Electoral compulsions in Tamil Nadu appear to have driven DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to say on Sunday that LTTE chief V Prabhakaran was a friend.
“Prabhakaran is my good friend,” said the 84-year-old DMK leader during an hour-long interview to NDTV at his residence here this morning.
And then he added, practically in the same breath, “I am not a terrorist”.
The Sri Lankan army has said it has cornered Prabhakaran in a small area of his former stronghold and that the Tamil Tiger chief was using civilians of the area as a human shield for his own protection.
The safety of Tamil civilians of Sri Lanka has become an election issue in Tamil Nadu, a state with 40 Lok Sabha seats. Karunanidhi jumped in late, but has sought to catch up with statements getting shriller every day.
Congress, an ally of the DMK, said this was Karunanidhi’s personal opinion. Spokesperson Kapil Sibal said: “That may be his personal opinion. But we do believe that LTTE is a terrorist organisation and all those involved in LTTE's activities are terrorists.” And if Prabhakaran is taken alive he should be extradited to India.
He is wanted here for masterminding the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.
Karunanidhi said during the interview that the LTTE’s “goal” — of a Tamil Eelam — was indeed ‘laudable’. “Its organizational policies are praise-worthy, but terrorism had taken roots even in such an organization.”
Asked specifically if he saw the LTTE as a terror group, Karunanidhi said in Tamil, “Naan Appadi Paarkavillai (I do not see it in that perspective).” May be, there “are some terrorists” in their group, he said. What if Prabhakaran got killed in the latest offensive? “I will deeply regret it,” replied Karunanidhi.
“I will then have to bemoan that it (Prabhakaran’s death) happened only because the Tamils (read the Tamil groups of northern Sri Lanka) lacked unity and due to the Tamilians’ lacking cohesiveness,” Karunanidhi said. “There is nothing wrong in their (LTTE) objective, but only the methods they adopted was not correct,” the DMK leader added.
Karunanidhi, who for years now since Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by the Tigers in 1991, had been affirming that the DMK had “long back washed its hands off the LTTE” and that he disapproved of Prabhakran’s penchant for “dictatorship”, appears to have turned his view on the subject completely to deny his rvial an advantage in the polls.