The Sri Lankan Interlude



- L.N. Subramanian

In 1987, I was an engineering student in Pune when we were euphoric about the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. In my mind it was the first time since 1971 when we were dealing with real politick. Then within a few days the accord soured and the first reports of clashes between the IPKF and LTTE came in. Soon we heard that the IPKF was involved in a bloody battle against the LTTE, followed by the first pictures of dead Indian troops. As the war dragged on, I was increasingly angered by the political schemings that seemed to go on. At one point everybody from parochial Indian politicians, prominent Jaffna Tamils and the Sri Lankans were against the IPKF.

Then one day in 1989, I was passing through Khadki when I noticed three men in striped hospital pyjamas. As I passed them something caught my attention - all three had a hand missing. Immediately I knew that they were from the nearby Army Rehabilitation Institute. With a queasy feeling I walked over to them and started talking. One was from Tamil Nadu and the others from Uttar Pradesh. They were representative of 80% of the Indian Army, simple rural folk who would perform the their duty diligently. They said, "We were told that we were a Shanti Sena. Suddenly we were in battle without any clear orders. We did not even have all our equipment. And we felt like we were fighting our own people." The Tamilian said, "Some people in Madras looked at us as if we were committing a crime."

I wished I was a somebody who could rally the country to honour these men. Since that was wishful thinking I promised that I would someday highlight their plight and the horror the country subjected them to. However it was hard to link up with like minded Indians to discuss this issue. Indians are passionate about discussing every topic under the sun except defence related issues.

However the last few years the Internet afforded the ability to quickly disseminate information. In light of recent political movements where some of the key politicians from the IPKF drama are present again it is imperative that many Indians know about it and never allow it to happen. Never again must our Jawan fight with such odds, with both hands tied behind and blindfolded. Never again must he/she be betrayed. However, if Indian History is any indication the odds of such a reoccurrence is sadly very high.