NEW DELHI, April 14: India’s rightwing Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is galvanizing Sri Lanka’s Hindu Tamils against the country’s powerful Christian church with its global arm, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), working in Tiger-controlled areas with the ostensible permission of the LTTE, news reports and analysts said on Sunday.

Reports from Colombo quoted the India Abroad News Service as talking to a senior VHP preacher in Colombo who said he was working among the island nation’s Hindu Tamils. He said there are already dozens of VHP-linked units working across the country.

Indian analysts said if the LTTE was aware of the VHP mission and allowing it to work in its territory, as reported, it could signal a new dangerous trend whereby India’s rightwing Hindu groups could gain access to lethal subversive technology used by the separatists.

The news is also significant since Pakistan is believed to be quite involved in shoring up Colombo’s war effort against the separatist Tigers and India’s ruling establishment, led by Defence Minister George Fernandes are believed to be soft on the LTTE.

The only flaw in the pattern appears to be the comment in the IANS story in which the VHP official Swami Vigyananand is quoted as targeting the Sri Lankan church as it main quarry and not it seems the Tamil Muslims who recently were involved in truce talks with the LTTE. Many Tamil guerrillas fighting with the LTTE are Christian.

The majority Sinhalese too are divided among Christians and Buddhists, with the latter having an overwhelming majority. Christian Buddhists, such as the late father of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had converted to Buddhism from Christianity for political advantage.

LTTE supreme Velupillai Prabhakaran recently expressed his regret for causing a mass exodus of Muslims from Jaffna at the height of the war with Colombo. LTTE guerrillas are accused also of killing many Muslims in the eastern city of Batticaloa some years ago, suspecting them of collusion with Colombo.

“Hindus in Sri Lanka are disintegrated. We are trying to bring them together,” Vigyananand was quoted as telling IANS after a month-long tour that took him for the first time to areas in the north controlled by the LTTE.

Vigyananand, 38, dressed in giveaway saffron robes like a wandering monk, attended the April 10 press conference of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran as an accredited representative of a VHP publication. Although he has been to Sri Lanka 10 times since 1999, this was the first time he went to LTTE-held areas.

Vigyananand has been a few times to Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Amparai in the country’s east and managed to interact with what he believed were LTTE members, IANS was quoted as saying. In Trincomalee, the VHP had started a Sunday school that teaches religion and the Hindu way of life.

“I made it clear to them (LTTE) that we have nothing for or against their struggle,” the graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, said in an interview. “I said we have a problem with Islam and Christianity and are trying to build up Hindu unity.”

The LTTE, which does not encourage independent activity by anyone in the areas it controls or considers its zone of influence, has allowed the VHP to propagate its views although the rebel group has many Christians in its ranks and sections of the Tamil Christian clergy strongly back the rebel cause.

Bal Thackeray, the head of the fanatical Hindu Shiv Sena of Mumbai has often praised the LTTE as a role model for Hindus. Both groups share the same mascot – a roaring Tiger. The LTTE says it believes in secular ideology.

Any proximity between the VHP and the LTTE could pose a serious threat to Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s Congress Party, who has rejected any talks with New Delhi by the group regarded as the killer of her husband.

The equation will inevitably play also in Tamil Nadu, where Chief Minister Jaylalitha is seen as an opponent of the LTTE and her rival, the DMK, is seen as taking a sympathetic view of the LTTE. The DMK is a member of ruling NDA. — J.N.