This notion is meant to think outside the box when combating one’s enemy, especially terrorism. I thought about this when I came to know a former Tamil Tiger cadre, named “Oppilan”, operated as a mole and was willingly providing intelligence to India’s foreign intelligence agency RAW, while Oppilan himself held a position in the Tiger organization’s notorious intelligence wing.
Oppilan later confessed during an interview that he worked with the RAW operatives between the periods of 1992-95 when the agency conducted a covert operation against Tamil Tigers in order to oust its leader V. Pirabhakaran, following the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. When the Tamil Tigers began to investigate and arrest many Tiger cadres and other operatives who were involved in this conspiracy, Oppilan ran away and surrendered to the Sri Lankan military in June 1995.
Oppilan, who surrendered with invaluable information that was used against the Tigers to recapture the Jaffna peninsula in October 1995 during the operation Riviresa. Afterwards he was relocated by the Sri Lankan military intelligence to a foreign country where Oppilan had played a key role in dismantling the Tamil Tigers’ international operations until the terrorist organization was militarily defeated in May 2009.
Oppilan has now settled down in a western country with his entire family, says that he did all this because he was indoctrinated by the south Indian popular culture, especially the melodious music of Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman through which he felt a brotherhood with Indians!
He says, it is hard for him to describe how crucially important music has been in his life. From the Hindu bhajans praising God, to the sweet, romantic South Indian cinema music of Ilaiyaraaja and he feels that music has taught him and inspired him to a higher purpose. It has almost been like a drug to him, helping him to escape the sometimes unthinkable realities of his life and to hope and believe that other things were possible, he says.
When first album ‘Roja’ came out, he couldn't resist secretly going to his parent’s home and listening to it, because in the Tiger organization it was prohibited to listen to music or watch any romantic films. Rahman’s music is really a beautiful combination of western and eastern style of music. When the Tiger cadres would leave the camps, they would hear this music in the air and in the papers they would read about cinema and entertainment. Oppilan was tired of listening to Tigers news about war and death; he would try to distract himself by reading the papers and listening to this music. It could even be said that A.R Rahman’s music finally saved him in a way as it was more powerful than Tigers’ brainwashing nonsense!
Point here is that, I believe, the international community could utilize and balance its soft power and hard power when combating terrorism. Each and every nation has a unique popular culture that is so rich and deep that it can be greatly utilized against hardcore individuals and enemy organizations. Oppilan’s story is not the first one; we know that the Beatles music was used to undermine the idea of communism.
Here is an article on how Americans using their “Popular Culture as a Means of Soft Power”:
This essay will examine the use of popular culture as a means of America’s soft power in world politics. The importance of soft power is being increasingly recognized as more countries seek to persuade rather than coerce. Soft power can be achieved by the country’s foreign policies which consider other countries’ interest. As revealed by Pew Global Attitudes Project, U.S.’s global image continues to be largely favorable with the exception of Muslim countries. In addition to policies, popular culture is also an effective means of soft power. In this essay, America’s use of popular culture as a means of soft power in world politics is examined through the use of The Oprah Winfrey Show and Hollywood, both of which are great promoters and exporters of Americanism. In concluding this essay, it is proposed that U.S.’s success in world politics is best achieved through the use of smart power – a combination of both hard power and soft power.
Popular Culture as a means of Soft Power