India armed rival groups as Tigers disarmed – IPKF General

[TamilNet, Saturday, 15 December 2007, 18:39 GMT]
Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, ordered an Indian General to kill LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan in cold blood when the latter attended a meeting under a white flag in September 1987. In a new book, the then chief of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), Major General (retd.) Harkirat Singh, says he refused to carry out the order as “good soldiers do not shoot an adversary in the back.” He also says that as the Tigers began disarming in 1987, but India’s intelligence service, RAW, on Rajiv Gandhi’s orders, began arming anti-LTTE militant groups, triggering inter-Tamil violence.

IPKF operation
Maj. Gen. (retd) Harkirat Singh published his book ‘Intervention in Sri Lanka: The IPKF experience retold’ (available through Vijitha Yapa Publications) earlier this year.

The book is the commander’s first hand account of the initial induction and operations of the IPKF in Sri Lanka. Maj. Gen. (retd) Harkirat supports his accounts and assessments of the events of two decades ago with reproductions of internal communications between Indian commanders.

He begins his account with his meeting in early August 1987 with the LTTE leadership at which the Tigers agreed to surrender their weapons to the IPKF. On August 4, 1987, Pirapaharan addressed a huge crowd in Jaffna to announce and explain their decision.

Below are extracts from Maj. Gen. (retd) Harkirat’s book:

“The Tigers continued to surrender their weapons till 21 August 1987. At this point of time, RAW, under directions from the Prime Minister’s Office, commenced the rearming of the other militant groups. Evidence regarding the rearming of some defunct militant groups was brought to the notice of all concerned, including the Indian High Commissioner [J. N. Dixit]. I had shown the High Commissioner and his Military Adviser inColombo a videotape on the induction of small arms with Indian markings. The rearming of militant groups other than the LTTE resulted in inter-group killings among the Tamil militants and the surrender of weapons came to a virtual standstill by the end of August 1987.” [p47-48]

“Dixit wanted my assessment of the various militant groups that had become defunct and had now suddenly become active again. I explained that the ENDLF, PLOTE, and TELO had been lying dormant and it was only after the middle of August 1987 that they had re-surfaced with newly acquired arms. … Moreover, the LTTE knew that RAW had an active hand in encouraging these groups.” [p49-50]

“According to Dixit, the ultimate objective of the IPKF was to discredit the LTTE in the eyes of the local Tamil population. In short, the IPKF was expected to playa double game. I realized that these tactics would not work since the Tamils had already understood that their aspirations for Eelam could be met only by the LTTE.”[p48-9]

“[Later] the EPRLF, prior to the withdrawal of the IPKF, was equipped with rifles under orders from Lt. Gen. A.S. Kalkat, it was not realized that the EPRLF cadres had no fighting potential and handing weapons to this group was an ill-advised venture.” [p50]

“In September 1987, a political dialogue between the LLTE and an Indian delegation took place at Palaly and a peaceful solution seemed to be in sight. The creation of the [Interim Administration Council] was to be thrashed out. The date set for the meeting to be held at my headquarters at Palaly and chaired by Dixit, was 16-17 September 1987.” [p57]

“On the night of 14/15 September 1987, I received a telephone call from Dixit, directing me to arrest or shoot Pirabakaran when he came for the meeting. Telling Dixit that I would get back to him I placed a call to the [Overall Forces Commander]. Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh.” [p57]

“Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh directed me to tell Dixit that we, as an orthodox Army, did not shoot people in the back when they were coming for a meeting under the white flag. I then spoke to Dixit in Colombo and conveyed the message emphasizing that I would not obey his directive.” [p57]

“I pointed out that the LTTE supremo had been invited by the IPKF in order to find a solution to the problems in the implementation of the Accord. Dixit replied, ‘He Rajiv Gandhi has given these instructions to me and the Army should not drag its feet, and you as the GOC, IPKF will be responsible for it.’” [p57]

External Links:
SikhNews: Rajiv Gandhi asked Sikh officer of IPKF to kill LTTE chief during meeting


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