The collection of articles contained in these two volumes was written by us mostly in the three months following November 1987. This period marked the immediate aftermath of the Indian Army's October offensive that had the stated purpose of disarming the Tamil Tigers (or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the L.T.T.E.). The tragic results of this war came as a surprise to most Tamils who had just experienced two months of unprecedented peace. They expected no good from the Sri Lankan forces. From the militants, they had expected little more than to keep the Sri Lankan forces at bay. But from India they had expected much. To add to the effects of the process culminating in the Indian offensive, Tamil society found itself in a state of paralysis, both moral and intellectual. The ordinary civilian is now caught, a helpless pawn, in a game played by a multitude of forces. People were being threatened, robbed, beaten and sometimes even killed. There were few signs of a community response. Amidst all this, the various actors had much to hide as well as their own myths to propagate. All had acquired a vested interest in suppressing the truth.
We felt strongly that the community must revive, and to do so we must face the truth in all its nakedness, both about ourselves and about all those who purported to be our saviours. We are not professional writers or historians. But we started writing in earnest, in response to a deeply felt need, with no idea of how we were going to publish our writings. It will be evident from the collection of articles that we also have our differences. Two of the authors take a Marxist view that the state of a society is determined by its material underpinnings. One of the authors subscribes to the view that the ills of society come from a loss of moral commitment or a failure to obey the voice of God. The remaining author takes the view that evils besetting us come from a preoccupation with material ends. But all are agreed in common that there must be a conscious attempt at change. While each article reflects the presuppositions of the person writing it, the articles also have a collective character resulting from months of consultation and discussion. Also the publication of the book represents an act that will cause unhappiness in several quarters. We hope that this will be only temporary and that all parties and individuals will be better for having read this. For these reasons we offer this work as a collective effort without individual ascriptions. Besides trying to tell the truth, our purpose is also to challenge those Tamils both at home and abroad who may be in confusion as to what they must do to help their fellows.
On the advice of a senior writer, we decided that the book splits naturally into two parts. This volume, the first part of the book, gives the historical background of the Tamils pertaining to current events. The main purpose of this is to give background information to those not familiar with the troubled island and to serve as a basis for understanding the current situation. Much of this has not been written about before.
The second part of the book, volume 2, contains analytical articles, together with reports of the Indian offensive in Jaffna. The latter are not meant to be exhaustive and serve merely to indicate a pattern to the happenings. We have not touched on the enormous civilian suffering outside the Jaffna peninsula, although there are similarities in the pattern. The chronicling of these, together with the events in the Eastern Province, is a task by itself and is beyond our resources. In terms of civilian suffering, the Eastern Province has suffered enormously, particularly during the Sri Lankan government's dirty war of 1984-87. The destruction by the Sri Lankan forces of entire Tamil villages and townships in the Trincomalee District must be seen to be believed. Again, there is much truth in the widespread feeling amongst Eastern Tamils that their interests and well-being have received little attention in the North. We trust that someone with the ability and the means will take on the task of filling the large gap pertaining to the East that we have left unfilled. While we appreciate the problems of the East, we cannot write something perfunctory to hide our inadequacies.
Finally we thank two persons who kindly typed our manuscripts and a senior editor who patiently edited our work. Besides suggesting modifications, this senior editor supplied us with additional information of great value. We also acknowledge a group of students from the University of Jaffna who contributed a section to the chapter on incidents.
We also thank Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California for their assistance in bringing out a pre-publication issue. This was necessary as routine publication is a long process and the significance of the material will be lost unless it comes out without delay.
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