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Report 10



4.0 An overview

4.2 The Wardens of the Gulag

4.3 Merchants in Prison

4.4 Other Detainees

4.5 Dangers faced by detainees - further information

4.6 Detainees and the ICRC

4.7 Malli Camp

4.8 Prisoners and Caste

4.9. The Deserting Recruit


4.0 An overview

 Since our Report No 9 was issued in February 1992, a wealth of information has emerged about detainees held by the LTTE. The information published hitherto has been summarised in Briefing No.1. In what follows we summarise a heap of information to aid those actively concerned. We point out certain patterns without giving these the status of conclusions. The latter will have to await more complete information. The patterns should aid understanding as well as to direct action. Our informants who are former members of the LTTE and former prisoners have left the North-East.

 In Briefing No.1  we stated that the estimates of the total number of prisoners as varying around 4000. The number in the Thunukkai complex was estimated at 3000 and a thousand elsewhere. Thunukkai is now believed to be closed and the inmates have been distributed to several camps. Prison camps, either exclusive or part of LTTE camps, are known to exist or to have existed in Kachchai, Koilakandy (on Thachchanthoppu - Sungupiddy Road), Urelu (in a commercial Farm), Kopay (Heroes Hall, next to the women's camp), Kondavil, Chundikuli, Ariyalai (Maniam Thottam) and more than 10 around Chavakacheri. This list is far from being exhaustive. Villagers in a part of Karaveddy, near Nelliady, know that the local LTTE camp keeps prisoners in underground bunkers. The local wisdom is `Do not talk about them unless you want to join them'. Among these camps, some have as few as 3O detainees. The one at Koilakandy had several hundred. Figures given to us vary from 150 to over 500. The number killed following aerial bombing in Kachchai is put at more than 50. The ones in Thenmaratchi, sited in sparsely populated coconut estates facilitate holding larger numbers. Though the treatment in most of them is uniformly inhuman, the security in the smaller camps is not as elaborate as in the Thunukkai complex. An old man succeeded in escaping twice from the Urelu camp.

 There are indications that some of the larger prison camps where the treatment is more sadistic are still sited in the jungles between Mullaitivu and Mankulam. According to one prisoner who was transferred from `Malli' camp in the jungle near Mankulam on the Mullaitivu Road,the prisoners were kept in several bunkers - 20 to 30 in one bunker-smaller than the Thunukkai ones. There are no reports of escape. The details again give substance to the estimate of the total number of prisoners being about 4000.

 As remarkable as this may be, it has aroused comparatively little indignation either locally or internationally. The local reasons are more involved and were discussed in the previous chapter. The international reasons are simpler. Interest in Sri Lanka in the international media has sharply declined.

 In circles that have an economic interest in Sri Lanka, the North-East has been written off-at least this is what senior government officials seem to believe. Equally, there is no vested interest in exposing the scandal of prisoners in comparison with cases where big power interests are involved. Individual journalists visiting Jaffna who casually pursued the matter of prisoners, understandably did not get far. Some leading news organisations appear to believe that if their correspondents cannot lay their hands on this phenomenon, it cannot exist. Again attempts to expose this can deprive newsmen of highly newsworthy access to the Tigers - almost handed out on a platter. All in all the work of concealment for the Tigers has been made comparatively easy and the small efforts at exposure all the more difficult and hazardous.

 We shall now go into aspects that will clarify and add to earlier accounts. [Top]

4.1 What motivates the Tigers to hold so many prisoners?

 Going through all accounts, one sees no trace of compassion for prisoners. If some camp warden evinces the slightest weakness of that kind, he or she will be quickly removed. This poses the question, why keep prisoners alive considering that the Sri Lankan forces had no difficulty in killing off thousands of prisoners taken? The answers need to be partial and have been touched upon in  Briefing No.1. We are here talking about some prominent tendencies - the LTTE does conduct massacres and the Sri Lankan Forces do keep prisoners.

 The Sri Lankan state was conceived as a liberal - democratic institution. The pillars of such an institution are a system of laws and agencies for enforcement which derive legitimacy by acting according to a given set of rules. Two decades of repressive legislation have introduced parallel systems of law, or in short, lawlessness. This in turn has led the armed forces to act in such a manner as to lose that sense of legitimacy, leading to demoralisation and a loss of direction. Thus killing becomes a thoughtless act of unrestrained human passion, akin to banditry. There is little conception of acting in the name of an institution. Also,there is room for individual officers and soldiers to show compassion and not be persecuted for it.

 The Tigers in conception were a very different kind of organisation. The description of the prison camp in Thunukkai (Report No 9  & Briefing No.1 ), the whole pattern of camps and the meticulous administration of the system give the appearance of being consciously drawn from films and books about the Nazi and Stalinist prison complexes. If we look at the phenomenon taking into account these historical precedents, a consciousness of power requires objects over whom power is exercised. An exulting feeling of absolute power requires servile objects whose humanity is totally   debased. [Top]

4.2 The Wardens of the Gulag

 Through a process of selection and elimination, the persons running the show have the distinctions of cruelty and blind obedience to the leadership. Beyond this their private foibles are of little concern to the organisation. Working with the wardens in some camps are members of the intelligence unit, whose task is to extract information.

 Kanthi known as the butcher was earlier at the torture chamber at Thunukkai. Mampalam (38) of Myliddy was taken there accused of being an IPKF informer. Of the ten being tortured `Katkandu' of Palaly was asked by Kanthi if he recognised any of the others. He pointed at Mamapalam and another from Palaly. Kanthi aimed a blow at Mampalam with a pole. Out of excruciating pain Mampalam screamed some swear words. The other Tigers standing around proceeded to beat Mampalam to death with wooden and metal rods.

 Following the closure of Thunukkai after the outbreak of war, Kanthi was moved eventually to the centre at Koilakandy. This camp was the successor to the one at Kachchai bombed in August 199O. During torture a detainee had fainted. Kanthi left him, went to do something else and returned. Seeing that the victim of torture had been given medical attention, Kanthi went into a rage. Screaming, he ripped the bandages with a knife. He then grabbed the handle of a pick axe and beat the victim to death.

 Nirmalan was in charge of the camp at Koilakandy and had imbibed a taste of good life earlier. According to the local grapevine Nirmalan had been in a number of foreign countries including Singapore and others in Europe, dealing in a number of LTTE operations involving the handling of money. It is also believed that his new job was a sinecure following deportation to Sri Lanka over an offence abroad. Using prison labour and materials obtained by stripping public assets such as railways and government departments, he proceeded to build for himself a luxury apartment. He surrounded himself with stolen domestic and exotic animals and used Kannan, a sculptor and detainee to embellish is apartment.

 Things went smoothly until Nirmalan quarrelled with Kanthi, a man from the intelligence unit. Nirmalan was transferred. Kanthi set free the love birds and doves and over a period consumed the pigs and peacocks. The horse, he retained for his use. Nirmalan's castle was demolished by the same detainees who built it and the materials were sent for building bunkers. This much changed, but not the cruelty.

 During September 1991 Nirmalan and his sidekick Kerdi beat to death in front of other prisoners a mechanic, Sivalingarajah, from Chunnakam. Sivalingarajah had earlier repaired vehicles for the EPRLF as he later did for the LTTE.

 Pottu Amman is the top man in the intelligence unit. During May 1991, a detainee named Sri, a former PLOTE member, escaped from detention with his legs chained. The leaders of the camp were promptly punished by the LTTE high command. Pottu Amman then took a hand. Sri's father, two sisters and a cousin were brought to the camp and were tortured in separate rooms. Then Pottu Amman asked the father to look at the daughters. Crawling to their rooms the father saw the two daughters semi-conscious in pools of blood. Pottu Amman subject the daughters to further cruel beating in the father's presence. To prevent further harm to his daughters, he proceeded to name the places where Sri may be hidden. Sri was re-arrested the next day. At the time of receipt of this information, the family had not been released.

 In connection with Sri's escape, a 60 years old a printer, and proprietor of `Dhurka Brothers' of Uduvil was taken to Kachchai, accused of helping Sri. Here he was tortured by Kanthi (later at Koilakandy as mentioned) and then sent to Urelu for confinement. Being unable to walk, he was dragged into the camp by LTTE cadre. He passed away at 7.00 p.m. The other detainees were asked to stitch his body in a sack. A pick up took away the body in the night. His family was informed of his death six months later.

 Among Pottu Amman's qualifications for the job is his  blind adulation of the leader. During 1984, in India, about the time an oath of personal loyalty to the leader was introduced, some cadre put some questions about the leader's conduct and about the claims of his position. Pottu Amman, it is said, stuttered and went speechless with rage.

 Another significant incident involving Pottu Amman is the murder of Ruban. Ruban had left the LTTE in 1984 and was doing work among refugees in Vetharanyam. While walking on the street Pottu Amman was seen catching hold of Ruban and assaulting him. He was then taken away by Pottu Amman's gang. The  matter was reported by Ruban's friends to the Indian Police and no action was taken. Nothing further being heard, Ruban was presumed killed.

 Today Pottu Amman's crew are being blamed by the Indian Police of having killed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to the accompaniment of crocodile tears about gun culture.

 A number of sources, including press reports, have indicated that Pottu Amman was the intended victim of a bomb thrown near Kopay. There are rumours that he was injured, but no official comment from the LTTE.

 Ambrose was in charge of a small camp and faced punishment for the escape of a prisoner. By day, he had to be in a labour camp with other prisoners making brooms. By night he had to trudge looking for the escapee.

 Kamal, high caste, from Puttur was in charge of the camp at Urelu, when a prisoner William Kandasamy (60) was sent there. William of oppressed caste, also from Puttur, was sent to the Urelu camp, accused of being a womaniser. Two women with whom he had alleged links, it is said, were publicly executed accused of being EPRLF members, and an example of EPRLF un-Tamil decadence. Kamal, as the prisoners well knew, and as also the organisation had inquired into, was not innocent of what William had been charged with. William had in his younger days been an activist against caste oppression. William's treatment was extra-ordinarily harsh. William escaped, through his wife contacted Nirmalan at the Koilakandy camp and surrendered there. Kamal complained to Pottu Amman, and William was restored to Urelu. William escaped the second time', hid in the house of a Roman Catholic priest and contacted an international organisation. Under the observation of this organisation and some senior clergy, William surrendered to Valmi and Bosco of the intelligence unit at the Anaikkottai camp. William was released 15 days later.

 Several senior persons in the intelligence unit are said to have left the LTTE over differences with Pottu Amman. Among those who left are Daniel and Dinesh who were at Thunukkai and Ravi who was at Chavacachcheri. Salim a senior man referred to in earlier reports in charge of issuing travel permits, was later transferred to look after the welfare of wounded cadre.

Kerdi and two others were in charge of a group known in Tiger circles as the `Special Task Force'. They took charge of legalised robbery. Detainees were used to load the loot into vehicles and then unload them.

Among the wardens a common means of letting loose their frustrations and humiliating detainees is to dwell insultingly on questions of marital intimacy, as would be the case among regular soldiers. [Top]

4.3 Merchants in Prison

As said earlier, the elite sections of the LTTE are those dealing with finance and intelligence, and not the fighting sections glorified for popular consumption. This comes from the highest authority within the organisation. These sections are led by persons, now middle aged like the leader, and close to him through clan and kinship. Those dealing in finance work closely with selected merchants, can grant them special favours and enjoy considerable freedom in managing their private interests. This has enabled the LTTE to monitor, control and exact payments from the entire merchant class. The merchants in turn smuggle in rare materials, such as fuel, using their contacts. When there is a smooth working relationship with the LTTE, life can be mutually profitable. But yet curious circumstances have landed many of them in prison. Several cases of merchants held are straightforward. They are or were held pending payment of ransom, often beyond their means.

 During the IPKF presence many merchants were placed in an unenviable position. Before the IPKF arrived, they already had a working relationship with the LTTE. Later they tried to do a balancing act between the LTTE and the pro-Indian groups. But the LTTE received an overwhelmingly high proportion of their payments. Several of those in prison are said to have been `fervently' pro-LTTE, as much as the word could apply to a businessman.

 As the IPKF withdrew members of pro-Indian groups left some of their arms with traders for safe keeping, not suspecting that these traders also dealt with the LTTE or were too scared to keep the arms. As the LTTE took over, these traders handed over these arms to the LTTE. Some however retained some revolvers and such like. This they did not to challenge the LTTE. But as shrewd businessmen they suspected that the present order of controlled robbery was not permanent, but may any time dissolve into anarchy. Then they would have to protect themselves. One of them was Sri, of Valambikai Stores, Stanley Road, Jaffna, who kept back two pistols. The Tigers came to know of this through Anastine, a boat owner and contact of Sri, detained in connection with unauthorised smuggling. Sri was detained and released after paying a fine of Rs 1 1/2 lakhs. A similar fate overtook the proprietor of Every Day Stores, Palaly. Whether he was released is not known.

Ranganathan was the owner of Murugan hardware Stores near the Chavacacheri Police Station, destroyed in the TELO attack of 1984. Though an LTTE sympathiser, he had retained a revolver recovered from the ruins of the police station. Kannan, a former member of the LTTE and recently appointed by the LTTE to the local vigilance committee, led a gang of robbers. In robbing Ranganathan's house, his revolver had also been taken. Later apprehended by the LTTE, Kannan told everything. Ranganathan was arrested and sent to Urelu. Kannan and co were put to sleep.
Marimuthtu Satkunam had a small shop in Palaly and was arrested on the charge that he had sold the EPRLF paper `Viduthalai' during the IPKF presence. Several months later, on 1Oth June 199O, he was released and ordered to leave the Tamil region within a month. This he was unable to do owing to the outbreak of war. He was re-arrested on 18th August 199O.

Gunaratnam, a wholesale rice merchant in Jaffna was arrested on the charge that he had used another militant group to get rid of an inconvenient person. He was released after buying a Pajero Jeep for the LTTE. This happened before the war.

Perhaps the most revealing of cases that have come our way is that of Suthanantham, owner of SPS traders, Jaffna. Though close to the Tigers, Suthanantham also did a balancing act. He also it appears, maintained friendly contacts with a Tamil politician based in Colombo. Suthanantham was also very close to Kutti, who was the LTTE leader's hand-picked man in charge of supplies. Kutti boasted that it was he who kept the LTTE leader on, a full stomach. He stopped lorries carrying goods from Colombo to Jaffna in the Vanni jungles and took what he wanted. This was during the IPKF presence. Whatever he wanted, whether food or fuel, Suthanantham brought it for him. In turn it was spoken in Jaffna that anyone wanting goods transported safely without having them robbed on the way would do well to use SPS.

On one occasion Kanthi and Shoot of the LTTE's intelligence unit asked Suthanantham to give them some fuel for their own use. Suthanantham told them that all that he gives, he gives Kutti and that they should ask him. Owing to his rapport with Kutti, the matter ended there for the time being.

Kanthi and Shoot had their chance much later. The editor of "Puththolir" was kept under surveillance. On searching his house they found a letter from the Tamil politician in Colombo, suggesting that any sensitive letters could be sent through SPS. Kanthi and Shoot took in the SPS proprietor Suthanantham. After being tortured and reminded of his earlier refusal to give them fuel, he was told that his release was conditional upon the payment of Rs 50 lakhs. As his wife was delivering a child, a fellow businessman had him released for 48 hours on a personal guarantee. 4 months later he was released upon the payment of Rs. 25 lakhs. [Top]

4.4 Other Detainees

Thangarajah, director of Education, Jaffna & the Editor of Puththolir were old friends of a politician in Colombo. The editor, a school principal in addition, was an active member of several LTTE bodies. But he was under surveillance because his friendship had come to the notice of the LTTE. His wife while accompanied to Colombo by a tea shop owner, Maniam, was searched by Theepan at Thandikulam, and a letter to the politician was found in her possession. The editor's house was then searched and a letter from the politician was found in which there was a reference to `Thanga' besides the SPS (see above). All concerned were detained, although there was nothing remotely subversivein the relationships. Maniam was tortured and released 5 months later. There was no definite information about the others at the time of receipt of information.

Thiruchelvam of Navaly, whose brother-in-law was in the EPRLF sold fish to the local EPRLF camp during the IPKF presence. He was later detained by the LTTE and subsequently released. He was re-arrested at the instigation of a local LTTE supporter. This time he was beaten to death by Kanthi and his fellow minions.

Parimalamuhan (60), a toddy tapper, was  a member of a Coconut and Palmyrah Products Sales Co-operative in Vadamaratchi. He had a dispute with the administration which he accused of corruption. In the sequel he was arrested as an EPRLF sympathiser.

Karunaikadatcharaguru alias Kili (55) of Myliddy was a strong sympathiser of the EROS who supported the LTTE during the IPKF presence. He was called to the local EPRLF camp, warned and let off. He later worked at the EPRLF's Palaly office. He was later arrested by the LTTE as a traitor for not giving them information after it assumed control in Jaffna.

Katkandu from Palaly  was detained as an EPRLF sympathiser by the LTTE as the IPKF withdrew. The LTTE tortured him on the assumption that he knew the locations where weapons were hidden and under torture Katkandu admitted wrongly that he knew where arms were buried. Following a futile search the Tigers subject him to severe assault. Katkandu was later seen in prison with one of his legs where the flesh shrunken and was rendered unusable.

Muhundan, a young graduate of the University of Peradeniya and a  EPRLF  member, was  co-ordinating officer for the North during the short-lived provincial administration. He was later arrested   and tortured very badly. He was kept in Thunukai camp and from the earlier accounts of the escapees he was assumed  dead. But according to recent information he is alive and although not subject to routine physical torture, he is  treated humiliatingly. Sometimes they would give him pen and paper and ask him to write about the strategy of the EPRLF. His writings would then be taken away and studied. Some senior Tigers would then come and argue with him. Muhundan would logically argue for the EPRLF position. When unable to answer him, the LTTE leaders would strike him. After they leave, Muhundan may be subject to a torture session.

 He has been told that his fiancee, also a graduate of the same university, was a detainee in the women's camp. But in truth she now lives in Colombo.

Arulappu Judaharan (23) was a member of the EPRLF. In March 1990 he was arrested in the sea off Falaly while attempting to flee to India. His father, with 9 children, lost the use of his hands after being hit by a Sri Lankan army shell and is without an income. But unknown to his family Judaharan, with his head shaven and eyelashes pulled out has been languishing in prison for 2 1/2 years.

Alexander Benedict (35) and Karuppiah (29), both from Palaly and Sivarajah from Myliddy were among the several boatmen detained by the LTTE on suspicion of having aided EPRLF cadre to escape to India in early 199O.

Jesudason alias Soori alias Gunalan of Gurunagar Jaffna left the EPRLF in 1988 and lived in Colombo. He returned to Jaffna after the LTTE assumed control, was arrested, tortured and released a year later. He was re-arrested following a lady of Ariyalai close to the Tigers, complaining that Jesudason had attempted to shoot her son in the Ariyalai sports grounds in 1988. This time Kanthi plucked out his finger nails. But the three sons of the lady of Ariyalai are living in Canada.

Mudiappu Selvarajah of Oorani, KKS, Registrar of Marriages, was arrested on the charge of registering marriages of EPRLF cadre at their camps. He has been tortured. A further charge is that he was friendly with Venugopal, an Indian intelligence officer. [Top]

4.5 Dangers faced by detainees - further information

See Briefing No.1   for information published earlier

The main camp of the Tigers sited in Kondavil was targeted by airforce bombers and missed. Expecting another attempt, The Tigers shifted their main camp and transferred several of their detainees to the vacated premises. When the place was successfully bombed on the second attempt, those killed were all prisoners hoplessly shut up inside. Thus the Tigers let the government kill several birds with one stone, giving them selves also pictures for propaganda.

We give here a slight variation of the account of an incident given in Report No. 6 and Briefing No. 1 Although the source this time is different, the facts are substantially the same.

The LTTE prison camp at Kachchai was bombed by the airforce in August 199O. One bomb hit a bunker where prisoners were kept. The camp leader Kanthi came out from his hiding place once the bombers left, sprayed the inside of the damaged bunker with his sub machine gun. The bunker was then covered up. The camp was then moved to Koilakandy.

4.6 Detainees and the ICRC

The occasional positive role played by the ICRC in individual cases is exceptional and depended on several unusual circumstances. There is as said earlier, no  access to prisoners. Relatives of detainees through invisible forces at work have been conditioned to believe that should they complain to the ICRC, their loved one will be reported dead. The LTTE tries to handle the problem through a mixture of terror and false hopes. A few months ago the LTTE controlled newspapers announced: "Ten traitors freed," in an attempt to deflect attention from a very large problem.

About mid - 1992, a rumour took root among relatives of detainees that they were being asked to report the detentions to the ICRC. Hundreds, some say up to two thousand, marched towards the ICRC office in Jaffna. Close to the office, they were intercepted by some persons who directed them to complain to the National Red Cross, Jaffna Branch, so that their complaints would be forwarded to the ICRC. Since nothing came out of it, it is assumed that the complaints did not go beyond the Red Cross.

The local Red Cross had some persons who are well-motivated. But even during the IPKF presence it was infiltrated by LTTE agents and the IPKF had even complained about it. Some idea of how the Red Cross functions now is evident from a recent occurrence. Those in the LTTE believed to be Mahattaya's men as opposed to Prabakaran's, were weeded out from all influential positions. About this time the entire board of the Red Cross was changed. For the relatives of detainees, the ICRC flag flies as a symbol of unrealisable hope. [Top]

4.7 Malli Camp

 A prisoner, among a group of 30, was taken to Malli camp by mistake and was returned after a day. The access to the camp is on foot through dense jungle, after going towards Mullaitivu by road from Mankulam. The prisoners were walked with their legs chained. The prisoner conveyed there by mistake was left outside, while the others were taken into bunkers containing each about 20 to 30. Not only do the sun's rays hardly penetrate the dense foliage, but the prisoners are kept covered in even darker bunkers with their legs chained. They are brought out only for meals. These prisoners are said to be condemned with no hope of release. No one, it is believed, escaped.

 On this day one prisoner was having diarrhoea. The others unable to bear the smell, screamed. The warden paid no attention. When brought out for a meal, he ordered all prisoners in that bunker to dip their forefinger in the excreta. They were then ordered to eat with the remaining fingers in their right hand. They were then locked up in the bunker without being allowed to wash their hand. [Top]

4.8 Prisoners and Caste

 By all accounts reaching us, a very high proportion of the LTTE's prisoners come from the oppressed castes. Some estimate this at 9O%. This does not mean that the LTTE has strong ideas about caste either way. An examination of this phenomenon supports our contention that the LTTE is not a liberation group with any notion of reforming Jaffna society. Its clear aim is a drive for power. To this end it will not waste time reforming society. It would rather use and manipulate Jaffna society as it finds it.

 How this society works is illustrated by the following incident. Although the external circumstances may be rare, the internal working is typical. During the time of the EPRLF - led provincial administration, it set up vigilance committees in the Palaly and Myliddy areas, comprising young and elderly persons who understandably had little choice. When the LTTE took over in early 199O all these persons were detained. Later, the high castes were mostly released. Those sent for torture and imprisonment were mainly the low caste persons. Among the latter are: Sivapragasam (Valalai Vigilance Committee) and Poologasingham & Konjukkili, both from the Palaly Vigilance Committee.

 In the case of the high castes, some friend or relative close to the LTTE would have approached the leadership and have convinced them that these persons if released could perform some useful services. This would very rarely be the case with the low castes. Further light is thrown on this if we look at how the LTTE, which owes much of its character to the untypical enclave of Valvettithurai, has grafted itself onto the main body of Jaffna society through a developing symbiosis. As a result the institution of caste, under challenge over the two decades leading up to 1985, has since been strengthened all but in name. This was looked at more closely  in the previous chapter.

 If one looks at the prisoners mentioned in our reports, which may not be far from a random sample, the figure of 9O% of the prisoners being low caste would not appear to be far off the mark, although about 7O% of Jaffna is high caste. (It was much lower a hundred years ago. Educational advancement can sometimes work wonders with caste). Curiously, the same also holds for the rank and file cadre, fighting, dying and torturing for their leaders.

 Many of our cases also show the brutal treatment accorded to prisoners from the low castes even when they are rather old. No restraint operates in the case of such prisoners. The image of `reasonableness' is important for the LTTE in its dealings with dominant sections of Jaffna society. The notion of a low caste person striking a high caste is anathema.

 A case reported to us by a person who recently left the LTTE  concerns low caste farmer from Karaveddy, Vadamaratchi. The LTTE was given information that he had supplied food to the EPRLF during the time of the provincial administration. Our interlocutor was in the party that went to question him. The farmer was in the field. Speaking to his wife and children, our interlocutor received the strong impression that the farmer may have supplied food on about one occasion, almost under duress. The farmer on returning was taken away. Under torture he made fantastic admissions. Our interlocutor later asked him why he gave such a different story to the one given earlier. The farmer replied that he could not take the torture. Shortly afterwards the farmer was beaten to death.

 It is very untypical for a high caste to be so treated for a routine offence. Also, with a useful Valvettithurai connection, much can be forgiven, as has happened in practice.

 Another important reason for the predominance of low castes among prisoners is closely tied up with the history of the liberation struggle. From the mid 6Os the low castes were politicised en masse by Left organisations and were mobilised against the practice of untouchability. The high castes largely swallowed Tamil nationalist slogans uncritically and were relatively un politicised. Groups like the EPRLF which professed Marxist leanings and universal revolution, in the early stages appealed to sections which were politicised. Even after it became militarised to compete with the LTTE, the EPRLF recruited heavily in these areas. Being poorer, these recruits lacked the ability to flee as their organisation collapsed in the wake of an LTTE takeover.

 The group PLOTE had a base in high caste areas of Jaffna. By comparison its cadre had the ability to go abroad and their families were not as threatened by staying at home.

 Because of this history, although the LTTE has of late successfully recruited heavily in low caste areas, as an institution it retains a paranoia and a secret fear of areas where Left politics once had a base. Consequently arrests in areas like Vathiri in Karaveddy have had the character of mass arrests [ Report No.6 ]. But arrests of members of the higher starta of society have been mostly individual arrests. Our next case illustrates the dilemma facing families that were once part of the Left struggle. [Top]

4.9. The Deserting Recruit

    In the following story, the names and incidental details have been changed. Nathan was a typical man of his village. In his younger days he had been active in a Left party, which besides mobilising people against caste oppression had given them considerable knowledge and analysis of liberation struggles around the world. His intellect had been sharpened by the experience of his own social condition. Some success was achieved. As the years went by the party declined. Nathan too married, retained his sympathies and his judgement, but as children came along he busied himself raising his family as a farmer.

 Then militant groups came along. Some he more or less agreed with. Others he regarded with horror. In time nearly all of them accepted Indian overlordship and became military institutions. None had a serious programme for the participation of the people. Nathan had a contempt for speech - making. He thus kept a distance from all the groups. As things developed, he saw in the actions of the LTTE everything he had learnt to dread. He knew about Hitler and Stalin and felt in his bones what was going on.

 The war of June 199O had begun and Nathan began to worry about his son Ravi. Ravi was backward in his O.Level class. Everything was controlled by the powers that be. For the young there was total emptiness except what the powers offer. All that Ravi saw of the world was what was directed at him through loud speakers and young uniformed boys with automatics running around in vehicles. Ravi grasped at the only visible thing which offered meaning to his dreary existence. Nathan's worst fears came true. Ravi left home and joined the LTTE.

 In his utter despair Nathan found something akin to insanity creeping over him. He sent his wife Kamala to the LTTE camp to bring back Ravi. Kamala was turned away by the LTTE. Kamala told the LTTE leaders that she would fast in front of the camp until Ravi was restored to her. She built herself a shelter in front of the camp and sat down to fast. Some LTTE cadre came out and demolished the shelter. Kamala continued to sit in the open. Eventually Kamala was sent away.

 Ravi was recruited into the intelligence unit. After 3 weeks of training Ravi was sent home for two days. On the pretence of attending the some business, Nathan took Ravi to the home of Murugan is a distant village. Nathan then told Ravi that there was no business and that he was taking Ravi to Colombo. Ravi told him that should he not return within 48 hours, there will be a search out for him. Nathan told Ravi that unless he agreed to desert, he, Nathan, would swallow insecticide. Leaving Ravi at Murugan's and asking Murugan to use his influence and get a Colombo pass, Nathen went to fetch Kamala.

 Soon father, mother and their contrite son set off to the Vavuniya border. To their misfortune the Sri Lankan Forces declared curfew and started a military operation, causing travellers to get held up at Thandikkulam. In the meantime the LTTE had sent out an alert for Ravi and the family was traced to Thandikkulam. The family together with Murugan were detained Nathan swallowed insecticide, but narrowly survived. Nathan was released after treatment. Ravi was taken back into the LTTE.[Top]



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