Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi insisted on Monday that his statements on a television channel claiming that V. Prabhakaran was his good friend and the LTTE was not a terrorist outfit, had been quoted out of context.
“No one can forget the gruesome killing of Rajiv Gandhi,” the 84-year-old DMK chief added. Rajiv was assassinated by an LTTE-primed female suicide bomber, Dhanu, during an election rally at Sriperumbudur, 40 km from Chennai on May 21, 1991.
“My views were not broadcast in their totality by the television channel,” said Karunanidhi. “That may have caused misunderstanding in some quarters.”
He asserted he still felt very strongly about Rajiv’s killing. “Nobody has forgotten Sriperumbudur,” he said. “When additional land was sought for the Rajiv Gandhi memorial, our government readily gave it. We’ve named a premier road in Chennai after Rajiv Gandhi.”
“All I said was that when the LTTE began, it was not a terrorist organisation,” he went on. “It started as a liberation struggle on behalf of Sri Lanka’s Tamils. I had added that later some people in the LTTE had indeed become terrorists.”
Karunanidhi’s remarks had raised a furore, since the LTTE is a banned organisation in India and Prabhakaran still wanted for Rajiv’s killing.
While welcoming Karunanidhi’s clarification, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “We have not wavered. Our stand is that Prabhakaran is a terrorist and the LTTE a proscribed organisation.”
The Congress and DMK are in alliance in Tamilnadu.
The Opposition BJP pointed to the Congress’s inconsistency. “The same Congress that withdrew support to the United Front government in 1998 after it refused to drop the DMK from its ruling alliance is now unable to object seriously to Karunanidhi’s remarks,” said BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley.
Karunanidhi, however, clarified that his concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils facing the brunt of the advancing Sri Lankan army remained.
“I deeply regret every single death during the on going conflict,” he said. “That is mere humanitarianism.”
Karunanidhi also used the occasion to take a dig at his former allies like the PMK and the MDMK, fervent supporters of the LTTE, for having teamed up with his arch rival, J. Jayalalithaa. He noted that it was while Jayalalithaa was chief minister that the state assembly had passed a resolution saying Prabhakaran should be arrested and extradited to India to stand trial. “But they have gone and teamed up with her,” he noted.