Vēluppiḷḷai Pirapākaraṉ (1954–2009) led a de facto state, which was defended between 1972 and 2009 by an urban guerrilla movement and, later, by a regular military force, which built institutions and advanced territorial control in the north and east of Sri Lanka. From 1987, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (known as the LTTE or simply “Tamil Tigers”) saw itself as a national liberation movement with the right of self-determination, in accordance with UN A/Res/42/159. The LTTE was not recognized, however, as a state by the international community as it was not considered to comply with demands for human rights. The state of Sri Lanka regarded the LTTE as a creation of terrorists and denied that Īlattamils (supporters of the Tigers’ goal) had the right of self-determination. Furthermore, their fight to be recognized did not suit the geopolitical interests of other countries such as India and the United States.
Vēluppiḷḷai Pirapākaraṉ died in armed struggle against the Sri Lanka Armed Forces on May 18, 2009 in Muḷḷivāykkāl, where the LTTE was destroyed, but a transnational resistance movement against the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has remained in place, which strives by political means for the recognition by the UN of the right of self-determination for Īlattamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
This paper argues that religion was, and is, of no concern for the Tamil Tiger Movement. Vēluppiḷḷai Pirapākaraṉ’s rationale for negotiating and fighting for secession was the concept of a universal right to self-determination for people like the Īlattamils. After failed negotiations to establish this right against the will of the GoSL, India, and the rest of the world, Vēluppiḷḷai Pirapākaraṉ guided his cadres in armed struggle by teaching a nonreligious, political, and martial martyrology.