3.1 Pirambady – The Turning point
The incident at Pirambady
Lane is the one that is the most likely to become blanketed by a range of myths
depending on the narrator’s prejudices and sources of information. We have remarked
earlier that the bungling of the operation through poor intelligence resulted
in the L.T.T.E.’s acquiring a larger than life image and the consequent panic
decision to turn a disarming operation into a full scale war. The manner in
which this war was conducted, considerably tarnished India’s image. Pirambady
thus became the turning point in this tragic saga. Most writers on the subject
think in terms of national or geopolitical interests. Hence what the ordinary
people who were there felt becomes one of the marginal interest. Thus bringing
out the truth behind that first battle as best as one can. Acquires added importance.
Some of the details from the side of the Indian Army are taken from Shekhar
Gupta’s article in India today.
Lane is mostly a gravel Lane with several bends. (Please refer to the map in
the appendix to this volume.) It runs roughly north-south, connecting the Kokuvil – Thirunelvely Road with
Nachchimar Kovil Road and is about
200 yards west of the railway track. The actual scene of action is about half
a mile from the perimeter of the University of Jaffna. For this reason several
university students were boarded there. The main place of interest is a house
near the first bend as you enter from Thirunelvely
Road. The house belonged to a lady who was emigrating to America. She had rented
out the house and had obtained an advance of Rs 15,000 from the prospective
tenant. The L.T.T.E. had heard about this from their local informers. They went
to the lady and made her hand back the money to the tenant, telling her that
they were going to occupy that house. The area was the home of the late L.T.T.E.
leader Kugan and that of his brother Yogi. There were
at least three young men within a hundred yards of that house who had given
their lives to the L.T.T.E.. One died in the bowser explosion – the attack on the Navatkuli
camp of 14 Feb. 87 that went wrong killing over ten L.T.T.E. men including Kugan. Two others who joined the L.T.T.E. have been missing. Prabhakaran came to occupy that house sometime after mid -1987.
The advantage in that house was that it was tucked in, away from main thoroughfares,
was surrounded by foliage and has six paths leading out. One resident said:
“At first we were worried that the Sri Lankan air – force may try to aerially
bombard the place. After the accord we used to notice L.T.T.E. vehicle running
about. But the matter was out of our minds.” In time the place became well advertised,
with several visitors, including foreign correspondents being taken there.
From 5 October when 12 L.T.T.E. leaders committed suicide
and Sinhalese civilians were massacred, it was evident that the L.T.T.E. was
preparing for a confrontation. By 8 October, it was clear from official statements
in both New Delhi and Colombo that an attempt to arrest L.T.T.E. leaders was
in the offing. It is clear to local residents that the L.T.T.E. was preparing
for such an attempt. Materials, including sea sand, were being ferried in over
the previous few days to construct sentry points. One housewife said,
“The Indian’s were being lured into a trap.” It has been suggested that
the L.T.T.E. came to know of the I.P.K.F.’s plans by
tapping its radio communications (Shekhar Gupta’s
article). Another suggestion was that of an intelligence leak in the I.P.K.F.
If either of these was true. It would have merely confirmed what was evident
to many civilians. The indications were there in broadcast official headlines
of 9 October that the I.P.K.F. was to wage a terminal campaign against the L.T.T.E.
There were other indication too. On the night of
the 9 October, after 9.00pm. a resident of Brown Road, at a point about
2/3 of a mile from Prabhakaran’s residence, was called out. When he came to his door, he
was asked to knock off the porch light and come outside. On stepping out he
saw about 25 persons in military uniform. He was asked the way towards Jaffna
fort. After getting directions they moved towards town jumping over walls. It
may be noted that further north, Brown Road joins the railway line, the point
from which Indian commandoes entered Pirambady Lane
by crossing private compounds. It will be surprising if the L.T.T.E. did not
hear of such exercises through its network of informers. We may speculate that
the Indians were looking at several options on how to get Prabhakaran.
The L.T.T.E. was getting ready from them.
The option finally chosen was unbelievably naïve. It
raises questions not about the quality of India’s fighting men, but about the
quality and efficacy of India’s military intelligence and its military strategists.
We may mention again that the I.P.K.F.’s main contacts during its two months’
stay were with shops selling electronic goods in Jaffna Town and with the L.T.T.E.
itself. Hardly any attempt was made to get to know the people and the terrain.
The stage was set for the tragedy. It is a piece of old wisdom that violence
goes with ignorance. The plan could not have worked because everyone in that
area took alarm 4 hours before the commandos came to Pirambady Lane. Prabhakaran took
flight 2hours before the commandos reached a point about 60 yards from the house.
Even then the commandos seemed unaware of its location.
As said earlier, because the operation marked a turning
point, it is bound to become a subject of nationalist mythology, both Indian
and Tamil. It resulted in the death of about 40 civilians and 37 Indians troops
( 8 commandos at Pirambady and 29 soldiers
from the 13thSikh Light Infantry near the Faculty of Medicine.) The myth from the Tamil side has
it that the Indian’s came into Pirambady, carried
out the brutal massacre of 40 Tamil civilians, put some of them in the path
of tank and rank the tank over them. Some even add rape, the more objective
Indian’s account, such as Shekher Gupta’s, pay no
attention to the civilian agony, their disillusionment with both India and the
L.T.T.E. and what it means for India as a democracy. The truth, as always is
the richer and full of surprises. It does little credit to the L.T.T.E.’s conduct.
Nor does the Indian Army come out well. As far as fighting qualities go, the
Indian fighters were excellent. The Sikh light infantry fought to the last man
and bullet from a disadvantages position against heavy odds. The company of
commandos held out with their wounded, surrounded by the enemy, until help arrived
18 hours later. As far as humanity went, the commandos were prepared to kill
in order to avoid the slightest nuisance to themselves. But it would be an exaggeration
to say that they went on a killing. There was no rape either. The following
details of the operation were put together after questioning several witnesses.
A company of commandos (70 men according to Shekhar Gupta) were landed by helicopter in a field close to the Kovil Village Council (V.C.) (At the junction of Brown Road and Thirunelvely Road) at about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of 12 October. (Some give a time 2 hours earlier). From this time onwards, many people in the locality were up wondering what to do. A returned expatriate lecturer said that he and his family had packed their bags to leave and then decided to wait for dawn. The commandos were followed by a platoon (of 30 men)from the 13th Sikh Light Infantry. The latter were meant to secure the base while the former went to arrest the L.T.T.E. leader. Because the helicopter ferrying the commandos had come under fire, the Infantrymen were landed in a field near the faculty of medicine 300 yards to the east of the V.C.. They were quickly surrounded and pinned down by the L.T.T.E.. The L.T.T.E. also broke into the faculty of medicine, a solid 3 storey building, and took up secure positions on its upper floor. An exchange of fire started in the early hours of the morning. One wonders how a base in an area where the L.T.T.E. was likely to expect trouble, and could speedily mobilise several hundred fighters, could be held by 30 men. One gathers from Shekhar Gupta’s report that the platoon’s radioman was an early casualty. Its commander Major’s Birendra Singh had set off for the original landing spot. He was being urged by the commandos to come quickly by short range walkie-talkie. But Birendra Singh waited for his men without knowing that his platoon had been pinned down. He in turn was surrounded and killed. It was a matter of time before the ensuing war of attrition depleted the platoon in both numbers and ammunition. One account described how wounded Sikh soldier removed his turban to bandage his wounded arm and then resumed fighting. When their ammunition ran out, they resorted to a final charge. Only one injured man remained to be captured. It was all over for them by about 10:00 a.m.. Having been flown from Gwalior the previous day, they had hardly been 24 hours in this country.
One could surmise that owing to the disaster faced by the infantry platoon, the plans of the commandos underwent some delay and reappraisal. Even if the platoon had landed according to the plan, there is a little doubt that Prabhakaran had enough time to get away. It may be remarked here that the Ceylon Army took few chances in such operation. Air cover was an important part of any military deployment and this had proved effective. The Indian fighters were left in a hornets’ nest without any air cover. If Indian military planners had had a better estimation of the difficulties involved, they would have made a careful reconstruction of the whole area from intelligence reports and aerial photographs and briefed the men thoroughly, so that the escape routes could have been quickly blocked and the operation carried out expeditiously. In the event that commandos seemed unsure of themselves. The left the railway tracks at the right place and set off in a westerly direction perpendicular to the tracks.
In the meantime crossfire between the Infantry platoon and the L.T.T.E. near the Medical Faculty was causing residents along Thirunelvely Road to vacate. Jeeva, a university student, went to his sister’s house at Potpathy Road which is near the Medical Faculty and brought them to a house at Pirambady Lane, thinking that this was safe. He had been unaware of the presence of the commandos. This was about 3:00 a.m.. Some neighbours said that Prabhakaran definitely had been there the previous evening. On the morning under discussion, they had heard a van making several attempts to start at Prabhakaran’s residence. After it got started, they heard it being driven away at 3:00 am..
At 4:00 a.m. commandos entered a Mr.Rajah’s
premises through the back fence. Had they proceeded in the same direction, Prabhakaran’s residence would have been about 100 yards away.
Considering the time they spent there, the commandos seem to have thought for
a while that Mr. Rajah’s was Prabhakaran’s residence.
Mr. Rajah was just nodding into sleep at the time they arrived. He estimated
that there were about 50 of them. He was asked for Prabhakaran
and Sara, to which he replied that he did not know. This would have been true
for most neighbours. For they may have noticed the constant passage of vehicles
without being curious about when Prabhakaran was coming
or going. Even if someone knew, it was not a subject on which ordinary people
could afford to talk. Mr.Rajah was next asked for
the L.T.T.E. camp. The commandos were told that it was in front of the University.
Mr.Rajah’s family was called out and the commandos
made a search of the house. Seeing a framed picture on the wall, a commando
wished to know if it was Prabhakaran’s. Mr. Rajah
replied that it was Guru Maharaji’s , referring to
the leader of Hindu sect. The commando flashed a torch on the picture and said:
“Sorry sir”. Shortly after 5:00 a.m., the commandos asked Mr.Rajah
and his son-in-low, Kulendran, to come along with
them to lead them to the L.T.T.E. camp. They were told that if the L.T.T.E.
attacked, both would die. Mr.Rajah replied: “O.K sir”,
Mr. Rajah said later. I knew we were in for a bad time and we lived or died
was in God’s hands. I told my family to be calm and that we would show the commandos
the way and return shortly”. The foot path from Mr. Rajah’s house led to a double
bend on Pirambady Lane. Coming from Mr.Rajah’s house the first bend to the left went southwards.
If one went straight ignoring the first and second bends, one would get into
the lane leading the Pirabhakan’s residence. At the
first bend is located the house of a retired service officer. To the back of
his house lay a small coconut grove which separated his premises from Pirabharan’s residence.
In the meantime commando officer cautiously entered
the promises of the former lecture, 20 yards south of the bend and confronted
the lecturer at the back entrance. The officer is believed to have been a captain
or a major. The officer asked: “why are you here? Everyone is supposed to be
at the designated refugee camps.” The lecturer replied: “That announcement was
meant for people in the Jaffna municipal area. We are outside. We know there
is a curfew on. So we are staying at home.” The officer replied:” I believe
you”. A radio announcement on the morning of 11 October had asked all Jaffna
residents to take refuge at Nallur Kandasamy Kovil, Jaffna Hindu College
and Hindu Ladies’ College. This is pointed out earlier, was not bound to be
taken seriously as these lacked both the space and the infrastructure for even
a fraction of the population in Jaffna town. When the officer asked for the
L.T.T.E. leader, the lecturer replied that he was new to the area and knew that
vehicles went about, but was himself not curious about such things and that
he led his own life. The officer replied saying that he believe him and, thereupon,
asked him to take his family into a room and stay there. His wife indicated
at this point that they would first like to finish the cooking on which they
had started. The officer is said to have replied: “My men and I have not had
anything from yesterday evening. There may be trouble anytime. You shut your
doors and stay inside a room”. He then proceeded to the house of Mr.Rasalingam in front where 19 people were gathered. He asked
them to get into a room, locked the door and took away the key.
Shortly afterwards, Mr.Ponnampalam,
a retired officer from the Ceylon Army Armoured Corps, came to the entrance
of the house with his young daughter with the intention of leaving. He too had
been awakened early and had later dozed off in his chair. On waking up he had
sensed trouble when he saw some dim figures at a distance in the morning twilight.
By the time he came to the entrance. The bulk of the commandos had come from
Mr.Rajah’s through Mr.Gopalakrishnan’s
compound and had turned left (southwards). At this point the L.T.T.E. opened
fire at the men who were in Pirambady Lane after taking
a left turn. The fire came from the coconut grove behind Mr.Ponnampalam’s house. Three commandos fell to the ground
and were screaming in pain. It was probable that the other commandos thought
that the L.T.T.E. was inside Mr.Ponnampalam’s house.
Mr. Ponnampalam saw the commandos setting up mortar
launcher. He shouted to his family to duck. No sooner than they had ducked,
the mortar shell fell on the sun shade just above where he had been standing
with his daughter. The blast damaged the roof and the house was strewn with
broken tiles. He and his family went under a bed and stayed there until the
who had turned left with the advance party, took cover behind a pillar at the
entrance to a Mangayarkarasi Visvalingam’s
house. He later went inside a lane beside the house. The firing got going in
earnest from both sides.
Further down the lane Mr.Gopalakrishnan
was chatting to Mr.Thanapalasingam. Mr.Thanapalasingam had advised people to stay at home saying
that the Indian Army would question them and go way without doing any harm.
Jeeva’s sister and children who had come from Potpathy Road where now in this house. When the firing started
Mr.Thanapalasingam and Mr.Kobalakrishnan
ran into Mr.Thannabalasingam’s house. Some soldiers
seeing this quickly followed them. Jeeva’s sister
shouted at Jeeva and his friend Kiruba
to run. The two boys were shot while running. Soldiers rushed into Thanabalasingam’s house and opened fire killing Thananbalasingam, his wife, a child of theirs, Gobalakrishnan, and six others who were there, including Jeeva’s sister and her 9 year old son. The 7 year old son
escaped with injuries. The scene was related by an eye witness.
Mr.Rajah’s son-in-law who along with him had been
taken by the army, came to him in the lane and told him that he had been shot
, Rajah tore a piece from his sarong and bandaged Kulendran’s
arm in an effort to stop the bleeding. He told Kulendran,
“I cannot doanything more for you. Do try to crawl
and get away for some medical help.” That was the last he saw of his son-in-law.
From the lane Rajah heard screams of “Iyo, amma” as
Mrs.Visuvalingam’s door was kicked open.There
was a burst of fire, followed by silence. Ten were killed in this house. One
surmises that this was done by the Indian commando as the L.T.T.E. was not in
this area. LT.T.E. men were firing with small arms and rockets from the fringes.
A small party of men had remained behind at Gopalakrishnan’s
hut. Gopalakrishnan was a carpenter and a T.B patient.
It was later learnt that his 3 children had been killed while his wife survived
with an injury. Because of a cross-fire situation. It is difficult to fix responsibility
has little meaning where both sides were indifferent to civilian life. Several
missiles that came into the area were identified by residents both by reasons
and description, as rockets fired by the L.T.T.E.. One resident taking cover
inside his house had one rocket coming through his front door and another into
his ceiling. Yet another rocket injured a child of Mr.Thavarajalingam’s and his sister-in-law’s child.
was then taken to a school master’s house. The masters household were asked
put their hands up, where questioned and then asked to stay. Around 9:00 a.m.,
a commando told the master who knew some Hindi, that Raja’s son-in-law had died.
The commandos in the meantime had taken in 3 Batticaloa
boys from the Technical College and a Nainativu boy.
At 1:00 p.m. the 4 of them together with rajah were moved to Mrs.Visuvalingam’s sitting room. Here the injured commandos
were being given medical aid and saline by an Army medic. Evidently, the strategy
of the commandos was to take up positions to hold a square area bounded by the
railway line and an open space to the east until help could arrive. Commandos
stationed themselves on roofs and temporary headquarters were setup in Mrs.Visuvalingam’s
house. Constant diversions prevented the L.T.T.E.
from identifying the headquarters and subjecting
them to rocket fire. At the invitation of the commandos, gunners at the
Jaffna Fort started shelling the area north of the square. Fortunately most
of the civilians had vacated that area. At about 3:00 p.m. the commandos asked
the 5 civilians with them to point out directions on their ordnance map. The
civilians asked for water first and helped with the directions to get the commandos
out as early as possible.
There followed a relative lull in the afternoon during
which some residents got away. All the time persons who got about in the area
knowingly or unknowingly, where falling victim. Mr.Maniam,
an injured man who came towards Mr.Ponnampalam’s house
and shouted for water, was directed towards the bathroom by those inside. He
was later found dead in the bathroom. Mr Somasundram
who came in the afternoon to check on his uncle’s family was shot. He gave up
the ghost after shouting ‘mama, mama’ (uncle, uncle).
In the meantime, a rescue plan was worked out over
the radio, by the army. At 2:00 a.m. the following morning(the 13th),
helicopters came and fired around that area. Since the roads were expected to
be mined, two tanks were driven southwards along the railway tracks and were
directed inside. Shekhar Gupta reports that Major
Anil Kaul who drove one of the tanks was shot and
injured in the eye as he looked out to get his bearings. At this point the L.T.T.E.
reportedly left the area. The tanks were there for about 40 minutes while the
dead and injured were taken in with all their weapons. The dead were eight in
number and the injured six. A flaming torch was thrown by a soldier into a cadjan hut with the
intention of lighting it. A lady who was hiding with her dead husband and mother
doused the torch and surreptitiously left the house with her mother. They went
to Rajah’s house and asked the family to leave quickly. The soldier returned
with some kerosene and this time got the fire going. As the tanks were about
to leave, a man who had come with the tanks picked up a rope to tie the five
prisoners. An officer from the commandos who had been on the Pirambady operation asked the man to leave the rope and the
prisoners to get in. The officer was the last in. The tanks moved away ending
a long ordeal for both the civilians and the company of commandos.
The morning dawned revealing the squashed bodies of
the dead over which the tanks had moved – whether by chance or intent will never
be known, although, given the rapidity of the train of event that night, one
may guess that it was probably by chance. Altogether there were about 40 dead
who were cremated later. For reporters and photographers who were brought to
that area, the scene was self-explanatory of Indian perfidy. Stories even got
under way that live persons were deliberately thrown in front of moving tanks.
This was strenuously denied by the residents. It is true that the Indian commandos
betrayed. Had the Indian Army been trained to think a little more about civilians,
several of killings could have been cannot speak of rational causes in south
situation. But commenced, as a general rule, those who greeted the commandos
calmly were left alone, whereas those who showed sign of panic or flight were
summarily shot, whether men, women or children.
What is often missed is the anger and despair of the
people themselves. To many of the residents, it looked as if the L.T.T.E had
actively connived at the whole incident. There had been a good deal of at least
passive sympathy for the L.T.T.E. in the area. A least 3 young men from the
neighbourhood, whose families suffered further losses during the incident, had
given their lives for the LT.T.E.. The L.T.T.E. had anticipated the operation,
had watch the progress of the commandos, and its leader had got away in good
time (3:30 a.m. presumably). L.T.T.E. men had been roaming around in the area
until after 5:00 a.m., knowing well that they were going to open fire at the
commandos. Yet at no time was the civilian population warned. One report says
that Yogi, the L.T.T.E. propaganda was also sighted in that area. A lady, whose
son had died in the company of a leading L.T.T.E. personage, with whom the family
had ties of blood, remarked:
“They (the L.T.T.E. men) parked their motorbike in front of our house at 5:00
a.m. and walked about. They could have just told us one word”. Her tone suggested
sadness more than anger. The L.T.T.E. knew the Indian Army well and could hardly
have been mistaken about what would happen in the event of their opening fire.
Looking at faces, one could easily be mistaken about
the feeling of grief and hopelessness in a family that had suffered. The several
daughters of one resident smiled with graceful as we went in. The man began
his tale with clinical precision. As time went by he would pause now and then
and say: “why talk about it? It is all over now. Fate had decreed it”. As the
tale unfolded, it became apparent that the man had lost three men in the family.
One died during the fateful events described. Two had joined the L.T.T.E. and
for a long time not been heard of. For a man getting on in years with several
daughters, to lose three men makes survival a terrible prospect. As we left,
the man confided: I cannot stay here anymore. I have written about my situation
to the Australian embassy. May be they will understand and send me a reply in
two weeks time”. The piece of naïve optimism was a measure of the man’s personal
The I.P.K.F.’s advance through Urelu
was between the 13th and 16th of October. The advance
followed intense shelling. Urelu is just north of
Urumpirai on the Palaly Road. What
happened at Urelu on a small scale was a foretaste
of things to come in Urumpirai. The number of deaths
in Urelu is put by local sources at above 25. We give
below the statement of a young lady, a graduate from the University of Jaffna,
who now holds a senior teaching post:
“When the shelling commenced on the 12 October, it
was very unnerving for us. I was with my sister, her husband and their two young
children. We would stay in our house and pray as we were rocked by explosions.
On learning that the army was coming, we took refuges in the school that is
down the lane by the side of Pillaiyar Kovil. Soon food and medicine became difficult to get. Fortunately
we had a stock of rice at home. The rest of the food had to be saved for the
children. We got used to tea without milk or sugar. There were several deaths
for which the Indian Army cannot be condoned. Mathivathani
was a young girl with good A. Level results who was hoping to do medicine. During
a lull in the firing she left her house to shut the gate. She was shot
dead inside her compound. Lalinthi was an A. Level student who was taking refuge elsewhere.
On discovering that they had left behind the feeding bottle belonging to her
sister’s baby. Lalinthi went back home to fetch it,
when she was shot dead. While I was at the refugee camp in my school, I saw
a person dying before my eyes for the first time. Since people did not have
adequate things with them, several people had to make trips to home to fetch
them. There was a 24 hour curfew on. An old man was impatient to get home. Others
warned him not to go. He had gone only a few yards when some troops came into
the lane and shot him. He was brought to camp where he slowly bled to death
for want of medical attention. Our camp too had its share of social problems
confronting the whole of Jaffna. The well to do high castes occupied the best
part of the school, while our low castes neighbours had the portion where the
roof was leaking. It used to rain heavily those days. There was one Harijan
family whose children had fallen ill. I insisted that they should be given a
better place. For my trouble I was told off for trying University pranks here.
Both the L.T.T.E. and the Indian Army have left many
of us with a feeling of revulsion for the way they behaved. Most contemptuous
and opportunistic had been the behaviour of some of the prominent L.T.T.E. supporters.
Many of these people are good at playing both sides. It is the people in the
middle who really suffer. Those who get shot by the L.T.T.E. for being informers
are the innocent people. There is one man who used to cry into the loudspeaker
with such tragic feelings during Thileepan’s fast,
that it almost made me cry. (Thileepan was the L.T.T.E.
leader who fasted to death. Please see Vol, 1, sect.
9.2). Now I see the same man carrying prasadams (delicacies
offered at the temple) and plantains to the I.P.K.F. camp.
“The L.T.T.E. presence is steadily on the decline.
Some boys who were arrested and released are asked to report and sign in daily
at the I.P.K.F. camp. For the soldiers it is big fun. One boy asked to find
a bride for the camp doctor with the nice legs and Rupees 5lakhs dowry. I personally
saw one boy being badly assaulted by soldiers for not reporting at the camp
on time. The beating was so cruel that I thought that he would rather have died.
I began to cry. One soldier asked me the ridiculous question, why I was crying.
He did it in such a rude manner.
“I mainly confine myself to my home. Urelu is no longer the easy going village it used to be. It
is not that I am much afraid of molestation or something on those lines. I just
hate to come across soldiers. Most of them do not know how to talk. One soldiers
asked me whether I am in the L.T.T.E.. I replied that I am not. He then asked
me if I was married. I again said no. Next I was asked why I was not married. I felt like slapping him.
But physically I was at his mercy. My main fear is of the gossips in the village.
If a soldier so much as touches you, that is end. A soldier put his hand on
a girls shoulder on the pretext of a search. Some women in the village wept
with profuse pity as though she had been raped. They asked what her future is
going to be. Everything looks rather uncertain now.”
The young lady added later that Lalinthi’s
mother had come to her weeping after the A. Level results were released. Lalinthi had obtained 285 marks (out of 400), putting her
amongst the leading students in the island to be admitted for medicine.
suffered the worst in terms of loss of life during the Indian offensive in October.
As the Indians approached Jaffna from their main base as Palaly, Urumpirai was the first
point where the L.T.T.E. offered some haphazard, but patently futile resistance
to the Indian advance. Urumpirai is fairly well-to-do
residential area, where many families have a number of their members abroad.
There were a number of cases of early parents with children abroad, or wives
with husbands with husbands working abroad, living in Urumpirai.
Being both helpless as well as harmless, they decided to remain at home thinking
that the Indian Army would be considerate. Many of them were simply shot dead
in cold blood. The L.T.T.E. initially promised to keep the Indian Army out of
Urumpirai. One young L.T.T.E. boy was asked by a lady
when the Indian’s would arrive. She was told rather seriously by the young lad:
“Don’t worry Amma (mother). Now that it has started
to rain, the Indian’s will not come.”
There were others who did not have any illusions about
the Indian Army. An administrative Officer was on red alert on the night of
12 October. He walked up and down the road in north Urumpiraiin
the early hours of the morning to check if the “boys” were planting land mines.
If this was the case, he had decided to flee with his family. He saw a mine
being planted near Urmpirai Hindu College. Shelling
to started at this time. He took his family and some neighbours and went into
the interior to the west. Many of the premises were occupied by the L.T.T.E.
cadre, who asked the administrator’s company to move on. After going about a
quarter of a mille, they told the L.T.T.E. men: “you
asked us to keep moving. Where are we to go? We are staying here come what may.”
They stayed with shells falling around them. The administrators house and belongs
were destroyed as troops advanced. He fled eastwards with his family to Puttur
and Chavakacheri and returned a month later.
An old man, a neighbour of the administrators stayed
behind to look after his and neighbours’ property. An L.T.T.E. sentry post of
teenage boys was near Hindu College. Urumpirai was
aerially bombed on 13 October causing widespread damage to houses near the junction.
One rocket came crashing through the old man’s fence. The old man went up to
the sentries and the inquired what happened. “It is all right Iyah (Sir).,” replied a boy casually. “We were firing the
rocket up the road. It became slightly misdirected.”
On Wednesday, 14 October, an I.P.K.F. chain-tracked
vehicle made its way through the open fields, avoiding the mined main road,
and surfaced on the Urumpirai – Maruthanamadam
Road about a quarter mile from the Junction. Some shelling from the vehicle
commenced. The 25 or so boys who consisted of the sentry-post at Urumpirai Junction fled in a jiffy. The L.T.T.E. post to the
north near Hindu College did not know that they had been bypassed by the I.P.K.F..
They sat around looking northwards. Bur word had reached the old man that a
chain vehicle gone south, near the junction. He went up to the sentry boys and
broke the news, telling them: “Get lost you lot. You will only give the people
trouble by staying here.” The stunned sentry boys simply hooked it without uttering
a word. The Indian vehicle later went back.
The main column of the Indian Army entered Urumpirai on the 16th, bypassing the main road.
Soldiers following the chain vehicles shot randomly as they went.
Radio Nadarajah was a sickly
man who in his younger days had been a popular figure on the Tamil broadcast
of the national radio. Like the average Tamil man, he had a kindred feeling
for India and stayed at home and thinking the Indians would be reasonable and
he could explain things. His wife and son were with him when troops came to
his house, Nadarajah went to the entrance to speak
to the officer. When questioned he replied that his son was also at home and
summoned his son. The son stood up to put on a shirt to join his father outside
when a soldier standing elsewhere spotted the son through the wire mess and
proceed to fire at the father and son. Radio Nadarajah fell dead. The son escaped the bullet and lay on
the ground, taking cover under a bed. On hearing the two shots, Mrs. Nadarajah thought her husband and wife had been killed and
made her escape over the back fence. On hearing the noise, one soldiers shouted
in Singalese: “Passeng giya,” (meaning that she went through the back). This was
the first sign that Sri Lankan troops were deployed in Urumpirai.
More were to come later, This leaves a strong possibility that Radiio Nadarajah was killed by a
Sri Lankan soldier. Mrs.Nadarajah was later joined
by her son a relative’s place.
had come on a holiday from the United States and was staying with his mother
close to Urumpirai Junction. On hearing heavy firing
on 16 October, the mother and son went under a bed and stayed there with their
dog until the following morning when there was a lull. As soon as the mother
opened the door, the dog which had become impatient jumped out. A tank was parked
in their lane and someone fired. The dog fell dead. They promptly closed the
door and got under the bed again. During this period some interesting bits of
conversation were heard from the men outside. One voice said in Sinhalese: “Mey paranagedhra kadanda hari amaru.
Mortar eka usanda” (These
old house are very difficult to break. Raise the mortar). At one point someone
is firing at random with a small weapon, when an on-coming vehicle stopped.
A voice shouted in Jaffna Tamil: “ Hey, Selvarajah,
Don’t try these tricks here” and proceeded to inform Selvarajah
that some big persons were coming. The firing ceased. Unable to bear it any
longer. Shanti and his mother left the house on the
18th afternoon and proceeded through the back without looking behind.
If they were seen, they had been ignored. They spent a few days with a friend
in the interior where they met Mrs.Nadarajah and then
moved through the lanes with the rest to Karanthan,
a relatively isolated village where they stayed for a month. While they were
in Karanthan, some soldiers went up to their house and knocked
on their door. No one answered. The soldiers conversed in Sinhalese and went
on to steal some chickens. The participation Sinhalease
troops was confirmed later in press reports. In mid- November a party of Indian
troops went there on a search. The next house had only ladies. Several of them
from Pt.Pedro. On discovering this soldiers closed
the doors and spent an hour inside. The incident was related by a number of
that group who came to reside in Chundikuli later.
She said that she herself was left alone after she had pleaded. A month later,
Shanti and his mother discovered that a shell had pierced
the roof and had hit the bed under which they had taken cover.
From the 16th the residents of Urumpirai started experiencing heavy shelling and firing.
On the 18th of October, a Sunday, a landmine attach occurred near
the Hindu temple in Urumpirai. A 66 year old man residing
½ to ¾ mile north of the junction spoke of wanton killings. In the early hours
of the morning between 5:45 and 6 p.m., he had seen the Indian Army vehicles
coming down the lane where his house was. They were shooting at random. They
then entered his yard and fired at the front door lock. Because the door was
barred from inside it held well. The army then shot at the window panes on both
floors, left his house and entered the house opposite his.
In this house were 4 women, the oldest was 93 and the
youngest 25 or so. The oldest woman was bed ridden. The Indian Army had shot
her first, and then other bodies were found in the garden where they must have
been killed while trying to get away. The narrator of this incident buried the
bodies the following day – Monday the 19th when there were terrible
happenings at Unrumpirai again.
Fifty yards north of the junction in a lane just opposite
the Anglican church, the Indian Army went to house where there were 11 people
staying, including the owners and other families who had taken refuge. This
was the 19th October. The I.P.K.F. called the occupants out. The
occupants came out with Mr.Ponnampalam, the owner
of the house, leading with a white flag. Mr.Ponnampalan,
who servived, narrated this story. He was standing
in a little in front of the rest when he heard the order “shoot” being given.
Some of the persons behind him to fell to the ground. A school master Mr.Pancharatnam was amongst them. Seeing this his wife screamed
“Aiyo” and she too was shot dead. The three who died
in that incident were Mr. and Mrs. Pancharatnam and
PremaSinnadurai, a 16 year old school prefect at Vembadi Girls’ School. Prema’s mother,
Mrs. Sinnadurai was inconsolable. Her blossoming daughter
had been killed before her eyes. Her husband had remained at their home, which
being near the junction was considered unsafe and had sent the rest of his family
to Mr. Ponnampalam’s house. The wife had last seen
him cleaning his bicycle and his last words were: “ Do not worry. They are not
an Army of war. They are a Peace Keeping Force. I will explain to them.” Mrs.
Sinnadurai discovered his skeletal remains three weeks
later. She would interrupt her conversation to gasp again and again: “He said
they were not and army of war.”
On 19 October, those who were in the house of Mrs.
Nesaratnam in View Lane decided to move. Mrs. Nesaratnam had asked her husband to leave with their children.
She had wished to remain behind because of her old mother, Mrs. Ponnuthurai, who was confined to the house and her 42 year
old retarded brother. She felt that the later would have been unsettled and
a nuisance to others if he was taken elsewhere. At the last minute, her 8 year
old daughter insisted on staying behind with the mother and, consequently four
of them remained at home. The had reassured the others
with those of repeated fata words- “They are just
a Peace Keeping Force. They will talk to us and leave us alone.”
Things relatively quietened down on 20 October when
a landmine exploded opposite Kali Temple killing some soldiers. At this, the
other soldiers went berserk, killing several tens of people – most of them elderly
folk, women and children, the others having left Urumpirai
by this time. Girlie, an aunt of the Shanti referred
to earlier, lived next door to Shanti’s. She was shot
dead in her home during this rampage. On seeing this, Girlie’s old mother died
of grief by her side. Their bloated and deformed bodies were cremated by relatives
more than a month later.
Then there is the tragic story of how the mother, grandmother
and an old Indian servant of Ambika a university student
were killed. The mother and grandmother of Ambika were in their house in Urumpirai
north with an old man, a friend of the family’s. An Indian chain vehicle accompanied
by troops on foot passed their house in an open space astride the main road.
After some time the old man went to open the door to see if all was clear, despite a
warning by the mother not to open. As soon as he opened the door, he was shot
dead by a soldier in the rearguard. Soldiers then went to the house shot dead
both mother and grandmother. Our narrator, a middle aged widow with 2 children
had her own experience to relate. On that day they had decided to pack up and
leave Urumpirai. The whole household, about 11 persons
were all refugees like herself, who had moved away from the houses along the
main road. Her own house was damaged and burnt. They had readied everything:
bags were packed; shoes, slippers, etcetera, were placed outside. Just then,
about seven or eight I.P.K.F. tanks had come and stopped in front of their house.
They could not do anything. They heard voices coming towards their house up
to the front door. They thought to themselves that if there is a knock on the
door, they would go out and explain. But about 6 men came and tried to force
the door and then fired two shots through the window. They were paralysed with
fear. Flying splinters injured her daughter, son and another girl. They just
waited quietly through it all, expecting the worst. The I.P.K.F. men waited
for around for 15 minutes or so, talked and then went away. They then went to
another house and left without doing any harm. At last when the soldiers had
left, the narrator went to tell her cousin living down the same lane that she
was moving out of Urumpirai. She found her cousin
shot dead in the back. She further discovered that her old aunt and the old
Indian man who stayed with them too had been killed.
On that day, 20 October, Sivapragasam
who lived further up that lane, recorded 18 deaths within a half mile radius
of his house. Out of that number there were only 7 men, all of them over the
age of 60. In many houses it was a mother, a grandmother, a young daughter or
an old father who remained behind that was killed.
A particularly tragic tale was that of Mr.Sivakurunathan’s , a garage proprietor.His
5 children, Komathi, Girija,
Giritharan, Jeyakaran and
Uthayakaran, of ages ranging from 8 to 17, were killed by
Indian fire. With difficulty he managed to get his injured wife Varathaletchumi, aged 42, to Jaffna Hospital for treatment.
On 21 October Varathaletchumi was amongst the victims
when the Indian Army went berserk inside Jaffna Hospital. Sivakurunathan
himself escaped from the hospital with an injury and literally crawled his way
to Anaipanthi, where he was helped by an elderly lady.
Having relatives in the Islands, Sivakurunathan went
to the Araly Jetty to catch a boat to the Islands.
While he was there, the Jetty was shelled from a helicopter. About 17 persons
lost their lives in this incident. Sivakurunathan
was later taken to Chankanai hospital where he was
treated. The obituary of the members of his family appeared in Jaffna’s Eelanadu of 18 January, 1988.
Ehambaram, a businessman aged 47, his wife Dorothy
aged 30 and 3 year old daughter Sherine were shot
dead by Indian troops as they attempted to leave their houses during a bout
of intense shelling. The 9 year old eldest daughter and the servant girl who
had just crossed over the road were the only survivors. The Ehambaram
family’s bodies were covered by gravel in a rough pit. When the relations exhumed
them, Ehambaram was found holding his little daughter.
A close relation said: “I can see the trauma haunting the memories of the 9
Next to Ehambaram’s house
was the house of Dorothy’s sister-in-low, Mrs. Seenithamby,
her mother, her brother and her 7 year old child-they were also shot dead. Relations
could only recover skeletons.
who was a refugee in Nallur, came to know of what
happened to his relations, the Seenithambies, more
than a month later. A memorial service for the dead was held at holy Emmanuel
Church in Urumpirai on the 91st day following
their deaths, in 18th of January 1988. An adjoining hall had to be
used as the main body of the church had also suffered extensive damage on account
of shelling. Despite his unbearable grief, there was something Mr.Rajasingam
was proud of. He related how his 10 year old grandson on his way to school had
told an Indian Army officer, who was Tamil: Your Army killed Uncle, Dorothy
Aunty, Sherine… “The offer felt small. He replied:
Son, I am a qualified engineer and belong to the engineering unit. I carry a
gun only for name’s shake. I do not kill people. It is the northerners who killed
those dear to you.” Similar sentiments were echoed by an army doctor who said:
“The army behaved like this because these people are Tamils. We are also fighting
terrorism in Punjab. But there the population was never shelled.” On the lighter
side, seeing people assembled during the memorial service, a hungry and bent
looking old man passing on the road came in to enquire if the Red Cross was
distributing food grains!!
3.4 Uduvil – Maruthanamadam
The first incident of shooting in the area took place
near the Christa Seva Ashram at Maruthanamadam on 12 October. This was shortly after the morning’s
incident at Thirunelvely resulting in the deaths of
29 Indian commandos. There were at that time 2000 refugees at the Ashram. Indian
troops standing in the fields several hundred yards to the north of the Ashram
let loose at the Ashram and the new Theological Seminary with light missiles.
The seminary was badly damaged. So were the fortunately there were no fatalities.
Sevak (Rev) Sam Alfred, the Chief Incumbent and a
heart patient who was among those walking about attending to the wounded, was
himself injured on the back by falling tiles and pieces of wood. He got his
wound dressed at Inuvil McLeod Hospital and returned
to his flock.
On the Morning of 13 October Indian troops were moving
along the Maruthanamadam – Manipay
Road. They were relaxed and were waving at civilians. About 200 yards west of
Maruthanamadam Junction, they came under fire from the L.T.T.E..
Some of the troops rushed into a house to take up positions, and the house came
under fire from the L.T.T.E.. The inmates of the house, unable to bear the strain
after some time, left the house with the children. When they went a short distance
they came under aburst of fire from Indian troops
and were forced to take cover. After an interval spend in fear, they stood up
and walked across the fields bearing the children. This time there was no fire.
The man later said that a handful of L.T.T.E. boys were running from point to
point firing as they went, thus giving the Indian soldiers the impression that
there were a large number of them.
Indians troops later encamped at Uduvil
Girls’ School. A large camp was established at the Rose Brand Sweet Factory
at Alady on the Manipay Road. On 17
October, someone played a seemingly practical joke on the Indian soldiers. A
string was drawn across the road in front of the Uduvil
Y.M.C.A. and one end of the string was
covered with some plantain leaves. The soldiers who saw that spent about an
hour finding out that it was a hoax and not a mine. In their anger they went
down the road firing at some houses. In one house, the lady of the house was
talking to some girls who giggled at some joke. The soldiers who were passing
the house heard giggles from inside and opened up with rockets. The house remains
very badly damaged. Fortunately no one was hurt. Several houses on the Uduvil-Manipay Road were damaged on the same day.
On 2 November three soldiers went to a retired school
master’s house on a search and walked away with his daughter. This girl held
tight to the hand of her brother and was crying. The leader of the house was
addressed as major, but it was thought that he was not an officer. As they passed
a doctor’s house, the girl shouted: “Doctor, please save me.” When the doctor
looked out. the soldiers mentioned him away. The girl was dragged clutching
her brother’s hand to the next house which was empty. The brother was forcibly
separated and the girl forced into the house. The girl went on her knees and
addressed the soldiers: “You are my Annais (elder
brothers), you can do anything to me, even kill me, but not that, “The “Major”
proceeded to slap her while she kept up her pleading, Then he asked the others
to call it off and they went away.
The shooting of Mrs. Rajah and three of her grandchildren
described elsewhere, took place the day following. Often the logic behind such
totally unjustified killing is so perverse that circumstance surrounding the
incident may be worth mentioning for illustration. A few days previously, some
L.T.T.E. boys had jumped into the compound of Mrs. Rajah’s neighbour, Banker
Ariaratnam. When Banker Ariaratnam pleaded with them, the L.T.T.E, boys went into
Mrs. Rajah’s house which was empty at that time, the owner having taken shelter
elsewhere. The army may have gone to that house on the tip that the L.T.T.E.
was seen there. At the time the army arrived, Mrs. Lily Rajah and her daughter
and grand-children had just returned to that house. The shooting may be attributed
to the utterly erratic and undiscerning manner of the Indian Army at that time.
On the same day, 3 November, a group of Indian soldiers
went to the house of Mr. A. Nallathamby, Deputy Chairman
of the T.R.R.O. who lived on the Maruthanamadam –
Urumpirai Road. He had several refugees in his house.
Indian troops had previously searched the house and had permitted the refugees
to stay there. The group that had just come was apparently a search party. Mr.
Nalllathampy and his brother – in – law went forward
to speak to the officer. The Officer wanted the gate to be opened. At the same
time another group of soldiers was travelling in Army vehicles and C.T.B. buses
towards Urumpirai junction. These soldiers seemed
to be in a nasty mood and were shooting at random. As Mr. Nallathampy returned with the gate key, he saw his brother-in-low
being shot and injured by soldiers in the vehicles. He shouted “What are you
doing?” The Indian officer who had wanted to come in shouted asking the soldiers
passing in the vehicles to stop their shooting. At the same time Mr. Nallathamby
received two bullets in his leg. The vehicles soon went past and it became quiet
again. Mr. Nallathamby attributed his and his brother-in-law’s
survival to Inuvil Hospital being accessible through
the lanes despite the curfew and the fact that there were people available to
carry them there. He added that a large proportion of these who died in Urumpiraidid
so because of the absence of medical care. He also knew of two cases of old
people who died of starvation, having been left behind alone in houses near
the Kondavil bus depot, as the others fled.
Major Parameswaran who was
in charge of Alady camp was well regarded by the people
around. He took complaints by residents seriously and maintained discipline.
One working mother had complained to him that her two daughters had been taken
away. Major Parameswaran promptly got his men to assemble
and secured the release of the girls.
Around this time a sizable group of the L.T.T.E. cadre,
cut off from the leadership, was known to be on the move in the countryside,
roughly on the line stretching east-west from Neervely
to Chankanai. The army was given a tip on 25 November
that this group was between Dutch Road and Kantharodai.
That night Major Parameswaran called on residents
on Dutch Road to get him his bearings on certain locations. He led a party of
troops into the area in the early hours of the following morning and was killed
along with three of his men. In the reprisals that followed, according to one
teacher, at least 12 civilians were killed including Mr. Cameron and Mr. Thanjaratnam who were retired men. An officer at Uduvil Girl’s School told a P.T.I.(Physical Training Instructor)
that he had personally ordered 8 shells to be fired. A mother wounded by a shell
blast was shot dead as she was brought on a bicycle by her son, up Ark Lane
onto the main road. The son who was attempting to get her to a doctor, escaped.
On 28 November, a lady from Urumpirai,
walked with her son to Uduvil to inquire about her
sister’s family. A Madrasi soldier stopped them at
the Y.M.C.A. and asked them to sit on a bench. He told the mother: “Amma, Major Parameswaran protected
the Tamil in this area. He has now been killed and the mood amongst troops is
not good. If I let you pass, I do not know if you will come back alive. Please
go back wherever you came from.” He then sent them away.
Asirwatham is an ambulance driver, who could converse in English and given to some drinking. When Mrs. Rajah’s granddaughter, Priyanthi, was injured, Asi volunteered to drive her for treatment at a time when it required no mean courage. Subsequently Asi became friendly with a Captain Sharma. Trusting him to be safe, he was chosen by the I.P.K.F. to be interviewed by some Indian’s reporters. Asi proceeded to give a view that was far from, flattering to the I.P.K.F.. From then onwards Asi was given the cold-shoulder. One day after drinks Asi was walking down Ark Lane muttering: “Bloody fool Sharma.” He ran into some soldiers doing sentry duty who were not pleased at his mutterings. He was given a beating and told not to come that way again.
From 11 October onwards, sounds of intermittent shelling filled the air. During those intervals, people would anxiously hope that the shells were not coming towards them. Three successive sounds would be heard as shells were fired, followed by a high frequency noise as shells whizzed past, and then three successive crashes a few seconds apart. One would heave a sigh of relief and await the next. It would be house or seven days before one found out who and who were hit. For the next thirteen days the first question in the morning was: “Where is the Indian Army?” the more daring would go out on bicycles to find out. It took the Indian Army five days to close in from a perimeter of about five miles in radius. All the time stories of burning house, massacres and the dead lying on the roads leading out of the Jaffna kept pouring in. Those who thought it safer to leave then to stay, paid exorbitant sums to drivers of vehicles who were prepared to take the risk. Within few days, hunger began to bite.
By the 21st October it was generally know that Indian troops were poised to enter Nallur from Irupalai. Nallur had major refugee centres at Kanthasamy Temple (which was estimated to contain 30 to 40 thousand persons), St. James’ church and the adjoining Education office (with 3000 refugees) and Stanley College. The former was the largest of the three refugee centres designated by the I.P.K.F. and was lacking in even sitting accommodation for the crowd it had. Answering a call of nature was itself a tricky matter for the fear of losing one’s sitting space. Sanitation was non-existent. In time, excrement came to be piled up in the vicinity. The rains made it worse. Many spent the nights sitting out, exposed to the elements. Over a dozen persons died because of exposure and diarrhea. Part of the trustees’ premises were converted into a makeshift hospital where volunteer medical students performed delicate operations on persons carrying bullets and bits of shrapnel in their bodies. Soon, no drugs were available. More fortunate were those who were able to stay in the houses of friends and relatives around the temple. The temple itself became a place where people lived in fear, cut off from the world outside. Some left, unable to bear the squalour, feeling that is was better to get shot than to live like that. But others remained out of fear. The Jaffna man was essentially clean, having clean lavatories and bathing at least once a day.
A Sri Lankan radio broadcast once said during this period that the L.T.T.E. leader Mr. Prabhakaran was hiding in the temple. It was an inconsiderate joke that made people disperse for a time. The uncertainties of the world outside the temple weighed so heavily on their minds that many of the people remained behind at the temple for several days after people in the other refugee camps had got back home. They had to bear hunger, rain, stink, disease and squalour. As the Indian Army came nearer and some members of the L.T.T.E. cadre came to mingle with the crowds, there had been screams of panic. It was exactly a year since the L.T.T.E. held its exhibition of gore, which included the bodies of nine Sri Lankan soldiers, at Kandasamy Temple. It was here that the L.T.T.E. had attempted to raise religious adulation of itself to a feverish pitch first with the May Day rally and then again at Thileepan’s fast. The same place now became the symbol of disillusionment.
The situation was considerably better at other refugee centres, since people were able to make quick trips home to bathe and cook. Except for some individuals who took the initiative to organise food Supplies for the refugee camps, all social organization broke down. Looters were given to breaking into shops and co–operatives, and selling these same articles at refugee camps to two to four times the normal price.
On 11 october, shells from Jaffna fort full in front of Kailaspillaiyar Kovil, Nallur , killing 13 persons. Ahelicopter was flying overhead while the shelling went on. The only possible explanation for this shelling seems to be the presence of the Uthayan newspaper offices and press in a small private lane off Navalar Road opposite the temple. The presence of the helicopter and the location of the falling shells suggest that the target was indeed the newspaper. It was two days before a decision was taken to use shelling from aircraft. One shell damaged the roof of the temple. Others fell on neighbouring houses. In one house where everyone was taking cover behind a wall,7 members were killed ,the survivors being the grandfather and a year and a half old child. At the Uthayan offices, three employees received injuries, one of them requiring amputation of a leg. The I.P.K.F. had closed two news papers the previous day. The Uthayan had no L.T.T.E. affiliation, except that like all the rest and like papers in the South, it accepted official handouts. On the 11 October the I.P.K.F. had been unable to move out of the fort. In its crudity, the shelling represents a unique act of press censorship. A number of people had been injured by shelling before the Indian Army came in. There were fortunately some medical personnel available at refugee camps to do something about the injured, even if medicines were not available. Some babies too were born at refugee camps- two at the St. James’ church camp.
The curfew had dragged on for nearly a record two weeks. Domestic animals became a compelling reason for people to go home. These too suffered much. In east Nallur, a cow which had received a shell injury on its side was leaning painfully against a wall while crows were pecking at its side. The next day the animal which had done no one any harm was dead. Many dogs followed their master to refugee camps in the vain hope that some leftovers would come their way. When rain and damp were the lot of refugees, it was as hard for the animals. One dog had followed his folk to a camp and was shivering in the damp as the evening wore on. When the man pulled out a blanket to cover himself, the dog which had shivered in silence, sprang at the blanket. He pawed and struggled for a place within, with the deliberation of a Billy Bunter for a parcel of goodies that one of his schoolmates had received from home. A request so forcibly expressed could hardly be refused.
The Indian Army knew that Point Pedro Road was mined and got hold of someone who knew the lanes to lead them to Nallur. From Irupalai the army went along new Chemmany road and entered Nallur through Kalaimagal Lane on 22 October. a landmine exploded at the Kalaimagal lane – Adiapatham Road junction killing six soldiers. The army went back after first going on a rampage.
During the rampage several persons were killed and premises destroyed. By this time most people had gone to camps leaving behind a few to protect their property from looters. Magalingam, Singarasa, Rasiah, Babu, Rathinam and Sinnaththamby were owners of business premises at KaiviankaduJunction, a hundred yards from Kalaimagal Lane. They were sitting down to a meal when the army came in and Killed them all. A Lady who sold vegetables at the market had left her goods in a house nearby and was going away when she was shot dead. A mother and daughter were shot dead inside Kalaimagal lane. The houses of a Rajeswaran and Parliament Rajadurai were destroyed.
When the army retuned, they shot dead Bakery Suntheralingam, S. Vallipuram and K. Vallipuram inside the lane opposite Dr. Ramasamy’s dispensary. Mr.Krishnasamy who was with them escaped with an injury. On Pt. Pedro Road. E, Apputhural, a retired police officer, who was too sickly to leave home was shot dead by troops at his home opposite Illankathu Amman Kovil. The L.T.T.E. had been present in Kalviankadu on 22 October and had fired at the Indian army from the premises of local residents. Fire from Indian troops was quite undiscriminating. But the L.T.T.E’s use of private premises complicated things for local residents. The Indian position even after the worst hostilities were over, was that local residents were responsible for hostile action in their area. It was nearly always the case that the residents had fired before any action took place and often after pleading with the L.T.T.E..The Indians on several occasions punished residents by destroying their lives, property or both. The result of such patently unfair logic enforced by the gun was that the people were angry and helpless.
A pertinent case is that of several shop owners at Kalviankadu junction. Several of the owners lost their buildings as well as their lives. The L.T.T.E planted a landmine at the junction. The shopkeepers pleaded with the L.T.T.E. sentry against this and the sentry agreed and set about removing the mine. However, a senior L.T.T.E. person then arrived on the scene and asked what they were doing. When the sentry explained, they were ordered to put the mine back.
On 23 October, a Mr. Suntheralingam and a man from Irupalai who were refugees at Senguntha School, decided to go to the former’s house through a lane in order to take a wash. Such small risks were taken by nearly everyone because of the Prolonged curfew, then in its 14th day. They were summoned by Soldiers who saw them, and were then detained inside the upstairs building next to a Dr. Kumararedran’s house. A companion of theirs got away. Later on the Moring, tow Sikh Soldiers were killed by sniper fire. Thereupon, Some Shells were filed and a white van was Stopped by Soldiers at Kalviankadu Junction. Its Passengers who were Muslim refugees bound for Mannar, were harassed and asked to wait. There were two ladies among them. The Muslims subsequently took shelter in Sattanathar Kovil. A Muslim lady who was 7 Months Pregnant was killed by a shrapnel injury for went of medical attention. Another Muslim gentleman died of natural causes. The remaining Muslim later walked to Chavakachcheri.
Sometime later, one source gave alarming information about what had happened to Mr. Suntherlingam and his companion who were under I.P.K.F. captivity at that time. Suntheralingam’s wife Jovita has been unable to trace her husband up to now. All army camps contacted have denied having any Knowledge of him. After our Months Jovita has come to the inevitable conclusion that what she had originally heard was true. Was 1 ½ years married, with an infant a few months old and was expecting the second. Mr. Suntharalimgamwas an employee of the telecommunications Department.
The following is an incident that took place near a refugee camp in Nallur on 23 October,1987, just after the entry of the Indian forces. A group of militants appeared at a refugee camp carrying R.P.G.s and S.M.G.s.The refugees were alarmed at what may befall lthem if the militants decide to resist nearby. Stories about what the L.P.K.F.had done elsewhere were not encouraging. A young man went up to the L.T.T.E. boys and told them: “if you can fight and get the Indian army to go away, there will be some point in fighting. But here you simply shoot for a while and run away, allowing the people to face the music and suffer. In the end, all that you gain is to be able to boast that you delayed the Indian army for a bit. “An L.T.T.E. boy replied:” Do not worry annai (elder brother) ,the Indians will not do anything to the civilians. “But your own paper, the Eelamurasu, says that so many civilians have been shot and that six women were raped at Maniamthottam,” replied the young man. Without blinking the boy chipped in: “Some of these of things are exaggerations annai, may be a few things happened when we were off guard. But don’t worry, noting will happen" At this point, an elderly Schoolmaster butted in and addressed the boys: “you get along thambi (younger brother), just let us know when you are withdrawing.” Afterwards he proceeded to reprimand the young man: “you should know that it is too dangerous to argue with them.” The Schoolmaster’s attitude encapsulates the attitude of the overwhelming majority of Jaffna men towards both the I.P.K.F. and the L.T.T.E. staring with the University dons. They would neither talk nor protest, when their own lives and those of the community around them were at stake. The I.P.K.F. concluded early that the best way to get result was to treat Tamil civilians exactly in the same manner that the L.T.T.E had treated them.
In the evening the L.T.T.E boys returned towards the refugee camp. The Indian army was less than a mile away. Some young ladies went to them and appealed to them not to resist from there, but to withdraw. One of the boys was a chubby 13 year old, who was carrying a bag as if he was going on a school picnic. One boy replied: “if we are ordered to resist from here we will. “ Another said: “Don’t worry akka (elder sister) we will wait for the Indians to come forward a Little and will then withdraw a hundred years.” Later one boy said: “we are very hungry and have sent a message to the camp, that if food is not sent soon, we are going there.” They were then offered some biscuits which were hard enough to come by. The boys accepted them and sulkily munched them. Thankfully, they withdrew. According to some sources they mingled with the crowd at the Nallur Kandasamy Temple.
Early on the 24th morning, a group of Tamil speaking soldiers walked through the Jamuna fields and chatted in a friendly manner with women from the St. James Education Office refugee camp who were drawing water. The soldiers went away after warning them that the troops who were to follow may not be so friendly.
D.S. Kulasingam was a retired engineer from Nigeria. He lived with his sisters at Kalviankadu. One of them, Miss SathiSinnappu was the Principal of the Kopai Teachers’ Training College at Irupalai. When military activity started they moved into Proctor Kanagaratnam’s house in the land behind. After seeing some Tigers running through their compound, they concluded that their house was unsafe. Forty girls from the training college who had evacuated to their place before the army moved into Irupalai, had managed to move to other places a little earlier. By the 24th morning the L.T.T.E. had withdrawn completely and no firing was to be heard. Mr. Kulasingam was fond of his domestic animals. When he heard his cow moo from proctor Kanagratnam’s house, he left 8.00a.m to enter his house through the back and feed his cow. His sister had strongly advised him against it. Being a visibly elderly man Mr. Kulasingam thought that he would be left alone. A little later a single shot was heard. When their brother did not return, a servant boy went to look, and found him dead with a shot in his head. His body was cremated 3 days later with the army’s permission.
The Arasco building on Pt. Pedro Road housed several refugees from the Trincomalee district who had been rendered homeless by Sri Lanka army atrocities. Early in the morning four of them set off walking down Sankilian Lane towards Kandasamy Temple in the hope of getting some bread to feed the refugees. A trader named Navaratnam who was driving that way in a van offered them a lift. The van was later shot at by troops near Temple Road. The tragic tale was later related by Mr. Thanikasalam, a refugee from Mutur, the only survivor from the incident. Following this incident some of the refugees from Arasco moved into the St. James’ refugee camp.
Around 9:00a.m the same day, column of troops moved through Jamunari onto Chemmani Road. The mood was relaxed after the first lot of troops came and went quietly. The officer leading the second column summoned Mr. Nesadurai, an insurance agent, who was relaxing outside his gate. After patting him on the back and telling him to relax, he was taken along to show the shortest route to the railway station. On going through Nallur Cross Road, four cyclists who ran into them were stopped to take over guide duties and Mr. Nesadurai was sent home. The man following were not so passive. They shot dead two persons inside Jammuna Lane. One of them was Mr. A. Sellasamy from Trincomalee , an elderly man dressed in verti (the traditional longwhite cloth) and shirt. Against the advice of his friends at Kalviankadu, he had set off for St. James’ refugee camp, carrying a bunch of murungas (drumsticks) ,four eggs and a thousand rupee note in his pocket. He must have looked pretty harmless unless the soldiers mistook his bunch of murungas for a rocket launcher1! The thousand rupees in his pocket was used later for his cremation expenses. At Muthiraichanthai, a man who looked out of his house was seated in her kitchen died with a bullet in her back. A six year old girl, daughter of Suppammah, a Trincomalee refugee who had just moved from Arasco, was fired at by a soldier from about 100 yards away, while the girl was crossing the road in front of St. James’ refugee camp. The screaming girl escaped with a wound on her arm. Near the junction of Navalar Road and Cross Road, Mary Clara, a lady working for Mrs. Ambalavanar, moved in the kitchen to catch their cat that was getting out of the house. She was shot dead by soldiers who were on the road.
It must be noted that all this happened on a day when there was, as far as could be ascertained, absolutely no resistance from the L.T.T.E.. After their stand at Kalviankadu which perhaps delayed the Indian Army by a day at the pointless cost of over 20 civilian lives at Indian hands, the L.T.T.E. completely withdrew. According to some sources the younger members disposed of their arms, hid in the first instance at Kandasamy Kovil and then slipped away. The Indian army could now say that it had captured Jaffna Town. For all the loss of life, the L.T.T.E. could now boast, if anyone cared, that it had kept the world’s fourth largest army at bay for two weeks.
Mr.Rajasingam, a retired District Judge, had been unable to get back to his home from the refugee camp after the army moved into Nallur. He had been prevented in his several attempts to get to his puppy dog, tied up at home. When he did make it a week later, the army was camped at his home. The army had been through his private correspondence and several questions were asked. They were surprised and suspicious that he had so many letters from abroad A Malayali soldier gave him the good news. They had found his puppy in a dad way. They gave it “bhojanam” in the form of chappati and milk and now he was doing fine. When the army left about a week later, Mr.Rajasingam got his house back intact, except for a missing type – writer .
On the morning of 21 November, while people were queuing up for rations which were being given out by the Indian Army, near Muthiraichanthai, a gunshot was heard. The people fled. A dead women shot in the head was found 50 yards from muthiraichanthai at the top of Sankilian Lane. She was aged before her time, was dressed in a frock and was wearing light, bluish – green ear studs. It was learnt that 4 young boys brought her, carried out the execution and ran away. Those with a soft spot for the L.T.T.E. quickly assumed that she was either an informer or a prostitute. The truth, it turned out was that she was a Trincomalee refugee staying at Arasco and had earned some badly needed money by cooking for Indian soldiers. After all, many had done business with the Indian army. Killings of this kind were to be a plague on Tamil society.
Towards the end of Chemmani Road near the paddy fields, some workmen working on a wall for an old lady’s compound struck some arms while digging. They informed the army the same evening. As it was near nightfall the army said they would come the next day. That night some L.T.T.E. members wanted to remove the arms. The people prevented them saying that they would be in trouble when the army arrived in the morning. The army took away the arms the following day. When the old lady came to know that arms had been buried in her compound, she died of a heart attack.
As time went by, regiments changed and by January soldiers came to be known as individuals. Some would wave curfew breakers away with a nod. Others would shout at them and make them carry their bicycles. There were also some sadists who would resort to caning. There were no reports of rape in Nallur as there were in the interior areas.
A young Malayali soldier was once discovered in tears kneeling in an attitude of prayer. When questioned, he said that his mother was very ill and that he had no leave to go home. His family, he said, was poor. His father was down with a stroke, his elder brother was married, and there were three sisters. He was saving his pay, he said ,to take home a radio- cassette for his mother. Asked if he knew anything about the problem in this country, he smiled innocently and replied “I know nothing.”
As time wore on, some of the Jawans proved themselves to be quite human as individuals. One of them when he heard singing in the Church and in the nearby school wanted to know from people if there were words in Hindi so that he could follow. Another lamented that a communication problem prevented him from conversing with the locals.
The incident reminded one of the days after the breakup of the satyagraha in 1961. Soldiers had been camped in the same premises which was then the Nallur Teachers’ Training college. The soldiers were then from the Ceylon light Infantry and the Ceylon army Ordnance Corps. After the worst was over, they were friendly, especially with local children. For the latter, there were film shows, buns and cricket. Soldiers would tell them how they cheated on night patrol, sold the diesel, bought toddy, parked the truck in a lane and had a good night’s sleep.
Today it is the
Rajput Rifles. Ordinary soldiers are very much the same. Children
sit around nearby and watch them the play volley ball. Sometimes soldiers take
an interest in the latter playing cricket. But having an army around symbolises
a disturbed situation. In 1961 the army went off in two months time. How long
it will be this time, one wonders.
The Indian army’s entry into Jaffna from the east was through Ariyalai. The army had been advancing slowly along the railway tracks from Navatkuli. Major Gopalan who had just got married, left his wife in Bangalore and arrived in Ceylon just before the operation commenced. He said later that they used to move by night and stay in trenches by day. The slowness of the initial advance was probably because the other columns advancing into Jaffna were being held up. Having left Navatkuli about 14 October the army reached the outskirts of Ariyalai about the 18th. One group of troops went into Maniam Thottam and withdrew after rounding up the people and giving them a lecture. One report said that one or two young men were shot when they ran away.
The main obstruction to the advance along Kandy Road was the well fortified L.T.T.E. sentry post at Ariyalai Junction. According to reports from this area, the I.P.K.F. did not advance on the post directly. Rather, it was attacked from behind L.T.T.E. lines following a night-march through a coconut grove astride the main road and then cutting in from behind. Following this breach about 18 October, the I.P.K.F. advance towards town, about three and a half miles away, was quick. By the 20th night, the I.P.K.F. had established camp at Sri Parvathy School, past Post Box Junction. Most people had by then taken refuge with friends in the interior, at Stanley College or with Christian institutions in Colombogam, As a result of the shelling of areas Colombogam, it was thought that the Indians might attempt an advance along the coast. It was not clear that they were making for the Kachcheri along Kandy Road.Dr.Mohanadas, whose house is between Post Box Junction and Sri ParvathyVidyalayam (School), had most of his house and belongings destroyed by the Indian Army , presumably around 21 October . He had been a refugee with relatives down Broodie Lane .Since there was a 24 hour curfew on, he did not know what had happened until people were allowed to get about at the end of the month. He found a whole lot of empty cartridges, hand grenades and remnants of larger ammunition in his compound. The manner of their distribution suggested that the L.T.T.E. had got behind Indian lines into his compound, presumably by night, and then fired at the I.P.K.F. at Sri Parvathy School to the west and at Post Box Junction to the east. The I.P.K.F. had returned the fire with several shells into that area. They came later and destroyed 7 houses in that area. In Dr. Mohanadas’ house they had lumped together the belongings in the different rooms and had set fire to them. That this was not a result of selling was evident, because in his sitting room, the only surviving room, his scooter had been burnt while the rest had been left alone.
Sources in that area put the total number killed at between 15 and 30, including those from other areas who would have been there, perhaps in the hope of taking a boat from Colombogam to Puneryn or Chavakacheri. Amongst those killed are: Mr. Thambiah (70), from shell blast while at home: Mrs. Tambimuttu, who was killed by the army while returning after worship at Sri Parvathy Temple early in the morning; KannanIyer, an accountant, who was killed by a shell blast on A.V. Road; four persons who were killed by a shell blast in the settlement at Navalady; and a mother and daughter killed by a shell inside Chemmani Lane.In all 24 house were badly damaged in Ariyalai and 100huts were burnt at the settlement in Navaladi. As the army advanced from Post Box Junction onwards, the destruction in Kondavil and Urumpirai on the Palely Road and in Kokkuvil, Thavady and Inuvil on the K.K.S. Road. Towards the end of the first week of November, the army wanted to move on the roads. For this reason soldiers were sent with burning torches to set fire to fences which might have provided cover for gunmen. Uuexploded shells constituted a hazard for a long time, especially in the paddy fields. Bomb disposal men from the army went over Dr. Mohanadas’ premises. And yet, two month later in mid- January 1988, his schoolboy son picked up a small unexploded shell and had a piece of his finger blown off as he tried to unscrew the fin.
3.6.2. The Disappeared
PonniahKantharuban was chatting to some of his friends near the Gandhi Community Centre in Ariyalai at 10:00 a.m., on 19 November 1987. His family is from AsirwathapparKovilRoad. His mother is a widow and makes a living by doing odd jobs like pounding rice. He had a younger brother and three sisters. Kantharuban was a G.C.E.A. Level candidate and the family’s main hope of social upliftment. While the boys were chatting,an Indian Army jeep came that way. Kantharuban being a timid sort, ran and hid himself. The soldiers who saw this asked those standing there and quickly got hold of the boy whom they took along with them. Everyone in that area confirmed that the boy was innocent. The same evening soldiers returned with Kantharuban and searched his home. The neighbours were told by soldiers that two weapons were found on Kantharubanwhen he was arrested in the morning and that more weapons had been subsequently recovered from his house. These claims are denied by both his family and neighbours. The boy had appeared as though he had been badly beaten. Not having heard about her son for five days, the mother approached Major Dubay, who was in charge of the Stanley College camp, the one nearest her house. Major Dubay assured her that her son must be alive, and informed her that she should contact Major James Thomas in whose area the arrest had taken place. However the mother’s efforts at getting more information were of no avail.
The mother mentioned this to a lady who used to go now and then to her house that was occupied by the army at the time, to retrieve some of her belongings. This lady promised to find out what she could. When this lady called, a soldier asked her to sit down and join him over a cup of tea as the soldiers there were being transferred to another area the following day. The lady sat down, and asked the soldier over tea about the boy, after describing the circumstances of the arrest. “Amma (Mother)”, replied the soldier, “I thought, this being our last day, we could chat pleasantly over a cup of tea before saying farewell. But you have raised a painful subject. “ He then looked out of the window for some time, his face assuming a grave appearance. Then turning he spoke decisively: “Amma, you must not look for the boy any more in this world. You can only ask God for him. “ The lady decided not to say anything to the boy’s mother.
The mother went from camp to camp for the next three months. Another lady volunteered to pursue the case. No help was forthcoming from the Kachcheri where names of those detained were said to be available from the Indian authorities. After dodging her for some time, an officer told her that a list of those arrested from 17 to 19 November was not available. She was asked to try the camp of the major concerned. The new Major who had taken the place of Major Thomas told her that the name was not there and that he did not know Major Thomas. The lady persisted: “When someone is arrested by the I.P.K.F., the I.P.K.F. is responsible. You are pushing us from one place to the other as if the matter was no one’s responsibility. If you are at least good enough to tell the mother that the loss of her son is permanent, she could start adjusting herself. But at present she is not going to work and is not looking after her health.” At length the message reached the mother that she need not look for her son any more.
Kokuvil Hindu College, which is enclosed to the west and the south by the K.K.S. and Thirunelvely Roads respectively, functioned as the major refugee centre in that populous suburb of Jaffna. (Please refer to the map of Kokuvil Hindu College at the back of this book). At the time Indian troops advancing southwards along the K.K.S.- Jaffna Road reached Kokuvil on 25 October, there were upwards of 5000 persons at Kokuvil Hindu College. The configuration is best described as a square with Thirunelvely Road on the southern side, K.K.S. Road on the western side, the one storey lower school building on the eastern side and two buildings that we shall call Building 1and Building 2 north of it (a 3storey building, its length pointing east-west.) To the north of Building 2 is the school’s playing field. In the middle of the square is a Hindu temple. The school entrance is located, with the office, at the southeast corner of the square. Thus troops going south towards Jaffna would have had to pass Kulapitty Junction, a T-junction, then pass Buildings 2 and 1, and then glance over their left shoulder to see the school entrance. The organisers of the camp felt that a sing at the entrance to indicate that the school was functioning as a refugee camp would suffice. They worked on the assumption that the Indians would at least be moderately concerned about civilian life and would anticipate schools and places of worship functioning as refugee camps. Even the Sri Lankan Army had explicitly anticipated this during the earlier Operation Liberation, despite some bad incidents. Also Kokuvil Hindu College was well known, and a Hindu temple was beside the school.
As one enter Kokuvil Hindu College, one gets under a porch in Building 1. To the right facing east is the school office which served as the medical post manned by St. John’s Ambulance volunteers. To the left is a classroom in Building 1 that served as the sick room. Next to this (the second room west of the porch) is the classroom we shall term Room 1.All remaining rooms in Buildings 1 and 2 except the top floors were crammed with refugees, except for tow upper rooms in Building 1 that were used as stores. As the Indian column drew nearer the top floors were avoided by the refugees because these had tilted roofs vulnerable to shells. Past experience with the Sri Lankan Army had left the impression that there is some advantage in having a concrete roof above. A classic instance is what happened in Ward 19/20 in Jaffna Hospital on 30 March,1987. A shell coming through the roof exploded on the upper floor killing 8, and then fell harmlessly into the children’s ward below.
On 25 October the rumble of chain vehicles moving towards Jaffna was heard close at hand. Mr.Balakrishnan Anandakrishnan, a young journalist and senior member of the Eelanadu editorial staff, was a St. John’s Ambulance volunteer playing a leading role in the camp administration. Around 2:00 p.m he put on his St.Joun’s Ambulance uniform and sat on the step of the school office in the porch. He asked other volunteers to do the same. His assumption was that the Indian Army would go by internationally recognized routines. On realising that this was a refugee camp, he expected that some officers would come to talk and check with them and then everything could be explained. This was an expectation people generally had of the Indian Army. But things seldom worked that way. One of the two factors which contributed to the events at Kokuvil Hindu was the Indian Army’s becoming rattled and angry by its unexpected losses. They had after all started the campaign as though it were a simple matter of sending 70 commandos to Pirambady Lane to take the L.T.T.E leader Prabhakaran and walk away. The other factor was the activity of the L.T.T.E in that area. The Indian column arrived with a fanfare of gunfire. We give the facts as can be best established and allow the reader to form his judgement.
As Anandakrishnan sat on the step awaiting the Indian officers, he was startled by a sudden blast. One of his friends exclaimed that blood was spurting out of his arm. They were for a while unaware of the full extent of what had happened. The time was then 2:30 p.m..One tank had gone past Buildings 2and 1,had turned its turret 120 degrees to the left and had fired a shell. Room 1described earlier, had a half wall facing the square. A large number of people had crowded at the wall to look at the Indian Army. They too thought some officers would come and their ordeal would end there. But instead they witnessed the turret of the tank turning to point in their direction, then heard the roar of a discharged shell barely 60 yards away, followed by a searing sensation dominating the last moments of their lives. The shell come at an angle, was deflected by a pillar in Room 1, smashed through the wall spraying shrapnel through the sick room and expended its force as it came through the wall into the porch.24 persons in Room 1 and a lady in the sick – room died instantly. Why did the Indians do that? Was anything done to provoke them at this time? The evidence given below strongly suggests that there was deliberate provocation some of the time in the days that followed. But whether there was any 2:30 p.m. on25 October, one may never know. However nothing can justify aiming a big gun and firing at the group of persons seen over the half wall 3.5 feet high. In the clear light of the afternoon, at a distance of less than 60 yards, the tank commander should have seen that they were unarmed men, women and children.
For the rest of the evening the refugees huddled inside their rooms while fighting went on outside. At 4:00 p.m. a landmine went off at Kulapitty Junction. The noise of firing was constant. Two other shells fell on the school buildings. One fell on the roof of Building 1 causing injuries to tow persons who were sheltering at the eastern end of the upper floor, away from K.K.S. Road. Another fell on Building 2 nearer the western end of the upper floor, at the top of the staircase. One shell smashed into the western wall of the school compound, which is separated from K.K.S Road, by about 30 yards of scrub – land. An old man who went in the night to relieve himself near the gap in the wall was found shot dead in the morning with a bullet through his mouth. That evening the camp organisers got the people to shout in unison that they were refugees in English and in Tamil. It is significant that after the first shell, though fighting was going on outside, shells were not fired at places where several thousands of refugees were concentrated. The targets were points where snipers could have been stationed. Was anyone firing at the Indians from any of the points on the 25th? None of the witnesses spoken to could say anything definite. They were huddled inside rooms preoccupied with the question of immediate survival, the survival of themselves and those near to them. Mr. RanjitKumar, one of the organisers said: “There were up to 7000 persons there. No one could control who came and who went.” No one took seriously the possibility that anyone could be irresponsible or malignant enough to act in such a way as to jeopardise 7000 refugees.
The spot that Indian officers kept pointing to during the subsequent days as a suspected sniper position is the western end of the upper floor (of the three storey) of Building 2, from where, looking over the parapet wall, the Indian position on K.K.S. Road becomes visible below to the south – west. It is also the highest vantage point in the whole school. One camp organiser was asked if any of the refugees saw what was going on at this spot pointed out by the Indians at 2:30 p.m. on the 25th. He replied: “No one was outside at this time. Everyone was hanging on to dear life inside the rooms. The only room from which spot is visible is Room 1, which was struck by a shell at 2:30p.m.. The persons who could have testified to what really happened are all dead.”
How about those on the second storey of Building 2? A number of them testified that they had heard at various times the sound of running feet on the top floor. They could not imagine why anyone should have been running about on that floor at that time. The top floors were regarded as uninhabited, because they were the most vulnerable to shelling.
The southern end of the Lower School building on the Thirunelvely Road too had been hit by a shell during the night and some were injured. On the 26th morning, an elderly man came to the entrance of the Lower School building and shouted that he was with some refugees and that they had some injured with them. A little later a party of soldiers arrived, led by a Colonel Mishra and a Captain Prakash. Anandakrishnan was amongst those who spoke to them. After the situation was explained to the army, Colonel Mishra exclaimed: “You have done everything possible to kill your own people. You should have put the refugee camp sign on K.K.S. Road.” Anandakrishnan said that they stated why they had thought that the precautions taken were adequate, but did not wish to get embroiled in an argument because they were afraid. He asked whether he had heard them shout that this was a refugee camp the previous evening. The Colonel replied that he had heard them. But the army had thought that the school was an L.T.T.E. camp and suspected a trick!
According to those who were at the camp, the army’s initial approach was calculatingly harsh. For tow days no food was given to the refugees. On the third day, Captain Prakash had gone and inquired about the tall contraption on wheels that was parked between the school entrance and the temple. The camp organizers explained that it was called a ‘ther’, a chariot or cart in which the god was taken around the temple at festivals. The chamber of the chariot was about one storey high and the sides of the chamber had a removable covering. The chariot was parked next to a structure consisting only of a built flight of steps. These stairs would give one access to the chariot. Suspecting that a sniper could come from the eastern side and get into the chamber unseen by the army which. Was on K.K.S Road to the west, the captain told them:“ you remove the cover in two hours and I will give you food. If not I will destroy the chariot with my cannon. “The refugees did quickly as required. Later some L.T.T.E men came into Kokuvil Hindu College and wanted to know who wanted the covering removed from the chariot’s chamber. Seeing them, the refugees screamed:“ Iyo, we are poor refugees. We cannot fight. We do not want to fight. You are going to get us all killed. Please go away.”
A system was established by which the camp organisers could go up to K.K.S Road and have the officers summoned for purposes of communication. From 3 November, the camp started receiving regular supplies of food and medicine from the Indian Red Cross. The services of Dr. Shanmugalingam who was recently transferred to Jaffna, proved crucial. There was no question of anaesthesia. In a typical job, a person whose flesh on the leg was badly severed by flying shrapnel, was asked to lie on the table and withstand a few moments of sharp pain. Hydrogen peroxide was poured onto the wound. Followed by a quick cleanup and a few deft strokes with the surgical needle. And the job was done. After being treated at Jaffna Hospital later in November, the patient recovered completely.
Up to 2 November people were able to jump over the eastern wall of the college and go nearby houses through the lanes for a quick bath and a meal. Many refugees also transferred to Mathana Kovill in the interior, which had over 1000 refugees. On 2 November, the Indian Army started moving through the lanes and two persons leaving the college were shot dead. From then on, until just before the curfew was lifted and the camp broke up on 19 November, people were strictly confined to the camp.
From the time the Indian Army arrived there was almost daily firing by the Indian Army with small arms towards the top portions of the school buildings .on 2 November, Mr. Thayalaratnam had a ricocheting bullet going through his jaw and injuring another person as well. When questioned by the camp organizers, colonel Govind said: “Someone is firing at us from the point we told about in the school. I am trained to tell where the firing comes from. We know the difference in sound between our S.L.R‘s and the AK47’s.You go there, and you will find some empty cartridges. You bring them to us.” The organisers did not take this seriously and no one went to look. Nor did the army ever enter the refugee camp.
After the camp broke up, one of the organisers went to the top floor of the Building 2 to have a look. He came down and called a friend.“come”, he told his friend, “Iwant to show you something,” and took him up. They found there a small quantity of empty cartridges and a bullet which had not been fired.
Once a group of prominent persons in the camp were taken to meet Colonel Govind while the camp was functioning. They were introduced by their professions – doctor ---, engineer---, etc. After listening the colonel said looking at each in turn: “I see, you are a doctor, you are an engineer - - - , So you think I am a fool who has been sent here to rule over you. Now you are all refugees. What do you want? You want food. All right, I will give you food” Another time, on learning that Anandkrishnan was a Journalist, a captain had told him “you are a journalist? You should be able to tell me were the Tigers are.” Anandakrishnan replied: “ yes, it is true that I do write. I get a good deal of my information from magazines, especially Indian magazines.” The captain replied: “You runt. You are talking too much. I would shoot you. Only I think it was seriously meant. Still it was unnerving. It was apparent that the army was under orders to be harsh. As weeks went by, the attitude changed. Colonel Govind called on one of the champ’s former inmates at home saying, “I hope you understand that we had to be harsh earlier. We could not trust anybody. Now we are friends. We know you are not L.T.T.E. How are you getting on?”
Mr. sivarajah who was an inmate of the camp had this to say later: “we had problems of readjustment on leaving the camp. In some ways we wanted to stay on. We were reduced to vagrants whose needs were next to nothing. Our lavatory was the muddy playing field under the open sky.”
Ten babies were born in the camp, all of whom survived. Five elderly persons died of diarrhoea. All the dead were buried in two trenches along the eastern wall of the playground. Cremation was disallowed. The 25 persons who died of shelling on 25 October were buried only on the 27th, the volunteers having been too weary to dig on the 26th. The camp closed on 19 November. On that day, up to ten bodies were found in the lanes outside and were cremated. As in many other refugee camps, hunger and fear had been endemic, the former usually overcoming the latter. Several took their children and fled the camp in desperation, preferring the risk of being fired upon Indian patrols. To the starvation at the camp.
3.8 Chundikuli – Jaffna
Shelling commenced in Jaffna Town on 10 October and was accompanied by a steady mounting of casualties. On 13th October for Some unknown reason, the Muslim Shanty village at Pommai Veli was bombed. Finding it hard to believe that Indians would do anything really cruel, the exodus was not sudden. By the 20th, many of the residents in town and near main street had moved over to Nallur and Chundikuli or into refugee camps at St. Patrick’s college, Our lady of Refugee ( O.L.R) Church, Convent Girls’ School, Chundudikuli Girls’ College, john Bosco School and St. John’s College, ( please refer to the maps of Jaffna town and Chundikuli in the Appendix). The Jaffna Kachcheri at Chundikuli had been the seat of administration in Jaffna from British colonial times. The Residency and Old Park, where the Government Agent (the equivalent of the Indian Collector) normally resides had now become a symbol of L.T.T.E. domination. The L.T.T.E. had used Old Park as both training ground and a shop window for potential recruits. Thus the Kachcheri was likely to be an early target for advancing Indian forces. On the fringes of Old Park were Chundikuli Girl’s College, St. John’s College and Jaffna’s choice residential area.
By 20 October, the Indian Army had fought its way to the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission on Kandy Road, three quarters of a mile from the Kachcheri. Late in the same evening, Chundikuli was subject to a heavy barrage of shelling. Amongst those killed by shelling were: 1. Mrs. Thambirajah, a grandmother from Canon Somasundaram Avenue 2. Miss. Antonipillai, a Professional nursery teacher and 3. A refugee from 3rdCross Street who died at Schwartz Lane. Another lady was killed by a shell blast as she opened her door. While most of the shells were small artillery shells, the one that fell against a classroom at Chundikuli Girls’ College around 7.30 p.mwa s a heavy shell. The school was packed with refugees. The shell blast killed six and injured about 20Amongst those killed were S.N. Kandaih a 70 year Old Justice of Peace, a retired school principal of Kachcheri east lane and his 46 year old son N.K Dharmalingam who was a senior teacher at Stanley college and both, the daughter and granddaughter of a Mrs. Rajaratnam.
St. John’s College too suffered extensive shell damage on the same night though there were no human casualties. Standing amongst shell gravestones and fallen statues of angels inside St. John Church graveyard, one could count at least 5 shell holes on the roof of the school. Many left these refugee camps in a panic after the shelling. On the 21st all was pandemonium at Chundikuli. People wanted to know whether they were to stay on at the camp. If not. They wanted to know if there was transport to take them and where they should go- to Nallur, Chavakacheri, Colombo and so on. Many did however remain behind. According to a lady resident in that area, the 21st was the last time L.T.T.E. was seen at the Kachcheri.
At this time things were moving so fast that people hardly knew what was going on a mere five furlongs away. The news of what happened at Chundikuli GirlsCollege filtered through to St. James’ Church refugee camp in Nallur, two miles away. Lal Samuel, a well built lad and Sportsman from the senior forms at St. John’s College got on to his bicycle and went towards Chundikuli Girl’s College to find out what had happened, without telling anyone. From Nallur he went through Mampalachanthi Road and Ariyalai. He did not know that the Indian Army had Ariyalai under its control. At Punkankulam, Lal was Stopped by some Tamil Speaking soldiers who asked him: “Brother, where are you going? The soldiers seemed fairly relaxed at that time. They took him into the camp and appeared to believe his explanation. He was then asked to return to Nallur promptly. It was often through such occurrences that people had some idea of what was going on.
At 11.00 a.m. on the 21st, Jaffna Town camp under shell fire, and the Indian Army was making an attempt to take over the town and the hospital. The events at the hospital are described in a separate section next. That afternoon shells fell on the Navalar Hall refugee camp on Navalar Road and on the St. Patrick’s College refugee camp. The first claimed 4 dead. Amongst those injured by the shell falling on the St. Patrick’s refugee camp (the old building) at 3.00 p.m., were Vijayanthi and Shamala Bastianpillai. They had come there with their parents, thinking that it was better to be in a camp than that home when Indian troops arrive. The two girls were dispatched to Jaffna Hospital in a van bearing a white flag, together with other wounded. A teacher who was at St. Patrick’s refugee camp at that time said that he was told that six had died of shelling. He had actually seen three bodies placed on the doorstep of the cathedral, one of which was that of the boy Joseph Napoleon. Another boy, Joseph Mervyn, was at St. Patrick’s when he heard that a sell had fallen on his house adjoining the school and that a sister of his was badly hurt. He rushed home against the advice of others who asked him to wait awhile as other shells were likely to land on the same spot. When Mervyn got home a second shell fell causing Mervyn and another sister light injuries. A second van driven by a volunteer driver,
Victor, set off for the hospital 5 minutes after the first van, carrying Mervyn, his two sisters and seven other injured. It was later reported that the first returned safely, but all the passengers in Victor’s van were killed and the van burnt. Victor had knowingly taken the risk of being the good Samaritan. Vijayanthi Bastianpillai died of her injuries shortly after admission. Jaffna Hospital was taken over by the Indians on the 21st evening at tragic cost, Mr. and Mrs. Bastianpillai who went to the hospital at 6.00 a.m. on the 22nd not knowing the situation there, did not return. Their son discovered their bicycle on the hospital premises a week later, with a bullet mark on the handle.
Amongst those killed outside the hospital on 21 October, was Mr. George, the popular mechanic from Kerala who had made Jaffna his home.
The Indian Army under Majors Sugumar and Gopalan arrived at Chundikuli Girls’ College, and St. John’s College in the early hours of the 22ndmorning. According to those who were at Chundikuli Girls’ College, Major Sugumar and party had been surprised at finding the premises full of ladies and children and had stood by until they woke up. They were later escorted around the school by the authorities. Sugumar and Gopalan later told local residents that they had come expecting to find L.T.T.E. comes and not refugees. They says something about the quality of intelligence built up by the I.P.K.F. during the two months it was in Jaffna before the October offensive. Some elemental contact with the civilian population during those two months would have prevented this tragedy.
Many Chundikuli residents tend to believe Sugumar and Gopalan and deduce as a result that some deliberate and sinister misinformation had been fed. They point to the fact that senior boys at St. John’s College had been lukewarm, if not hostile towards the L.T.T.E following the murder of its principal in 1985. It must also be kept in mind that many of the well known refugee camps around Jaffna had been shelled – these include among others, Navalar Mandapam, John Bosco and St. Patrick’s. Whether there is anything more to this is a matter of remote speculation. There are one or two straws in the wind. The L.T.T.E. showed no apparent interest in wanting to minimize civilian casualties. Many incidents quoted indicate this. In one instance, a Captain Venugopal claimed that when he was called upon to defuse an unexploded shell in a prominent person’s house, he had pointed out to the person that the shell was not one of any kind used by the Indian Army. Given the circumstances we can only that Captain Venugopal’s word for it. We may mention that Captain Vanugopal said this in the way of asking us not to assume that every shell fired was of Indian origin. He himself treated this as an isolated instance.
On the 21st night again, the Chundikuli area was subject to heavy shelling. For this reason several Chundikuli residents attempted to flee towards Nallur early on the 22nd morning. Several of them ran into Indian troops who had just come to Kachcheri. Some of them were shot dead. Those killed included: 1. James Kanapathipillai, a 49 year old Co – operative Stores employee 2. Mr. Alexander a former Air Ceylon employee and 3. Two cooks working for the Old Park Road Chinese Restaurant who had left for the Stanley College refugee camp on a motor cycle. Mr.A. Gnanamanikam Jayanthan, a commercial sector employee from Kachcheri Lane, was shot and wounded as he attempted to leave his house with his sister.
Mr. Leslie Samuel an octogenarian, was shot and wounded, as he cycled up PerinpanyagamLane towards Kandy Road, when his body was discovered the following day. It was surmised that he had died of bleeding several hours after his being shot and that he had been shot by the soldiers from near the Kachcheri as he crossed Kachcheri East Lane. The theme of his life had been faith in God and service to those around him. He had narrowly escaped death during the race riots of 1958,1977 and 1983, and had refused to support the militants on the grounds that God had protected him because he had not resorted to violence. In Jaffna, he had gone about giving free tuition classes in physics to those who could not afford it. All his spare time was spent helping those who needed it. He had many friends among children, some of whom he coached and even accompanied to school. When trouble broke out on 10 October, he went about buying things for people who were not well equipped to go through these troubles. At the time he was shot he was involved in a mission that he had voluntarily undertaken.
On the afternoon of 21 October, the residents of Hospital Road were alarmed by the noise of shooting near the hospital. Not knowing what was going on, one resident cautiously went up to his entrance and into Hospital Road. This was around 4:00 p.m.. He saw a line of soldiers crossing the road and running into the building housing the Out- Patients’ Department (O.P.D.).The noise of shooting could still be heard. An office was seen observing what was going on while standing near C.L.S. Book Shop. The pistol at his hip suggested that he held the rank of colonel or above.(Filed officers up to the rank of major would carry sub- machine guns as personal weapons). The manner in which the officer was standing also suggested that there as no fire directed from inside the hospital at the army at this time. The resident quickly went back to his house.
The Rev. Govindarajan of St.Peter’s Methodist Church and his family had moved to Vembasthan, on Hospital Road after Lockwood House had been shelled by the Sri Lankan Army in 1986.At.6.00 a.m on the 22nd morning he saw soldiers, some lying down and some standing, on both sides of Hospital Road, with guns at the ready. Two soldiers were at his gate pointing their guns inside. He thought that the wisest thing was to play it cool and surrender to the army. His family went forward with Rev. Govindarajan having his hands up and his wife carrying the baby. One soldier raised his gun as if to fire. But the other motioned him to stop. On their reaching the road, other soldiers came up to them. Then they were rudely spoken to and buffeted. Since the soldiers understood no Tamil and just a little English, he could hardly communicate, any explanation to them. A few yards away he observed that the men from the Bhai Muslim community, his neighbours were also being questioned on Hospital Road. Since some of the soldiers were Punjabi speaking, the Bhais were able to get their explanation across. Then the Govindarajan family with the group of Muslim men were taken to the mosque.
Early in the morning the residents had heard passers by on Hospital Road being shot. Those who were questioned from Hospital Road had noticed to the west of them near the hospital entrance, an Austin 30 car. And just beyond the Mahathma Gandhi statue at the Hospital Road – Clock Tower Road Junction, a van was parked with dead bodies inside. They had surmised that the occupants were dead from the fact that the crows were pecking at them. We may take this in probability to be the second van that had left St. Patrick’s refugee camp with the wounded the previous day. The Austin 30 would have been the car that belonged to Sir Vaithilingam Duraisamy’s sons Rajendra and Mahendra who were later killed inside the hospital. There had also been seen at least five bodies and bicycles lying on the road. At this point the army had not gone to that part of Hospital Road to the east of Point Pedro Road Junction. One may surmise that Mr. and Mrs. Bastianpillai had been killed by soldiers standing on Hospital Road, and their bicycles would later have been thrown into the hospital premises while their bodies were being burnt. All accounts by civilians agree that there was absolutely no resistance in the whole area, from 4:00p.m on the 21st evening. On the 22nd morning as in the hospital previously, the army was shooting even elderly civilians on Hospital Road as though there was an armed enemy everywhere. On the evidence of the survivors inside the hospital, the first time an officer of any rank came into the hospital to survey the conditions there was when Captain Dr. Siddath Day arrived sometime on the 22nd morning. One gathers that the remaining officers were quartered in the buildings near C.L.S. Book Shop facing the hospital while the killing was going around them. Especially when middle-class people talk to officers, they come away with the impression that the officers are decent and cannot help the Jawans being brutes. On the available evidence this seems to be an instance where the officers knew what was going on around and did nothing to stop it, perhaps out of fear or indifference.
At 10 o’ clock in the morning that day, the 22nd,an officer came to inform those who were at the Mosque that Dr. Sabaratnam;s sister- in-law who lived next to Vembasthan had been shot dead. Perhaps fearing that there may be more such innocent people who would be killed when the army searched the houses, a Major Gupta and an elderly Captain asked the Rev. Govindarajan to accompany them to call out people who may be inside their houses. This was done and some of the neighbours came to stay in the mosque. On the previous day, the 21st two Muslim lads had died when a shell exploded in front of the mosque.
On the 22nd morning, a Colonel Brah who came to the mosque recognized Govindarajan whom he had come to know after the peace accord. He then brought some other officers and introduced them to Rev. Givindarajan. Amongst them were Colonel Chatterjee who had joined the army as a contemporary of Brah’s and Major Govind Singh. That afternoon, on explaining to the officers that they had come without any food or belongings, some of the local residents were allowed to go home under army escort. While Rev. Govindarajan was inside his house, a soldier came to tell him that he was being summoned by the son of the dead lady next door. When Rev. Govindarajan went out he was suddenly pushed back several feet by a hefty soldier in a threatening manner. He noticed though the compound signalled the soldier to stop. But there was no apology. After getting some clothes and food items for the children, Rev. Govindarajan met a group of people in the compound. This group included a tall spectacled Major with a sharp nose and a short officer from Tamil Nadu. Thinking that the Tamil officer would be sympathetic, he told him that the people had been summarily taken out of their houses and many of them were likely to find valuables such as wristwatches missing after the soldiers had searched their houses, as he himself did. The officer gave him the standard line – that their men would not do such things. The matter ended there. Govindarajan then told the Tamil officer and the tall major that he was personally aware of many civilians staying in their houses east of Point Pedro Road and, if given a chance, he could go and talk to them and come to some arrangement that would be convenient to both themselves and the army. This idea had occurred to him when he went about that morning with the army, summoning people. This was dismissed by the officers who told him that the army knew how to take care of the situation. On the 22nd a unit was camped at Vembadi Girl’s High school, under the command of Major Bhatt.
Early on the 23rd morning troops appeared in areas around Our Lady of Refuge (O.L.R) church, east of Point Pedro Road, and ordered the residents, many of whom were in their night clothes, to go to the O.L.R church immediately. They were refused permission to pick up anything. The Rev. Paul Raj of St. Peter’s Lane said that he was even refused permission to put on a shirt. These soldiers might have come either from the hospital area or from the railway station. The latter had been occupied on the 22nd evening. The army searched the houses after the residents had left. Later that morning when the people complained to the army at the O.L.R Church that they had none of their necessities with them, they were given a few minutes to go home fetch some essentials. Dharaka Thambiah was an accountant from Lanka Cement Ltd. Who was amongst those who had left their houses at St. Peter’s Lane for O.L.R.Church, which faced the lane. Thinking that her jewel box containing rupees 2 lakhs worth of jewels was hidden in a safe place, she had initially joined those who went home to collect their essentials and valuables. One of her neighbours, a lady, who returned to the O.L.R. camp exclaimed that cash amounting to Rs. 70,000 which she had left in her home for the purchase of tickets to enable the family to emigrate to Canada, had been stolen by soldiers who searched their premises. Hearing this Dharaka left for her home. Later, it was discovered that she had not returned to the camp. Then Mrs. Blanchard, her neighbour and friend, left with the Rev. Fr. Phillip Ponniah, the clergyman in charge of O.L.R. Church, to look for her. While old Fr. Ponniah Stood at the top of St.Peter’s Lane on Hospital Road holding a white flag, Mrs. Blanchard went in calling Dharaka. Dharaka’s body was discovered lying near the well at the back of her house with bullet wounds on her head. Her jewellery box was missing. As some Indian officers had said earlier, they indeed know how to handle the situation! When this incident was put to an officer two months later, he replied that only officers were allowed to enter houses and that when he was in charge he had seen to it that this rule was observed. True perhaps, but it is well known to the civilians that this was very often not the case,
Information available in Nallur on the 22ndmorning had it that the Indian Army had advanced up Kandy Road no further than the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission at the time. Since there was a lull in the shelling, a young engineer from Nallur decided to go to Canon Somasundaram Lane, Chundikuli, to check on his sickly aunt and elderly uncle, among others. As soon as he crossed the railway track at Canon Somasundaram Avenue, he was stopped by an Indian soldier at top of a Private by-lane running west vb .This soldier was standing inside the lane. One soldier, wounded in the arm, was squatting on the ground and writhing in pain. Another soldier who was standing bared his teeth and made threatening gestures. The wounded man was very conciliatory and indicated that he wanted no harm to come to this engineer. Another soldier came and whispered to the engineer to talk to the officer and that everything would then be all right. A message was sent and the officer came out the house. The officer’s hand had been grazed by bullet and his mood was not convivial. He pointed to the wounded soldier and to his injury and said: “We have suffered because of your ----- ( expletive removed) country.“The engineer replied that he was sorry about the injured and added that he did not like to see anyone shot. He then explained his purpose in coming down the lane. After a body search, the engineer was asked to leave his bicycle and run. He later returned with his uncle who was once a guest of the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to find that his bicycle remained where he had left it while the soldiers had disappeared. He promptly hooked it back to Nallur. He surmised that either the army had gone towards the rail way station parallel to the tracks by jumping over walls thus avoiding exposure on the tracks or had returned towards the Kachcheri. The army had made a rapid advance on the 22nd all the way from the Pentecostal Mission, by advancing perhaps both along Kandy Road and along the railway line. It was also clear that the L.T.T.E. had resisted them on the 22nd. One also gathers that the railway station was a rendezvous for the various Indian columns advancing into Jaffna.
August 1987 saw the ending, albeit temporarily, of a trainless two years. During the course of the year up to then, the railway station had functioned as a refugee camp. This was when the residents of Gurunagar and Small Bazaar (Chinnakadai) moved into the railway station, unable to bear the Sri Lankan shelling; the concrete walls and the underground tunnel of the station provided shelter from shelling. These people were generally poor. When the Indians started shelling on 10 October after ten weeks of peace and caused casualties near St. James’ Church, Main Street, it was natural that these People would move back to the railway station. Mr. Selvam, a carpenter living on Hospital Road had gone with his family to join the refugees at the railway station on the morning of 22 October. At 2.00 p.m the L.T.T.E. arrived at the station with their arms, walking along Station Road. The L.T.T.E. was apparently withdrawing from an area bounded by the lagoon to the south, Hospital Road to the north, Central College to the west and St.John’s College to the east. This area was being closed – in on fast by the I.P.K.F..There were at this time over 600 refugees at the station. On seeing the L.T.T.E. the refugees protested in horror about the danger being caused to women and children. The L.T.T.E. men replied: “We are going to die and you want to save yourselves.” Others at the station felt that it was pointless to talk back and people slowly started leaving the station. Shortly afterwards a land mine explosion was heard at the point where the railway track meets Point Pedro Road. An exchange of fire by the L.P.K.F. and the L.T.T.E. was accompanied by shelling of the station. George, a schoolboy who was at the station, noticed that the L.T.T.E cadre, using the cover available at the station which included parked wagons, were exchanging fire with Indian troops who were near the railway crossing on Point Pedro Road. One shell came sideways into the ticket office killing a mother and daughter. Mr. Selvam was shocked as he had just removed a child of his from the room. He noticed that one shell had fallen on the opening to the underground passage crossing the tracks. He later learnt from others that there may have been up to 15 casualties there – the underground being the place where people normally sheltered.
Mr. Thamotheram and Mr. Haran Snell, his nephew, who lived just behind the station, looked over the wall and saw a lady in blue sari looking at the leg wound of a man dressed in brown trousers. They had their dog whit them. A shell burst on Platform No. 1 of the railway station and Mr. Thamotheram ducked. When they looked over again, the lady was bleeding profusely from the stomach. The man was bending over her crying: “Darling, my darling.”They could see about five bodies from where they were. Mr. Selvam said that they could not leave while the shelling was on. When the shelling finally stopped at 5.00 p.m., everyone went away, leaving behind many of their belongings. Mr. Selvam took his family home, carrying his son all the way. George saw the L.T.T.E. going out through Stanley Road. Mrs. Selvam later remarked: “see these boys. They started with the intention of protecting us… To think of what they told us at the station…” The family later went to Holy Family Convent down Main Street.
Mr. and Mrs. Moothathamby Samuel, distinct from the Leslie Samuel referred to earlier, lived at the back of the railway station on Stanley Road opposite the goods shed. Mr. Samuel is a retired senior public servant aged 69, who served on the Gal Oya Development Board and the Industrial Development Board. On the 21st that area was subject to heavy shelling. Three shells hit the Samuels’ house. But they stayed on. His own words:
“There was a lull on the 22ndmorning. But heavy shelling commenced in the afternoon. We knew there were refugees at the station and we too went there for safety, via the goods shed, at 3.30 p.m. All of a sudden we were under fire from Indian troops advancing from Point Pedro Road in to the station along the tracks. They fired mercilessly at everything. The refugees screamed and scattered in fear. I must have seen about 30 to 40 dead bodies lying all over the place – on the platform, near the tunnel, simply everywhere. Two bullets whizzed past on either side of my head. My wife was hit in the stomach and was bleeding profusely. There was no hospital, no help and little hope. I too was hit in the leg. Mercifully the shooting stopped. Perhaps, it was God’s grace. It was not long before my wife was gone. It was getting dark. I went home, took bicycle and cycled along Rakka Road to the Convent near John Bosco School where the sisters were known to us. They tried to help me fetch my wife’s body. But we could not, that night, I stayed near them until 12 December when I had recovered from my wound.”
Mr. Samuel had been unaware of the L.T.T.E.’s presence at station. If the Indian Army had some concern for civilian life these deaths of refugees could have been avoided. They could have, at no cost to themselves, used those like Rev. Govindarajan who had volunteered to go out and talk to the people. It true these officers where nervous. But they lacked the humility to admit their short – comings and were unwilling to learn. Undoubtedly, the L.T.T.E. is much to blame for these deaths. It once again demonstrated its absence of concern for civilian life. One may never know exactly how many died at the railway station. The I.P.K.F. burnt the bodies on the 24th. A Brigadier said later that four soldiers died when a land – mine exploded at the junction of Hospital Road and Station Road. Mr. Gunaratnam, who lived behind the station said that firing went on for a good part of the 23rd night. All was quiet in the morning. Some refugees came to fetch their things and went away fast. The army took over the station later that morning, about 10.00 a.m. Mr. Gunaratnam who is a retired teacher working for world vision, said:
“The troops were generally harsh soon after a battle. That is why those along Hospital Road and St. Peters Lane had a bad time the 23rd. Major Yadhev who came to may house on the 23rd said:
“Why are you here? Someone else coming here may have shot you without asking questions. I am sorry to say we have shot many innocent people who were in their homes and had looked out. The only way we had of distinguishing civilians from the L.T.T.E. was that the civilians were supposed to be in camps.” “He allowed us to stay in the neighbouring house after warning us not to try anything funny. As the days wore on, he and his men became less suspicious and more friendly. One Jawan who could speak some English used to come and say that he felt deeply sorry for us in his heart and inquired how we were. Much later I met a Rajput soldier who told us that he had taken part in the capture of Jaffna Town. I asked him why they did things like what was done at the hospital. His reply was that they had no way of distinguishing between civilians and the L.T.T.E.”
On the morning of the 23rd, a young boy went to the station to look for his grandmother who had been, unknown to him, killed the previous day. As he jumped over the wall onto the car parked in front of the station, he was shot dead. Later on the 23rd morning the Rev. Govindarajan got some officers to escort him to the O.L.R. camp in order that Dr. Sabaratnam could be informed about his sister – in – law’s death and to receive instructions about her last rites, the dead lady’s son being too young. At the O.L.R. camp he learnt about his parishioner Dharaka Thambiah’s death and about the bad food situation there. The Rev. Fr. Phillip Ponniah kept those in need going on rice porridge. On instruction from Dr. Sabaratnam, Govindarajan got back and cremated his sister – in- law’s body. Brigadier Manjit Singh, the Brigade Commander for that area, had begun appearing on the scene shortly after the army’s advance into town.
On the 23rd morning, Mr. Leslie Samuel’s body in Perinpanayagam Lane was discovered by Mr. Rajaratnam, a retired teacher, who was returning home after taking refuge in the Pentecostal Mission. He promptly got onto his bicycle and went to St. John’s College via Rakka Road, Temple Road and Main Street, in order to inform another neighbour, the Rev. Soori Williams, a close friend of Mr. Samuel’s.In doing this he was retracing a part of the fateful path taken by Mr. Samuel, oblivious of the real danger involved, as he later found out.Had he been shot,many people, not least the Indian Army, would have said that he had acted foolishly. Why did many feel at that time an urge to run up and see to things like how friends or relatives were faring and whether they were all right for food? Having come out of St. Patrick’s Road, why had it not occurred to Victor to turn right and go towards Holy Cross Nursing Home which was safe instead of turning left and taking his van full of injured towards Jaffna Hospital and death? Well, this was how people behaved on the spur of the moment. Persons who were not ordinarily seekers of heroism, performed acts of extraordinary daring at that time. Seldom do history books talk about them.
When Mr. Rajaratnam reached St. John’s and contacted the Rev. Williams, they were told by Major Gopalan that they could leave their bicycles and go anywhere on foot,as the army was under orders to shoot persons on bicycles. They walked to Mrs.Perinpanayagam’s on Station Avenue where Mr. Samuel had lived, and returned to St.John’s with Mr. Haran Snell, and Mr.Gunaratam, fetching the Rev. Fr. Sarvanandan, the Vicar of St. John’s Church, on the way. Major Gopalan asked them to fetch the body after speaking by radio to the army at the Kachcheri. The body was carried by the four of them on a makeshift stretcher made by Mr. Rajaratnam. Major Gopalan’scommunication did not prevent the army at the Kachcheri from firing at them as they came up Canon Somasundaram Avenue and turned into Kandy Road towardMain Street. Mr. Samuel was buried at St. John’s. As Snell and Gunaratnam returned home, via Main Street, Convent Road and Hospital Road, the only place where they spotted the army was on Martyn Road, behind the Holy Family convent. They were not stopped.
When the Rev.fr. Jeyachandran of St. Mary’s church, Kopay, arrived in Jaffna with his family and an elderly lady, half an hour behind the former party, and attempted to enter Kandy Road from Canon Somasundaram Avenue, soldiers from the Kachcheri opened fire hitting the old lady in the leg. They then went by a different route to the Roman Catholic Ashram on Temple Road. After a temporary dressing, Jeyachandan took the old lady to Holy Cross Nursing Home on a borrowed motorcycle via Main Street and Beach Road. In the early hours of the 23rdmorning the army had quietly appeared at St. Patrick’s College. After asking the refugees to vacate one building the army stayed there during the day, cooked, played football and chatted to the refugees. The refugees were asked what they needed and some medicines were given. The army quietly vanished during the night.
On the 24th the Rev. Govindarajan was unable to obtain permission to perform the last rites for Dharaka Thambiah. But on appealing about the food situation at O.L.R. Church, he was escorted there by a party led byMajor GovindSingh. It was 5.30 p.m. when they reached there and the people were afraid what happened to Dharaka. The people were told that the army would stand there for their security and those who lived nearby could fetch whatever stores they had to share with others. They were given 15 minutes to do this as it was getting dark.
On the 25th morning Govindarajan was given permission to go to O.L.R. Church and was given permission to go to O.L.R. Church and was sent with a Madrasi soldier to perform the last rites on Dharaka and another, after which Govindarajan was informed that a wounded man was seen lying at the junction of Hospital Road and Station Road. The Madrasi soldier volunteered to go with Govindarajan and have a look. They unexpectedly found him alive. He was carried and put into a truck to be taken to hospital. If anyone in the Indian Army was to be given a medal for taking even a slight risk for saving life, it should have been this Madras Soldier. There were apparently no such medals. (Brigadier Manjit Singh was the recipient of a medal on Republics Day, 26 Jan.1988)
By then the worst was over. The hospital affair described in the next section would continue to be a sore point with the officers concerned. Their typical opening gambit in tackling the subject would be: “I say, the L.T.T.E. is terrible. They killed forty people inside the hospital and ran away in order to put blame on the Indian Army.” They would yet recite poems from Tagore about truth and beauty with charm and conviction which Tagore himself would have admired. Tagore, by the way, in person recited his poems for Jaffna’s School children while he was a guest at the Residency 54 years earlier. Principals brought their children from far afield to hear the great man.
A few more incidents are perhaps worth mentioning for the record. On 25 October some Indian officers came to the O.L.R. camp and started questioning the people about how they felt. One pastor complained bitterly about the Indian Army’s conduct. The officer who was recording the conversation expressed surprise and asked: “Would you rather then have the L.T.T.E back?” The pastor replied: “The L.T.T.E. did nothing to me. I was allowed to live in peace. The L.T.T.E. did not take a cent from me, did not make me miss a meal, not did they even pull me out of my house without giving me a chance to even put on my shirt and keep me cold and starving for 48 hours. If you had at least allowed me go and stay at home, I would not have starved. You call yourself a peace keeping force and you have been creating the opposite of peace. “The officer becoming visibly upset asked: “How do you then expect us to tackle the L.T.T.E.?” the pastor replied: “ You took it on yourselves. That is not my problem. But this is not how civilians should have been treated.” The officer promised that he would not leave until he got them some food. Some food items arrived in response to a radio message. These included things like butter and cheese which are thought to have been raided from shops in town. (On available information looting is thought to have been done by all parties, the L.T.T.E., the Indian Army and sections of the civilian population). The pastor was later asked whether that was his real feeling about the militants (4 of his churchmen were killed by unknown persons 7 weeks earlier in Uduvil). He smiled without replying.
A Bank Manager’s wife had once been allowed home from the Mosque refugee camp to do some cooking, when Brigadier Manjit Singh walked in. She casually told him that she was taking some dhal 1 curry for the Captain in the Mosque. The Brigadier got the Captain on the radio and told him off in strong language. The lady intervened saying that it was she who had made the offer. The Brigadier replied that he did not want his men to take anything from civilians. (Others were later puzzled that an army which assiduously objected to dhal curry freely offered, should pay so little attention to the point of covering up, when faced with reports of serious theft by its personnel). The Captain, who was quite friendly, told the lady later: “Do not tell that man things like that. He would kill me.”
A consultant at Jaffna Hospital said that on his was to the hospital on 20 October, he had seen a pile of about 15 charred skeletons.
In early November the Indian Army came to an upstair house in Canon Somasundaram Avenue, which the L.T.T.E. had used as a camp, and discovered a large quantity of arms hidden there. It was thought that sections of the L.T.T.E. which were withdrawing from the outskirts had buried their arms in various camps and empty compounds. An officer summoned the front door neighbour and asked him why he had not reported the existence of the arms to the I.P.K.F. This man replied: “I knew the militants were staying there and used to come and go in the nights. But I was not in the habit of going to my gate and peeping at what they were taking from and bringing into the camp.” The officer said: “Then you could have told us about the camp.” To this the man said: “there was a full day curfew on. If I had come to tell you anything, you would have shot me dead.” “That is true,” confessed the officer. Then stopping an old man coming along the road, he said, “You must tell us where to find the L.T.T.E. “The old man replied: “I have no dealings with the L.T.T.E. and know next to nothing about them. But since you trained them, you should know them well and should know better than anyone else where to find them.” The officer agreed again.
The threatening attitude towards civilians was kept up. A top military official, after saying that shelling may have to be resorted to if the present situation continued, talked loosely about having civilian vigilantes in every lane who would go to an army sentry if they saw anything. After pointing out the impracticality of anyone approaching an army sentry during night curfew, the official was asked if they would arm the vigilantes. The subject was dropped.
On 4 January 1988 a Brigadier was to address public meeting at the railway station in the afternoon. On seeing very few people there, the army went out and called people out of houses. Travelers on the Hospital Road were also diverted to the station, including travelers in long distance buses from Vavuniya and Mullaitivu. The memorable part of speech was when the audience was told that their houses would be flattened if anyone fired from them, as if people had control over such things. The audience was then served tea and dismissed.
Thevu, then a boy of twelve, was a refugee at the Jaffna Railway Station, when both his parents were killed during the shelling there. Now, two years later, he works as a farm hand dealing with a variety of animals. He maintains a pleasant and shy disposition and never talks about that awful day. He talks to the animals and thinks that they speak back to him. He laughs with them, enjoying a private joke when humans are not nearby. A lady who lovingly looks after Thevu says that he is sometimes visibly troubled in his dreams.
3.9 Jaffna Hospital
An attempt by the Indian Army to capture Jaffna Town had been expected for a few days. For this reason many members of the staff had kept away. Others thought the Indian Army would be considerate and stayed on performing necessary functions. Many injured by shelling and many of those wounded kept on arriving at the hospital. Medicines were on short supply, making surgery difficult. Over 70 dead bodies were said to be piled up in the Mortuary. A false sense of security prevailed because the intensity of shelling had been noticeably reduced after a telephone call made from the G.A.’s office to the Indian Embassy by leading citizens in Jaffna. They telephoned on 13 October complaining about the shelling and aerial bombing. According to these sources the Indian Embassy had denied that they had any knowledge of such military action which was bound to cause grievous harm to civilians.
The environs of the hospital came under canon fire from the Fort and from overhead helicopters at a.m. on 21 October – Deepaveli day (Please refer to the map of Jaffna Town in the Appendix to this volume). A shell fell on the O.P.D. building at 11.30 a.m. The O.P.D officer went running to the administration building and informed a Consultant of what had happened. At 1.00 p.m. the Consultant was informed that Indian troops had been sighted at top of Shanti Theatre Lane. At. 1:30 p.m. a shell fell on ward 8 killing 7 persons. The Consultant who went out with another doctor to survey the situation spotted some empty cartridges suggesting that persons had been firing from inside the hospital premises. At 2.00 p.m. the Consultant’s attention was drawn to the presence of some armed L.T.T.E. men inside the hospital premises. The Consultant went with Dr. Ganeshratnam and requested them to leave, pointing out the danger they would cause the inmates. The leader of the group agreed and they went away. 5 minutes later the Consultant was informed that another group of L.T.T.E men had come inside. Dr. Ganesharathnam requested that the Consultant go with someone else this time as he was, because of his outspokenness, already having a problematic relationship with the L.T.T.E. The Consultant went this time with one of the lady doctors and spoke to the L.T.T.E party. According to the consultant, they agreed to go and “disappeared from sight.”
There was a lull after 2:00 p.m... According to this Consultant:
“I really did not know what advice to give those in the hospital. If I had known it was safe to go, I would have advised everyone to leave. But this was by no means certain because there was a curfew on and the army was near at hand. My decision to leave was mainly on the consideration that I was hungry and the decision to chance it was casually taken. I left through the back entrance at 2.30p.m with one of my colleagues and reached home without incident.
“At about 4.p.m we heard shooting again for 15 to 20 minutes from the vicinity of the petrol shed on Hospital Road. There was no retaliatory fire from the hospital. At that time, to our knowledge there were no Tigers in the hospital.”
Thus begins the story of the harrowing experience of the resident doctors of this foremost and biggest hospital in the war torn North. One of them went on with their terrible tale:
“We were in the radiology block in the tea room at that time. The whole place was crammed with people including the patients from the evacuated ward 7 as well. We heard the noise of firing coming closer. But we were sure that even if the Indian Army entered, they would check us, and then explanations could be offered. Dr. Ganesharatnam who was with us went out of the room. Some of our colleagues were still in the wards. The noise of the firing was drawing very close. All around us was the noise of firing. We realised the danger and lay flat on the floor. The Indian Army came firing into the Radiology Block and fired indiscriminately at this whole mass of people huddled together. We saw patients dying. We lay there without moving a finger pretending to be dead. We were wondering all the time whether we would be burnt or shot when the bodies of the dead were collected… In the night we heard few bursts of fire. Most of the time we heard them moving on the floor above, where out quarters were situated. We were like this for almost 18 hours until 11.00 a.m. the next day.”
Another of them took over the narration:
“The Indian Army entered through the out gate, came up along the corridor and fired indiscriminately. They fired into the Overseer’s office, and into other offices. I sawmany of my fellow workers die… Another worker whispered to me:
Keep lying down and do not move.
“So we lay down quietly, under 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 night passed by, and the morning dawned. Still it was absolutely tense. At about 8.30 a.m. Dr.Sivapathasundaram, the Paediatrician, came walking along the corridor with 3 nurses. He had convinced them that they should identify themselves and surrender. They were walking with their hands up shouting:
We surrender, we are innocent doctors and nurses.”
Dr. Sivapathasundaram was gunned down point blank and the nurses injured. He was a man who had come to save the lives of the children and neonates marooned in the hospital. His dedication was replied with violence and death in the hands of this army from a country that called itself the champion of peace and nonviolence. Those who survived continued to lay among the dead, as if dead, until 11.00 a.m. the following day. The residents said they were rescued only when an officer turned up at one of the wards and was confronted by a lady doctor there. This doctor explained the situation to the officer and later on came to where they were with the army, holding her hands up. She had called out to her colleagues and those who were injured. They found their colleague Dr. Ganesharatnam with a stethoscope lying dead. When the residents went up to their rooms saw the whole place ransacked – with bloodied boot marks on their clothing scattered on the floor. They had lost all their valuables. Later they continued work – but a guard was at their door. They were absolutely terror stricken those days. Another resident doctor picked up the story:
“I lay along the corridor leading away from the foyer of the Radiology Bock. My legs were sticking out and evening sunlight coming through an open window was falling on it, I was scared and lay as stiff as possible making sure that no movement could be seen… I am indeed fortunate to have survived. The soldiers threw a grenade, and in the morning I discovered that all the people lying in front of me were dead. 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.
“All through the night as lay awake I heard noises, voices, an occasional spray of shooting above our heads or a grenade thrown. I heard a child cry:
Amma (mother), tea, tea.tea.
“Another baby screamed. I thought maybe the mother had died. Another woman said:
My legs are numb, they are cold. There is a corpse on it. Please remove it.
“Unable to bear her moans, I shouted:
Please anybody near, her, can’t you remove the corpse? Are you deaf?
“The woman continued to moan… till in the morning I knew the reason for the silence. All those around and the woman herself were dead. One man was reciting the Hindu religious work, the Sivapuranam, and was calling out:
Long live Rajiv, Long live Indira Gandhi.
“In the morning we found him the victim of a grenade blast. Then we discovered that there were a few others who had survived in the toilet. We whispered together:
Hearing about all this, maybe the Director of the hospital and the others would come over immediately and rescue us from the hospital… They were all in the refugee camps. So most probably they could get together, complain, and perhaps come out as a group, all of them holding white flags, they will then rescue us. Let’s wait for the morning…
“And we waited eagerly from the dawn to break. We were indeed very hopeful.
“At about 8:00 or 8:30 on the 22nd… I heard Dr. Sivapathasuntheram’s voice. He was shouting as he was coming along:
We are innocent doctors and nurses. We surrender. We surrender.
“As he turned into the foyer, we saw the soldier on the stairs leading from the foyer shoot repeatedly. Dr. Sivapathasuntharam was dead… We saw later that the nurses whom he had pushed down on either side of him had escaped with injuries. Now we knew that our fate was sealed. We lay there awaiting death.
“Later on, around 10:30 or 11:00 a,m., we heard our co-resident, a woman doctor, her voice calling out to the living and the injured to get up with their hands held up. I thought only six of us in the room had survived, but I found out that at least 10 of us were there. All of us with our hands up were walking out of the room. We stepped over the dead bodies that were in front of us. They seemed to stretch over almost a mile. They must have acted as a deterrent to the Indians’ coming close to us. That’s why we survived… Some of us started crying. Then the only Consultant amongst us, quietened us down. He told us:
Do not cry…. This is not the hour for crying. We have lost so much, so many. But we have tasks, enormous tasks to do. Let us keep together and work.
“We know that if he had not said so, we would have been totally demoralised. It was this spirit of courage and dedication of this small band of doctors, nurses and other employees that made Jaffna Hospital unique and placed it proudly among the hospitals that functioned under siege, despair and fear. I was reminded of hospital in the camp of Bourj al Barajneh, Beruit under the Imal siege.”
So it was from the 22nd to the 29th of October, that this band of persons with all their anxieties attended to the wounded day and night single handedly. As the surgeon said: “I did not know what happened to my wife and two small daughters. I had left them at the refugee camp… After the first two days we knew we are not going to be killed in cold blood. That was a relief. We knew we were walking on a tight rope… between life and death…I used to lose my temper. My anger burst out….as we saw many shells hit patients. We also had Indian Army men injured by land mines. totally smashed up. We were asked to treat them as well. For us doctors, the moment they come into the hospital they were patients. They were the sick… and our duties were dear.“As he was talking to us pouring out his harrowing tale, characteristically spiced with his sense of humor, we knew the spirit of medical care that pervaded this hospital in the torn city of Jaffna.
This ordeal is unprecedented especially when viewed in the light of earlier pronouncements of the Indian Red Cross on how a hospital should be treated even in wartime – that was when Sri Lankan forces were around. Many questions were hanging unanswered. Why was no attempt to evacuate, warn or isolate the sick and the staff make? Why was the hospital not surrounded? Why was the Indian entry into the hospital made only through the front, thus leaving the back of the hospital open for those who wanted to escape to do so – while the sick and those who cared for the sick remained behind to be killed? It is true that the Tigers were there earlier in the day. One person said that he had seen them hanging their clothing to dry. Another saw a few arms left behind on the premises. Be the as it may, why did the professional army of a great nation storm a civilian hospital, with such callous disregard for both international covenants and the cost in human lives which may never be determined precisely. The Indian authorities seem to have decided that there will be no public inquiry into the incident.
Clearly, the manner in which the Indian Army conducted itself during this affair is, to say the least, far below the standards India had set for herself in the course of her past pronouncements. Other eyewitness accounts suggest that officers commanding the operation were camped in the building opposite the hospital during the killings. Some months later a high ranking military official, who on previous occasion had aggressively brushed aside any charge of wrong doing on the Indian Army’s part, made a rare admission. He said that at the time the attack was launched, the army had lost several men and that they were frightened. “As the evening drew on, it was getting dark fast ; for the sky was covered with rain-clouds,” he continued,” and the town looked an eerie sight.” Thus it would appear that frightened, poorly instructed men, not commanded by anyone responsible, and who new neither Tamil or English, were left alone in the hospital to deal with noises, groans and pleas for mercy in any manner that seemed fit. Granted that soldiers have their feelings, no one seems to have taught them to think of the feelings of unarmed civilians who were more frightened and more vulnerable. One wonders if India or any other great power will find it a humbling thought that the ensigns of great nations are often frightened individuals- for fear is the common lot of all living creatures.
Several months later when the army was breaking camp after religious rites and the singing of Tagore’s Vande Mataram, Captain Dr.Siddhath Day called on an old acquaintance to say good bye. He looked a young, mild, soft-spoken man. He was the army doctor whose role in the hospital affair has been referred to earlier. It was not, as far as he was concerned, an uncomplimentary one. On this occasion he was carrying his personal weapon - a submachine gun. His acquaintance jokingly told him: “I hope that is not part of your operating equipment.” Captain Day smiled sheepishly and replied rather seriously: “No, not at all. I use it only for self-defence. My equipment is all packed in the bag. ” His interlocutor regretted the jock, which with someone else could have easily given offence. Seeing humanity in others through the acrid smoke of war can be a strange experience.
3.10 The Mysterious Killing
V. Daniel, aged 48 and an employee at the K.K.S. Cement Factory could be called a typical specimen of a person who had risen up in life through hard work and initiative. He had his own vineyard which he himself planted and maintained. Unfortunately, at the age of 28 he had got infected with tuberculosis (or T.B) and as a result of this, he had to spend two years of his life (the period from1968 to 1970) in a sanatorium. Following this, Daniel was assigned only light work at the factory and his brother (who worked full – time in the vineyard) and two other employees helped him to maintain the vineyard.
When the fighting surrounding India’s Operation Pawan was at its height and when the control of Jaffna was slowly changing hands from the L.T.T.E. to the I.P.K.F., the retreating L.T.T.E. units were greatly in need of places to hide their weapons before they fled and these men found Daniel’s vineyard a suitable place to do their job. However, since Daniel had views that cannot be exactly called “very sympathetic” to the L.T.T.E., he vehemently refused to allow the Tigers to bury their arms in his compound. However the L.T.T.E cadre went ahead with their job the point of the gun. Later Daniel and family were told that if they ever divulged the place where the arms were hidden to anyone, they would be given the “death sentence”, no matter what the circumstances may be. Since he was a “civilian,” he had no other alternative but to succumb to this threat and keep his mouth shut.
On the morning of 5 February, 1988, around 11:05a.m., at the time when Jaffna was still in the process of recovering from Operation Pawan, a group of Indian soldiers, led by a Second Lieutenant and consisting of from 8 to 10 men from the I.P.K.F base at Tellipallai, arrived at Daniel’s house which is about 300 yards from Villan Junction. They told Daniel that they had information that some arms were hidden in the vineyard and that they wanted to search the area. They took Daniel in to custody while Daniel’s brother (who was working in the vineyard) was taken to the vineyard and was asked to show the army where exactly the arms were hidden. Naturally fearing for his life, he refused to divulge the spot. For this, he was severely beaten by the I.P.K.F.. He suffered from a fractured leg and had to be admitted to the Jaffna General Hospital for treatment. Daniel was then taken to the L.P.K.F. camp at Tellipalllai.
Later on in the same morning, men employed by Daniel to work in the vineyard saw Daniel being brought back, taken into the vineyard and being severely beaten by the soldiers. After this they saw Daniel being loaded into the I.P.K.F. vehicle in an unconscious state (or possibly he was dead already).
Alarmed by this and not knowing what to do, Daniel’s family members went to their Roman Catholic parish priest for advice and help. Around 5.00 p.m. that same day, the priest along with a relative of Daniel’s, went to the I.P.K.F. camp at Tellipallai and spoke to the Major who was in charge of the camp. On being spoken to, the major said that inquiries were in progress and that Daniel would be released as soon as they were over.
A little while later, on the same day the Works Manager of the K.K.S. Cement Factory where Daniel was working, went to the same I.P.K.F. base and spoke to the same Major, a Sandhu by name, and he was also given exactly the same answer that had been given to the priest and the relative. However, the Works Manager argued with the Major and finally got a promise from him that Daniel would be released in his presence at the Cement Factory. Since the curfew was to start at 7.00 p.m. the Works Manager returned home. Daniel, however, did not come home on the 5th.
On the morning of 6 February, Mr. Daniel’s lifeless body was found tied to a lamp post at Villan Junction. There was a bullet injury to the head, but surprisingly, there were no blood stains around the area of the wound. After the funeral rites were over, body was buried without holding any judicial inquiries.
When the authors of this article contacted an expert in forensic medicine, they were told that “normally” there is blood around the wound if the injury was per – mortem” (i.e..there is blood if the injury was caused before death). However, one should not overlook the possibility that he could have been shot somewhere else and then brought to the spot where the body was found. But again, experts in forensic medicine say that whether the bullet injury was caused before death or after death could have been determined with absolute certainty if an autopsy had been held. It is noted that a post – mortem examination is an essential procedure to be followed in all sudden deaths. One wonder why it was not done in this instance.
Navaly may be famous for the huge arms cache found by the Indian Army. One resident said that the Indians needed almost 150 men to carry it and that it amounted to two truckloads. Some of the incidents that took place there are briefly listed below:
15 October: There was heavy shelling all around hitting the villages. On Navaly, fortunately, only three shells fell – property damage was caused, but no lives lost.
18 October: Three shells fell in the morning. Later in the evening, between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m., more than 25 shells fell over Navaly. The shells killed 2 people. A small boy (10 or 11 years of age) died due to a penetrating injury in the abdomen. A barber from Sangupiddly, again from a penetrating injury in the abdomen, died at Moolai Hospital. Two women were injured. One’s leg had to be amputated due to gangrene developing on it. The other women also sustained a leg injury and she is still immobilized.
18 October: That night, the I.P.K.F. was moving towards Anaikottai through the fields. A man who had taken refuge in the temple was crossing the field to get a bed sheet and was shot dead.
An uneasy calm descended on Navaly from 19 October, until 12 November.
12 November: Intense shelling started again. More than 55 shells fell on Navaly. The temple which was a refugee camp, got damaged. Three people sustained minimal injury.
20 November: The Indian Army moved into Navaly in the early hours of the morning. As they move in an L.T.T.E attack (supposed to be by a very young boy) killed 2 soldiers, one of whom was a Captain Sivasamy. The L.T.T.E. had fired from the yard of house, but the people inside did know until the shooting started, as they were sleeping. The army broke open door, a 52 year old lady (Mrs. Jeyaratram) who was sleeping on the ground just raised her head for this noise. She was summarily shot in the head and died immediately. The other occupants were not harmed. That evening, a car carrying shell injured people from Sandilipay to the hospital ran into the army. All the six occupants were shot point blank and the car was burnt as well.
3.12 A Detainee’s Experience
We give below the experience of Christie Jeyaraj, which is corroborated by others:
“I was detained in the early part of November near Jaffna. For three days we were in the camp of the Major who made the arrest. During those three days we were not ill treated. Nor was there any interrogation. After this, the Central Reserve Police Force (C.R.P.F.) took a number of detainees from Jaffna to Palely. We were made to lie down on the floor with our hands tied. Many of us were hit with gun butts during the journey. This was the only time I was assaulted during my period of detention. From Palely the same truck was driven to K.K.S. where we were unloaded in the prison compound containing the former Medical Officers quarters for the disused K.K.S. hospital. The hospital proper is now under the Sri Lankan Army.
“I was kept in a room where there were about 18 of us. The number in room depended on its size. The smallest had five. The sitting room had more. There was barbed wire on the windows. The entire camp held about 300. The interrogations were not strictly private, and to my knowledge there was no beating. We had to fetch the water, which was rationed. But keepers were not bad guys. In time they allowed us extra water. Our toilet was a pit surrounded by tin sheets. The main problem was the food. Indian food did not agree with us and many of us developed upset tummies. People passed liquid excrement as they lay down on mats, hardly knowing that they did. I was lucky in having it for just four days. I kept praying and it went away. Several others had to be hospitalized.
“Within a week after I reached K.K.S., the big man arrived. He looked the archetypal intelligence man you find in films – a tough looking bloke with dark glasses. We gathered that his name was something like Anton Joseph. His subordinates would be on pins when he arrived. We referred to him as Sathiaraj after a Tamil film actor. He called about a dozen from out section and asked them to face the well. They were roughly accused of being L.T.T.E..Going through their files and questioning them, he began to have doubts about the information provided by the Sri Lanka experts. A boy who had just returned from Germany was accused of having participated in a bomb attack. Sathiaraj, after hearing him, asked which way he returned from Germany. He showed his passport proving that he had come the normal way through Colombo. Sathiaraj went through a few cases and promptly ordered their release. If I had been lucky enough to have been picked up that day, I would have been released. But I was unlucky and had to wait several weeks before I was investigated.
“We learnt from our interrogators, the dirty tricks played on us by the Sri Lankan experts who picked us up. By looking at our faces they had picked up some fantastic information. A boy who a village council employee was named as the L.T.T.E. leader for Kopay. I was accused of having done sentry duty. Eventually out interrogators became convinced that the charges were bogus and that nearly all of were innocent.
“We passed time exchanging stories with fellow detainees. Some who were brought from Mathagal said how they were brought in a bus that was part of a convoy. Soldiers in a vehicle going in front would fire shells into houses along the road. Soldiers travelling with them in the bus would shake their heads, then point to the holes and say: “See what the L.T.T.E did” there were two girls in our camp, one of them from Navanturai. Both had become mentally ill and were hospitalised. One was sent to Jaffna Hospital. Others who had been held with them before being brought to K.K.S. said that some terrible things had happened to the girls. There was a Tamil male nurse at the military hospital who was a kindly man. He felt very sorry for the girl who was under his care and used to feed her himself.
“Dr. Lalithakumar, acting D.M.O., Pt. Pedro Hospital, was detained in the room next to ours. We would talk to each other frequently as the doors were left open much of the time. He could often be heard arguing with the interrogators. The camp doctor used to visit him frequently and have long chats. We used to get news of what was happening outside from the camp doctor through Lalithakumar. After about a month Dr. Lalithakumar went on a fast. He maintained that he was being held not because of any offence, but because he had dared to protest about the manner in which the Indian Army had made its entry into Pt. Pedro hospital. Sathiaraj arrived about 4 days later. After talking to Lalithakumar, he agreed to release him soon. He was released shortly after mid-December.
“My own release was delayed by about weeks, because I fell ill and was warded in the military hospital. There we treated well and the food was good. I was released a few days before Christmas.”
If dogs can be gentlemen, Frido was one. He had his sense of dignity. When a snooty Pomeranian became an honoured inmate of his house, Frido spent most of his time on the streets, occasionally annoying some of his neighbours. Canine ladies flocked after him. They would come to him to be nuzzled and have their fleas removed. Otherwise he let them have their way. He would not fight over the company they kept. During the October war, Frido was a quiet presence amongst the several dogs at a refugee camp. When others shivered and cowered during the frightening noise of crashing shells, Frido would calmly walk about as though he did not care. There was one human lady that he intensely cared about. Whenever she was out of Jaffna. Frido could be seen with dirt caked along the lines of his tear – stained face.
With the end of hostilities life settled down. Came January and those of his household moved to Colombo. Frido was sent in a lorry along with the goods. At Kilinochci the box became damaged and he was thus off loaded to be with some people who had his acquaintance. Ten days later he made his appearance in Jaffna. One does not know how he worked out the way back after being confined to a box for the journey of 45 miles. He rushed into his former house and looked everywhere for his mistress. Two boys in the house were thrilled at the thought of Frido’s singular journey back, past all the sentry points and were keen to adopt him. But Frido continued to mope on the street which was now bristling with soldiers and their vehicles. One day the two boys tried tying him in the house. Frido freed himself and was never seen again. All inquiries, especially by another worried lady, were of no avail. Many who had in bygone days not taken kindly to his strange ways were sorely grieved.
It is known that soldiers sometimes shot at strays. Once people on the street in front of an army camp saw a soldier shoot at a dog from 20 feet away. After the first shot the dog turned on its back and its back and its tail shook as if it was confused. A second shot and it was stilled. Those on the streets looked on with a feeling of fear and disgust. One asked a soldier why. The embarrassed soldier pointed his finger at his head and replied: “Mental.” People are inconsistent in these matters. For months before the war, health authorities had been urging an extermination of strays, but did not have the means of carrying it out. Soldiers firing guns had made such a tragic impression that people could not take it anymore. One does indeed find many ordinary soldiers being kind to animals. During the hard times even goats have been observed going to army messes looking for food. Amidst all the suffering the animals too have had their share.
They too were killed and maimed in large numbers, and suffered from starvation and inclement weather. The member of the stray dogs in Jaffna increased as their owners died or left Jaffna. They can be seen around army camps feeding on food thrown away by soldiers.
3.14 What It Means To Fall Sick During Curfew
During the past years very often we have heard the question: “What happens if someone falls sick during curfew hours?” But for the family of Mr. ThirugnanaSambanthar of Brown Road Jaffna, this is not a hypothetical question but turned out to be reality.
Mr. Sambanthar’s mother who was a pressure patient was taken ill after watching the funeral procession of L.T.T.E’s political wing leader Thileepan who died after a ten day fast. On being admitted to the Emergency Ward of the Jaffna General Hospital, she was given a course of treatment which included a dose of penicillin every six hours. Despite the tension in the air and several rumours, things went on smoothly around the hospital until the 12th when all of a sudden, a curfew was declared, and all the shops including the pharmacy had closed. The hospital which was already running on limited supplies ran out of penicillin and there was no way of buying it from outside either. To add the problems, a shell fired from “somewhere” fell on the Children’s ward inside the hospital premises – fortunately there were no casualties, Apart from the constant fear of a shell falling on one’s head – the fact that a hospital was protected from shelling by international covenant was of no comfort to the people inside the hospital – the power supply to the whole peninsula was cut off. The General Hospital was of no exception to this cut. As a result of the power cut there was no water supply as well. Imagine a hospital with patients and no electricity or running water.
Although the main purpose of Mr. ThirugnanaSambanthar’s family staying in hospital was to care for their sick mother, during their stay they also became witnesses to some of the worst forms of cruelty that can be inflicted on the innocent by the decision – makers of human society. The family of a fellow patient of Mr. Thirgnanasambanthar’s mother had decided to stay in the hospital because of the curfew and the lack of transport. On the afternoon of the 12th, while gun shots and explosions were being heard from all directions, the father of the family had gone out in search of food, leaving behind his two daughters with their mother. When he did not return, even nightfall, the daughters thought that probably he had taken shelter somewhere to protect himself from the firing and shelling that was going on. In the meantime, in the ward they saw several blood-soaked bodies being taken past them, some dead and some severely injured. On the following morning ,fining that their father had not still returned, the girls started to make inquiries and were about to leave in search of him when they were told by someone that their father’s dead body was lying at the hospital morgue.
The shortage of everything from water to medicine and the witnessing of the gruesome events, made Mr. Sambanthar decide to have his mother discharged and take her home, where he thought conditions might be better than in the hospital, even for the sick..
On Tuesday a helicopter was firing from right above Mr. Sambanthar’ house in the direction of the Jaffna University campus. On the same day they also heard that their neighbour’s brother and his whole family, except a small child wholived to tell the story, had been killed at Pirmbady Lane at Thirunelvely. By the afternoon the same day everyone in the neighbourhood, except Mr. Sambanthar and his family had left his or her home and had moved to refugee camps. Because of the sick mother and a father who could not walk, they decided to stay behind and face together as a family, whatever that was to come. For 12 days they were the only ones in the neighbourhood, existing on whatever food they could find and caring for a sick mother in the absence of electricity and running water.
On the 21st severe shelling started in the area. As the shelling continued there were also rumours that I.P.K.F. units moving from the Jaffna Fort had come up to the Wellington Theatre Junction. Naturally not wanting to take a risk after having heard what happened at Pirambady Lane, they managed to move away to a temple close to their house where they got a room to keep their sick mother.
During the night Mr. Sambanthar’s mother collapsed and became almost breathless. After awhile she wanted to go to the toilet and had to be helped there and back. But the worst part was that all this had to be done in complete darkness except for a torch-light. Even the torch could be used only off and on because people feared that the army might have moved into the neighbourhood and might open fire at the sight of a light.
As dawn came, finding that the mother’s condition had not improved and that the army had not moved in yet, with great difficulty they hired a car and took the sick lady to Dr. Kengatharan’s hospital where she was given emergency treatment. But within an hour’s time the hospital was closed and all patients had to move out. Again a car was hired and the patient with her family Started to move towards the hospital at Moolai.
There was little trouble on the way. However when they arrived at the hospital, it was so full with victims from shelling and shooting, that little attention could be given to the sick. The hospital was so overflowing with patients that even the Anatomy Dissection Room (the Moolai Hospital is a teaching hospital) was opened up and patients were admitted into it. While at the hospital they witnessed a lorry load of people injured by shelling and firing, numbering about 50, who were brought there. Several of them were dead already, the youngest of them was a boy aged 15 or so.
The old lady was treated amidst these victims, with the few drugs that were available. On Sunday, 25 October, she passed away. Since they had no relatives around the area. She had to be cremated by her son and his sisters.
This may just be a death of one old lady among many, but it tells us the typical reality that faced anyone who happened to fall sick during those dreadful curfew hours.
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