Wilting Tigers & tilting Quixotes

Tigers are among the fastest dwindling animal tribe on the globe. They abound in human form too in Sri Lanka, but here again extinction seems imminent, having been cornered and confined to a few hundred square kilometres now, thanks to some relentless hunting by the military. But rational TN remains oblivious to all that: here, walking around in tiger skin is still a popular political pastime and, worse, the rhetoric remains shrill despite the shrinking tiger terrain across the Palk Straits. Who said paper tigers don’t roar?

But roar, the proxy tigers of TN do with aplomb. And having thus let out steam, they hide behind bushes and rear their heads on and off, depending on how precarious the position of the prime tiger, Prabakaran, is getting. Now, with the SL military right at the doors of that Tigers’ cave, small wonder that all the paper tigers here have been afloat the whole of last week. The cat family in TN wants the Sri Lankans to withdraw from the hunt so that the Liberation tigers are not just liberated but can live and kill happily ever after. But thankfully, Sri Lanka is not India nor is Rajapakse a Manmohan Singh. The tiny nation sees this as a fight to the finish, drawing inspiration probably from another tiny nation in the Middle East. It knows that tame India is unworthy of emulation when it comes to fighting terror and in any case, it sees blood thirsty tigers as its own internal issue.

And that is as it must be. The international community would care less, for, if the SL military succeeds, it would be one terror outfit less. The Indian establishment knows quite well it has no legal or moral authority to ask Sri Lanka to continue to feed itself to the tigers’ insatiable hunger. For that matter, even the rationalist co-borns and their cohorts in coalition are well aware that Rupavahini can barely pick up their boisterous broadcasts much less heed all that bluff or fear their bravado. The SL army chief was quite sincere and serious in his assessment of some politicos here as jokers! Still, the hypocritic show continues and tiger riding remains a favoured game. To fool whom?

Tamil identity is undeniably a powerful emotion. It is also a fact that the Tamils in TN and elsewhere empathise more with SL Tamils than with their fellow Indians, say, in Punjab or North East. The bond is historical, cultural, commercial, geographic and linguistic. But that said, people here have also come to distinguish between Tamils’ cause and LTTE’s agenda. An organisation which has consistently eliminated every other Tamil contender to leadership or challenger to its hegemony cannot really be counted as a champion. Again, an outfit that sends innocent but indoctrinated kids to the warfront or uses those very Tamils it seeks to protect as shields, particularly now when it is under a terminal siege, can’t lay claim to any human support, let alone Tamils’ support. Again, the daylight murders of EPRLF leaders in Chennai, Rajiv’s assassination near Chennai and the IPKF imbroglio, to name a few instances, were clear warnings that India should keep its emotions at bay and stay clear unless it wants its own soil sullied. And a great part of SL Tamils themselves are convinced that the LTTE has finished their cause for ever. But the dummy tigers here would not talk about all these lethal self-goals by their most favoured cousins.

And there’s everything official about such foolery. The ultimate rationalist at the helm of the State is the prime pastmaster who has patented that practice. Having been once bitten by Art 356 and sundry other commissions of enquiry for his dalliance with the tigers he has now learnt the art of riding the tiger and then dismounting it, without being eaten by it. He can run with them as well as chase them, both being self serving shady shenanigans. At the core is the instinct for survival as the sole leader of the Tamil race, a title that he has appropriated to the thunderous applause of professional flatterers who fill the space around him. So, the State assembly would pass resolution after resolution, the DMK would issue statement after statement and MK himself would write letter after letter to the PM pressing for the Centre’s intervention. Deadlines and threats would come and pass, and eventually, when the SL military gets done with its mission any time soon, K would promptly pen soul stirring poetry in his party organ overflowing with poignancy at the plight of his fellow Tamils, read, tigers! And having thus served the ‘Tamil cause’ so dutifully, it would be back to business, family business, as usual!

The other players pale before the Thalaivar, but still merit mention, if only for their nuisance value. Thirumavalavan, for his part, went on a fast, albeit between meals, while his cadre feasted on public property. One can trust more buses and sundry other visible objects to go up in flames as more and more of Mullaiteevu comes under military boots. PMK’s Ramadoss for his part has announced that TN will be brought to a standstill if the Lankan assault is not halted. That’s still good news because we thought TN was actually in reverse gear with all these elements in full flow. But the Dr’s prescription is illegible as usual. It beats us how keeping TN in suspended animation, assuming a tranquilliser does exist, would advance the lives of Tamils, tigers included, here or across the seas. Or may be it will because Dr R would stop talking when TN is in limbo! Really, for all their pompous promises and proven potency in disturbing public peace, it would be ideal to put them all in preventive custody. But our CM would rather engage them in fraternal nit picking, fine hair splitting and a farcical war of words hotter than the one raging in Mullaiteevu! Needless to add, the DPA, UPA and ‘critical’ cabinet berths would remain immune to all the upheavals in Tamils’ fate and fortunes!

J has stuck to her tiger-hunting instincts. But it loses shine in view of the crouching tiger in her own backyard answering to the name Vaiko, who has earned his stripes through unstinted loyalty, even stints in prison, for decades. He has now promised an agitation on Feb 10 in the national capital. Well, that’s time enough for Rajapakse to complete his mission and Vaiko can rest assured that the war would have stopped by then! J’s bandwagon also includes the new fellow travellers, the Comrades, who actually started the current agitational round w.r.t SL Tamils. It remains to be seen whose ideology will wither away. For the Captain’s views, well, one will have to check with the heroine of his latest flick with whom he is running around trees, that is, when he is not knocking off terrorists in mid-air. But someone will have to first remind him that he is in politics before talking of the ‘shooting’ in SL!

With all the blood-letting there and noise-letting here, there’s an uncanny unity in one thought across all the players: Pranab Mukherjee’s ticket to Colombo is likely to remain wait listed till the last ‘tiger’ goes extinct!

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Jawahar T R