The northern coastline of Vadarnaratchi between Pt.Pedro and Valvettithurai has some remarkable features. It has agricultural villages (Thickham and Viyaparimoolai) interspersed between fishing villages (Chakkottai, Polli kandy etc.). At places you can see onion patches separated from the sea
by the road, contain in a land strip 20 yards wide. This is a reflection of the rich and complex social fabric that underpins Vadamaratchi. Its interior is a maze of lanes and place names, no doubt music to the ears of the Vadamaratchi man, but bewildering to an outsider, leave alone a foreign army. It is a place awaiting its Thomas Hardy to write its Wessex tales the impact of modern developments on what is still a very traditional society. There is a Vadamaratchi identity popularly thought of as industrious, stubborn, pugnacious and tribal, often to the point of failing to identify real interests. Things have moved very fast in the last six years arid it would be hardly surprising if this common identity is subject to strains. One cannot fail to notice today the widening disparity in perceptions between PtPedro and Valvettithurai.
From the point where College road hits the coastal road, one could survey an enormous scene of destruction remianascent of scenes from the world wars. The finishing touches are given by abandoned barbed wire, sand bags and sentry booths. This area once represented the educational hub of Vadamaratchi, consisting of Hartley College and Methodist Gir1s High School, founded by pioneering Methodist missionaries. Being schools with very high standards enjoying an islindwide esteem, they did much to forge the Vadamaratchi identity. Pupils topping class lists from all parts of Vadamaratchi came to these schools to study and play. Several of the well known militant leaders of all factions are counted amongst the alumni of Hartley. This scene of destruction leads to some of the disturbing questions about the future of Vadamaratchi, and in a wider context, that of the entire NorthEast. -
It is known that large sums of aid money for reconstruction will be forthcoming and in anticipation some of the big Engineering and Accounting firms are feeling their way towards setting up branches or subsidiaries in Jaffna. Having been a top school in the Mathematical disciplines; one would estimate that Hartley would h2ve produced 6001000 engineers alone in the last 30 years. If one asks how many professionals are left in Vadamaratchi, one would hardly get beyond the fingers of ones hands. Even the rest of Jaffna hardly has the infrastructure to handle the kind of reconstruction required. Whenever the violence ends or fizzles out to a whimper, reconstruction is likely to begin with Colombo based or foreign firms coming in with professionals and labour from outside in a big way. Anyone who knows anything about contracts in this country will be in no doubt as to who gets the cream. Those left here are unlikely to have either the professional or the political muscle to articulate how and where the money is to be spent.
Except for the handful of doctors, there is little professional work for the few professionals left here. They, in the company of some public spirited retired men, are mainly involved in public welfare on a voluntary basis. By now they are tired men and women. Some of them had identified projects where living standards of communities can be improved with the expenditure of smell sums of money such as providing basic amenities for milk distribution. An engineer described the uphill struggle he faced in dealing with government departments. There was a time when the governments welfare machinery worked smoothly particularly in Vadamaratchi where there was commendable public spiritedness.
There are other conspicuous signs of the weakness of the whole society. Young men on the streets are relatively few. Women are urging young men to go away even for paltry jobs in the MiddleEast, in order that they may at least stay alive. Women are increasingly playing a leading role in the life of the community. Amongst the younger doctors, some of the women have become public figures because of their pluck in difficult situations. Women are increasingly in evidence in social work. Many of the hones are managed by women. For an area which would have produced over 200 doctors in the last 30 years, it would not have had a surgical unit if not for volunteers from Medicines Sans Frontiers. Whichever way one looks at it, Vadamaratchi seems set for a poor deal.
A region which led the struggle for a separate state, may finish up without a semblance of self determination or even dignity.
How much dignity the people are given by either party to the conflict is evident from our reports. At the time or writing (early March), both the LTTE and the IPKF seem to be strengthening their numbers. It has become common practice for the IPXF to fire back with shells whenever fired upon. Since the LTTE attacks from civilian areas, the victims are almost always civilians. Chain vehicles fitted with cannon have been used in patrols along the coast road near Pt.Pedro. Civilians are living in fear of a repeat of "0peration Liberation, with the difference that there may be nowhere to run. After the killings of two sisters at Udupiddy, the question9 will the women be spared? is being widely asked.[Top]
The town of Valvettithurai paid a heavy price for its reputation as a centre of militancy. It produced some of the pioneer figures of the LTTE and TELO, groups which later turned to fratricide. It was bombarded from the sea in 1984, had a massacre in May 1985, just preceding the Anuradhapura massacre, and was barrel bombed 43 times during Operation Liberation. Many of its sons would describe its reputation as a home of smugglers and Tigers as sheer prejudice. They would point out that most of its citizens are ordinary people, leading ordinary lives as labourers, traders, fishermen and professionals.
The public interests of Valvettithural are today represented by the doughty band of person comprising its citizens committee. That they do feel an obligation end concern for the LTTE is evident. They know the risks involved, particularly after the killing of Mr.Sivanandasundaram. The most vivid single incident of recent times was the assault and humiliation of about 300 persons, including staff and patients of Oorani Hospital (The details are given elsewhere in this report). Dr. Pathmalosini who is in charge at Oorani Hospital; said that 1 or 2 persons are treated for assault daily. The RDHS, Jaffna described the scene at the hospital after the January 19th attack as one after a major plane or train crash. The lady doctor who is not a native of Valvettithurai has been adopted by the town as a mark of gratitude. Having completed 4 years, she has no thought of moving. Ten days after the incident, she was summoned to the IPKF camp at Udupiddy and was told that she was to be taken to Palaly for questioning. She in stuck to the stand that she was answerable only through the RDHS, Jaffna. She was not taken to Palaly.
Members of the citizens committee related the recent ordeals of the townsfolk. During October 1988, Mr. Krishnakunar Kittu and several other disabled LTTE persons were brought from India and were handed over to the citizens committees at Jaffna hospital without prior notice. This was regarded as being cruel besides being inconsiderate, since a campaign to assassinate LTTE sympathisers had got under way. These young men had nowhere to go. When asked, they expressed a wish to be taken to Valvettithurai. This was done, and the VVT committee found homes which volunteered to have them. They had regarded this a sacred obligation in view of the cause for which these boys had suffered and had been rendered defenceless.
Then came other problems. Citizens suspected of LTTE links were picked up and taken for torture. The standard treatment was for them to be hung upside down and beaten, as the victims jerked and rotated in the fashion of punch bags used in boxing practice. To escape the agony, the victims gave some names. These persons were in turn brought in, and it went on. Many people took to sleeping in houses of others to evade night callers. It did not take long before those homes that gave shelter to the disabled LTTE cadres came under harassment. Those taken for the treatment returned with prominent ring marks around their ankles, and. it took a long time before proper blood circulation was restored.
The citizens were left with little choice, but to move the LTTE disabled into Oorani. Hospital. They complain that the homes which sheltered these helpless persons were branded LTTE and no: the hospital and its staff are branded LTTE This now in part explain the rampage of 19th January.
The disabled LTTE cadres staying at Oorani are from various parts of the NorthEast. Though many of them have parents who would like to have them, they cannot go. Some of them have grave anxious faces and some of them smile. Their dilemma is faced by many young men of all factions, disabled or not.
Another complaint of the citizens is that time and again the TPKF has given guarantees after something serious had happened, but these do not seem to mean much. After the incident of 19th January, a guarantee was given that the hospital will be out of bounds to troops. But, then the doctor was wanted for questioning on the 29th. A few weeks later, soldiers entered the! hospital compound saying that. the LTTE ran that way. A word was also given that the IPKF would identify the target before opening fire. But then a fisherman was shot dead as he came in from the sea on 24th February. A few days earlier, soldiers from the IPKF party who came to see the citizen's committee president, ran round a nearby corner and opened fire. On inquiry, the president war told that the LTTE ran that way. He immediately went, to speak to persons about and found out that the apparent target had been an ordinary frightened boy. The IPKF had acquired such a terrible reputation for beating, that small boys simply run away.[Top]
On 18th February, a young man, Mathialagan, was killed at Manthikai, when a soldiers gun went off while assaulting detainees. Mathialagan was a pleasant boy, Well known in that area because of his skill in repairing household contraptions. K was a boy of that area due to sit for his G.C.E. O.L.s. He loved his mother, but was greatly distressed because his mother quarrelled with many and was ill spoken of. He maintained a secret relationship with his neighbours, despite a maternal ban. A neighbourhood child had his birthday on the 20th. After sunset, the birthday boys aunt secretly gave K a piece or cake through the fence. K had a dejected look, and accepted the cake gratefully with the remark, I thought you had forgotten me). The following morning K was missing from home, to become one amongst the several children from the area to join the Liberation Tigers. Another young lady from the area said, I have observed K for several months. I think he somehow wanted to die.
A very senior educationist in Pt.Pedro said that the boys who had recently joined the LTTE are mainly from grades 8, 9 & 10. He felt that the A.Level students kept aloof because they were mature enough to know that this was a dead end. Everyday, he lived in fear of not getting home safe. He cited his recent experience of having supervised 0.Level examinations. The IPKF, he said, was on one side of the examination hall, and the LTTE on the other. If the former had known about the latters presence, I fear to think what would have happened. He thought that an effective inducement given for boys to go for training is that the IPKF is in any case going to attack them.
A lady who is looked upon for leadership, with wideranging social contacts, living in another area, confirmed the senior teacher s impressions. She was aware of some boys in her neighbourhood from that age group, who had joined the LTTE in the last two months. She added that there appeared to be some connection between this phenomenon and disharmony in the home. With many others who expressed concern over assault and the increasing resort to punnitive shelling by the IPKF, where the main victims were those least able to get away quickly.
Against this backdrop of several hundred boys in this area having joined the LTTE in the last few weeks amongst ordinary people there is a state of panic, as attacks on the IPKF by the LTTE become more frequent and the conduct of the IPKF becomes harsher and more inconsiderate. Rounding up young men, making them lie down on the road and beating them has become a frequent spectacle signifying to the people their collective humiliation. While there is room in many hearts for the schoolboyish pluck of the young men who avenge their humiliation, they are in general at a loss to understand what the LTTE is aiming at.
People have gone through times when the Sri Lankan army roamed about; then came the period when it was confined in camps and indulged in shelling. After operation Liberation, they felt they were back to where they had started minus many lives and several institutions in ruin. They cannot see a rationale for going through all this again. To many it seems plain enough that their suffering is actively connived at. Civilian cover is used for attacks on the IPKF. Grenades are thrown or guns are fired, from peoples houses. Domestic power supplies are used to set off land mines. One often hears the question, Isnt there anyone to talk sense to these boys? The vast majority of Vada.maratchis educated sons, who could have been a stabilising influence are abroad, many of them romanticising the violence at home. To many it appeared as though they are dealing with several alien armies at once. People are not protected by their would be liberators. The latter get away in time leaving the protection of the people to the residual good sense of a foreign army, which is itself terribly wanting.
The result is to weaken the people to such a point that many start accepting the arguments of the Indian army. Concerning the assault on persons and the burning of shops in Pt.Pedro on 13th February, a senior IPKF officer told a leading citizen: I escaped death by a fraction of a second. It takes a long time to set up a landmine. Still, no one came to inform us. When our men are angry, orders will not stop them. They will stop when they finish what they are doing.
The ordinary people find themselves in the awkward position of parents disowned by their own children and consequently despised by everyone else. Many of them find themselves asking: If our own boys whom we once called liberators treat us like this, what more can we expect from a foreign army? or What do they mean by setting off a mine or throwing a bomb and running away without staying around to defend us? The more important questions relating to the Indian presence are forgotten: That if the Indian army is here as an undisciplined army like the discredited Sri Lankan army, to terrorize the people into submission, then we can understand its conduct. But if it is going to fall into every vice that beset the SrI Lankan army, and achieve only a hopelessly broken society besides Indian casualties, what then is the rationale for its presence?
Indeed, in many known instances, people are unaware of devices buried or attacks planned near their homes. Anyone accidentally finding out may be intimidated from giving the neighbours a tipoff. If the attack does take place, the Indian army would run amok or shell the place. More boys will then go for training.[Top]
It was close to 8.00 p.m. Those at home end in the houses nearby were either chatting studying. They were mainly women and children. Of the men in the house two worked outside Jaffna and the one remaining was to leave for the N MiddleEast. Of the three young boys in the neighbourhood who sometimes slept there and kept their morale up, one had joined the LTTE and another had been detainedboth in the last few days.
Suddenly the barking of dogs was heard. The barking of dogs too had acquired a note of fear. The lights went off and the neighbourhood fell silent. Whoever came was likely to be both unwelcome and unfriendly. A two year old girl started crying, army shoot. A loud thump was heard, followed by a shout iyo. The women speculated that the visitors had entered so and so s house and were taking away someone. Judging by the direction in which the barking receded, the women surmised that the visitors had been Indian soldiers. Everyone stayed indoors. No one dared to communicate with neighbours that night.
It was confirmed the following morning that soldiers had indeed come that way. The thump cane from a drunken man being hit on the back. An elderly man had shouted, Iyo, I have four daughters, when soldiers hammered at his entrance. Nothing further had happened,
One morning, it was the talk in the market places that there was an intense gun battle at Manthikai. It turned out later that the EPRLF and TELO were being given shooting practice.
Large numbers quitted several parts of Vadamaratchi after rumours and allegedly handbills got around that an LITE attack on a nearby IPKF camp was imminent. Some received consoling counsel from soldiers: whererever you go, our shells will come. Unable to bear the strain of imposing themselves on others and the thought of their homes being looted, many of the refugees returned in about two days.
Thus proceeds life in Vadamaratchi. The ability to leave Vadamaratchi and stay in Jaffna has become a kind of status symbol, as it was in earlier tines for educated or influential persons to obtain Canadian or Australian visas. For many others there is a noble diffidence of fate that comes in part from the mind not contemplating an alternative. Ammachchi is a hospital employee in her early 20s, the first in a row of ten. The parents were farmers and roughly the top half took after the parents. Hopefully, the younger ones will be hacked by enough resources to see them through school. Ammachchi with her Rs. 1300 plus overtime is the only one with a steady income. When asked whether they would stay on, the young lady replied in her pleasant cheerful manner I like my work and am committed to it. The doctors treat me well. We are staying here. Are there not troubles everywhere?
The fear, the uncertainty, the dominant ideologies have all steadily weakened the community. It is not the strong rebellious community that has been romanticised to its detriment. This was evident in the aftermath of Operation Liberation. People were tired hungry and afraid. After the shelling and the murder, Sri Lankan soldiers systematically broke open shops. Crowds fell over each other to loot, able men pushing women and children aside. These and many other instances testified to the breakdown of social discipline, where people were prepared to demean themselves before the victor. One is reminded of similar scenes in Jaffna after the IPKF operation a few months later. Indian soldiers stopped a jeep before a food queue in front of the Kachcheri and threw down a tin of powdered milk. In the ensuing rush, a hefty man got the tin after trampling over children. Such displays no doubt give satisfaction to the conqueror, though little may he realise that vying to rule over a broken society, easily subject to manipulation, can be very costly.
The question that must he asked of anyone who means well is, what is to be gained by making people go through all this again? What can it prove?
It is a universal rule that once so broken, society acquires strange sectional interests that make peace and normality far more difficult. Jaffna society may not have bean a nice society, but it had a work ethic. But when families suffer so much destruction of life and property, find that their trades do not pay or are unable to practise them, they begin to think very differently from normal people.
Protection of life may cease to be the priority. Refugee money can become a way of life. Registering for relief in as many places as possible and spending once time getting it can become an occupation. If a family had sold its last jewels to send a member as a refugee to Europe or to Canada when there was real fear for his life, it also becomes important that the -member remains refugee to reimburse their expenses and become a source
of income. These would create vested interests for the war to go on. For the West, this would be a kind of nemesis for arms dealing, meddling and unfair policies towards the Third World. This would al1so blend well with the local militancy by providing it with additional sources of income.
With the loss of any prospect of self determination, the seeds of external domination have taken deep root.[Top]
It is seldom that the original intentions of a struggle survive a debilitating war. The logic of an ideological standpoint of a permanent gulf between Tamils and Sinhalese created conditions of intolerance and insensitivity leading to growing divisions within Tamils themselves. The gulf between the North and East is already evident. In Vadarnaratchi itself the sense of identity created by geography and a common educational system is under strain. Reports of many incidents acquire a sectarian colouring. Even within 3 miles of Valvettithurai, people who profess a lack of information about a serious incident there; would add that their problems are different.
Many persons in Valvettithurai, without always agreeing with the LITE, have been loyal to it in a manner, which demands admiration. But deep inside many of them have a feeling that something has gone terribly wrong. A prominent citizen, a professional who had worked abroad said: I suffered badly during the 1983 race riots. I was conscious of this having happened. to me because I was a Tamil and that I could not work or move freely in the South again. I could have gone abroad. But because I underwent this terrible experience on account of my Tamil identity I decided to get back home, and do what I could to make ourselves a place where we will not have to undergo this humiliation again". Such were the noble sentiments that were the driving force behind the militancy at that time. The speaker added with a note of sad irony: But now I do not feel myself free to travel to Jaffna and back .
The political line of many, by no means extremists, who backed the LTTE in 1986 was to ignore real grievances and fratricidal differences and unitedly back the LTTE, so as to got Eelam first. Democracy, it was said, could come later. For those who have stuck to this line, the envisaged end today is not Eelam, but to press India for the best possible terms under the Accord. It is the politics of pragmatism, ignoring fundamental moral principles; with previously uncontemplated compromises being forced on, as problems deliberately ignored fester, and affect the ground reality.
Rev. Tharmakulasingarn of Udupiddy recently saw two of his sisters, both young mothers with one of them due to give birth, murdered before his eyes by Indian soldiers. He said later: Having seen this, I do not mind dying. Rev. Tharmakulasingam believes in a higher calling, and his response is likely to be creative. But not only in Vadarnaratchi, but in many parts of this country, people are driven to destructive violence by such despair. A large number of Sinhalese men, women and children have been killed in border areas in a gruesome manner and reprisals against Taint-is have begun. Tamil militant groups may deny these killings; but in the absence of any principled stand on the matter by any section of Tamils, and in view of well known instances of massacres of Sinhalese by Tamil groups the role of Tamils in these hideous killings is not going to be convincingly disputed. We have created amongst many Sinhalese the same kind of desperation and misery felt by Rev.Tharrmakulasingam.
It was feelings like this, in the wake of July 1983, that gave the militancy a. pressing legitimacy. We would have helped to elevate Tamil baiting from a pursuit of venal politicians and Hlitlerian chauvinists, to one with a semblance of legitimacy.
At the same time, no Tamil group has demonstrated an ability or the confidence to be able to mobilise and lead the people under conditions of peacetime politics. This may explain the history of LTTE negotiations with India and its search for firmer guarantees of its position. All militant groups by. their conduct have rejected the people as an asset and 1have progressively weakened them. Indeed, it is the weaker sections of society, such as children, who should have been protected and who could little understand what they are doing, that have been used as engines of war and as cannon fodder. While any healthy political development should draw its strength from the people, who are themselves strong, Tamil nationalist politics from the heyday of the TULE has evinced the opposite tendency. Ultimately leaderships stood or fell depending on what outsiders were kind enough to offer.
What can one then expect with the people so weak and despised and with no approach to the Sinhalese, whoa we have to live with, on the basis of mutual respect and comes humanity? Strange as it may sound, there can only be one logical interpretation to the Tamil cause as represented by todays war:
It is one of bashing Indian soldiers (and the people in the process) so that India will come to an agreement guaranteeing the position of the group against Sinhalese hostility from the South and in the face of the weak and volatile mass of Tamil people within. Whether such a guarantee could possibly be viable for any length of time has and will remain the catch.
While Tamil civilian suffering is far from being confined to Vadamaratchi, it represents a crucible where some of the best as well as the worst of Tamil qualities have been at work. It also represents perhaps, the schizophrenic nature of humanity, where children are taught to feel for the serene innocence of a calf and to eat its mother next. It also brings out a deep seated Tamil tendency which has almost brought life to a halt a tendency for pragmatism devoid of moral content, Even heroism is rendered futile. Youth and a capacity for violence are wasting assets; while a life based on principle, humanity and sensitivity to others acquires a dignity, that survives old age and even death.
IPKF Attack on Civilians on Thursday, 19th January 1989
Report by the Citizen's Committee of Valvettithurai. 23
I.P.K.F. soldiers on foot patrol from the Polikandy Camp were said to have been ambushed when an explosive device exploded in a lane about 4- a km east of the Govt. Hospital, Valvettiturai, injuring two of them.[Top]
Soon after-the incident which took place at about 10.00 a.m. additional soldiers from the Polikandy camp commanded by Capt. Menon and another batch of soldiers from the Valvettiturai camp under the command of Major Dinesh Kapoor rushed to the spot. They entered the houses in the locality betting up the inmates end setting fire to the cadjan fences and houses burning everything to ashes. Clothes collected from the houses were used to make lighted torches which were freely-thrown about. A new lorry was completely gutted. Some vehicles were damaged. The people ware not given time even to remove any of their valuables or cash. In one house a bundle of cash amounting to Rs.40,000/ was burnt almost completely. From there onwards groups of soldiers launched attacks on civilians. People were dragged out of their houses and a number of soldiers surrounded each person and beat him up with big sticks1 cycle chains1 rods and even rice pounders. A. number of people fainted and even those people who were limping and unable to walk were forcibly marched towards the junction beating them all the time.
On the way Capt. Marion and his frenzied soldiers entered the Govt. Hospital and unleashed a scene of terror assaulting the people there, picking out the hospital staff including Dr.V.Appoahurai, R.M.P and the hospital clerk for particular attacks accusing them as L.T.T.E. supporters. The soldiers even threatened the lady Medical Officer in charge
of the hospital. When Major Pathmanabhan entered the scene and tried to restrain Capt. Menon who appeared to have gone completely off his senses, Capt. Menon is said to have stated that he will go to the Valvettiturni junction and took along with him a number of people from the hospital including nine members of the hospital staff to continue with his sadistic beating spree. The assaulting spree by the soldiers continued even beyond the -junction towards Thondamanar and Udupiddy along the main roads and lanes branching from them. Hundreds of men; women, children end old people who got caught to the gang were beaten up. A number of prominent citizens such as the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages Mr. Rajendran Inquirer into Sudden Deaths Mr. Veluppillai, the Grama Sevaka Village Officer) Mr. Kanapthipillai, Electrical Engineer Mr. Sivapragasan, Medical Practitioner Dr. Muttucumaru, who is 70 years old were beaten up mercilessly. The Registrar who is a heart patient had disclosed his identity and his ailment but Capt. Menon had beaten him repeatedly saying, "so you are a heart patient" The Grama Sevaka when he fell down due to the severe beating, was trampled by Capt. Menon who placed his foot on the head of the fallen man. Both Capt. Menon and Major Kapoor abused the people of Valvettitumni in vulgar language while they continued to beat the hapless victims.[Top]
The attack on civilians covered an area of about 3 square km from around the place of the incident including the new colony nearby and stretching westwards up to Valvettiturai junction and a little beyond, covering all
lanes and by roads to the junction and up to Theniambai on the Udupiddy road. The soldiers entered every house in this area and assaulted every inmate including females. The assaulted males were marched to the junction for special treatment. The duration of the rampage lasted for more than 3 hours from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.[Top]
A man and a woman received gun shot injuries. 112 persons were admitted to the Valvettiturai hospital on this day and were treated for fractured limbs, multiple contusions, lacerated wounds etc. About 50 persons received outdoor treatment. A number of people received native treatment. A few females were treated for bite marks on their breasts and cheeks. The hospital overflowed with patients and was immobilised as the hospital staff themselves became patients.[Top]
Capt. Menon, while leaving behind his victims fallen on the streets to be transported to the hospital in carts and vans, took along with him to his camp the badly beaten up hospital staff. Major Kapoor also took about half a dozen of his victims to his camp and. when he released them later in the evening, they were unable to walk and had to be transported to the hospital.[Top]
When members of the citizens committee and the Medical Officer in charge of the hospital met the Commanding Of officer at Udupiddy at about 4.00 p.m and brought to his notice the grave situation, he said that it was he who brought the rampage to an end when be visited Valvettiturai junction in the afternoon. To impress on him the gravity of the situation he was requested to visit the hospital and see for himself the serious injuries caused to the people. He kindly sent his deputy to the hospital. Although,at the request of the Medical Officer to release her staff, the C.O stated that he had already ordered their release, when the Medical Officer returned to the hospital with the members of the citizens committee and the Deputy Commanding Officer and his men, her staff had not been released. The Deputy Commander had to contact Capt. Menon again on the phoned and the staff who had been incapacitated were brought to the hospital only by about 6.00 p.m. when the Deputy Commander and his men were at the hospital.[Top]
Until an unexpected twist of events led to the murder of his two sisters, it had been a very ordinary day for the timely of Rev. Tharmakulasingam. Rev. Tharmakulasingam (47) was a clergyman attached to the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, popularly known as the American Mission. The IPKF had established camp at Udupiddy junction in such a way that Rev.Tharmakulasingams church was situated within it. In view of this he came into contact with officers regularly and had a polite relationship with Lt. Colonel Sharma, the local commandant. His family home was situated about 250 yards west of the camp, along the Jaffna road, a continuation of the MalisanthyUdupiddy road. Access to the home was through a short narrow lane to the left of the road, looking west. There are no other houses in between this house and the road. The presence of foliage gives the small house a cool, shady feeling. The house is composed of two separate buildings
(1), which is nearer the road containing a bedroom and kitchen; and (2) with two bedrooms and a verandah facing west. The two sections are
joined together by a corridor parallel to the road. Their roofs, sloping downwards, are joined by a Vshaped tin sheet which acts as a drain. The V is about 4 ft. above the ground and would cause an average person to bend considerably. Those around were accustomed to army patrols passing through their premises to avoid possible traps on the main road.
It was election day, and the polling booths at Udupiddy had closed at 4.00 p.m. without incident. The voter turn out had been extremely low. Since the LTTE had called for a boycott, the IPKF hierarchy viewed a high voter turnout as a symbol of their success. For this reason, the mood amongst the army at Udupiddy was not said to have been good. An army escorted convoy was to transport the ballot boxes to Jaffna and election officials to points near their homes.
The following was the experience of a schoolmaster, who after election duty, was seated in a bus in the convoy that was about to leave from the Udupiddy IPKF camp: We suddenly heard a great deal of firing noise and objects seemed to be falling around. A soldier, showing us something that he had picked up said, See, we are giving you protection and the LTTE is firing at us. I then saw more soldiers moving down the Jaffna road. When they returned, we were told that they had killed two Tigers.
There were a number of partial accounts of the incident, all of which were presumably true, which served to throw confusion about what had actually transpired.
We give below the nest important evidence in the whole affair what the family itself actually experienced:
The time was about 5.15 p.m. The family of Rev. Tharmakulasingam was at ease and some members were seated chatting west of building (1) (away from the IPKF camp), near where the access lane comes into the compound. Rev. Tharmakulasingam lived with his wife and children a few houses into the interior, but had come home as was his habit, to collect his bottle of milk. Amongst the others at home were his aged mother, who always sat on the verandah of building (1); his brothers V.G. Kanagasingam (49), owner of a shop at Udupiddy and V.0. Balasingam (42), employee of the Coylon Electricity Board at Udupiddy; and Mrs. Jeynranee Vijoyathasan (37), with two sons and MrK. Athisaynranee Thavarasa (32), with a 31/2 year old son.
The husbands of the two sisters were employed in the middle East. Athisayarenee was to due deliver a child at the Green memorial Hospital, Manipay, on 17th February, and would have left if not for the uncertainties caused by elections and the absence of transport, Her maternity clothes were packed in a suitcase in preparation for the journey. The family was known to the IPKF, whose patrols sometimes stopped for water, and had little to fear from them.
The IPKF had sent out an advance patrol in a bid to ensure the convoys safe conduct out of Udupiddy. In accordance with familiar practice, in view of the worsening situation in Vadamaratchi, the petrol set off west in three lines line A along the main road, line B through the premises on the left and line C likewise on the right.. Line B would normally have passed to the left of Tharmakulasingam s family's home, but on this occasion a single trooper passed through the corridor between (1) & (2). Whether because this trooper would have had to bend down hard to avoid the tin sheeted conduit, or for some other reason, his gun went off, the single shot piercing the tin sheet above. 5 seconds later, a second single shot was heard, from a direction recollected by Rev. Tharmakulasingam as further west (towards Jaffna) town the main road, but within a few tens of yards from his house.
Immediately, the concentration of the man of the house become occupied with getting everyone into the house. Troops were about. They then remember a continuous racket of troops firing. Rev. Thermakulasingam, through the window saw a soldier fixing a grenade onto his rifle and firing it upwards. Then troops from lines A and B mingled in front of the house and circled it a few times. It was an eerie drama for the members of the household. Once the younger sister, alarmed at not seeing nor sister shouted for Akka from the end road in (2;. From the room in (1) facing west (the other was the kitchen), Rev. Tharmakalasingam waved through the door signalling that she was there and save.
In the sequel, the troops accused Balasingam who was carrying his 31/2 year old child, as being LTTE. Balasingam tried to explain that he was a CEB employee known to the IPKF with an IPKF pass to work on the transformer next to their camp and also held an IPKF curfew pass. The two sisters then came out of their rooms to join their brother and explain that he was innocent. Rev. Tharmakulasingam witnessed the whole scene, but was prevented from joining in the defence of his brother by 3 troopers who held him at bay. There was some difficulty of language in communication. The brothers were asked whether they did not know that the LTTE was firing. Rev. Tharna kulasingam was kicked and a blow was aimed at his elder brother. When the soldiers made as if to shoot them, their two sisters pleaded. The troops then turned round to continua their journey. They had hardly walked 15 ft towards the fence on the western boundary facing the verandah of (2), when an order rang out, presumably in Punjabi. The soldiers made an about turn and two of them were seen firing at those on the verandah of (2). Of the two shots fired at Balasingam one missed hitting the horizontal beam of the wooden door frame, and the other again hit the door frame wounding the child he was carrying. Jeyranee and Athisayaranee died immediately. The bullet aimed at the latter pierced her stomach, going through the head of the child that was to see our world of turmoil in two days time. Her little son who was with her began crying, not fully comprehending his less.
Members of the household felt the kind of defiance that comes with sorrow and despair that find no human means of expiation. Rev. Tharmakulasingam. cried at them, You killed my innocent sisters in cold blood. Kill the rest of us also and go. They were dimly aware of some commotion amongst the troops. Perhaps they realised that they had done something terrible. The first officers to arrive said that the LTIE had done the killing. Subsequently an officer arrived and Rev. Tharmakulasingam proceeded to remonstrate in the same vein. The officer spoke, the first part being a most odd piece of advice coming from an Indian officer, Come, come do not be emotional. First bring the injured child, we will treat it at our medical post. This was done.
Rev. Tharmakulasingam was then requested to see Lt. Colonel Sharma who was in charge. The latter was on the phone talking to his superiors in Hindi, probably in order that the former could not understand. It was clear from occasional words like 'padre, what the drift was about. In the meantime the military clerk had typed a letter. The telephone consultation ended, the Colonel produced the letter and wanted Rev.Tharmakulasingam to sign. Rev. Tharmakulasingam did not wish to look at the letter, leave alone sign it. But he gathered from what he was told that the letter was to the effect that the LTTE had done the killing, and he was to be the recipient of a certain sum of money. Rev. Tharkulasingam told the Colonel that he was not going to party to covering up such a dastardly act, and if he wished he could kill everyone left at home. During the interview the Colonel had offered to parade the men so that those who did the shooting could be identified. Rev.Tharnakulasiagam replied strongly that this was nonsense. He said later that in all good conscience, he could not pick out two from amongst many bearded turbaned figures with the degree
of certainty required. He was indeed quite right here. If the Colonel was serious, it would have been easy for him to pick out whoever gave the order. Not wishing to prolong the interview with inanities, Rev.Tharnakulesingam told the Colonel, 'I will make move', and came away.
An odd circumstance observed by Rev. Tharmakulasingam was that soon after the shooting of his sisters, one of the Sikh soldiers present had been crying conspicuously. An incident was reported in Pt.Pedro some months ago where an Agricultural Officer who was roaming nag around after night curfew was shot dead by soldiers, apparently waiting in ambush. His body was taken to a nearby house for identification. Then the Sikh soldier hugged the body and started crying aloud. One wanders if Sikh soldiers are subject to peculiar stresses when they cross the thin line and are able to relate the situation here to that in the Punjab.
Rev. Tharmakulasingam is sceptical about an LTTE presence during the time of the incident that could have resulted in a provocation. He thinks it almost certain that the first misfire by the soldier which went through the tin sheet resulted in confusion and in a game of chasing ones own shadow. He has reason for this the general $ nervousness of the troops. He quotes an incident where at night a few days earlier, the army had flashed pare lights and fired a s shell. He discovered that the provocation was that a man had lit a torch and had attempted to set fire to a hive of wasps on a palmyrah tree a familiar operation done at nightfall. At the sane time, another man had been cutting foliage off a fence for his goats. When he went to his church the following morning, some officers told him that they had fired at the When he corrected them, they seemed to see the funny side of it and laughed. He added that the land along the road west of his house is relatively open end that for the LTTE to fire and escape would have been difficult.
Other sources in the neighbourhood, including perhaps a. most reliable source, have indicated that the LTTE had been in the area; and had fired at least one shot into the air in symbolic opposition to the e1ections and had run away. By the manner in which the troops were deployed the firing could only have been clone from a point further west down the Jaffna road.
There is also the circumstance that several neighbours had left the area. No army casualties had been either claimed or reported. It has also been suggested that the army from its lookout points would have noticed people leaving the area. Thus when the patrol set off, it may have been mentally prepared for a confrontation with the LTTE.
From the evidence available, one might surmise that the first shot by the soldier through the tin sheet was a misfire and the second shot heard 5 seconds later was the LTTE's symbolic opposition. This is probable, for when soldiers open fire in such a situation, it is likely to be copious automatic fire and not just a single shot. The firing which followed was a continuous racket. One must a1so keen in mind that soldiers do recognise fire from their own guns, and such patrols have bean commonplace without mishaps of this kind.
Many questions remain. Why did the soldiers pick on Balssingam? Did Balasingam at any time move away on seeing the advancing patrol, causing them on reflection, to think of Balasingham as an LTTE accomplice? Or had the suspicion anything to do with Balasingham going regularly to the transformer near the camp? These are subjects for a judicial inquiry. There is no denying that the killing; was totally unjustified and barbaric. The family is keen that this should not be covered up as too many things are being covered up.
The sequence of events leave open the possibility that there was some longstanding prejudice against this family. There have been a number of incidents where Christisn clergy have come in for rough treatment from the IPKF. Christian clergy have been active in approaching the IPKF for the release of detainees on requests made by their families. This has exposed then to coming under suspicion, made easier by prejudices of religion.
We asked the technical questions not to find excuses for what happened, but just to point out that there is often some perverse logic to madness of this kind. This is not an ordinary crime which is a matter to be resolved by punishing a few Jawans, who too are often victims of circumstances and of the motivating principles of the institutions they represent. Such acts are a recurrent theme in Indian military operations in this country. Arrogance, deceit, suspicion and barbarity are different facets of the outlook that governs Indias presence here. While civilians are asked to accept explanations of such acts in terms of the basest of human emotions coming from an allegedly disciplined army; civilians are not credited with a right to emotions and inte11igence on their part.[Top]
Rasish Kanavel (40 yrs.) a farmer, known as Samy was an active EPRLF (EROS before the split) supporter in late 70s and early 80s. lie is from Iddaikadu, a village near Atchuveli, where like many other villages in Jaffna, most of the inhabitants are related to each other. During the armed struggle several youths from this village have joined one or the other of the liberation movements. When his brotherinlaw died in 1934 because of snake bite, Samy left the movement to look after his sister (and her 5 children) who was living in Neerveli about five miles from Iddaikadu.
On the day of the incident when the killing took place (04.10.88) Samy was at the Iddaikadu Kalaimagal Library watching TV with several others. At about 3.30 pan. he was approached by an LTTE member, also from Iddaikadu, who took him on a bicycle towards Athiady junction. On the way two others followed. Samy was shot on his head and died half an hour later. This was only 19 days after he got married. He married a girl from a poor family who had no father and without any dowry. After this incident his wife tried to commit suicide twice. In one case she jumped into a well but was rescued with a broken leg.
On the next night, two LTIE sympathises (Velmurugu and Subrainanlam) were shot dead by EPRLF men who cane from outside the village. It is pathetic to note that Samy and these two men are friends and had no rivalry between them. Velmurugu helped a lot during Samy's funeral and when Velmurugu and Subrainaniam were shot on the next day the same cotton wool bought to treat Samy was used to treat them. Subramniam owned a shot to which Samy was a regular customer.
Two days later about 10 armed LTTE men came to the village and there was a heated argument between the People and them. They told the people that they wont kill some one without any reason and alleged that Samy was an active member of EPRLF and he was shot on the charge that he was an informant. There were many there who knew that Samy goes to Neerveli to visit his widowed sister whom he was looking after. They only requested the LTTE men not to continue this type of revenge killing. Even when the LTTE members visited the dead LTTE sympathisers family to convey their, condolences, that was the request they received.
Note: A young man and his brother in law were subsequently killed in Iddaikkadu. (See Report No. 1). This is thought to be a reprisal for the killing of Samy.[Top]
On the day referred to, the ENDLF was having a propaganda meeting at Maruthady in Pt Pedro when they were attacked by the LITE. There was considerable exchange of fire. A party of IPKF troops from the Manthikai camp left for the scene of the incident avoiding the main road and travelling through the interior. At a place known as Naruvaly, they detained Kanagasabai Mathialagan and some others. These persons were taken towards Manthikai, and were made to sit in front of Kanthappars shop. There they were subject to assault with gun butts and sticks. When a soldier hit Mathialagan on the head with the point of his gun, the gun went of f whether this was accidental or deliberate is not known. Mathialagan slumped lifeless onto his neighbours lap.
It is reported by persons of the area that at least three lads who witnessed this incident; left home to join the LTTE.[Top]
The LTPE entered the house of a conductor working for the CTB and from the premises threw a grenade at an IPKF patrol. It is reported that a soldier and a member of another militant group died. This house was one amongst a cluster of houses, mostly occupied by relatives. The conductor collected his family and fled. his brother's wife, living in a neighbouring house had just been discharged from hospital and was at that time being visited by a female relative. This household too was in the process of flight when a shell fired by the IPKF, presumably from the Polikandy camp, landed; killing the brothers wife, her visitor, her daughter who was soon to get married and a 10 year old boy who was with them. Three others were injured. Needless to say, that those for whom the shell was nominally intended were nowhere near when it arrived.
4.8.3. Incident at Pt.Pedro Bus Depot: 11th February 1989.
Cadres from the EPRLF were coming from Pt Pedro town towards the Puloly Coop on the main road putting up election posters. Unknown to them, they were followed by LUE cadres who tarred each poster with used engine oil. The engine oil had been taken from the Pt Pedro CTB depot, and the employees would certainly have bean in no position to stop it.
In the evening Indian troops arrived at the depot and shortly afterwards started belabouring the employees. They were beaten very badly and humiliated. Many of them were asked to lie flat and inch forward on their stomachs. Those who raised their backs were hammered.
A number of employees stained with engine oil, were later seen proceeding laboriously for treatment at Manthikai hospital. Inevitably, the bus service was halted for several days as a number of employees were incapacitated. The LTTE scored a further point when the story got about that private transport operators too had been asked to stop work as a measure of solidarity. Vadamaratchi was thence cut of f for a number of days. It is notable that the IPKF was keen that a proIndian political grouping should win .the elections 4 days away.
According to a senior citizen, an IPKF official who later apologised had said that the troops were drunk.[Top]
Upayakathirkamam is a village on the Manthikai Vairavarkovil road. On returning home, a man who had gone to play volleyball found some LTTE militants at home. He inquired what the matter was. They replied: Nothing annai. But the man spotted some Ares connected to his supply terminals. He took alarm, collected his wife who was expecting, his children, and fled his home. The militants stopped a lorry and asked the driver to inform the IPKF that they were there; What the driver did is not known. However an IPKF foot patrol arrived subsequently. The LTTE detonated the mine and fled. The soldiers fell flat and only two were injured. The area was then subject to a bout of shelling. Several people left their homes and joined a 93 year old lady who was confined to her chair. The asbestos ceiling was their only protection while the area was rocked by explosions. A bulldozer was brought later and the volleyball players wall was knocked down. His house survives with broken windows and other signs of having been near explosions. There were no civilian casualties either.[Top]
Close upon midnight on 22nd February, the IPKF announced at some places along the coast near VVT that a curfew was to be in force the following day. According to responsible citizens, the announcement was made is such a way that a large number of people could not have known about it. More importantly, fishing vessel which went out in the evening and returned in the morning had no way of knowing about the curfew. In the morning soldiers were on the shore with powerful guns. A fishing vessel was fired upon when it rounded Thickham point and came within range. The body of a dead fisherman with-entry and exit wounds was brought to Qorani Hospital and then released. Owing to the situation, no inquest was held.[Top]
Sources from Pt.Pdero hospital said that the IPKF brought the bodies of 2 women and 2 girls to the mortuary at 5.00 p.m.. An injured girl was admitted for intestinal surgery and survived. The Murasoli (25th February) identified one of the dead women as Velupiliai Pushpavathi (22) and the girl survivor as S. Sumathy (13).
Relatives who came to the hospital later had said that about 3.00 P.M. the LITE fired at the IPKF camp at Kallikai Junction from a nearby temple and got away. The IPKF replied with several shells. This was the time a number of women went out to draw water from a common well water being a problem in that area. Several of these women fell victim to the shelling. They added that there were other bodies which had not been brought to the hospital.[Top]
Some LTTE cadres hijacked a lorry carrying sea sand for construction and approached the Nelliady checkpoint from the South East, along the Jaffna Pt.Pedro road. They parked the lorry to the left near the petrol station so that it could only be seen from the nearest sentry booth 9in front) and there was an escape route to the left. In accordance with procedure an Indian soldier came forward to check the vehicle. A gun man hidden inside the lorry shot him dead. Other LTTE gunmen in the lorry simultaneously fired at the sentry booth in front, and all of them escaped towards Vathiri along the lane an the left.
There were at this tine a substantial number of people in the commercial centre of Nelliady, beyond the sentry point Just attacked. The area had several gun placements. Immediately, soldiers shouted Padu~(Lie down) and then opened fire. What they fired at is not clear as the quarry had escaped. But no one in town was hurt.
However fire from the soldiers struck Mr. Selvanayagam, a poultry farmer, approaching Nelliady along the road from Jaffna on his motorcycle, with his wife and two children as passengers. Mr. Selvanyagam was admitted to hospital and one of his hands was amputated. The other hand too had been badly hurt.
Note: our Report No.1 had an account of the incident at Nelliady on 10th November 1988. In response to an attack by the LTTE, the IPKF had opened fire indiscriminately killing 5 civilians and wounding several others. It is evident that the IPKF had done some homework and a procedure was adopted to call upon the civilians to lie down before opening fire. The intention must be commenced. These however are bound to remain broken threads in a tapestry that is hardly altered unless a conscious decision is taken to respect civilians, In the absence of such these will remain ad hoc tactical measures taken to minimise bad publicity. Under more severe tests, the IPKF is yet to prove that it can do better then the Sri Lankan army. Attitudes to shelling seem very similar.
As an army with a mission to protect civilian life, the shooting at Mr.Selvanayngam and family cannot be justified even on grounds of selfdefence. The attackers were by then well out of the way.[Top]
The LTTE entered the residential premises of the owner of Janaki Textiles, Pt.Pedro and took up positions. The people of the house fled the only thing they could do. An IPKF patrol was reportedly attacked later. The owner of the house was later summoned to the IPKF camp at Manthikai. The owner expected to be taken to task for not informing the IPXF of the LTTEs presence.
Pt.Pedro 8th 12th March
On the night of 7th March, the LTTE cut the IPKFs communication wire in front of Dr.Rasamaikkams Clinic in Pt.Pedro town, and buried a mine underneath. Business in the morning went on as usual, the people being unaware of anything amiss. Broken wires were common enough. The slightest whiff of some thing untoward would have closed the shops and sent people scurrying. The landmine was set off when two soldiers casually tried to join the wires, causing one to be killed and the other to lose a leg. Other soldiers beat up people plying, their trades, causing damage to premises. Dr. Rasananikkam, an elderly man retired from government service, is said to have been badly assaulted. A poor man running, a tea kiosk had his things broken. Rajah Tailor, who had left for the Middle East when the Sri Lankan army made life impossible had returned to ply his trade. With the deteriorating situation here, he had been wondering whether to go back to the Middle East where business was good. He too had suffered damage.
One might argue that these persons could have fared much worse had the Sri Lankan army been around. But the end result may be substantially the same. These persons would have had absolutely no sympathy for planting bombs. When anger is expiated by attacking those who keep the life of the community going, both services and the economy grind to a standstill. Dr. Rasamanikam's predecessor, Dr. Shanmuganathan, went abroad though he was not the money making type and was very committed to Point Pedro. Skilled workmen, like Rajah Tailor, too may leave. Economic life has been deteriorating with people having to pay more for shoddy workmanship compare say the highly skilled woodwork of a generation ago, with the best available today. Many of those who try to keep services going complain with justice, that performing their task under existing hazards requires more heroism than setting off bombs and running away.
On the morning of the 10th, residents in a large area west of the Jaffna road were woken up by the IPKF firing into the air at 5.00 A.M:. Then at 6.00A.M. loudspeaker announcements were made. The intended message was for people to leave their houses open and proceed to Veerapathira Kovil in Alvai (3 miles from Pedro town). The old could stay in their houses, and at least one person should remain in each house. There was much confusion, and in some areas, to avoid taking chances, people left their houses open and proceeded d to Alvai. Others went to nearby temples, thinking it unreasonable to order them to take their infants and elderly and trudge 3 miles. Most people were asked to get back home as soon as soldiers arrived at these places of confinement. Several young men were marched to various army camps. One group of soldiers marched with 50 young men and lost their way trying to do map reading with an ordnance map-. The lanes proved too much for them. The young men who were hungry; tried to show them the way. The soldiers ware apparently distrustful. The group kept moving until they hit upon a larger group of soldiers marching with 200 detainees. The young men estimated that they would have marched 1015 miles to cover the 1 mile from where they were detained to Manthikai. The soldiers stopped once for a meal, and later broke into a shop near Vetheri, and helped themselves to aerated water. The detainees did not share these privileges. Nearly all of them were released from Manthikai after 2.00 p.m. At Alvai, except for about 3 boys, the rest were asked to disperse by about 10.30 A.M. by the Deputy Commander of that area. A pregnant woman who had developed labour pains after trudging a long distance had to sent in a car. No major mishaps or thefts were reported, although contents of several wardrobes had been spilled. A 65 year old lady ran away in fright when a soldier asked her to go -------- not entered into. One house where an old couple had remained reported the lose of a gold cahin.
The purpose of the operation is not clear.It would have required a very large deployment of manpower to comb that area thoroughly in so short a time.
Substantial shelling from Yakkarai was resorted on the 11th. According to sources from Pt.Pedro Hospital the bodies of a man, a woman, and a boy were brought there. These persons had been killed by shell blasts. Many injured persons were admitted for treatment. At Nelliady, the sentry points are not manned after dusk. Transport proceeds knowing that they are being observed from covert positions. If barriers are down, volunteers have to move with trepidation to un-do the barriers and put them back. It is an eeriness that makes one admire the yeoman service of transport workers, both in and out of Jaffna.
At about 8.00 P.M. on the 11th, some residents along the Jaffna road who cared to investigate the barking of dogs saw the LITE dismantling the IPKFs 40 telephone wire. Such primitive communication is an endless source of trouble for both soldiers and civilians alike. In the past civilians, who fearing reprisals had gone to inform the IPKF of cut telephone wires, had been warned by the LITE. After a sleepless night it was made known in the morning that the telephone wire all the way between 1Manthikai and Point Pedro had been removed. Common sense prevailed and the IPKF kept its cool. Shops cautiously opened their doors late. By 10.00 A.IM., a rumour got around that a landmine had been installed in Pt.Pedro town. There soon began a closing of shops and a. flight of vehicles. The rumour turned out to be a false one.
After 4.00 p.m. a response to the stolen telephone wire came in the form of a large assorted column of the forces of Democracy and Normalcy, marching from Manthikai to Pt.Pedro. Other columns too were reported along the approaches to Pt.Pedro. The column moved slowly, restoring the telephone wire. A loud speaker announcement was being made as it moved along. The voice was South Indian, but the Tamil was not quite the Sangam variety. The loudspeaker blared: This wire has been stolen several times. This will be tolerated no longer. If near one house wire cutting, we will attack the people nearby. We will shoot we will hammer and we will break their bones. We will maul them. If a length of wire is stolen, we will impose curfew and do likewise to everyone in that area.
A Tamil soldier told a family near the bus dpot, of course the people cannot do anything about these wires. They are unarmed. Wire stealing is the LTTEs way of marking its attendance register. Such homely wisdom does not seem to guide the motions of the upper reaches of the IPKF. There is little doubt that wire will, be stolen for the nth time. If the promised circus goes into action, the prospects for another recruiting campaign seem bri3ht. When information of more recruits gets around, there will be more harassment of schoolboys. Iinsults thrown at school heads, followed by more shelling and costly military operations in Mullaitivu and Vavuniya where recruits are trained. Such is the thorny road to the elusive goal of democracy.
It is also notable that Vadanaratchi was given a new command barely a week earlier. Citizenss representatives were summoned and were told that the IPKF will no longer harass them. Some restrictions at sentry points were lifted. Within a matter of days, expectations had hand been soured.
Whether things are building up to something big or whether life is going to drag on like this is a matter of speculation. But people are becoming unnerved and are increasingly sending their young away. The desultory attacks and reprisals do resemble the build up to Operation Liberation.
Mr. & Mrs. A eked out a living from a. small business where their children sometimes helped after school hours. Their house was situated on a well used road. Next to their house were the remains of a dwelling, abandoned to the elements for several years, with foot paths running on either side between the building and the boundary fences. The footpath adjoining Mr. As boundary had become a kind of public thoroughfare. Hrs. A was a house proud lady who while sweeping her compound in the mornings, also swept the adjoining foot path.
One morning, while sweeping the foot path, she noticed that she had swept over and broken what looked like thin white threads. When she mentioned this to her husband, he had a look and summoned a neighbour. The latter noticed that the thread had a thin strand of metal running through. After further investigation, he found four landimines hidden along the foot paths on either side of the disused dwelling. Sensing trouble, Mr. A began moving his personal belongings away to houses nearby. Ordinary folk who always have their antennae out for signs of trouble, started arriving to see what had happened.
Suddenly 3 LITE men popped in through the back ways. Mr. B, who was a retired gentleman and by common consent a spokesman for the neighbourhood, attempted to speak to them. He was severely asked if the house was his. When he replied in the negative, he was told to leave after being warned that they would see about him later. Another girl was ordered to be on the lookout for the IPKF. Mr A & Co were then asked who made the matter public. Mr. A replied that he did not on purpose go about telling people. The LITE left after picking up the landmines and warning Mr. A that the next time this happens action will be taken against him. They added that there was bound to be an attack in the area sometime. The episode left a sense of panic in the neighbourhood, especially in those homes with infants and aged, who would find it difficult to get away in a hurry.
Several women observed that the militants were from their area and had been at school with their sons, nephews etc. In place of some understanding and light, friendly talk, the militants had behaved like aliens in a very disconcerting manner. One person thought that the purpose of the mines was to give the locals a scare. Ha had heard one of the LTTE men say with a laugh, If you do not let us sleep in your homes, these mines may find their way back here. But for many others, the pattern of events suggested something different.
One neighbour said that he had noticed some boys talking on the road at 4.00 A.M., and had dismissed it as nothing unusual. The envisaged scenario seems to be as follows: One or more militants, shoot or throw a bomb at an IPKF patrol from somewhere nearby and run away using the footpath by the side of Mr. As house. When the army follows and soldiers are on the footpaths on either side of the house, another militant in waiting will set off the mines and run away. Since the deployment of patrols is such as to minimise casualties, at best one soldier will get killed on the road and two by the mines. Going by the present pattern of retaliation by the IPKF, there is a good chance of the area being shelled, killing cows, goats and humans who could not get away.
The reasoning here seems to be that if someone had a problem, like a land mine sitting on his neighbours doorstep, he could slip away quietly. But to give others a tip off which might save their lives, and risk spoiling the attack, would be considered a serious offence.
The incident given here is not an isolated one, but represents the general pattern. It is a form of liberation warfare where people are discouraged from having a sense of responsibility even for one's neighbour. In other words it tends to isolate and weaken them into selfish and pliable individuals. That in part explains the state of the community. The original weakness however, was inherent in Jaffna society. The struggle instead of eliminating such weaknesses, was built on them. The ineptness of the other side ensures that landmine attacks help recruitment.
Others have observed the singular success of landmine attacks in this part of the world. That perhaps says something about Jaffna society. Frequently a person coming to know of a landmine being planted in a place would not say anything to those placed in Jeopardy. But would at the same tine find it irresistible to tell someone of his premonition. He may then tell someone living a mile away with gravity, 'Look, there is going to be trouble at this place. Do not say later that I did not say so?. Similar things happen in the upper reaches of society. One may tell another: 'I heard A say that B is an agent of the RAW You know A's connections. That means trouble for B. The story will go round and round B, until at length B finds out fantastic accounts of his connections and that a number of persons had bemoaned his prospective fate without caring to put him wise, so that timely action could be taken to defuse rumours. [Top]
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