Monday, February 23, 2009

Self-immolation, LTTE and contradictions…

Using materials with courtesy and approval of the “Death by Fire” author, Rover
By Sanjeewa Karunaratne

Several hardcore LTTE supporters recently self-immolated: one person in Switzerland and two in Tamil Nadu died, and one man in London was injured. Evidence is not available as to whether these self-immolators were former LTTE suicide cadres. Anyway, these acts were in support of the LTTE who is now facing an imminent military annihilation at the hands of the Sri Lanka defense forces.

There is enormous and constant social pressure from the LTTE leadership toward its members to support the LTTE, and this includes facilitating (or forcing) self-immolation. This too has been prevalent throughout its history. One of the main reasons for the west to ban this organization was the harassment of the Diaspora by the LTTE like this.

One of the most famous acts of recorded self-immolation was when Thich Quan Duc, a Mahayana Vietnamese Buddhist monk burned himself in protest of the mal-treatment that was inflicted upon the clergy by the Ngo Dinh Deim’s government and renouncing the occupation of the U.S. troops in Vietnam. In another case, a University of California (at San Diego) student burned himself in protest of the active presence of US troops in Vietnam. There are numerous cases of self-immolation to express renouncement.

Self-immolation is a very popular Hindu practice of devotion or Sati, where a new widow jumps into the burning pier of her dead husband. This practice has now been banned in India and was never condoned by Mahabarata (a prominent Hindu religious text). In another case of devotion, with the schism of the Russian church, entire villages of the orthodoxy (Russian Orthodox Church) burned themselves and termed it “Baptism Fire.” This is just one example out of many, especially by fundamentalist religious sects, for who practiced mass self- immolation to express devotion.

Self-immolation is also prevalent in India for hard to believe more mundane reasons to do with public figures. For example, a man burned himself when Tamil movie superstar Rajinikanth’s marriage was not doing well in the 1980s. In another instance when Muthuvel Karunanidhi the present chief minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu was arrested by his rival M.G. Ramachandran in 1981, eleven Tamil people burned themselves to express devotion to Karunanidhi. Though these men burned themselves predominantly in devotion to the leader, they were also renouncing his arrest - so both devotion and renouncement. Though primitive in nature, the South Indian practice of elevating political leaders, movie stars and cricketers to the level of gods equates self- immolation to blind devotion and makes it a psychological possibility. LTTE exploits the tendency of self-immolation for the leader: the reason Black Tigers get to dine with Prabhakaran as a graduation gift or before an attack.

Curiously, some Hindus and some sects of Christians practice localized immolation to show devotion to their respective gods. A sect of French Jesuits burns parts of their bodies (thigh, foot, palms ect.) in devotion for the pain that Jesus felt when he was crucified. Similarly, devotees of Hindu God, Skanda Kumar walk across burning charcoal to express devotion.

Self-immolation to curse someone: This is little known, but at least two groups of people in India, the Charans and Rajputs self-immolate to bring a curse upon someone who had perpetrated a foul deed upon them (or their people). Both these groups are North Indian Aryan (not South Indian Dravidian) sects that are renowned for their martial abilities. Interestingly, they perform self-immolation only against a closely-related entity faced with a distantly related foe. This character is important in relation to the LTTE. Because unlike the Charnas and Rajputs of India, who are North Indian Aryans, it seems this is the first time that Dravidians have indulged in the practice of cursing through immolation to a significant level. So LTTE is yet again innovative in an unenviable way, in giving the Dravidians a foul name.

The contradictions continue. LTTE supporters self-immolate to a) show devotion to its leader V. Prabhakaran, who has killed more Tamils than the Sri Lankan government b) renounce the government, which has more Tamils under its umbrella than the LTTE c) curse the Sinhalese, who have suffered immensely at the hands of the LTTE and have nothing against the Tamil people.

LTTE pioneered the death by fire by unleashing their trademark suicide attacks; therefore, fire is part and parcel of its modus operandi. Rumors are circulating that the rest of the leaders of the LTTE may self-immolate before being captured by the government forces. As primitive as themselves, as contradictory as their deeds, as cruel as their acts, it is not a surprise if they opt to do so, and it may do some justice to the thousands of innocent civilians who have fried in the fires of the LTTE suicide bombers.


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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I didn't understand the concluding part of your article, could you please explain it more?