The dump of bullets and explosives dug out at a house in Anthoniarpuram on Rameswaram island likely belonged to the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) that had a camp at that area. The ammunition was found when a septic tank at a house was cleaned.
Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups had training camps all over Rameswaram island during the 80s. There was much speculation that the bullets and explosives belonged to the LTTE. But sources in Rameswaram said that while the LTTE and TELO ran a training camp at nearby Nalla Thaneer Ootru village, often called Villoonri Theertham in a reference to a tale in the Ramayana, it was EPRLF that had a camp in Thangachimadam where Anthoniarpuram is located.
The militant groups had different patrons in the state and often clashed. While the LTTE, initially backed by MGR, broke away from India following the India-Sri Lanka accord in 1987, EPRLF continued to maintain fraternal relations with India. Members of the groups clashed in Rameswaram as well, residents say, adding that while LTTE militants vacated their camp even as the schism with India deepened, EPRLF fighters continued to stay in the island into the 1990s.
EPRLF leader Varadaraja Perumal was elected chief minister of the Tamil province in Sri Lanka following the accord with the backing of the Indian Peace Keeping Force. When the LTTE demanded that he step down as chief minister and he refused, LTTE hitmen gunned down EPRLF leader Padmanabha as well as 12 members of the organisation’s central committee in Chennai in 1990. The same hit squad was later convicted of engineering the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.