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Apocalypse in Our Time: Ravikumar

December 8, 2010

Guest post by RAVIKUMAR

Waking is Another Dream: Poems on the Genocide in Eelam, a slim anthology edited by Ravikumar, will be launched by Navayana on Wednesday, 8 December 2010 at 6 p.m. at The Attic, 36 Regal Building, Connaught Place, New Delhi.

[At a time when the Eelam issue is the news again owing to Channel 4’s coverage leading to the cancellation of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s talk at Oxford, citing emerging evidence of his war crimes, Navayana presents a volume of powerful poetry translated for the first time from Tamil into English. Says poet Cheran, “The lack awareness in a city like Delhi on the fallout of the genocidal war in Sri Lanka is appalling. People here who seem concerned about Palestine or even Kashmir seem utterly indifferent to the problem in India’s own backyard.”

A modest effort to combat such indifference and ignorance is Waking is Another Dream. The book features the work of five leading Tamil poets—Cheran, Jayapalan, Yesurasa, Latha, Ravikumar—on the Eelam issue.

D. Ravikumar, the editor of the volume, happens to be an MLA with Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Dalit Panther), which is part of the DMK-UPA alliance in Tamil Nadu. Along with Toronto-based poet Cheran, Ravikumar will be present at the launch.


Cheran is a major Tamil poet and playwright who has published seven anthologies of poetry in Tamil. His poems have been translated into English, German, Swedish, Sinhala, Kannada and Malayalam. He is a professor at the University of  Windsor, Canada.  Other speakers at the event are litterateur K. Satchidanandan (former editor of Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature) and eminent Hindi writers Mangalesh Dabral and Anamika.

On the eve of the book’s launch, Kafila offers its readers an exclusive excerpt from the anthology Introduction, “Apocalypse in Our Times”.]

Martin Luther King said that war was a poor chisel to carve tomorrow. Wars taking place around the world prove that military aggression can indeed destroy the future. It is said that ‘truth’ is the first victim of a war. And yet, the last corpse that is removed from the battlefield is the corpse of truth. Perhaps because that corpse cannot be easily buried, no one comes forward to claim it. The corpse of truth lies in wait like a landmine. When it explodes, the citadels of falsehood built over it fall apart.


While the world seems to have almost forgotten the genocide that took place in Eelam, the Jaffna-based University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) has published a comprehensive 158-page report, “Let them Speak: The Truth About Sri Lanka’s Victims of War”, that details the events that took place from the latter half of 2008 to 18 May 2009, when it was officially announced that the war on Eelam Tamils had come to an end. Using eyewitness accounts from people who had lived in the war zone, this report also records the happenings in the crucial period from 8 to 18 May 2009. Whereas news reports in the mainstream media in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, about the genocide of Eelam Tamils, were based on speculation and fabrication, the UTHR report documents the atrocities in detail. UTHR is equally critical of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government.

The Sri Lankan government’s brutal massacre of the Tamils and continued distortion of the truth in communications with India and other nations are exposed in this report. Among other things, the report exposes the tactics employed by the Sri Lankan government to give false figures of the number of people in the war zone, and points to how, even today, the government plays with numbers when accounting for the people in refugee camps. Some human rights organizations claim that about 3,000 Tamils were killed between January 2009 and the first week of March. Contesting these figures, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, which worked among those displaced or affected by the war, claimed that at least sixty to ninety people were killed each day; on that basis, they informed media organizations that the number of casualties in this period could add up to 6,500. The estimates provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are even higher. A female doctor who was working with the health department of the LTTE has said that a total of 37,000 people were killed in this time span.

Several ‘embedded intellectuals’ in India issued statements to the effect that people in the barbed-wire camps have been sent back to their own homes. The UTHR report gives some insight into the suffering that makes Tamil detainees eager to return home. As the Sri Lankan government makes clear, detainees in the camps are released only after ‘thorough investigation’. In the name of investigation, extreme human rights violations have been, and are being, orchestrated. The Sinhalese army tortures detainees at will, since any detainee may be accused of being an ex-LTTE cadre.

Young women with cropped hair, for instance, are subjected to questioning on the grounds that they appear, visually, to be members of the rebel forces. The UTHR report also brings to light the corrupt practices of the Sinhalese army, which takes bribes from the people living in these camps.

But for a few news reports that appear sporadically, there is no real information about the sexual exploitation of Tamil women in these camps. The Sinhalese soldiers come to the camps at night, take young Tamil women away in vans and drop them back early in the morning. Women who have been taken away in this manner find it difficult to come to terms with the trauma that they have faced, and lack the courage to disclose it to others.

Not only in the camps, but even in the hospitals, there is no dearth of atrocities committed by Sinhalese army personnel. In a testimony recorded in this report, a doctor who worked at the Vavuniya hospital speaks of how the Sinhalese army randomly took away young men being treated at the hospital. He says not a single person who was carried off in this fashion returned to the camps. The UTHR report points out how the absence of proper records of people undergoing treatment at hospitals has made it impossible to trace details of where an individual was brought from, and where s/he has been taken to by the army.

The report also records how the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka has misled the Indian government. When international NGOs tried to complain about the camps, not only did the Sri Lankan government threaten that their visas would be cancelled, but it also warned them that legal cases would be filed against them. As a result, many witnesses remained silent.

In late 2006, the government of Sri Lanka signed an agreement to set up a thermal power plant with help from India’s National Thermal Power Corporation Limited. It selected Sampur as a site for that proposed plant. In order to clear out the people who were living there, the government of Sri Lanka conducted aerial bombings. Hundreds of people were killed in the shelling and the rest of them abandoned their homes and fled to safer areas. The government banned their return to Sampur, declaring it a High Security Zone. These actions took place with the knowledge of the Indian government.

In March 2009, the Indian government opened a hospital in the war zone. Several hundred people received treatment there. The doctors who worked there had inside knowledge of the Sri Lankan government’s anti-Tamil attitude. On one occasion, Basil Rajapaksa, the president’s brother and advisor, brought a few journalists to the hospital. An Indian doctor confronted Basil Rajapaksa with a fragment of a bullet, and said: “I surgically removed this from near the heart of a six-year-old child. You say that you are only targeting terrorists. Is a six-year-old child a terrorist?” Basil Rajapaksa is said to have walked away without giving a reply. By keeping people treated at the Indian hospital hidden from the outside world, the Sri Lankan government was able to show reduced figures of wartime casualties.

Even now, India continues to help Sri Lanka with removing landmines. Fearing that the mass graves of thousands of people would come to light, the Sri Lankan government has refused the help of several countries and is taking only India’s help in clearing the landmines. Eelam Tamils look at this as an act of betrayal by the Indian government. The widespread view among the Tamil people is that if the graves of the massacred Tamils are exposed to the world, Sri Lanka will be investigated by the International Court of Justice; and that in order to shield Sri Lanka, India is now involved in demining.

When the Indian parliamentary elections took place in May 2009, media reports suggested that in response to requests from the Indian government, the intensity of attacks on Eelam had been reduced. On the contrary, having gathered all the facts about the war, the UTHR investigators state that the Sri Lankan government did not show any special consideration to India. The report blames Sri Lankan power-holders for trying to bring the war to a close before the end of the Indian general elections.

The present political situation in Sri Lanka is dangerous for democracy. The report argues that the onus of creating a democratic political climate lies not only with the Tamils but also with the Sinhalese. The poisonous situation can be altered only when democratic forces consisting of both Tamils and Sinhalese work together.

Eyewitness accounts of the war have been given in the UTHR report. When writers have fallen silent, only these testimonies portray the blood-drenched story of the genocide that took place in Eelam. Today, when death is the prize for speaking the truth, silence has become the language of the Tamils. They are unable to say anything, even to those who go in search of them, seeking the truth, because the Sinhalese army has ears everywhere. Overcoming this constant fear of death, a few Tamils have come forward to share their stories with UTHR. Here is one such testimony:

After the fall of Killinochchi, the people were on the run moving eastwards and lost contact with one another. During mid-January, I went on my motorcycle to Piramandal Aru (river), east of Visuamadu, looking for one of my friends. I inquired at a house in which the man was seated on a chair outside, while his wife, aged about 45, was cooking. There were two other young women there. When I inquired from the man he directed me to a place nearby where about 50 men and women had taken shelter. Since I used kerosene as fuel, it was taking me time to start my motorcycle. Being instinctively alert, no sooner upon faintly hearing the hum of an oncoming shell, I jumped into a nearby pit and immediately heard an explosion. When I raised myself and looked, I observed that the shell had struck the ground between the legs of the man who was sitting. No trace of him was visible. The two young women were also killed. The woman who was cooking was screaming in pain. She was aware that her legs had been blown off. Blood was mixed with the curry she had been preparing. She pleaded with me not to leave her in that condition and to take her to a hospital. The nearest field hospital was in Udayarkattu. Her life was ebbing away and she knew it. I was helpless. The least I could do was to be with her. Within a few minutes, she was gone.

I had moved to the church in Iranapalai. During February, the Kfirs [Israel-built all-weather combat aircraft] came on a bombing raid. I got into a bunker. A little later a one-tonne delay bomb fell about fifteen feet from my bunker and penetrated the ground. I found myself rocked roughly like a baby in a cradle. Fortunately, this bomb failed to explode. Later the LTTE came and dismantled it to extract about 600 kg of explosive.

A few days later I was with some friends in a house at Anandapuram. When Kfir bombers arrived, I wanted to join some others moving into an open field, where there was also a cemetery, between Iranapalai and Anandapuram. The reason for moving into the open field was a surmise that the pilots would see we are civilians and leave us alone. But a friend of mine restrained me. The bomber dropped ‘air bombs’ (bombs that explode above the surface) in the field, killing about fifteen of those who had gone there for safety. About the same time a delay bomb (one tonne) fell on a temple close by. I saw a goat, a man, a mat and some cooking utensils being thrown above the height of a coconut tree.

During my stay at Iranapalai, there were huge casualties due to aerial bombing and shelling. When a settlement was bombed on 16 February, some of us got hold of vehicles and went to rescue the survivors. Because the bombing of an area is frequently followed by artillery shelling or a return of the bombers themselves, the vehicle drivers refused to go near the settlement and parked about 150 yards away.

The victims were mainly women and children who had stayed at home when the men went out to earn their bread doing jobs like constructing bunkers. These bombs when exploding use the ambient oxygen for combustion creating a vacuum, resulting instantly in a powerful blast of wind. The blast wrenches at the clothes and renders them in tatters, leaving the injured women partially exposed. Several girls had stayed together in a bunker to avoid conscription gangs. The blast covered the bunker killing all of them. In a bid to avoid the disrespect of touching the bodies of the women, we had to place them on sacks or sheets, rush them into the van parked at a distance and get back.

One experience that left a heartrending impression on me was a young girl of sixteen or seventeen whose legs were blown off. As I was passing, she gripped my legs and pleaded with me to take her. She was supported by a rafter of coconut wood and had not realised that her legs were gone. I could see the bones sticking out. Before I could take in what happened, she asked me insistently, “If I were your sister, would you leave me here?” I have no sisters, although I wish I had. I was dumbstruck. She soon passed away.

Another girl came running towards us shouting that some terrible thing has happened. She neither showed any signs of injury nor awareness of such. To my astonishment, the girl who was running normally, collapsed ten metres away from me and died. When I went close and examined her, I noticed that a piece of shrapnel had struck the back of her head and she did not know it. I figure that about 25 persons, mainly women, were killed in the incident. I don’t know the exact number because I had gone as part of a rescue team and not to count. I saw others who had come independently of us also taking away the injured.

Subsequently, when I was in the NFZ [No-Fire Zone] by the sea, staying out in the open became risky with shells exploding and bullets flying, whose sound could be heard only upon their whizzing past. But for one reason or another, we had to travel along the main road running through the length of the NFZ, especially on rainy days. This road merges with the A-35 near Irattaivaykkal and its northern part where the people were staying is generally close to the lagoon.

Valaignarmadam was marginally more dangerous, because the ground was raised, giving the soldiers across the lagoon a clear view and they regularly took pot shots at road users. One was thus better advised to use the secondary road from Putumattalan to Valaignarmadam that is closer to the sea. But when it rains the secondary road becomes inundated, and if one must travel, there was no choice but to take one’s chance on the main road.

I was on my motorcycle going through this area behind a couple on a motorcycle. The woman was pregnant and they were out probably to do some shopping. The couple was coming fast. They signalled to me and I moved aside to let them overtake. I suddenly saw the couple fall down for no discernible reason and the man writhing in agony. He had been hit by a bullet from the army’s side. I stopped and the pregnant woman pleaded with me to take her husband to the hospital. Most people passed us by engrossed in their own problems and such things had become a daily occurrence. The man whose lower jaw had been blown off was vomiting blood and the situation looked hopeless. What had happened was that when we passed that area on motorbikes, it was our custom to dip our heads as low as possible to minimise our chances of being hit by an army sniper. Because the man had ridden fast and taken a curve in overtaking me, he lacked the balance to dip his head as a precaution.

The stricken man’s wife was helpless. To carry the man to the medical post at Valaignarmadam required a third person on the bike so that the injured man could be sandwiched between us. My bike being too small for that, I asked the wife to help the man onto the bike so that he could sit behind leaning his head on my back. In this manner I took the man to the hospital. By the time I reached the hospital, he was dead. It was then that I noticed my own state. A good part of my person was drenched in blood and covered in flies. The flies formed also a thick layer upon the dead man. This brought home to me the absolute squalor of the place.

I was once travelling on the main road when unexpectedly I saw an RPG [Rocket-Propelled Grenade] shell fired by a soldier across the lagoon landing in front of me. I considered and decided that there was no point in stopping and rode on and another RPG shell fell behind me. I warned people travelling in the opposite direction not to proceed as there was an ambush waiting. But no one seemed to take notice. How does one explain such behaviour? On the one hand there is constant danger from shelling and from small weapons fire, and ideally children should be inside bunkers. But on the other, you see children playing on the beach and even flying kites, indifferent to sudden death that strikes unawares.

Children could not be kept long inside bunkers and when they went out it was a time of grave anxiety with bullets flying about. Also in April, I saw a mother crying inconsolably over the body of her child. The child had been missing. When she found her child it was a corpse four days old.

On 8 April I was nearby at Pokkanai, when the Army fired a barrage of shells, causing over a dozen deaths and scores of injuries among people in a queue with children below three years, whose presence was needed to collect packets of milk powder being distributed. What struck me most was the sight of a mother who was herself injured, clutching her dead child and crying.

On 20 April, when the Army entered the NFZ, the Pokkanai area was severely shelled. I went there in the morning with a friend who was searching for his family. Earlier I had seen a prominent white phosphorous flame. As I got nearer, I saw people with burns dipping themselves in the sea. Hundreds had died in the shelling.

During the first week of May, I was in Mullivaikkal. There was no day we were free from shelling. I had a friend staying in a house close to the sea with his wife, whose leg had been fractured by a shell blast and also had an injury in his arm. He had a lap top computer which he used to pass time. I occasionally collected his computer and had its battery charged at a communication centre, which had a generator. On this day, I had his computer charged and went to his home to deliver it. It was past 7.00 p.m. A nurse from the hospital was there to dress my friend’s wounds. Because she was dealing with a man, her father had accompanied her. He was seated on a chair, while the others were on the ground. The father got up and offered me his chair. I declined. My friend’s wife asked me to stay and have a cup of plain tea. I excused myself saying it was time for my dinner.

As I was walking away, within a few seconds, I heard the noise of a single shell being fired. That was deceptive. The Army had a timing device which fired several shells simultaneously, although the noise suggested it was one shell. I was barely ten metres from the house and I heard an explosion. I received what seemed like a thundering slap. I was thrown down and also someone’s severed leg that was cast up in the air by the explosion fell upon me. I fell wondering whether my hands and legs were intact. I felt pain, but upon feeling about I realised that I had come to no harm. My thoughts immediately went to the folk in the house I had just left.

The shell had fallen between me and the house. Going back, I saw the nurse’s father still sitting on the chair sans his head, as though he had been decapitated. The others were unharmed. Upon seeing me, my friend, disregarding his injured leg, walked up to me and hugged me saying he was worried if I had been blown to bits by the shell blast. The strain caused a relapse in his injured leg. The severed leg had come from the man next door, who had squatted in front of the house trying to tune his wireless set. He was dead.

On 8 May I witnessed a queue of hungry young persons waiting for patties being shelled after being spotted by a ‘vandu’ (beetle or UAV, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), leaving more than a dozen, mostly children, dead. In the days that followed there was hardly any food. People were dying all over and were hardly in their bunkers. They stopped caring about living. They wanted to get out or die. The hospital at Mullivaikkal stopped functioning due to a lack of medicines and the staff too did not have the peace to work. At such hazardous times when sudden death is imminent, people generally choose to stay close to their family, so that if death strikes they all go together. They cannot bear separation.

The cadres had little choice. Even if they were injured, the choice was to fight on or die. The prospect of medical care and hospitalisation did not exist. I saw for the first time and have no wish to see again, dogs, themselves hungry, carrying parts of human flesh from the multitude of bodies strewn around and left unattended. The whole area exuded the stench of death and hell’s drum beat of falling shells.

On the night of 15 May, I, with some others, walked towards the lagoon to find a place to sleep. Property rights to bunkers had expired, and people were constantly edging south. They dared not go northwards as troops there had suffered heavy casualties and they feared how they would be treated. Some of us found an abandoned bunker. We got inside and dug about a little to expand the space. My hand encountered the hands and legs of a dead infant and the bloodied head of a dead woman. It seemed that a shell had fallen into the bunker and killed its occupants.

On the evening of 16 May, as people were moving out, I saw a sight that moved me with deep sadness and guilt. The hospital was no more. Injured cadres, many of them young girls, with no family at hand, were laid out on the sides of the road near Vattuvakal. The ICRC that was to fetch them was evidently not permitted. They screamed for someone to take them or to give them cyanide. These cadres were very young and they were not sufficiently developed to understand the world around them and the nature of their fate. Their organisation should never have allowed them to suffer in this manner.

In the night I desperately looked for a place to sleep as I had not slept for three days. I saw a man covered by a mat lying down under a tractor, whom I took to be the owner. Since there was space, I asked for permission to sleep there. I took his silence for consent and spent the night next to him. To my consternation I noticed in the morning that the man was covered with congealed blood and had been dead about two days.

It is well-known that the genocide of the Tamils in Eelam involved the violation of international war conventions and protocols. We are also aware of the talks that the Tigers conducted with the government of Sri Lanka, including their decision to give up arms. They were asked to carry white flags, but those who went ahead unarmed and bearing the flag of peace were shot dead mercilessly. Nowhere else in the world have we witnessed people taking shelter in bunkers being buried alive with bulldozers. Not one or two persons, several thousand people have been murdered in this manner. Even after the announcement on 17 May that the war was over, massacres continued to take place in Mullivaikkal. Those who had managed to escape were hunted down and ruthlessly killed by the government of Sri Lanka.

How do Tamils there deal with this scenario? Having suffered unimaginable violence, do they express their sorrow in writing? The ethnic riots of 1983 introduced us to extremely talented poets from Eelam and their poetry collections changed the course of political poetry in Tamil Nadu. M.A. Nuhman’s Mazhainaatkal Varum (The Rainy Days Shall Come), Sivasekhar’s Nadhikarai Moongil (Bamboo by the River Bank), A. Yesurasa’s Ariyapadathavargal Ninaivaga (In Memory of the Missing), Cheran’s Rendavadhu Suriyodhayam (The Second Sunrise), V.I.S. Jayapalan’s Suriyanodu Pesudhal (Speaking with the Sun), Vilvarathnam’s Akangalum Mugangalum (Hearts and Faces), the Eelam women poets’ Solladha Sedhigal (Untold Stories), Nuhman and Cheran’s anthology Maranthul Vaazhvom (We Will Live in Death) that featured eleven Eelam poets: these volumes were among the unforgettable outpourings of that time. There were magazines like Alai (Wave) and later, Serinigar. The support for the Eelam cause in Tamil Nadu grew out of such books. Intellectuals here, in India, like Thamizhavan, S.V. Rajadurai, Bothiyaverpan, Crea Ramakrishnan and many others helped with the publication of these books.

On the one hand, the supporters of the Tigers held tear-filled exhibitions, and on the other hand, these books created a silent revolution. Apart from this, members of the Marxist-Leninist movement had intense debates on the ethnic struggle. The Tamil problem was investigated along with the struggles of other oppressed nationalities in India. Not only Tamil writers, but even Sinhalese intellectuals like Kumari Jayawardene contributed to this discourse. Today, I look back with nostalgia at all that ferment of thought and feeling. The support for Eelam in Tamil Nadu was not only emotional but also intellectual. The reasons for its current absence need to be investigated.

As I write this, it is nearly a year since the Mullivaikkal tragedy. How is the Tamil intellectual circle going to pay homage to the victims? When I was thinking of this in September 2009, I chanced upon an early poem of Cheran. I was amazed at the far-sightedness of poets. I shared that poem with friends over email.


The apocalypse happened

in our own time.

Earth shaking in smokescreens

Body splitting in satanic rain

Fire raging within and without

Night’s howling flood

Dragging children, people

Burning them in an inferno

In those days, we ate death

Throwing a lifeless sidelong glance

At the helplessness of spectators

Fuming, fuming, like a cloud

We began to rise up

Kafka did not get the chance

to feed his writings to fire

But Sivaramani burnt hers

A poem is destroyed in an uneasy space

And the compositions of others

Refuse to come alive

All of us have gone away

There is no one to tell stories

Now there is

A wounded landmass

No bird is able to fly over it

Until we return

A few lines of this poem moved me deeply. Sivaramani committed suicide on 19 May 1991. She was a powerful voice that emerged from among the Eelam women poets of her time. Before she died, she burnt all the copies that she had of her poems She wrote: “My days/ You cannot snatch away./ Like a small star/ that descends/ between your fingers/ that cover your eyes/ my existence is certain.” Sivaramani showed her opposition to the denial of freedom by taking her own life. But the fighters did not have the patience to learn any lessons from this. Therefore, those who tried to express their opinion there ‘ate death in those days’, ‘when the spectators were helpless’, ‘when the poem was destroyed, the compositions of others refused to come alive.’  There is a long list of those who have been silenced in Eelam.

Where there are people with sensitivity, there freedom gains further respect. When all of them have been silenced, we can deduce who will rule. How can poetry come from such a space? I realize that Cheran’s poem contains the answer to why there no longer are intense poetic voices from Eelam. ‘All of us have gone away/ There is no one to tell stories’ so that, ‘Now there remains/ A wounded landmass/ No bird is able to fly over it/ Until we return.’ Here, ‘we’ is not a limited reference to expatriate poets like Cheran. It is a pronoun that denotes every creative voice that does not submit to power, but aspires to freedom.

This small anthology is just an effort to create faith in such voices.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2010 7:24 PM

    Do we Indians want hapless Tamil civilians of SriLanka to pay the price for Prabhakaran’s crime of killing Rajiv Gandhi? Few will condone the fascist fratricide and ethnic cleansing by LTTE. But how long the self-proclaimed guardians of the world’s largest democracy will keep mum over the war crimes of killer Rajapakshe and his chauvinist army? Do they consider their silence on Lankan genocide and Myanmarese junta’s rape of democracy a quid pro quo for Indian army’s role in Kashmir?
    What about the Indian Left leaders who cry hoarse and shed tears about human rights violation elsewhere in the world? Why our mainstream media including the self- righteous The Hindu playing the proverbial ostriches? Why our civil society honchos are silent too?

  2. December 9, 2010 3:13 PM

    Take care, the police and media could come after you. They’ll think it is a regrouping of LTTE. It happened in Kerala a few days back — a film screening and play about the victims of war on Tamils in Sri Lanka was reported as a meeting spreading the propaganda of Tamil nationalism in a leading Malayalam newspaper.

    For details, see this note that appeared on The Hoot.

    CNN-IBN later followed up the story: Is the LTTE re-grouping in Kerala?

  3. V. Geetha permalink
    December 12, 2010 5:40 PM

    The Eelam tragedy is a layered one, and not least of all because it is not easy to speak of the details that constitute it. There is the immense tragedy of a war waged by an unrepentant and chauvinistic state, supported in part by Indian diplomacy and in part by the malcontents that emerged amongst Tamil liberation fighters on the other. Then there is the critical and hypnotic silence that has been woven around the politics of Tamil nationalism – the separating out of those who wish to voice their views into either anti-LTTE or pro-LTTE factions, including in Tamil Nadu. The UTHR reports that are used widely in the introduction to the Navayana volume have been part of this process of marking those of the nationalist faith from those who doubt its claims or at least wish to complicate the same. Significantly, the UTHR’s cataloguing of the LTTE’s crimes in times of war has only been noticed after the war has ended and there are no more heroes or hero-stones to propitiate. Fact-finding reports become useful then – earlier, when such views were voiced they were routinely dismissed by all concerned, as vicious pro-Sinhala propaganda. This is not to say that these reports may not be critically interrogated or that they are entirely apolitical – but very few Tamil observers in India have sought to draw on them. More generally, supporters and sympathetic observers of the Eelam events in Tamil Nadu have preferred literary empathy and nostalgia, and chosen sentiment over irony.
    The grisly details of the last war in Eelam have elicited responses that are righteous, angry, aggrieved and ethically sorrowful. The pity of war, as Wilfrid Owen termed it, drawing on his own experiences in the trenches of the Great War, is seldom what is referred to – rather the drama of it, of what may be squeezed out of those killing fields to serve as a reminder of the cruelty of the Sinhala state, so evident in the videos that circulate amongst Tamil nationalist groups, overshadow the pathos and sorrow that war causes. Not surprisingly, the sexual violence inflicted on Tamil women, civilians and fighters occupies the imagination of those who are eloquent and loudly so on the Eelam tragedy. The repeated invocation of violated bodies is however deeply disquieting – it is as if claims to Tamil political innocence and credibility are being staked on the ‘fact’ of repeated and relentless violation.
    These macabre re-presentations of acts of sexual violation occlude other and more elusive realities – of young teenage widows who had lost husbands, either to the army or to conscription into nationalist ranks; of hapless mothers who have tried hard to protect their children from being recruited into war in the last days int he Vanni; of the everyday horrors of camp life, which include the travails of queuing up, in front of loos, food stores, water taps, of negotiating everyday peace with the local camp guards, just so that the business of survival may be done, the anxious waiting for news of loved ones, dealing with the maimed and the sick… as always women’s care work, the labour of ending yet another day are matters that do not resonate in the minds of those who seek support for the Tamils in Eelam. It is women’s seemingly inexorable ‘sexual’ otherness that makes for drama and history.
    However, Tamil women’s poetry, especially of the last decade has drawn attention to the miracle of living, of snatching at dignity in the face of impending displacement, migration and uncertain living. Tellingly, women’s voices are seldom heeded, not of those who have protested the IPKF’s highhandedness, as Banubharathi has; who have recorded the minutiae of living through war, as Aazhiyaal has; and of what transpired in the lives of those Tamils who were denied their history and sense of belonging by the LTTE as Tamil Muslims were and whose tragedy has been forcefully recorded in Anar’s poetry…Neither have the voices of women who have indicted the masculine core of nationalism, as Avvai and Sivaramani did in the early days of the struggle been heard for what they had to say on this subject. They are easily ‘over-read’, as it were. as voices that emerged in the sweep and swell of history, and not as constituting disjunctions in that unfolding.
    The Eelam tragedy is saddest because of the evasions that constitute the writing of it, and the deeply gendered nature of these evasions.

  4. Karthik RM permalink
    December 12, 2010 8:28 PM

    I wonder what Rohini Hensman would remark after the video… ‘Democratic ethos of Sri Lanka’?

  5. Kumarpushp permalink
    December 14, 2010 1:32 AM

    Eelam tagedy was created by hindu led government in India ,world knows who had supplied the arms and training to LTTE. LTTE is a hindu millitant organisation and should be banned from world.I had met thousands of christians and muslims from Kerala who had said to me that they are happy in Srilanka but what is problem with hindus in srilanka.These hindus are creating problem in srilanka who want to destroy the buddhist religion from earth ,world communities know about the dirty trick played by hindus and their hindu led government in India. Long live sri lanka and their buddhist religion.Hindus in India are playing politics in name of Tamil people and hindu must know that great leader Rajtapske had annhilated the LTTE who was the hindu terrorist organisation and nothing else.

    • LankaLiar permalink
      December 15, 2010 11:22 AM

      LTTE leaders son was named after his catholic friend Chrales Antony his chief advisor was a catholic Anton Balasingham. Most of the senior cadres in LTTE were christians. The LTTE leader was supposed to have attended Chrismas mass on the day tsnami happened but escaped. . There is perfect religious harmony in Sri Lanka. People freely visiit hindu temples budist temples churches and mosques. All religious leaders take part in all religious festivals. The most revered Tamil leader SJV Chelvnayagam is a Christian. A futile attempt to demonaize Hindusim. You should not attempt this with so little brain and knowwledge. This is crazyness sandwitdched between stupidity and ignorence. In Sri Lanka we call these people Modayas.

      • Kumarpushp permalink
        December 16, 2010 1:36 AM

        Mr Lankalier ,could you explain why hindu led government at centre and in tamilnaidu had supported the LTTE.LTTE is a hindu terrorist organisation and financed by hindu led government in India.these hindus wanted to annhilate the buddhist religion from sri lanka.same guys had annhilated the buddhist religion in india but this time great buddhit leader rajtapaske had annhilated the ill designed LTTE.LTTE is a hindu terrorist organisation and you hindus can not hide your face under masks.

        • Ron permalink
          December 16, 2010 6:03 PM

          Firstly LTTE is NOT a religious organization!
          Its terrorist activity is purely for secessionist reasons.
          Just like PLO is NOT an islamist organization even if its members are Muslims.

        • Ron permalink
          December 17, 2010 10:42 AM

          Kumarpushp writes:
          “great buddhit leader rajtapaske had annhilated the ill designed LTTE”

          On one hand you play “victim” in Indian context , and in Sri Lankan context you celebrate “annhilation” !

          You oppose injustice in one context….but support it in others…..

          • Kumarpushp permalink
            December 18, 2010 5:09 PM

            Mr Ron, I am against the any type of terrorism ,LTTE is a terrorist organisation which was supported by hindu led government in India.I met hundred of muslims and christians in middle east who were working in middle east ,none of them said that sri lankan goverment is against the tamils.tamils were destroying the the beautiful country in same way what adi shankra charya did to buddhism in India and made buddhists untouchables in India.LTTE is fully supported by MPS and MLAs of Tamilnaidu even today.LTTE is not sesctionist organisation but their brain and arms were control by hindus in India.

      • Kumarpushp permalink
        December 17, 2010 4:55 AM

        Prabhakaran had kept his son name charles to get world support ,could you tell me the trace of christian belief of his father or his son. because of his son christian name he got his engeenering degree from Ireland so Please donot try to hide LTTE real face.

  6. Keeran permalink
    December 15, 2010 2:32 AM

    @biswajit roy:

    It would be appropriate to mention all the killings and rapes done by the Indian “Peace Keeping Force” during Indo-Eelam war. It is strange that you people who condemn the LTTE in the first place never talk about those crimes which are clearly a war crime violoation by international law. That the Indian establishment do not care about war crimes, we did see again in the last Eelam war.

    Before condemning LTTE for Rajiv’s killing, it would be really appropriate to investigate independently into his death to trace the parties involved. But – again – strangely this has never happenend and probably will never happen.

    • Giri permalink
      December 16, 2010 7:26 AM

      Well said Keeran. LTTE was blamed for Rajiv’s assassination but Indians should look within (like Sonia, Congress Party, BOFORs arms dealers) for the truth. Unfortunately it was a convenient excuse at the time to blame the Tigers, supposedly some in the assassination team were Tamils from Eelam hence the conclusion by the majority.
      Eelam Tamils have looked upto India to end their suffering at the hands of the Singahlese goons but we have been let down time and again, even Tamil Nadu turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the SL state. This is truly incomprehensible, given India’s involvement in partitioning Bangladesh from Pakistan.
      SL has the dubious honour of bring together the sworn enemies (India, China, Pakistan) to fight the hapless, innocent Tamils all for the sake of geopolitical egotistic gains.

  7. Sri permalink
    December 16, 2010 1:58 AM

    A powerful presentation in prose and poetry. So are the comments. What is really missing are the political origins of the highly vexatious animosities created on the island between the majority and minorities along linguistics, ethnicity and religious lines by and large by monks and politicians to divide and rule at any cost under the euphemism “majoritarian democracy”. Thus over 63 years of independence and failed governance to benefit political parties, but most of all their so-called Leaders gain, the country stands exposed to all sorts of failures and even war crimes.

    It was politicians and governance failures which created at first the JVP uprisings in the south in the early 1970s with resurgence in the late 1970s and 1980s arising from unemployment largely among educated youth which capitalised their plight to challenge and oust government by armed revolt. Tens of thousands of youths and local people were killed with impunity by the military with no-accountability under
    the Emergency Regulations framed along lines borrowed from Afrikaaner South Afrika.

    The genesis of the Tamil imbroglio started already in the year of independence in 1948 when all upcountry Tamils were disenfranchised under arbitrary draconian laws. The Sinhala Only language policies and laws from Sept. 1956, the Republican constitution of 1972 passed unliterally by the Sinhala politicians making Buddhism the foremost religion of the state with sanctimonius intentions about the use of the Tamil language and respect for other religions accompanied by cycles of vicious violence against minorities largely orchestrated by governments with catastrophic results has finally ended in 2009 under a genocidal regime. It hides from international scrutiny despite abandonment of the rule of law and justice to deal with crimiialilty against persons. In fact it is the highly ethncised military and police woith political backing which are responsible for all sorts of crimes against persons and property.

    The Tamil rebels headed by the LTTE from 1980s are the RESULT
    of chauvanistic majority Sinhala politicians. These fractiious groups, some of whom owe their origins to RAW during the IPKF occupation in Sri Lanka, fought state sponsored violence (state terrorism) with their own display of violence. Thus indiscriminate aerial bombings and shellings of Tamil villages by teh military were matched by the much derided suicide bombings spponsoerd by the LTTE. In terms of killings and destruction that by the state has been overwhelming. The LTTE advocated and fought for a separate state of Eelam.

    Unless there is accountability for the heinous crimes committed with total impunity by both sides against the “citizens” (a rare word in the local lexicon) through the much publicised war crimes investigations, especially by the UN, hsitory will keep on repeating istelf like in the 62 years which prceded it. Needless to mention the two Asian giants-India and China- are also having their ‘fingers in a bloodied pie’ mainly for economic stakes, it appears! According to some theorists it is for assertion of geopolitical interests in the Indian ocean!

    Add to this the gross crimes against journalists and editors the country has been radicalised into a nightmare paradise.

  8. December 17, 2010 1:54 AM

    ” Long live sri lanka and their buddhist religion.Hindus in India are playing politics in name of Tamil people and hindu must know that great leader Rajtapske had annhilated the LTTE who was the hindu terrorist organisation and nothing else.
    By: Kumarpushp on December 14, 2010
    at 1:32 AM”

    You have not studied the history of Sri Lanka after Independence.

    All Governments were playing the “Tamil card” inorder to get votes.
    First the so called Indian Tamils in Ceylon were defrachised inorder to reduce the political power of Tamils.
    Then followed goverment-aided colonisation of the Sinhalese in traditional habitats of Tamils, under the name of development.
    Then came the Sinhala Only Bill, to deprive the Tamils of Government employment.
    Followed by Standardisation of marks for admission to the Universities,
    where Tamil students had to obtain higher marks then the Sinhalese
    counterparts for entry.
    On top of these, there were many pogoms (in 1958,1977, 1983), when Tamils were attacked, killed, raped, and robbed, all these aided by the Governments in power at that time.
    This discrimination and insecurity gave rise to a number of Liberation
    groups among th Tamils, where LTTE became the dominant one.

    It is not true to say that it was a Hindu orgnisation, but included many Christians and even some Muslims, and supported by the vast majority of Tamils, as they were the victims one way or another.

    (2) It was not Rajapkse who defeated the LTTE by his own power, but
    with the help of so many powerful (but brutal) Governments like China,
    Pakistan, Iran to name a few, including INDIA.

    While defeating the LTTE, so thousands of innocent civilians- including children, elderly and the infirm, were massacred.

  9. Kumarpushp permalink
    December 17, 2010 4:49 AM

    In India dalits and muslims are killed in day in and day out in name of naxal and terrorist by hindu police .since 1947 one million dalits are being killed by hindu led forces.160 million dalits are still slaves in hindu India who are trying to get librated from hindu led government so before pointing the finger on sri lanka you people must look the condtion of untoucables and muslims in India.

  10. lalith aditya permalink
    April 14, 2011 9:55 PM

    India was actually busy watching IPL matches when the Final Srilankan offensive took place.

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