rebels with cash from his basement.
It was not just monetary help that MGR was rendering. He went out of his way to go to their rescue whenever they were caught in one crisis or other. Once a consignment of arms meant for PLOTE, a rival organisation, was seized by the Madras Port authorities. Wiser by that experience, the LTTE promptly sought the Chief Ministerâ€™s help when its own shipment, worth thousands of dollars, docked. â€˜â€˜No problem,â€™â€™ was the answer again. He pulled the necessary wires and they got their goodies cleared. It was as a token of his gratitude that Prabhakaran gifted an AK-47 to MGR, who was of course delighted at his new toy, says Balasingham.
Again when MGRâ€™s most trusted police chief, Mohandas, ordered a crackdown on all militant outfits and seized their arms and communication equipment, and Prabhakaran went on a fast, the Chief Minister personally intervened and ordered the return of whatever had been seized. Plus, as a bonus, the arms seized from the other groups too went to the LTTEâ€™s kitty.
Strangely, the book is silent on MGRâ€™s failure to raise his voice against the IPKF offensive and Karunanidhiâ€™s vociferous protests. It should, indeed, be galling to Karunanidhi that there is no reference at all to his role, except for an occasional dig or two.