"Thambi"His early comrades in the movement were youngsters and relatives from his own village of Valvettithurai. This is to be expected when a revolutionary movement is launched by someone still in his teens. Such a situation is unavoidable and quite natural.
The Birth of the New Tamil Tigers
During the early part of 1970, strong repressive measures unleashed by the government against Tamils and the blatant discrimination perpetuated against them in all spheres of life created a strong wave of resentment among Tamil youths. They were itching to launch some retaliatory action against the Sinhalese chauvinistic government. Neither the Tamil political parties nor the Sinhalese leftist organizations understood the simmering mind-set of the Tamil youths.
The Tamil youths thought that there were no Tamil political leaders or organizations to stand up and fight on behalf of the oppressed Tamil people. Although the Tamil leaders engaged themselves in various non-violent struggles for more than 30 years, they were treated like outcasts by the government. No one listened to their protests in Parliament. Their protests echoed like cries in the wilderness.
The leftist parties which became victims of Sinhalese chauvinism after 1956 worked against the Tamils. So they too completely ignored the political struggle of the Tamils. Therefore, the Tamil youths were not prepared to trust these leftist parties as well.
Under these circumstances a student movement was started in 1970 under the name “Thamizh MAnavar PEravai” ('Tamil Students Union'). The TSU brought together all the Tamil students and mounted several protest demonstrations, rallies and processions against standardization to University admissions introduced by the government. The TSU became a powerful force among the Tamil students. Tamil youths gradually began to realise that only through an armed revolutionary struggle that Tamils could liberate themselves from the tyranny of Sinhalese hegemonic rule.
The TSU grew to become a very strong organization. Pirabaharan was in the forefront as the leader of the militant wing. As he was the youngest person in that group he was fondly called 'Thamby' (younger brother) by other members of the group. Even today there are people who call him by this name. At the beginning, these young men learnt the art of making hand grenades and using firearms all by themselves. There were about 25 young men in this militant group, all of them close associates of Pirabaharan hailing from Valvettithurai.
During this time to show their opposition to the government, 4 youths under the leadership of Pirabaharan decided to set fire to a government owned Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) bus. But half way. through fear the other three ran away. Only Pirabaharan who was only 16 years-old at that time boldly set fire to the bus and returned. Pirabaharan’s boldness earned the admiration of every one without exception. Those members of the group who were older than him admired Pirabaharan’s bravery and his ability to execute successfully all the difficult tasks assigned to him. All members reposed confidence in Pirabaharan who became symbolic of Tamil militancy and forerunner of Tamil militant movement.
At the same time, the Sinhalese government which was closely monitoring the activities of the TSU attempted to suppress it by using brute force. Some members of the TSU were arrested and tortured by the police. Unable to bear the torture, a few of them broke-down and spilled the beans. In the process they unwittingly betrayed their colleagues to the police. Then the Sinhala police started to hunt down members of the militant group. They arrested many of them, locked them in prisons and tortured them. It was during this period the 4th Storey building in Colombo Fort became famous for torturing Tamil youths. Not wishing to take unnecessary risk, Pirabaharan went over to Tamil Nadu.
Pirabaharan did not stay long in Tamil Nadu. He returned to Tamil Eelam during the early part of 1972. There was an urge among the various revolutionary youths who remained scattered for a revolutionary leadership to head a strong revolutionary movement wedded to revolutionary political philosophy. It is under these circumstances the New Tamil Tigers was launched by Pirabaharan in the middle part of 1972. He was only 17 years- old at that time. The movement was organized with very strict code of conduct and discipline from the very beginning.