Query on sources on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their conflict in and with Sri Lanka

From H-Asia list, November-December 1995

Date: Wed, 29 Nov 1995 12:16:41 -0800
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@msu.edu>
From: Frank Conlon <conlon@u.washington.edu>
Subject: H-ASIA: Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)
H-ASIA November 29, 1995

From: Niraj Agarwalla <nagarwal@cs.uml.edu>

Dear Fellow H-Asia members,

I am presently conducting research on the Tamil-lead separtist movement in Sri Lanka called the _Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam_ (also known by its acronym, LTTE). I was wondering if anyone can tell me of any studies done on this movement, scholarly or anecdotal. At the moment, all I have are numerous magazine articles, mostly from _India Today_. And the library at UMass-Lowell is bit weak on Asian resources. So if anyone can help me in this endeavour, I will greatly appreciate it.

Niraj Agarwalla
University of Massachusetts at Lowell

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 14:28:09 -0800
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@msu.edu>
Subject: H-ASIA: Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)
H-ASIA November 30, 1995
Further re: Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)

From: HIDESIL@ruby.indstate.edu

With reference to the query from Niraj Aggarwal:

There are over 30 books specifically on the topic. Two recent publications are S.S Misra's _Ethnicity, Conflict and Security Crisis in Sri Lanka_, Kalinga Press, 1995 and Dayan Jayatilleke's _Sri Lanka: The Travails of a Democracy, Unfinished War, Protracted Crisis_, Delhi, Vikas, 1995.

Good introductions to the topic include Dagmar Hellman Rajanayagam _The Tamil Tigers: Armed Struggle for Identity_, Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1994, Rajan Hoole and others _The Broken Palmyrah: The Tamil Crisis in Sri lanka_, Claremont, SL Studies Institute, 1990, C. Manogaran and B Paffenberger eds., _The Sri Lanka Tamils: Ethnicity and Identity_, Boulder, Westview, 1994, Sumantra Bose, _States, Nations, Sovereignty: India, Sri Lanka and the Tamil Eelam Movement_ ,1994, K. M. de Silva, _Managing Ethnic Tensions in Multi-Ethnic Societies, Sri Lanka 1880-1985_, Lanham, University Press of America, 1986 and K.M. de Silva, ed, _Sri Lanka: Problems of Governance_, New Delhi, Kornak, 1993.

One of the key Tamil scholars who has written on this area, A Jeyaratnam Wilson (see his work on The Breakup of Sri Lanka) is currently in retirement in Toronto and is generous with his time and advice. I have more information and names of contacts if you wish to have them.

Chandra R. de Silva
History, Indiana State University
hidesil@ruby.indstate. edu

Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 11:57:55 -0800
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@msu.edu>
Subject: H-ASIA: Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)
H-ASIA November 30, 1995
Responses re: Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) (3)

From: Sumit Ganguly <sganguly@shiva.hunter.cuny.edu>

With reference to the query from Niraj Agarwalla:

To the best of my knowledge very little scholarly work has been done on the LTTE per se. However, You might wish to look at Rohan Guneratne's book on the Sri Lankan conflict. (Im afraid I do not have the book on hand today. One of my Phd. students has borrowed it from me. Otherwise I would give you the full citation.) S.D. Muni's book, _The Pangs of Proximity_ (Sage, 1994), may also have some material on the LTTE. I hope that these are of some help.


Sumit Ganguly
Professor of Political Science
Hunter College of the City University of New York

Ed. note I believe that Professor Ganguly is referring to one of the two following titles. The full citation to Muni is also given here.


Author: Gunaratna, Rohan, 1961-.
Title: Indian intervention in Sri Lanka : the role of India's intelligence agencies / Rohan Gunaratna.
Pub. Info.: Colombo : South Asian Network on Conflict Research, 1993.
Phy Descript: xvii, 500 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 23 cm.
ISBN: 9559519905.
LCCN: 93901820.
Author: Gunaratna, Rohan, 1961-.
Title: War & peace in Sri Lanka : with a post-accord report from Jaffna
Pub. Info.: [Colombo] Sri Lanka : Institute of Fundamental Studies, 1987.
Phy Descript: 82 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 23 cm.
ISBN: 9552600014.
Author: Muni, S. D.
Title: Pangs of proximity : India and Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis
Pub. Info.: New Delhi ; Newbury Park, CA : SAGE publications, 1993.
Phy Descript: 259 p. ; 23 cm.
ISBN: 0803991126 (U.S.).
LCCN: 93012317.

2.) From: "K Sivaramakrishnan (GD 1997)" <k.sivaramakrishnan@yale.edu>

please refer to Sumantra Bose, _States, Nations, Sovereignity: India, Sri Lanka and Tamil Ealam_, New Delhi: Sage, 1994

K. Sivaramakrishnan
Yale University

Full citation is:

Author: Bose, Sumantra, 1968-.
Title: States, nations, sovereignty : Sri Lanka, India and the Tamil Eelam Movement
Pub. Info.: New Delhi ; Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications, 1994.
Phy Descript: 236 p. ; 23 cm.
ISBN: 0803991703 (U.S.). 8170363977 (India).
LCCN: 93049452.


3.) From: "Laxman D. Satya" <lsatya@eagle.lhup.edu>

Stanley Tambiah's work on Sri Lanka's ethnic fatricide provides a background to this issue which has caused a political turmoil there since the early eighties although this conflict goes back to ancient times as depicted in the war between Dattagamini and Ellora in the rather lesser known classic: "Mahavamsa."

Laxman D. Satya
Lock Haven University

Ed. note: Two works by Tambiah are:

Author: Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja, 1929-.
Title: Buddhism betrayed? : religion, politics, and violence in Sri Lanka
Pub. Info.: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Phy Descript: xix, 203 p., [6] p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm.
Series Info.: Monograph of the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) of the United Nations University.
ISBN: 0226789497 (cloth : alk. paper). 0226789500 (paper : alk. paper).
LCCN: 91038944.
Author: Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja, 1929-.
Title: Sri Lanka, ethnic fratricide and the dismantling of democracy
Pub. Info.: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, c1986.
Phy Descript: xi, 198 p. ; 23 cm.
ISBN: 0226789519 :. 0226789527 (pbk.).
LCCN: 85024598.


Date: Sat, 2 Dec 1995 14:36:38 -0800
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@msu.edu>
From: Frank Conlon <conlon@u.washington.edu>
Subject: H-ASIA: Sri Lanka and the LTTE (cont.)

H-ASIA December 2, 1995
Further responses re: sources on L.T.T.E. in Sri Lanka (2)

1.) From: aburger@uwcmail.uwc.edu

ASIAN SURVEY has several articles over the years on the Tamils, various organizations including the LTTE, and the politics thereof.

Sumantra Bose, STATES, NATIONS, SOVEREIGNTY (Sage, 1994) has an excellent bibliography; use that as your guide. Read the text with caution--and not as an introduction.

Edgar O'Ballance, THE CYANIDE WAR: TAMIL INSURRECTION IN SRI LANKA, 1973-88 (Oxford, Brasseys, 1989).

Chelvadurai Manogaran, ETHNIC CONFLICT AND RECONCILIATION IN SRI LANKA (Univ Press of Hawaii, 1987).


Wilson, Alfred Jeyaratnam, THE BREAKUP OF SRI LANKA: THE SINHALESE-TAMIL CONFLICT (Christopher Hurst, 1988).

There are many studies analyzing the confict, from James Manor, Robert Kearney, K. M. De Silva, Urmila Phadnis, Michael Roberts, Bryan Pfaffenberger, Stanley Tambiah...and the list goes on.

Angela Burger
Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Marathon Campus, Wausau

2.) From: Peter.Schalk@relhist.uu.se (Peter Schalk)

The problem for a beginner to get knowledge about the LTTE is to identify what is polemic Sinhala and apologetic Tamil propaganda, and to go beyond all "interested" commentators to the source itself, to the Tamil sources generated by the LTTE. "To the source itself!" is a guiding principle that we should apply in our study of the LTTE also.

Without a solid knowledge in Tamil, one should not approach this subject, the LTTE. Leave it to somebody who knows Tamil. The most important LTTE-sources are in Tamil, and official LTTE-Tamil is specific. It is a martial, archaic language with strong roots in the Dravidian movement that consciously revived classical epic and poetic pre-Pallava traditions. An aqaintance with the Tamil writings of the Dravidian movement is a good base to approach the texts of the LTTE.

The LTTE has made some translations of Tamil sources into English, but these translations are adopted to the Western reader's understanding and do not reflect the original Tamil source. To read LTTE translations in English is to go into an intellectual trap.

Some few of the Tamil LTTE sources are available on Internet. Other Tamil sources can be easily requested by writing to a Tamil Co-Ordination Committee(TCC) office that is found in many capitals of the Western world.

The daily _Tamililacceytikal_, which are the official news communicated by the LTTE, are available at:

At the same hrl you will find INSIDE REPORT which is an English newspaper by the LTTE with regular contributions by Atel Palacinkam. This paper is originally written in English and is - was - issued in Yalppanam.

The official organ of the LTTE in Tamil is Tamilila vitutalai pulikal. Selections of it are available at http://www.ece.utexas.edu/~janahan (link: Sri Lanka, Tamil). Most TCC offices will have back numbers.

The LTTE issues monthly videos with comments in Tamil called Oliviccu. They are available in many TCC offices. The videos present the latest news as seen by the LTTE, and entertainment in the spirit of the LTTE.

The European offices sell also the popular monthly paper Erimalai issued by the European(French) LTTE, but Erimalai is spread world-wide. Every TCC office has it.

The most important source, a collection of the speeches by Pirapakaran, is in print. These speeches can also be collected by each individual researcher by going to backnumbers of Tamilila Vitutalai Pulikal.

A very important source is the Tamil diaries, reports from the battle field and collections of poems by individual fighters, issued by the LTTE in monographs. Ask for example for Vanati's or Kasturi's kavitai.

The women fighters have a special journal called _Cutantirapparavaikal_. It has been issued since 1986. They teach a martial feminism.

Another group of important sources are the Tamil Tigersongs that have been issued on CD and cassettes. They represent a popular martial culture that is spread widely.

There are also printed ritual manuals that prescribe the right performance of the five calendrical state ceremonies of Tamililam, among them maviranal, the day of the great heroes, on 27 November.

On Internet, we also find discussions defending and attacking the LTTE, mostly conducted by Tamils with different political bases. See Usenet, soc.culture.tamil, and circle-request@longs.lance.colostate.edu

Finally, there are the Tamil mavirarkurippetu of the LTTE, giving most important details of all fighters who have been killed in battle during the act of killing. Even the killer of the LTTE fighter is identified sometimes. The way how a fighter was killed is given. These "collection of the great heroes" are not easily available, but they are a "must" to all serious commentators on the LTTE. The Sinhala Special Task Forces are also very interested of these sources for its special non-scientific purpose. They are very important sources for generating statistics and for the analysis of the the LTTE's central concept of tiyakam, "martyrdom".

We should be guided by our principle "to the sources" also when we study Sinhala nationalist, racist, anti-Tamil sources. I may present some sources in a forthcoming contribution.

Peter Schalk
Uppsala University