Friday, December 11, 2009

Broken Palmyrah - Volume 2

'Volume 2
Reports and Analysis
Chapter 1

1.1________ Background to the Breakdown of the Accord
It was the tenth day of October 1987 as the curfew was being tolled. Dark billows appearing above the trees and a misty stillness foretold the oncoming rains. The last rays of the setting sun dimly pierced the western sky. There then appeared above, the graceful sight of wild-geese, our Russian winter guests, flying south in V-formation, to winter in the marshlands of peninsular Jaffna. The beauty of the darkening eve was not unmixed with grim foreboding. Our country had seen many tragedies in recent years. Many were hopeful that peace at last had a fighting chance with the signing of the July Accord. The sound of shells and bombs mangling civilians were deemed a thing of the past. But today the city had again reverberated to the sound of shell-fire, and the people once more were gripped by fear and uncertainty.
Many had watched with dismay the bizarre procession of events in the two months following the Accord. The inherent instability in the arrangements made it inevitable that the bubble should burst. For this reason, who fired the first shot in the hostilities that followed was a question of little importance. In the early hours of the morning, the I.P.K.F. had entered the premises of the Tamil newspapers Eelamurasu and Murasoli which they regarded as being close to the L.T.T.E.. After causing some damage, the I.P.K.F. took away several members of the editorial staffs and press workers. It was then announced that the two papers were sealed. The L.T.T.E. began to mobilise and its armed men were deployed around I.P.K.F. encampments. That afternoon firing was heard from near Jaffna Fort accompanied by the thud of exploding shells. Many said in disbelief: "It cannot be the Indian Army that is shelling us. It must be the Sri Lankan Army." It was announced on the radio that evening that the L.T.T.E. had fired on the I.P.K.F. at Jaffna Fort and in Tellipallai. Moreover, All India Radio's Madras station underlined the claim that the unit fired upon at Tellipallai had belonged to the Madras Regiment which, according to the same report, had suffered five casualties. Up to this time the I.P.K.F., which moved freely in the Jaffna peninsula, had visited several of the major L.T.T.E. camps. In the two months after the Accord, the I.P.K.F. should have had no difficulty in collecting all the information it wanted, were a surprise move against the L.T.T.E. in the offing. In fact, the I.P.K.F. had maintained a presence at the L.T.T.E.'s main camp opposite the University of Jaffna. What still puzzles many is the question why the I.P.K.F. should throw away its element of surprise in something so trivial as the closure of two newspapers and the confiscation of some television broadcasting equipment. With its man-power, technology and intelligence, there are so many ways in which the I.P.K.F. could have used the advantage of surprise with immense effect. Having alarmed the L.T.T.E., the I.P.K.F. waited for the L.T.T.E. to strike. This was the first sign that things had been terribly bungled. Worse was to come.The build up to the break down of the Accord has been described earlier.
On 4 October, seventeen L.T.T.E. men travelling in a boat were apprehended off Point Pedro by the Sri Lankan Navy. Those detained included the key L.T.T.E. leaders Mr. Pulendran and Mr. Kumarappa. The Sri Lankan Government claimed that these 17 were acting in breach of the Accord by transporting arms from Tamil Nadu and
were also in breach of Sri Lankan immigration formalities. The L.T.T.E. on the other hand claimed that this group was transporting documents in the process of shifting their headquarters from Madras to Jaffna and argued that the question of immigration regulations did not arise, because their leaders had been flown between Madras and Jaffna by the I.P.K.F. without any formalities. The Trincomalee leader Mr. Pulendran had been accused by the Sri Lankan Government of being responsible for leading the massacre of 150 Sinhalese civilians during the unilateral cease fire declared by the Sri Lankan Government for the Sinhalese-Tamil New Year in April that year.
President J.R. Jayewardene spoke on the state television Rupavahini on two successive days. First he said that the 17 detained were smugglers and were not covered by the Accord. On the second night, he said that they were caught coming back from Tamil Nadu with arms and ammunition.
The Tigers further said that they were going in a slow boat (fishing trawler) from Jaffna to Tamil Nadu to bring back their furniture and equipment from their main Tamil Nadu office. They also claimed that they had asked the I.P.K.F. high-command in Jaffna to help them bring back the stuff, but their requests were ignored. They also say that only two of their men - Kumarappa (Jaffna commander) and Pulendran (Trincomalee commander) were armed: according to them, this was in keeping with the Accord, as provision had been made for the Tigers to retain arms for self-defence. It is significant that the state-owned Rupavahini did not display the arms and ammunition allegedly seized from the Tigers who were aboard the trawler.
When Lalith Athulathmudali, the National Security Minister, was asked by a journalist the purpose of detaining the Tigers, he had replied that he would bring them to Colombo just to make them pose before state-television cameras, and would then release them!
The Sri Lankan Government insisted on transporting the seventeen detainees who were held in Palaly to Colombo for questioning. The L.T.T.E. appealed to the Indian Government to prevent this. According to press reports the I.P.K.F. and the Indian High Commissioner, Mr. J.N. Dixit, did exert considerable pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to prevent the transport of the detainees. Mr. Dixit said later during a B.B.C. interview that knowing the L.T.T.E., he had warned the Sri Lankan Government of the consequences that may follow from such a course of action. The Sri Lankan Government persisted and a decision was taken to fly the detainees to Colombo on the evening of 5 October. It was later reported that the detainees swallowed cyanide as they were about to be taken on board the aeroplane and that twelve of them, including Kumarappa and Pulendran, had succumbed. The question arises, how did these detainees come into possession of cyanide? It can be assumed that the initial routine search of the persons detained would have deprived them of the cyanide capsules carried around their necks.
The mystery may not be that hard to solve. It was reported that the detainees were taken lunch at 2:00 p.m. on that fateful day by the L.T.T.E.'s deputy leader Mr. Sri Mahattaya in the company of its chief theoretician, Mr. Anton Balasingam. According to a senior official of the I.P.K.F. until the last minute Indian troops were preventing Sri Lankan soldiers at Palaly from taking the detainees into an aeroplane. Around 4:30 p.m., a call came from New Delhi to abandon the efforts and let things take their course. According to this same source, Kumarappa had told him the previous day in a tone of urgency: "You must see my wife today." This suggests that a battle of brinkmanship had been taking shape for at least a day.
Given in Appendix II is an extract from a report in Colombo's Sunday Times of 1 October, 1989. This again confirms that the I.P.K.F. was extremely concerned about what might follow if the detainees died. General Rodriguez of the I.P.K.F. had tried everything short of actual force to get the Sri Lanka Army to release the detainees. The stubbornness and a lack of concern for the consequences on Colombo's part, suggests that a section of the Sri Lankan authorities was using the opportunity to trip the I.P.K.F. into a military confrontation with the L.T.T.E..
While the U.N.P. was westward looking in its economic policies, the signing of the Accord brought into the open a power struggle within the U.N.P.. A faction which included Gamini Dissanayake and Ronnie de Mel, supported the Accord. A faction which included Premadasa, and had wanted links with the West to go even further, showed evident displeasure. Premadasa had once promoted Sri Lankan membership of A.S.E.A.N., the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Western aid and training too had been crucial to the Sri Lankan defence establishment in
fighting the Tamil insurgency. While there was no ideological quarrel between these two factions, the failure of the Accord would have meant much to vested interests within the U.N.P. as well as the defence establishment. It is also remarkable that, later, in 1989, the Sri Lankan state under Premadasa and the L.T.T.E. should find common cause against the Indian presence.
1.2 __ The Night of Shame
During the night that followed there took place some events that every son of Jaffna should be deeply ashamed of. Eight Sinhalese soldiers were being held captive by the L.T.T.E., from pre-Accord battles. No one doubted that their release was imminent. The relatives of some of these soldiers had appealed to the L.T.T.E.. The father of one of them, a peasant from Galle, had appealed to a prominent Roman Catholic clergyman with connections in Jaffna, after several futile efforts at appealing to the Minister for National Security. On the 6th morning, the blind-folded corpses of these eight soldiers were found dumped in the city's main bus-stand with bullet wounds.
At the time, Mr. Jayamanne, the General Manager (G.M.) and Mr. Gajanayake, the Deputy G.M. of Lanka Cement Ltd. (or L.C.L.) were in Jaffna for the recommissioning of L.C.L.'s plant at K.K.S.. The plant had been closed on 22 April when an L.T.T.E. attack on K.K.S. harbour had resulted in the deaths of 18 Sri Lankan troops and the reprisal killing of five L.C.L. employees by the Sri Lankan Army. Seventy other employees then working at the harbour were saved by the timely action of a ship captain, a Sinhalese, who, fearing reprisals by Sri Lankan troops, promptly took them aboard his ship and put out to sea. The two cement plants at K.K.S. suffered considerable damage during the shelling of the subsequent months. In an unprecedented move which earned him the gratitude of the employees, Mr. Jayamanne took the lead in ensuring that even the casual employees of the two cement plants were paid during the long period of closure. Even those who did not agree with his methods of management, respected him as an able and enthusiastic engineer. On the previous day, Mr. Jayamanne had seen off some C.E.B. (Ceylon Electricity Board) engineers whom he had persuaded to come to Jaffna in order to commission a new transformer for L.C.L.. Mr. Jayamanne was amongst those Sinhalese who believed that Jaffna had a great future following the Indo-Lanka Accord. He was hopeful of restarting the L.C.L. plant the following day.
On the 5th night, Jayamanne and Gajanayake were having a friendly after-dinner chat with several colleagues, including engineers Sothilingam, Velayutham and Arivalagan at the L.C.L. guest house. Around mid-night several armed man burst into the guest house and wanted to take Jayamanne and Gajanayake away. Their colleagues protested. Velayutham who protested strenuously was badly assaulted. Jayamanne and Gajanayake were finally taken away and their dead bodes were found opposite the Cement Corporation gates the following morning.
There was a great deal of anger and sorrow at the two cement works at K.K.S.. They badly wanted to issue a protest leaflet condemning the killings of Mr. Jayamanne and Mr. Gajanayake and to send condolence messages to their families. But this desire was outweighed by fear. There were informers about and no one wished to be identified as being amongst the leaders of such a move. One leaflet purportedly issued by the cement workers expressed sorrow at the deaths of the twelve L.T.T.E. men. No mention was made of the murdered Sinhalese.
Another person murdered on the 5th night was an elderly Sinhalese baker who re-started his bakery at Chunnakam after the Accord. An A.G.A. (Assistant Government Agent) recounted his meeting with this baker. On that occasion he had been in his office when he was approached by a man with a bowed head. He had obviously suffered much hardship. This man addressed him as Mahattaya (meaning Sir). The A.G.A., surprised at hearing Sinhalese being spoken in Jaffna, listened to this man's tale. He said that he had to abandon his premises at Chunnakam and move south after the 1983 riots. Being a small holder he had no other means of livelihood and had no alternative but to come back and re-start his trade at Chunnakam. The A.G.A. was very much grieved at the killing of such a harmless man.
What follows is the account of the killing of a Sinhalese police officer at Valvetithurai (V.V.T.) on the 5th night as related by a professional resident there. Following the reopening of the Valvetithurai Police Station after the Accord, certain Sinhalese police officers used to pay evening visits to the local bar to drink and to fraternise. One such police officer was present at the bar on the 5th night. At about 8 p.m., Soosai, the Vadamaratchi leader of the L.T.T.E. and another person entered the bar and started assaulting the police officer mercilessly. He was then dragged out and was
beaten to death with a wooden pole. The following day L.T.T.E. sources attributed this and the other killings of Sinhalese to the "people," who they said had become angry over the suicides of the twelve L.T.T.E. men. But the people of V.V.T. were deeply hurt that they were being held responsible for such an inhuman act.
Indeed, the Jaffna dailies attributed these killings to unknown persons. These were followed by a spate of killings of Sinhalese civilians in the Eastern Province. Thirty five long term Sinhalese residents of Batticaloa were gunned down. A land mine explosion killed Batticaloa's S.T.F. chief Nimal Silva. Mr. Antonymuthu (Government Agent, Batticaloa) who was travelling in the same vehicle was also killed. The B.B.C. reported that in the days that followed, a total of about 200 Sinhalese civilians were killed.
These events must be viewed in the context that shortly after the Accord, the L.T.T.E.'s deputy leader Mr. Sri Mahattaya told the Weekend, a national newspaper, that the Sinhalese civilians were welcome to visit Jaffna and that no harm would befall them. Thus many Tamils in Jaffna regarded these killings as a breach of hospitality. It must also be kept in mind that many Sinhalese who visited Jaffna after the Accord did so with a feeling that the Tamils were fellow countrymen who had been wronged and that it was time for them to understand the Tamils and to build bridges. Especially many women felt that it was very wrong to have killed those soldiers who had been fed with their own hands for several months. In another development four members of the Rupavahini (the state television station) crew were abducted in Jaffna and were presumed killed. A lecturer in English and his bride, both Tamils, who were spending their honeymoon at Subash Hotel were rudely awakened by armed men who were going room by room looking for Sinhalese.
One may ask, if Mr. Dixit did foresee the consequences resulting from an attempt to transport the detainees, why did he not use his authority to act decisively to prevent such an attempt as he very well could have? According to the I.P.K.F. official quoted earlier, the order to abandon efforts to prevent the transport of detainees had come from New Delhi. This means the decision did not rest with Mr. Dixit, suggesting that New Delhi was preparing to take its gloves off. And then, having got most of what it wanted at the time of Mr. Thileepan's death, why did the L.T.T.E. take such an unexpected course? Perhaps, the Indians were becoming tired of a role where they had to be constantly arguing with two sides, both of whom were in some way dissatisfied with the Accord.
The decision that the seventeen L.T.T.E. detainees should commit suicide together with the killings of Sinhalese from the night of 5 October, was an open challenge to the Accord. The Indian Government was already under pressure, being accused of inaction in the face of a drifting situation. If the Indian Government still did nothing, it would have been accused of badly letting down the Sri Lankan Government which had risked a good deal on the Accord which India was to implement.
The Indian Defence Minister, Mr. K.C. Pant, and the Indian Army Chief of Staff, Mr. Krishna Sunderji, promptly arrived in Colombo. The Ceylon Daily News of 9 October announced in its headlines that the I.P.K.F. was to launch a terminal campaign against the L.T.T.E.. Few will disagree that India was called upon to act. What is in question is the manner in which it acted and the tragic consequences that ensued. These will be dealt with in a separate chapter.
We note here that one conspiracy theory that gained a certain amount of popularity with Tamils was to the effect that President Jayewardene was such a cunning man, who having signed the Accord with India, played his cards with consummate skill - so much so, that it culminated in the suicides of twelve L.T.T.E. men, thus trapping India into taking on the Tamils. India, the theory proceeds to maintain, was cleverly trapped by President Jayewardene into doing a job which the Sri Lankan forces could not do. It is understandable that President Jayewardene, out of office since December 1988, should promote the first theory.
The weakness in conspiracy theories is that there are so many unknowns in human affairs that it is easy enough to invent another conspiracy theory which says quite the opposite. It can, for instance, be maintained that the Indians acted so cleverly, that upon finding the Sinhalese and Tamils of Ceylon such volatile and unreliable negotiating partners, the Indians trapped them into blundering themselves into corners. Thus the acceptance of Indian suzerainty became the only way out for them both. Quite apart from possible roles by vested interests, developments in the Tamil region by themselves, had already put the Accord into trouble.
The overwhelming evidence of events is that no party to the conflict possessed the delicate skill or means, by which to control events or even to fulfil its stated intentions. In statements issued soon after the Accord of 29 July, the Chief of the Indian Army's Southern Command, Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh, gave the impression that he had the means to disarm the L.T.T.E. with consummate skill if the need arose. The loss of life and property that followed in the wake of the Indian Army's action which commenced on 10 October, left the impression of a hacksaw having been used where fine surgery had been promised. The Indian Embassy which had been a severe critic of the Sri Lankan Government's military campaign in the Tamil areas, especially the shelling and bombing of the civilian population, was left reacting to events rather than dictating them when the Indian Army used similar methods.
Chapter 2
2.1___ Expectations about India's Role
In the weeks that followed the agony of the July 1983 racial violence, almost the entire population of the Tamils of Ceylon turned to India for protection. India responded to the crisis by first sending its Foreign Minister Narasinha Rao and then its special envoy Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy, to negotiate a settlement between the Government and the Tamil representatives. In the Sunday Times of 16 August, 1987, Mr. Neelan Tiruchelvam (T.U.L.F.) had praised the scholarly and painstaking efforts of Mr. Parthasarathy's which were combined with disarming courtesy. The substance of the proposals drafted by Mr. Parthasarathy in consultation with President Jayawardene and accepted by the President was contained in the document known as Annexure C. Later, the President had other ideas and went back on these proposals. These proposals with variations have represented India's stand. The same family of ideas form the fabric of the December 19th proposals and finally the accord of 29 July, 1987. All these have envisaged provincial councils with substantial powers over law, education and policing devolved to them. The tricky issues over which considerable time continues to be spent, centre around the question of land-settlement on which the Tamils have well-founded fears. Everyone knows that India also had certain foreign policy interests in Ceylon. A commitment to non-alignment had served Sri Lanka well where relations with India were concerned. But friction had been created by the Jayawardene Government's tilting towards the West. India would also like to ensure that no hostile power would use the natural harbour at Trincomalee. These were not grudged. The Tamils were confident that India would never let them down. Up to this point no one had anything but good words for India's efforts.
In the wake of July 1983, together with refugees, a substantial number of militant recruits were also heading towards Tamil Nadu, the latter for training. This was India's second front in the event of the negotiations failing. Today's problems originate from the manner in which this front was handled.
Shortly after agreeing to Mr. Parthasarathy's proposals, Lalith Athulathmudali was appointed minister for the new Ministry of National Security in January 1984. Defence expenditures soon escalated to the region of U.S. $ 300,000,000, or 15 to 20% of the national budget. It soon became clear that Sri Lanka had moved closer to the West, making new arrangements with western powers, in a fresh bid to find a military solution to its Tamil problem. Though Ceylon had severed diplomatic links with Israel in 1970, an Israeli Interests Section was established on the U.S. Embassy premises in Colombo in 1984. The Israeli agencies Mossad and Shin Bet, which specialised in under-cover and intelligence operations, began helping the Sri Lankan forces (as described in the article by Jane Hunter in Israeli Foreign Affairs, May 1986). Keeny Meeny Services (K.M.S.), an off-shore British security form, made available former S.A.S. men to train Sri Lanka's notorious Special Task Force (S.T.F.). The contention by British officials that this was a purely commercial arrangement between a private firm and the Sri Lankan government, was taken to be merely for the sake of formality. Pakistani instructors became involved in training, both in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Black Shirts (a unit of the Sri Lanka Army in black uniform) and Home Guard units. The training of the Black Shirts, popularly known as the Black Devils, reportedly involved teaching them to look upon Tamils as enemies. This was reflected in the utter devastation of Tamil villages in the Trincomalee District where they were deployed.
Central to these arrangements was evidently, the role of the United States. President Ronald Reagan's envoy General Vernon Walters, who later was to be the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., arrived in Colombo in December 1984 and is reported to have had talks with President Jayewardene and Lalith Athulathmudali. With India providing succour to the Tamil militants, it appeared as though a proxy war was being fought in Ceylon between Indian and Western interests, from 1984 to mid-1987. This period also marked the beginning of the proliferation of state sponsored paramilitary forces in Sri Lanka, a process that had a momentum of its own.
However, Tamils in Ceylon were generally confident that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was equal to meeting the deceitfulness of the Sri Lankan regime. It is said that when the T.U.L.F. leader, Mr. Amirthalingam, received news of her assassination when he was at the Jaffna Railway Station in October 1984, he was rendered speechless for several minutes. Her death was perhaps mourned with greater intensity in Jaffna than anywhere else. Be that as it may, except for a change in style, it would be erroneous to suppose that Indian policy changed substantively after Mrs. Gandhi. The Tamil leadership, both T.U.L.F. and militant, did however feel treated less respectfully by India following her demise. This treatment might have had serious negative consequences in the long term, particularly in Indian dealings with the L.T.T.E..
The present mood amongst the Tamils of Ceylon is one of bewilderment over India's conduct during the war of October 1987. The pain and shock of mental disillusionment with India has been only slightly less than those from the physical suffering. People could hardly believe their ears as the Indians shelled them from land and air. "Perhaps", they said, "this shelling is only a misguided preliminary. The Indian soldiers are different from Sri Lankan soldiers. They will be reasonable once they come." This hope too was tragically disappointed as hundreds were shot dead for no other reason than that they were in a place where the Indian troops were angry.
When people expressed their feelings to Indian army officers and asked why this happened, they were told: "This is war; we have lost three hundred men. Be happy that you are alive and think about the future." When people say: "India said she was sending her troops to protect us. But now, as a result of Indian Army action we have lost many of our children, fathers and mothers, as well as our houses and goods.", they are told in response: "These things happen in war, there is nothing we can do." The results of Indian involvement are clearly different from what the world expected.
It is well to look into the persistent criticism made by the Indian government against the military action of the Sri Lankan government in the Tamil areas. Every time there was civilian suffering amongst the Tamils as a result of the Sri Lankan government's military action, India was unfailing in expressing her concern. The Sri Lankan Government's military action culminated in the shelling and bombing of the civilian population, shelling of hospitals, the killing of patients, massacres of civilians, torture and the displacement of populations. All these were again and again roundly condemned by India. The case against the Sri Lankan Government has been pursued at the U.N. Human Rights Sub-commission by India. The Prime Minister of India has repeatedly warned the Sri Lankan government against its attempts at a military solution of the ethnic question, stressing that only a political solution would be viable. The Indian government exerted pressure, on humanitarian grounds, on the Sri Lankan government to prevent it from closing Jaffna Hospital. The Indian air drop of relief supplies to Jaffna on 4 June 1987 and the supply of food to Jaffna's residents by the Indian Red Cross were publicly motivated by the sufferings of numerous refugees following the Sri Lankan Government's Vadamaratchi operation.
It was clear to the international community that the role envisaged for the I.P.K.F. (Indian Peace Keeping Force) in Ceylon was a most unusual one. Though legal technicalities were satisfied, the wide-spread feeling remained that Ceylon's national independence and sovereignty were put into question. Yet the international community welcomed this arrangement, mainly for the reason that they felt that the Sri Lankan Government was unable to solve this problem. It lacked the will to solve it and, because of the immense human suffering it had caused, it lacked the moral right to try again. Thus the international community expected far higher standards of India and expected India to solve the problem competently, without resort to methods similar to those of the Sri Lankan government. Indian spokesmen, including Lieutenant General Depinder Singh, Chief of the Southern Command, gave the impression that if the need arose they possessed competent means to retrieve arms from the L.T.T.E. (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). Moreover India's coming to Ceylon as a peace keeping force was expected to place restraints on her mode of operation. Her men were expected to be thoroughly disciplined and sensitive to civilian problems.
It was clearly unacceptable that the I.P.K.F. should fire shells into civilian populated areas. When questioned, Indian officers would say that if they are ordered to take a town they must first shell it, adding that we civilians are ignorant of military methods. We feel here that such a stand-point is unacceptable in terms of what was expected of a peace keeping force and in terms of India's oft repeated sentiments on the matter. The shelling seldom affected or intimidated the L.T.T.E.. The victims were almost always civilians.
Apart from the expectations of the international community and the Tamils, such use of its fire power by the I.P.K.F. must also be seen in the context of a remark made by the Prime Minister of India in early 1987, when questioned by the Press as to whether the situation in Sri Lanka had any resemblance to that in the Punjab. The Prime Minister of India replied, that unlike the Government of Sri Lanka, the Government of India had neither shelled nor aerially bombarded its own civilian population. India's moral right to intervene in Sri Lanka was based on the expectation that it would fulfil obligations, which the Sri Lankan Government could not keep towards Tamil civilians.
2.2___ India and the Militants
It is generally known that senior members of militant groups were resident in Tamil Nadu. The repeated claim by the Sri Lankan government and the international press was that the militants were receiving both arms and training through India. India's position has been that she had only Tamil refugees. However the Sri Lankan government took its claim seriously and attached the highest importance to sealing off the Palk Straits by strengthening and deploying its navy. Several militant leaders and expatriate Tamils have been frank about the links the Indian government and its intelligence agency R.A.W. had with militant groups. Such relationships ignore moral considerations and are governed by mutual cynicism. Each thought it was using the other.
Amongst the Tamil civilians in Ceylon, there was the uncomfortable feeling that they did not really matter and were merely pawns in the game. Still people generally expected high standards from India. More doubts emerged as the result of the conduct of the Indian police and the Tamil Nadu government over internal killings in India. Accounts of torture and killings by the P.L.O.T.E. of its own members, many of whom had qualms of conscience, emerged in many prominent Indian newspapers around early 1985. These killings had taken place on Indian soil. The matter was ignored by the police. Such experiences with the Indian police were many. To give two instances, Mr. Santhathiar, a prominent P.L.O.T.E. dissident, was murdered by members of the P.L.O.T.E. in Tamil Nadu. The police took no action when a report was made by Mr. A. David, a senior architect from Ceylon. Subsequently, an influential Tamil expatriate in London telephoned a businessman-friend in Tamil Nadu, who in turn contacted Mr. Somasundaram, a minister in the State Government. It was after all this that the accused was taken in, only to be released later. Another case is that of Ruban who left the L.T.T.E. for reasons of conscience and became involved in refugee work. One day in late 1984, he was walking in the company of friends when he was accosted by members of the L.T.T.E.. They proceeded to beat him to death. No action was taken when a well known figure reported the matter to the Tamil Nadu Police. It is relevant here that the militant leaders, especially Mr. Prabhakaran of the L.T.T.E. and Mr. Uma Maheswaran of the P.L.O.T.E. moved in the highest circles in South India and their organisations were well-funded. Reports have persistently surfaced in the press linking some of the militant groups with the narcotics trade. The latest was a report by the London Sunday Times' investigation team linking the L.T.T.E. prominently with this trade [Sunday Times (London) 30 August 87]. It was clear that the process of the law in India had been interfered with to an extent that many countries would have considered intolerable, for reasons of expediency. What this will mean for India in the long run is another question.
The Sri Lankan Government and the international community were publicly aware that India was using the Tamil militant groups to twist the Sri Lankan Government's arm. Informed observers in Jaffna were aware that the L.T.T.E. could obtain enough arms to keep the Sri Lankan Army at bay and no more. It was unable to obtain anti-aircraft weapons. The gift by Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister, Mr. M.G. Ramachandran, of _3 million to the L.T.T.E. and _1 million to the E.R.O.S. for "refugee work" soon after the Sri Lankan Government's "Operation Liberation", is another case in point. Considering that there were several institutions more experienced in refugee work, this was generally treated as a gesture of support for the L.T.T.E. and the E.R.O.S. having the blessings of the Indian Government. This was hinted at by_ the B.B.C.'s Mark Tully.
During the two months after the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987, the I.P.K.F. isolated itself from the public. But some of its senior men had close relations with the L.T.T.E. high ranks. There was even a social life of sorts. A colonel in the I.P.K.F. once talked of having attended the wedding of the L.T.T.E.'s Kumarappa, who committed suicide when he was about to be transported to Colombo. At the wedding he had presented the bride with a sari. He also reflected with some sadness on how the L.T.T.E. leaders used to bring them gifts of prawns and other seafood,
and went on to show photographs taken on the beach where he was present. Amongst the L.T.T.E. leaders in the photograph were Mahattaya and Kumarappa.
2.3___ Scenes from the October 1987 War
In Karainagar, a crowd was watching the England Versus India test cricket match on a television screen supplied by a generator, because the electricity had been cut. The following day, 5 November, an Indian helicopter shelled the area killing eleven persons. This raid seems to have been carried out on the basis of the flimsy, uncorroborated speculation that passed for intelligence. The shelling of Chavakachcheri town was similar. The town was shelled from an Indian helicopter at mid-day on 27 October, 1987. The market area where the shells fell was full of ordinary people and refugees from further north. According to Mr. S.G. Deva, an eye-witness, there was nothing in the area at that time to distinguish it as an L.T.T.E. target. Between twenty and forty persons were killed. A dead mother was hugging her dead child and a piece of shrapnel had entered through her body and pierced the child she was carrying. According to a traveller who passed through Chavakachcheri market an hour before the aerial shelling, he had seen a Datsun pick-up mounted with a 50 calibre machine gun and armed L.T.T.E. men moving slowly through the market. He had remarked to some friends that there would be trouble as an Indian observation helicopter had been around. This however does not justify the action taken an hour later. Refugees who were waiting to go south at Sangupitty jetty were fire-bombed from a helicopter on 25 October. An eye-witness account appeared in the Sunday Times of 1 November. It may be noted that refugees fleeing the Sri Lankan Army's "Operation Liberation" in May 1987 were not molested in this way. A similar tragedy overtook several people attempting to get across to the Islands from the Araly jetty on 22 October. Seventeen were reported killed when boats carrying civilians were fired upon from the air.
On 3 November Mrs. Lily Rajah and three of her grandchildren, two boys and a girl were shot dead while being taken by the I.P.K.F., in front of the residence of the Solomons on the Maruthanamadam Road at Uduvil. There had been no provocation. According to one source, an I.P.K.F. officer had shouted: "Stop it". But by then it was too late. The two sons-in-law of the Solomons who had been called out were let off after the family pleaded on their knees.
From November onwards there were reported an increasing number of cases of rape, molestation and theft, by men from the I.P.K.F.. When soldiers were doing a search at Karanthan, near Urumpirai, they came upon a house where all the occupants were women refugees. The soldiers closed the door and spent up to an hour inside. This incident which took place on 16th November was related by one of those involved, now living in Rakka Lane, Chundikuli. She had been let off after pleading and crying on her knees. On 28th November in Urumpirai north, a lone soldier went into a house where a girl was. The soldier ran away when the mother and the neighbours started screaming. On 14 November, a university student who had lost her mother and grandmother in Urumpirai when they were shot by advancing I.P.K.F. troops, was being taken from Uduvil to Jaffna by an uncle. At Manipay she stopped at a friend's place where the father, mother and son were standing out, watched by two soldiers. The soldiers motioned the girl to go inside and the uncle to stay out. Sensing what was in store, the girl screamed. Her uncle asked everyone to join in the screaming. Some soldiers rushed out of the house and the whole lot of them ran away. The girl of the house had been twice raped by soldiers. She had been afraid to scream thinking that the rest of the family would be shot. The son of the house, also a university student, had been in a group of 20 boys who had been kicked and assaulted by soldiers earlier that day. The son complained to an army captain in the area. The captain replied: "I am sorry. I take full responsibility for the incident. We were angry after we went hunting for arms and did not find any. I ordered the men to beat up some young men. They are disciplined. They only follow orders." The girls have now left for Colombo.
Major Parameswara Iyer who was the I.P.K.F. commandant at Uduvil was widely regarded as a good man. He listened to the problems of the people sympathetically and made a strong effort to maintain discipline. On the morning of 25 November, he and three of his men were killed while on a search in the Dutch Road area. the captain at Uduvil Girls' School, one Sharma, was angry. The area was subject to shelling. Mr. Thanjaratnam, a pensioner, was killed while riding his bicycle. Mr. Cameron, an old man above 70, wearing a turban, was carrying a bottle of milk and had come to Uduvil junction to purchase bread. He was shot dead. A mother who had been injured by the shelling was being taken on a bicycle for medical treatment by her son. As they came up Ark Lane onto the Uduvil-Manipay Road, they were shot at by the troops from Uduvil junction. The mother died and the son escaped. A lady who is a teacher and member of the Uduvil Church said that at least 12 civilians were killed on that day.
A female student from the university who had been with her grand-mother at Pandatheruppu had this to say:
"There and in the neighbouring areas of Sandilipai and Chankanai, people live in constant fear of shelling, assault and searches. The L.T.T.E. goes to an area, fires a few shots and runs away. Then the I.P.K.F. soldiers run amok. When the market was reopened, someone came and fired a shot and ran away. The soldiers started beating people. One keerai (spinach) seller was shot dead. During the first week of December, four I.P.K.F. men were shot dead by the L.T.T.E. along the Sandilipai-Pandatheruppu road. A farmer working in the paddy field was shot and injured by Indian troops. Neighbours took him to the I.P.K.F. camps at Mathagal and Pandatheruppu for medical treatment and were turned away. The farmer died. The next day, these I.P.K.F. camps were again offering medical treatment to civilians.
"We are in fear of searches, when soldiers would suddenly jump into our compounds. During one such search a soldier beat up the girl in the neighbouring house and forced her into a room. The others in the house and we screamed. Another group of soldiers arrived on the scene and the first lot ran away. The Colonel is apparently a decent man. The miscreants were caught and court-martialled. My aunt in Pandatheruppu too was once harassed by soldiers. But she stood firm. The Colonel told us that this was a recurrent problem when the army was on exercises in remote Indian villages. The army unit is normally moved away before complaints become too many. The former Citizens' Committee from L.T.T.E. days has now been resurrected under the I.P.K.F.. The Colonel told them of how he had been fired upon while in the camp and showed some tiny bullets. He told them, "You must put a stop to this. I am considerate and did not do anything this time. The next time, I will shell the place." The Citizens' Committee apologised profusely. During an operation, I heard the Colonel ordering his men over the wireless. He was telling them not to shoot anyone, but if necessary to give chase. But I do not know how good such instructions will be when a trooper gets killed."
On the 7th November, Indian troops in Inuvil and Maruthanamadam were tense as the result of reports of L.T.T.E. movements in that area. A tractor carrying bags of rice for a refugee camp and coming from the west through a lane, crossed the K.K.S. road a few yards south of Inuvil Hospital. In the process, it knocked against an I.P.K.F. barrier and crossed into the lane opposite, going east. The I.P.K.F. sentry at Maruthanamadam fired shells which went over the hospital and fell near the lane. One fell on the house of a Prof. Chandrasegaram who was sleeping under a table with his legs sticking out. His legs were badly mangled. He was admitted to the hospital and died a few hours later.
At Atchuvely, during the first week of November, some L.T.T.E. members threw grenades at the I.P.K.F. and escaped through a Proctor Balasingam's house. Two soldiers were killed. Soldiers entered Proctor Balasingam's house and called out the Proctor, his wife and another person, who were helpless parties in the matter. Subsequently all three were shot dead.
Despite a publicly expressed wish by the Indian authorities to restore normality, public service employees, hospital employees and University employees get beaten up by Indian troops at Manipay, Sandilipay, Thavady, Uduvil and Maruthanamadam as they report for work.
On the night of 7 December, about thirty L.T.T.E. men arrived at a small temple at Kondavil. The people of that area went to them and asked them to leave, saying that their lives were going to be endangered. The L.T.T.E. refused to leave. The people then replied that they were going to inform the I.P.K.F.. The L.T.T.E. men replied: "You need not bother, we can do it ourselves". Saying this, they fired their guns into the air. The people hurriedly left that area and went into temples. The newly arrived troops surrounded the area in the morning. Some L.T.T.E. men who remained behind, shot at the soldiers and ran away. Two soldiers were killed. That morning, some C.T.B. (Ceylon Transport Board) workers were driving to work in a bus, towards Kondavil depot, as a part of the effort by the Indian authorities to restore normality. At Kondavil junction, the bus was stopped by soldiers and the driver and conductor were very badly assaulted. Each time the wounded man groaned, angry soldiers hammered the bus and broke some of its windows. The driver and conductor thought they were finished, when, fortunately, an officer arrived and asked the soldiers to call it off. During this ordeal, the remaining CTB employees lay on the floor of the bus saying their prayers.
That same night, Mr. Balasingam, the brother of Mr. Thuraisingam, office assistant to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Jaffna, and his uncle Mr. Kopalasingam remained behind in their home at Kondavil to safeguard it from robbers, whilst others betook themselves to the temple. Soldiers came and called them out. Mr. Balasingam was stabbed to death and Mr. Kopalasingam was admitted to hospital with gunshot injuries. Mr. Balasingam had got married only a year previously. Two other young men were summoned from the entrance to a temple where they were standing and stabbed to death. In all six civilians were stabbed to death that night.
On that day (8 December), a local curfew was suddenly imposed in a wide area stretching from Inuvil to Kopay at 11.00 a.m. Many who went to work or to buy essentials in town suddenly found themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere. Knowing that their families would have a sleepless night if they did not return, they made risky detours through country lanes avoiding the main roads. A typical experience was that of Mr. Murugavel's, the University Librarian, who had to get back home to Erlalai: "We were going north along Rajapathai when I saw some people rushing towards me, going south. We stopped to ask what the matter was. They rushed past me without stopping. Suddenly gun shots started whizzing past us. We turned our bicycles around and hooked it. We then went east, crossed Pt. Pedro Road and went north through lanes in order to avoid the army sentries at Irupalai and Kopay. We crossed the Kopay - Kaithadi Road at a point 300 yards east of the Kopay sentry and got into another lane. Further down, we headed west, crossing the Pt. Pedro Road and went towards Puttur along a lane. We then got to Erlalai by travelling along the Puttur - Chunnakam Road." These are the conditions of normality under which thousands report for work!
On 27 November, Mr. Gananathan was going from Sandilipay towards Jaffna when he was stopped by the army sentry at the Kattudai irrigation channel and was asked to join a party of nine others in the channel, standing waist deep in water. Amongst the party were 3 girls and a pensioner who had taken advantage of the I.P.K.F.'s "normality" to go to Jaffna and collect his pension. The pensioner tried to plead his case, only to be by the soldiers: "We are dying and you want you pension eh!" They were told further that a party of thirty soldiers had gone looking for the L.T.T.E. and if anyone of them came to harm, they would all be killed. Gun shots were periodically fired into the water above and around them. Gananathan, who had on a previous occasion got to know one of the Sikh soldiers at the Sandilipay sentry point, tried appealing to him: "You are my friend." "You are not my friend today," came the reply. Someone from the I.P.K.F. inquired over the wireless as to what was happening. "There is a queue waiting for rice", replied one of the soldiers. All seemed to enjoy the little joke. The party was let off after 45 minutes. During that interval they had appealed to all the gods in the pantheon. Eleven I.P.K.F. soldiers were killed in that area the following day when they surrounded a party of the L.T.T.E..
2.4______ Encounters with Indians during the War
Our reports suggest that in encounters between civilians and officers, the latter were frequently arrogant and over-bearing. There was little effort to face up to where things had gone wrong. Civilians were often hectored and bullied and the civilians merely swallowed their feelings.
On the other hand we have met some young, reflective officers who have displayed intelligence, courtesy and a desire to learn more about problems here by listening to civilians. One such person was a young Major. He recognised that women had a problem and had spread the word encouraging them to scream if they sensed danger. In all cases that we have heard of, this has worked. He had noted in his diary the Tamil words for, "come out, do not be afraid." He told us that he had been in town during the advance, and when people had expressed an inability to move to camps, he had advised them to close up and stay inside. Having known him, we believe he was telling the truth.
A common belief amongst the Indian officers is that they were engaged in a full scale war. Many of the officers were brought in, after hostilities broke out, with little or no knowledge of the complexities of the situation they faced. They were simply ordered to take Jaffna and they went according to their books as if they were facing a highly sophisticated standing army. The enemy was in fact a group of 2,000 teenagers, fighting in any manner they could improvise, caring as little about civilian lives. By available accounts the Indian force consisted of over 20,000 men, supported by tanks and artillery. Some officers confessed that they had to come here in a hurry after picking up something of the situation from Front Line magazine and from Tamil friends.
A Major attached to the Gurkha Regiment stationed near Thirunelvely, explained to some members of the University staff: "The Gurkhas form the most disciplined regiment in the Indian Army. Last night (14th December) we heard some firing from the Thirunelvely colony. I ordered my men to hold their fire and to shoot only if they saw someone shooting at them. I know that the L.T.T.E. was given to such provocation in the hope that several civilians would be killed during reprisals."
At least one Major in the Gurkha regiment was intelligent enough to understand the L.T.T.E.'s strategy. He understood that all that is required of the L.T.T.E. to rattle the I.P.K.F. and to obstruct any semblance of normality is to fire a few shots and run away. As a pre-condition for normality, the I.P.K.F. must first make up its mind as to whether it is going to be a real peace keeping force or an undisciplined army. When the Indian Army undertook the peace keeping role, it should have been prepared to sustain casualties. But taking reprisals against civilians on sustaining casualties has become the normal thing. An exception was when two soldiers from the Madras regiment were killed in Chunnakam, on the 14th of December. The I.P.K.F. has such a low regard for the civilian population, that reprisals against civilians are not taken seriously. We do not know of any soldier being court-martialled for killing unarmed civilians. A casual attitude to civilian deaths certainly emanates from the top. A top ranking military official was questioned about the shelling of the civilian population. He said: "I have not used shelling in my area. But if this situation continues, I will have to think about it."
It has been evident that many soldiers from Tamil Nadu have found what was happening here too much to stomach. A Jawan once said: "You should see the destruction at Urumpirai and Kopay. Hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed. But the Tigers have escaped. Be careful, the northerners are in a bilious mood." Here he was referring to the North Indians in the I.P.K.F.. A touching piece of advice came from an army officer from Tamil Nadu who took a respected member of the community aside and poured out what had been bothering him. He said: "If you have been in Jaffna town, you would not know the full extent of the hardships suffered by the people. You should go towards Urumpirai and see what has happened. Innocent people have been killed by the hundreds. We officers understand the problem independently of whether they are Tamil of not. The Jawans are from all over India, from different cultures and are very ignorant. They do not know a Tamil from a Sinhalese. For them, even a 5 year old child is a Tiger. If one shot is fired they will fire a round. If one of them is killed, they will simply kill ten civilians. It is only now that we are trying to conduct some lectures and are trying to explain the situation to them. I am so tired. I wish to resign from the army in four months' time."
The community leader tried to comfort him by telling him that the Tamils had also suffered from the actions of the Sri Lankan Army. The officer waved his hand and shook his head. He said, "An army is an army. All armies are the same. The Indian Army is the world's most undisciplined army. One thing I can tell you is that, now that the I.P.K.F. is here, the people will have to choose between the I.P.K.F. and the L.T.T.E., and you cannot get the Indian Army out by shooting. If the L.T.T.E. shoots one, the Indian Army will shoot ten. If you must protest, as you should, bring a hundred thousand people and have a demonstration. But avoid shooting at all costs."
2.5______ A Personal Assessment
Perhaps, the following comment from a university lecturer in medicine offers something towards understanding the present crisis:
"I think the whole psychology of the Indian Army changed following the landing of commandos at Thirunelvely on 12 October. That was an area where there was a high concentration of L.T.T.E. men and the L.T.T.E. was able to mobilise effectively. Having spurned air-cover (which the Sri Lankans never did), the commandos suffered an unexpected reverse. Up to about that time the Indian Army showed concern for civilian life. Around then a convoy of Indian troops came past my house. They were at ease and were waving at civilians. The L.T.T.E. fired at the convoy and my own house became a battle ground. I had to flee with a lady and children who were with me. We were at first fired upon and, later, when they realised that were were not L.T.T.E. men, we were allowed to walk away unharmed. The army asked the people in the next house to come out with their hands up. But when they came out, an L.T.T.E. boy sneaked up behind them and fired at the army. The officer shouted asking them to get inside the house and allowed them time to do so before opening fire. There was a very real sense in which the L.T.T.E. was
using civilian cover. But not in the crude sense claimed by All India Radio. During that experience, the Indian Army displayed concern for civilian life.
"Then I feel the psychology changed and there was a deliberate decision to use terror. The intensity of killing at Urumpirai a week later was very different from what I had experienced. Shelling a large army concentrated behind a battle front is understandable. But in our context, with a small thinly spread out guerrilla force, shelling becomes a weapon of terror. It all leaves a bad taste. The Indian Army may have been disorganised in many things. But the suspicion that there was a deliberate decision to terrorize is reinforced by a remarkable consistency in the threats made. It became common-place for different companies of officers and Jawans to say things like, "I will shoot you" or "I will flatten this place." It was a tragic step for Mahatma Gandhi's India."
Chapter 4
(Jaffna, The End Of 1987)
4.1____ Introduction
Throughout history, the cost of war in terms of deaths, mutilation, torture, grief, destruction of material resources, privation, social disorganisation and psychological trauma, as been enormous and, in recent times, war has become increasingly costly and ever more destructive. The continued occurrence of war, accompanied by the presence of standing armies and the manufacture and stockpiling of costly weapons of limitless destructive power, shows man's incompetence in solving his problems in peaceful ways and his drive to struggle for power by violence and aggression. Woe unto a population caught in such a war!
During the months of October and November, 1987, Jaffna witnessed death and destruction on a scale unprecedented in its history. Military operations have been going on full scale in Eastern Sri Lanka and to a limited extent in the North, as part of the chronic civil war being waged in the last few years. The so called Operation Liberation, in the middle of 1987 in the Vadamaratchi area brought the action into the heartland of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. A similar fate for the rest of the Jaffna peninsula had been in the offing and frequently threatened. It is a tragic irony that it was left to the Indians who had all along been championing the Tamil cause and had been looked upon as their saviours and protectors, to complete this task. A comparable number of deaths has been claimed by epidemics in the past but in terms of the agony, destruction, terror and mayhem of complete war and the duration of continued action, the Indian military action far surpassed anything Jaffna had ever experienced. In the final analysis, it is perhaps the psychological trauma to the civilian population, even more than the deaths, the physical hardships and destruction of property, that is most poignant. Though not by any means a new or unique experience in the annals of the history of war, an attempt is made here to record the psychological impact of this acute war, from the perspective of a participant-observer. It is based on an earlier, more detailed, clinical study, "The psychological sequelae to the chronic civil war in Northern Sri Lanka," during the period 1983 - 1987.
4.2____ Stress
Psychodynamically war is a form of severe stress that can cause, even in previously stable personalities, temporary personality decompensation, leading to transient stress reaction. The decompensation can be acute and sudden as in the case of an individual exposed to an overwhelming experience of death and destruction; or chronic and gradual as in the case of a person who has been subjected to being a refugee or living under conditions of unpredictable and irregular shelling. Usually the individual shows good recoverability once the stress situation is withdrawn, although in some cases there is residual, permanent damage to the personality and an increased vulnerability to stress. In the case of individuals who are marginally adjusted to begin with, or who are predisposed to mental illness, the situational stress may precipitate more serious psychopathology and neurotic or psychotic illness. It is not possible to predict with absolute certainty what form the reaction to stress will take in a particular individual, though the premorbid personality, previous reaction patterns to stress, family history of mental illness and the specific meaning and severity of stress in the unique life situation of the individual are good indicators. Indeed in some, stress may lead to adaptation and provide the impetus for personality development and increased stress tolerance. Common symptoms of what has been called "war neurosis" are dejection, weariness, tension, irritability, hypersensitivity, startled reaction, sleep disturbance and tremors; or more specifically, anxiety, phobias and depression. In clinics held at refugee camps, the majority of cases, apart from skin conditions (like scabies), gastrointestinal disturbances (like diarrhoea and peptic ulcer) and upper respiratory tract infections, were suffering from transient stress relations,
reactive depression and anxiety. They manifested somatic symptoms, of which the following were common: headache, dizziness, dyspepsia, backache, palpitation, chest pain, paresthesias and other multiple complaints for which no obvious organic cause could be found. On questioning, symptoms of sleep disturbance, irritability, dejection, loss of appetite and "worries" were discovered. It has been found that patients from developing countries, who lack psychological awareness, 'Somatise' their mental and emotional problems in terms of physical complaints. This could explain the common finding of multiple bodily complaints as a reaction to the chronic stress of being displaced.
During the military operation several factors contributed to the inducement of stress in the civilian population. A significant phenomenon during those days was the large number of refugees. More than 75% of the civilians from affected areas were displaced at one time or another, the figure reaching 100% in some areas. 'Fight or flight' is the normal neurophysiological response of an organism to threatening stimuli. Flight is the more common response particularly when the threat is overwhelming. Chronic flight due to continuing danger leads to one fleeing his home as a refugee to a safer place. The status of being a refugee creates in one a feeling of homelessness and loss of traditional support, with the collapse of the world one knew and the regular routine that was the framework of one's daily life. Many civilians sought refuge at temples and schools as advised by the Indian Army. These same temples and schools were shelled, resulting in a large number of civilian deaths. It was a tragedy that even refugee camps such as Kokuvil Hindu College, Chundikuli Girls' College, Jaffna Railway station, Inuvil Pillayar Kovil and the Karamban Roman Catholic Church turned out to be death traps. No place was safe. In some refugee centres, people were marched in front of masked "nodders". Some youths were shot, others were taken away. At Manipay Hindu Ladies' College, women were raped. Decomposing bodies were not allowed to be burnt or buried. It was reported that a mother had to look on, while dogs ate her dead son a few yards away. Large numbers were confined in small spaces for long periods of time, sometimes 2 to 3 days. They were without food and water, with perhaps kanchy1 in some places. They had to relieve themselves within the rooms they were in. The children and the old were badly affected. Appeals to the Indian Army fell on deaf ears or were answered with threats of being shot.
As the army advanced behind them, the refugees trekked over long distances seeking alternative refugee shelters. The old and the disabled had to be left behind. A large number fled from one part of the peninsula to another until, eventually, there was no place left. The more enterprising and affluent ones fled to Singapore, the U.K.,_ Canada, Australia,_ France, West Germany and so on.
The accumulated stress of leaving their homes and usual habitat was accentuated by a complete disruption of normal life patterns, together with lack of food, rest, medical attention and a continuing atmosphere of fear and terror. Another important psychological stress the civilian population faced was the sudden change of the role of the Indians. It has been found that an individual is better able to cope if he understands and accepts the necessity for any particular stress. The Tamils coped with the chronic civil war with the Sri Lankan Army and the accompanying atrocities because they believed they were involved in a legitimate struggle for their human rights. For the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the tragedy of the Indian action lay in the fact that India, the source of their culture and traditions, a holy place of pilgrimage, had always been held in the most intimate and revered terms. When the Indian Army suddenly started treating the local population as its enemy and to kill and destroy mercilessly, this metamorphosis from friend and protector to aggressor and enemy was undoubtedly the most shocking and psychologically traumatising factor of the whole war.
The public was unprepared for the sudden onslaught. People had breathed a sigh of relief at the coming of the Indians and even stopped keeping stocks of essential item as was customary at the time of the Sri Lankan Army's activities.
The older generation particularly found this change of role difficult to accept and different psychological defence mechanisms like denial, rationalisation and intellectualisation were resorted to, to cope with this changed situation. Some denied that it was the Indian Army that was shelling and shooting and claimed that it was probably the Sri Lankan Army, that only the militants were being killed and that the civilian had nothing to worry about. Others maintained that the atrocities were perpetuated by the North Indians, while the South Indians were "Good" and trying to stop the North Indians. Still others rationalised saying that this was all necessary and that we will
understand only later. According to them, the action would be over in a few days and then there would be permanent peace.
They continued to believe completely the psychological propaganda spewed out by the Indian Radio special programs (Anpuvali and Veti Malai). They continued to have faith and trust in the Indian Army, till they were confronted with the stark reality of seeing their houses shelled or their friendly approaches answered by a hail of bullets. And still some continued to rationalise the consequences as something that happens with any army and held that we would have fared much worse under Sri Lanka Army. And then there were those who looked at it intellectually. For example a doctor compared it to a surgical procedure to excise a cancerous growth, where a certain amount of healthy tissue also has to be removed. (Only here, excessive healthy tissue was removed due to careless surgery, endangering the lives of the patients, while the cancerous cells escaped, leading to widespread matastasis). By these and similar "explanations", people sought to maintain their mental balance, their psychological homeostasis, in the face of the unexpected Indian attack.
It has been found that information facilitates adaptive reaction to stress. Lack of information and breakdown in communication lead to much confusion, apprehension and disorganisation. The local population had no precise information about what was going on; rumours and half-truths circulated from mouth to mouth. The Indian radio's 'local' programs (Anbu vali and Veti Malai) and the Eelamurasu, the local newspaper, gave completely opposing versions. Each side announced victory after victory with heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy. What became increasingly clear was that these casualties referred to civilians and that heavy fighting continued. In mid November, the Eelamurasu was silenced and the Indian radio happily continued to announce the return of normality - the opening of shops, offices and schools, the restoration of services etc., when in actual fact, people were still afraid to walk around in their own compounds as full scale military operations were still in progress. Only two months later, in January 1988, did civilian life really limp back to normality, once the hostility had decreased.
Even those who could communicate in English or Tamil were terse and snappy or threatening. The Indian Army was evidently not interested. Everyone was the enemy. There was nothing to talk about. The civilians, usually leading senior citizens, who tried holding white flags were rebuffed rudely or sent scurrying be a hail of bullets above their heads. The Tellipallai District Hospital was shelled heavily for two and a half hours with 67 shells falling within the compound and injuring members of the staff and damaging many buildings, although there was no resistance or presence of militants in or near the hospital. After the shelling, a delegation of senior staff members in uniform, together with ambulant patients approached the nearby camp, but were stopped about 100 yards away. The sentry was seen to use the telephone and then he shouted at the delegates to get back or be shot. Again on_ 17 October, troops, while moving on the road in front fired on the hospital and on uniformed staff members. Although the army moved frequently along the hospital road, no attempt was made to establish communication with this big institution. The first contact was made only on Nov. 11, a month later. This lack of communication led to much uncertainty and helplessness in the minds of the public. They did not know what was expected of them or what rules and regulations to follow.
Most stress reactions show spontaneous recovery once the stress is withdrawn as did happen when people started returning to their homes, and communication and contact was established, with clearer information available. The atmosphere of hostility and terror was defused beginning from January 1988. But the fact that the stress had been fairly severe, was shown by the long time people took to recover. The refractory period was prolonged unlike after the Sri Lankan Army operations, where people resumed civil life immediately or had learned to continue despite military activity. A haunting sense of shock, disbelief and disillusionment, fear and terror, loss and sorrow still lingers like a bad taste. The Tamil man will not easily forget this experience.
On the positive side, some adapted well to the stress and showed hidden strength and leadership qualities. Particularly encouraging was that individuals, considered as trouble makers or administrative headaches during normal times, acted with heroism and initiative. At the Tellipallai District Hospital, a lady doctor, though with child,
continued to run the hospital despite heavy shelling and direct firing on the hospital and her quarters. When most of the staff had fled, she stayed on with four nurses and looked after the patients for over two months, doing yeoman service at this critical juncture. The local population as a whole, after some initial panic and disorganisation, learnt to cope with the situation for two months, while fierce battles raged on all fronts, amidst exploding shells and gunfire, a continuous shoot-at-sight curfew and a breakdown of all civil organisations. The usual amenities of civilized life that we had been so used to, were suddenly not there. What are normally considered essential requirements, such as electricity, water, mail, transport and access to main roads, hospital and medical services, banking and circulation of money, jobs and salaries , ceased to exist for over 2 months. People were caught unawares without any stocks. Open shops were scarce. A large number of refugees were on the move. The injured needed medical care. The sick and disabled, infants and pregnant mothers, unfed domestic animals ... the problems were unlimited. The reaction was often inspired and heart warming. People became accommodating, forgot old quarrels and helped complete strangers. Refugees were given shelter and food shared. People came forward to donate bags of rice, flour, milk and vegetables to refugee camps, food for the infants, care for the sick, solace for the grieved, and refugees were fed and clothed for long periods, thus establishing new friendships.
Small acts of heroism such as retrieving the injured and taking them to hospital facing great personal danger, were much in evidence. At St. Anthony's Church at Chunnakam, eleven severely injured persons were kept alive overnight by a nurse and St. John's ambulance volunteers until midday when permission was given by the army to the priest in charge of St. Anthony's Church to take them to hospital. At Sanguveli, when some young girls were taken away by Jawans, a brave, middle-aged woman approached the army camp, a very risky undertaking in those shoot-at-sight days, and raised such a cry that the commanding officer fired some shots into the air and the Jawans returned meekly to camp. The girls escaped being raped.
Communities organised themselves into groups to deal with urgent issues. Enterprising shopkeepers kept the interior areas supplied with essential items at reasonable prices, often taking risks to procure items from neighbouring areas. But as a whole, the community managed to withstand the severe pressure for over two months, completely on their own, with no outside help. They have established their self reliance, self-sufficiency and their ability to live off the land without the modern amenities of civilization. They have lived up to the local palmyrah tradition.
4.3____ Anxiety
Phobic anxiety is basically the psychological component of a fear reaction that has become incapacitating. Fear was the predominant emotion during this time and phobic anxiety states could be considered almost normal under the circumstances. They usually reported intense apprehension, fear, feeling of impending doom or death, tension, being edgy, irritable, vigilant and easily startled, dyspnoea, palpitation, chest pain, choking sensation, sweating, abdominal pain, loose motions and increased micturation. Some reported frequent panic attacks, particularly during shelling, gunfire or on seeing the army. Children were reported to run and cling on to their parents or hide under beds. Many had sleep disturbances like difficulty in falling asleep, interrupted sleep, anxiety dreams where they see themselves being injured or chased by the army, nightmares and fitful sleep, with fatigue on awakening. Patients with a previous history of angina pectoris, developed anginal pain during these attacks. It was observed that some instinctively resorted to repeating mantras or short prayers which have been shown to work as relaxation techniques to alleviate anxiety.
What has been described as existential anxiety was also observable in some cases. Deaths became a pressing reality and people had to deal with that fear daily. What had been quietly forgotten or submerged in the press and care of daily life, broke into one's awareness, Man was made aware of his existential state, the transience of life that everything born must die one day. As death stalked the land, the veil that separated life form death was rent asunder and one stood face to face with stark reality. An existential fear gripped everyone. An old, experienced man compared the present war to the great destructive forces of nature - famine, epidemics, cyclones... Groping for mythical symbols to express his deep feeling, he said: "Mother Kali with her Asura forces from India have descended on Jaffna!"
Terror, a form of extreme fear, was widely prevalent in the months of October and November. This was not surprising since it was quite evident that there was a deliberate attempt at the time to terrorise the civilian
population. The usual uniformity in the behaviour of the Jawans towards the civilians lends support to this assertion. As mentioned earlier, there was no attempt to establish communication or contact with the civilians; rather it was actively discouraged. Where there was conversation, usually during search operations, it was terse, snappy and revealingly similar. "Any sound from this direction and we will flatten your house and shoot you all." This was repeated in different situations, in different places, by different Jawans. Was this a standard order from higher-up? This wall of silence, except for the few belligerent words spoken, caused uncertainty, a feeling of isolation and loneliness, made worse by being cut off from the outside world.
Secondly the Jawans were undoubtedly free to do as they wished. By their words and deeds, the they conveyed the message that they had been given a free hand by the higher-ups. They were not accountable and people felt deserted, alone, without protection and without recourse to justice. An Indian Red Cross doctor told me that this could only have happened here. There was nothing to ask. This never happened in Punjab or or in Bangladesh. The army felt free to destroy, kill, loot, rape... They were allowed to run amok, unchecked for nearly two months. This lack of restraint, the liberty to do as they wished, contributed to the atmosphere of terror. The atmosphere changed gradually from December as the commanders started to apply some constraints, making the Jawans accountable for their actions and took action on complaints. This did ease the situation somewhat and the Jawans showed much more restraint in their behaviour. A third factor contributing to the reign of terror was the inhuman behaviour of the army. The local population was pushed, shoved and beaten with extreme callousness and brutality. Status, age, sex,.... nothing mattered. Lawyers, doctors, engineers; the old, the young; and the sick and the disabled were all shot even after being identified; whole families were pulled out of their houses and shot. The bloody assault on the Jaffna hospital with the massacre of doctors, nurses and patients, described in detail elsewhere, was the epitome of this type of barbarous behaviour that struck terror in the hearts of the people.
Fourthly the indiscriminate shelling, particularly the its unpredictability and terrific noise, were instruments of psychological terror. It is questionable whether the intense shelling of whole areas achieved any military objective. There were at the most only a few thousand militants among 800,000 civilians in Jaffna, whereas the Indians went about it as if it was conventional war against a large army. One wondered how many of the militants were actually hit by any one of the thousands of shells that fell on Jaffna. As for its psychological effect, the militants could be observed to be nonchalantly moving around in casual conversation, quite unalarmed by the exploding shells.
But the persistent shelling of densely populated areas, even after large scale resistance and mortar shelling ceased, speaks of a more sinister purpose. Sixty shells fell on the Tellipallai hospital on 12 October, when no militants were around. The Christa Seva Ashram with well over a thousand refugees was heavily shelled on 13 October, with a part of the chapel roof collapsing on the incumbent. Again no militants were around. In addition there was the so called "noise" shell which exploded with a thunder-clap effect. This was obviously a psychological weapon used with deadly effect on the civilians. Nights were spent in abject terror, partly due to what has been called the anticipatory anxiety of not knowing when and where a shell would fall. Some died of psychological shock. A mother who had delivered her second child, died suddenly when Chankanai was shelled. Many children have never got over the effect of the noise and remain hypersensitive to any loud noise. Two children who had gone to Colombo as refugees developed severe anxiety and clung to there parents when fire-crackers were lit for the New Year. The animal population too suffered terribly from the noise pollution. Trembling dogs were seen scampering all over, rabbits dropped dead and wild birds vanished from the Jaffna Peninsula. The cry of despair that escaped from an old man in late November reflected the anguish of all living things: "When will this infernal noise stop? When will the shooting cease? Oh, when will peace return to this land?"
Another devastating aspect of the shells was the destruction of property and mutilation of civilians. Residents at Inuvil hospital heard a shell whiz past overhead and in a few moments a Professor Chandrasekaran of Jaffna University was carried over the hospital boundary wall with both legs gone and bleeding profusely. That image was to recur in their minds and send them into panic whenever they heard shells. One has to concede to the credit of the Indians, that neither heavy artillery nor the more lethal fragmenting shells favoured by the Sri Lankan Army was used and heavy bombing was not resorted to. But there was no need at all for artillery fire on a civilian population.
A questionable feature of the heavy destruction due to shelling was that it fell short of Jaffna. There is severe destruction on all roads leading to Jaffna, but stopping just short of the city limits. There was stiff resistance to the army in Jaffna and many civilian deaths but not much destruction of buildings. One wonders why. Could it be the
Indians wanted to preserve Jaffna? But subsequent events such as their hurry to establish normality within the Jaffna Town suggest that they wanted the town intact and whole for their conducted tours for foreign journalists. If this is true, then it shows a degree of pre-planning and a deliberate use of the artillery for nonmilitary purposes.
The decision to use terror may have been to wrest control over the civilian population and force them to relinquish their sympathy and support for the L.T.T.E.. Perhaps due to their failure to win a quick victory and their gross underestimation of the L.T.T.E., the Indian Army found itself fighting a desperate battle to save face and take Jaffna at all costs. A second possible reason may have been a reaction to the fighting tactics of the L.T.T.E.'s guerrilla warfare in an urban setting. The civilian population was used for cover. They fought from hospitals, temples and schools. Women and children performed military tasks and allegedly dead bodes were desecrated. These may not have been the norms of war, the Dharma, that the Indian Army expected. If one is to rationalize the behaviour of the Jawans at all, it must be in the context of their being psychologically unprepared for this type of battle and as a rage reaction to the way it was fought.
_____ It has been reported that some sodiers were airlifted over long distances and immediately pressed into battle without adequate rest. Others came with only a change of clothes expecting the action to be a pushover and to be completed in a few days. They were handicapped by fighting an elusive enemy using guerrilla tactics, along with rigid conventional lines, resulting in heavy casualties. For example, at Uduvil on Oct. 13, a convoy of tanks was ambushed by a handful of teenage militants. It was observable that the army kept to the main road or ventured at the most into the road-side houses and compounds leaving the few militants free to move around in the interior, three or four houses deep from the road and in the fields. While setting themselves up as easy targets from all directions, the army allowed the militants to literally run in circles around them. Apparently they had been ordered to take and hold on to the main roads and its main junctions. Indeed, there does not seem to have been any direct fighting during the whole war except at the University grounds and Urumpirai. Few in the Indian Army had any knowledge of the political situation. Put in a completely foreign environment and ignorant of the local language and customs, they may have undergone a paranoid reaction. They were suspicious of everyone, treating the whole local population as the enemy actively supporting the L.T.T.E..
"You L.T.T.E.? ... Where L.T.T.E.?" ... L.T.T.E., L.T.T.E. ...was the one word on their lips. It became an obsession with them. There may have been also an element of inexperience and over-reaction to the situation in some units. It was observable that guns and shells were fired with wild abandon, continually for long periods with little or no provocation. Sometimes one got the impression that they were indulging in using the weapons for the sheer pleasure or experience of it. Late in the night one would hear a shot and then a whole barrage in answer, that would go on and on, and then a few shells for good measure. These men had been pressed into battle mentally unprepared. Expecting a quick finish, but meeting fierce resistance in a foreign environment, they reacted with an uncontrolled frenzy. Later on, a soldier tried to explain their behaviour by saying: "When one of us dies, our blood begins to boil and we do not know what we are doing." But in enlisting in the army, they should have expected battle and death and not taken it out on the civilian population when faced with such grim realities. It may be said that an army is an army and as armies go, they were no worse. But then, we expected something better from India.
In the final analysis, the ultimate responsibility for what ensued, rests with the higher command and more with the political administrators in New Delhi and their representative in Colombo for putting their men in a difficult situation. It was a situation largely of their own making.
The use of terror may have worked to some extent on a society that has learned the language of violence and was used to being ruled by terror. But to continue to rule by the use of terror is costly and impracticable and the Indians have realised this as evidenced by their current efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil by more humane methods. Their recent (February 1988) search operations in Batticaloa were carried out with much more restraint and consideration for the civilians.
The terror of those days still lingers like a persistent bad taste, a recurrent nightmare. The Jaffna man is unlikely to forget that experience in a hurry as can be seen by his lukewarm responses to friendly overtures of army personnel. After all, friendship is not something that can be turned on and off like a switch.
4.4 Grief Reactions
Grief reactions were common during this period. Due to the suddenness and the psychologically traumatising circumstances surrounding the death of loved ones (such as the noise and destruction, the blood, mutilating injuries, pain, lack of medical attention and standing helpless as loved ones died) there was an increased incidence of the more severe reactions and several with atypical features.
A middle aged engineer whose 3 children and mother-in-law had been pulled out of their home and shot dead on the street for no apparent reason, developed a severe grief reaction with secondary alcoholism. He spent his days in deep sorrow with attacks of crying spells, the pangs of grief buffeting him like waves. His mind was preoccupied with thoughts of his children. He complained of loss of purpose in life with suicidal ruminations. His nights were particularly bad with recurrent nightmares about his children and their suffering, especially his pretty daughter. The soldier had lifted up her frock and shot her through the groin. She could not walk and had to drag herself along the road and finally bled to death for lack of adequate medical attention. This picture kept recurring in his mind. He would say: "She was deeply loved and I brought her up without a care. And now she had to suffer like this... It is unbearable," and break into sobs. Hostility, a feature typical of grief reaction, was apparent in his accusations of medical mismanagement, wanting revenge ("I'll personally kill these soldiers,") and his filing a case. His wife too was inconsolable and he expressed a fear that she would cry herself to death. They felt that without their children, life had lost its meaning. Previously an occasional drinker, he had now started drinking heavily and was in a state of intoxication most of the day and night.
A 24 year old farmer from Alaveddy developed an atypical grief reaction when his father and uncle were shot while attending to their cows. He became restless with irrational and incoherent speech and behaved in an abnormal and bizarre way. The picture was that of a psychotic reaction and required electroconvulsion therapy.
In some cases, multiple deaths of close relations precipitated decompensation. A nurse, previously of a jovial personality, developed a severe depressive illness when several of her close relations died. She needed intensive treatment before she gradually recovered.
4.5 Reactive Depression
A large number of patients with depression secondary to the current situation presented to the out-patient clinic and for in-ward treatment. The reactive type of depression is known to be brought on by any type of loss. In addition to the grief reactions, some of which merged into true depressive illness due to loss of loved ones, the other common causes for the development of the illness were loss of house and property due to shelling, loss of employment and other sources of income, loss of dignity and humiliation due to arrest and/or assault and loss of virginity and chastity due to rape.In some cases, wives presented with reactive depression when their husbands were taken in for questioning and assaulted. Conversely, husbands developed loss of libido and other depressive features when their wives were raped.
An Indian Army doctor speaking to me soon after his arrival following the July '87 peace accord, expressed his shock and sorrow at seeing so many houses destroyed. His camp was near Kurumbasiddy, where most houses had been destroyed by the Sri Lankan Army. I agreed, saying that it was built with their life-earnings. To this he replied: "It is not merely the money, it is the love and affection with which they would have built and maintained their homes. To see all that destroyed must be heart rending." I do not know whether he was here to see what happened in October and November and whether he would still be sympathetic.
The straw that broke the camel's back, the loss that proved to be just too much to bear after seeing their houses damaged or destroyed, that which tipped the scale into full blown depressive illness, was the loss of their personal
belongings due to looting by the locals. A very unfortunate outcome of the prevailing situation, a state of anarchy without law or order, was the widespread looting that went unchecked. Those vulnerable, those most affected, were the ones who had already suffered much. It was a sad reflection on our community.
4.6____ Psychosomatic Disorders
Psychological stress is known to cause physical disorders like eczema, backaches, headaches, bronchial asthma, hypertension, peptic ulcer and mucous colitis. Disorders of this nature were very common during the current period, particularly dyspepsia, tension headaches, backaches, hyperventilation and tachycardia.
In some cases the psychological stress led to more lethal consequences. Psychologically stressful life events are known to precipitate myocardial infection. A middle aged telephone operator at Tellipallai hospital who had been quite healthy, suddenly developed chest discomfort and died when his teenage children were taken in for questioning. A known hypertensive who had been doing quite well had a stroke and died when his area came under intense shelling.
In contrast, some of our patients who had been chronically ill with arthritis, backache and dyspnoea and some of hypochondriacal nature, appeared to get better during this period of stress and led a healthy life even without medication. The complaints returned with the easing of the situation.
4.7____ Personality Disorders
It has been found that individuals with abnormal personalities tend to join extreme organisations. Delinquents, aggressive and anti-social personalities may do well in a military set-up, where their energies can be diverted to national ends and their confinement in the army be a protection for the society.
It is a well established fact that war provides ample opportunity for sadistic personalities to derive pleasure from acts of violence, cruelty and torture on hapless victims. When the dogs of war were unleashed on Jaffna, one got the impression that a band of raving psychopaths had been let loose on the public. Strangely enough, after the cessation of military activities, the Jawans appeared to be a bunch of innocuous human beings, with the normal variety of personality traits and personal problems. It may be that the war machine itself brings out the darker aspects of one's personality and engenders behaviour bordering on the barbarous, which under normal conditions remained suppressed. To some extent this may have been due to the releasing of the usual restraints and discipline by the higher command. This was quite clear in the behaviour of the Jawans. They acted without any remorse and showed no fear of any disciplinary action from the commanding officers. In fact they indicated that they had been given a free hand. This picture improved by December and more so by the beginning of 1988. By January 1988 the Jawans were much more disciplined and polite and showed fear and uneasiness when indulging in anti-social or illegal activities. By now disciplinary action had been instituted. Identification parades were held and punishment meted out. It is interesting to note that the worst punishment from the point of view of the Jawans, was to be deported home without salary and their pension withdrawn. It is just possible that the officers had been hard put to control the troops after the initial reverses, the heavy casualties and the dirty, "Adharmic" war that erupted. In an attempt to maintain troop morale and retain some control, they may have allowed these indulgences. Indeed the officers themselves, with a few exceptions, were very indignant and belligerent during the actual war. The Indians were quick to realise quite early in the struggle, perhaps to the advantage of the local people, that it is easy to take, but difficult to hold onto an occupied land as shown in Vietnam and Afghanistan. They need the co-operation of the people. Thus the battle for the hearts and minds of the Jaffna men was launched; discipline and order were established, regular classes on public relations were held for the troops, rehabilitation and reconstruction work was commenced, and the popular medical clinics and food distribution were started in every village.
Once the tension eased, one got more insight into the personalities of the officers. As the Jawans started mixing with the public, one perceived the more human side of their character. Despite their metamorphosis during the war, they revealed a simple personality with problems that only the less sophisticated in extended family relationships will take seriously. They lived simply and had simple tastes, likes and dislikes. While in battle they had shown indomitable courage and a remarkable endurance. Another noticeable feature of their character, perhaps not
surprising considering their Indian origin, was their extreme religiosity, at least externally. Vibuthis, pottus, pictures and flowers on vehicles, worship and respect at temple were very much in evidence.
At times this took on a tragi-comic aspect, as when a soldier riding on top of a tank that had repeatedly fired on and severely damaged the Christa Seva Ashram and the attached Seminary, folded his hands and bowed his head in prayer as he passed the cross at the entrance! Much more touching were the innocent love affairs that sprang up, despite the language barrier, some even progressing to more permanent relationships. One got a glimpse into their background from the small things they 'lifted' while searching and their expression of awe at the prosperity of Jaffna by such exclamations as: "What do you lack? Everything has been given to you!" (They hardly realised that all that they saw had been earned and built by sweat and toil off a hard and dry land). Evidently they came from the poverty ridden villages of India and the army was an opportunity for their families' advancement. But this did not detract from their straight forwardness and a down-to-earth outlook and an occasional kind word for the locals. When a young farmer in a frustrated outburst shouted: "You beggars you come and occupy our land which we have struggled to develop and order us about and destroy every thing," the soldier merely patted him on the back and said, "I ... I understand, but don't repeat to others."
In contrast, the officers were very sophisticated, polished and suave. The army hierarchy appears to have bred an elite, true to form. They spoke good English with a typical accent, and were all-Indian in out-look, athletic in build and extroverted and social. Their personalities impressed and easily won over the leading local citizens. They appeared well disciplined and in complete control of the men. It was evident that the Indian Army was a historical institution with a long tradition behind it.
The officers made excellent public relations officers when they wanted to. Their main aim in dealing with the public was to reassure with flowery promises that ""everything will be attended to, there will be no problems. It is all a minor matter. Very soon there will be normality and peace. The only problem is the L.T.T.E., please advise them," and so on. An Indian Red Cross doctor complaining of the army's inefficiency said they will promise anything: "Yes, we will get it down form India tomorrow. Don't worry Doctor. No problem." But nothing whatsoever will be done. One got the impression that it was all a show and bluff which had a deep contempt and animosity for the public whose co-operation they nevertheless needed to run the place; an arrogance that broke through the veneer at the slightest frustration. This attitude may have been responsible for the disagreements that arose between the military, the Indian civil administration and Red Cross in Jaffna.
There were exceptions. Major Paramesvaran showed genuine concern for the plight of the civilians and initiated steps towards solving problems. Unfortunately for the Jaffna man, he chose (bravely or brashly) to lead his men into battle and paid the price. His loss was deeply felt by the local population who had come to place their trust and faith in him. One may say of him that despite his army background, he was a genuine person.
4.8 Torture
In the brief period the Indian Army has been in Jaffna, it appears that they have not as yet adopted the more psychologically damaging methods of torture. Thus we do not see the degree of psychological sophistication and the prolonged systematised torture of victims resorted to by the Sri Lankan security forces, sometimes for no apparent purpose, which resulted in short term and long term neuropsychological symptoms. Torture by the Indian Army has tended to be short term with the specific purpose of gaining information. Although physical damage was sometimes severe such as fractures and even death, psychological sequelae was not common. For example, a foreman at the Paranthan Chemical Factory was taken in due to mistaken identity and tortured by being hung by the legs and beaten on the soles and back. Electrical current was passed into the sensitive tongue and penis causing severe burns and the burning end of a cigarette applied to the atma. On his identity being established the next day, he was released. Despite severe physical damage, he did not appear to have any psychological sequelae.
In contrast, an engineer going to Peradeniya who was taken in by the Sri Lankan Army about the same time, was tortured systematically for a prolonged period by methods including the regular passage of current through his head. Though physical damage was minimal, he suffered a complete psychological breakdown and was admitted to the psychiatric ward muttering irrationally and irrelevantly, a mental wreck.
4.9____ Rape
What is said about violence in general is applicable to sexual violence. However sexual behaviour has its own unique characteristics. From time immemorial, plunder and rape have been considered the spoils of war. Although the total number of rapes during the Indian Army operation have been exaggerated in the press, it has been verified that quite a large number, ranging from young girls who had just attained age to old women well past their menopause were actually raped.
In our cultural setting, sexual violence takes on a more serious significance and has a severely psychologically traumatising effect on the victim and her close relations, including her husband. Chastity is traditionally considered one of the supreme virtues of women, to be safe guarded with the same diligence as their life. The screams and pleading of a young, attractive girl, whom three soldiers were trying to rape at gun point, still echoes in my ears. She fell at their feet and begged: "Please brother, shoot me, but don't do this..." Fortunately for her, her pleading got through to an officer who took pity and let her go, after slapping her. A young rape victim in Thirunelvely attempted to commit suicide by jumping into a well.
Loss of virginity in a young girl, even if against her will, meant that she could not aspire to marriage in our society and, if already married, there is a good chance that she will be abandoned. All rape victims are socially ostracised, often by the family also. It is not surprising that rape victims were not forthcoming in reporting such incidents and usually swallowed the suffering and injury silently.
Indeed this cultural milieu was quite familiar to the Indians and they took advantage of this silence and fear. In one case a girl had been taken in on suspicion because she had been in a school group-photograph with a known militant and been threatened by the captain with rape, assault, etc. (Perhaps the captain probably meant it only as a threat). Later, when she was released, a couple of Jawans had followed the family to their home, separated the parents and raped the girl. As she had started bleeding after the first had deflowered her, they had left saying they would come back the next day at the same time and that she should be in. It is worthy of note that in two cases where the victims braved both social ostracism and army intimidation to complain, the Indian investigating the case made out that the victims had to have some militant connection to be so bold as to complain. Although there was lack of action initially by the commanders, probably because they had to maintain troop morale in a difficult situation during the first two months, in later incidents disciplinary action was taken with identification parades and punishment, usually in the form of public thrashing and transfer to another unit. After December the Jawans were more discrete and circumspect. By 1988, the higher authorities showed much sensitivity on the issue of rape, probably due to the wide publicity outside Jaffna. They even brought in police-women and paramilitary women to allay the fear of the local women.
The psychological impact on the rape victim and her immediate family is quite severe. Initially, there is a period of shock lasting from a few hours to a day or two during which she is unable to speak and is choking and gasping; later a deep depression sets in with withdrawal, quietness and crying. Usually the incident leaves a permanent scar and she may be unable to rejoin the mainstream of social life. Two girls who later escaped to Colombo, continue to be depressed and dread the thought of returning home. The fear of pregnancy drove many to seek treatment, the mother or some relation insisting on positive assurance of non-pregnancy or requesting an abortion or D. & C., to be sure.
These incidents of rape, the lack of protection for women, and the rumours that spread, created a great fear among the women of Jaffna. The threat to womankind was very real in the months of October and November. Most women experienced sexual anxiety and felt exposed and vulnerable. Many fled to areas they felt were safe, a large exodus reaching Colombo in December when transport became available. Those left behind, started acting with circumspection by following the well meant advice of sympathetic, Tamil speaking Jawans - wearing sarees, putting poddus and staying indoors. It would appear that the Jaffna woman was perceived as more "liberated" and provocative vis-a-vis her Indian counterpart. Further, some of the women took it upon themselves, in a critical situation, to approach and be friendly and to establish communications when the men were rebuffed, assaulted or shot. This may have been misunderstood.
The public outcry and the wide publicity of this aspect of the Indian occupation that gained momentum from December reflected the deep rooted feeling of insecurity and the cultural significance of this threat to our women. A young lady who had fled to Colombo, confessed that when, on her return to Jaffna in January, she saw the Indian Army all over the place, a fear clutched at her heart and her immediate instinct was to get back to Colombo by the same bus. But she sensed, as only a woman can, that the men were now different, better behaved, and more disciplined.
4.10__ Psychosis
Environmental stress by itself is generally not sufficient to cause the major psychiatric illness called psychosis. But in a predisposed or vulnerable individual, stress may precipitate a psychotic illness or cause a relapse in a healthy individual who has had an attack earlier.
Due to the prevailing situation the psychiatric services did not function for over 2 months, except for the few patients who "got caught" in the psychiatric ward at Tellipallai when the situation suddenly erupted on 10 October. Consequent to the heavy shelling of the Tellipallai Hospital, many patients took flight from the ward. Of these, two are believed to have been shot dead and one who was shot through the thigh and external genitals, was brought back to the hospital for treatment. Many patients on long term maintenance treatment from out-patient clinics relapsed due to lack of drugs as evidenced by the large number of relapsed patients now coming for treatment. A middle aged lady who had been doing well for over a year without drugs, had a relapse when the barrel of a gun was thrust into her mouth. From that time she became restless and paranoid. For some it was the death of a close relation that caused the stress.
During this period, many of our patients faced special hardships that the mentally ill are normally not exposed to. A very attractive young girl developed a florid schizophrenic illness and was taken in while wandering due to restless behaviour. The truck she was being transported in was blown up by a landmine and she suffered head injury. She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at the Teaching hospital, Jaffna which was under army guard. While there, she had been taken to the nurses' changing room, threatened into submission and gang raped on four successive nights. Later she was taken to the K.K.S camp where she was reported to have been raped again. She had jumped from a high window and was readmitted to the Jaffna Hospital. While warded in the neurosurgical ward she had been repeatedly raped, by being taken to the toilet. She was later admitted to the psychiatric ward in a very disturbed state. Due to her mental condition, she manifested an increased libido, and this symptom of her illness may have been misinterpreted by the Jawans.
Some psychotic patients behaved in abnormal and suspicious ways, others wandered around during curfew hours and were taken in or shot. A young patient had been taken in while coming to collect his drugs at the O.A.D. clinic. He was given the so called "helicopter treatment" by being hung by the thumbs and beaten. He was sent to us three days later when, eventually, it was realised that something was mentally wrong with him. To report an incident with a more humorous twist to it, a schizophrenic patient who had earlier been warded at the psychiatric ward, was taken in on suspicion. He had promised to show the Indian Army some L.T.T.E. members. The jubilant army unit, in a convoy of jeeps and trucks was brought by the patient straight to the psychiatric ward! The whole area was cordoned off and security measures taken. The patient then proceeded to point to four patients warded there and said: "He robbed the Durghi Amman Temple; he is a top L.T.T.E. leader etc., etc.." When the psychiatric ward staff tried to explain that he was a mental patient probably acting under a delusion, the commander had indignantly replied: "He was talking quite rationally, how can he be mad?" They finally calmed down and left, leaving instructions to keep the four who had been pointed out, under confinement with no visitors or food, as cyanide capsules may be sneaked in with the food. The staff would be responsible if they escaped, they added.
Interestingly for some psychotic patients who had been handicapped by chronic illness, the period of stress appeared to be therapeutic, similar in effect to shock treatment leading to normal behaviour. There was a young engineer who had become apathetic and withdrawn and was at the time unemployed. He had attempted suicide twice, in deep depression. His area was the scene of heightened military activity with many deaths, refugees and so on. He responded by becoming quite energetic and helpful and undertook a variety of social tasks, even at risk to his life. His relations commented that he was quite normal for the first time in years.
4.11__ Childhood Disorders
Children under duress commonly present disturbances in physical function (such as enuresis, functional diarrhoea), emotion (such as crying spells, withdrawal) or behaviour (such as clinging, temper tantrums).
A dental surgeon's eleven month old son developed a chronic diarrhoea which did not respond to the usual medications. Their home had come under heavy shelling and they had fled from place to place as shelling and gunfire started wherever they stayed. The diarrhoea would stop and start again. This continued for 2 months. It suddenly stopped spontaneously when the family returned to their home after some normality and quiet had been established.
Disturbance in sleep with nightmares and night terrors were widely prevalent following traumatic incidents. The relieving of traumatic experience in dreams may serve as a natural abreactive process whereby the child is able to work through and come to terms with the traumatic experience by repeated exposure, which he is unable to cope with awake. Children were found to wake up screaming in the night, drenched in sweat. Parents had to stay with a child when he fell asleep and be by his side whenever he awakened. A doctor's four year old girl who had been sleeping by herself before, now breaks into a panic if her parents are missing when she awakes. She puts out her hand and feels reassured if they are there to her touch.
All children were not uniformly affected by the stress. It was noticed that after showing some initial fear and clinging behaviour due to exploding shells and rattle of machine guns, some were quite undisturbed and took things in their stride. At refugee camps, children were found to be playing, making a big noise and enjoying themselves, despite all the tension the adults were going through. Others reacted badly, showing anxiety and other emotional disturbances even after things had settled down or the family had moved to a safer place such as Colombo. To some extent the child's reaction was dependent on the severity of stress gone through and on the reactions of the parents. Children of parents who were tense and anxious showed anxiety and fear. Although children may show transient behavioural and emotional disturbance under stress, the more permanent effect on the developing personality of the child is difficult to assess. Studies of children born under war conditions or children of parents who survived concentration camp, show permanent scarring. It is likely that exposure during their formative years to insecurity, homelessness and the violent death of loved ones, as well as to other cruel and aggressive action and to the full paraphernalia of war with its instruments of destruction, will permanently influence their development. Indications of this influence are seen in the plethora of war toys and games that our children are so fond of playing with and in their daily vocabulary. When a child was given some building blocks, she immediately proceeded to build a "chain block" (tank) and a helicopter with "guns" sticking out showing clearly how preoccupied children have become with war. This is not helped by the present trend of involving and recruiting younger and younger children into military activities at an age when they cannot quite realise the meaning of their action or its long term consequences. When they act impulsively for kicks and the joy of action, it portends ill for the future. Child psychologists have shown that aggressive behaviour is readily learned by children through observation and imitation of aggressive models and that it can be reinforced and maintained in a variety of rewarding conditions. Thus aggression and violence become a "learned" way of solving problems, when the aggressor is rewarded, for example, by social recognition. This in turn shapes social behaviour where conflicts are solved by aggression and the usual restraints (guilt, conscience) on aggression are reduced and often even morally justified.
This disconcerting development in children in the last few years may prove to be the most far reaching sequelae to the climate of fear and the cult of violence that have been unleashed on this once peace loving society. By all appearances, violence, aggression and non-respect for individual rights is fast becoming part and parcel of our society and a way of life for the next few generations.
Chapter 5
War of October 1987
5.1 _____ Introduction
Imperial psychology has over the centuries, developed increasingly subtle and sophisticated means to subjugate and oppress people. But with regard to women, it still employs the most barbaric forms of control and repression - arrogance, dominance, men in battle garb, whether they come with swords or guns, on a horse or in armoured cars. The price of conquest seems heightened by the violation of the women.
Unquestionably, sexual violation is amongst the most traumatic and degrading of experiences. But to restrict oneself to cases of sexual violation would be giving a narrow picture of women's experiences in war. I realised that the totality of women's experience in the war brought out fundamental aspects of this war and the community. Therefore I wanted to hear my sisters tell us their own versions of their travails, tragedies and triumphs
_5.2 ____ A village in Central Jaffna:
A Woman's Story
The rich ochre soil contrasted with the shady trees and market gardens dotting our way along the single main road. The morning was still young and fresh, unlike two months ealier, when the sickening smell of death hung like a pall of smoke. This was in the heartland of agricultural Jaffna, where the rich soil is normally extensively cultivated, but now, was almost untended.
One cannot romanticise for long the mornings in rural Jaffna; nor can one forget the "past" as Indian army officials urge us to. The past, was and still is a gruesome reality in these villages. The inert, the gaping caved-in houses, and the burnt out shells of one time houses, all speak of the past. Suddenly shattering the quietness, come the open vehicles of the Indian Army. Flaunting their power and masochism ride the officers in olive green uniforms. Every half mile there is a sentry point. I sailed past one, as one was now used to them in the city. Suddenly I heard the rasping command "Down, down, down, walk". I was pretty careful after that. On the way I met patrols walking along the road like in the early days of the war with all the paraphernalia, including shelling equipment, on their shoulders. Yes, war was here and war is still here. I met the women together and individually, some in their work places some in their houses. They were still picking up pieces of their lives, sorting out the furniture that survived, or sweeping the debris .
The main narrator was a young working mother in whose house everything had been burnt. They were living along the main road in the vicinity of the Amman Kovil in the village of Urelu. From 10 October there was a curfew on, all over the peninsula. On the 11th they saw about forty Tigers, fully armed, moving along the road quietly. The next day, that is 12 October, from the early hours of the morning there started intense shell attacks from the direction of the Palaly army camp. She said that they had to take shelter under the bathroom flat because of the concrete reinforcement its roof had. At about 4:30 a.m., they heard some movement and peeped out to see a large group of
Tigers moving in the direction of Urumpirai. Another interviewee said that this group had stopped near their house in the vicinity of Urumpirai Hindu College about, 300 to 400 yards away.
Between 5:45 and 6:00 a.m, an Indian Army convoy was seen in Urelu passing quietly along Palaly Road. She said:
"We heard a noise - may be a motar shell, possibly from the Tigers and then, suddenly, hell was let loose. A fierce battle ensued and firing started all round and went on continuously. I hugged my little one and was immobile. The firing continued without respite till 9 'o clock. Then it started quietening down”.
When they looked out, army men were crouched all round. This woman and the family were contemplating moving further into the village. She said: "We saw in the house in front, the mother and her two year old baby girl and thirteen year old daughter lying dead". They had found the husband and the other eleven year old child injured inside the house. The husband told us how, when he had looked out, the army had fired and he had run into the house screaming. His wife and two kids had tried to escape to safety through the back entrance and they were shot in cold blood. She was a mother holding a two year old baby - not a gun. (It was not till the following day that the neighbours were able to take the father and daughter to get medical treatment, despatching them in a cart to Kopay Hospital). The narrator and her family, while moving a little into the interior, had found the bodies of an old lady and her son along the lane opposite their house. The old lady used to look after the temple. They had also found the body of a man, around thirty-five years of age, by the side of the lane.
On the 13th they saw bombers over Urumpirai. Early on the following day, the bombers came to Urelu and started bombing. They said:
"We know of three persons from the same house - the grandmother, mother and a year old son - who died in the bombing. The husband survived.”
Later on, the same day, shelling started intensely, and two sisters (around 35 to 45 years old) died as a result. Our narrator continued:
"We could not stand it any longer. We thought of vacating the area completely. We left for the interior, many of us together with our children and some of our elders. We loaded them on bicycles and scooters. Some even walked. However, we had to leave many of our elderly in the houses. They were too feeble to be moved around”.
They were confident that their elders would be spared and that they could convince the army of their innocence. However when the residents of this area came back, they could only see the skeletons and decaying bodies of their elders and others who had stayed behind.
One woman found the bodies of her next door neighbours, a shop owner of fifty-two and his twenty year old son, in various stages of decay. She also said:
"In the lane opposite our house we found the skeleton of a girl. We could only identify her from the clothes. We knew the young girl. She had got a place in the university”.
The girl, they explained, had come back to collect some things from the house, because they had evacuated in a hurry. She had wanted to get something for her sister who was pregnant. The residents also found other skeletons - of a woman who had come back to get some drugs for her invalid father and of a man - with only their clothes left to identify them. Bottles were scattered around the first skeleton and a shopping bag lay next to it. On the 15th the woman had survived a bombing attack on her house, together with a neighbour who had taken shelter with her. The daughter was hugging the mother when she was shot. The same shot injured the mother, but did not kill her. The mother had stayed in the house for almost 20 days drinking only water, with the corpses of her husband and child rotting away. One woman said:
“We were mentally prepared for the Sri Lankan army. They chose an age bracket and it is mostly the men that they gunned down. But the Indian army - we just could not believe it. We thought we could explain. But they just fired! We women are stuck inside the house. Any way how could we go to Nallur when they were shelling along the highways? I have my invalid mother and little son. My husband is not here. How could I go?".
Another woman said:
"How many women and little children died? They could not care less. Anybody, everybody, just a human form, if it moved, they shot it down!".
It was very clear from these women that there was no attempt to differentiate the militants from the civilians. Though this operation was to disarm the Tigers, any moving form in these villages in those early days of war, was a Tiger for the Indian army, and was destined to be killed. And the ages of the dead ranged from 1 or 2 years to 92 years. In the previous few years, during the military operations of the Sri Lankan security forces, the terror of getting rounded up and taken away, had made men between the ages of 14 and 40 (the targeted age bracket), leave the villages of their birth and flee to countries all round the world as refugees, or join the militant struggle. Furthermore, the 35 years of the state's policy of systematic employment restriction, and economic deprivation and the deliberate non-development of Tamil areas, had sent many young men to the Middle East and other areas in great numbers to do menial jobs. The women were left behind to tend, care and keep life going.
5.3 _____ The case of the Disappeared
From the hopeless tragic finalities of death, we move on to the disappeared cases where hope is the only basis around which life itself is constructed for the affected women -sometimes very nebulous hope. Many of the disappearances were of persons taken into custody in the search and round-up operations of the Indian Army. Some had been taken in when they had left their homes to perform their daily routine jobs. They were taken in from the road side, the market, the bank... While incidents of gross killings were on the decline in Jaffna peninsula, disappearances were on the rise and becoming a confounding problem. The Indian Army occasionally releases lists of the detained but otherwise is lethargic and unhelpful in these cases.
She delivered her baby, their first, a week after her husband was taken in by the I.P.K.F.. The others who were taken in with her husband were released later. She never saw him again after the day of arrest. She was heartbroken for he had gone to the house from the place of refuge solely for her sake, to collect the necessities for her to be hospitalised for the birth. It happened in November, 19 November to be precise. For the subsequent 4 months there was not a single avenue that the woman had left untapped in finding her husband. She had left no stone unturned. She had regularly scanned the lists of the detained that the I.P.K.F. releases for a glimmer of hope. People around her murmured that he is dead... She removed her pottu, the colourful spot worn on the forehead by many Hinduwomen, to signify her loss. But in her heart of hearts and to us, she insisted that he was still alive. She could not accept that he was dead. Would we help?... Do we have hope for her and her infant?
Usha's husband was only 24 years of age. They had married only five nonths previously, and she was four months pregnant. Of course he was a supporter of L.T.T.E.'s, but after the Peace Accord and marriage, he had left politics to settle down to mainstream life. On 27 January, he left his home for the market. That was the last she saw of him. She has several conjectures. Either the I.P.K.F., or even men from the T.E.L.O. might have taken him.
Another lady had this tale to tell. Her husband was 50 years. They had had four daughters. On that unfortunate day, he had gone to Mullaitivu on a business trip and walked into an area that was being evacuated by the I.P.K.F.. The stories that reached her said that a man like her husband was seen to be shot by the army and carried away. This woman, single handedly, had gone to every camp in and around Mullaitivu and Vavuniya. She had gone to the highest officials concerned. They could not tell her whether he was dead or alive. These are but a few of the stories out of a list of more than the 300 disappearances so far in Jaffna peninsula alone. The list is ever increasing.
5.4 _____ Rape and Molestation
"Why me? I ask myself whether by chance, something in me made them think they could do this to me? I feel soild inside myself. I feel small. Two months have gone by, but I think I am feeling worse. I was scared to tell my husband- it was only recently that I wrote to him. I will tell you my story if you say it will help other women".
I had known this woman long ago. She was such a lively, vivacious woman. Her smile and face have remained with me. I could readily recall her maiden name, although we were at that time only acquaintances. I could not accept that such a self-possessed woman could talk so dazedly. She is now a 38 year old professional woman with an 11 year old daughter. Her husband worked abroad. She went on:
"On 12 November, in the morning, three Indian soldiers came to our house at about 8 o'clock. My mother was in the kitchen. Only my daughter and I met them. They merely said: 'Checking,' and started pushing my daughter into a room. I dragged her and shouted ' Amma, Amma, checking, checking' Then the soldiers who were at the sentry point very near our house came running to our house. The soldiers who were inside our house told the others that they were only checking our house and did not stay long thereafter. My gold chain had been stolen. We were scared. I then took my daughter and hid her in a small box-room at the rear of the house and at about 9:30 we saw the same three soldiers come again. This time they had not used the front gate where the sentry point is located, but instead came through another vacant house, jumping over the common parapet wall. Then they locked my parents in one room, took me to a room, showed the gun and raped me, one after the other, all three of them. I did not scream. What if they shot my parents? I can still recollect those beady eyes. I could not handle it. I left the village, and Jaffna, as soon as the first buses started running to Colombo. I started having nightmares. I started seeing their faces and hearing voices. I took my daughter and we went abroad. I even went to a psychiatrist. I could talk to him because he was a total stranger. He gave me drugs. It quietened me, but it has not taken the trauma away. I am becoming worse, much worse. At least I saved my daughter”.
Her daughter is well built and sweet for a 11 year old. Yes, she definitely had saved her daughter from the trauma. She continued:
"I have written to my husband and he says not to worry. But you know our men. Do you think he will accept me? I try to go to religious meetings and so on, but I cannot take part. I feel so apart from this world. I feel different."
One had seen the shattered interior of a wounded woman. However much one consoled and advised, it seemed so stupid. When I went home, I felt exhausted, impotent and angry at ourselves, our class, our men and our whole passive, stupid society.
Then there is the story of another young girl. She was only thirteen. Their house had once been a Tiger camp. The Indian army that had come to search, separated the child from the others and raped her. The child and family fled to Colombo. They were a well established middle class family. They were not interested in identification or anything at all. They do not want to hear any more of it and would rather let the trauma be buried in the recesses of their memory.
There is also the incident involving the rape of a 55 year old widow, and a 22 year old woman by two Indian soldiers in a poor Roman Catholic area. It was an afternoon, between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., on 18 November. The Indian Army was stationed closeby in a church. The older woman was probably seen first by the soldiers and, as she walked into her hut, they followed her and raped her while she was screaming. At that time the younger woman had walked into the back-yard to draw water from the well. On hearing the commotion, she went up to the door and called "Archie, Archie" meaning "Grandmother, grandmother". The door was opened and she was dragged in and raped. The girl being younger was able to free herself. She ran down the road screaming. She was sobbing, as she cried, "They have spoilt me".
As a result, an angry crowd spontaneously gathered. Around 400 people marched shouting to the army camp. The soldiers stood with their guns on the alert. The angry demonstrators continued to push forward. The commanding officer of the camp appeared on the scene, asked the people to stop at a distance and called in three people for an inquiry. They with the girl went up and told the story. The older woman who was lying in pain in the hut was also
brought in and an identification parade took place. The two men were identified, and the officer promised that they would be punished adequately after an inquiry.
This is how another woman described her experience:
"It happened in December, long after they had taken our village. Our village had suffered so much death and destruction. One would have hoped that we would have been spared this agony. On 19 December, I went with a 25 year old friend of mine to make some tea for the people who were gathered in our house. We were all mostly displaced people and had moved into houses away from the main road. We were going to the house, a little up the lane. Actually it was my sister-in-law's house. It was 11:30 a.m. and it was only when we were in the proximity of the house that we noticed the soldiers standing at the top of the lane. We could not go back, so we decided to go inside the house. As we entered the house, the soldiers followed us and said that they had come for checking. I said that it was not my house, and that I did not have all the keys. They went on insisting on checking. In the process they separated me from my young friend. They took her into a room. One took me around the house and harassed me to show the rooms. We could not even shout. The dogs started barking fiercely. By this time, the neighbours were aware that we two women were inside and came en masse to the house. The soldiers then left."
Our narrator, a middle aged widow, told us how her companion had been asked to lie on the bed at gun point, and threatened not to make a sound. But the young woman, being a self-possessed working woman, had been able to ward off the assailant and by this time the neighbours had come. But they would not talk to anyone of authority. They were from a middle class background, and were talking of how such things could ruin a young unmarried woman's future. The group of women whom we were talking to, were careful to make the point that nothing untoward had happened, lest this young woman's future should be ruined. Thereafter, the young girl and other girls in the vicinity left for Colombo directly.
This is the story of a girl who was just 18 years old. Her father was a labourer, a cigar roller. Despite this, he had educated his daughter up to the G.C.E. Advanced Level. The incident took place on 23 December. The Indian Army had in the previous days come to their garden to take their chickens. That particular day, two soldiers came, separated the mother from the daughter, held the mother at gun point and both men raped the girl in turn. She was only a young girl and a virgin. Unlike the others, this girl identified the rapists who were punished by the army. The doctor who examined her, remembers this story vividly. He said, "Its so tragic, she was such a dynamic young girl. I admire the courage of the girl."
Another doctor who was consulted in a case of rape told us:
"Those were the early days of the war. They brought a young girl studying in high school. Her parents were farmers and were old. The Indian Army took her for questioning on16 November, because of a photograph. The girl was in the photograph with her class mate, who was the sister of an alleged Tiger. She was taken to the camp and questioned on the whereabouts of this boy and her connection with him. The captain threatened verbally to beat her up and even rape her unless she came out with the truth about the boy and alleged that he was her boyfriend. However, after questioning, they brought her home, and the captain gave her an ultimatum of 24 hours to think about it. After sometime, two soldiers turned up at her place, kept her parents to a side, took her to a room and one of them raped her. She had started bleeding. Then one man said that they would come the next day and warned her not to tell the mother and left. The girl became desperate and jumped into their well. Fortunately she was rescued by the neighbours. While this commotion had been going on, the captain arrived on a patrol or some such thing, and with him were the men as well. The captain, most probably thinking that she had jumped because of his threats, patted her on the head, assuring her that he would not do such a thing to her and asked her to tell him if there were any problems. But at that time she had kept mum, because the rapists were with him."
Later, however, the family took her to this doctor who had urged her to report the incident. And she courageously did so and identified the men.
These were the days of full blown "normalcy" where Indian Army officials were bent on convincing all and sundry that life had almost returned to normal. People were going back to their old villages, repairing shelled houses, and
trying to live. The month of January was almost drawing to a close, but we realised that as far as women were concerned, the time factor, or the so called normality, did not bring respite. It seemed that the soldiers were relieving their "battle fatigue" on us.
She was a 22 year old student. Her father was semi-blind. The whole family depend on her brother who had a shop in Chilaw. On 29 January, the father and daughter left their home with prepared food for the mother who had been in the temple since 24 January, for religious observances. When they got near the temple four soldiers inspected their identity cards. One took a long time over hers. When asked for the time, she had said that it was 12:10 p.m.. They asked the father to sit down and for her to walk down the lane leading to the temple. Sensing danger, she started protesting, but she was threatened at gun point and made to walk alone. One of the soldiers stood on guard with the father while the other three walked behind her. When they were near an abandoned hut, she was taken into the bushes. While one stood on guard, the others raped her. After the men had left, the young woman collected her disabled father, went to the temple and joined her mother. Later, she and her father went to the nearest camp and reported the incident. There she was asked to go to a bigger camp. At the larger camp they held an identification parade and she identified the four soldiers. She was advised to treat the matter at a private clinic and report the next day.
We now bring the desperate tale of a young woman who chose not to live through this shame that was brought on her. On 25 January, her body was recovered from the well in her house. Her parents had died during shelling by the Sri Lankan Army in January, 1987. She was 30 years old. On the 24th night, when she was in the house with two other women, Indian soldiers came and knocked. The inmates had not wanted to open, but the insistent knocks had made the now dead girl comment that they might have come only for a search! While the three of them were discussing, the knocks continued unabated. When they opened the door, the woman of 30 ran away fearing danger. The Indian soldiers were there for a few minutes and went away after seeing that the younger woman had run away. None knew her story till her dead body was found. The Judicial Medical Officer who conducted the postmortem, found clear marks of rape (such as laceration of the vagina, and contusion of the labia).
Although there are many more cases of rape, we have presented only a few sample cases. As one woman activist observed;
"Rape occurred mainly in November and December, when the families were trickling in from the refugee camps to their old homes. Many women were quite isolated, with few neighbours being around. It provided ample opportunity for the soldiers to rape. Many of the women were beaten before being raped.”
One of my young friends and her little sister once had to go through an I.P.K.F. checkpoint when they were fleeing from village to village. My friend said angrily how the hands of the soldiers had invaded the privacy of their bodies, pawing and feeling them all over. The worst was when after a long silence, her little sister had asked her "Akka1 - what did the soldiers do to us - is that what they call rape?" In sharp contrast to the sad plight of this sheltered innocence was our encounter with the Indian Army authorities with their utter callousness and contempt for our women. "I am only trying to explain to this young lady," an Indian Army official once said in the midst of discussions, "that stories are grossly exaggerated. Yesterday we went to investigate a case of alleged rape. Ultimately it turned out to be only molestation”.
Our anger is at our own impotence and powerlessness. We feel that our physical selves, and our womanness are under the control of these marauders, who take what they want at their will and pleasure. But for these men of authority, it is only a matter of mere definitions.
Another time - in the face of mounting evidence - this same official was forced to take a more conciliatory tone:
"I agree that rape is a heinous crime. But my dear, all wars have them. There are psychological reasons for them such as battle fatigue."
A screaming rocket burst into my head. I thought to myself, yes it is part of all wars; but still, we women cannot swallow it. Our bodies are ours. You cannot relieve yourselves on us.
The Indian Army made it clear to the community that they were ready to act on any case of violation with severity. Once rape was established, the Indian Army did take punitive measures against offenders . But its attitude was one of splitting hairs on the evidence and thereby, perhaps unintentionally, discouraging complainants. It was not ready to consider the threat to life and limb that might have been used to suppress evidence. For example, an incident connected with the rape on 18 November, concerning which people had gone on a delegation to an army camp, is an eye opener. The commanding officer of the camp had not only held an identification parade, but had also taken the particulars of the young men of the neighbourhood who were in the forefront of the delegation. A few days later some "rounds" were made in the vicinity of the house of one of these young men. He was taken into custody and beaten very badly. While beating him they were alluding to the rape saying that it was the Tigers who had raped, and that the people had put the blame on the I.P.K.F.. He was later released as he was innocent. Such incidents lead victims to believe that the I.P.K.F. does not respond kindly to protests against rape and that threats and beatings are used to suppress evidence.
The Indian Army stands further exposed by their response to the rape of the 22 year old student mentioned earlier. She had identified the rapists at the army camp and she was asked to come the next day. When she reported the next day with both her parents, they were all sent to the Ariyali camp in a truck and were told that higher officials would see them. They waited the whole day and eventually became so angry that they refused to eat anything. At midnight a soldier came and said that the commander wanted to see the girl alone. The mother got very angry and both the mother and daughter started raising their voices in protest. Then the man put his finger on his lips and left the room quickly. The mother fearing further forceful encroachment, spent the night just outside the room. The following morning the family wished to go, but were asked to wait again. Realising the fatality as much as the futility of waiting, the young woman, with some resourcefulness, said that her mother was ill (she had a bad leg) and that they had to admit her at the hospital. The army suggested their own hospital. The family was so adamant, that the army asked the father to wait in the camp while the mother and daughter went to Jaffna Hospital. The daughter was asked to return after admitting her mother. However she got herself admitted as well. She later learnt that the father walked out of the camp once she and her mother had left for the hospital.
An officer once protested:
"We are not checking women deliberately. You see, one day, when one of our officers was going on an open vehicle, there were two young women on the road side. One waved while the other raised her skirt and fired an automatic gun at our officer and a jawan. Don't you think we have to check women? It is women who are carrying weapons strapped to their thighs and in their blouses."
Hundreds of women at sentry points were being given total body checks by men. Searching for weapons became an open licence to paw a whole population of women. One adolescent was bitterly crying at one check point - they had even made her show the sanitary towel she had on. Moreover, even the Indian press, including the woman reporter Anita Pratap, dismissed rape as rumour and called it a well orchestrated smear campaign against the I.P.K.F.. In January, the Indian Army with great fanfare brought women of the C.R.P.F. to do the checking of women. But this was a farce, because when impromptu checks and searches occur, they do not occur in areas where women check points are conveniently placed. Moreover, at Elephant Pass, a C.R.P.F. male officer was known to be inside the enclosure observing the women being checked.
_Furthermore, like rape, many cases of molestation occurred during the so called house to house searches. At the Manipay Hindu College refugee camp in late November, the Indian Army separated the men from the women and proceeded to molest the girls. The women screamed together and prevented further such activity.
_At Passaiyoor in December, in a routine house to house search by the Indian Army, they raised the skirts of the women in a house. The women went on an angry delegation to the commanding officer of the area, complained, and demanded decency and dignity. There was an identification parade and the women identified the soldiers concerned. After that it was arranged that search operations should be carried out only with a civilian observer present. The molested women in
this instance, were generally from a working class background, particularly from the fishing community, and were far less likely to take any slight to their womanhood and dignity with demureness. At Lawton Road, Manipay, in December, molestation occurred, as a result of which one woman was left with a split upper lip when she resisted. Another escaped the worst only by screaming out loudly.
_We do not say that the Indian Army does not take any_ preventive measures. But the measures taken are very slow in forthcoming and the army goes to great lengths to exonerate the alleged rapist and build alibis. Little is done to alleviate the sufferings of the victims and their families. Even as we are writing, information about cases of rape and molestation trickle in from all over. As women, we feel the helpless anger of our victimised sisters, and the pain and agony of smashed and stigmatised lives. The cumulative effect of all this was a fear ridden and restricted lifestyle for women. Women who stay at home are very fearful of impromptu house to house searches. So they cook early and gather in one house or keep all the windows, doors and gates shut. It has been a common sight in Tamil areas, especially in Jaffna, for women to be mobile on bicycles - women in saris, taking children to school and going to work, and young daughters with mothers on their bicycle carriers. A woman said:
"We used to do many things. Especially after the operations by the Sri Lankan Army, we women had to shoulder more tasks and protect our men or send them away."
The Sri Lankan Army had targeted a 14 to 40 year old age group for their definition of a Tamil terrorist and used to round up villages to arrest males from this age group. Thus life for the most able bodied section of the community became precarious. Many young men left, leaving behind the women, children, and the old to keep life going in their homeland. She continued,
"But now, with all these incidents of molestation, and rape, we cannot go anywhere without a male escort and most of the time we are forced to remain inside."
Though the situation in general is easing now, the ongoing incidence of sexual violence against women gives impetus to the return of narrow values. An older woman asked:
"Why cannot these women be inside their homes ? Look at these young girls, laughing and talking. With all this happening, they still parade around! They are deliberately inviting attention."
Reflecting on the new surge of conservatism brought about by the presence of the I.P.K.F., a younger woman said:
"Actually we should not bring up our girls timid any more - but I do agree we should not tempt these men."
As if to echo this, I wish to relate an interesting anecdote. Girls from a village close to the university said that the Indian Army had given a note to their school which the teacher read out. It said: "Girls should wear sarees, and should not go around on cycles”. The tragedy of all this is summed up by the young woman who said in a funny, poignant way:
"At the checkpoint even if army men just brush or even make a comment, the old ladies of the village would gather and gossip - 'Poor girl she has been spoilt, how will they get her married off.' To avoid all this I shut myself inside the house."
Caught in such a situation, without a strong women's leadership in the movements, or grass roots organisations, the community of women had no path to organise along and come together so as to raise their voices against such gross
evils as sexual violence by the Indian Army. Thus the community has left it to be handled spontaneously. And we find two clear streams of action emanating.
First, the middle class families in cases of rape and molestation have always tried to hide it. They were not willing to expose the culprits because they existed as individualized families and feared the censure of the society around them. The only events that have been brought out have been ones where the victims were ordinary people. The middle classes after having all the advantages of education, and being able to have some kind of a privileged relationship with the Indian Army, did not bring out the issues. Nor did they organise protests, but instead they continued to side step the problem. They did not think in terms of justice being done to the individual or community. This portrays the anaemic character of our middle classes in whom the community had reposed its power but who continually fail the people.
Secondly, this type of handling, of the victimisation of women, individualized the burden of the act carried by the woman, thereby internalizing the pain and trauma and creating far reaching damage to the inner life of a woman. The society stands apart and the most it does is to indulge in sympathetic gossip. Depersonalizing the woman in such acts of violence could be achieved through the collective consciousness. The community of women supporting the victim and letting the trauma drain out, is like opening out an abscess and letting the puss drain out. As a young woman of twenty enlightened me:
"Why can they not treat it as a wound sister and let it heal? The soldiers destroy once. But the village destroys us a thousand times."
Neither have we built structures for women to come together and act (despite the high flown revolutionary language floated around by the women in the liberation movements). Nor have we as a class, had the courage at the point of crisis to come together. The onus of carrying the burden of victimization has fallen on the shoulders of the women of the labouring population and on individual women of this class - a duty which they have courageously under-taken. These fragments of conversation add to what we have personally experienced as women in the aftermath of the war. It shows the community of women made to give up a life-style of relative freedom. It shows the community denuded of power and internal strength, and having to resort to the most restrictive of existing social norms. Those who have taken the brunt are the most vulnerable section - the women - making them totally powerless and condemning them to a cloistered existence. Furthermore, no serious attempts were made at community level to bring about an awareness of the problems arising from the Indian patronage of liberation movements. In fact it is the liberation movements that led us into such a physically interlocked relationship with India. In actual practice, all movements drifted to a position of existing with Indian patronage. Therefore it is not surprising that most of the women had a simple faith in India before the present history ravaged their psyche. Many women we met told us that they could not believe that the Indian Army could commit such base acts. These women, like their men, believed not only that India came as a friend, but also in the so called Indian respect and esteem for women.
5.5______ Detainees
Saku was only 25, a mother of two children. She was still suckling her little baby. She was taken in for questioning. Though her husband was also with her, only she was taken in and she had to leave her baby behind. Her family brought the baby to the camp the next day. She was allowed to keep it. She was questioned on the whereabouts of a Tiger member. They alluded to him as her paramour and the baby as his. They had put her in a pit and filled the pit up to the armpit with soil and a soldier jumped on it asking for information. She felt tightening and constriction on her body and chest. She told her story. She had only cooked some meals for the Tigers. Later they pulled her out. She was released 5 days later.
Sumathy is 24 years old and was taken in for questioning on 10 January. She was blindfolded and beaten with a thorny stick at the time of her arrest. She was taken to the camp in the area. They gagged her and beat her with S-Lon pipes which are made out of plastic for piping water. The pipe was loaded with sand. They said that they had full information about her and that she must tell the truth. They beat her for 3 days like this on and off. Her knees were swollen as a result.
The commanding officer, when interrogating Sumathy, beat her with a cane between her shoulder blades. She said that she had only cooked a few meals for the L.T.T.E. and only knew two of them. She was interrogated and beaten the first three days. She was then put in a large room with two others, a 45 year old woman and a young woman, maybe of Sumathy's age. She refused most of the food as the pain was unbearable and she did not want to eat their food. She was released 5 days later.
Once when she was in the detention camp, she saw a young man, tied upside down, having his testicles pulled. The torturers were at the same time, pulling him up and down, by a leg that was tied with a rope to the ceiling. He was screaming: "Only yesterday I told you, only yesterday I told you..."
When one meets Suseela, one knows how she survived - through sheer determination. Being from a poor family, Suseela was only 14 when she was married to a mentally sub-normal man from a rich family. She said:
"Sister, life - happiness - had no meaning to me. Of course his family were kind to me. They gave me jewellery and built a small house for us. I lent the jewellery to my family to make a living. I had no life of my own. My husband would leave me and go to his parents' house to sleep. All the while I would stay alone and scared. I would cook food, but he would eat at a shop or go to his mother's house and eat. So eventually I stopped cooking."
She continued vehemently and half angrily:
"I want to fill my life. I want to do social service. I want to be of service to others. That is how I started helping the people in the village and then the Tigers. I want to do something. Sister, after all these happenings, though people are grateful, they are scared to associate with me, especially to send their daughters with me. They are sometimes sarcastic about my life and make snide comments about my stay in the army camp. Even when I come to see you, they say that I have gone to meet the Tigers. After all this, the barren life and the pain, I have no more tears sister."
She pleaded with me to find something useful for her to do for the community. I was very affected by the energy - the spirit - of this young woman.
And one realised how inordinate power could accumulate in the hands of leaders - women like Sumathy would do anything in the name of the common good and are ready to be led.
5.6 Tamil Women and the
National Liberation Struggle
A common view is often expressed regarding Sri Lankan Tamil women, that they have a certain degree of freedom compared to women in some South Asian societies. These sweeping generalisations point to facts ranging from socio-anthropological observations such as that the Sri Lankan Tamil society is matrilocal or matrilinear. Many women are educated, and have accessibility to professional education and status. They are mobile, dress freely and often act as bread winners. One has to examine these generalizations deeper to understand the real nature of women's position in Tamil society.
The evolution of relative freedom for women in our society in comparison to other South Asian societies, is a part of the over all evolution of society. Our country, unlike many other South Asian nations, is fairly well penetrated by capitalist relations. This is primarily a historical development that occurred because of integration with the world capitalist system. During colonial rule, the plantations became the main economic activity of the island. The middle classes were integrated into servicing this colonial economy and administration. This pattern continued into neocolonial times with some qualifications, furthering the integration into the world economy. Examples are the dependence on tourism, and the development of the Free trade Zone. Therefore what is fairly apparent is that, although there was no rooted capitalist mode of production, the society had well established capitalist relations.
This had removed some of the restrictions of feudal society. Moreover, the fact that education became the greatest employment asset and its widespread availability, made women struggle to become educated, take up careers and professions and move into public life. As a result, these struggles have resulted in the accommodation of women in spheres outside the family.
However, these improved standards in practical life are a facade. The inferior status of women was exemplified by lower pay for women's work, dowry payment by women to men of similar status and profession, and by restrictive cultural, and social practices. All these ramifications of patriarchy and the oppression of women in the economy and ideology, remained fully entrenched. Though colonial capitalist penetration and subsequent reforms had broken up the old feudalism, the remnants of feudal structures now take up a distorted form. A classic example is the dowry system amongst the Tamils. In feudal times, the dowry was a method of preserving family wealth. It was the means by which the ruling class consolidated its wealth and economic power. While one expects the development of capitalist relations to dismantle dowry system, the contrary is true in present day Jaffna society. The dowry system is embellished further, and made into a market economy relationship. For example, if a family has a male who is a professional, such as a doctor, engineer, accountant, or executive, they would be able to sell this person as a husband to a wealthy man’s daughter, and get money in the form of a "donation". This so called donation to the man's family, at today's rates, runs into several lakhs of rupees1. The bias towards "educated" persons is historical. Since colonial times, education had meant upward mobility, social status and accretion of wealth, either in this country or more importantly, abroad. Since feudal times, the person has hardly mattered. It was kin based family interests that dominated. Another phenomenon that is observable in Jaffna society is that despite the acceptance of the market economy, it has not moved forward ideologically. Since many of its feudal values and relationships are based on patronage, the hierarchical order has remained. The middle classes of Jaffna have advanced without a rooted economic base. Their mobility had depended on salaried, service orientated professions where they are always subordinate, and given restricted powers. Their momentum for advancement and self-expression, was constrained at one point or the other. From this circumscribed position, the search for and preservation of identity became primary. They could only seek their identity, through power as a community, as families, as males, and as heads of families, by preserving or "pickling" the inner core of life. Thus their society seemed to be living a split life. Puritanism and repression in private life seemed effectively to co-exist with materialism and integration in public, and economic life. However, after a decade-long history of the freedom struggle, and with major liberation movements even boasting of armed women's sections, one would have expected tangible cracks in the ideology of Tamil society and some liberating experience for the women.
5.7 Women's Organisations
The women's section in our liberation movements seem to have produced minimal impact on the outside community. They did not conscientise women in the community regarding women's issues springing from the consciousness of our concrete conditions. They did not become catalysts for change as a section in the leadership movement, pushing forward women's grass roots organisations.
In our struggle there was a breakthrough in the community when the Mothers' Front was formed. During the time of enormous crisis in the mid-1980s, when the mass arrests of youth were a fact of life, it was fashioned along the lines of the Plaza de Mayo mothers. The mothers of the disappeared, together with other women in the community, formed a militant "Mothers' Front". During the period 1984-85, the front mobilised mass rallies, and picketed public officials demanding the removal of military occupation and protesting against arrests. Not only the spirit, but also the enormous numbers that they were able to mobilise, spoke loudly of the high point to which such mass organisations, especially of women, can rise. The front consisted of women from all classes. It had central and village level organisations. However, in later years, with the increasing hegemony of L.T.T.E. and the suppression of all democratic organisations through pressure to toe the line, the front, pushed into political conformism, lost its wide appeal and militancy. It became another Y.W.C.A.. Thereafter, its central structure confined its activity to mere charity work. This underscored the reality that a progressive consciousness would not be allowed to develop at the community level. The lack of clarity in the women's sections of liberation movements, made them unable to give any direction towards a broad front. This weakness was only too apparent during the October war and its aftermath. At this time, when urgent and pressing issues like rape, molestation, loss of life, and loss of breadwinner needed organized protest, the existing women's structures, be it the Mothers' Front or others, did not take any initiative. They who should have come out in the open, rallying around the issues of human rights violations and sexual abuse,
were immobile and quiet. They did not demonstrate to the I.P.K.F. or India that they would not leave unexposed the grossest violation of women, and their suffering. In essence they did not show the forces that rule our destiny that women are a force to contend with.
However, the Jaffna Mothers Front did decide to fast, to push for negotiations between India and the L.T.T.E.. It is admirable that they showed their solidarity with their sisters in Batticaloa. However one becomes skeptical when one looks at the cause for which they were fasting. We knew from the past that India, the L.T.T.E. and the genocidal Sri Lankan government would negotiate. We had learnt during the years of the civil war and the October war, that neither the Sri Lankan nor the Indian government cared for the interests of the Tamil people. Moreover, even for the Tigers the lives of the people were subordinate to the narrow interests of their movement, as their conduct during the October war showed.
These developments leave the Tamils in a dangerous situation that is subject to further manipulation by foreign influences. Although many Tamils have been killed by militants in the past, accused of being agents of the C.I.A., Mossad and so on, we have failed to see the big holes in our unprincipled politics through which these influences can enter, in ostensibly benevolent roles - as arms donors and even peace makers. Thus when a women's organisation like the Mothers' Front, with the largest following, can only put forward dramatic postures patronisingly assigned to it, it loses its vitality as a force. If only it can be fully rooted amongst ordinary suffering women, mobilise their militant strength and articulate their sufferings and aspirations, can it win esteem and ensure that it is a force to be reckoned with. Sadly the Jaffna Mothers' Front's inarticulate acceptance of women's sufferings at the hands of the I.P.K.F., and, earlier, the L.T.T.E's inwardly directed violence, leaves them in a wasteland, only to be used as a tool by one force and disregarded and bullied by the other.
5.8 Women and Arms
This is not a comprehensive analysis. Nor is it an adequate one. However, we are trying to bring in a few strands of thought that could only be filled out by women's own experience within armed liberation movements. Whatever the experience - positive or negative - one cannot deny that this is a sweeping phase in the life of the whole community of women.
One cannot but be inspired when one sees the women of the L.T.T.E., two by two, in the night, with their A.K.s slung over the shoulder, patrolling the entrances to Jaffna city. One cannot but admire the dedication and toughness of their training, seen in the video films put out by the L.T.T.E.. One could see the nationalist fervour and the romantic vision of women in arms defending the nation. This becomes a great draw for other women to join the militant movements. Our social set up, its restriction on creative expressions for women and the evils of the dowry system, are some of the social factors that led to their initial recruitment. Moreover, the political climate created by the struggle in the past decade, and the increasing loss of men to state terrorism and the world at large as refugees and emigrants, are some of the contributory factors necessitating women's recruitment. However, it would be an over-statement to say that it is the climate of "liberation", the kind of literature that is available, the knowledge of the experience of women in other struggles from far flung corners of the world, or the rebelliousness against being kept out of the centre of the struggle, that was drawing the fertile minds of young women to active participation.
Since the mid-1980s, women were being recruited into the movements - mostly into the P.L.O.T.E. and the E.P.R.L.F. which had sizable numbers, and fewer into the L.T.T.E.. Later on, however, there was a rapid growth in the number of women in the L.T.T.E. as well. The L.T.T.E.'s women's section was called the "Birds of Freedom." The recruitment spur came after the Vadamaratchi operations of the Sri Lankan Army and the massive arrests of men that followed. The L.T.T.E. specifically targeted women; younger women who were already knocking at the door to be included in the struggle were eagerly accepted.
Though all these brought winds of change, the impact on the community was nebulous. At times it even makes a negative impression. Episodes like the finding of the bodies of some women of the P.L.O.T.E. cadre at Maniam Thottam, made the community angry and blame the women.
Unlike in the other groups, however, in the E.P.R.L.F., women were taking a more assertive role and putting forward clear, honest political positions in times of crisis. For instance, after the massacre of the T.E.L.O. cadre by the L.T.T.E., the E.P.R.L.F. was the sole movement in the E.N.L.F. (the United Front of the E.P.R.L.F., the E.R.O.S., the T.E.L.O. and the L.T.T.E.) that protested and organised demonstrations and other protests. This campaign was led by their women members. This position contrasts with that of the other members of the E.N.L.F., such as the E.R.O.S. who tactically decided to keep quiet and co-exist with the L.T.T.E.. Later when the E.P.R.L.F. was crushed by the L.T.T.E., many E.P.R.L.F. women were beaten-up by the L.T.T.E.. One prominent member of the L.T.T.E. had said while beating some women:
"What, liberation for you all. Go and wait in the kitchen. That is the correct place for you."
This attitude must have percolated down to the women in the L.T.T.E.. For example, in discussions, women of the L.T.T.E. have said that women should not stray too far away from the roles set by the society and that women had taken arms too early. Coming from a group whose total axis is militaristic, this comment seems surprising. Looking at militaristic movements, brotherhood among males appears paramount to them. Macho pride is one of the impetuses for heroism. This passive stand taken by (or pushed on) the women of the L.T.T.E. is not surprising, especially when we look at the L.T.T.E.'s history. Women at one time were considered evil by the L.T.T.E. and they were said to make men loose their sense of purpose, on account of which men in the movements were prohibited from having relationships with women.
Contrary to our expectations, even the women's section of the E.P.R.L.F. failed to make any impression despite their militancy and remained abstract and isolated from the community. It is fairly evident that it would be utopian to expect the women's sections to forge ahead with clarity, given the level of their political consciousness and taking into consideration the objective reality of our society, the nationalist struggle and the short history of the women's sections. That is, the women's sections of none of the movements were able to grasp the fundamentals of our concrete conditions, formulate a theoretical framework and define practical tasks. This cannot be blamed on the women themselves. Even if they had striven to achieve high ends, their expression would have been curtailed, disregarded and even trampled upon. Because our society is hierarchically organised and seeped in the ideology of male dominance, the woman's position is shaped in every aspect - personal relationships, property exchanges, work practices, and social and cultural norms - by a girdle of patriarchy. If in a society like this, the dominant ideology under which the struggle is organised is itself an even more narrow,_ revivalistic and romantic one, well sprinkled with images of male heroes and male valour, and if nationalism is a type of aggressive patriotism, then a concept of women's liberation would be working against the inner core of such a struggle.
In such a situation, a call to arms for women had been based on images of mythified "brave and valiant mothers" who justified such male pride and went for wars or sent their sons, lovers and husbands to the war fronts. Therefore the armed women's sections developed either in terms of "use" as in the case of the L.T.T.E. or in a mechanical fashion, as a graft of an idea borrowed from other liberation struggles as with the E.P.R.L.F.. Thus the passive stand by the L.T.T.E. women can be understood, as the movement approved of them exactly as their society did. The fact that the E.P.R.L.F., possessing an advanced consciousness, was unable to transplant it in the community, is a general phenomenon in all E.P.R.L.F. activities - in the armed struggle, the mobilisation of people and the construction of people's structures, among others. In every major aspect, the E.P.R.L.F. exhibited estrangement between its theory and practice. Therefore neither our material reality nor our history had the basis to support a fully blown women's section in the armed movements. It is tragic that these women's sections themselves did not make any attempt to grasp their reality; an analysis of the position of women, the crucial social issues confronting them in Tamil society and women's history, would have enlightened them and cleared the way to laying down the fundamental tasks and priorities.
Apart from initial documents from all movements calling women to arms, there were no explorations into the theory and practice of the women's question with regard to Tamil society. This was very clear as we further went into discussion with some of the "Birds of Freedom". They confessed to much confusion within the movement regarding the women's question. But they ultimately ended the argument with an expression of faith in their leader's ability to solve all problems. That is why a saddened woman activist told them: "Please remember, a woman's role is greater than just being a machine that carries arms."
Looking at the composition of the armed women cadre, the majority were found to be from poor backgrounds, a small proportion from the middle classes and a few with university backgrounds. The middle class girls were found, especially in the case of the L.T.T.E., to be in the student political wing. For the women from the poor background, theirs was a task with a sense of purpose, a way in which they could lay their life down for something greater than a life of abject poverty and lifelong labour. Those who came from the middle classes to the L.T.T.E., especially those who joined the S.A.L.T., their student wing, were mostly city schoolgirls with a narrow vision, who were guided only by sentiments of patriotism. They held romantic and idealized images of the L.T.T.E., its heroes and leader.
The influence of these women's sections on the community of women was not only marginal, but at times it also reinforced old prejudices. It seems such a tragedy that young women who went with dedication and determination, were much maligned by society. When the L.T.T.E. was withdrawing during the October war, the opinions of the community turned venomously against women. As one older woman said:
"The Tigers were all right till these women joined them. They have spoilt the movement and the boys' dedication."
For them all the grave mistakes of the Tigers could be easily pinned on to the small group of women who had no power at all within the movement. Another professional woman said in a scathing tone:
"Those days when we asked these women why they joined the movement, they said that it was for the sake of our land. Now where is the land? Why could these women not have kept quiet? They are the ones who give all the encouragement to the men."
Such hard and cruel words coming from women themselves, show the deep seated ramifications of women's oppression. These as well as the commonly heard insinuation that women themselves invite molestation and rape, show the trap that women have set for themselves. Wherever a woman is, not only is she oppressed and made to play a subdued and nonassertive role (being allowed to be assertive only within the ambit of male dominance), she is also destined to take up set roles - playing to perfection the emotional and sensitive roles, at once, of daughter, lover, wife and mother, and providing a stable base for the man and the family to stand on.
This lot gives her her paramount credibility. This is her identity. Moreover, the society has evolved historically in such a way that she herself is made to shape her belief and propagate and maintain her own oppression from generation to generation within the family structure. However, it is not an easy task to ascertain the extent of the permeation of women's oppression in our own Tamil society and construct a proper strategy and tactics to counter it. That women of this nation made an attempt at it and took the first courageous steps is the positive gain of this era, although there is great bitterness surrounding this period. There might be many consequences emanating from it. Many women might be frustrated, bitter and angry and some might reconcile themselves with mainstream life. A few might continue the old way in subordinate and peripheral positions in the movements. But it would be a positive result if a few of those who come out, with richness of experience and self-criticism, become a catalyst for the further advancement of the position of women in this land.
Even in the community, women have come out strong during this war. In many instances of confrontation with the Indian Army, they have stood out as individuals or as small groups, exposing the atrocities and violations of dignity. A Brigadier has his collection of anecdotes of sharp tongued Jaffna women. On the other hand it was mainly women who, in the midst of war, pleaded and argued with the Tigers for life for their families and the whole nation. Again it is women who have braved the guns and sat in a fast to save others in Batticaloa.
Thus when one appraises the political bleakness that confronts this community and this land, the women's history does have a triumph. There is powerlessness, disappointment and disillusionment, but also hope. We have done it... a little bit...
1A lakh =_ 100,000 Rupees = U.S.$ 2500
6.1 Introduction
The tragedies of the October war continued relentlessly into November and December. It left us among the dead, the debris and the crumbling structures. The smell of putrefaction clung to the fresh morning air. The terror of the army on every street corner, molestation and even rape became facts of life.
It left us paralysed - benumbed as a community in a political and structural vacuum. It also left us with this terrible knowledge that people are but dispensable numbers: rape and molestation inevitable facts for the warring parties. It left us bitter, and angry that these gruesome consequences were even awaited with certain satisfaction as good material for international propaganda by the "leaders"of the people. The sadism of this situation seemed the greatest blow to the community. We sat by, watching the Indian military presence become well entrenched in our land, sea and sky, and Indian political dominance a creeping reality.
Unlike other analyses that have come up, we do not see the current crisis as resulting from distinct events that stand on their own and, therefore, one that is subject to being analysed episodically. As such we do not consider this war as a catastrophic consequence of a simple misjudgment on the part of the Tigers or India. Nor do we consider it as a consequence of the inbuilt fears that the Tigers are presumed to have of democracy and elections. Contrary to the popular view, we do not think that if the single event of handing over the 17 L.T.T.E. men had not occurred, every thing would have been fair and fine for the peace accord, the L.T.T.E., the Tamils and the I.P.K.F.. Though all these views have elements of truth in them, we agree with those who place the war in a geopolitical context. However we do not agree that the correct and methodical interaction of foreign policy institutions or the clever manoeuvring of foreign policy can simply determine this geopolitical reality in our favour.
All these opinions view history as a chain of events. Rather, history is an evolutionary process where events are manifestations. We see this war as a historical legacy of the way social forces within the Tamil and Sinhalese nations developed and interacted. An analysis of the political background of the war and Indo-Sri Lankan relations, would entail analysing not only the geopolitical situation, but also the internal contradictions of the Tamil and Sinhalese communities. Such a treatment is very important for us, because many Tamil intellectuals of nationalist leanings see the contradictions, objectives and interactions within the Tamil nation in a simplified framework in isolation of southern Sri Lanka. This cloistered view had been one of the deterrents to constructing a viable nationalist objective.
In this sketch an encompassing view is attempted, within the framework of historical analysis. However, this does not come in the best forms of polemical discourse enthralling left intellectuals and Marxist theorists, but rather breaks into emotional and descriptive scenarios. This has been inevitable for us, as we are participants in the pain and agony of a nation. This sketch is attempted principally to bring out into the open the little known side of our nation (already people are adapting themselves to living with reality, pushing and smothering the pain into the recesses of memory) and the underlying causative processes and forces. However, this study is incomplete as no particular force is dealt with in detail and the sketch draws in broad strokes certain outlines of the tendencies.
6.2 A Survey of the Background to the
Present Crisis
6.2.1 Mother India: Illusion or Reality
Many in the Tamil community expressed shocked disbelief in the way the October war was conducted. The ruling classes of the Tamil nation had always seen India as a patron, an arbitrator, and an advocate of Tamil aspirations. This perception was not only based on the cultural and emotional links with southern India, but also on a studied intellectual approach. Ideas such as exploiting India's great power pretensions as a useful tool for advancing the Tamil separatist cause, have been put forward by Tamil intellectuals. But is this a correct perception? What is India's thrust abroad?
6.2.2 India's thrust abroad
It is argued that in the context of power relations in South Asia, India has some autonomy and its foreign policies may sometimes even conflict with imperial centres - although it still remains basically dependent. It has been proposed that the development of Indian capitalism pushes it to look abroad for markets and resources. This is further enhanced by the perception of India as a potentially great power. These analyses trace this great power perception to the colonial period when emerging Indian elites acted as imperial agents for Britain. Another reason given for India's thrust abroad is the pre-capitalist social formation in India, and the inability of the local market to respond to the needs of India's growing industrial power and further capital accumulation. This can be seen as part of India's diplomatic thrust in the neighbourhood. In this, those interests of India, that can supply goods at very competitive prices, would run counter to those of the western countries and Japan.
Therefore despite the fact that India is in size and scale a big nation in the region, its influence abroad is impeded by internal contradictions. Moreover its influence is uneven in the region. For example, take the case of Sri Lanka, the southern neighbour, and in the north of the region, Nepal and Bhutan. Nepal and Bhutan are more or less totally integrated into India economically, and due to their strategic importance (along the northern border), politically and militarily as well. But Sri Lanka had been able to circumvent such integration and control. To understand the reasons for the relative autonomy of Sri Lanka, we have to search the historical roots of Indo-Sri Lankan relations since the colonial time.
6.2.3 The Colonial past and the evolution of
Sri Lanka's Economy
During British rule some sections of the Indian elite assisted in the administration of colonial structures and the imperial capitalist system, not only in India, but all over the British Raj. In the imperial interests Sri Lanka was designated a crown colony and received preferential treatment in the region because of its smallness in size.This rendered it amenable to control. India's ruling class, because of its relative internal strength and independence, was always more of a threat to the colonial administration than the Sri Lankan ruling class. Furthermore, Sri Lanka's geographical position in the Indian ocean and the possession of a natural harbour at Trincomalee, made this accommodation and preferential treatment useful for continued control of the important sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean. Apart from the colonial designs to subjugate the whole region, internally there was overwhelming consensus on stubbornly maintaining Sri Lanka's relative autonomy from India. For instance, the East India Company administration was forced to withdraw the Indian civil administrators in its service, after agitation by the indigenous population. This shows a contrasting experience to that of countries like Nepal and Bhutan where Indian civil administrators and migrant traders were an instrument in controlling the indigenous people.
There is another side to this story of opposition to Indian influence however. In the mid-nineteenth century the colonial administration brought in large numbers of impoverished Indian Tamil peasantry from South India to work the plantations in Sri Lanka, when the local Sinhalese had refused to be incorporated into the plantation sector. These Indian Tamil labourers were brought in as indentured labour in conditions of near slavery. The Indian Tamil labour who built up the plantation sector and who, even to this day, remain the backbone of the country's economy, were simply grafted on to Sri Lankan society by their colonial masters and were rejected as aliens by the local population. In post-independence Sri Lanka their situation deteriorated. They were disenfranchised and became the most exploited and oppressed social group within the country. Unfortunately the growing contradiction between the local subsistence agriculture and the plantation sector manifested itself in the most fierce antagonism towards this under privileged group. Unscrupulous political elements used this contradiction to their advantage by portraying this dispossessed poverty stricken group as an arm of Indian expansionism. Even opposition to Indian supremacy in the region was expressed by victimising this minority group.
The local ruling classes, both indigenous Tamil and Sinhalese however, had an upward mobility during colonial rule. The Tamils especially in the lower rungs of the civil service; The Sinhalese in trading, small scale plantations, and satellite services to the plantation sector as well as in the civil services. In fact though there were prosperous Indian and Moor traders in Sri Lanka, they were viewed with intense antagonism by the Sinhalese trading class. The real content of this anti-Indianism was that the local ruling classes did not want another group that was exercising control.
6.2.4 Post Colonial Sri Lanka: Rise of
Narrow Nationalism
Unlike in many other small states in the region, Colonial Sri Lanka occupied a defined place in British imperial designs in the South Asian region, and the Sri Lankan ruling class had a competitive relationship with Indian counterparts who came into the island. Furthermore, the historical development of nationalist movements in Sri Lanka, showed that, though their anti-colonial ideologies were complementary to and derived inspiration from the Indian nationalist movements, they had also an underlying contradiction with them. This contradiction arose from the content of nationalism itself, which was based on the economy of the ruling classes of Sri Lanka. Colonial penetration had made the Sri Lankan economy totally integrated and fully absorbed into the imperial economic system. Plantations became the main economic activity of this island. The rising middle classes of the Sinhalese and the Tamil communities were integrated into servicing the colonial economy and administration. Therefore, though anti-colonial struggles were waged, and nationalism was espoused by the middle classes, the thrust was limited. The middle class had no strong economic base to rely on, except the colonial economy; nor did it have indigenous economic roots to compete with the colonial power. Thus the anti-colonialism of this class and its anger against domination were only emotional. Its link with the nation and the people took the form of cultural and religious identity. Its alienation made it necessary for its assertion as part of the broad sweep of the people. This assertion was articulated in terms of overwhelming enthusiasm for the emotional content of culture and past history. Its real economic contradictions, for example on the Sinhalese side, lay in its competition with the Tamil middle class and Indian trading class for colonial spill-overs. Therefore the contradictions between the rising Sinhalese middle class on the one hand and the Tamil middle class and Indian trading class on the other, made Sinhalese nationalism contain seeds of anti-Tamil, anti-Indian sentiments. Excellent studies on this subject have been done by Kumari Jayawardana.
In post-colonial Sri Lanka, under the system of parliamentary democracy, this class aimed at domination of its competitors from the Tamil community for the economic and political control of the newly independent state. Sinhalese chauvinism played on the cultural connection between the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Tamils of South India and created fears of Tamils conniving with India to submerge the Sinhalese nation and destroy its language and religion. The Sinhalese chauvinists mythified their role in preserving the Buddhist religion, the Sinhalese race, and the language, and with this ideology they were able to appeal to a broad base, across class, caste and region. Thus it became the most useful ideology for a ruling class, who sought power through parliament. On the other hand, Tamil nationalism, though of similar class base and aspiration, could not attain to power in the independent state. Thus incipient anti-Sinhalese sentiments could never take the offensive in a concrete form.
Therefore, to sum up, for the ruling classes of both communities consolidation of power depended on the espousal of these narrow nationalist ideologies, and because, since independence "state power" rested in the hands of the Sinhalese ruling class, Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism became institutionalised, over a period of time.
6.2.5 Sinhalese Chauvinism and Tamil Nationalism
This presentation does not provide the scope to digress into a detailed account of the history of Tamil nationalism. We instead concentrate on certain aspects which throw light on the nature of the forces leading to the particular history of the Tamils.
There was a basic difference in the material base of the ruling classes of the two communities. The plantation sector, the mainstay of the colonial economy, was physically placed in the South and it opened up many avenues for the Sinhalese ruling class to enter into the colonial capitalist system. There was no economic activity of comparable dimension introduced in the Tamil areas by the colonial rulers, that could stimulate indigenous economic enterprises and create wealth. Therefore the rising Tamil middle classes found economic prosperity by servicing the colonial administration in the South and elsewhere. The Tamil middle class sought to prosper by the assiduous pursuance of British education; and thus serviced the lower rungs of the colonial bureaucracy. They produced professionals and personnel to service other civil institutions, such as the schools. They were a class created by British colonialism.
This colonial legacy ensured their position as an intermediary controlling group even in majority Sinhalese areas of the South. This privileged position produced an overblown psychology of superiority. However the underpinning material base consisted of economic activity totally under the control of the state structure, and dependent on the South. This weak and paradoxical position was to produce both the impetus as well as the impediments to the growth of Tamil nationalism.
After independence the state gradually pursued overtly discriminatory policies against the Tamils. As Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism became institutionalised, the pervasive influence of this ideology touched every aspect of Tamil life-employment, land, education, and industrial development. The discriminatory policies eroded the mainstay of the Tamil middle class's economic base. This increasing threat to their livelihood in the state structure and in the South, and the feeling that they were being pushed around and treated as second class citizens, frustrated and angered the middle class Tamils. However, being economically dependent, they could not be free. Thus they continued to be accommodating, while suppressing their bitterness and anger. The political parties of this class harnessed this anger to consolidate their power. They also reflected this paradox of conflict between their emotions and the economy. Their rhetoric was fiery and appealing to the consciousness of the Tamils, who considered themselves intellectually superior to the Sinhalese. But the political practice was one of bargaining with the Sinhalese leadership for parliamentary power sharing- reflecting their dependency in fundamental areas..
However the most important aspects of national oppression, such as the question of the state aided land colonisation of Tamil lands by Sinhalese, and the encroachment into Tamil fishing areas by marauding Sinhalese fishermen with state patronage, were hardly identified as the primary issues by the nationalist leadership of the T.U.L.F.. These issues were simply exploited to raise rhetorical cries in parliament about national oppression. In fact there was no attempt to mobilise and take forward those poorer sections of the Tamil community whose very existence was threatened by these activities of the state. Thus they ignored the erosion of the material base of the broad masses of the Tamil people and concentrated on a few problems of the Tamil ruling class. The Sinhalese leadership was fully immersed in its chauvinistic ideology, which was intolerant of any real power sharing with the Tamils. Invariably, up to the 1970s, the Sinhalese parties had to rely on some participation of Tamil nationalists in forming governments and this created an illusion among the Tamils regarding power sharing. In 1970 the S.L.F.P. came to power with an absolute majority and thus exposed the Tamil leadership's parliamentary political limitations in parliamentary politics. Discrimination and oppression worsened over the 1970s
Passive protests by Tamil nationalists were quelled violently with the use of state power, and worse still, from 1977 onwards, anti-Tamil mob-violence (euphemistically called "race riots") was periodically let loose, at increasing frequency.
The failure of the Tamil national leadership to get anything from the Sinhalese ruling class through parliament was in contradiction with the rhetoric of anger and the slogans of valour they were feeding the electorate. As a consequence of this a sense of frustration and bitterness was created among the people. And as brutal mob violence was the reply to non-violence, Tamil nationalism no longer confined itself to a class but reached out to all sectors of the people across class, caste, and regional barriers. Sinhalese chauvinist oppression became the objective common denominator. Anger and frustration at this ignominy and threat to life brought a binding emotion and a feeling of togetherness in the community. The youth who were most affected by the discriminatory policies (such as media wise standardisation in higher education and the quota system in employment) demanded a more autonomous life and voiced the anger of the people..
The youth and the more radical elements felt that the parting of the ways had come and that coexistence with the Sinhalese was no longer possible. Thus the Tamil bourgeois leadership had to adopt the slogan of "Tamil Eelam” - the cry for a separate state-for their political existence. But they had no concrete programme towards this objective. Of course the Tamil nationalist leadership could not pull the Eelam rabbit out of the parliamentary hat. The leadership had put forward a cry that they knew could never be fulfilled in a constitutional way, and Eelam had never been practicable with their class's economical integration and dependency on the South. Moreover they failed to discuss these realities with the people and give them a more viable alternative. They kept the people under an illusion, by such slogans calling the T.U.L.F. leader Chelvanayagam the Mujibur of Eelam, and even hinted at taking up arms from the election platforms. Critics of these slogans were called traitors to the "cause". However little progress was made inside or outside parliament apart from the T.U.L.F. leadership's praising the President as the greatest democrat in South Asia.At the same time the Tamil people faced the 1977 race riots and they had to run away, again hunted. The T.U.L.F. was impotent. As a result the sense of betrayal was acute amongst the youth and the people.
The Tamil national struggle became increasingly isolated and separatist through the intransigence of the Sinhalese nationalists, in whom the power of the state resided. But it would be wrong to view Tamil nationalism, even though the cry of secession was raised after three decades of increasing oppression, as defensive in every aspect; or that it became narrow nationalist and aggressive only after the ascendence of the militancy.(Tamil nationalists like their counterparts, had a sense of superiority. Their historical build up from the feudal past was equally mythical and romantic. They were feeding their electorates and the youth with images of valour, preservation of race and language, and a history heavily loaded with anti-Sinhalese, pro-Indian ingredients.
Tamil politicians often drew images from history harking back to the "glorious" days of the Tamil kings and the days of the Chola empire in South India. They contrasted the antiquity and purity of the Tamil language with the more recent development of the Sinhalese language, scoffing at the latter as a derivative of other Indian languages. They attributed the high levels of literacy and education amongst Tamils to their superior intelligence as opposed to the Sinhalese whom, they claimed, were lazy and less intellectually inclined. The anger that the old guard Tamil leadership felt against Sinhalese domination was due to their perception of themselves as rulers in the past now enslaved by an "alien" people.
Though nationalism was meaningful due to the threat to existence under the Sri Lankan state, its narrowness, violent rhetoric and bigoted imagery were the reactionary elements that were to remain with the nation. The militants were not the initiators; they were the continuation of this history. The ideology in its totality, goes to the credit of the "moderate" and "middle of the road" nationalists, who were the initiators of this narrowness.
The extreme narrowness of their ideology prevented them from organising at grass roots level around the real issues of national oppression. They whipped up nationalist fervour from election platforms, repeatedly evoking these reactionary images and sentiments. The people were not politically conscientious or prepared for the kind of events to come. Their political consciousness was simply taken up to a secessionist stage, just for the political existence of a party and its need to get into parliament,
Another serious defect of Tamil nationalism was its regional bias. The nationalist leadership even within the ruling class was confined to the educated middle class which was mainly from the Jaffna peninsula. This group, most affected by state discrimination in education and employment, unfortunately became the leading force in the struggle.
The Eastern Province, despite its extreme underdevelopment in comparison to Jaffna and the South, remained a rich agricultural area, self sufficient in major crops such as rice. Some sections of the ruling class in the Eastern Province had their base in large land holdings and were not as dependent on the South or on state patronage as the Jaffna Tamils. Therefore they responded to the state's oppressive measures rather differently from the peninsula Tamils. Historically, the two regions developed in different directions with regard to economic and social organisation and cultural practice. Further, the Jaffna Tamils acted on behalf of the state as civil administrators and officials in the Eastern Province and established their dominance. As a result the Batticaloa Tamils learned to regard the peninsula Tamils and their motives with deep suspicion. All these factors contributed to Tamil nationalism taking on primarily a Jaffna face. And when Sinhalese chauvinism revealed its most sinister motives through its policies such as the disenfranchisement of Tamil plantation workers and the colonisation of Tamil lands with Sinhalese settlers, the Tamil leadership offered no tangible way forward.
After independence the successive Sinhalese governments created a policy of land alienation in areas of Tamil concentration to Sinhalese settlers. Bands of settlers were brought into these Tamil villages with state patronage. Over the years this changed the whole demography of some areas in the Eastern Province such as the Ampara District, the strategically important town of Trincomalee and the villages surrounding it. Tamils who were the majority in all these areas have now become minorities. It has even tilted the electoral balance further in favour of the Sinhalese. The hill country Tamils lived concentrated on tea estates, surrounded by Sinhalese villages. Geographically, they were separated from the native Sri Lankan Tamils who lived in the North and the East. All along the indigenous Tamils shunned them socially, mainly because of their lower class and caste backgrounds. The first Sinhalese government disenfranchised the Indian Tamils. Some sections of the upperclass Sri Lankan Tamils also viewed the Indian Tamils as a potential threat in the future and supported the move. The more moderate or liberal Tamil politicians were at best indifferent to the plight of the plantation labour. Their issues were taken on often to bolster their propaganda war. This trend continued even when the militant movements took over the nationalist mantle.
6.2.6 Sinhalese Chauvinism and Indo-Sri Lanka
Relations: Control or Coexistence ?
As we saw earlier, Sinhalese chauvinism was essentially anti- Indian. Such factors made Sri Lanka keep itself at the peripheries of the Indian ambit, and pushed the Sinhalese ruling class to further ties with countries outside the Indian orbit, particularly with the industrialized West and China.
However, these ties were never developed to the levels of being antagonistic to India. All Sri Lankan ruling parties, before 1977, co-existed with a tactical understanding of Indian aspirations. In hindsight it can be seen that India also did not push its influence on its smaller southern neighbour. For India to play a more aggressive role there would have to have been one of two causes: either a danger to its strategic defence or the needs of its expanding economy.
Also a more aggressive Indian role seems to have been curtailed by its own perceptions. The plight of the Indian Tamil plantation workers in Sri Lanka who were viewed as India's fifth column by the Sinhalese, is a case in point. When the Sinhalese racist parties wished to repatriate the Indian plantation workers back to India, the Indian Government signed the Sirima-Shastri Pact without any reservation. The Sirima-Shastri Pact repatriated more than 500,000 plantation workers, many against their will, breaking up communities and even families in the process. The Sinhalese perception that India will use these workers to gain a foothold in Sri Lanka is mistaken, because the Indian state is conditioned by the fact that they are mere workers and not possible rulers.
6.2.7 Sinhalese Nationalism and
Sri Lankan Governments
Sinhalese supremacy was the basis on which especially S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's S.L.F.P. came to power in 1956. But economically it proposed a state capitalist structure and a welfarist and reformist policy. Though the programme itself contained some egalitarian principles, because of the Sinhalese chauvinistic bias, the Tamil population was politically and economically affected. The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact - one of the most generous and rational packages to be offered by chauvinist governments - had to be abandoned due to protest from the U.N.P. with the connivance of the Buddhist clergy. The course was set for deteriorating communal relations.
The economy continued in the same pattern with various modifications - but Sinhalese chauvinism still remained the dominant ideology, continuing its oppression of the Tamils. A break in the economic system, and change in political thinking came in 1977 when the U.N.P., with J.R. Jayewardene at the helm, swept into power mainly on an economic programme of free market policies. It was put forward as a panacea for the evils of the welfare capitalism of Mrs.Bandaranaike with its stagnation, queues, unemployment etc. Though the U.N.P. manifesto adopted a more conciliatory tone on the national question to go with its capitalist open economy programme, its political existence seemed again to rest on a base whose dominant ideology was Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinism. At the time of the elections the overriding economic concerns seemed to obscure the ideological underpinnings,but the dormant chauvinism showed up with the eruption of the 1977 race riots.
The alienation of Tamil nationalists, increasing discrimination, and violent oppression of the Tamil community, had created the conditions for the phase of armed struggle to be born. J.R., a die-hard, pro-American politician, developed pro-Western economic programmes and alliances, and, in his attempt to smash the Tamil resistance, sought the help of Western allies. The United States' good offices brought in Israel as a military advisor, and a V.O.A. base was established in Chilaw, disseminating American propaganda. Trincomalee harbour was made available, ostensibly for refuelling facilities for American ships, and more ambitious plans were rumoured.
These moves were perceived by India as openly subverting its interests. The U. S. and the West saw in the Sri Lankan state a staunch ally and an important check to India's growth as a regional power, especially after India's ties with the Soviet Union were strengthened. The strategic importance of Trincomalee, the natural harbour, underscored the superpowers' interests.
6.2.8 1983 - A Turning Point
1983 was the watershed for local and regional forces - for the Sinhalese chauvinist state, the Tamil militants, for Indian interests; revolutionary politics and militarist tendencies. The June 83 mob violence broke the unstable equilibrium at which contradictory forces were interacting, struggling and evolving. It set in motion at a tremendous pace, the process that was to lead eventually to the October 1987 war. The destruction and chaos seem nothing but a natural outcome. When the July 1983 mob violence against Tamils occurred as a government engineered plan, India voiced its "humanitarian" concern.
For the Sinhalese ruling class which had always feared the espousal of the Tamil cause by India, these indications were seen in a paranoidal manner. And the mainstream press and Sinhalese Buddhist organisations fanned anti-Indian propaganda.
India discerned a tangible advantage in using Tamil aspirations for its own interests. The Indian government saw the armed liberation movements as good vehicles for the destabilisation of the Sri Lankan state, with the aim of checking the threats to its strategic interests,posed by Sri Lanka's moves. Overtures were made by India offering to assist militarily the armed Tamil movements. Though the Indian government's decision was never openly acknowledged, training camps were being set up in India. However, India gave its political support to the parliamentary party of the Tamils - the T.U.L.F..
In the meantime, Indian assistance was the talk of the living rooms of expatriate Tamils in London, New York and Boston. The Indian military assistance gave confidence to the expatriate community that a separate state for the Tamils in Sri Lanka was a historical possibility, and a respectable cause. From afar, they were ready to invest for a
future. Standing order support started to snowball for the Eelam cause. Luncheons, and dinner parties were held to raise support for the armed groups. Those who raised funds for movements became community leaders among the expatriates. Discussions were addressed by political front-men from all the groups. The armed groups became monetarily more sound and politically more important. Expatriate big wigs breezed in and out of New Delhi and Madras, seeking appointments with Indira Gandhi, and talking to Prabakaran and Uma Maheswaran in separate rooms. They were surprised, but not disturbed by their inability to get the latter two into one room. Sri Lankan Tamil platform speakers did the rounds in Tamil Nadu. An expatriate doctor from the U.. S arrived with the Eelam flag designed by him and a commissioned recording of the Tamil Eelam national anthem. Indian assistance spurred recruitment, and swelled the ranks of all groups, thus bloating unnaturally the rather small and infantile politico-military structures of the groups. The sweep of Indian military assistance created shifts in political opinions and the class character of the struggle became well established. It was after the '83 riots and Indian help that taking up arms became popular with middle class youth. Though the ideology of nationalism was that of the middle classes, and the rhetoric was out of their consciousness, the harsh life underground, and the persecution by the police did not make it appealing to the youth of this class in the early days. Before 1983, the rank and file of the groups were young men mostly from the oppressed and deprived sections of the community. However, 1983s gruesome mob violence, the enormous suffering of the people and Indian assistance, tipped the balance. In the process armed actions became the total focus of the struggle among the groups and, in general, within the community. It unlinked political accountability from military action, the fundamental experience of all people's struggles. Liberation struggle became synonymous with armed action. And politics took a back seat in the community and in the movements. But in India's interests, the destabilisation of Sri Lanka could not be better organized than through these politically stunted organizations. India organized the aid through the R.A.W. (Research and Analysis Wing), and it was mainly in the form of training. An empirical analysis of R.A.W.'s activities shows the trends in the political thinking of the Indian state vis-a-vis the Tamil militant groups.
6.2.9 The R.A.W. and the Tamil Militant Groups
The first group that was chosen for training was the T.E.L.O.. The T.E.L.O. at that time was a handful of persons without a clear cut organisational base or theoretical perspective. With Indian assistance the T.E.L.O. became a front line armed group. Recruitment in Tamil Eelam commenced on a massive scale. Once the training took off, the T.E.L.O. launched some daring and successful armed raids on the Sri Lankan security forces.
The scramble for military training offered by India intensified. Five militants movements out of many were chosen by the R.A.W. and training was offered separately as separate packages. The L.T.T.E. had always felt that they had the moral right to leadership because they had sacrificed much in performing many armed actions, and thus had suffered the most for the "cause". Moreover, their narrow nationalist ideology could not accommodate the existence of other movements. They as a group denied the historical contribution of other movements to the cause, and felt cheated when they were not chosen as the sole beneficiary of the Indian assistance. This was one among the many reasons that laid the foundations for their decision later to eliminate physically the competing groups. Nevertheless the L.T.T.E. did not let its bitterness jeopardise its relations with the R.A.W. or India. They, like the other movements, solicited assiduously the military aid on offer. Moreover, the L.T.T.E. and all the other major movements shored up their support by meshing their own with Tamil Nadu's politics. Until the splits came into the open, all the movements were generally referred to as "Tigers". But it was predominantly, the L.T.T.E.'s image of glamour and heroism that caught the popular imagination in Tamil Nadu.
One did expect other movements like the E.P.R.L.F. and the E.R.O.S. with left-wing leanings, to be more cautious about the Indian military training, especially as they had criticised the L.T.T.E.'s military strategy. But the reality was that the atmosphere of total focus was on military and armed action. This proved too much of a pressure for these movements as well. They lacked well organised politico-military strategies of their own to counter this militaristic focus; and they also lacked the conceptual depth that was required to handle the reality of India, and assess the pros and cons of Indian help. Therefore they, like the others, surrendered to the Indian plan wholesale. Their fault was not their receiving of military assistance, but their lack of a coherent structure, a political theory, and popular base which made them unable to control India's dominance and keep the initiative in their own hands. Thus, the slow but steady surrender to India became their destiny.
Therefore when we analyse the level of influence and penetration of the R.A.W. into the movements, one aspect is clear. It is that its influence is far reaching in all the movements. But the degree of penetration varied. The T.E.L.O was fully penetrated. Others were able to keep a fair distance from this secret service. the E.P.R.L.F. and the EROS had an ambivalent relationship with it. The L.T.T.E. was the most resistant to R.A.W.influence among all five groups. The Tigers who had evolved with the political history of the popular nationalist movement in the homeland, had already built a tightly knit centralized armed structure with fanatical dedication to the cause of their movement, and, most of all, their leader. Therefore, though the L.T.T.E. was a reactionary and stifling phenomenon, the R.A.W. found it difficult to penetrate it fully or to destabilise its structure.
The R.A.W. offered training in separate packages on different terms to the different groups, and thus not only intensified intergroup rivalry, but also ensured a diffused build up of trained personnel, so that no one movement should get ahead of the others militarily. The dangerous and sad aspect of this was that, using the antagonisms between groups to its advantage, the R.A.W. collected information on the movements from each other. India also saw to it that no movement could establish tangible connections with liberation struggles elsewhere or with other countries.
The conclusions we could derive from the above observations are that, though the RAW and India wanted the growth of armed Tamil movements, it was planned in such a way that none of them would be able to supersede the other, and ultimately pose a threat to India or to Sri Lanka. They penetrated the most politically naive of the movements, the T.E.L.O., and used them as their agents. Their competitive offerings in action offset their greater internal rivalries and fragmented support base.
One gathers from all available reports that the R.A.W.'s objective was to use the militant movements to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan state to concede some of India's interests, together with some devolution to the Tamils. Abortive instance of the latter was the Thimpu talks of 1985, where the militants were said to have been "frog marched" to the talks by the R.A.W., and the proposals of 19th December 1986. What was on offer was a far cry from the militants' stated objective of Eelam- a separate Tamil state. The effect of the R.A.W.'s involvement on the social and political consciousness of the Tamils was an unmitigated disaster.
6.2.10 Indian Training, the Nationalist Struggle
of the Tamils and the Sri Lankan State
The Indian military training saw to it that the movements became more successful in containing the armed forces.On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government with the loss of control of the North, sought to chip away at the nationalist argument, and the territorial integrity of the Tamils and thereby make Tamil Eelam a worthless claim. They made moves in the East, the more fertile parts of Tamil Eelam, and escalated colonization in an effort to change the demography of the region. From amongst the Sinhalese colonizers they also built up such paramilitary corps as the home guards, who began to carry out acts of violence against the indigenous Tamils. This started a frontier type of war, especially in the Trincomalee district, and resulted in brutal murders of Tamils and created conditions for a life of terror in the East. The L.T.T.E. in response could not mount an organised defence of the indigenous Tamils, but carried out retaliatory raids not only on the colonizers but even on traditional Sinhalese villages outside the Tamil homelands committing brutal acts of murder and arson. The restrained slogans of pre 1983-L.T.T.E., were abandoned in favour of their instinctive emotional slogans.
Furthermore, the greater sophistication of the liberation movements' armed activities, tied up the Sri Lankan government head to foot in a destructive war which also crippled it economically.
6.2.11 National Consensus: A Facade
Though many considered the period after Indian military aid as one of progress in the Tamil nationalist struggle - the wresting of control of the northern district within a mere three years - this apparent advance and triumph is falsified
by other aspects of the struggle. The Eastern province, the other area of Tamil concentration, had remained for a long time outside the sphere of Tamil nationalism. The Batticaloa Tamils and other Eastern province Tamils were reluctant to join a struggle that was Jaffna dominated.
The growing entrenchment of the Sri Lankan military in the East, and increasing the colonization, rendered the Eastern situation more complex; the lack of vision on the part of the leading group, the L.T.T.E., whose Eastern front was small seemed to have handed the Easterners on a platter to the brutality of Sri Lankan S.T.F. and Homeguards, when the North was relatively trouble free. This brought in further division and increased the basis of prejudice between the North and the East, besides enhancing the anger and frustration in the East at Northern hegemony and step motherly treatment. This shook the cohesion that seemed to have developed after the 1983 anti-Tamil mob violence.
The development of the northern front occurred at the expense of many fundamental tasks of nation building. The blind spot in the concept of the Tamil nation was the question of two large sections of the Tamil speaking people - the Muslims or the Islamic Tamils and the hill country (plantation) Tamils. Tamil nationalism was the ideology of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Historically, it had very tenuous links with the ideology of the Islamic or hill country Tamils of Sri Lanka.
The case of the Islamic Tamils spotlights the weakness of Tamil nationalism with clarity. They are a grouping with a unique economic, socio-political structure, and cultural characteristics. Large sections of them live in the East, with pockets of them well entrenched all over Sri Lanka, but isolated from each other. The cohesive factor binding them is Islam, not Tamil. Not only do they have historical contradictions specific to themselves with the Sinhalese, but have suffered during anti-Tamil "race riots" as well.
Though the slogans and programmes of all movements paid lip service to the rights of Muslims, there has never been a concrete programme to realise their goals, or the articulation of their needs and objectives during the process of the struggle. What has been proclaimed is a programme designed by the Tamils for the Muslims. There are immense contradictions and prejudices between Tamils and Muslims, which should have been handled during the years of struggle, a common basis built and an organic cohesion produced. What we have is tokenism, some tenuous slogans, a token presence of Muslims in the movements and the imposition of the hegemony of the Tamils (especially peninsula Tamils) which led to increasing contradictions. Therefore the advance of the Northern front was a facade. Internally,the inner core of the nation was cleaved, and many sections were inarticulate, isolated and in disarray. This situation was successfully used by the Sri Lankan government to increase the animosity between the Tamils and Muslims by even arming small groups of Muslim youths to escalate the conflict.
Not only was the nation cleaved on a regional basis, but also the intensified inter-group rivalries, ultimately culminated in the L.T.T.E. annihilating group after group with brutality unparalleled in the history of liberation struggles. This led the community to be broken into dissenting segments. Their discontent and hatred were reduced to sullen silence by the terror of the L.T.T.E. and other leading movements. We were not only losing on the home front, but there was a slow and steady erosion of international support, as brutalities within and between groups and against Sinhalese were on the increase.
One detrimental aspect of Indian assistance was found in all movements, especially in those where armed actions formed the total axis (like the Tigers and the T.E.L.O.). In them the military machinery grew out of proportion to the political structure The structures were neither dependent nor connected to the people of the land. And there was hardly any accountability to the people. This lack of accountability was partly the reason why movements like the Tigers could pursue brutal supremacist struggles, while those like the P.L.O.T.E. and the T.E.L.O. indulged in large scale torture and murder of dissidents with impunity.
The Tigers not only brutally eliminated other movements, but they also suppressed any other opinion among the people. All peoples organisations were terrorised into toeing the line by the power of the gun. Very soon many civilian organisations such as the Jaffna mothers' front, trade unions, citizens' committees, teachers' unions and the
local press that were all started through the independent initiative of the people, were either suppressed or appropriated by the L.T.T.E.. Though the L.T.T.E. seemed to have ascended to dominance, it was not an organic growth. It was achieved by terror.
Although all movements talked of India only as a rear base, none of them inclusive of the L.T.T.E., could establish any real autonomy from India organisationally. This was principally due to the fact that none of them seriously considered de-linking themselves from India, and building alternative structures, organising the people towards self-sufficiency-economically or socially or politically - to at least a limited extent. This dependency afforded India scope to use a carrot and stick method with Tamil militant groups in its political and diplomatic manoeuvres with the Sri Lankan government. From Thimpu to the 29 July Peace Accord, the Tamil movements had no autonomy.
6.2.12 Negotiation: Anathema
The seemingly successful period of the Tamil militant groups was interspersed with armed actions against Sinhalese villages as a reprisal to the state's activity in Tamil areas. This led to a Sinhalese chauvinist backlash and gave a greater momentum to the forces of reaction within the southern political scene. The resurgence of the J.V.P., the rise of the M.E.P. and the chauvinistic tilt of the S.L.F.P. are classic examples of how narrow nationalism became a relevant ideology despite the onward march of the country towards capitalist progress for almost a decade. Due to the increasing neocolonialist penetration and dependency under the Jayewardene government, the Sinhalese nation was experiencing a disintegration of social structures, relations and values. This coupled with Sinhalese anger at the government's inability to smash the L.T.T.E., resulted in a resurgence of petit bourgeois militancy. The content of this new militancy was narrow nationalism, romanticism and the glorification of the past and traditional feudal values. The remarkable rise of the J.V.P. on the populist crest in recent times, signals the revival of narrow nationalism with a new vigour.
Though it is apparent that a rational approach to the national crisis lay in finding a political solution between the leaderships of both communities and thus reducing the possibility of Indian involvement, the Government caught in the trap of its own ideology, could envisage participation in negotiations only from a position of strength vis-a-vis the Tigers. That is why negotiations set up at the dictates of India and pressure from the international community, were a failure. And the state continued to build up its military potential.
As the first step, the Sri Lankan state launched its first offensive to wrench control of the North. The defence of the Tamils was weakened by the internal killings, which made it difficult for the L.T.T.E. to sustain the fight and it had to withdraw, losing its control over the crucial border areas, and the land connection with the East. Though the L.T.T.E. still had its bases and moved fairly freely, its earlier position of free access was heavily curtailed. The Tiger control zone shrunk to the peninsula, north of Elephant-Pass. This success gave a psychological boost to the Sri Lankan security forces. A military solution and negotiation from a position of strength were becoming a reality for the Sri Lankan state while India's December 19th proposals were on the table. This was a heavy blow to the Tigers who also would have preferred a position of strength before any negotiation. The Sri Lankan state started its relentless pressure on the Tamil support base. An economic blockade was imposed and sporadic aerial bombardment of so called Tiger camps preluded the final offensive - the so called Operation Liberation.
As the time bomb exploded in the commercial heartland of Colombo on 21 April 1987, the conquest of the Jaffna peninsula was on the cards - the ensuing frenzy of the Sinhalese-chauvinist platforms demanded it.
6.2.13 Operation Liberation or The June War
On the surface it looked a success for the Sri Lankan state. It had smashed a stronghold of the Tigers, the vanguard area of Tamil nationalism - Vadamaratchi. But the war itself and the manner in which it was conducted brought about an international outcry. India stepped up its "moral" pressure, and, by a show of strength rather than by physical invasion, aborted the final Sri Lankan onslaught on the heavily populated Jaffna city and its hinterland. Sri Lanka's allies threatened economic sanctions and demanded a political solution. On the Tamil side, the L.T.T.E. and the Tamil nationalist cause were never in such a defensive position. The Tiger control zone had been whittled down to a corner of the Jaffna peninsula.
On the other hand, India had never found a more opportune time for the offer of its "good" offices. It offered the Sri Lankan government the final package, put in clear cut terms its strategic needs, reiterated the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and pushed the solution down the throats of the Tigers. To the world at large, it took away the image of Indian expansionism and portrayed India as a genuine "peace keeper". To the war weary Tamil community, peace seemed a sweet reality.
6.2.14 The Peace Accord
When the Peace Accord was signed, there was euphoria in the Tamil community. But the L.T.T.E. could not rationalize the Accord to its cadres. The Tiger leadership had been pushed into accepting it.
But such a position was taken while the Tigers were at their lowest and in their most defensive position. The Tiger leadership had erred partly because of certain misconceptions in constructing their relationship with India. They had surmised that India's political aspirations in the region would cause it to look for agents for the destabilisation of pro-Western Sri Lanka. They had openly spoken on platforms about the Tamil struggle and their "Movement" having given this opening for India into Sri Lanka, and said that Tamil Eelam as a separate state would continue to be friendly to India and thus ensure the existence of India's control over south Sri Lanka. This perception was based on some ideas prevalent amongst Tamil intellectuals. With this perception they could not grasp the reality behind India's continuous reiteration of the fact that it respected the territorial integrity and unity of Sri Lanka.
Some Western analysts saw India's opposition to a separate linguistic state as stemming from a fear that it would give impetus to nationalist movements within its own borders. Though one cannot deny that this is an important aspect of India's perception, it is more important to analyse it in terms of the economic and strategic defence needs of the Indian ruling class.
Though India found the pro-Western defence alliances of Sri Lanka detrimental to its interests, the free economic policies of the Sri Lankan government were in fact a boon to the interests of Indian capital. As we mentioned earlier the development of capitalism in India was stimulating it to look abroad for markets, especially in the South Asian region. To compete with Japan, the West, and the newly industrialised countries India needed to modernise and refine its technology and its management and marketing techniques. Moreover, the big capitalists of India (such as Tata and Birla) were expanding their business interests at an international level and linking up with big multinational companies. Already India had made sizable investments in Sri Lanka's Free Trade Zone and its banking sector. The suggestion that Sri Lanka might become what a Hong Kong is for China, is not so far from the truth when we take into consideration the above facts. Therefore, the maintenance of a stable united Sri Lanka with policies that satisfy India's economic expansion and defence requirements, would be India's objective. Thus, it is not surprising that in the Peace Accord, the letters and annexures which deal with Indian interests are well defined in minute detail, while the part dealing with several key issues of the national question, is vague and given only in broad outline. On the Sri Lankan side, one could rationally view the Peace Accord as affording J.R. Jayewardene a solution or at least an escape from the grip of chauvinism, giving foreign investment a spur and the economy a truly capitalist impetus. However, it was not to be so.
However, Sri Lanka was to be continually confounded by the paradox that existed between its ideology and the economy. Though the economic programme was capitalist, its political existence depended on a reactionary ideology that was anti-Tamil and vehemently anti-India. Thus the populist forces in south Sri Lanka shouted "sell-out" when the peace accord was signed. This stage need not have arisen if the U.N.P. had sought a rational solution, and explained to the electorate the impending Indian problem if the national crisis was not neutralized. For neutralization it had to produce a programme for decentralization and give certain powers to the Tamils in the North
and East and ensure the territorial integrity of the Tamil homelands without total division of the country. It could have allayed the fears of the Sinhalese majority and accommodated Tamil aspirations to work towards a rational bourgeois solution. Their irrational and military approach had given India a powerful role, albeit an apparently peaceful one, to play. This enabled it to gain a foothold in Sri Lanka without being seen as aggressive.
On the other hand, the Tamil nationalist struggle under the L.T.T.E. leadership had gone on a path of internal destruction and terror, alienating and cleaving the community. It was failing in its objective by not conceptualising the needs of a struggle whose primary objective was creating a self-sufficient, autonomous state (as far as possible) out of an inextricably linked Sri Lanka. It was falling short by not perceiving India's true aspirations. The result was a failure to construct any means of dealing with the geopolitical reality that avoided total dependency and capitulation. The L.T.T.E. could not grasp, even at this late hour, that "Tamil Eelam" had ironically been rendered an empty slogan, at least to some extent, by their own efforts.
The urgent need here was to work for a rational solution to save the Tamil nation from total Indian hegemony and Sri Lankan control. The surrender of the island to the manipulations of a regional power resulted from the intolerance and intransigence of narrow nationalist forces on both sides.
6.2.15 The Left: A viable Alternative ?
Last but not least of our failings was the lack of a viable alternative to counter this narrow nationalism: a third force. And that brings us to the Left. So far we have not outlined the evolution of this small but politically and historically important force in both communities. But we wish to draw out some observations. It is the failure of this force historically that had cleared the way for the ascendency of narrow nationalism to the core of our political life. The Left had the capacity to lead us out of this quagmire. As early as 1947, at the congress of the Communist Party of Ceylon, a resolution calling for regional autonomy for Tamils was put forward. In the debates against the one language policy of S.W.R.D..Bandaranaike in 1956, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party ( the Trotskyite left party) and the C.P.'s enlightened position on the parity of languages and its prophetic pronouncements regarding the future - "One language two nations, two languages one nation " - stand as landmarks and show the role the Left could have played. It is their subsequent, capitulation and lack of creativity that lost the initiative to nationalists.
In the contemporary neocolonialist era, the traditional nationalists such as the T.U.L.F., because of their weak economic base, cannot successfully lead a national struggle towards liberation without capitulating to imperialism. They have no real independent economic power and this leads them one way or another to become integrated and dependent on international capital. The only way they can sustain their nationalist aspirations (stemming from colonial and now neocolonial domination) is by adopting a rhetorical and emotional ideology. Essentially a section of the ruling class uses this to consolidate its power. It is apparent that only a force that represents the interests of the broad masses of the working population, and is therefore opposed to the economic dependence on foreign capital, could design a strategy and a concretised programme to limit the neocolonial penetration and thus lay the foundation for a national economic base. Because our economy was already integrated with international capital and because of specific features of our social formation, the national struggle required a creative and far sighted leadership for a consistent struggle against the forces of reaction. This was not given.
The Sri Lankan Left's base has been traditionally in the urban working class. The leadership comprised petit bourgeois intellectuals who held a Marxist perspective. They were at one time able to predict the development of the national question. But in time, when they opted to participate in the parliamentary process, they had to accommodate the force of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism. Their entry into electoral politics abandoning all other forms of struggle, coincided with the powerful revival of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism which tapped the populist consciousness of the people, especially from the rural base. Since the Left had never represented the rural poor, this base rejected them decisively. In this way a large section of the population was abandoned to the bourgeois political parties' control. The Left, in a desperate attempt to consolidate what ever was left to them, made recourse to the Sinhalese chauvinist line themselves, further eroding their strength.
The lack of clear political leadership among the leftist forces was not only due to their urban bias, petit bourgeois leadership and capitulation to the parliamentary path. The crisis within the international communist movement and
the great debate in the 1960s about the future was another factor. The split in the communist movement fragmented the left forces in Sri Lanka. Most of the fragmented left parties dogmatically and mechanically applied experiences of revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world and isolated themselves from the masses in both communities. Their theoretical outlook and internal party struggles were products of mechanical imposition and the adoption of frameworks developed in the international communist movements. The dominance of the Soviet Union and China in the Communist movement also played a great role in narrowing and stereotyping the outlook of these movements.
The major extra-parliamentary left - wing party was the Communist Party (Peking Wing), which gathered together the most radical and militant elements of the Sri Lankan Left. Unlike the parliamentary Left, it had a power base amongst certain sections of the oppressed castes in Jaffna where pitched battles against caste oppression had been waged in the mid - 1960s. The majority of left-leaning intellectuals amongst Tamils were also with the Communist Party (Peking). It was also the first left party to build up a solid base among the hill country plantation Tamils. Despite all this, it was also not totally immune to Sinhalese chauvinism. It failed to comprehend the primacy of the national question in the politics of the island and left the fighting for the rights of the Tamils in the hands of the Tamil bourgeois parties. It had no coherent line linking class struggle with the national question. Therefore it could not consolidate its base amongst the hill country Tamils and the Sri Lankan Tamils. This error in its theoretical understanding of class struggle in the Sri Lankan context, led the party to just drift along with the events and merely respond to the measures that the state was taking.
As a result it began to lose support and to disintegrate in the late 1960s. The fragmentation occurred over the theoretical conflict regarding the legitimacy and nature of armed struggle. The efficacy of armed struggle and the political and strategic means of conducting armed activities against the state also had to be tested and proved.
The strength of the J.V.P. lay in the fact that it adopted the powerful weapon of Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalism. Its leader, Rohana Wijeweera had broken away from the Communist Party. The famous "five classes" conducted by the J.V.P. included the topic of Indian expansionism in which the hill country Tamils were portrayed as India's fifth column. Their anti-Tamil stance gave renewed vigour to the racist feeling of the petit-bourgeois rural youth in the south of the country. The J.V.P. gained much ground by raising this patriotic cry, mixed with Marxist rhetoric. This culminated in the 1971 insurrection which was crushed brutally by the regime of Mrs.Bandaranaike, who was later on an ally of the J.V.P. for a short time during the aftermath of signing of the Peace Accord. in 1987. The 1971 youth insurrection was limited only to the Sinhalese South. The North and East watched it passively.
When the Tamil youth were getting ready to launch their armed campaign against the state in the mid-1970s, the Sri Lankan Left was nowhere to be seen. Thus the leadership of a struggle that would create the most decisive political crisis in the history of Sri Lanka slowly and steadily passed into the hands of narrow nationalism. And it is also clear that it is the Left's internal weakness and contradictions that provided the primary means for external forces to infiltrate their way to controlling the nation.
6.3 The New Phase: Post October 1987
6.3.1 The October War: The people do not matter
Brigadier Manjit Singh of the I.P.K.F. once told a young man in Jaffna, “Be happy that you are alive”. Yes, in this brutal war, to be dead was your right, to live was your privilege. In the terror stricken nights of those October days, listening to the continual whizz of the shells, the pounding of great big cannon, the roar of the tracked vehicle and the sharp piercing crack of automatic weapons - to be alive seemed a privilege. Days would dawn and nights filled with fear, would drag, not even knowing what the morrow would bring.
The nation was on the roads, their worldly belongings in plastic bags, their children on their hips, in the blistering noon day heat, from refugee camp to refugee camp, from village to village,
fleeing from the withdrawing Tigers and the advancing army. This was 12 - 20 October 1987, in the central Jaffna villages of Kopay and Urumpirai where the war was raging. We heard the women say:
" children, run to safety, do not linger any longer, tell your father that I am dead... we left our mother, shot by the army, to die and walked away.”
“..we stood still, motionless. I gave my breast to the baby to suck, to keep it quiet. The firing continued all around us unabated. I thought we were as good as dead.
“..when we fled in panic from the raining shells and firing we stepped over bodies, lying on the roads.”
“..I cycled fearfully and furiously, everywhere along the road I could see only smashed up houses and bodies on the road - the smell was unbearable.”
"..We lay flat among the dead, pretending to be dead...for 18 hours.”
"...They had looted our rooms, pulled out the clothing, we found boot marks of blood on our clothing - the boots soaked on the blood of those who were shot on the floor below..”
"... We buried her in the garden, stood around and sang a hymn and said a prayer...she was shot dead in the kitchen, with a half done sambol1 still on the grinding stone.”
In those early days of the war, successful landmine attacks took in fair numbers of Indian army jawans. During the heroics of 12 October, 29 Indian commandos had died. Many spoke with a swagger:
“The Boys are doing great. The fourth biggest military power in the world is humbled.”
But as days advanced, what the heroics brought down was the stamp of the Indian boot with unrestrained brutality, and the sacrificial pyre consumed people in great numbers. Then came the shells, cannon, tank fire, helicopter fire and even bombs from the Sri Lankan bombers. When Tiger sentry point after sentry point withdrew without a whimper, only firing rounds of automatic fire thereby luring the Indian army, the people were the sacrifice. The brave talk sounded empty and hollow.
21 October was the day of the massacre at the hospital. The Tigers were there: maybe it was a deliberate ploy on the part of the L.T.T.E.. They came in two lots. When the doctors had pleaded with them to leave, the Tigers went away only after firing some rounds widely and leaving some weapons inside. The Indian army came an hour or so later, at which time there was no retaliatory fire. But they stormed the hospital and brutally killed, taking the lives of the sick and those who were caring for the sick in and around the area. The killing went on throughout the evening, night and the next morning.
The pattern became established - the Tigers would lure, and sometimes kill a few jawans. Then the Indian army would run berserk - shoot, stab, molest and rape. It was unarmed defenceless people who were paying the price. The famed cadjan fences of Jaffna were burnt; sometimes whole settlements of huts were burnt. Invariably houses, and public buildings were shelled or bombed. Kondavil, Kokuvil, Urumpirai, Kopay, Manipay, Sandilipay, Pandatheruppu, Chavakachcheri, Suthumalai....there was hardly any village to tell a different story.
6.3.2 Terror: The Peacekeeper's Tool of Control
These reprisals were not a momentary display of anger at the scene of the death of a fellow jawan, nor an aspect of indiscipline of a massive army. It seemed to be a tactical part of the strategy. A responsible officer told some senior citizens:
“If the Tiger chaps are here, and even if one jawan dies, we will scorch this place.”
And this was not an isolated comment; in every village, in every street corner, the officers gave the people the same message. What can we surmise, except that reprisal raids were part of the strategy - to give a message of Terror. Terror is now the law of the land. It did work, it does work: but for how long?
It was not only that the hospital operation was conducted with callous disregard for the human cost, or that terror was a tactic and reprisal raids were the order of the day. The entire community felt degraded as their women faced molestation on a large scale on the excuse of checking for arms at sentry points, in people's own homes and in the refugee camps. Raping, not just by one, sometimes by two and in one instance by three. To scream was the only defence the women had against this monstrosity.
Even in matters of less importance, the Indian Army showed complete disregard. As Jaffna was being taken, they announced over the radio that the entire population should go to three places for refuge: two schools and the Nallur Kovil (temple). Out of these, the Nallur Kovil did not even have sanitary facilities. At one point there were twenty to thirty thousand people at the temple, in the drenching monsoon rain without any shelter. No functioning hospital, no drugs. The children were dying of diarrhoea and fever. For the Indian Army it was military action. Operations had to be done and the people in these areas did not matter much or were just an after thought.
The people were the killing fodder not only for the occupying Indian Army, but also for the Tigers. It seems a strange twist that the so called leaders of the people wanted them to die defenceless. Invariably the Tigers have used the vicinities of refugee camps as places to mount attacks from (Kokuvil Hindu college where 34 people died is an example) and then withdraw at great cost to the people left behind. They turned a deaf ear to the people's sufferings and their entreaties.
They continued to lure the army, just to run away, letting the people face the result. It was cruellest of all when they told the people that another 500 to 1000 must die for them to have a viable international publicity campaign. This was not an isolated instance or the statement of a group without contact with the leadership. It was pronounced at many places and in many forms. When the people were starving, wandering around like dogs for rice, the Tigers issued leaflets asking the people to boycott Indian distributed food.
When the children were dying with diseases, they threatened those who cared for them, ordering them not to issue Indian drugs. Did they offer alternatives, so that we could eat Tiger food and give our children Tiger drugs ? Many important and searching questions surfaced during the crisis. How was it that the movement that claimed to be the leaders of the people, acted with such a disregard for the people? Why did they choose this path of bull-like collision, well knowing our defenceless position? Why did they not understand that the task of rescuing the nation from Indian military and political domination, from the present position of weakness, would entail enormous creativity and not simple slogans and rhetorical, intransigent positions? One has to search in the roots of the Tigers to explain these aspects of our history. Though many factors contributed to this short-sightedness, some aspects of Tiger psychology are pertinent.
6.3.3 The Messiahs and the People
The Tigers were a historical product of nationalist ideology and saw themselves as its legitimate representatives. They grew voicing the disenchantment of the youth, rebelling against the bankruptcy and hypocrisy of Tamil nationalist leaders in parliamentary politics. They held in contempt their slick lawyer politics and verbose debates and decided to replace them with action. They emphasised an action oriented programme and built an organisation centred on a tightly knit centralised armed group. Altruism, nationalist ardour, determination and rebelliousness were marks of the youth who made up the core. Dedication to the slogan of Tamil Eelam, and more so to the “Movement” was the central axis of the organisation. Anything could be justified in the name of the sacred “Movement”. This elevated religious sense was nurtured in all its members. They performed daring armed actions,
and propelled history by a kind of politics of heroism - the L.T.T.E.'s politics of heroism had individual heroes going forward, holding the banner and doing the impossible.
The guiding ideology was a nationalism of extreme narrowness, deriving its energies from primitive instinctive loyalties - in our case to language and race. Romantic, idealised imagery and rhetorical slogans appealing to the anger and emotions of the nation were the core content of this ideology. Behind the slogans, there is an emptiness - the classic example is the slogan of “Tamil Eelam”. Though the Tigers saw themselves as the vanguard of this nation and the leaders of an incipient separate state, they did not explore any of the fundamentals of nation building. Nor did they expose the present social weaknesses, or grasp the weakness of the economic base of the Tamil nation, dependent on and inextricably linked to the South and the state machinery. Nor did they address the contradictions arising from regional minority groups, besides class and caste differences. They had no coherent policy to lead the people to overcome these divisions during the struggle. Taking the case of external factors, though they assiduously sought India's help and protection, they had no concept of the geopolitical context and the thrust of Indian hegemony.
They had no theory or analytical framework to explore complexities. They preferred simply formulated answers and fed the people with simple solutions. Their simplicity had an appeal and earthiness. Their people's politics emanated from the satiation of populist desires, fears and sentiments. The other side of the history of such ideological groups is that their idealised, emotional content leads to fanaticism, since the imagery is in absolutes - the Nation, the Language, and the Movement. They are intolerant of others - other nationalities, groups and opinions. They possess a sense of greatness and of awe inspiring duty - which rationalises and purifies even brutality. As one woman dissident aptly described,
“Thambi (Prabakaran, leader of the L.T.T.E.) had a sense of history, a Messianic fervour, and this marked him out as a leader from the start. But these characteristics in the man who had only an idealised and narrow ideology led to fanaticism and brutality.”
This woman further exemplified both the appealing and the reactionary sides in two quotations from Prabakaran taken from talks given to his men:
1. “Only a good cook is a good fighter” (when men in his movement thought cooking was degrading)
2. “Politics is there to explain armed action. Not to guide it.”
A.S. Balasingham, the so-called "theoretician'" of the L.T.T.E., played the assigned role to perfection.
The most poignant aspect of this idealized doctrine was the heroism of suicide. The unique characteristic of the Tigers is the swallowing of cyanide, when they are captured. This act was proclaimed to be sublime, the utmost sacrifice to their cause. It was glorified by the nation as an unparalleled act of dedication in the history of liberation struggles. However, cyanide signified a suicidal urge, to escape from reality, for those who could not handle material reality and its complexities. For an individual member this was an escape from the reality of persecution and torture, in place of building the will to overcome. For an organisation, this served as a means of not addressing objective reality. Given some imagined aspirations and needs, this state of the psyche, through a process of rationalisation, led increasingly to annihilatory ends.
It used to be wondered how a materialistic society such as obtains in Jaffna raised up idealistic youths who were prepared to give up everything for such a cause. Superficially, this may seem a paradox. But at a deeper level, this materialistic urge and this narrow idealism, are two sides of the same coin, whose workings are closely linked. People in certain circumstances, because of the narrowness of their perception, come to identify certain privileges
and rights as being central to their existence. These values are propagated by a dominant section which sets the cultural mores. These values themselves have their roots in historical, social and economic factors.
When those rights and privileges that are deemed central to the community's existence are challenged, it creates amongst those affected a build up of idealist emotions, giving them the ability to fight back blindly with remarkable will - power. But these idealist notions have no material base to stand on. This leads to fanaticism.
In the case, especially, of the Jaffna Tamils, they had developed a system where education and jobs in the lower and middle reaches of the white collar government sector had become vitally important. Success in this became tied up with prestige, and financially well endowed and well connected brides. Discrimination in university admissions from 1971 challenged a right that had become indispensable to the Tamils. This need not have been the case, for the farming sector had begun to do well, and land, together with bank loans, was available. But making the change in the economic base was, perhaps for reasons of inertia, not publicly contemplated. Instead, the ideal state of Eelam came to be thought of as the answer to Tamil ills. Amongst the first to push this were those who were university students in the early 1970s.
Even with the liberation groups Eelam was no more than a slogan. They made no practical moves to create a material base, that would give flesh and blood to the concept of Eelam. For instance, none of the groups, for all their criticisms of the old leadership and their militant activity, had any grasp of the dimensions of the colonization problem, which was crucial to the integrity of the homeland. They had not developed any means of resettling Tamils in the East, nor could they do anything constructive to stop the colonisation programme of the state. Brutal and sadistic reprisal killings of Sinhalese settlers and villagers was their answer. This made mere existence itself, for Tamils in those areas, terror ridden and unbearable, as Sri Lanka's Special Task Force and the Homeguards took their revenge unresisted.
The plantation workers on the other hand, had very little to do with the national struggle except to be targets of Sinhalese mob violence. Almost all the groups mustered a few slogans about the plantation Tamils for their political convenience, but did not take any great pains to incorporate them into the struggle and left them undefended. The increasing fanaticism of the L.T.T.E. and the transient hysteria amongst its supporters, must be seen in the context of its unrealistic programme to achieve Eelam. The L.T.T.E.'s political objectives and the strategic means it employed were quite divorced from objective reality.
The narrow idealism of these groups had a specific dialectic in their relation to people. It is often repeated that “the people support the Tigers” - that the Tigers appeal to a cross section of the Tamil society, and that they reflect their emotion and pride. What exactly is this relationship of the Tigers to the people? Lenin wrote a leaflet criticising the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, which was a merger of several Narodnik groups and circles, advocating armed action in the absence of ground work amongst the masses. On the subject of the theory of excitative terrorism, he wrote:
"Each time a hero engages in single combat, this arouses in us all a spirit of struggle and courage, we are told. But we know from the past and see in the present, that only new forms of the mass movement or the awakening of new sections of the masses to independent struggle really rouses a spirit of struggle and courage in all. Single combat, however, in as much as it remains single combat waged by the Balmashoves, has the immediate effect of simply creating a short-lived sensation, while indirectly it even leads to apathy and passive waiting for the next bout."
The dialectic portrayed by Lenin is an apt description of the Tigers as well. However, in the case of the Tigers, not only was there no organic link with the people who were just passive spectators, but more importantly, people were held in contempt. This made the Tigers refer to the people as “Sheep”. This attitude made the Tigers disregard the people’s criticism. The disenchantment and resentment of the people, came into the open in those dark days of October. Ultimately as events revealed in those desperate hours, even the lives of people lost their significance for the Tigers. The Tigers often claimed that the 658 of their members who died during the struggle were the only martyrs for the Tamil cause. The thousands of people who died during the military offensives, and the cadres from other groups were all non-existent for them.
In their theoretical documents, the L.T.T.E. claimed their relationship with the people was as fish to the sea. But the sacrifice of the people who were their protective wall against penetration by the state's security forces; who provided the militants with food and shelter; who provided them with hiding places against the ever hovering threat of Sri Lankan secret services; who risked everything to succour them in those early days; was never appreciated nor commemorated. Individuals and people were used, as the Tigers used the deaths of ordinary civilians to campaign against the Sri Lankan state in international fora. Martyrdom was a private preserve of the L.T.T.E.. The offshoot of this kind of politics was that raising of the people’s consciousness, came to mean an appeal to the most instinctive and emotional levels of existence. As the period of Thileepan's fast showed, the Tigers aroused in the people an emotional hysteria where people deified Thileepan and at his death were ready to commit any act, even brutal murder and arson.
To recapitulate, L.T.T.E. had an ideology based on the most instinctive, emotional aspects of ethnic loyalties which was intolerant of others, and had an overwhelming sense of its own greatness. This ideology did not provide them with the necessary apparatus to handle complexities. Therefore they could only view the internal and external contradictions in a simple framework, and offered only simple solutions. Their politics ascribed a marginal role for the people - and if they mobilised the people, it was at a basic emotional level so as to only advance the narrow cause of their movement.
6.3.4 The L.T.T.E.: India's Prodigal Son
Against this background, if we view L.T.T.E.'s relationship with India, its somersaults and ultimate collision, a certain clarity emerges. The L.T.T.E.'s sense of greatness, and the feeling that they were the bearers of the torch of Tamil nationalism, made them feel that they had the moral right to leadership. This was enhanced by the fact that they believed they had sacrificed the most to build a basis for the armed struggle. This perception made them feel angry that India expected power sharing between groups and that India questioned their supremacy. Their anti-Indianism started on that score and had little to do with the interests of the Tamil people. Certain incidents throw light on the contradictory position of the L.T.T.E. vis-a-vis India.
In late June 1987, when Indian officials were ceremonially welcomed by the L.T.T.E. following the airdrop of 4 June and the aborted third phase of Operation Liberation, the L.T.T.E. handed over a memorandum asking the Indian government to recognize the L.T.T.E. as the sole representative of the Tamil people and Prabakaran as their leader. The Tiger controlled media went into euphoria stating that India would recognise only the biggest movement - namely the L.T.T.E.. When India dropped food parcels from the air, Tiger spokesmen, including Prabakaran, thanked India and expressed their appreciation of the action. How ironical it is that they are now asking the people not to receive any Indian food and are murdering individuals liaising between the I.P.K.F. and the people for basic amenities. When the Accord was in the offing, they denounced other movements as traitors for supporting the Accord. But later, when Prabhakaran was taken by helicopter on 24 July 1987 to talk about the Peace Accord by the Indian authorities, the same media again proclaimed a great victory and announced the recognition for the L.T.T.E. as the leading movement.
The somersaults in their political line prove that their anti-Indianism was not due to the realisation of the total potential of Indian thrust for dominance, but was rather due to the shallow individualised politics of supremacy of the movement and its leader. This was also an offshoot of their intolerance of other groups and opinions. To achieve this narrow end they could inspire their members’ blinkered dedication, to acts of extreme commitment. Thus Thileepan the Tiger went on a suicidal fast and the nation went on a bout of hysteria when the interim government was being planned. The propaganda line was that the fast was being held for five broad demands. Ironically another movement's, (E.R.O.S.'s) initiative on similar demands was obstructed by the Tigers.
The Tigers stopped the Jaffna University students participating in the march organised by E.R.O.S. and diverted two bus loads of people who were going for the E.R.O.S. march to Nallur, where Thileepan was fasting. It was quite apparent that these demands were only a front. What the L.T.T.E. wanted was a dominant role in the interim government with executive powers, together with the exclusion of other militant groups. These motives came out crystal clear when Thileepan died and India played up. The L.T.T.E. was given a dominant role and was the only militant group chosen to represent the Tamils. The L.T.T.E. proclaimed it as a great victory. These moves of the
Indian government convinced the L.T.T.E. that India would pander to its wishes in order to put the Accord into practice.
With this perception of their indispensability for the success of the peace accord, and without an appreciation of even their own limitations and the defensive position of the Tamil nation, the L.T.T.E.'s subsequent political moves were totally estranged from reality. Their simplified thinking could not take into account other factors such as the South, and the political existence of the U.N.P. and J.R.. Nor could they allow for India's need to stabilize the southern government and J.R.'s leadership, India's need to neutralise the propaganda and politics against itself in the South, and last but not least, India's great-power psychology.
Reggie Siriwardene and Radhika Coomarasamy in their article bring forward a point of view on the evolution of the movements that possess such idealised doctrines:
"The mixture of idealism, a glorified sense of self and history and the messianic aspects contained in ethnic and religious identification is extremely conducive to fanaticism. Fanaticism has often been considered a situation where even though an individual's perception of reality is greatly at variance with the objective conditions, the emotional attachment to a set of beliefs propels him forward. Each setback instead of forcing re-evaluation of belief has an opposite effect and pushes the individual forward to martyrdom. Fanatic movements then lose all capacity to compromise, accommodate other points of view and refuse to adapt to changing conditions"
This presents lucidly the contemporary history of the Tigers. Thus it was not surprising that regardless of any future consequence, they pushed India to the wall when they started butchering the Sinhalese civilians in a fit of petulant anger. Therefore, in reality it was not only India's failure as a guarantor, but also the L.T.T.E.'s failure as a leader that triggered off the war in this way.
The Tigers' history, their theoretical vacuum, lack of political creativity, intolerance and fanatical dedication will be the ultimate cause of their own break up. The legendary Tigers will go to their demise with their legends smeared with the blood and tears of victims of their own misdoings. A new Tiger will not emerge from their ashes. Only by breaking with this whole history and its dominant ideology, can a new liberating outlook be born.
6.3.5 Vortex of Violence: India's Catch 22
The L.T.T.E. as an organisation may be disorganised and broken up, but in small bands they can sustain a hit and run war for a long time. The L.T.T.E. is able to sustain this not on the basis of support, but by imposition of terror. Though India claims that normality has returned, the war of attrition is continuing. Even after three months the L.T.T.E.'s small units perform sporadic armed actions and the Indian army continues its reprisal raids, round-ups and search operations and ad hoc curfews. Normality is an illusion. This atmosphere of terror pervades even as the new year dawns.
Along with these two features surfaces another element - with the L.T.T.E. on the defensive, other dissident groups have surfaced. At present in the peninsula those who have come to the front, in alliance with Indian army, are mainly from the P.L.O.T.E., the T.E.L.O., and the E.N.D.L.F.. The disturbing fact is that most of the members who are here at present are the remaining elements without an alternative. The dedicated members from the P.L.O.T.E. and the T.E.L.O. have been eliminated in internal and inter-group violence, torture and murder, or have run away in fear of their lives to far corners of the world, as refugees or as disillusioned individuals. The elements present here practise a politics of revenge - revenge
against the L.T.T.E. for the brutal annihilation of their movements and against the peninsula Tamils whom they presume are supporters of the Tigers. These acts of revenge as well as their function as informants to the Indian army, destroy all hope of any leadership, evolving from these movements. The Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (E.P.R.L.F.) has always claimed that its hands were not as bloody as those of the other movements. But it has in recent times abandoned all its avowed goals and thrown the people's interests to the winds and has become a group of informants and proxy killers for the I.P.K.F.. Thus it seems inevitable that the doctrine of eye for an eye will be practised to its fullest. Though the Tigers are on the defensive, the killings by Tigers too have markedly increased. On the eastern front we have to add the other forces, the Sri Lankan S.T.F., and the Jihad, resulting in further instability.
In this scenario, India for its own interests tries and will try to bring in stability by the use of its military might. This kind of enforced equilibrium (a steady state) is not organic and will not be sustained, because, internally, the dominant forces are inherently in conflict and the stabilising forces are in reality weak. That is, the dominant forces of the Sinhalese chauvinistic state, the J.V.P. and so on and the narrow nationalist forces of the Tamils - the L.T.T.E. and other groups with basically the same outlook on the national issue - are in conflict. The stabilising forces are anti-racist left alliances and progressive nationalist movements. Thus the situation will continue to erupt on and off, breaking any semblance of normality.
6.3.6 The Peace Accord and Sinhalese Chauvinism
The southern situation is deteriorating fast, and before long, the island will be caught in a vortex of violence. The Peace Accord and the Indian military presence have given added energies to the Sinhalese chauvinistic forces. These populist forces have started rallying around the J.V.P.. The J.V.P. is a group that had all along propagated a narrow nationalist ideology that is anti-Tamil and anti-Indian. Its anti-Tamil sentiments are such that it does not recognize the depth of oppression of the Tamils and thus advocates a “no concession” position, apart from putting forward an abstract solution to the Tamil problem, called “rights.” At present it is not rhetorically and violently anti-Tamil for tactical reasons. But its abstract and meaningless solutions and its theoretical documents show its anti-Tamil racism clearly. In recent times it has successfully revived its armed action to keep in line with its ideology. Its rhetoric is flamboyantly romantic and its actions are violent. The J.V.P. talks about social issues as well as unemployment, deprivation, degeneration of society and conditions of living. The analysis is in a simple framework and the answers are simple such as “Women must bear children.. therefore a revolution must occur”, and the solutions equally naive. However, many in the South feel that the J.V.P. reflects the legitimate rights of the Sinhalese people and a cross section of southern society is capitulating to this view.
The J.V.P.'s real class base has been shown to arise from the small producer. An analysis of the prevalent mode of production in the Sinhalese rural areas shows that, in the agricultural base of the island and the small peasant economy, there are numerous strata of proprietor class. And this class is the main bearer of Sinhalese chauvinist ideology. Because of the pre-capitalist nature of the rural economy, the rural proletariats have assimilated the illusions of the petty producers. The urban-biased left parties had long abandoned the rural proletarians to the bourgeois parties' political control. This further reinforced chauvinist ideology amongst the rural population. Now with increasing neocolonial penetration in the South, the rural proletariat is facing a worsening economic situation. This class is therefore understandably looking for alternative leadership. The J.V.P. provides the right blend of egalitarianism, patriotism and chauvinism.
Thus the chances of the U.N.P. continuing in a bourgeois democratic framework, holding fair elections on a regular basis, are pretty slim. On the other hand, Ronnie de Mel (the Finance Minister in the previous government, who subsequently resigned from his post) argues the case for a rational bourgeois solution. He warns against the military
option, urges the party to go to the electorate and explain to the people the Peace Accord, and gather strength and isolate the J.V.P. and other chauvinistic elements inside and outside the U.N.P.. Opposed to this option and to the pro-Peace Accord tendency is the U.N.P.'s populist wing. The rational option serves the interests of a small section, big business, entrepreneurs and other compradore sections. The populist aspect is espoused by no less a personality than the President, then Prime Minister, Mr.Premadasa. Therefore the U.N.P. is facing an internal power crisis as well.
The President represents, and depends on, the chauvinists for support and thus could only turn to the electorate and populist forces to resolve the internal power struggle. Therefore he is directly appealing to the ordinary masses with his grand grass roots programmes tainted with anti-Indian populist politics. Ultimately this may lead him to alliances with other chauvinistic forces outside the broad front. Such alliances, will have far reaching consequences for the U.N.P. as a parliamentary party.
Brute force and repressive legislation are likely to be used to smash all opposition. A sign of the developing sinister tendencies is the paramilitary training of the U.N.P.'s rank and file, forming units referred to as the “Green Tigers”. These units are coming to resemble the death squads of the Marcos regime. Against this background the Sri Lankan military aspirations and their relation to Indian interests also play a part in determining future developments.
Though the evolution of political forces in the two nations look mutually exclusive, the whole process is inter-linked. The J.V.P. and the L.T.T.E. are groups which, although having developed in different backgrounds, profess similar ideologies, and have a common framework and parallel social bases in the two ethnic groups. They share an intolerance of other opinions and other groups, and they both indulge in brutal murders and torture of their own dissidents and of members of rival groups. Many who give their overt or tacit support to the J.V.P., try to forget these aspects. It will grow into demonic proportions when the movement grows larger - a historical phenomenon parallel to that of the L.T.T.E.. As the Tamil community was to learn bitterly, when the necessary checks are not made and questions are not asked in the formative days, the people would later have no control. Massacres went on for days and our history was stained with the blood of our own people when the L.T.T.E. turned its guns on the T.E.L.O., the E.P.R.L.F., the P.L.O.T.E. and ordinary civilians; when the T.E.L.O. turned its violence on dissidents and ordinary civilians, or when the P.L.O.T.E. tortured and murdered its own dissidents. Similarly in the South, this brutal tendency will add to the U.N.P.'s state violence for sectarian and private ends.
Furthermore, it should be realised that it would be incorrect to believe that by the espousal of narrow nationalism, India's dominance would be contained, or conversely that Indian penetration would contain the violent rise of Sinhalese chauvinism. Both are interlocking phenomena. The J.V.P.'s simplistic “India bashing” does not take into account, the geopolitical reality, India's aspirations, and as a militant Sinhalese nationalist group with a chauvinistic ideology, its own geographic constraints. This might provide a basis for further entrenchment of India in the Tamil area and increasing domination of the North and East, and later also of the South. And on the other hand, increasing India's role in Sri Lanka's internal political life would give further impetus to narrow nationalist movements in the South.
A good example is found in the current situation in Trincomalee. The Indian military presence in Trincomalee removed the patronage of the Sri Lankan security forces and the state machinery given to the Sinhalese. When the patronage was removed, the Sinhalese, feeling vulnerable and fearful, fled to refugee camps. The indigenous Tamils retaliated for the years of terror at the hands of the Sinhalese. Therefore the Sinhalese refugees fear to resume their earlier life pattern. The Sri Lankan security forces who were the patrons of Sinhalese violence in the Trincomalee
district have voiced their frustration to foreign journalists; and Sinhalese refugees are even more rabidly anti-Tamil and anti-Indian, making them fertile ground for fresh J.V.P. recruitment. On the other hand the I.P.K.F. seems to be the only guarantor of the Tamil people's safety in Trincomalee. The Indian military has also successfully marginalised other Tamil militant movements, making the Tamil people totally dependent on Indian authority. Against this backdrop, the Indian army is seen to move heavy armour to the China bay area, entrenching its defence position.
Therefore in this complex interaction of forces India's role, though it seems to be external, is totally interlocked. Western foreign policy writers have tended to view the Indian role in terms of regional crisis management. India appears to have gained a foot-hold into the territory and politics of its southern neighbour in a role formally approved by the West and the Soviet Union as peace keepers and crisis managers.
But India has enmeshed itself in a difficult situation here. Its most important objectives cannot be achieved without what seems to be the most elusive phenomenon - stability. India needs stability for its gains in defence and economy. Furthermore it is the essential justification for being on this island. Ideally, India would like stability with preservation of the unitary state structure in Sri Lanka, and the realisation of the legitimate rights of Tamils with India as guarantor.
However, in the North and the East, the L.T.T.E. is going to last a long time. The operation to disarm the Tigers caused much civilian damage in both life and property. Inter-group rivalry and senseless murders are a regular occurrence. The local population is terrorised, living in a political vacuum. Despite pledges the U.N.P. will not be able to bring off easily measures to alleviate the Tamil nation's problems, without endangering its political existence. Thus, India might have to back-track on many issues regarding the Tamils, or try strong arm tactics. Either way it will spur the growth of narrow nationalism and anti-Indian bitterness amongst both Sinhalese and Tamils.
Thus India will not be able to solve the conflict. It has not only triggered off volatile and destructive tendencies which have lain dormant, but also has this time managed to get enmeshed in them. India may not gain a reputation as model arbitrator from the International community, but may rather be tolerated as an immature regional power as are most big powers of this world.
6.4 A note on Economic Factors in the
Regional Crisis
For persons with an intellectual bent, the situation in Sri Lanka provides an interesting case study in terms of the interaction between politics and economy. The Sri Lankan ruling class, since independence, through various state structures and processes, have attempted to consolidate power. While making the changes from a British type parliamentary system to the creation of the executive presidency, and from welfare state, centralised state capitalism to a fully open economy, the different factions of the ruling class attempted to consolidate power and accumulate wealth. In the developed capitalist countries, the various forms of parliamentary democracy negotiate power for the ruling elite and create a sense of complacency among other classes, thereby ensuring the stability of the system. Being on the periphery of the world capitalist system, dealing with fluctuating markets for what are often cash-crops, and having low industrial development and stagnant rural agricultural sectors, parliamentary democracy has resulted in a less stable mode of entrenching the system to the sole benefit of the ruling class. The ruling class' super-exploitation could not be offset by affluence acquired through colonialism or neocolonialism, as was possible in the developed nations. This exploitation is naked and the masses of people in its home base are deprived. Within this context, the need to
hold on to power through parliamentary democracy in a situation of meagre resources, has led the ruling class to adopt from Western economic theorists such concepts as "trickle-down" development. The satisfaction of the electoral power base is obtained by sidestepping real issues dealing with the economy, and crusading on secondary issues that have emotional content. Thus, in Sri Lanka, electoral victory and control of the state apparatus was obtained only through the satiation of the aspirations of the majority community. These aspirations arose from a belief that their ills were fundamentally to do with minorities, race, language and religion. Such campaign issues always required the formation of alliances with the petit bourgeoisie. Since the ideology of the petit bourgeois small-producer dominated the widespread rural areas of the Sinhalese South, this class played a pivotal role in the parliament. As shown earlier, the triumph of the narrow nationalist ideology, whether in the context of a fully fledged open economy or in a protective nationalist state capitalism, was eminently evident.
This sort of dependent economies lack the buffer to absorb the shocks of internal subversion. From the early days, armed conflicts, whether the 1971 J.V.P. insurrection, or the current J.V.P. subversion, brought about disarray in the political situation and a downward plunge for the economy. This phenomenon is more or less due to the economic instability of the dependent capitalist system and its paradoxical dependence on narrow nationalist ideologies. Thus, although the U.N.P. was committed to the market economy in toto, it could never sell itself as a paradise for multinational investment. Its free-trade zones never took off and no large scale investment took place, making Colombo a failed "paradise city," and tourism soon felt the ill effects. After a decade of self-destructive civil war, the ruling party tried to listen to its capitalist sensibilities and neutralise ethnic tensions. This resulted in a backlash of petit bourgeois nationalism in the South and a revival, with new vigour, of the J.V.P..
In a bid to stave off the violent situation created by the militancy, and to ensure political and economic stability, the ruling party replaced the faction within itself that was committed to a capitalist programme with the faction that is populist and narrow nationalist. That is, the Premadasa faction, with its grand grass-roots programmes, replaced the more Westward looking Jayewardene faction. However,despite these many political manipulations and machinations, the changes in the legislature and the state structure, have not provided the local ruling classes with their political or economic stability. Thus, the economic vagaries of the dependent capitalist state, its lack of ability in offsetting internal dissent, and the precarious nature of its economy, together undermine and frustrate the political consolidation of its ruling classes. As such, the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie are unable to provide a solution to the present crisis and are in a state of disarray. Moreover, the situation reflects the economic and political realities of pushing an open economic programme and unleashing market forces in the peripheries of the world capitalist system.
Again it is the neocolonial situation with its economic and geopolitical realities, that would prove to be the important challenge to the J.V.P.'s narrow political vision. It is fairly obvious from the activities of the J.V.P. that it aspires to capture state power. Its present simplistic slogans and bravado against Indian hegemony and its political and economic programmes, which do not account for the realities of a country locked in the mesh of the world capitalist system, will be exposed if the J.V.P. ever assumes power. It would have to either collapse or compromise. And then the true nature of its petit bourgeoisie class interests would be exposed.
Thus, again, we seem to arrive at a historical dead end. The bourgeoisie, of whatever race or faction, cannot hold power without an effective alliance with the petit bourgeoisie. The petit bourgeoisie, although overtly seeming to be progressive in their resistance to domination and neo-colonialism, given the nature of their class base, have always compromised or taken a path of adventurous self-destruction. While the bourgeoisie brought about various degrees of neocolonialist penetration, thereby bleeding the people, the petit bourgeois ideology of narrow nationalism, drawing on a brutal culture of violence, cripples the people's moral strength and weakens organised resistance against oppression. Furthermore, the political tunnel vision of the petit bourgeoisie is leading the country into abortive episodes that seem to pave the way for more domination, more deprivation, and tragedy.
One can see that although the self-image and ambitions of the Indian ruling class are great, and India's need to assert its dominance in the region has been fashioned out meticulously, its economic and political situation as a dependent capitalist country at the vagaries of the world capitalist system makes its involvement in a war of attrition both detrimental to the ruling class' power perception and debilitating to its economy. Nevertheless, its wars are beneficial to its expanding defence industry and to the ruling class which controls power. It is also an avenue for sharpening the oppressive machinery of the military, and the C.R.P.F., making them more efficient in quelling internal subversion. Thus there might be short term gains for its ruling class, although in the long run, due to its dependence and uneven development, that it will be able to absorb the shocks of prolonged conflict is doubtful. The enormous loss would be to the millions of India's oppressed and poor, for whom this brings more dangers and deprivation and has no meaning.
1This article was written during the first quarter of 1988, and was slightly revised in June 1989.
1A common coconut preparation.
Chapter 7
"The institution of war is now at least 5000 years old. Our predecessors began to go to war with each other as soon as they had learned to produce a surplus beyond the provision for the bare necessities of life. War is a chain reaction. War breeds war without end. We ought never to have committed ourselves to this wicked institution: war, and we had learned by experiences what its nemesis is, we ought to have abolished it at least as long as the middle of the third millennium B.C.. Can we liberate ourselves from the Karma of war? If we can, we shall have performed a very great spiritual feat. If we cannot, we are doomed". (Arnold Toynbee, Surviving the Future, Oxford University Press,U.K., 1971.)
7.1______ The Vanishing Prospects for Peace
The prospects for peace in Sri Lanka seem dim indeed. What started out as an ethnic conflict has escalated to produce internecine fratricide among the Tamils, an involvement by India, and a bitter struggle for power among the Sinhalese. The minds of growing children are increasingly conditioned to think only in terms of violence, and to opt for violent solutions. Public apologists were not slow in justifying and accommodating violence with such rationalizing concepts as "preventive violence, after having exhausted all means of nonviolent struggle." And the vicious cycle continues. As a community, the ultimate blame for creating the conditions for violence and a power vacuum inviting intervention, rests squarely on our shoulders. An observant Sinhalese trade unionist taking refuge in Jaffna surmised that the militant youth are the legitimate offspring of Tamil society, reflecting their hidden aspirations and thinking.
Professor M. Paliawadana, ("Violence: Who is Guiltless?," Lanka Guardian,10 (23), 20-24, 1988) speaking for both the Sinhalese and Tamils, traces the source of the violence to our own minds:
_".....We are ourselves engulfed in the general disorder and violence and hypocrisy and we are all the time mutually reinforcing these things in our day to day relationships. The human crisis is not the product of some mysterious, unspecified people other than ourselves. .....(We) have the same mind as others, that ambition, hypocrisy and violence sit there like a solid rock, that because of these things, our minds are basically "separatist", and that as long as our mind is like that, we are likely to keep on contributing to the present chaos. ...Let us try to remember that we are ourselves among the creators of the problem."
Sigmund Freud in "Civilization and its Discontent" comes to a more pessimistic conclusion on the darker sides of the psyche-Thantos- the instinct to destruction and death:
" The element of truth behind all this, which people are so ready to disavow, is that men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbour is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him,to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus (man is a wolf to man). Who, in the face of all his experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion? As a rule this cruel aggressiveness waits for some provocation or puts itself at the service of some
other purpose, whose goal might also have been reached by milder measures. In circumstances that are favourable to it, when the mental counter forces which ordinarily inhibit are out of action, it also manifests itself spontaneously and reveals man as a savage beast to whom consideration toward his own kind is something alien".
In fact, even after all this turmoil among the Tamils, some social institutions such as nepotism and the dowry system are more entrenched than ever. While the traditional caste system is publicly disowned as an embarrassment, more insidious distinctions have been gaining ground. One may be able to justify defensive aggression against political discrimination and oppression of a minority, as a natural reaction to recurrent mob violence. But when this aggression turns inward, towards the community itself, manifesting itself as fanatic intolerance for any form of opposition or difference of view, internecine fratricide, political and extra-judicial killing of ordinary civilians, massacres of men, women and children, desecration of dead bodies, torture and exporting of violence as hired mercenaries, then it is a sign that we have reached the stage of what Eric Fromm has termed malignant transformation ("The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness," Penguin Books, England., 1973).
7.2___________ The Forgotten Spiritual Heritage
In spite of the clamour for liberation, our dominant materialism has prevented us from reorganising social and economic relations for the common good. Our farmers are forced by economic considerations to produce cash crops to the detriment of the whole society. We clamour for a homeland, and an end to colonisation, and yet, few Tamils are willing to settle down in the outlying areas of Trincomalee, Vavuniya, and Mullaithivu, where there are no modern comforts and no easy profit, but only a life of struggle and sacrifice to start with.
Traditionally, occupations held in high esteem in our culture were those of the healer, teacher and priest. Sadly these professions too have been adversely affected by materialistic considerations. The first is a caring profession devoted to alleviating pain and sickness, the second to a non-stinting dispensation of knowledge. Today they have both become pecuniary enterprises. Some of the first institutions to start functioning after the recent disruption due to war, were the tutories and places of private medical consultation. The impact of the West has changed the primary motive in education, observes the educationist, Professor K. Nesiah, from the ancient goal of self-realization towards economic goals. The social institution of dowry which often deteriorates to commercial bargaining is another good example of materialistic priorities.
We clamour for physical and material freedom, when we have so readily mortgaged our spiritual freedom. Whatever the mystical interpretation of the recent events, it is quite evident that we have wandered far from the goals expressed by so many of our sages, including the poetess Auvayaar who has sung:
"Rare, rare indeed is human birth
The true object of human birth
is to realise him within".
This calling to our deeper self has been discarded by the wayside. Without the transfiguring or, at least, the restraining influence of the moral and spiritual values of love and nonviolence, we have resorted to violence and hatred to achieve our goals; only to see the growth of the more virulent forms that have torn Tamil society apart. For each one killed there is a brother, a sister, a father, another kin or a comrade seeking revenge. Life has become cheap. We have lost all respect for life. It is indeed a gruesome and tragic plight for this ancient civilization with such a rich spiritual heritage.
It is equally true that compassion for living beings, human or animal, is the foundation of Buddhism, and this lofty principle too has been sadly neglected and forgotten by those professing its faith. Even the most Utopian political systems can never provide freedom. There will always be domination of one over another, a scramble for limited resources and unequal distribution of wealth.
In questions of life, it becomes quite evident that there is an additional factor that defies analysis. The ironical twists of fate, the failure of the best laid plans by the most powerful forces and the unexpected turn of events, cannot be explained away. The situation as it has developed has not been determined or manoeuvred by any one person, be it Rajiv Gandhi, J.R. Jayewardene or V. Prabhakaran, however much they may project a mastery of the situation. Nor does it reveal the sum of an interplay of forces. Rather it appears to have a logic of its own and to convey a meaning beyond the particular. The immense suffering of the Tamil people themselves cries out for a deeper interpretation and a reason for it all.
Perhaps at the end of all this, when we have exhausted our material desires, grown weary of violence, drained the cup of suffering and travelled the road of experience, we will finally realize the value of who we are and where we are. As T.S.Elliot so aptly puts it:
We shall not cease from exploring
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time"
7.3___________ Nonviolence
The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. He frees himself and shows the way to others. Freedom and slavery are mental states." (M. K. Gandhi, "Nonviolence in Peace and War," Navajivan, India, 1946.)
Talk of love and compassion may make fine sermons. But such moral and spiritual platitudes are difficult to practise and may not be seen as having much relevance to real life. The Tamil community was faced with progressive discrimination and violent repression by the state and it had to react: either with passivity and submission or with defiance and resistance. Violent struggle would seem to be the only way against an opponent who is ruthless and cruel. It would appear to be not only more effective, faster and sure of its goals, but also more exciting and glamorous, thus appealing to the young at heart. Non-violence, if properly understood and practised, can be more effective, less costly and not necessarily slower, the pace being set by determination, discipline, the techniques of the non-violent activist and the general support from the local population. Gene Sharp has dispassionately, without appeal to morality or ethics, analysed the politics of non-violence and has shown it to be, by the ultimate modern test, cost-effective. ("The Politics of Nonviolent Action", Horizon Books, U.S.A., 1973).
_____ In order to understand the active struggle against a repressive regime, the nature of political power has to be first understood. The exercise of political power must in, the final analysis, depend on the consent, tacit or otherwise, of those subject to it.
It is doubtful that nonviolence was ever taken seriously by those who advocated it. The T.U.L.F., publicly committed to non-violence, talked of a secret plan for establishing Eelam and selected a popular militant leader as its representative for parliament. In all the public activities, the spirit that characterised Gandhi's actions was completely lacking. Some of the public protests were a complete farce. For example, during the so called fasts, it is taken for granted that many notables would take a break at meal times. One was able to observe during the Indian occupation, much duplicity in methods of protest. Thus non-violence was not looked upon as an effective method, and no public faith or respect for it was built up.
Nonviolence was only used as a stop-gap measure, while reliance was placed on violence. Nonviolence does not guarantee victory every time it is used. There may be failures as in any military struggle. Rather, each failed action should become the foundation to build a more united and determined effort, to learn from mistakes and to move forward. As in war, nonviolent struggle involves the matching of forces, and the waging of "battles". It requires wise
strategy and tactics, and demands of its soldier, courage, discipline,and sacrifice. (Gene Sharp, "The Politics of Nonviolent Action", Horizon Books, U.S.A., 1973).
There are many misconceptions about nonviolence in our community and it may be worth while, now with the cost of violence becoming apparent, to look at nonviolence more systematically and thoroughly.
7.4___________ Brutalisation Versus Reconciliation
The means of confrontation are as important as the ends, for the methods used transform the user and the final end in the process. A local writer referring to the execution of a local militant leader by another group wrote:
Ones mind goes back to the morn when people looked up gratefully to the young men - even boys - who set out with ideas of freedom and brotherhood. That such noble ventures came to grief in dissent and fratricide is an old story. What has gone wrong? The answer must come from the people at large and must be sounded abroad with both courage and compassion. Defeat and humiliation stare us in the face. May God forbid that the tears which drench this ground brim forth their wonted crimson harvest.
The problem with violence is with its nature itself and it's inevitable progress to more malignant forms. Violence dehumanises and brutalises the user. Once the hands are soiled with blood, as it were, the usual inhibitions and taboos that operate internally are broken. With this lack of restraint and loss of control, comes a feeling of power -absolute power. A marked intolerance for difference of opinion, a fanatic faith in ones own view or a blind obedience to leadership, a conviction of infallibility, and a casual indifference to pain, suffering and life, manifest themselves. A false sense of a feeling of absolute power is evident in the talk of several army officers, leaders of violent groups and representatives of undemocratic regimes.Their talk often betrays a feeling that others owe them gratitude for being allowed to live, or that they possess legitimate power over the lives of others. One need not probe too deep to find their hidden feelings of insecurity.
Further, violence and the shedding of blood create an atmosphere of raised emotions, hostility, hatred, fear, suspicion and paranoia that makes clear thinking impossible. This was evident during the successive anti-Tamil riots. Sinhalese leaders who had previously adopted a civilised and accommodating attitude towards the Tamil problem, in the wake of subsequent violence, made statements betraying unaccountable intolerance. Paradoxically, in human affairs, there is a tendency for the aggressor to feel more aggrieved than the victim.
The act of killing creates a whole host of enemies seeking revenge. Persons enmeshed in this world of fear and paranoia unleashed by their violence, are unable to trust anyone and are always alert and suspicious. Studies of war veterans who have committed atrocities, show an increase of stress symptoms such as startle reactions, terrifying dreams, distrust, behavioural problems and drug abuse. In addition, there is the danger of addiction to the thrill and excitement of violence, which has been described as malignant post traumatic stress syndrome. They come to "feel most alive when they are in a situation of intense conflict or potential danger", and feel bored or depressed in the absence of such situations. Many are anxious or paranoid in crowds or public places, and could get irritated and argumentative in such situations. They develop a severe self-loathing and self-hatred, sometimes "a manifested and boastful and exhibitionistic pride in being loathsome," perpetuating spirals of violence and counter-violence. In children, their personality development can become permanently distorted and deformed due to their experience of violence. A NAMDA report claims that they
"become incapable of imparting trust to their friends and associates, and, subsequently, even to their own children. They may develop smouldering bitterness and resentment, and a thirst for revenge which overwhelms them. They may be unable to exercise control over their own feelings and behaviour and may act their impulses in antisocial ways" ('Bitter Waters' -The effect on Children of the Stress of Unrest," Source: Red Barna, Oslo.)
The state of our debasement is nowhere more vividly portrayed than in scenes of children bearing arms and few acknowledging that something was amiss.
In contrast nonviolence has a more wholesome effect on its practioner, strengthening him spiritually and developing in him what Gandhi called "soul force". Mahathma Gandhi's prescription for nonviolent struggle basically constituted a strict discipline and gradual spiritual development to evolve a pure state of mind and soul that radiates love and nonviolence, a state where no harm, physical verbal or mental, is intended or practised towards anyone, including the adversary. The "soul force" or love towards the opponent has the power to transform him in ways that defy rational explanation. This is what Martin Luther King was talking about when he said, "We should love our enemies because love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend". Gandhi reported that each nonviolent campaign aroused one or more of five responses in the adversary: Indifference, ridicule, abuse, repression, and, finally, respect. Though the success of nonviolent struggle may depend in its early stages on the sympathy, good will or moral appeal to the conscience of the opponent, when the spiritual development of the practitioner has progressed far enough and his soul force is strong enough, he develops an ability and power to transform a situation and the adversary, that is of a new dimension. Thus while nonviolence, practised at a political or physical level, is effective as Gene Sharp has shown, it entails a degree of covert violence, a defiant withdrawal of consent and a threat of retaliation or consequences, a matching of different forces and 'combat'. Gandhi's technique goes a step higher, into the spiritual realm having truth and nonviolence as its foundation, and thus should have the additional attraction to us, as we claim to be steeped in a culture that gives prime importance to spiritual development.
On a social level, when nonviolence is properly practised with the participation of the general population, it binds and unites the people, the young and the old, the men and the women, giving them a sense of purpose and pride in their action. Going back to the pragmatic level, it is often argued that nonviolence will not succeed against a violent and ruthless opponent. But this is not true. In Norway, during the Nazi occupation, teachers were able to resist non-violently Quisling's effort to impose a puppet state. The military strategist Liddel Hart claimed that Hitler's Generals found nonviolence in Norway, Denmark and Holland far more baffling than the violent resistance in other occupied countries. There should, in fact, be no dismay or surprise at repression: it is often the result of the opponent's recognition that the nonviolent action is a serious threat to his policy or regime. Nonviolent activists must be willing to risk punishment as a part of the price of victory. There are also risks when both sides use violence. It is abundantly clear that the Tamil community as a whole has suffered much more after five years of violence, and is left with fewer choices, than it would have had if it had chosen to wage a nonviolent struggle. For much of the violence that was unleashed on the Tamils by the state was a reaction to the escalating counter-violence. Although this is by no means an excuse for the atrocities committed by the government, we ourselves have to take cognizance of the effects of this spiralling vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence. And after all the suffering and destruction, we are nowhere closer to the goals of human liberation. Whether the political concessions now gained will be more tangible than what Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam realised on paper in 1957 and 1966, is left to be seen. Nonviolence would have been far less costly, if the Tamils had been voluntarily prepared to suffer even a little of what they underwent during the war. More importantly we would have come out a united and strengthened community. What we have are the inevitable consequences of violence. After thousands have died, we have a community in disarray and with little control over its destiny. We have condemned future generations to this veritable cult of violence.
_____ In the prevailing climate of polarized racial hatred and prejudice, the Tamils stereotype the Sinhalese as brutal, violent and without a moral conscience. The Sinhalese, they maintain, will only will understand the language of violence. Nonviolence, they say, will not evoke a chord of sympathy and is bound to fail against such violent repression. Even if we accept for the moment this extreme image of the Sinhalese, it has already been pointed out that nonviolent strategy expects violent repression from its opponent and that it is not dependent on the good will of the opponent or on converting him. It works simply by refusing to obey. We have the inspiring example of the Norway teachers' resistance to, perhaps, the most oppressive regime in history, the Nazis. This demonstrated the effectiveness of nonviolence even against extreme violence.
The Sinhalese people themselves are, as a whole in normal times, a compassionate and loving people. Nevertheless, together with their politicians,the Sinhalese must share the collective guilt for unleashing death and terror against the
Tamils and then attempting to justify it. This has been acknowledged by several conscience-stricken Sinhalese individuals. For their part, despite all the rhetoric, the Tamil militants were never in a position effectively to protect the Tamil civilians against such a policy by the government. The Sinhalese themselves are now going through a violent inner convulsion that may make the ethnic divisions pale into insignificance. It is the reaction to the violence that had been unleashed on the Tamils .We have to break this spiralling cycle of violence and counter violence, if we are to find peace. But it is difficult to see how it can cease, now that it has been started.
It would seem so simple and easy for the Sinhalese and Tamils to resolve their conflict as brothers. For ultimately, being fated to live side by side on the small island, these two communities will have to come to terms to live as neighbours, whatever the political settlement - even if it is as two separate states, or as an Indian protectorate or territory. Obviously, it is in the best interests of all the parties involved to come to some kind of agreement. Well what is preventing them? It is that subtle but complex psychological process we have been talking about that is intervening between war and peace. For ultimately, war and peace are states of mind.
Chapter 8
(February, 1988)
8.1 Jaffna
The open fields around Jaffna make a wondrous sight during the early months of the year. Just such a field lies three miles to the east of the city, marking two miles of open space extending up to the lagoon that separates Valikamam from Thenmaratchi. January saw the fields lush green with newly grown rice. Its canals, filled with water during the rainy season contain riches for an enthusiastic bird watcher. Wild duck, kingfisher, stork and some less common species are all there. One can watch with fascination as a duck glides in the air, nose-dives into the water and comes out with a wriggling fish in its beak. As the month wears on, the stalks turn golden as the rice ripens. Amidst all this beauty, one has to learn to ignore the rusting bodies of cast-away motor vehicles. Jaffna is an orphaned city. There are no city fathers. Faceless men come and go. They build anywhere. They dump rubbish anywhere.
____ If you miss the scene for two weeks, by mid-February an entirely different scene greets your eyes. The green is no more. The fields are strewn with newly mown hay, a haystack in every square. Gusts of the northeasterly wind carry the voices of women who are threshing the rice. This time the fields are filled with other kinds of birds, including the common sparrow and the seven sisters, scavenging for left over grains. A solitary dog goes about savouring new smells. Against the reddening glow of the setting sun families walk home, their work done, carrying baskets filled with tiffin carriers, water bottles and thermos flasks. They are in no hurry to beat the curfew. A huge, lone bird with a long beak and of light brown hue reposes in an air of meditation befitting the solemn eve. The nesting songs of a multitude of feathery denizens, hymn the descent of night. Next, it will be the turn of cattle. A morning caller will relish the joyous sight of new born calves frisking in the sun.
____ The coming of the southeast monsoon by the middle of the year will see the same fields thronged with children flying kites. When we were children, there used to be an old labourer who could make ten kinds of kite and would readily oblige children. He is gone now. Some of his sons, they say, went to West Germany. We had little time for such things since we were past the leisure of childhood. We were busy becoming accountants, doctors, engineers and as the last resort, that underrated underdog, the school teacher. With all their liabilities, social and economic, they must carry the burden of responsibility for what the ancient Greeks called "arete" (all round excellence) of generations to come. When one looks back on the benign influences on one's life, one may easily think of a self-effacing school teacher or spiritual mentor who acts as a spring of lucid water, unseen of the eye. But seldom would one think of a doctor, an engineer or an accountant. Today even children do not have time for such things. Well bred children are taught early in life to say: "I am busy". Our educational system is one huge edifice on the Gradgrind model, immortalised by Charles Dickens in "Hard Times". We brought forth far too
few men who were historians, men of originality or men of vision. Having paid the price, the hangover from four years of war has given us plenty of time to reflect, to notice those things we chose not to see. The only busy ones are those applying for foreign visas.
____ It is often said that Jaffna is back forty years in time. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of personal taste. One sense in which that is true is that the bulls are back in business. The old Dutch Road linking Uduvil and Sandilipay is a scene of striking beauty right round the year. The younger lads will of course prefer the beauties at Uduvil Girls' College where Dutch Road begins, provided irate fathers wielding walking sticks are not around to intercept letters passed over the wall. Those with a reflective turn of mind could go further down where the only reminders of present times are tall electric pylons and military helicopters plying between Jaffna Fort and Palaly. Some passers by stopped to see the sight that was considered abolished -- a man who was ploughing with bulls. He stopped and inquired what they were looking at. "We were wondering at what you are doing", they replied. "Oh, that", he said, and smiled, putting up his hand to shade his eyes from the rays of the morning sun. He continued: "Only the big farmers can afford tractors now. The fuel charges are prohibitive. Give me two good bulls and I can plough half an acre in 3 hours flat."
8.2____ The South
Over a year the country lost two of its most promising national leaders, Mr. Sarath Muttetuwegama, the Communist Party member of parliament and Mr. Vijaya Kumaranatunge, leader of the Sri Lanka People's Party. Their significance was that while they addressed the majority Sinhalese constituency, they articulated the grievances of all the people in Ceylon - including the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese poor. Few with a mass following have done it since 1956 with so much honesty, effect and conviction. The first died in a motoring accident and the latter was killed on 14 February, 1988 by a killer from the J.V.P. (Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna). Two other national leaders who died since the July 1983 anti-Tamil violence are Bishops Lakshman Wickremasinghe (Anglican) and Leo Nanayakkara (Roman Catholic), both of whom were widely respected throughout the country. Undoubtedly it was men like the bishops who paved the way for the political leaders named above. The story of Bishop Lakshman's intellectual journey was one of how difficult it was for a man from an educated middle class Sinhalese family to break out of the assumptions of Sinhalese nationalism. An unwholesome trend that has sprung up in the South is that many intellectuals are not reflecting on their role which resulted in the crisis that hovers over the entire country. But they are rather given over to glee over the fate of the Tamils during the Indian army's progress in the last months of 1987. They occupy themselves trying to prove how Tamils may have fared better if the Sri Lankan army had been allowed to do the job. Having had little to say during the 4 years of bloodletting, gestures of sympathy for the Tamils have followed the Indian offensive. There are of course many in the South, perhaps fewer in the North, who have been unwavering in the cause of justice to all, Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese. Papers in the South which branded as terrorist anyone who spoke about the atrocities of the Sri Lankan army, seemed to be suddenly telling the truth. Publicity was given to statements by the afflicted, who in their anger said things like: "The Sri Lankan Army is much better than the Indian Army," and to those who have called
the Indian Army a "beggar army". The fact is that both armies behaved badly. Though the Colombo papers did not say it, the Sri Lankan Army too, had indulged in widespread murder, rape and looting. The pre-occupation with Indian bashing is yet another manifestation of the destructive face of Sinhalese nationalism._
_____ Those who formerly supported the militarism of the government are the very ones who are now angry with the government for having harvested the fruits of this militarism - namely India's role in this country's affairs. This anger has now turned into blind sympathy for the J.V.P., simply because the J.V.P. is anti-India, anti-government and is shooting. The J.V.P. also receives sympathy from a group of intellectuals who having imbibed the mish-mash of liberation ideologies and tend to sympathise with any gun-toting group that styles itself a liberation movement. In their view, which is based on a few external factors, the J.V.P. represents the legitimate aspirations of the Sinhalese people, just as the L.T.T.E. did those of the Tamils.
_____ In a real sense the J.V.P. is logical extension of the Sinhalese chauvinism of the mainline parties. The J.V.P. (popularly known as the Che Guavera movement in 1971) launched a rebellion against the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike's in 1971 which was brutally suppressed within six weeks. In this period, an estimated 15,000 Sinhalese youths were killed. Its leaders were released from prison by the new Jayewardene government in 1977 and the party was legitimised. Although this received general approval, subsequently there was widespread feeling that, given the intransigent nature of the J.V.P., this was also a Machiavellian move by the ruling U.N.P. to split the votes of the left parties (S.L.F.P., L.S.S.P., C.P., and N.S.S.P.). True to the government's cynical and unprincipled form, when it was accused by the international community of responsibility for violence against Tamils in July 1983, it tried to turn the blame on_ three of the left parties, the C.P., N.S.S.P., and the J.V.P.. All were banned. The ban on the J.V.P. remained. Its leaders including Rohana Wijeweera who contested the 1982 presidential elections, went underground. The attempt to find scapegoats did not stick. The ban on the C.P. and the N.S.S.P., which had taken an anti-racist stand, was lifted. If the J.V.P. had participated in the 1983 race riot, it was under a smoke screen provided by the government itself. The J.V.P. had little opportunity while the government pursued a military approach to the Tamils. The J.V.P. was to have its opportunity, however, when the government faced the necessary consequences of its actions and bowed to India's wishes.
_____ The other source of strength to the J.V.P. is the failure of the left parties as a result of their own inadequacies, together with the government's repression. By 1980, the government's open economic policies resulted in a high inflation rate. The worker dissatisfaction led to the general strike that year. The strike was put down with widespread use of thuggery and 40,000 dismissals. Mr. Cyril Mathew, then Minister for Industries and the then Prime Minister Premadasa, who is now the President, were widely associated with the goon squads which made their appearance again in July 1983 against Tamils. The helplessness of the Left in the face of the failure of the general strike resulted in its humiliation and a Pyrrhic victory for the government. The J.V.P. thus stands to acquire the mantle of being anti-India, ant- Tamil, anti-government and pro- socialist, all at once. Considerable sympathy results for the J.V.P. not from its ability to do anything constructive, but simply because it warms hearts by shooting at policemen and politicians and becoming, thus, the Sinhalese people's vicarious avenger. This is in many ways similar to the support the militant groups, especially the L.T.T.E., gained amongst Tamils who
were smarting under the humiliations inflicted on them by the government. After the July 1983 violence a catch phrase amongst Tamil expatriates used to be, "I will give money to whoever hammers hardest and gives us action."
_____ Where the use of English has declined and wholesome alternative reading in the local languages is hard to come by, opportunities abound for charlatans within and without the universities who can throw around some big words and big names from the West. The arduous journey from Marxism to fascism which was performed for the L.T.T.E. by Anton Balasingam, is now being performed for the benefit of the J.V.P. in the South. Writing in Sinhalese, one southern intellectual has said that just as Newtonian Physics was rendered false by Einsteinian Physics, which in turn was rendered false by Quantum mechanics; the Western philosophy of Marxism has now been out-moded. It would hardly be surprising if in its dialectical turn around, the J.V.P. is now preparing to cut off its vestigial links with Marxism and incorporate some Buddhist symbolism.
_____ Many would agree that the main problem facing this country is the frustration created by a lack of democracy. The forms of it which exist today are too crude, and the holders of power too crass for the system to give redress to small groups with legitimate grievances. Faced with the potent menace of its own creation, the government with no new ideas left has resorted to the same methods that failed against Tamils. The Special Task Force (S.T.F.) which was created by President Jayawardene's son Ravi and trained by former S.A.S. men from Britain, for use against Tamils, is now deployed against the J.V.P. in the deep South. No one is talking about the scale of disappearances. When dealing with Tamils at least, the government had to look over its shoulder at both India and international opinion. Since repression in Tamil areas descended slowly and because the people believed they had a cause, several active groups had been able successfully to mobilise popular resistance until early 1983.
_____ The Sinhalese community now faces a grievous danger, both from their collective failure to deal justly with the Tamils and their own disaffected sections. The ruling class has wallowed in ill-gotten money, while the rural poor had been militarised and sent as cannon fodder in a much praised campaign to subdue the Tamils militarily. They had been sent as troopers, homeguards, and colonists into Tamil areas, and then precipitately abandoned when India entered the scene.
8.3 The Press
Sections of the press in Colombo at least seem to have begun regretting their silence over what the government did to the Tamil population. An abortive change seemed to be coming in January 1987 when Colomo's newspaper, The Island, made a departure from the normal practice of quoting official handouts, by giving publicity to a statement by a senior citizen in Batticaloa on the S.T.F. action in Kokkadichholai that resulted in scores of civilian deaths. As the war seemed to be getting in for a stalemate, Colombo's Sunday Island published interviews with national leaders where the questioning was more strident. But the cover up of the dirty war continued. Take for example the Sri Lankan Army's shelling of Jaffna town and its hospital on 7 March 1987 which resulted in 17 deaths. Unlike Juliet Ricks who reported for the BBC, Lucian Rajakarunayake who came to Jaffna to report for the Sunday Island (report on 22 March, 1987),
found no evidence of the incident while many of the injured were still in hospital. He instead referred to the "alleged incident" in a dismissive manner. The Press in Colombo reflected the euphoria in the South when government forces took control of Vadamaratchi in June 1987. This reached a high pitch when the flotilla of Indian Red Cross relief vessels meekly turned back after interception by the Sri Lankan Navy. The commanding naval officer, in words that reflected popular Sinhalese prejudices about India, asked the Indians to give the food to their own starving people. Colombo was awash with drinking parties joined in by the press. Then came the Indian airdrop of relief supplies on 4 June ,1987 and all the euphoria and bravado of the politicians vanished without trace. Since then the press has taken on a somewhat chastised tone. The article in Colombo's Weekend of 19 July 1987, by Kumudini Hettiarachchi, trying to tell the Sinhalese how dangerously out of tune they are with the rest of the world in seeing this crisis, has been referred to in Vol I, Ch. 8. There was a general feeling that this country's official information outlets such as Lankapuwath, which had been tamely quoted by the press, had brought on the Sinhalese infamy and ridicule rather than straightening their image. In January 1988, Colombo's Sunday Times broke new ground by reporting that the Sri Lankan Police had been responsible for a reprisal in Batticaloa where civilians were killed.
_____ In their minds at least those in the South had begun to think of the North and East as an alien land. But how does the press in the South that had voluntarily worn the yoke of cowardice and falsehood, respond to a situation where the violence had come home ? There was no escape from the bloody schism within. Their own gut instincts too had let them down. Old habits are hard to break. Yet the press in Colombo is not without signs of hope.
_____ Although there is much published in Colombo now about the goings on in the North, one gathers that the subject of disappearances in the South is one that is hard to write about. There was one remarkable interview in the Sunday Island (21 February, 1988) with Mr. Ravi Jayewardene, son of and security advisor to President Jayewardene.The interview by Lasantha Wickrematunge in which Ravi Jayewardene was queried about the S.T.F. which he fathered is remarkable for containing more information in the questions rather than in the answers. Here are some excerpts:
Question: The S.T.F. is identified with the "Green Tigers'" activities in the South. What is the extent of S.T.F. involvement with the "Green Tigers" especially with stories relating to the disappearance of a large number of youths?
Answer: None. Frankly I do not know what the "Green Tigers" is and who runs it...... the S.T.F. will have no involvement with them at all. They are a highly disciplined force and I cannot imagine them committing atrocities.
Question: How do you think people have got confused and the accusations are made against the S.T.F.?
Answer: I know how this mistake has been made. Many units in camouflage uniforms have been deployed today by the police and other organisations in all parts of the island. Some of these units are mistaken for the S.T.F. giving it a bad name....
___________ The choice of the name "Green Tigers" for the semi-official hit squad is a genuflection in the direction of the government's erstwhile foe, the L.T.T.E.. The answers by Ravi Jayewardene are an admission that there is something afoot in the South that the government ought to be ashamed of. From the absence of the details of disappearances appearing in the press, one gathers that the press is either not privy to, or is reluctant to publish such information._ In this at least Mr.S. Sivanayagam and Mr. Gamini Navaratne, who in turn edited the weekly "Saturday Review"_ from Jaffna must remain pioneers. They sought and published details of human rights violations in the North and East, as well as information passed on to them from the South. (One might say the Saturday Review said too little on such violations by militant groups. Still what it said was much more than what others were willing to say). This is a sure sign that the Prevention of Terrorism Act that was meant for the Tamils has, as predicted, come to roost in the South. To survive under the P.T.A., an editor needs a feeling, as well as guts, for the game of going to the brink and taking risks. No editor in Colombo will probably be allowed that opportunity.
___________ With public men in Colombo under threat of being murdered, journalists will no doubt feel themselves threatened sooner or later. However one does find in the South a greater willingness by several people to take a stand against extremists than one found in the North against militant excesses._ One reason for this is that the J.V.P. did not come to be seen as the legitimate voice of the Sinhalese people in the way that militant groups came to be seen as the voice of the Tamil people. Thus the resulting confusion amongst Tamils was greater. We give an extract from an article in the Sunday Times of 21 February, 1987, by Qadri Ismail, on the subject of the murder of Vijaya Kumaranatunge by the J.V.P.:
"By killing him the J.V.P. can no longer pretend that it is not a racist organisation -- let alone a democratic one. This was known by all but the wilfully blind many months ago. The J.V.P. has now proved something else:_ that they do not intend to capture power by convincing the people of the superiority of their ideas. They do not have any. They intend to capture power by silencing all those with ideas. Then the only thing left may be the J.V.P. - and its guns; for the only option left for Wijeweera now is to kill all those standing in his way -- even if some of them are now his allies and sympathisers. The gentleman in Sri Lankan politics has been killed for the crime of threatening to unite his country."
_____ While the government is seen to be blundering along with democratic opinion unable to bring it to account, the J.V.P. may receive a good deal of blind sympathy, even from those who abhor its actions. A stage may be reached where fear will prevent the voicing of honest
opinion. More and more people in the South are becoming silent on learning that they are on the J.V.P.'s hit list or are under suspicion by the forces of the state. The Tamils went through a similar process. Up to July 1983 it was possible for those with some courage and a popular base to criticise fascist tendencies in the militant groups. With the blind surge of popularity for the militants and the material support they received from India after the July '83 violence against Tamils, all voices of reason ceased and consciences became hard. Anyone who criticised the actions of militants was branded a traitor and soon pushed to the wall.
_____ In such confrontations, with the state failing to maintain high standards of humanity in its conduct, each side tends to seek the compliance of the populace through terror. When the methods of liberation groups are seen to be utterly deplorable, the state obtains legitimacy, both local and international, to unleash its capacity for unlimited terror. The legacy of the J.V.P. and the L.T.T.E. must be seen in this context. In the coming times, the press is bound to face extremely difficult times as well as opportunities to be creative.
8.4 _ India
An article by K.J.Akhbar, Editor of the Calcutta Telegraph, published in Colombo's Sunday Times of 14 February, 1987, from all we are able to gather, gives a fair insight into the thinking of the Indian elite that governs the presence of Indian forces in Sri Lanka. After referring to the humanitarian nature of India's original involvement (to help the Tamils protect themselves from Lanka's army), he quite rightly points out the danger inherent in creating new countries in India's neighbourhood (in this case Tamil Eelam):
"The Anandpur Sahib Resolution, in which lies the genesis of the demand for Khalistan (just as the genesis of Pakistan lies in the Lahore Resolution), was conceived within months of Bangladesh being created. Let us have no illusion that a number of such resolutions would have sprung up also within months of creating another country in Lanka and that if we would ever manage to do so. A new flag anywhere in the world is a dangerous thing: it breeds new ideas...... We have no option except to seek protection of our own interests within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. Once we accept that we must also accept the consequence: the price we must pay is to guarantee the unity of the country, more particularly because we played no little role in creating the Tiger's capacity to challenge Lanka's integrity. It is in a sense fortunate that the Lankan army proved incapable of breaking the Tigers, for otherwise we would have had a permanently entrenched hostile neighbour as in Pakistan."
He then speaks of the importance of Trincomalee and how important it is not to have a hostile power controlling Sri Lanka's coastline:
"How long do you think it would have taken for small boats to start ferrying arms into India to help insurrectionist groups to continue their wars against the Indian state? There is no shortage of such groups. The Naxalites, I am certain would welcome an infusion of arms to fight their wars
of liberation in Andhra Pradesh, Bengal and Bihar..... Let us not delude ourselves that another Punjab cannot happen..... Would someone in Pakistan not like, for instance, to arm a Muslim extremist group in Hyderabad or Naxalites in Andhra? Or who knows which future secessionist in Tamil Nadu? Or simply fuel normal communal tensions which bedevil us?"
What emerges is a preoccupation with national security not dissimilar to that of the Sri Lankan government._ One question the Indian elite do not ask is why these secessionist tendencies arise ? What are the genuine problems of regions that ought to be met by democratic accommodation ? Even token acts of statesmanship seem to founder -- such as the fate of the Akali Dhal -- because of a lack of commitment by the centre, a lack of trust, and a cynicism that comes from trying to be clever. It seems so, casually natural for them to arm the Tigers when it suits them on the humanitarian grounds of protecting Tamils, and then to talk of fighting them on grounds of national interests and bash the Tamils in the process. Starting from Bhindranwale, similar tales of desultory cynicism lie behind many of India's problems. When the Indian ruling class finds itself in a corner after the calculations of the experts had failed, the policy changes in effect to one of sending in the C.R.P.F._ in the hope that once_ bashed_ hard enough, people would come round. Then come the tales of torture disappearances and the like on the one hand, and what seems a long lasting terrorist problem on the other. The Indian elite did not tire of lecturing the Sri Lankan government on the need for a political solution to the ethnic problem, but they themselves lacked the moral grit and honesty to apply their advice at home.
___________ The fathers of Indian independence had the strength of basic humanity and some commitment to democracy, although their self-righteousness was not always sustainable. The present ruling class annoyingly sports the latter without the corresponding moral underpinning. Having fought the British for their independence, the Indian elite is in danger of forming a cruder form of polity than what the British left behind. The trouble is that much Indian discussion on security matters is done by technocratic minds that are very erudite and have imbibed the latest and smartest in geopolitics. This leads to a natural substitution of the military for common morality in approaching problems. It boosts their sense of personal vanity to think of themselves as a Henry Kissinger - like maestros moving military presences and bargaining chips here and there. The smell of decaying flesh and the sights of misery are far away from their limousines and air-conditioned offices. It is easy for them to forget that they too are mortals.
___________ Except for those who are too clever to see it, it is idle to pretend that means do not matter, however desirable the ends. Just as the L.T.T.E.'s Anuradhapura massacre of Sinhalese came back home in the form of open indifference to Tamil lives, and the Sri Lankan S.T.F.'s methods in Tamil areas and the generally violent approach to the Tamil problem resulted in a climate of arbitrary killing in the South. The callousness of methods used by India in Sri Lanka will create in India itself a mental and moral climate where the same methods look legitimate.
___________ If free media coverage of the I.P.K.F.'s activities in Jaffna had been permitted, in place of official lying which brought discredit on India, much good would have been achieved. It would have also helped to control some of the cruder military minds of the kind
which attempted to close the Uthayan newspaper premises on 11 October, 1987 by shelling its neighbourhood near Kailasapillayer Kovil, killing 13 civilians in the process.
___________ Indians cannot evade responsibility for what their soldiers did in Sri Lanka by simply giving discourses on military psychology. While their politicians seem ignorant, their military top brass talk of how their hearts bleed for the distress of the Tamil people and go on to explain murder and rape in terms of the psychology of the soldier and battle fatigue. One could see that they are unrepentant about what has happened and about the ugly things that still happen. It will be apparent to a reader of the events described that there is much more to them than the psychology of the soldier - namely incompetence and callousness at the top, both political and military.
___________ Such excuses will not do for a country which had not tired of lecturing the Sri Lankan government on the atrocious conduct of its army. India did not and would not accept explanations in terms of the psychology of the Sinhalese soldier, who, like the Indian soldier, could be a charming fellow at other times.
___________ To our knowledge, not one Indian soldier has been tried for human rights violations, of which there are many. Bruised prisoners are routinely seen in public as if that was the natural course of things. Several who were taken in by the Indian Army have not re-appeared. That is also the natural order of things for which apologies are considered unnecessary. Perhaps Indian hearts bleed for the tragedy of the suffering universe without being able to relate it to_ flesh and blood individuals.
___________ Every British outrage since the Amritsar massacre of 1919, every lathi blow, and every hour spent in prison, has been counted as forming the anvil on which the Indian nation was nobly forged. Sir Chimanlal Setalvad, a member of the Hunter Committee that was appointed to investigate the incident, estimated that about 400 unarmed Punjabi's were gunned down at Jallianwall Bagh during the Baisakhi festival of April 1919. The British Army too had its psychology. It had a mutiny complex after the Indian mutiny of 1857 which made them excessively anxious about crowds. If human failings could be offered as excuses, there is no need for the law, the cornerstone of civilised life. The British who, to their credit, were at least conscious of their obligation to the law, did not offer such excuses. A committee of inquiry headed by Lord Hunter was appointed. Mahatma Gandhi who had trusted the British in the same manner that Tamils of Sri Lanka had trusted India, was dismayed by the incident at Amritsar. When the Hunter report was published it struck Gandhi as being little better than "thinly disguised whitewash" and went on to ask if there was some secret code of conduct governing the official class in India "before which the flower of the great British nation fell prostrate." (Mahatma Gandhi, by B.R Nanda, Unwin Books). That still did not amount to total dismissal.
___________ The Tamils of Sri Lanka have witnessed many more than 400 deaths of un-armed non-combatant civilians resulting from Indian fire in what was to have been a disarming operation. Many of those deaths resulted from clumsy indifference by what was said to be the disciplined and competent forces of a great nation. No commission of inquiry has been appointed, even if just to let the Indian parliament know what happened.
___________ If India is serious about the values of civilisation and the rule of the law, it is no good talking about the provocative conduct of the L.T.T.E. and the anger of the soldiers. The civilians too were angry, angry with both the L.T.T.E. and the Indians. But they were helpless. The first thing about civilisation is the protection of the helpless. How many Brigadier-General Dyers and how many Amritsars has the Indian state produced in the 40 years since independence? Can India afford them?
___________ A notorious order by General Dyer had made Indians crawl on their bellies in a street in the Punjab where a European woman had been assaulted. It reminds one of the way Indians in Sri Lanka do their round ups and keep people humiliatingly waiting for hours to be viewed by informants. Sometimes they are mercilessly beaten for no provocation. On 7 January, 1988, everyone, high and low, in the commercial heart of Jaffna was rounded up and made to sit on the road in the hot sun from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. This was after an unknown person had shot dead a soldier. No water was given. Those on the fringes were continually beaten. An officer addressed them several times as "bastards". When they were released it was time for curfew. When they attempted to go home in the morning after roughing out the night in shophouses, they were again beaten. Do Indians ever not learn from their own history ?
___________ What we are saying is that India, which is rightly critical of the evils in Israel and of white racism in Africa, and has itself experienced these evils at first hand, should not merely have formally enforced the laws enshrining centuries of human wisdom; but should also have displayed greater respect for their content.
___________ It is left for Indians to decide whether they wish to be faithful to the ideals of their independence struggle. We can only wish them well, not least because we cannot afford turmoil in our big neighbour and to a large extent our spiritual home. This requires a reassessment of moral priorities._
8.5__ Some Final Thoughts
I._____ People's Life and an Alternative
The war has smashed organised life and removed all types of semblance of control that the community possessed over civil structures. It has also brought out all the weaknesses of this community and pushed it into total inertness. Indian rule asserts itself through military and political means. The middle classes which have traditionally functioned as servants rather than as initiators are unable to break through, or render their noncommittal services to whomever they have come to accept as their master.
_____ The intelligentsia, which at this juncture should be the catalyst energising the benumbed community,_ is unable to do so. In many instances they have side stepped confrontational issues with the I.P.K.F. (as they have done with the militant groups) and have resigned themselves to passivity. This is the result of their history. As in the past, their conceptual and moral shallowness has made them submit to the authoritarianism of the L.T.T.E. and to gloss over the L.T.T.E.'S brutality. A handful of them have even produced acceptable theories to explain many of the atrocities. Some have attempted to isolate and victimise critics of
the movement. However the character of this articulate intellectual segment is largely opportunistic. Their activities, intellectual contributions and their public life, all reflect their stand of preferring to do what is convenient rather than doing what ought to be done. The characteristics of this position are authoritarianism and brutality which characterised their the leadership. Their unprincipled conduct reflected merely a desire to create niches for themselves within which they could survive with the trappings of respectability and nominal power. Yet at the same time they ensured for themselves exoneration from the burden of these reactionary policies by deliberately hanging on at the periphery of these tendencies rather than committing themselves. What is the unacknowledged basis of this segment's position? Why is it that their aspirations do not fit into the classical definitions of organic or traditional intellectuals? This segment is a product of the colonial middle class, whose path to intellectual pretensions was an off shoot of getting educated only for materialist aspirations.
_____ They were unable totally to break obligations of patronage to the ruling class in Colombo as well. Thus vacillation, and rootlessness led many of them to this weak two timing position. The term "Lumpen-intellectuals" describes them well. As the articulate sections of the community fail the people, what is the alternative? Can the organised political voices provide the way ?
_____ The L.T.T.E.'s political line, its obstinacy and shortsightedness left us without any substantive achievement._ Even at present, their moves pave the way for total subjugation to Indian domination._ For example their recent warning to boycott the civil administration,_ if heeded, will remove from people the little control they have over civil structures, thereby creating the conditions for Indian authority to encroach fully into the society. Thus the move is counter-productive and would signal doom, as control of the civil life of the community slips by default into Indian hands.
_____ On the other, hand can the E.P.R.L.F. or the E.R.O.S. provide the leadership? Although there is some evidence that they would try some reformist programmes, their limitation of being_ subservient to India would sooner or later lead them to compromise on crucial issues concerning India's domination of the people. This can be seen from the absence of any protest from them against the I.P.K.F.'s atrocities against the ordinary civilians, so far. Therefore it is unlikely that they will be able to offer a viable alternative.
_____ Would the so called moderates, the T.U.L.F., be an answer? India would certainly try to bring them into_ the mainstream. But they were the fathers of bigoted racist politics in the community. While they raised emotional anti-Sinhalese hysteria among Tamils, they were involved in tea party politics with the Sinhalese ruling class. At least the militant groups had a certain authenticity among the people, whereas the moderates lost it in time.
_____ Indian domination and Tamil narrow nationalism are contradictory. Although these two forces are conflicting, they are interlocked in each other's momentum. The undermining of these forces cannot be done by constructing strategies for the one or the other in isolation. Therefore, because of their interdependence, any alternative should construct a strategy that handles them as a whole. This can be done by bringing anti-racist forces together to undermine neocolonialist penetration and Indian hegemony - and, at the same time exposing the bankruptcy
of extreme nationalism. In the Tamil areas, the failure of the L.T.T.E. and wars have brought disillusionment._ However, narrow nationalism is still a force in terms of ideology, though its support base is disgruntled, and_ yet, not more enlightened. It is still anti-Sinhalese, and self-glorious in terms of its relations with India,_ though the October war had dislodged the cosiness._
_____ In the South, the rise of the J.V.P., a parallel to_ the L.T.T.E., seems to be the only reply to the Indian presence.___ Although at present,_ the J.V.P. for tactical reasons has taken care not to come out with an overtly rhetorical stand or armed action against the Tamil population,_ its anti-Tamil sentiments are well documented in its theoretical essays and exposed in the criticisms by the dissidents from that organisation. But they have never accepted devolution of power to Tamils nor have they any concrete programmes for solving the national question, apart from abstract and meaningless slogans. These dormant tendencies will surface when contradictions intensify with catastrophic consequences - as_ happened in the case of_ the L.T.T.E. which was ostensibly not anti-Sinhalese, before 1983, but later exposed its true nature. Without a programme to advocate the devolution of power, decentralization and a just political solution to Tamils, India could not be contained -- let alone be dislodged. Thus any individual organisation has to view the "rational" solution offered in the peace accord in its proper perspective, with a view to fashioning future tasks. It should not confuse justice to Tamils with Indian dominance or abdicate to India the responsibility for the former.
_____ The need to accept the political solution provided by the Accord as a first step is a reality. Therefore this position would rationalise the Indian presence. How should a political force articulating the people's interests, view this? We have to show that this devolution has not been the result of the struggles of the internal forces, but rather, that it is imposed by an external force due to the weakness of the internal forces. In such a context the only way an alternative could off-set domination is by strengthening the forces of democracy within. Only then can the devolutionary aspects of the Accord be realised. To achieve this, we have to, as a precondition, build back the weakened democratic structures. Democratisation of the communities should take place to articulate power at grass root level (in the broader interest of the community).
_____ This is a crucial step because, as in the Tamil nation, there has never been a healthy, full blown articulation of the people's interests. While the L.T.T.E.'s vision of people's struggles was one of heroes and subjects, other movements like the E.P.R.L.F. and the E.R.O.S. who criticised the L.T.T.E.'s programmes and spoke of the need to mobilise the people, did not themselves have a concrete concept or programme relevant to our realities. Structures for participation by the people were mechanically thought out and remained in the manifestos. Though individuals in these movements strove to work towards a vision, the lack of a coherent organisational programme and the estrangement of theory from practice resulted in empty slogans. That is why, when internal violence and intergroup brutality broke out, there was little visible protest. However,_ certain instances, such as the T.E.L.O.'s internal violence, and the L.T.T.E.'s offending acts brought people together in some places in angry protest. This was due to cohesion at village and community levels.
_____ Thus, revived democratic institutions would voice the people's needs in devolution (in specific issues such as colonisation etc). These would also act as a monitor for the
implementation of the limited decentralised power. It would enable such institutions to organise against misdoings and atrocities by the forces they need to deal with. Moreover these structures are essential to stand up against the pressure of individual terrorism that the L.T.T.E. and degenerate elements of other movements indulge in and see to it that individual members of the community are not isolated and victimised. Finally, they would also protect the community_ from becoming the tools of external agencies.
_____ The ideology under which such structures are revived or reorganised must be anti-racist. Narrow anti-Sinhalese politics should be uprooted. They should reach out to anti-racist groups and individuals in the South - southern forces that will advocate steadily and consistently a devolution of power to Tamils and stand up against human rights violations. Only this can ensure an unlinking of the cause of Tamil rights from Indian patronage, and thus curtail the Indian role as a protector and arbiter.
_____ In reality, Indian dominance in our affairs has come to stay (as a poster erected by the I.P.K.F. at a sentry point says "We have come to stay to protect innocent civilians"). While the military rule is apparent and abrasive, political domination is subtle and invasive. Our task lies in minimising the control of our civil structures by Indian authorities. Already India had announced that it will start constructing coastal railway lines in the East as well as implementing certain investment programmes in the North and the East. In response, we cannot just be rhetorical, but must have a strategy to take the workings into our own hands. At this juncture, Indian penetration into the South seems theoretical. But with rumours of military coups, and strong arm tactics by the Sri Lankan Army, the possibility of such penetration cannot be dismissed as fanciful. The confidence of the chauvinists in the South that anti-Indianism among them is strong and permanent, lulls them into leaving out a crucial factor -- the presence of Hill Country Tamils. We have not dealt with the question of Hill country Tamils in this argument. They need an independent portrayal and analysis . They are becoming central protagonists in the politics of this island. A few militant movements_ have attempted to graft the hill country Tamils in an ad hoc manner into the Eelam struggle and started work amongst them. But the hill country Tamils have, however, been under the total political domination of the C.W.C (Ceylon Workers Congress). Though they are the largest and most deprived working class population of this island, they received no serious consideration from the working class movement, and were viewed as passive and inarticulate. This failure of the Left was due to its capitulation to Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism.
_____ On the southern front, the anti-racist task of advocating devolution for Tamils will be enormously difficult with the rise of narrow nationalism and Indian entrenchment. But it is important to neutralise both tendencies. Through a programme of this nature we could envisage a marginalisation of Indian patronage for the Sri Lankan Tamils and the hill country Tamils. In this way we would lessen the tempo of narrow nationalism and create difficulties for neocolonialist penetration.
_____ However the struggle for solidarity with the Hill Country Tamils seems a lost cause for the working class movements in the South because of their past betrayal. Each nation has to bring forth its grievances which caused these internal divisions in order to seek justice and thus create a unity with the purpose of creating an organic "oneness".
_____ These are broad principles and have no prescriptive values. They appear abstract. However, we are individuals sharing these ideas with the hope that they will go some way to initiate discussion. Whether there will be organisations to take on the task is something only the future will tell.
II. __ Towards Reconciliation
At this point people might ask: "Having said all this, what is the solution?" That is not a question for a few individuals to answer. Nor does it have a ready made one. It is something that requires understanding, courage and a will to act at the popular level. It is of little use trying to expound what pretends to be a solution when things are moving fast and where anything that looks clever now will be wearing a wilted look by the time it appears in print. Vijaya Kumaranatunga was amongst the few Sinhalese who kept their heads while passions resulting from massacres and counter massacres were on the boil. A man with any less moral commitment would have slipped. Though his politics was of the Left, he did not trip over cabalistic slogans. His language was as lucid as his ideas. This is why he was a potent challenge to the false and pretentious. Sixteen days before he was killed, the Sunday Times (31 Janunary, 1988) published an article by him remarkable for its honesty and simplicity. What can work must of necessity be simple ideas. We give some exerpts below:
"So then what went wrong with the Accord? The government has deliberately delayed the implementation of the Accord. My own feeling is that the ill-conceived and reckless activities of the L.T.T.E. gave the U.N.P. government, which itself is deeply divided on the Accord an excuse for delaying its implementation. India, the third party, became discredited not only in the eyes of many Sinhalese, but also in the eyes of many Tamils and Muslims, because it failed to act decisively and quickly enough in the ensuing situation. So all parties to the Accord have their own share of responsibility for the sorry state of affairs in this country. It is now time to face the question with which we began: Where should we go from here? We could, if we so desire, procrastinate and let things drift towards a protracted guerrilla war between the L.T.T.E. and forces opposed to it. But in that direction does not lie peace and security for the people of Sri Lanka.
_____ "If we choose to take the road leading to the restoration of democracy and work towards freeing Sri Lanka from a foreign military presence, then the governments of Sri Lanka and India must vigorously and resolutely implement the Accord. It is not by military 'pacification' of the North, East and South that democracy and peace will return to Sri Lanka but by implementing the political solution embodied in the Accord. That solution is the setting up of Provincial Councils without further procrastination.
_____ "But make no mistake about it; our ethnic problem itself will not be solved merely by the implementation of the Accord. However its implementation is a necessary first step in the resolution of the problem.
_____ "The final resolution of the ethnic problem is inseparably linked with the struggle to rescue our country from the economic and social ruin of the past decade. That struggle is also the struggle to build a Socialist Democracy in Sri Lanka."
_____ The implication of this is that the Sri Lankan government should come up with adequate generosity to settle the residual issues such as colonisation without delay. The Tamils for their part must accept the Accord with all its weaknesses as representing the best possible hope, and must call upon the militant groups to trust the people and surrender their weapons.
_____ Many Tamils would object to this saying that the accord does not meet the basic aspirations of the Tamil people. They would argue that the Provincial Councils had been rendered effete because of over-riding powers vested with the President and Parliament. But the alternative facing us is protracted instability, a climate of terror and an emigration of all those who can contribute towards democracy together with educational and economic stability. If some educated person defends Yogi's rhetorical notion of losing even 75% of our people as war casualties in order to save our land, he is very likely not to regard this country as_ his_ permanent home.
_____ One deeply ingrained habit amongst Tamils is to think that freedoms are best secured by being wrapped up in the law book. Laws are important. Good laws can over the years inspire a stabilising social consensus. But without the restraining influence of a deeply felt social consensus, good laws can be broken with impunity by bad governments. Thus what is more important than laws to Tamils and to everyone else in this country, is a public conscience that is willing to fight continually to ensure justice for everyone. We need a more active form of democracy than the public merely electing governments and then going to sleep and leaving the rest to politicians and lawyers. The laws that ensure fair play may come if trust is established between the several communities that people this island and democracy is re-established. In this sense, instead of pushing matters that give an impression of an antagonistic stance against Sinhalese, it may be more important to secure the rule of the law, freedom of labour and freedom of expression and to free education from state control and curb the extra-judicial powers of the state. One salutary feature of the accord is that it lays down for the first time the principle that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic state and recognises Tamil and English as official languages together with Sinhalese.
_____ Once it is accepted that the cause of justice and democracy requires a perennial struggle for values, and that it is not a matter primarily of legalities, then to accept the accord with its blights in order to put an end to destabilising armed activity is not such a bad thing.
_____ Another objection maintains: "We the Tamils cannot trust the Sinhalese. If we give away the militants' arms, the Indian and Sri Lankan governments will play us out." Here the question is what do we do with the arms? The argument at one time amongst the elite was that if enough Sri Lankan policemen and soldiers are shot, the scale of the security operations would tell on the economy and the Sri Lankan government would have to give in. Whilst this argument
has been put forward since 1982, the Sri Lankan government shewed few signs of giving up. The victims of this war were rural Tamils and rural Sinhalese. The elite on both sides who egged on the fight were for the most part comparatively safe - if not in Ceylon, then abroad. The other question is this. Suppose the Sri Lankan and Indian governments decide to throw in the towel, would the Tamils have democracy and a control of their own affairs? Experience suggests that such an expectation has no basis.
For example, the experience of the Tamils has much to do with overt (physical and legal) oppression.But resisting the more subtle and insidious forms of oppression in modern times, requires a society_ that is at the level of the common man_ both interested and alert in matters pertaining to the common good. The increasing importantance of patronage in our decision making_ processes, together with our recent political experience has made the common man an inert non-entity._ One needs to be pessimistic as to how we would, for instance, stand up to pressures from attractively packaged modern technologies and economic inducements, which need to be critically sifted before acceptance. At this level, we need not only a rational relationship with the__ South_ but also with the rest of the sub-continent, which is faced with similar problems. The kind of benevolent_ political influence_ needed_ to bring about__ such a change , is not going_ to come_ from the sectarian politics of the present._________ ____
The Tamil problem has further acquired many complicating facets, such as the dilemma of Trincomalee Tamils. The end result of genocidal action against Tamils by the Sri Lankan state and massacres of Sinhalese civilians after the Accord, is that Tamils fear the departure of the I.P.K.F.. A similar situation exists in Batticaloa. Thus even if a policy of shooting to chase the Indians out is viable, it will receive no unified support from_ Tamils.
_____ The only possible solution to all our problems is to improve communal relations all round - especially between Sinhalese and Tamils. The alternative is Indian tutelage. Even if that option is chosen, we have no way of ensuring India's continued presence. Whether one looks at it from a moral or a pragmatic point of view, winning the confidence of the Sinhalese represents the only way forward. For a start, taking the risks involved must be an act of faith involving no great ingenuity.
9.1 A Reflection on Events: Mid‐1989
We have now been living under the long shadow of the gun for more than a decade and a half, holding hope against hope for the survival of our children who are dominated by violence from all directions without a purpose or meaning. But, on the other hand, we also note the glazed faces of people accepting it all with a sense of resignation. Under these circumstances, to be objective or analytical seems to be a major effort, like trying to do something physical in the midst of a debilitating illness. Whenever we write we are dogged by this reality, fearing our losing the thread of sanity and the community submerging without resistance into this slime of terror and violence. The community is bereft of all its human potential. Every "sane" person is fleeing this burning country - its hospitals have no doctors, its universities no teachers, its crumbled war-torn buildings cannot be rebuilt because there are no engineers or masons or even a labour force, its families are headed by women, and the old, the sick, and the weary die without even the family to mourn or sons to bury the dead. If our earlier account had appeared to be "plugging a line," as some would want to put it, it was because it was important for us to arrive at a synthesis in analysis, seek an understanding, find spaces to organise, and revitalise a community that was sinking into a state of resignation. Objectivity was not solely an academic exercise for us. Objectivity, the pursuit of truth and the propagation of critical and honest positions, was crucial for the community. But they could also cost many of us our lives. Any involvement with them was undertaken only as a survival task. One day we sat down to discuss a postscript to our account. As an exercise we started laying out the complex forces in interaction. After the exercise, one of us wrote in bold letters - A TRAGIC MESS. However, certain trends set in motion, as shown in our analysis two years ago, seem to continue to hold the recent years in sway. That does not mean that things have been static or that the scenario was politically dormant. Contrarily, a great many things have occurred in the intervening two years. Three elections, proclaimed as democratic, took place - for the Provincial Council of the North and East in November 1988, the Presidency in December 1988,and the Parliament in February 1989. Within the reigning party the earlier power bloc has been marginalised. The head of state has changed - President Jayewardene, the blue-blooded representative of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie, was replaced by Premadasa, a populist up-climber. And many acts of parliament have been passed. Paradoxically, within this seemingly overt democratic activity, the situation has deteriorated. The morbidity of the political situation has increased. The political situation in the south of the island has deteriorated so much that the brutal culture of violence is analogous to, as one of the southern activists mused, a synthesis of fascism with Asiatic despotism. An amorphous spectre of terror and violence seems to pervade the entire island. No one can be complacent or aloof. The government of Sri Lanka is unstable, and the civilian structures are tied up in knots and paralysed in the entire island. Human rights violations have increased beyond count. Terror by
the state and every other force seems permanent, ever becoming part and parcel of our daily life. The Indian Peace-Keeping Force on the other hand is causing more violence, and instability.
Democracy and Illusions
Moreover, every democratic flurry, such as the elections, has been considered a watershed, especially by the propaganda machinery; while journalists from the West and from India speculate on changes that could emanate from these events. For us, it has been much ado about nothing because, within all this furious democratic activity (such as frequent negotiations, changing slogans, India's attempt to demonstrate the setting up of structures for political organisation and power sharing, and Sri Lanka's attempt to be seen in control) the reality is that the people are increasingly marginalised and none of the forces is accountable to them. Many have wondered at the apparent lack of enthusiasm on the part of the population to the attempts at democracy. It is ironic that a country which had one of the best records for its reliance on the parliamentary democratic system, sank into sullen silence and refused to vote. Why did the Northern Tamil population reject the Provincial Councils which were portrayed as a mode of organising structures for political negotiation and power sharing ? Then again, when an act of parliament (under pressure from India) ensured a merged North and East Provincial Council, the closest to a traditional Tamil homeland, why did the people keep their distance? India would want us to believe that it is entirely due to the terror campaign carried out by the Tigers, the L.T.T.E., for a total boycott of the electoral process. Be that as it may, the Tiger campaign did have its weight. It is however the disillusionment of the people over the entire array of political forces, and the meaninglessness of the vote, that prevented them from even entertaining the idea of risking their lives. Every political proposal came at the point of a gun, both for and against the vote. The Provincial Council elections were seen to bring in rulers rather than representatives of the people. (See Appendix IV, which reproduces "Laying aside Illusions", a document signed by 50 university teachers in reply to Indian High Commissioner to Colombo, J.N.Dixit's talk in Jaffna) Democracy was illusory, especially in the North, because of the human rights violations perpetrated by India and its collaborators. Blatant killings of civilians and so-called Tiger supporters went unexplained. Mass torture was common place, such as when, virtually the entire male population of a village was hung upside down and water was poured through their noses or when the women in a commuter van were made to walk round the vehicle on their knees. Torture was routinely meted out to all those detained, and one could not elicit some reasonable response from the authorities by complaining about it. Veiled threats and intimidation were the order of the day. If one talked too much, one could be intimidated, killed or have his shop or house blown up. If one wrote about some event (which is what the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna did after the killing of 2 students in a peaceful demonstration) one would only receive a curt dismissal. This emphasized the contempt of the Indian machinery - its Peace Keeping Force and its diplomatic corps. Finally, no one seemed to be convinced that the Sri Lankan state would or could devolve power in a situation where the Sinhalese chauvinists had the upper hand. This was subsequently made very plain by the Chief Minister of the merged North-East Province, who continually complained that the Sri Lankan state was not devolving any real economic or political power to the Provincial Council.
Indiaʹs Quagmire
Any attempt to seek stability and peace from a politically insensitive great power will, inevitably, have a precipitating effect on the crisis. When India's attempts to bring the Tigers back under its patronage failed, it attempted to groom other local political forces for the exercise of its patronage. India tried genuinely to portray to the world at large that there was an indigenous facet to its control, by arming and training the E.P.R.L.F. and a mixed bag of other militant groups, as the executors of its military power. However, the main military opposition, the Tigers, survived for more than two years in the jungles of the North and retained the potential to wage a hit and run war in the urban centres. Thus they were able very effectively to lock the Indian military and its local collaborators in a demoralising war of attrition. India is unable to scale down the level of conflict, or to reduce the tempo of human rights violations carried out by its troops in frustrated reprisal raids. As such, it continues to alienate further the community it had ostensibly come to help. As for its attempt at creating a local political face, neither the T.U.L.F. nor the E.P.R.L.F. whom it groomed as alternatives for political leadership, took off. In the East where a greater need was felt for the I.P.K.F.'s role and where the pro-Indian groups had a more stable position, the I.P.K.F. failed to bring peace and stability. The T.U.L.F. faired miserably in the parliamentary elections. The role of the pro-Indian groups in the violence directed against Muslims in the East, particularly in Samanthurai during May, further discredited the I.P.K.F.. Furthermore, these incidents provided concrete grounds for the fears of the Muslim minority for their survival as a community in a Tamil-dominated polity. Thus the Muslim Congress (a Muslim party propagating the ideology of Muslim nationalism) became extremely popular among the Muslims and gave political life to the cleavages between the Muslims and Tamils.
The Tigers and other Tamil militants
In these last two years, the Tigers still remain the chief protagonists on the Tamil political scene. Their war of attrition in the Tamil areas had the world's fourth largest army tied down in a demoralising situation. The brutal reprisals and ruthless murders carried out by the Indian army and its local collaborators increased the bitterness and anguish of the community, thus providing a continual source of recruitment to the Tiger ranks. Furthermore, although the people generally were disgruntled and disillusioned with the Tigers' strategies (which were resulting in continual loss of life and disruption of day to day existence), the Tigers were still largely dentified as defenders of the Tamil cause. However, it is equally true that they would have wanted the Tigers to opt for a more pragmatic stance towards the I.P.K.F., and would have been satisfied to see the Tigers as the leaders of the newly-formed Provincial Council of the merged Northern and Eastern Provinces. Although the Tigers' tactics imposed a terrorised silence on the people, there was still a tacit understanding and a hopeful commitment from sections of the community to the Tigers. The other groups, including the E.P.R.L.F., misread the signs in their political blindness, and, in the post peace-accord period, changed their tactics to imitate the Tigers and practised terror and murder against the local populace. But the Tigers had based their support, much more than on terror, on the ideology of narrow nationalism and the aspirations of the middle class, to whom the Tigers' obsessive dedication carried much appeal and respect. The reality of the Tigers' power base was further exemplified in February 1989 by the good showing of the E.R.O.S. in the parliamentary elections. The E.R.O.S. had been in collusion with
the Tigers, who allowed the E.R.O.S. to participate in the elections even though death threats were issued by the Tigers against all participants. Tragically, this threat was carried out when the Tigers murdered Annamalai, a long-standing member of the N.S.S.P. and an active member of the M.I.R.J.E..He had lived in Jaffna and identified with its people and their sufferings during its darkest decade.The N.S.S.P. had long opposed the Sri Lankan state's Tamil policy and had campaigned in the South for self determination for the Tamils. It would be wrong to underestimate the Tigers' strength as much as the strength of the narrow nationalist ideology among the Tamils - especially among the northern Tamils. However, a count down has begun for Tiger dominance. The tide was not always on their side. Be that as it may, some signs bode ill for them. Prolonged life in the jungles in difficult conditions, and the wiping out of their support structures in the villages by the I.P.K.F. and its collaborators, are all taking their toll on the morale of their cadre. The death of many of their experienced men in the October 1987 war and subsequent armed actions sapped the knowledge, expertise and spirit of the movement. And although there is a continual flow of new recruits, they are of a different generation. As one of us wrote, the age of the child warrior had begun. It is the greatest tragedy for this nation and the Tiger movement that mere children, without any ability to coherently think or undertake politico-military activity, carried the most lethal weaponry, as they wandered around with blazing hatred in their heart and were hunted. Though the Tigers were challenging the Indian army and mobilising to subvert Indian hegemony, their tactics and strategies, both politically and militarily, were visibly stultifying the community's organised resistance. Militarily, the landmine war in the crowded urban settlements paid the price in civilian losses, further undermining the total commitment of their support base. The campaign to boycott civil structures that the Tigers pursued following the October 1987 war, was seen by the community to be destructive and meaningless, and was obeyed only out of fear. The community as a whole, watched in disbelief as some senior civil servants were arbitrarily gunned down for keeping the civilian machinery running. The continual disruptions brought about by these boycott activities and hardships imposed on the ordinary people, also helped to lay the foundation for an unwilling cooperation of the local populace with the Tigers. Furthermore, the Tigers' recent moves of negotiating with the Sri Lankan state mystified the community and brought a creeping sense of suspicion of the glorified image of the Tigers as a fearless movement, dedicated to the cause of the separate homeland - Tamil Eelam. Thus,it would not be far from reality to see cracks in the fanatical ideology of the Tiger movement. Many wonder why the Tigers made overtures to the Sri Lankan state. Is it because there was erosion of their morale? Is it a new pragmatism in Tiger thinking ? Is it their desire to survive with trappings of political and military power as the leaders of the Tamils, even in a powerless provincial council ? Or is it because there was pressure from greater powers which want a neutralisation of the Indian presence and see it happening only through the Sri Lankan government's coming to an agreement with the principal protagonists on the Tamil scene? The answer is really a condensation of all these reasons. The Tigers primarily wanted to wield power as the only force. It is the only factor that explains many of their past actions. Many in the North knew that, in mid-1988, emissaries of a rather low key nature from the Tamil Eelam lobby of the U.S.A. visited the jungle hide-out of the Tiger leader Prabakaran with a request to scale down the war, adopt a conciliatory stance with the Sri Lankan state and to arrive at a means of getting rid of India and coming back to power. At the time it was known that the attempt ended failure. But could such a message be more relevant to the Tigers after a fairly demoralising year? Thus after a decade of national liberation struggle and a ruthless striving for leadership that
caused enormous loss of life and the denudation of the people's moral strength, the Tigers seem to be at a dead end. Their pursuance of a supremacist struggle at the cost of the very concept of liberation and their moulding of the spirit of their cadre on a fanatical dedication to the Leader and the Movement, was to be their undoing, as it is within all such narrow nationalist, fascist movements. Thus we as a people are also having a countdown. We can wait years. For a people, history does not change overnight. In the case of the pro-Indian groups, their lack of political sensitiveness jeopardised their more stable position in the East. It was shown in the way they handled the question of the multi- ethnic tensions of the East. They exploited the prejudices of the Tamil community against the Muslims for the sake of quick popularity. They also gave way to the sentiments of revenge against the Sinhalese settlers, thus fanning suspicion, fear, anger and communal violence. These episodes complicated and marred their attempt to portray themselves as legitimate representatives of the people, at least in the East. It is indeed tragic, as the E.P.R.L.F. had been the least communal of the Tamil militant groups in the past. As pointed out in our earlier essays, the E.P.R.L.F.'s fundamental weaknesses stemmed from their superficial theory and practice, a lack of creative political thinking, and a loose party structure. These aspects, together with considerations of security, allowed no other path of progress than that of existing as puppets of India, and, for all the revolutionary rhetoric, to be dominated by narrow nationalism and opportunism. In the North, where the E.P.R.L.F. had less acceptability, it further alienated the people by its brutal conduct.
The southern situation
In the South, the last three years have seen the release of a cascade of the dammed up effects of twenty years of chauvinism and a decade of the patriotic war. All the heightened passions and the political expediencies adopted by the Sinhalese ruling class to stay in power, seem to have arrived at a logical conclusion. The marauding terror gangs of the S.T.F. and assorted death squads, which come in many colours ("Green Tigers", "Black Cats" and so forth.) left their death trail in the deep South. In the past, terror was conducted against a marginalised minority who were peripheral to Sri Lanka's parliamentary politics. Today it has come to the heart of the political process and the core of Sri Lanka's economic base. The J.V.P. had on the other hand polished to perfection the tactics of terror chosen by Tamil liberation organisations like the Tigers. Work stoppages and civil disobedience campaigns are conducted through the issue of intimidatory letters and threats of death and there does not seem to be even a pretence at mass mobilisation. However, the recent spate of strikes where the J.V.P. was the motivating force, also put the legitimate claims of wages for the workers as one of its demands. Nonetheless, it is the J.V.P.'s death threats that seem to be the most effective. Death penalties are always carried out in a gruesome manner, and the sadistic, primordial nature of these killings have no analogy in contemporary history. Even after killing someone, the J.V.P. do not let go; they lay down instructions on how the deceased should be interred. For example, the family may be instructed to drag the body to the burial grounds, and, if they disobey, the next day they would find the corpse propped up against their door. The J.V.P.'s targets are the supporters of the ruling party, government officials, and anti-racist forces, mainly of the Left. The J.V.P.'s terror is matched by the terror of the state. Thus the numbers of those slaughtered run into thousands. In a number of killings of ordinary persons and opposition activists, doubts remain in the peoples' minds as to who was really responsible. Indeed, they do not know whom
to fear more. On 29 July 1989, government forces killed over 100 Sinhalese civilians, who were forced onto the streets at gun point by the J.V.P., to demonstrate against the Indian presence. A curfew was then in force.The Minister for Defence, speaking to the Sunday Times subsequently, suggested that people should fear the guns of the state more than they feared J.V.P. guns. Thus a once peaceful community has become one bristling with lethal weaponry. A culture of violence is the nurturing ground for the future generations of this beautiful and fertile island, where we, in our childhood and youth, laughed and played among the tall grass and sand dunes. Our previous essays chronicled the dialectical evolution of the ascendency of narrow nationalist ideology and the over emphasis of the ethnic factor, along with the inadequacy and failure of the Left. The Left in the North had been a small force and was historically submerged by the rise of nationalism. The position of the southern Left worsened after they abdicated their responsibility for solving the national question to the Indian state. Their unequivocal,and perhaps well intended, support for the Peace Accord was used by the J.V.P. to jeopardise their very survival. But worse still, their silence concerning Indian human rights violations during and after the October war, made them vulnerable to criticism from all sides. The campaign of decimation carried out by the J.V.P. seems to be most viciously executed against the Left. The tragic loss to the future of this country is heightened by killings, such as that of the charismatic and humane leader of the Left alliance, Vijaya Kumaranatunga. The Left's long standing advocates, including the leading trade unionist L.W.Panditha (who was the convenor of 21 trade unions) have been slaughtered. Poignant are the stories such as that of the school master George Ratnayake, a long-standing member of the communist party in a remote village in the deep South. This village had always voted "red," not because they were communists, but because of their "School Master." This simple and dedicated man was shot down in broad daylight on the main street in his village, as he disembarked from a bus. His beloved village sat in stupefied silence
The Future
Within this tragic history there is still an attempt by concerned people to think coherently of the future. There are debates going on as to the correct path for survival, organisation and possible break-throughs. There is, especially in the North, a limited attempt at organising at the grass-roots level, so as to handle the repressive situation and violence from all sides. These are very small beginnings indeed. In the South, staying alive seems to be still the dominant issue, and activists as individuals and groups are attempting to handle questions of the realities around them. At present, the odds are stacked against these initiatives in both communities. The present belongs to the forces of reaction. What is the future for this beleaguered land? India has been extending its regional influence, both through diplomatic channels (such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and military and economic actions such as its intervention in the Maldives and economic blockade of Nepal. Its involvement in Sri Lanka, as we have shown, has been problematic, bringing no quick solution and, instead, giving growth to discontent at home and disenchantment abroad. Thus it will have to either withdraw or prove that it is achieving its originally stated aim of bringing an end to the conflict in Sri Lanka. Given the option of Indian withdrawal,will that in itself solve the entire problem, as chorused in agreement by the U.N.P., the J.V.P. and the Tigers? It is clear that the Indian withdrawal may be conditional upon an effective transfer of power in the North and East to the Tamils. Yet, such devolution will be vehemently attacked by the J.V.P. which has consistently opposed provincial
councils and the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. For the Tigers, Indian withdrawal would be portrayed as a military victory. But they would also want to maintain the apparatus of the merged Provincial Council, with themselves in control of it, a position that would enrage the J.V.P. and its support base. The question of the Indian withdrawal requires a clear analysis of the complex political forces contending for control throughout Sri Lanka. For the people, any solution to the brutal and intense violence has to come from within the communities and cannot be imposed from outside. The development of these internal structures is a long and arduous task, a process which is only just beginning to be comprehended 1 .
9.2 An Addendum ‐ February 1990
Although much has happened on the surface in recent months, one hesitates to write more for the reason that it would be improper to touch on aspects of an unfinished story without giving a thorough-going analysis. Such would properly be material for a separate book. Some of the developments have reached such poignant proportions that if Tamils as a community and Ceylonese as a nation continue to ignore them, our future would indeed be without hope. We shall merely highlight some of these developments. With the I.P.K.F. having withdrawn to small enclaves in Jaffna and Trincomalee with its allies, Tamil nationalist politics as represented by the L.T.T.E. may appear to be in a strong position. This line has been pushed by a vocal section of the Tamil expatriate lobby, as well as for reasons of local politics in Tamil Nadu. Speeches and special songs by publicists in Tamil Nadu are enjoying wide circulation on tape. One need not probe far to detect something forced and superficial about this euphoria. Behind the flags, bunting, speeches and songs, the Tigers are deeply anxious, if not disturbed. Their methods and ideology have taken their toll. Every new crisis brought fresh doubts, resulting in many senior men leaving the movement. A significant aspect of the widespread disillusionment with the liberation struggle is that the L.T.T.E.'s new recruits are largely children in their very early teens - known as child warriors or Cow&Gate warriors - and mainly from the more deprived sections of the community. In contrast to the early days of the militancy, there are hardly any recruits from high school and above. The older boys may form links with the L.T.T.E. for pragmatic reasons, and may do some publicity work for them. This helps to bring in child recruits. But they would carefully avoid any commitment to fight for the L.T.T.E.. There is then the question of how committed the society is to the form of liberation envisioned by the dominant politics. The people appear to be resigned to accepting permanent conflict as being an inherent attribute of the dominant politics. In Jaffna, where social mobility has been considerably increased by large scale emigration to the West since July 1983, the average mature adult and university leaver, looks to emigration as the desired goal. Some sources put the number of emigrants from Jaffna at 200,000, or 25% of the population of Jaffna in 1983. For reasons of its own insecurity, this emigre class tends to encourage, and become locked into the politics of extremism and destruction at home. This has been discussed elsewhere [See Reports of the University Teachers for Human Rights(Jaffna)]. The militancy did little to remove the discomfort felt by Eastern Province Tamils against the Jaffna dominated politics.Some of the abler and politically sensitive leaders the L.T.T.E. from the Eastern Province, had faced difficult times with the hierarchy. In trying to force a Tamil identity on the Muslims of the North-East, the Tamils are flying in the face of their own historical experience at the hands of the Sinhalese dominated state. The Tigers, while enjoying a spell of unchallenged power, can hardly be unaware of these factors. Their attitudes to the
recruitment of children reflect a sense of despondency. In the early days of the militancy, when mature recruits came in large numbers, the ideals of freedom were much talked about. The reasons talked about today have a fatalistic ring. When parents approach L.T.T.E. leaders to ask for their children who had left home and "volunteered," they are frequently reminded by the leaders that they too are missed by their parents. Little is said about any great cause. It is hardly surprising that the propaganda thrust of the struggle must hinge around the two words "Traitor" and "Martyr." Indeed, the hundreds who ultimately made sacrifices for the same cause and were killed abjectly as traitors, speak not just for the enormous wasted potential, but also for the widespread frustration and anger that lie simmering below the surface. With room for democratic activity largely non-existent, it is easy to underestimate grossly this anger and the resulting insecurity for Tiger aspirations. This is reflected in the increasing obsession with "traitors." In contrast to its treatment of dissidents who were fellow Tamils, it has been possible for the Tigers to sit at the same table and exchange pleasantries with the unrepentant traditional adversary-the Sinhalese state. Even public praise and expressions of confidence have been lavished on the latter. Once again there is a dangerous moral insensitivity on the part of the Tamils to what this state represents - as is evident from the terrible fate of the thousands of Sinhalese young, at the hands of the state. What has won widespread admiration is the destructive aspect of the Tigers. Their methods ensured that no one else was allowed to do anything, good or bad. Lacking the ability to face up to the Tigers, all other parties were driven by their weaknesses to show themselves in such a bad light, that the Tigers were welcomed back with widespread relief and their legitimacy was enhanced. However, recent events in the East have shown that, when challenged, the Tigers too could behave towards civilians in harsh military fashion. Many consciously acknowledge a negative reason for accepting the Tigers - that without them, they would be fighting once more. Again, one must not lose sight of the fact that the remarkable success of the Tigers and their fatal weaknesses are reflections of Jaffna society itself. Apart from the failure of the society to take a stand or question the massive destruction of life and energies through internal developments, yet another factor most vividly reflects its fatal politics and its destructive value system. It is its failure even to see what is being done to its own children who are being cajoled and cornered into carrying arms, with no idea of what they are doing. All armed parties are guilty in this respect. It is hardly the case that people are unaware of what is going on. The earlier conscription for the T.N.A. was well known. The prevalence of armed sentries so small that their presence is known only through gun barrels peeping over walls, is much talked about in Jaffna. National newspapers too have presented photographs of baby faces carrying AK 47s as though they were pop guns. But the leading sections of society, whether religious authorities, professional associations or associations of teachers, do not appear to acknowledge that there is a problem. There is, rather, much glib talk of the "Boys" delivering the goods. Some go so far as to justify the children being "guided and used" in view of the manpower shortage resulting from the older boys shying away from involvement. They would argue that these young persons have to be sacrificed to protect the "gains" of the struggle in which so much has already been lost. There is no questioning the kind of society we have been creating through this struggle. It is hardly surprising that many visiting outsiders have been astounded by these attitudes. This insensitivity and moral degradation is seen to go much deeper, when one looks at the politics that is articulated by the Tamil elite. Anyone who stands out and projects a qualitative difference, is isolated and
destroyed. The weapons used may include slander, the misuse of institutional power and more indirectly, even murder. What we have today is a weak society tending towards fascist regimentation. It has produced so-called traitors in dizzying proportions and little that is creative. To hide its mediocrity and the poverty of human qualities in its leadership, it needs to strengthen patronage and stifle intellectual development. This is reflected in its politics. There is a cost to the propaganda edifice that is being erected in Tamil Nadu, incorporating the Tamil militant struggle in Ceylon and the militarism of the Chola empire (from the 10th to the 13th centuries A.D.) so as to project a Dravidian racial mystique. This cost must eventually be borne by misused children and paid for in the blood of hapless victims. In the South, the discomfiture of the J.V.P. has been achieved at the cost of brutalising the armed forces and the society to a degree far greater than what prevailed during the Tamil campaign. A conservative estimate of the number of Sinhalese youth killed or disappeared, in the course of the campaign by the government forces and paramilitary groups, is put at well over 8000. Newspapers routinely report bodies floating down rivers and charred bodies, usually around half a dozen, being discovered by the roadside in some remote village. Following the killing of two lawyers, there was much fear of filing habeas corpus applications. The South paid a terrible price for allowing the rule of law to be subverted since the passage of the prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979 in the name of fighting Tamil separatism. No one is talking about the government's accountability being a realisable goal for the foreseeable future. With politics having become enmeshed with lawlessness, it is doubtful whether the rule of law can be restored and the killer squads restrained by merely reversing legislation. The recent killing of Richard de Zoysa, a respected dramatist and journalist, and the disappearance of Lakshman Perera, U.N.P. municipal councillor for Mount Lavinia, both of whom were close to a particular section of the ruling party, raise questions of whether the internal politics of the ruling party is immune from the killer politics it had engendered for its survival. In Ceylon which had a long tradition of the military being subservient to the civilian authority, one must now ask where the power balance between the two really lies. In the de Zoysa and Lakshman Perera affairs, a large section of the cabinet appears to have been in the dark. What appeared in the local press regarding both these incidents which took place in February 1990, poses several embarrassing questions for the state authorities. The journalist community was both scared for its safety, and skeptical of statements emanating from the government. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting summoned a special press conference on 19 February to say that the involvement of R.A.W., the Indian intelligence agency, was a possibility in Richard de Zoysa's abduction. Speaking to the press the same day, the Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs ruled out the possibility of R.A.W.'s involvement. There was to be more of this kind of contradictory statements from the government. Several prominent media persons took no chances and flew out of the country. What an opposition member said in the parliament on the subject illustrates the enormity of the problem facing ordinary youth of the South: "We may not take notice of a hundred Richard de Zoysa's killed in Hambantota, as indeed there have been. But the death of this man has pricked and wakened the somewhat anaesthetised conscience of the middle class". As regards the Tamil problem, there has been no ideological conflict between the U.N.P. and the J.V.P.. In spite of having struck a deal with the L.T.T.E., the government is yet to put forward to
the Sinhalese electorate, the reasons why power should be devolved to the Tamils. The conflict between the government and the J.V.P. has the hallmarks of a struggle for survival on the part of the former and one for power on the part of the latter. As much as the government may wish to devolve some power to the Tamils for pragmatic reasons, including that of marginalising India's role, whether it retains the required control over the armed forces and the administrative machinery is another matter. The weakness of the arrangements between the Sri Lankan state and the L.T.T.E. result from ideological contradictions and conflicting aims, and the serious intrinsic weakness of both parties. Given this, it would be a gross exaggeration to say that Indian intentions have been defeated. True, a concert between the L.T.T.E. and the Sri Lankan state, rendered the maintenance of Indian troops on the ground a serious political liability. What India has now decided to do is to cut its liabilities and handle the problem differently from a stronger position. As the Indian presence was being whittled down, the euphoria in the South had virtually evaporated in the face of disturbing reports and questions in the press about the future. It would be very difficult for the Tamil party and the Sri Lankan state to distance themselves from the narrow ideological positions that have been built up over decades, particularly when a rival or dissident faction could trip them up by stepping into their shoes. This is what the J.V.P. had attempted to do. There are also pockets of discontent waiting to be used, such as happened in the provoking of violence between the Tamils and Muslims of the East in 1984. The importance of India in determining the power balance should not be underestimated. On India's part, in using nationalist feelings in Tamil Nadu to pursue foreign policy objectives in Ceylon, it may have paid a heavier price in terms of its own internal stability than it had bargained for. All in all there are a number of possible scenarios, most of them gloomy. Perhaps one lesson from all this is that the problems of Ceylon are to do with its own historical inertia and jaundiced states of mind arising from it, and that outsiders can do little to change this overnight. Some would contend that this is a historical experience that the people of that country have to live through before being forced to abandon their false values in the face of utter futility and desolation. It is not a mechanical process. It is, rather, a process that will call forth much individual courage. Indeed, it is under such conditions that some of the most powerful religious experiences have been realised. With this in mind, concerned outsiders, and, particularly, those who have undergone such experiences, can play a sympathetic role in protecting those who take risks in standing up for universal values and in providing encouragement to those who work for greater accountability from those who wield power. (Appendix I gives a brief impressionistic picture of recent developments.)
Appendix I
I.1 ___________ January 1990: A Time of Ironies
By the end of December 1989, the I.P.K.F. had withdrawn from all parts of the North-East, excluding Jaffna and Trincomalee. A complete withdrawal, which is being insisted upon by the Sri Lankan government, remains a painful dilemma for India. Such an event will no doubt raise difficult questions in India, when it comes to counting the cost against what has been achieved. The Tamil civilian population, both tired and having lost all capacity for self-assertion, awaits events very much as before. It accepted the Tiger's dominance in 1986 in the hope that, with one party in control, life may be more orderly. When the Sri Lankan army launched its Operation Liberation in May 1987 and was poised to enter Jaffna, the people wished that the Tigers would go away instead of putting up a resistance that would be costly, bloody and futile. They had welcomed the Indian army with great relief, after the Indians had stopped the Sri Lankan army from taking Jaffna.When India got into a conflict with the Tigers shortly afterwards, they fervently wished that the Tigers would quickly make peace with India, lest the old adversary, the Sri Lankan state, gain the advantage. Once talks between the L.T.T.E. and India appeared to have finally broken down by October 1988, and India decided to back the E.P.R.L.F. for the provincial leadership, many felt that the Tigers had miscalculated and that some order would yet emerge.
_______ In areas recently vacated by the I.P.K.F., people had watched the assertion of authority by the Tigers and the Sri Lankan forces with mixed feelings. Just as in the aftermath of the Indo-Lanka Accord, during August and September 1987, there is now relief that irritations stemming from military conflict were, temporarily at least, in abeyance. In suburban Jaffna where the air is full of talk of revenge killings by pro-Indian groups, a grim reality today, many are awaiting the I.P.K.F.'s departure just as they had wished for the Tigers' departure in the wake of the incipient Sri Lankan offensive in June 1987. Killings by Tigers elsewhere are much less talked about.
_______ Surprisingly little interest is shown in corpses, evidently of Tamils, being washed ashore in Vadamaratchi. A number of such corpses were burnt during the second half_ of January. Of eight corpses washed ashore between Polikandy and Point Pedro_ on 26 January, one was that of a child_ of two. Some were of women. Witnesses said that injuries pointed to their_ having been subject to cannon fire. People generally believed that the Sri Lankan navy had played a role in these killings. When the matter was raised by India, the Sri Lankan authorities denied any involvement.
_______ In contrast to the massacre by the Sri Lankan navy of passengers in the boat Kumudini, in 1985, and that of fisherman off Mandaitivu,in 1986 - both of which rightly had the citizens' committees and church and community leaders voicing strong protest - this time there was dead silence. The general talk is that the present victims were supporters of the E.P.R.L.F.
and others with family ties to them,_ who now are fleeing to India in fear of reprisals. This silence raises questions of whether the Tamils consciousness_ and identity, forged under the experience of common oppression, was still in existence. This is also a pointer to the ease with which differences among Tamils could_ be used.
_______ This has been a time where the symbolism of events had been very different from the underlying reality. For the Tamil people, it had been a time of mind boggling revision of association of sentiments and events. Following the provincial council elections in October 1988, there was evidently an elected government of the Tamil North-East, led by a Tamil group (the E.P.R.L.F.), the Tigers having refused participation. There was the promise of more powers being yielded to this government under Indian pressure. But enthusiasm for this fulfilment of more than what the Tamils had once hoped for, was evidently lacking.
_______ A_ Tamil National Army (T.N.A.) too had come into being through Indian sponsored forced conscription, with the stated purpose of protecting the Tamils. But its decimation by a concert of the L.T.T.E. and the Sri Lankan forces was watched with indifference. The fate of innocent conscripts from the poorer classes elicited little or no public concern. Many of these conscripts who had little training or motivation, were killed in large numbers, some after capture. Some were killed by their own side as they tried to surrender. The more fortunate were ceremonially handed over to their parents by the L.T.T.E.. Ironically, the areas which passed back to the nominal control of the once odious Sri Lankan army, were even spoken of as 'cleared'. The E.P.R.L.F. which had once annoyed Tamil nationalist circles by standing for a united socialist Lanka, was now threatening the Sri Lankan government with U.D.I. (Unilateral Declaration of Independence). On the other hand the L.T.T.E. which had for years refused to negotiate with the Sri Lankan state on the grounds that the terms on offer did not satisfy their demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam, had now reached a tactical understanding with the Sri Lankan state that even involved operational links.
_______ As for the Indian soldiers in Ceylon, their feelings evinced a mixture of bitterness, puzzlement and anger. They felt that they had come to help the Tamils and had lost over a thousand dead. The "treacherous politics" of the Tamils, they felt, had turned their benevolence into humiliation and waste. They had little understanding of the role of their state and_ army, and the enormous civilian suffering that had contributed to this state of affairs.
_______ Veteran Tamil Nationalist leaders A. Amirthalingam and V. Yogeswaran were assassinated in Colombo on 13 July, 1989. Their politics had articulated the feelings of the rising generation of educated Tamils of the 1950s who were facing the first stirrings of discrimination. To write about their lives and their significance is, by itself, a task for a_ professional biographer. It suffices to say here that their strengths, their weaknesses and even their capitulations were not dissimilar to those of the younger generation of militant leaders in whom they aroused feelings of hatred, as well as a sense of betrayal. Besides feelings of grief and nostalgia among members of the public, they also leave behind anger.
_______ For reasons well understood in Colombo, the affiliations of their killers remained for months, officially at least, a mystery. By early 1990, however, the press in Colombo started treating people to conflicting reports in keeping with the general spirit of the times. The
Colombo based Tamil daily, the Virakesari, carried reports according to which, at public meetings in the North and the East, L.T.T.E. spokesmen gave reasons why they killed Amirthalingam. The English language press on the other hand, carried reports quoting senior_ L.T.T.E. spokesmen in Colombo denying the L.T.T.E.'s having a hand in the killings. Interestingly, the denials and_ the affirmations sometimes appeared on the same day.
_______ Those who did the killings were themselves gunned down by security men, and came to be commemorated as martyrs on wall posters which appeared in the Tamil areas. Ironically, Yogeswaran too would certainly have been accliamed_ as a martyr to the Tamil cause, had he died_ years earlier, when he narrowly escaped death during the officially instigated police rampage in Jaffna in1981. This symbolic act of parricide which ended the lives of these nationalist leaders, marks a shift in the actors, rather than in the politics and its motivating principles.
_______ In the South, the J.V.P.'s insurgency and the government's military response to it through far more indiscriminate killing, had resulted in several, perhaps tens of, thousands being murdered. These represented further refinements of the diabolical methods developed by the state in the face of the Tamil insurgency. There were well authenticated reports of mass burnings of corpses and of mutilated corpses floating down rivers. Following the killing of an Assistant Registrar in 1989 , the University of Peradeniya was_ the scene of a gory reprisal where about 15 severed heads were placed around a pond in the university's centre. Southern human rights activists have received accounts of many such victims having been picked at random from detention and rehabilitation centres run by the Sri Lankan government. University authorities have put the number of university students missing in the South at over 240 and still rising. Temporarily at least, the government had reasons to put on a more benevolent face in the Tamil areas. A sizable section of the Tamil leadership had few qualms about expressing confidence in the new leadership of President Premadasa during this tragic situation engulfing the South, in spite of their own historical experience of the same U.N.P. leadership.
_______ Clearly, little had changed. There was a repetitive character behind the lack of principle and opportunism governing these events. Far from learning anything, the actors were becoming increasingly trapped by their schemes and their ideological predilections. Every move had a note of desperation that went little beyond immediate survival.In this situation of alliances under-pinned by nothing more than immediate expediency, no actor however discomfited at one time can be dismissed. The prospects of lasting peace grow even more distant.
I.2 ______ The Tamil National Army
It has been pointed out that, although the older militant groups recruited volunteers and sent them for training in India,_ in due course these recruits came to hate and despise the civilian population. In June 1989, India launched the_ formation of the T.N.A. by conscription, forcibly taking in young boys who not only did not want to fight, but also did not believe in the legitimacy of the cause. The stage was thus being set for a major social disaster. It is established from a number of testimonies that training was given by Indian Instructors. To understand this, one must look at the problems of strategy created for India, in the wake of President Premadasa's call on 1 June 1989, that the I.P.K.F. be withdrawn. It_ is not in the nature of India's relationship
with the E.P.R.L.F. for India to pump in huge resources into a plan conceived by the E.P.R.L.F.. Even after the I.P.K.F. had formally ceased operations on 20 September 1989, Indian troops continued to surround localities and search, looking for escaped conscripts. Publicly however, India denied any links with T.N.A..
_______ The T.N.A., sent into action after a mere few weeks of training, and with little motivation and a feeling of abandonment,_ were effectively cannon fodder, even with their ample weaponry. Their actions were motivated by the demands of survival and sometimes by elemental hatreds. Driven to hopeless despair by the designs of powers around them, several of them even showed a touching concern for difficulties faced by others who were better off.
_______ In Amparai in late October 1989, some Tamils in a crowd were asked to move out and about 40 Muslims were mowed down by the T.N.A.. Some members of the T.N.A. who tried to surrender were fired upon by their own side. Despite the Tigers having made much propaganda out of the conscription of unwilling Tamil youths and schoolboys, the fate of T.N.A. members falling into Tiger hands varied. Many were released to their parents. Others suffered as people suffer in the hands of an angry conquering army. In Batticaloa, in mid-December, an estimated 50 or so T.N.A. members were found shot dead with their hands tied, after they had surrendered, following the killing of an L.T.T.E. leader.
_______ There were also many instances where T.N.A. members acted with pathetic concern for others. An incident at Kopay junction in December illustrates the deep hopelessness felt by many. A young man going on a motor cycle to Vadamaratchi was detained by a group of I.P.K.F. and T.N.A. men at Kopay, for not having a pass. A T.N.A. boy was asked to guard him.The young man told the boy that he had left his pass behind as he had been in a hurry to go and see his sick mother. The boy thought for a while and murmured,"I too have a mother.". The boy then offered the young man his AK47 rifle and told him,"If I let you go,_ I will face punishment.Here, take this gun, shoot me, and go. They will then think that you escaped". The young man who could not believe his ears, found that the boy was in earnest. He then talked to the boy and dissuaded him. The young man's release was later secured by another T.N.A. member who told the Indian officer that the young man was his cousin.
_______ In the E.P.R.L.F. itself there were many who were disturbed by the conscription, and actively aided the escape of T.N.A. boys under their command. A group of nine escapees who were released at Neervely by the L.T.T.E. in mid-December, 1989, said that conditions and food had been demoralising. They had slept on the floors of huts, trying to keep out rain water with sacks. Their leaders slept on railway sleepers. At Chavakacheri, they had been advised by sympathetic E.P.R.L.F. men to get transferred to Pandeteruppu from where they would be helped to escape. At Pandeteruppu, their E.P.R.L.F. leader asked them to run away and that he would take the punishment for their escape. The punishment would take the form of deprivations and beating.
_______ In some places the attitude of the T.E.L.O. showed surprising originality. At Trincomalee, the T.E.L.O. gained popularity at the expense of the E.P.R.L.F. and the E.N.D.L.F. by telling young men to say, when they are picked up for conscription, that they are already registered with the T.E.L.O. for military training .The T.E.L.O. then put them through some
token motions such as carrying a gun and then released them. In other places, the T.E.L.O. got young men to fill up forms and let them go. These forms were evidently used to procure Indian resources.
_______ When T.N.A. boys get killed, they are just statistics - 40, 60 or 100 - in the march of history. When militants allied to India get killed, many civilians would dismiss them as traitors. Their tragedy, their inner agony and their many instances of nobility and heroism, are seldom talked about. For their own people, to try to understand is an unwanted burden. For the decision makers in high places in New Delhi, it is well to remember that many of their victims were far greater men than themselves.
I.3 ______ The Tamil Militant Groups
Of the Tamil militant groups, the E.P.R.L.F., the T.E.L.O. and the E.N.D.L.F. allied themselves with India. The P.L.O.T.E., though having lost its political appeal, maintained a strong presence of fighting men in the Wanni. It had recruited there in the early 1980s when it made a greater appeal. After October 1987, it steered a line independent of the I.P.K.F.. At the beginning of the second half of 1989, it withstood a major attack by the L.T.T.E. in which the latter is said to have had the backing of Sri Lankan forces. Its present fate is unclear, after it was dislodged from Chettikulam_ in early January, 1990, following heavy_ fighting. It has to contend with a hostile environment using its residual appeal. Its leader, Uma Mahesweran was assassinated in Colombo in July 1989.
_______ The E.R.O.S. appears to have been successful up to a point in avoiding committing itself to any course that involved risk. It survived as an organisation without being thanked by anyone. Its political weakness was a consequence of its worship of tactical survival at the cost of principles. It was very unhappy with the L.T.T.E. going to war with India, but later appears to have come to an understanding with the L.T.T.E..
_______ E.R.O.S.'s operations had the same character as before, giving the public a learned appearance and using the gun and terror where there were easy pickings. A particular episode, that of the disappearance of Mr. Kanthasamy, was revealing. Mr. K.Kanthasamy, a dedicated rehabilitation worker who had the trust of several donor agencies, returned from his exile and set about planning rehabilitation projects for the North-East in early 1988. He was also the founder secretary of the Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organisation. The E.R.O.S. applied_ pressure on him to channel funds for projects in Trincomalee through a front organisation. Kanthasamy stood firm and the pressure mounted and took the form of threats. On_ 19 June 1988, Kanthasamy was kidnapped. When appeals were made by individuals to E.R.O.S. leaders, the response reportedly took the form of arrogant maligning of Kanthasamy. Kanthasamy ,a heart patient, joined the ranks of the disappeared. The E.R.O.S. then issued a statement praising Kanthasamy and appealing for his freedom. The facts are given in records that were left behind by Kanthasamy and published by his associates in London. Kanthasamy was an organised person who maintained systematic records.
_______ On 15 February 1989, the E.R.O.S. contested and did well in the parliamentary_ elections, although the L.T.T.E. had banned any participation in the electoral process, and had
killed two candidates from other parties. The E.R.O.S. did nothing to condemn the L.T.T.E.'s actions and demand from all parties a respect for freedom to express ideas. It earned its prize without risking fighting for the principle of democracy. It was widely believed that the E.R.O.S. had made a deal with the L.T.T.E..
_______ In March 1989, the E.R.O.S. did a public service, when its M.P.'s visited Mullaitivu during heavy fighting and exposed the misery of the civilian population. But its methods began to breed all round resentment. Its cadre became occasional victims of pro-Indian groups who looked upon the E.R.O.S. as having benefited from dirty work done by them. Later, in the first half of 1989, the bodies of six E.R.O.S. members were found after they reportedly went to an I.P.K.F. camp in the Wanni. At the end of 1989, the L.T.T.E. issued a leaflet condemning the E.R.O.S. as receiving training from the_ R.A.W..
_______ The E.R.O.S. in earlier years did recruit well motivated and able men, many of whom became unhappy with the organisation's compromised position. Whether the leadership can rethink and give the organisation a future is left to be seen.
_______ In the case of the E.P.R.L.F., the process of militarisation set in motion by the Indian involvement in 1983 and the success of the L.T.T.E. and T.E.L.O., first drove it to despair and finally to madness. From the beginning the E.P.R.L.F. had to swim against the dominant trends in Jaffna society. Its early members were able young men influenced by Marxist ideas, who left school early and went into political work in the villages. But the social prestige, as well as fund-collections, largely went to the groups demonstrating military success. In its own drive for militarisation, the E.P.R.L.F. recruited a large number of persons from the depressed classes and gave them guns. They were used without political education to give them self-confidence, infusing in them a sense of purpose, or giving them the awareness to challenge the dominant elitist ideology. The guns these recruits had, without giving them_ a sense of dignity, provided them with a means of expressing resentment against society in general. Instead of challenging the dominant ideology and the oppressive aspects of Tamil social tradition, it reinforced prejudices flowing from them. Since the L.T.T.E. was a military organisation which did not articulate a social program, traditional elements in society found it easy to sympathise and even form tactical links with it. And while the E.P.R.L.F. was unable to act as a liberating influence and mould the depressed classes into a political force, the L.T.T.E. could take recruits from the same classes and mould them effectively into a military force.
_______ When the E.P.R.L.F. returned in the company of the I.P.K.F. in August 1987, it did so with a strong urge for revenge against the L.T.T.E. and a deep resentment against the people. In time, the use made of them by the I.P.K.F._ made them suspicious_ and_ resentful of people in general._ The I.P.K.F.'s use of_ them as hit men and informants operating from I.P.K.F. camps, completely destroyed their political potential. Even after realising power through the Provincial Council, they lacked the party discipline and ability to mobilise support from sections of the population whose just grievances had not been addressed by the politics of the Jaffna elite - grievances concerning the depressed classes in Jaffna, various regional issues and the Muslim problem, among others. In reprisals after attacks by the L.T.T.E., they took the cue from the I.P.K.F.. Instead of mobilisation towards liberation, what the depressed classes saw from them was greater inexplicable brutality than that suffered by influential sections. The depressed classes
had the worst of killings, beatings and destruction of property. People sometimes came to regard themselves lucky if detained by the I.P.K.F. rather than its allies who were sons of this community. The E..P.R.L.F.'s participation in the I.P.K.F.'s conscription program was a reflection of its powerlessness_ as well as a loss of any sense of reality. With the prospect of the I.P.K.F. going in early 1990, leaving them high and dry, pretending that the T.N.A. would protect them, their anger turned against the people rather than against India. The I.P.K.F. did nothing to deter their ruinous conduct. Anyone who was suspected of harbouring L.T.T.E. sympathies was in danger of being killed. Some members of the E.P.R.L.F. and other militant groups aligned to the I.P.K.F., during their last days in Jaffna, visited many cruelties on the civilians, including the murder of the Jaffna Kachcheri accountant who argued against an unfair instruction. Again, it was as usual the depressed classes who felt most helpless against this orgy of indiscipline and blind fury. Having begun as a movement with socialist and democratic ideals, its final role was to strengthen the dominant politics of Tamil society, rein-force its hierarchical and totalitarian drift, and to destroy for many years to come, the prospect of an alternative.
_______ Those who aspire to leadership should be judged harshly for their misuse of opportunities and authority, and for murdering those whom they were meant to protect. In looking at this situation however, it is well for us to try and understand it. We must also look at the role of the society, its opportunism, insensitivity, shallowness and_ its immense capacity to stifle and destroy youthful potential. We must look also at the destructiveness of the dominant politics and, in particular, the role of the L.T.T.E.. The early leaders of the E.P.R.L.F. were once young men who were motivated by ideals into doing political work. Our society did not give them admiration or respect. There was no serious opposition to the L.T.T.E.'s banning them in December 1986, killing over 50 of their members in custody by April 1987 and even branding them first as anti-social elements and, later on, as traitors. The L.T.T.E. would not only not allow them to do political work, but also sought to destroy them without even the honour that was their due. The anger of young men placed in that position should be understood, although it cannot be justified politically or morally.
_______ Once in the I.P.K.F. bandwagon, the E.P.R.L.F. lost many of its abler leaders who had earlier stayed on. Many of its cadre had little idea of what they were going to do, except to have the prospect of ignominious death hanging over them. The E.P.R.L.F.'s late Trincomalee leader, George Thambirajah, had told a class-mate on his return to Trincomalee in August 1987,"I know that the L.T.T.E. will get me one day. Before that I will take as many of them as I can down with me." Another leader who had been a pleasant, dedicated young man in his earlier years said: "We did political work once. That was not appreciated. We were not allowed to work. Like Stalin, we had to take a decision to survive. So we decided to kill". The organisation had come a long way from 1986, when it had maintained a democratic structure, and had mostly avoided the resort to internal or other killings which were rife in other prominent militant groups.
_______ Mannar town was one place where the E.P.R.L.F. had earned itself an acceptable name with the public. A few days before the I.P.K.F.'s departure in December 1989 and the re-entry of the L.T.T.E., some foot-ball players from schools were on their way to an L.T.T.E. sponsored match. When asked by the E.P.R.L.F., they said that they would be in trouble if they failed to go. The E.P.R.L.F. men looked sombre. They said,"We will not stop you or cause you trouble. You need not have any anxiety over fighting here. We are withdrawing. We have tried to
maintain an understanding relationship with the people in our area. But now there is nothing we can do. Those from our group elsewhere have misbehaved with the people. We will leave this place and go to some other country".
_______ Another said, "I brought several of my close friends into this organisation.They have now been killed as traitors. My parents are influential and I could have lived comfortably. I stayed on to prove that my friends who died were not traitors".
_______ Although generally suspicious of civilians and instinctively aggressive, some of these militants would, seeing that no ill was meant, listen after being shouted at. They would even listen submissively on being told that they were no longer a political force, and that many of them had once been young men who wanted to do some good, but had now become_ psychiatric patients. Some of them would admit that the T.N.A. was a total disaster, but would not say who promoted it. They even felt that the only way to regain some credibility was to disband the T.N.A., ask parents to take their children away and make a confession before the public. But they were doubtful if the leadership would accept it. They were also crucially dependent on India for their security. A public confession would have to say many things embarrassing to India. Having come to depend on India, they would in time suffer the tragic fate of those who were used by a big power and proved an embarrassment later on. Those who survived the arduous crossing to India would meet with rejection and humiliation, in sharp contrast to earlier days,following July 1983.
I.4 ______ India and the Indian Peace
___________ Keeping Force
To arrive at a proper understanding of this episode, one must try to get away from the strong emotions that this has engendered. The average Indian officer can only see an ungrateful population set against the deaths of many comrades. Civilian deaths, agony and anger do not exist for him. They did their job the only way they were trained to do it, they would contend. If you want to blame anyone, blame the politicians, they would say. It has been a temptation for many Tamils to use racial sentiments found in the West to malign an army from a poor third world country. That would be unfair. The Indian Army has the professional qualities to be used as a disciplined force. Reprisals have mostly been carried out in a planned manner, intended to terrorise.
_______ The failure of the Indian Army is largely a consequence of arrogance and, stemming from it, a refusal to understand and respect civilian feelings. Considering _the stakes India had in this situation, the number of Indians who came here with a view to making a serious study of the situation was low, in comparison with the number of Westerners who came here. Most damaging, apart from a deliberate decision to use terror in most difficult situations, were political decisions by the I.P.K.F.. While pleading that they were not politicians, but were military men doing only a military job, they used their powers freely to experiment with politics - forming citizens committees, censoring the press, directing the actions of militant groups, and so on. The decision to terrorise L.T.T.E. supporters through murder during the run up to the provincial council elections in October 1988, was a political decision of the I.P.K.F.. From the talk of some officials, this appears to have been made on the premise that, because Jaffna Tamils were opportunistic enough to accept the mass killings of T.E.L.O. members in mid-1986 in exchange for order, they would once again accept the decimation of L.T.T.E. supporters for the same reason. Such decisions determined the negative attributes which were fatal for the E.P.R.L.F.-led provincial administration. The I.P.K.F.'s opposition to the L.T.T.E. was not based
on a political critique of the L.T.T.E.. There was, rather, much admiration for the L.T.T.E. amongst I.P.K.F. officers._ For an army placed as the I.P.K.F. was, political decisions_ were certainly necessary. They should at least have been taken in keeping with democratic principles subscribed to by India, rather than left to casual arrogance.
_______ Perhaps the most inexcusable decision of India's was to form the T.N.A. by forced conscription. It was done under conditions which lacked both accountability and legitimacy. Neither the I.P.K.F. nor the E.P.R.L.F. led administration, had earned the latter. It was done in a manner that was callous, offensive and degrading. Young boys were picked off the streets, long distance buses and trains. To poor and defenceless parents was added the agony and the tedium of going from_ place to place and from camp to camp, in an attempt to trace their sons. These wretches, numbering the thousands, were given meagre training and armed to survive as best as they could. They were disowned by almost all, including India. For many, this single act of forced conscription, terminated any feeling that India could play a constructive role.
_______ What prompted this high-level decision which was, at once, indefensible, irresponsible and even tactically unsound ? Who in the Indian hierarchy made this decision on conscription? Whose interests were being represented here? Or_ was it the decision of a bankrupt bureaucracy that just wanted to try something, however stupid?
_______ During early 1988, an Indian General told a university delegation that recovering arms is an extremely difficult job, adding that for this purpose they would use "these gun-toting rascals" and then disarm them. The reference was to pro-Indian groups. He explained that every non-professional person carrying a gun was a rascal. Having started with a disarming_ operation, India has now turned to flooding the place with arms and in militarising those already disillusioned with what had happened. There was no more talk of rehabilitation.
_______ For young Indian soldiers, it is time for home thoughts. On the streets you may see one examining a new pair of trousers collected from the tailors. Another might test his newly purchased pocket radio. Those more curious would chat_ with the civilians. "In Mannar, the people were nice to us. But in Jaffna it is different", they would say. They too had discovered that many houses in Jaffna have some member abroad. One may hear them remark, "So, when the troubles begin, you will leave the others and go away". They too are a simple people like ourselves, taking a simple joy in the simple and inexpensive things of life._ With India very much a part of our nurture, it is a pity that our actual encounter has left many bitter memories.
_______ For thousands of our young men, so thoughtlessly used by India, there can never be home thoughts.
Appendix II
An extract from Sugeeswara Senadhira, "The cyanide drama that brought ‘referee Rajiv’_ into the ring," Sunday Times, Colombo, 1 October 1989.
Many people including the former President J.R.Jayewardene, share the opinion that the turning point was the arrest and subsequent suicide of the 17 L.T.T.E. members including two area commanders, Pulendran and Kumarappa. Referring to this Mr. Jayewardene said in a recent interview, “The referee Rajiv entered the ring to fight my battle.”
_______ Inside facts of that interesting episode were never related and after talking to many people including the Tigers, the I.P.K.F. and senior Sri Lankan officials and a senior minister, I managed to put the pieces together and link up the story which is as follows.
_______ On October 2, 1987 the Sri Lanka Navy received a tip off about a boat seen in the Palk Straits and that it may be carrying arms. According to Navy sources, the tip came from the I.P.K.F.. A naval patrol craft was dispatched to the area. The navy men saw a fast boat trying to cross over to Sri Lankan shores. They gave chase and caught up with it. When they approached the boat the sailors saw the mounted gun and realised it was a vessel carrying Tamil militants. But when they ordered the people in the boat to surrender, they did so without a fight.
_______ But the Navy did not know they had a prize catch until they brought the prisoners and the huge stock of arms found in the boat to the Kankesanturai port where Pulendran was recognised by a soldier. He recognised the L.T.T.E.’s Trinco Commander Pulendran as the dreaded terrorist leader who together with a group of guerrillas stopped two buses at Kithulotuwa in Habarana and massacred 126 civilians.
_______ Pulendran and the L.T.T.E. leader of Batticaloa were handed over to the local commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Brigadier Jayantha Jayaratne.
_______ The prisoners were frisked and their cyanide capsules were removed. According to Dilip Yogi, the Tigers did not protest because they thought they would be released as there was a general amnesty.
_______ Brigadier (later promoted to the rank of Major General and died in October 1988) Jayaratne immediately informed his superiors and he was told that a special plane would be sent to bring them to Colombo. By then the Tigers had come to know about the arrest of their colleagues and they requested the I.P.K.F. Commander, General Rodriguez, to get them released as the Government of Sri Lanka granted a general amnesty to Tamil militants.
_______ General Rodriguez asked Brigadier Jayaratne either to release them or hand them over to the I.P.K.F.'s charge. After speaking to Colombo, Jayaratne informed his Indian counterpart that the prisoners would be sent to Colombo. But he agreed to allow a few Tiger leaders, including their theoretician Dr. Anton Balasingam, to visit the prisoners.
_______ The I.P.K.F. chief wanted to keep some Indian soldiers to guard the Tigers, Brigadier Jayaratne agreed to allow the Indians to stand about 10 yards behind the Lankan troops guarding the prisoners.
_______ Within a short time, more than 3000 women and children arrived at the Palali camp, demonstrated and demanded the release of the 17 prisoners.
_______ Rodriguez walked into Brigadier Jayaratne’s makeshift office at Palali and once again demanded the release of the Tigers.
_______ “If you try to take them to Colombo, the demonstrators will forcefully enter the camp. How can we control them?. We can’t shoot women and children.” he argued. Brig. Jayaratne explained that he had to obey orders.
_______ When he went to the hanger to ask the Tigers to board the plane, he was in for surprise. The 17 L.T.T.E. men took out cyanide capsules and warned that they would swallow them if there was an attempt to take them to Colombo (cyanide capsules were passed on to them when the L.T.T.E. leaders met them).
_______ Jayaratne reported the latest development to Colombo. But he was instructed to send the Tigers to Colombo immediately.
_______ As soon as Jayaratne replaced the receiver, the I.P.K.F. commander walked in again and said, “Don’t send them to Colombo. If they die there will be a bloodbath.” “No I have my orders. I have to send them to Colombo,” Jayaratne replied.
_______ “You may have your order but you are the man on the spot. It is your responsibility to avoid any step which could have disastrous consequences,” Rodriguez argued.
_______ When Jayaratne refused to change his decision, Rodriguez asked him to delay the departure of the plane by 12 hours. “Dixit (Indian High Commissioner) is in Delhi now_ and he is expected to land at Katunayake at 5 p.m today. He can drive to the President’s house and obtain an order from President Jayewardene for the prisoners to be handed over to the I.P.K.F..”
_______ When Jayaratne refused to budge, Rodriguez tried to bully him. “I will not allow your plane to take off with the prisoners. I’ll order B.M.P.s (armoured cars) on to the runaway”, he threatened.
_______ “I’ll shoot your B.M.P.s sir”, was the reply given by the Sri Lankan officer.
_______ However Jayaratne phoned Colombo again and made another attempt to which the reply he got was, “If you don’t send the prisoners to Colombo within the next two hours, you hand over your charge to your second-in-command and come to Colombo under arrest.”
_______ Jayaratne selected 34 of his strongmen and told them to rush into the hanger when they received his signal and prevent the Tigers from taking cyanide. He kept the doctors, ambulances and stomach pumps ready.
_______ Then he walked into the hanger with his soldiers. But they could not stop the Tigers from biting into the capsules. Pulendran, Kumarappa and seven others died immediately, four died in the hospital and four were saved.
Appendix III
A talk delivered by Rajan Hoole on behalf of the University Teachers for Human Rights at the Rajani Thiranagama Commemoration meeting on 2 October, 1989, at the Kailasapathy Auditorium, University of Jaffna.
III.1_ Dr. Rajani Thiranagama: Her contribution to the University Teachers for Human Rights (U.T.H.R.)
In the course of a brief talk, we are faced with the task of doing justice to the breadth of vision that governed Rajani's contribution to human rights work. If one were to pick a brief quotation from her writings that may give us an indication of her perspective, the following would do well: “Objectivity, the pursuit of truth and the propagation of critical and honest positions, were not only crucial for the community, but could also cost many of us our lives. They were only undertaken as a survival task”. This is taken from a postscript that Rajani wrote for the ‘Broken Palmyrah’ during the weeks preceding her murder. Prophetic as these words may seem, it was not like her to be prophetic. I shall try to make clear what she meant.
III.2____ The Degeneration of Politics and Implications for Human Rights Work
Up to the early 1980’s, there was amongst a sizable section of Tamil youth, a healthy interest in political issues, accompanied by idealism. The issues were often those of social injustice and their national and international dimensions. And, quite surprisingly, there was a remarkable absence of communalism which was poisoning the air in the country. But the 1983 riots and the involvement of foreign resources in the militarisation of our youth, ensured that the tendency which gained ground was that of extreme nationalism that worshipped military success, and, by its very nature, became intolerant. Every other political tendency felt impelled to imitate this, even at the cost of coming out second or third best. Politics died as homicidal divisions increased. We know well our recent history which led to a remarkable indifference to any kind of social or political effort on the part of today’s university students. Guns seemed to determine everything. In this atmosphere of disillusionment, militant groups were finding themselves obliged to strengthen themselves against each other by taking in very young persons through a variety of questionable methods. The role of the Indian and Sri Lankan states in this episode is a shameful one. Rajani was very concerned about the fate of these young men. She had a deep compassion for these young men who could not understand their actions, viewed death as a welcome certainty and hated the community which has done nothing while they were consigned to this degrading_ form of slavery.
_______ What then became of the young idealists of the 1970’s and early 1980’s mentioned earlier? You find them apart from those who went abroad, in farms, factories and shops. With their trained intelligence they have a sure grasp of what is happening around. In the absence of any political force they could align with, some have lapsed into cynicism. Others feel that no effort is worth while and have chosen silence. In general, the community has become polarised into sections which believe in aligning themselves to one military force or the other, purely for the purpose of wiping out the other side. This was believed to be a necessary first step to all further plans.
_______ It was an atmosphere in which any attempt at objectivity or impartiality was bound to be viewed as, at best, an academic exercise, and, at worst, a futile nuisance and a bar to more important things - such as wiping out the other side by pitting our boys against each other, with the Indian and Sri Lankan states playing the role of the erratic gods in Homer’s Illiad.
_______ Rajani and the others in the U.T.H.R. believed that these options were destructive, unjust, superficial and cowardly._ She believed that an alternative had to be found. This was closely tied to her vision for the University of Jaffna after the October 1987 war. She believed that it was not merely shameful negligence for a university to be indifferent under such circumstances, but also that a university could not survive as a university if it is to be indifferent.
_______ Thus in Rajani's view, the task of expressing the truth of what is going on around us impartially, and making people feel for the tragedy, became a survival task. This is what the U.T.H.R. (Jaffna) tried to do in its first two reports. Rajani used the expression "Creating a Space" to describe this work._ She hoped that it will lead to some discussion, at least within the university, of what was happening around. She believed that sound values and anger_ against hypocrisy and injustice were major assets in the task of survival. Rajani admired the women from our coastal villages who possessed some of these qualities. She believed that courage was of the essence. She had often said that to make an impact on destructive tendencies which commanded respect by treating their own lives lightly, one had to be prepared to give one’s own life for one’s beliefs. She did not flinch from this ideal.
III.3____ Human Rights and Politics
Rajani was very much concerned with politics and would have been the last person to view human rights work in isolation. In describing the work of the U.T.H.R., I have heard her tell others, “A life is a life. Whoever takes life must be exposed independently of party feeling. We wanted to show, that in the first place, we valued life”. She held that_ a human rights organisation cannot be affiliated to a political party, because of the independent nature of its work. But it can have as members persons from political parties with_ a firm commitment to human rights. A human rights organisation should also welcome a commitment to human rights by a political organisation.
_______ In our context, there is no political force with a commitment to respect and defend human rights. Nor is there any question of a human rights organisation spending its time giving advice to political forces. We are dealing with what are, in fact, military organisations with their own leaders and advisors with respectable scholarly credentials from an assortment_ of Western capitals. Any local functionary who listens to you with sympathy is, at the drop of a pin, bound by orders from the top. Thus in our context, a human rights organisation has to put itself out on a limb depending on moral pressure and public concern for its defence. This was a minimum Rajani had expected from the university community.
III.4_____ Rajani's_ work_ amongst_ Students
As a human rights activist living in this community, Rajani's work had many facets to it. These included work in women’s concerns, her role as both doctor and counsellor, and help rendered to individuals from the depressed sections of society that were driven to the
edge of despair. Some of these are being dealt with by more appropriate speakers. The foregoing will sound like abstract theory, unless it is seen that there was a workable practical side to it. I shall confine myself to examples from university life.
_______ Rajani recognised that given the chronic social climate, there were bound to be many students having problems connected with past associations and queer ways of thinking. She believed that they had to be weaned away into creative channels through frank discussion, together with a relationship of trust and personal concern. To start with, she defended a student’s right to have his or her own opinions - even ones she strongly disagreed with. On her return from England, she was angry that the university_ had not lodged a protest over a medical student who was shot and injured on 31 August, 1989, while returning from clinical work. She was indignant that the I.P.K.F., while declaring on the one hand that people were free to support any political opinion provided they did not carry arms, were, on the other, citing alleged subversive involvement as an excuse after a person was shot without any questioning or examination. She felt that the university had sacrificed an important principle and was urging even a belated protest over the shooting of the medical student.
_______ She would sometimes spend hours discussing the problems of a student who had political involvements. While helping the student, she would firmly tell the student that his political opinions were destructive and her hope was that he would re-examine his course and grow out of it. In one instance she was approached by a student who was asked to report for questioning. She held that no one who tortured had a moral right to interrogate others. She told the student not to go, and if asked, to say that she, as his student counsellor, had ordered him not to go. The matter ended there.
_______ She valued life and felt sorry when anyone was killed - be it a militant from any one of the groups or an Indian soldier. She was saddened that they all died without knowing for what cause they gave their lives.
III.5____ Rajani and the reopening of the University following October 1987
The crisis facing the community following the Indian offensive of October 1987 was one which brought out her energy and strength of character. She was so appalled after seeing the conditions of refugees at Nallur Kandasamy Kovil, that she sat down to write a leaflet. She felt that the reopening of the university was the best chance of having some means for the defence of the community. She said that we cannot sit around waiting for the Indians to ask us to come in and conduct lectures. She urged her friends to go and make arrangements for the staff to enter the university immediately. Attempts to have the university reopened were made from about 10 November, entry was gained on 15 November and arrangements were made for the staff to meet on 18 November.. The Indian Army was in control of the premises at that time. A section of the staff felt so numbed by the damage that they advocated not doing anything until outsiders came and the damage was publicised. Rajani held that we had existed long enough as a community displaying our sores and eliciting pity. She felt that,. to prevent the recurrence of such a catastrophe, we must show a will of our own to make our own future. Thereafter work commenced on securing what had survived the war. Rajani was the first member of the staff to enter the medical faculty, which was in a more isolated area. Those were days when people were scared of soldiers. With curfew commencing at 4:00 p.m, roads were deserted by 12:00 p.m.; but Rajani, a single woman, would sometimes stay on with a carpenter and one or two others, fixing
locks to doors in the medical faculty until 1:30 p.m.. I recall shifting typewriters and other equipment in the company of labourers to secured rooms, under her supervision. Soldiers who were about the medical faculty came to refer to her as "The Principal".
_______ On one occasion, a Sikh soldier rushed into her room while she was arranging it. On discovering that she was a doctor, he sat down and explained a personal medical problem to her. He had received a head injury during the 1971 war which gave birth to Bangladesh. He had been warded in Chandigarh, and still suffered recurrent pains. Rajani listened sympathetically. Rajani's courage and example were such that many men, particularly non-academic staff, came to depend on her for motivation and direction.
_______ It was then common for Indian officers to attack the militants and blame them for everything. Tamils commonly responded by saying that they did not know the militants and were innocent. But Rajani took the officers head on and would say forth-rightly: “We as a community must take responsibility for_ our catastrophe. The militants are part of our history, and a part of our community. I cannot artificially distance myself from the militants and condemn them”. She felt_ that all the risks she took at that time had to be taken because the young men who took many risks and had brought the community to this state, were likely to respect only those who themselves took risks.
III.6____ Jaffna Hospital
Rajani was busy with many things during the weeks succeeding the_ war of_ October 1987. She would cycle to far away places with other women, collecting experiences of what mothers, young girls and elderly women had been through during the war. Roads were then dotted with sentry points and people were still scared. Much of what she recorded appeared in the "Broken Palmyrah". She also spent a good deal of time counselling and helping women who were affected by rape, and deaths or disappearances of near ones. Many came to her when the word spread that Rajani would do what she could.
_______ One incident which concerned her greatly was the massacre at Jaffna Hospital on 21 October, 1987, during the Indian assault, that left about 70 dead. Rajani felt that the callousness of the Indian entry_ was inexcuseable. Many of_ the doctors felt_ that it was too dangerous_ to bring out the truth. Some felt that they should wait for an appropriate time.There was even a fear of issuing_ public appreciations for the medical staff killed.Rajani felt that the truth_ should be brought out at the earliest and set about interviewing staff at the hospital where she had once worked. The following extracts are from the "Broken Palmyrah," written in her inimitable prose:
“So we lay down quietly, under one of the dead bodies, throughout the night. One of the overseers had a cough and he groaned and coughed once in a way in the night. One Indian soldier threw a grenade at this man, killing some more persons. I know the ambulance driver died. In another spot, one man got up with his hand up and cried out: “We are innocent. We are supporters of Indira Gandhi”. A grenade was thrown at him. He and his brother next to him died.
“......The blasting grenades made tremendous noises as if bombs were exploding. Then the debris and dust would settle on us and cake in the fresh blood of those dead and injured”.
III.7_____ Challenge to the University
What Rajani believed in was not an abstract philosophy,but something that evolved to the demands of a social conscience and insisted on both compassion and consistency. Her courage was tied to a sense of responsibility. There is no doubt that she was practically effective. She died because the rest of the community valued her services, but was too cowardly and cautious to emulate her sense of responsibility. For many, the accepted wisdom is not to take any risk, but to rely on the risks taken by others. If we have for the present, the uncertain present, the option of clinging to positions while shirking moral responsibility or of slinking away with degrees without caring to secure the future_ well being of the student community, it is because there were fools like Rajani.
_______________ At this time of crisis and tragedy, many students have shown courage and responsibility. A number of persons in the university have displayed commendable qualities of leadership. All this may appear to be in vain unless these become part of the character of the university as a whole. It is in the nature of the powers around us to have us silent and indifferent. We cannot remain a university if only a small minority feel for its mission. It is only human to become tired when driven to isolation
Appendix IV
A statement issued by 50 university teachers during the run-up to the Provincial Council elections of November 1988
University of Jaffna. October end, 1988.
Osectors of the Jaffna public, at the Jaffna Kachcheri. The gist of his message was: The only sane and pragmin the forthcoming Provincial Council elections for the provisionally merged North-Eastern Province. This would help to fill the political vacuum and sort out thorny issues like land settlement. An elected Provincial Council would make devolution a reality and peace a possibility. On the surfaIs people's participation in the so-called electoral process a possibility today? Free and fair elections presuppose an atmosphere where people can make up thbeing pressurised at gunpoint - whoever holds the gun. What is the reality today? We know that neither individueffectively raise their voices against the many human rights violations that continually take platoday. People live in fear. They live unsure of their destiny, in terrorised silence - thanks to the acts of omission and commission by the I.P.K.F. and the various armed militant groups. The runup to the nominations made the situation worse. Almost daily, revenge killings are taking place; innocent middle-aged civilians - both men and women - have been amongst the victims. In manyinstances the Indian Peace Keeping Force's complicity is well known. No one has the means or the courage to protest - mostly in fear of the I.P.K.F. and the dominant militant groups. In view of such a situation, for India to exhort full participation in what is portrayed as free and fair elections is a parody; especially because India itself is partly responsible for creating such political conditions in the community over the past five years. Indian involvement as an instrument in marginalising the peoplwhen India armed the militant groups. Criminal acts by some of them, which included a large number of murders on Indian soil, went calculatedly unchecked. Though India was the commopatron of all the groups, divisions and antagonisms between the various groups, grew at a rapid pace, culminating in annihilations. Thus it seems not incorrect to presumaintaining these divisions. The militant groups became large military organisations, accountable to different interests, including clandestine state agencies in India. The peovirtually no check over the activities of the groups. The rate and scale of killings in the community and in the atmosphere created by these, made people live in terror, and left tlittle choice but to become passive on-lookers. Thus this past, as well as the present, calls into
question India's own claims about its intentions to produce a viable democratic political procesHowever, even if elections could be technically held, whom can Tamils elect as their representatives? Given the present state of divisions and volatility, it is hard to think owho could function as representatives of the people - rather than as rulers. The future of electionwill be decided by the manner in which India and the different groups perceive their own interests. The outcome of elections cannot resolve problems arising from habits that have bexacerbated by the prevalence of murder and assassination. Until the emotions arising from thissituation have been curbed and people are able to speak out freely, elections will not be welcomed with any degree of enthusiasm. It must be mentioned that the generality of links of religion and culture. The leaders of the Indian independence struggle had a devoted following here. Furthermore, in recent times, Tamils owed much gratitude to India for the succour and refuge it provided for Tamils fleeing the state-sponsored violence in Sri LankaIndia also did a great deal to expose the Sri Lankan state's racism internationally. But things changed rapidly from October 1987. The erosion of confidence in India ammen, women and children - being killed by the Indian army during the closing months of 1987and the mounting toll of disappeared, and victims of torture and deaths in custody, continuing unabated to the present day. When such brutal realities are brushed aside and India is able to speak in paternalistic and threatening tones, the community should realize its own position of weakness. The Tamils should be aware of the problems of relying on India to guarantee fairly clear that the present elections as a key for a better future for the community is in serious doubt. What is the alternative? It would be irresponsible as well as fatalistic, just to make pronouncements of powerlessness of the people and lay all the blame on Indian involvemeSuch a position would not allow the community to extricate itself from the morass it is in and would amount to empty India bashing. This would still leave the initiative and controlling influence in the hands of external forces. We have to examine not only our relationsourselves. Our obeisance to terror within the community, and our opportunism and lack of principles in the face of many internal killings, have made it easy for external forces to use same weapons to control us. In the face of our acquiescence to anti-democratic tendencies withithe community, our plea for democracy becomes a meaningless exercise. Many individuals and young persons who voiced criticism of the political forces have been victimised, driven away, orkilled while we looked on. Thus if the people are to regprincipled collective response. We have to assert universal values to which we are both emotionally and intellectually committed. It is the lack of such commitment that enableconcerned others' sons, and, then, watch helplessly in panic when the cancer, allowed to gthreatened our own sons. We are now paying the price for our past indifference. When we look back, there are two aspects to our failing to stand up collectively -professionals, as institutions or as ordinary workers belonging to unions. First, we were confuseabout fundamental principles and failed to reach any working agreement. The second is the fear that if one stood up, the person next may let one down, thus placing one in danger. Consequently, a few isolated threats, real or imagined, or even the hint of a gun, havclose down institutions. We have further dehumanised ourselves by losing a sense of pride in
work and service by allowing these to become secondary. How do we assert ourselves as people when no one dare taissues? As individuals or small groups in our neighbourhoods, places of work, unions or associations, we must question our past, understand where we went wrong, and rediscoveprinciples. We must be conscious of the message of past experience, that in standing up for others we also stand up for ourselves. This course requires courage; and, no other is open to We have tried to play safe in the past. The result was mass murder from several sources. Non-combatant civilians too became unarmed front-line troops facing the wrath of advancing armieThe future looks even more bleak, with the rapid growth and consolidation in southern Sri Lanka of forces of narrow political vision. This opens the door for further involvement by external forces. Let us not remain forever unprepared and continue trapped in the logic of passivity - hoping against hope that someone else will bring us deliverance. This statement was signed by a large number of academics from thbelow are those who had signed it up to 31 October, 1988.
02. K. K. Arulvel 03. Miss. S. Arulan04. Balachandran (Geograph05. P. Balasundarampillai (Profe06. A. J. Canagaratna (English) 07. V. K. Ganeshalingam (Profes08. P. Gopalakrishnan 09. M. R. R. Hoole (Ma10. Miss. S. Indradevi 11. S. Kandiah (Botany12. Mrs. P. Kanthasamy (13. K. Kugabalan 14. A. Kanapathyp15. Miss. K. Kandasamy 16. R. Kailainathan 17. P. Makinan (Mat18. M. A. Numan (Linguistics) 19. P. Pusparatnam 20. S. V. Parameswar21. N. Perinpanathan (Ecconomics) 22. Rev. G. F. Rajendran (Zoology) 23. R. Rajmohan (Philosophy) 24. K. Rupamoorthy (Geograph25. S. T. B. Rajeswaran 26. N. Sivapalan (Chemi27. A. M. T. Savarimuttu (Bota28. R. V. S. Sundaresan (Botany) 29. K. Sritharan (Mathematics) 30. Mrs. N. Selvarajah (Zoology31. S. K. Sitrampalam (History)
32. Miss. C. Sinnarajah (Hindu C33. V. Sivasamy (Sanskrit) 34. A. Sanmugadas (Tamil/L35. S. G. Sivagurunathan (English) 36. J. Sathiadas (Statistics) 37. G. M. Sebastiampillai (S38. S. Sathiaseelan 39. Miss. S. Subathi40. M. Shanmugalingam41. R. Sivachandran (Geo42. Miss. A. Saverimuttu (English)43. A. Thurairajah (Professor of Civ44. Mrs. R. Thiranagama (Anatomy) 45. W. Venkatesh (Zoology) 46. P. Vinobaba (Zoology) 47. Mrs. C. Vamadeva (Hind48. M. Vedanathan 49. Miss. V. Veeraga50. Miss. S. Vasuki (Philosophy)

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