Razik - The man who dared to hunt the Tigers
Razik's killing: A blow to the army
@ Source: Sunday Leader
Muthulingam Ganeshakumar alias Razik, was a motorcycle fanatic, but he never knew that his craze for motorcycles would lead him to death.
Razik, the leader of the break-away Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) was a prime target of the LTTE for 10 years. The LTTE desperately wanted to assassinate Razik since he was involved in a series of operations against LTTE cadres in the eastern province. Once Razik allegedly killed a LTTE cadre and later tied the head of the victim to his motorcycle and dragged it along the roads of Batticaloa. Some LTTE cadres who watched this scene in horror, trailed Razik but were not able to carry out the assassination since he kept moving along with his bodyguards.
Razik also worked closely with the government soldiers. He was on the government payroll. The LTTE was determined to kill Razik after he successfully carried out an operation against them in the eastern province along with the government. Since then, the LTTE has considered Razik a bitter enemy.
But Razik knew that he was a prime target of the LTTE. He kept changing his plans even without the knowledge of his bodyguards. Once he told his bodyguard that he wanted to visit the Batticaloa hospital to see a relative but instead he visited a private nursing home where his relative was warded. Whenever an LTTE cadre infiltrated Batticaloa town, the Razik group was on the spot to identify the person and tip off the army about their presence. This prevented LTTE cadres from sneaking into Batticaloa.
These operations gave Razik group members the feeling the LTTE could not strike or penetrate Batticaloa city. With this assumption, Razik group members began moving freely around the city on motorcycles. Whenever someone bought or brought a new motor cycle, Razik was the first to visit that person's residence to inspect it and go for a joy ride.
Razik frequently visited a motorcycle garage located along the Trinco- malee-Batticaloa road. It was owned by some Burghers and whenever Razik took his motor cycles there, the mechanic gave priority to his bike which prompted him to visit the garage frequently. Razik usually rewarded the mechanics with handsome tips. But Razik did not know that his movements were closely watched by the LTTE who knew of his frequent visits to the garage.
To monitor the movements of Razik, the LTTE cadres placed a spy in the garage to pass them information. The man was not only trained in spying but also in the assassination of high-ranking military officers. The man was from the LTTE Black Tigers Wing.
Just a few days before the assassination, the members of the Razik group had left behind a motorcycle at the garage for repairs. This motor cycle belonged to an LTTE cadre. The members of the group had seized the bike from an LTTE cadre after killing him. When the LTTE was informed that the motorcycle belonging to one of them was at the garage, they stormed into the garage and escaped with the cycle. This irked Razik, he severely reprimanded his bodyguards and began investigations to determine who was passing information to the LTTE. Razik even visited the garage the day after the robbery and grilled the staff of the garage.
When Razik found out that the information was leaking from his own rank and file, he was determined to find the culprits but before he could do that, some men in the group decamped and went into hiding.
Just 48 hours before Razik was killed, five from the group left a Honda 125 h. p. bike at the garage for repairs. This prompted the LTTE to send three men to the garage, expecting Razik to visit. On May 29, 1999 about 11.30 a.m. Razik went to the garage to inspect the repair work carried out on the Honda 125 and negotiate a price for another bicycle sold to him by a person named Their. Razik visited the garage along with three others on that fateful day. At the garage, he instructed two of his bodyguards to fetch a person called Mahesh. The bodyguards returned saying that Mahesh could not be found. In the meantime another bodyguard reportedly told Razik that he was feeling faint and that he would like to go back to the camp. Razik obliged and waited for the motorcycle to be mended. He had plans to visit Chenkaladi. His plan was to go with Mahesh and since he was nowhere to be found, Razik decided to spend some time at the garage. While Razik was kicking his heels, a Black Tiger was advancing towards the garage. At the garage Razik was involved in a deep conversation with the mechanics with his back turned towards the road. The Black Tiger, a suicide bomber, who rushed into the garage immediately leapt onto Razik, blowing him to pieces. Razik was killed along with two others on the spot.
The LTTE did not claim that they carried out the assassination immediately but the LTTE radio, the Voice Of Tigers (VOT) stated that a traitor to the Tamils was killed. The killing of Razik was a major setback for the army in the region. The army in the past had to depend on the Razik group members to carry out operations in the jungles. Razik's men penetrated the jungle hide-outs of the LTTE since they knew the terrain they had to encounter. With the loss of Razik, the soldiers in the eastern province were vulnerable to attacks from the LTTE.
The man who dared to hunt the Tigers
by Marwaan Macan-Markar in Batticaloa
To meet him, you had to visit his camp by the side of the Batticaloa lagoon. It was heavily fortified with woodenv railway sleepers and sandbags. There were two armed men at the entrance. And within, where he saw guests in a small photo-lined room, were scenes you would encounter in any military camp: a few bunkers here, exercise bars there, and rolls of barbed wire to prevent infiltrators from sneaking in. And an appointment was a must.
For there were 'operations' he conducted suddenly. On that Thursday morning, for instance, he had been out on such a mission. His targets were three members of the Tiger pistol gang who had slipped into town. And like he always did, he had carried his 9mm Belgian-made Browning pistol. It was concealed under the striped T-shirt he loosely wore.
But that day neither he nor his men were lucky. The Tigers had melted away by the time they arrived. For 35-year-old Muthulingam Ganeshkumar, better known in the east by his nom de guerre, 'Razik,' it was a miss that barely produced a ripple of worry on his broad forehead.
He shrugged it off with the ease of a man who felt he would be lucky the next time.
Looking at him, though, there was little that suggested the features of a Tiger hunter in the east. Seen on the street, with his receding hairline, the trimmed beard that framed his oval-shaped face and his paunch, he could have easily been mistaken for a businessmen or an NGO-wallah. Yet, that he was, and with a reputation, too - the Tiger hunter.
But little did Razik know that his life would come to an explosive end barely 48 hours later. For at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers struck back. They used one of the customary weapons in their armour: a suicide bomber. He ran towards Razik, who was standing outside a mechanic's shop along the Trinco-Batti road, and detonated the bomb strapped to his body. Razik died on the spot.
If sympathisers of Razik expected the town to plunge into mourning, the mood on the streets that weekend would have been revealing. Hardly anybody rushed home and stayed within the safety of closed doors. Shops did not shut. In fact, on both Saturday and Sunday evening, given the spirit of Wesak celebrations in the air, hundreds thronged the narrow streets to enjoy the slice of entertainment in the form of a musical show, a few lanterns on display, and a motorcyclist performing in the Well of Death. The dead Tiger hunter was far from their minds.
But Razik's role in Batticaloa will not be forgotten easily, particularly his doings since August 27, 1996, when he formed what many Tamils in this town came to know as the 'Razik group. It threw up a unique chapter in the course of the current ethnic conflict. What Razik and his group did, hardly any other Tamil militant organisation had emulated. And what was that? To fight the Tamil Tigers along with the Sri Lankan army. For that, of course, they received state assistance.
Before joining, the 150 men, mostly Tamils and a few Muslims, were put through two months army training, including jungle warfare. In the form of military hardware, they were supplied with weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, multi-purpose machine guns, light machine guns, 40 mm grenade launchers, and sniper rifles. And like enlisted soldiers, the men of the Razik group received a regular salary, too: Rs 9,000 per month. Yet Razik admitted that his group was not part of the conventional army. And that despite them wearing khaki uniforms and participating in joint military operations to strike at Tiger camps in the east. "We are the army's special support group," he said, adding, "We want to carry arms legally to fight the Tigers, and the only way we can do so is this way."
Furthermore, he saw their contribution as an advantage to the army. "We speak the Tigers' language, we know the region well, we know who is a Tiger, and once we were also like them, so we know their minds, their behaviour, and how they will act," he declared.
He had changed radically from his initial mission as a young militant. It was as a boy of 13, in 1978, that he was first attracted to the Tamil militancy. At the time, the enemy was the Sri Lankan state. And during his teen years, he was as determined as his other youthful Tamil peers to snipe away at the government. The ideas of the EPRLF nourished him. And neither his mother, a teacher at that time, nor his father, employed in the local bureaucracy, could dissuade young Muthulingam Ganeshkumar.
Until the '83, however, he was still labelled a militant. The anti-Tamil riots that July, however, changed it all. It was the spark that pushed him into a new realm: to be a rebel equipped with military skills. For he became one of the many hundreds of Tamil youths who slipped across to India to receive military training.
In Razik's case, the opportunity came in 1984. He joined a band of 121 destined for the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, in the Hindi heartland. "I don't know where exactly we were," he admitted. "But it was good. We were given two-and-a-half months basic training, then a month of advance training, and after that three months to do commando work."
On his return, Razik chose to stay in Mannar and visit the Jaffna peninsular, than head for Karativu, his village along the south-eastern coast of the island. For it was in the north that the Tamil militancy were displaying their strength. It was relatively quiet on the eastern front. But if it was action that Razik wanted, he had to wait till the Indian Peace Keeping Force arrived in 1987. For his organisation, the EPRLF, began to receive favoured treatment. And when the EPRLF were given the licence by the Indians to create a Tamil National Army to handle security in the area, it was natural that the party hierarchy would turn to Razik for his skill.
He knew very well that his guns would be pointed at the Tigers. Yet it did not pose a problem for him. Since like the rest of his EPRLF, he, too, had grave misgivings about the prevailing ideology of the Tigers. To him, they had become the new enemies of the Tamils. And such a sentiment was reflected when he spoke with delight in his voice about his attacks on the Tigers. "I have killed 237 of them when fighting alongside the IPKF," he said. That glory was short lived, though. With the IPKF being forced out of Sri Lanka by President Ranasinghe Premadasa, the Tigers returned to the east. And in Batticaloa, they set their sights on the men of the TNA who had hounded them till then.
In December 1989, nearly 300 TNA members were mowed down in an orgy of Tiger fire. Many of the leaders sought shelter in the surrounding forests, and subsequently escaped to areas where the Tigers had no access, like the hill country. Razik was one of them. But he was not done with the east, his home turf. After a stint in India between '91 and '95, he returned to renew his battle with the Tigers. His suggestion to create an armed wing of the EPRLF, like the PLOTE and the TELO had, went against the prevailing grain of his party. So he pursued another alternative. He created a national auxiliary force peopled by like-minded Tamils and Muslims from the east. As a result, he was made the commander the group.
For the people of Batticaloa, however, the Razik group soon became another nightmare forcing its way into their already fractured lives. Word began to spread about forced conscription and extortion. Human rights groups began to receive complaints about Razik and his men being abusive in town as well as villages like Manmagam, Pooncholai, and Thalavai. There were even instances when young Tamil boys had been taken in by Razik's men and tortured. The latest victim, said one member of the Batticaloa Peace Committee, was a 20-year-old, who had been taken from his home and been severely assaulted.
To them, Razik was more than just a Tiger hunter; he had become their latest tormentor. No wonder they sniggered when they had heard him say he wanted to help the Tamils, to protect their interests. So it was hardly surprising that no tears were shed on the day he was killed. Razik, then, was not only out of step with the people he wanted to save, but was also not in touch with the Tigers, who, he claimed, he knew well, and whose behaviour, he said, he had mastered. It may be a while before another Tiger hunter, as passionate, surfaces.
I'm not scared of the LTTE - Razik
In his last interview given to the press, Razik spoke confidently about his mission to combat the Tigers. He believed he had made a dent in their armour. Otherwise, he said, the Tigers would not place him high on their list of people to be killed. The following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: Why take on the Tigers?
A: That is the only way to weaken them. They will not talk peace otherwise. They will not volunteer. And by being a special military force we can achieve this.
Q: How successful have you been?
A: We have killed 30 of them.
Q: How many have you lost?
Q: It is almost even?
A: In this war we have to expect such losses.
Q: How do you differ from such people as PLOTE military leader Manikkadasan?
A: He has said the Sri Lankan army is his first enemy and Tamil Eelam is his goal. We don't hold such views. For us, the Sri Lankan army is not the enemy, and we believe in working towards a united country with dignity and respect for all.
Q: Is it true you force people to join?
A: No, no. They must volunteer.
Q: What about the complaints that you extort money, that your group has abducted young boys and tortured them?
A: People accuse us of many things. We are blamed for what others do. If we take someone for questioning, we keep him for an hour, get the information, and release him to the army.
Q: But aren't you alienating yourself from the Tamil people?
A: No, no, not at all. We do a lot of good things for them. We help them when they have problems. We are the bridge between them and the army. Also, you must remember we are not carrying arms against the Tamil people. Our target is the LTTE.
Q: Are you scared the Tigers will get you?
A: No, it is a way of life. We have been in this game since '83.