In the name of peace we had a war. A Liberation struggle brought greater subjugation. In the final analysis, when the dead have been counted, the raped mourned, estimates made of the destruction, international and national publicity sought, the forgotten victims sink into oblivion.
We are talking of those who are not in anybodys list, anybodys prison, movement or camp. We are speaking of those who were taken away in the stillness of the night, in the light of the dawn amidst the birdsong, from the streets they walked, from the houses they built with love, wrenched from their mothers screams and sisters tears.
We cannot trace any such person, we have not arrested anyone by that name, in that location. A father or a husband stood motionless with anger and searing pain, staring at a note signed by some officer bearing some strange name.
We bring to you the accounts of the relatives of a few of the cases of the disappeared. We share with you their emotion, sorrow and their life of uncertainty. The cases cited below are but few out of the many who have disappeared after being taken into custody by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).
Date of Arrest : 12th November 1987 at 6.30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Place : 234, Temple Road, Nallur, Jaffna.
He showed the photographs. His hands shook with anger as he held his two little ones photos. Sangaralingams wife and three daughters (17,12 and 11) were taken by the IPKF on 12th November, 1987 never to be acknowledged, located or traced. On the unfortunate day, he was away in his native village, having gone to borrow some money to tide over difficult times following the war. When he came back the next day, there was nobody.
Their house was near a minicamp occupied by the 6th Guard Unit led by an officer named Ramanujam. It was this particular unit that took the family into custody. Around 6.30 a.m. on the 12th, the IPKF had taken his wife and the 17 year old daughter blindfolded in a jeep. That very evening at 6 p.m. the other two children (11, 12 years old) were taken sobbing and weeping, this time on foot.
Six months have passed. How is it possible that nobody in authority noted the presence of a family of four? All women? How is it that no army officer even registered in his memory cortex that a family unit was there?
Sangaralingam has written to every authority concerned. From Captains and Brigadiers of the IPKF to Shri Rajiv Gandhi, J.N. Dixit and the President of Sri Lanka, J.R.Jayawardene.
He sees other children going to school after this terrible war. He begs for the return of his children; they have to go to school too. But, where are his daughters? Where is his wife?
Date of arrest : 17th December 1987 at 6.45 a.m.
Place : 67, Palaly Road, Kantharmadam, Jaffna.
Whenever we met, even if we were talking shop, her agony would burst through. Yaso, was her youngest, a seventeen year old student of one of Jaffnas leading schools. Like anyone else in this land he was an admirer of the freedom fighters. But, he was not the type that held the gun or threw a grenade. He was a regular and diligent student. His school Principal and teachers could vouch for it. Yaso was taken into custody on 17th December at 6.45 a.m. by the IPKF. He consoled his distraught mother and sister saying that he was innocent, the Indian army would just question and release him soon.
And whenever the mother went she was assured that her son would be released once investigations are over. But she was never allowed to see him. On the 3rd day she had a glimpse of him from afar being taken in a jeep. That was the last view for a mother who stood in vigil to see her beloved son.
Later, on the fifth day a Major in the army visited her and told her that Yasotharan had escaped! Escaped from a fortified military camp? Four months have passed since this incident; his already hemiplegic father died of sorrow. What has happened to Yaso?
Date of Arrest : 31st December 1987 at 3.30 p.m.
Place : Sithy Vinayaga Library, Chunnakam.
Escaped, again a similar story. In this case the commanding officer of the camp said he had escaped on the pretext of going to the latrine. This story is abour 23 year old Jeyarajasingam a polisher at the aluminium factory who was arrested by the IPKF in Chunnakam ( miles from Jaffna) on the 31st of December 1987 at 3.30 p.m. when he was reading a newspaper in the local Community Centre Library. The mother on hearing the news had gone to the IPKF camp at Chunnakam but the commanding officer denied the arrest of her son. The next day (1.1.1988 New Years day) the mother had gone again, this time with a letter from the commanding officer at Kokuvil and then she was allowed to see her son. However, when she went on the following day (2.1.1988), she was told that her son had escaped!
Stranger still, the twists in this story. The commending officer of Chunnakam camp had made a note on the appeal made by the attorney. This note not only stated the alleged fact about the escape from the army camp ‑ but also stated that the boy had confessed to his activities in front of his mother on 31.12.1987 at 19 hours. How could it be true because, firstly the mother was not allowed to see her son on 31.12.1987 and secondly 19 hours was well into curfew hours during those days. The tragedy of these types of happenings is that we have to swallow all these lies and suffer insults in silence.
The IPKF who arrested Kirupa said that he had been released at 8 p.m. on 23.2.1988 and must have run away. Kirupa with his family and members of the Citizens Committee of the village had handed himself over on the same day 23.2.1988 early morning especially to obtain the release of his brother‑in‑law, who was taken as hostage for Kirupa the previous (22.2.1988) night.
The family were totally shocked at the equanimity of the army who proclaimed that Kirupa was released, because after the surrender on the same day (23.2.1988) Kirupa was brought by the army to the adjoining plot of land, assaulted brutally, while the army jawans were digging up the soil ‑ may be looking for arms. Finding nothing the army had gone half dragging Kirupa who was not in a fit state even to walk.
With these happenings how can the family believe that Kirupa was released that day and had found it possible to run away? How is it possible for us to believe that the army released him at 8 a.m. to walk home after curfew hours? Wasnt it the army who told us curfew breakers will be shot on sight?
The irony of Kirupas story is that Kirupa was an LTTE sympathiser who surrendered to the army (before all these happenings) on 07.01.1988 and was released 5 days later after investigation. Kirupas story calls the bluff of the IPKFs much publicised safe conduct for LTTE supporters who surrender.
Is it so absolutely easy to escape from military camps? Is it true that the IPKF which professes always to release those in custody at the houses or to someone responsible, would violate their own rules? Is it true somebody could be released to walk back home right in the middle of a curfew? What has happened to the Jeyarajasingams, Yasos and Kirupas of our land?
Date of Arrest : 16th November 1987
Place : 235, Point Pedro Road, Jaffna.
Babymalar the young wife of Varatharajan trudges every week to KKS, holding on to the hope that her husband will be shown to her, or at least shell be informed that he is inside the four walls of the torture hotel. She is also a regular visitor to the Kachcheri to see the lest of the detainees that the IPKF releases.
Varathan a photographer and artist was taken into custody on 18th November 1987 by the IPKF. The army entered their house cutting down the cadjan fence and breaking the gate that night. They dragged Varathan hand‑ cuffed while he was still holding his 11/2 year old baby daughter.
The IPKF unit that took him was camped 300 yards from their house. Up to date, for the last 6 months the Indian army has denied his arrest. They have officially never accepted the arrest. Varathan had not even existed for them. For Babymalar and her little daughter days and months pass with this uncertainty, this tragedy, and the pilgrimage to the army camps that decorate every village ‑ a weekly routine.
Date of Arrest : 18th November 1987
Place : Thavady West, Kokuvil
Sothinathan on the 18th of November 1987 went from the temple where they had taken refuge to his house with 3 other men to collect a few things for his wifes delivery. Their first baby was due any moment. He was arrested along with the other 3. All the others were released subsequently. His wife Thavaranjitham though quite big with child ran to the army camp on hearing of his arrest. She met him at 2.p.m. on the 18th at the Suthumalai army camp. This was the last she saw of him. She has gone from camp to camp, scanned the lists of the detainees the IPKF releases. She has gone to the Red Cross, written to the Town Commandant of the IPKF. 6 months have passes; her baby daughter is growing..... But there is still no news of Sothinathan. She insists, At least tell me if he is alive....
Date of Arrest : 15th October 1987
Place : 86, Saddanathar Road, Nallur, Jaffna.
Gandhi was arrested on the 15th of October. He was only 23 years old. He had returned from Saudi Arabia only in July. The poverty of his family had made him give up his studies. But he had come back to continue his studies. The pet name Gandhi originated because he was ever so small, thin like the Mahatma. Just as the spirit of Mahatma disappeared, Gandhi also never came back. His aging parents never got to see their son. 7 months have passed. Sometimes when they go to army camps inquiring on hearing any rumour, any thread of gossip ‑ about Gandhi ‑ the officers ridicule them calling such people old cases not worth even trying to locate. Digging up an Old case‑ is it all that Gandhis life means?
He was 57 years. On 23rd December he had gone to Mullaitivu to withdraw some money from the Bank. His relatives in Mullaitivu had seen him being taken by the IPKF, and his wife had inquired at all the camps in the Vanni district. They have tapped all the civil and military officers to trace him. His wife and four daughters exhausted, and left destitute, are facing an uncertain and tragic future while they wait for an answer, a ray of hope.
Disappearances in the Northern and Eastern regions of the Island of Sri Lanka have been occurring since 1984 due to the intensified military campaign of the Sri Lankan State. The documented toll from the Sri Lankan campaign is 627 cases, inclusive of ten children between the ages of 3 and 15 in the past 3 years. The activities of the Indian army or IPKF which came as a Peace Keeper in July 1987 has resulted in an increase in the number of disappeared, adding to the Sri Lankan score.
The disappeared are but one aspect of the Indian armys peace mission. The October‑November 1987 war waged by the IPKF ostensibly to disarm the local guerilla movement claimed more than 1,500 dead,and destruction occurred on a massive scale. Peace also included acts of rape, molestation, arbitrary arrests, torture and death in custody.
Moreover the Sri Lankan military and its Special Task Force (STF) which had unleashed many atrocities in the North and East against the Tamil people, currently indulges in similar acts of brutality in the majority Sinhala areas of South Sri Lanka. Already the recordable toll is 325 disappeared in 6 months. The South which was for the most part silent during the years of atrocities and human rights violations in the Tamil areas because they were carried out under the ideology of Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism, today faces a similar situation.
Disappearances are also caused by activities of paramilitary units and extreme nationalist groups within the two communities.
We urge you to break this silence, to come together to protest.
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