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Chapter 3

3.0. The Problems of The Young

3.1 Arms And The Young

3.2. The militant Phenomenon Today

3.3. Indian Perspectives

3.4 Options For The Community


3.0. The Problems of The Young

In a variety of ways the problems of this country centre around the problems of the young. This is so painfully true in the north and south of this country. The government’s approach in the South has been described as one of systematic warfare against the young. The situation in the North, though lesser in extent, has qualitative similarities to the situation in the South. While the hideous extent of the brutality in the South has surfaced in the press, it is less well—known that such things also happen in the North. The hatred between rival Tamil militant groups has grown to such an extent, that at times simple killing was considered inadequate. There have been cases of killing after painful prolonged torture and sometimes of dismembering of limbs one by one before the victim dies. The rival forces involved in such acts are sons of the same soil, sharing common origins and are in many cases from one family. One thing common between the North and the South is that the force representing legal authority articulates the interests of outsiders who cannot share the tragedy of thousands of bereaved families or understand their feelings. The armed forces operating in the South, represent predominantly the ruling Colombo based elite. The counter—insurgency forces in the North—East are ultimately subject to Indian interests. It is also notable that the security apparatus now operating in the South was built up to prosecute a campaign against the Tamil youth of the North—East are ultimately subject to Indian interests. One does feel on reflection, that the history of this country would have been very different if a healthy federal form of government had been in place to allow regions to sort out their own problems, long before these became chronic.

When an outsider views these developments, they are seen as irritations to be got out of the way as expeditiously as possible. There is little effort to understand the people concerned, accompanied by impatience with anything

that does not promise immediate results. This is in essence the military approach.

Though the schools and the university have been, perhaps just, functioning in the North, almost every other incident is a reminder of how dangerous it is to be young. This is clear from our reports. (See incidents at St. Patrick’s, Jaffna Hindu, Pandeterupu and the University).

Some of today’s problems go back to the precipitate growth of the militancy after July 1983. Up to this time those who joined the militancy had been fairly mature persons. When India started pouring money and training facilities into the Tamil militancy, several hundreds of school children ran away in groups to join one militant faction or the other. From Hartley College Pt. Pedro, a school renowned for high academic standards, an entire class, many of them with good A. Level grades, joined the TELO This was a period

when principals, educationists and parents lost control. The resentment against the Sri Lankan state for the July 1983 anti-Tamil program end the subsequent repression was such that the militant phenomenon had general public approval, and India’s role was seen as benevolent. The  LTTE itself received material and propaganda support from India right up to July 1987.

Divisions between militant groups can be traced back to divisions within the Tamil community itself. Any sound political process should have been cited at healing these divisions. The manner in which India used these divi­sions had the opposite effect. When the LTTE refused to play ball, the other groups which had real grievances against the LTTE       used to crack down on the process of brother being turned against brother reached unprecedented heights.

The LTTE’s bigotry has much to do with its own weak position today and with trapping members of other groups who were equally dedicated into playing a role subservient to the Indian army. At the same time its image of uncompromising suicidal valour and the resentment created the conduct of India, have tended to strengthen the LTTE’s  a reputation as a patriotic force, despite the fact that its own conduct and methods of terror have forced the Tamils more firmly into Indian hands. The reality today is that every institution which deals with the young — educational institutions, schools and factories are bound to have at least  a smattering of supporters of the LTTE, besides supporters of other groups feuding with the LTTE. Such institutions have, both the opportunity and challenge, to function as places of reconciliation that is the key to any democratic process.

The numerous incidents recorded by us, show that this is not how the IPKF sees the problems of youth. India does not feel a moral responsibility towards the cruel fate of the young of all militant factions that its involvement brought into arms. In India’s military approach it is dangerous for a young person to he found near an incident. A young person, who gets picked up and is later found dead or disappears, is just an awkward statistic in pragmatic calculations made in Delhi.

The incidents at St. Patricks (26.11.88), Jaffna Hindu (26.01.89) and the University of Jaffna (1 & 2 Feb. 89) demonstrate the paranoid attitude of a military farce towards institutin’s dealing with the young. In the last two instances, pursued LTTE militants sought cover by running into the institutions. When on lot February, soldiers in pursuit of one youth opened fire at random from the main entrance of the university, it reflected the impact on a soldier’s mind of suddenly being confronted with several young men while in a mood of pursuit. One could hardly imagine what would have happened if there had been the slightest provocation from anyone. The manner in which the following day’s protest was handled by the IPKF has all the hallmarks of a war on the young. Despite IPKF calls to forget the past, these events are representative of the repetitive character of IP:{F operations from October 1937, and a philosophy of contempt for the local civilian population.

No doubt, the IPKF gets regular information of LTTE influence and sometimes even of activity within institutions that deal with the young. Quite often when a young person is detained and the authorities from the institution have to deal with the 1PKF; intimidatory thrusts are made, accusing the institution of harbouring the LTTE. There is little or no appreciation by India of the vast problems of such institutions, for which India must bear some responsibility. The tendency is for such institutions to be cowed into an all round passivity, where they may once again give up trying to deal with the key problem of reconciliation and returning the young to normal living. In the resulting drift serious misunderstandings tend to develop. Not infrequently, IPKF officers use the expression ‘Golden Temple’ in connection with such institutions. The fate of Jude Zacheharias, the organist at the Cathedral at St. Patrick’s, is one tragic result of such a mentality.

Such an approach, by categorising: the young as one uniform mass, fails to recognise the large variety of character and opinion as in any other commu­nity. It also denies then a history1 a history in which the noble is mixed with the ignoble — like in any other time and place. Those with set preju­dices may do well to remember, that in 1906, senior students at Jaffna Hindu were amongst those intimidated by the LTTE for joining the university students in protesting the disappearance of Vijitharan. The same thing happened to students from other schools. The University of Jaffna did produce several LITE leaders in the early 1980’s — nearly all of whom, incidentally, left in disillusionment or died. The university is also, the place where students gave the lead in questioning human tights violations by militant groups. To intervene in such a situation without understanding, and without reference to morality or political wisdom, can only spell long term chaos, which will not be just confined to this region.[Top]

3.1 Arms And The Young

It is often contended that the strength of an insurgent movement is positively related to the repression to which the population is subject. While this is generally true, in the Tamil context, at least from the mid—80’s, the relation between repression and an individual deciding to take up arms is often an indirect phenomenon mediated by so many unconnected factors. This is particularly so because those joining the insurgency at this time are mainly boys in their early teens.

Once India became simultaneously the patron of a number of warring militant groups under the supervision of Indian agencies, military capacity increased by bounds at the cost of political sagacity. By the end of 1985 disillusion­ment had crept in, a1though repression by the Sri Lankan state remained a vivid reality. By then, many of the mature militants started leaving and the age of the child warrior had begun. The problem was exacerbated when the LTTE had cracked down on other militant groups and the number of militants opposing Sri Lanka forces diminished sharply. The articulate sections of society were not sensitive to this phenomenon as the children affected ware mainly from the poorer classes.

What happens at present is that the IPKF s conduct with the civilian popula­tion creates an atmosphere of resentment. Elders in conversation may air their anger by saying that they can now understand why the LTTE is right or what they may do had they been younger. At places where the young gather, they are exposed to propaganda calculated to discredit the older folk as passive and cowardly. The children who get pushed into carrying arms are usually from poorer homes and from homes where the child—parent relationship is strained. Lost children who are affected have no inkling about the values involved or a cause.  We give below some examples, which may, at least intui­tively, serve to explain what is involved.

N is a boy of 15, eldest in family of 9 children, from Vadarmaratchi, who are all very intelligent. The father is a farmer and the mother is a very effective housewife. N was doing well at school, particularly in Mathematics. But the father was not very pleased with him and was sometimes harsh towards him. The reason was that his second son, while good at school, was both an instinctive and expert farmer on whom the father could rely; but N had no affinity towards farming.

Soon after the IPKF’ s mass beating campaign on 1st June 1983, after the LTIE shot dead two soldiers who were shopping, and during the aftermath, the LTTE recruited many schoolboys. He told a lady in the neighbourhood who was affectionate towards him, that he wished to join the 'Iyakkam' (the LTTE). He could give no reason and only kept repeating that two boys in his class had run away to join the LTTE and that he and some others had thought of following them. The lady told him that if he wished to do some good to his community, he should first study and become a steady man. Fidgeting with his fingers and twisting his body in a nervous manner, N replied softly that it had nothing to do with the community. He ‘just’ (summa) thought of going.

It was fortunate that N was dissuaded from going. Had done so, he may have spent some months distributing notices and running minor errands. He may then have been given a pistol and asked to assassinate someone. Then there would be no turning back. The ordinary shy and pleasant boy seeking maternal comfort from the lady may have become a seasoned murderer. In a community where leaders have been shy to emphasise values and live by them, it is not too shocking to hear a middle—class boy from a leading school remark: “It has been rather dull these last few months. It is about time I landed someone through the skull”.

K was 16 whose father was disabled and his mother had become highly strung and had quarrelled with most of her neighbours. In the early part of 1937, shortly before the Sri Lankan armys “Operation Liberation”, K used to frequently leave home to associate with LTTE sentries. It was a big day for him when he was allowed to handle an AK 47 and hear a voice at the other end of the walkie—talkie. His great ambition was that he would one day appear in one of those larger then life posters on cardboard, similar to cinema advertisements9 commemorating the militant dead.

R (17) was a locally trained member of the LITE in Vavuniya. He was sent off to Jaffna when life became hot after the redeployment of the TELO. His relatives tried to find him a job to rehabilitate him. He lost several of them because he found the new discipline difficult to bear. He is now with a kindly building contractor who lets him come to work when he chooses and pays him accordingly. When asked why his group decimated the TELO, a fellow Tamil group, R could only say:  “if our leadership says someone is our enemy, he is our enemy; and we will go for him. That is all.”

The life of a child warrior today is far more hazardous than it had ever been. Their lenders too are boys in their teens. For several of then, swallowing a cyanide capsule may be their first and their last military operation. They do of course receive advice, support and perhaps instructions from older persons who have better cover and are better able to look after themselves. For the child—warriors rood is hard to come by and cover is practically non—existent. Their stubbornness and their anger against all others may sound irrational. Given the IPKF's present policy, they are trapped whichever way they go. The golden opportunity of rehabilitation promised by the soon after the October 1987 offensive never carried conviction. Several youths who were released from IPKF custody were later assassinated. These boys cannot simply forget the whole thing and go back to their homes, for amongst other reasons, many of their homes are watched. Such is the tragedy that underpins the brazenness and subordinates of today's child— warriors.

Nor are things any better for the young of other militant groups used henchmen by the IPKF in its dirty war. They too cannot go back to homes from which they were dragged out by a variety of inducements and pressures not least from the LTTE. They too are equally trapped, while many of them feel the humiliation keenly.

Four miserable looking young boys from the Killinochchi district arrived recently at the Jaffna Kachcheri with their haversacks. There was no mistaking who they were. Their knowledge of Jaffna was scanty. They explained to an Indian officer that they had come to join the Citizens’ Volunteer Force (CVF). The officer in turn tries to show the way to Hotel Ashok. These boys looked nervous and did not move. A civilian who was summoned to explain to them in Tamil, told the officer after speaking to them, that they seemed to need transport as they were afraid of falling into LTTE  hands on the way. The officer replied indignantly: They are civilians" They can move around like other civilians. He one is shooting at you”. This amongst many other incidents carries the message that it is a matter of indifference to India whether our boys lived , died or ended up on the scrap heap. The EROS had just done well in the Parliamentary general elections. Perhaps, it was nearing time for someone else to receive India’s Midas touch.[Top]

3.2. The militant Phenomenon Today

It is important to keen in mind that the responses described are part of the present phase of a larger phenomenon — all connected with general repression. In the first phase up to 1985, the militancy was unquestioned and recruitment was fairly independent of social divisions. Then came the second phase of internal killings, disillusionment and the withdrawal of the more mature and articulate. These dissidents who have been through the mill are recognised by militant groups as being amongst the most potent critics of militant politics, and are sometimes dealt with harshly. The second phase culminated with “Oparation Liberation” in June 1987 leaving in the public mind grave doubts and widespread disenchantment with militant politics. It had reached its logical culmination, where there was no pretence about democracy or egalitarian values. Its appeal was religious, based on the supreme leader and an elysium or exclusive to departed members of the group. The disillusionment was so complete that Vadamaratchi proved barren ground for militant recruits until the IPKF provoked resentment with its mass beating campaigns and shootings from June 1988.

Given the traditionally pro—Indian sentiments or the Tamils and the conduct of the Sri Lankan state, Indian social and economic. Penetration of the Tamil areas may have proved very acceptable, but for the conduct of the IPKF from October 1987. Even today, amongst the social elite and the political group­ings, the greater tendency is to accept Indian patronage with some token protest, as witnessed by the number of appeals still going in hone to Messers Dixit & Rajiv Gandhi. But amongst the young who feel the harshness of India's military approach and the social humiliation most keenly, and who look for a leadership, there is likely to result a natural affinity for the LTTE, as the only force that seems to offer an alternative This a is because of the ineffectiveness and lad: of principle a they see in all other political tendencies and centres of authority. Particularly in rural areas where not even the individual alternative of going abroad exists, the dedication of recruits can be vary strong. This is the third phase.

Recruitment free the nature and educates is today a minority phenomenon. Even when committed to the LTTE in some way, their cultivated intelligence is such that they cannot help having doubts about the LTTE’s politics. They would often play a role in recruiting and pepping up child—warriors. But when they see trouble, they are quite likely to take the alternative of going abroad as many have indeed done.[Top]

3.3. Indian Perspectives

When one discusses there problems with members of the Indian intelligentsia, one often comes across such a vastly different way of looking at the problem:

You are a fractured community. What else do you expect? You have so many militant groups. That was your fault" "The IPKF is a blunt instrument. They are an army of frightened men, daily taking casualties. Some of those soldiers have told us that after every passing night, they greet the morning with amazement at being alive. You have few other options. ’There was a time when you were all praising India for its support for the militant groups. Why are you then complaining now?" ‘India must counter attempts at destabilisation by interested foreign powers"

Perhaps, most significantly, such an outlook. lacks a moral standpoint. If popular feeling is the measure of justification popular feeling in the absence of values is both dangerous and volatile, as will as subject to much manipulation. It is also double edged, as seen by India s setbacks after the initial welcome. It is far more difficult to detect from here, attempts by foreign powers to destabilise India, than to see the conspicuously destabilising character of India’s conduct this country.

When one looks at the whole picture India’s role cannot be described as simple benevolence. India is so powerful and has so many options, that it can shrug off mistakes which are irreversibly damaging for others. India is in a position to use blunders by others, while its own can be covered up. It can pick up militant groups and drop them. It can influence matters in elections1 so that even a so—called protest vote cannot go wrong for India. It can use and thereby exacerbate enmities in our society, and then dismiss it as our problem.

Its powerful media can raise Indian emotions on the Tamil issue and then switch them off. This can be seen in the sharp change of policy after October 1987 by Indian radio & television, and even a large number of Indian academics, journalists and the prestigious Madras Hindu which earlier took a different line. The muted response to Indian actions by the international media is also significant. here again Indian journa1ists who would not rock the boat, have sizeable influence. While these games are played by career minded persons in high places, a large number of young men and women, arid sizeable sections of the community continue to end up on dunghill.

As fellow beings, Indian casualties are certainly a matter for concern. We have always maintained, as all our evidence suggests, that the Indian army is by no means being helpful to itself by using methods where innocent people suffer, and by such undisciplined conduct in times of enter, where not even pregnant women, young mothers and toddlers are spared. (see incidents at Udupiddy and Pandeterupvu in this report, where such parsons were shot at practically point— blank range.)[Top]

3.4 Options For The Community

For the foreseeable future, institutions dealing with the young will have to lead d tenuous existence, managing several crises and catering for many disturbed and even deranged youths. Their main thrust will have to be in the morel sphere, which can only be achieved by creating trust and loyalty within the institution, based on wholesome values. Those discharging responsibilities will have Vo demonstrate by courage and activity, that their values have practical content and represent a sound road to liberation. There have been many encouraging results, with some of the most unlikely persons opening up, when they feel that they could have trust and sympathy, rather than rejection -and betrayal.

These institutions will also have to examine their past for causes of their present difficulties. Today it has become fatalistically acceptable to watch and do nothing while boys in armies die one by one, giving their lives not to liberate, but to enslave. Hardly any leaders tram our churches, educational establishments or trade unions, ever told them, when there was time, that their methods were suicidal for the community, assassinations were wrong or that killing Singhalese civilians was wrong. There were rather those who would go up on platforms; and in flights of oratory, erect on such tragic and fragile material as child warriors, edifices of Tamil national symbolism reaching into aerie regions. They would then praise their leaders; whose sense of pride and honour was such that, to safeguard these, they thought it fitting to heap humiliation and misery on everyone else.

If there is any measure of seriousness in anyone about liberating the community, far greater understanding should be shown towards these institutions and their independence respected. If these institutions f-nil, their leaders would have failed and those wishing to liberate the Tamils would have failed.[Top]


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