A swift deportation

Print edition : December 23, 2001

The government acts decisively to send back to Sri Lanka a high-profile Eelam activist in Chennai who had been provocatively flaunting his sympathies for the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

M.K. EELAVENTHAN, general secretary, Tamil Eelam Liberation Front (TELF), was deported from Chennai to Sri Lanka on December 4 in a swift operation. Immigration officials and a team of policemen reached his house at Arumbakkam around 5 a.m. He was driven to the airport and put on a Sri Lanka Airlines flight, all within a few hours.


M.K. Eelaventhan, general secretary of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Front.-COURTESY: NAKKHEERAN

A refugee from Sri Lanka, Eelaventhan was overstaying on his visa. And, according to top police officials, he was meddling with the country's internal affairs. Eelaventhan was often seen at press conferences addressed by P. Nedumaran in October and Novem ber at the time that Tamil nationalist leader and firm supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) undertook two missions to the forests to meet Veerappan to negotiate the release of Kannada film actor Rajkumar whom the forest brigand had ab ducted on July 30. Eelaventhan reportedly issued press statements supporting the brand of Tamil nationalism professed by Veerappan and Nedumaran. He had also been provocatively flaunting his sympathies for a banned organisation, the LTTE, and its fight f or the formation of a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. The LTTE assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 near Chennai.

The Union Home Ministry has been worried about the emerging nexus involving extremist Tamil nationalist organisations, the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Tamil National Retrieval Force (TNRF) and Veerappan. The TNLA wants Tamil Nadu to secede from the Union of India, and some TNRF cadres were trained by the LTTE in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. With Eelaventhan increasingly seen in the company of Nedumaran, the Centre felt that he was abusing India's hospitality. According to a top police off icer, the directive to deport Eelaventhan came from the Government of India. The Immigra-tion Department comes under the Union Home Ministry.

There were advance indications about the Centre's moves. Home Minister L.K. Advani, in a statement in the Rajya Sabha on November 30, said that despite the LTTE having been declared an unlawful organisation in May 1992, its activists and sympathisers we re indulging in activities in India. The Tamil Nadu government had detained some such activists. Advani said there were reports that some pro-LTTE groups were indulging in smuggling along the Tamil Nadu coast. Central and State government agencies were w atching the LTTE's activities, and the Centre shared its intelligence information with all concerned, Advani added. (The Home Minister had also been advocating tough action against Veerap-pan, the TNLA and the TNRF.)

Again, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi told reporters in Chennai on December 4 that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had stopped supporting the LTTE after its cadres killed Eelam People's Revolutionary Libera-tion Front (EPRLF) secretary-gene ral K. Padmanabha and its top leaders in Chennai in 1990. He said that his government, if necessary, would recommend to the Centre a ban on organisations such as the TNLA and the TNRF. These organisations had only a few members now, Karunanidhi said.

MAINSTREAM political parties in Tamil Nadu have ignored the deportation issue. Neither Vaiko, general secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), nor Dr. S. Ramadoss, founder, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), reacted. Both support the LTT E and the Eelam cause. When the Union government served deportation orders on Eelaventhan and another Sri Lankan Tamil living in Chennai, K. Satchidanandam, earlier this year, Vaiko reportedly took up the matter with the Union Home Ministry.

However, general secretary of the Dravidar Kazhagam K. Veeramani termed the deportation "inhuman". Eelaventhan had came to Tamil Nadu as a refugee along with tens of thousands of other Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. "How will refugees have visas?" Veeramani asked.

Veeramani added that although Eela-venthan had been staying in Tamil Nadu for years, he had not taken part in any extremist or unlawful activitity.

Members of the Tamil Sanror Peravai (Tamil Intellectuals' Federation), at a meeting in Salem on December 7, condemned the deportation. Tamil Annal said that Telugus and Kannadigas would not have allowed such a deportation from among them to take place. Na. Arunachalam wondered how Eelaventhan's deportation could have taken place without the knowledge of the Tamil Nadu government. He regretted that no mainstream party had protested against the deportation.

Nedumaran said the deportation was "a merciless and cruel act". Eelaventhan had come to Tamil Nadu as a refugee and was living in the State for 20 years. His being sent back to Colombo pained Tamilians, Nedumaran said.

The police declined to give permission to Nedumaran to hold a protest demonstration on December 15 outside Sastri Bhavan in Chennai, which houses Central government offices.

EELAVENTHAN was a high-profile Eelam activist. He had been an employee of the Sri Lankan Central Bank and one of the leaders of the moderate Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) but he left that party in the late 1970s to found the TELF (along with Kovai Maheswaran). He reached Tamil Nadu in 1981 after anti-Tamil violence broke out in Sri Lanka.

Although many Eelam activists lay low after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, Eelaventhan carried on merrily, at times supporting the LTTE but always espousing the Eelam cause. On February 8, 1997, the Q-branch police in Chennai arrested Eelaventhan, K. Satc hidanandam, Dr. Malini Rasanayagam, Dr. R.S. Sridhar and an LTTE cadre Pandian alias Muralitharan on charges of conspiring to procure and supply medicines to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. But a court in Chennai acquitted all the five in August 1999.

India had deported some Sri Lankan Tamils in August 1985, after the collapse of peace talks between a Sri Lankan government delegation and leaders of various Tamil organisations at Thimphu, Bhutan. S.C. Chandrahasan, Natesan Satyendra of Tamil Eelam Libe ration Organisation (TELO) and Anton S. Balasingham of the LTTE were those who were deported then.

Informed sources said that the current move against Eelaventhan was "a warning" to other Sri Lankan Tamils not to take for granted the hospitality extended to them by India.

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