VADAMARACHCHI: WHAT THE PEOPLE FELT
The Family of Subramaniam Ganeshanathan:
Shantamoorthy Thatchanamoorthy (20), Karanavai:
C. Kanthasamy (50), Labourer:
Mrs. Manikarathinam Sithirinayagar (76), VVT:
A Shopkeeper (42), VVT :
Yogaguru (34), VVT:
lndraneedevi Nadarajah (28):
By late August, the streets of Vadamarachchi began to look very bare as growing insecurity sent people looking for houses in Jaffna. Mainly old folk were left behind to mind houses and to feed domestic animals in their neighbourhood.
Well before the twilight deepened, folk had left houses near main roads and near IPKF camps and gone to spend the night with friends or relatives in the interior. Recent events had made them a fear that if the army came out in the early hours of the morning and a fight ensued, history might repeat itself. At about 9 p.m, following the barking of dogs and some smaller explosive noises, flashing lights were accompanied by loud explosions. One of the two old ladies in the house, one said,My chest seems paralysed. I cannot breathe. I am quitting this place tomorrow. Do pray, please. Half an hour later, the noises ceased. The barking of dogs came nearer, and then trailed off. All was quiet once again.
The other old lady got up at 4 a.m. lit a lamp and puffed at an odorous cigar, waking up everyone else. She said between puffs,There is going to be an aluppu today. Aluppu is a slang word that once meant boredom. It is now used as a euphemism for unwanted, but extreme forms of activity. As morning broke, people came out excitedly putting questions to neighbours and passers by ‑ Where is the army? where are the boys? Having received a mixture of inexact answers and guesses, the men got bicycles and bags ready, while the women did some hurried cooking, in preparation for flight. They calmed down when they saw the toddy tapper go up a palmyrah tree.
An old family friend, a young workman, was on the main road and smiled as in old times. He courteously offered to get the bicycle inflated, and returned with the bicycle five minutes later. He was obviously shy of prolonging the conversation. Having been assaulted by the IPKF for nothing several times, he thought it better, perhaps safer, to do sentry duty for the LTTE. To foreign counter insurgency experts they are targets for destruction. To us, they are our people whom we are duty bound to restore to normal living.
In the past the educational system in Vadamarachchi had been eminently successful in producing professionals, if not intellectuals. Now its schools are closed, its schoolgoing population scarred and distracted, if not decimated. While the rest of Jaffna is preparing to re‑open schools, a more basic problem confronts the people of Vadamaratchi ‑ that of whether they would spend two successive nights in one house.
His home was near Puloly junction, where two Indian soldiers were killed on the 26th of July. Ganeshanathans mother, her young sister and their families lived in two separate houses in the same compound. An uncle lived in the adjoining compound. As is customary amongst Tamils, children of sisters think and feel like siblings. They refer to each other as brothers and sisters. The two sisters, each had a single boy. One had a single daughter and the other two. The uncle told us as is characteristic of a farmer, that the generation succeeding theirs is small in number. The loss of Ganeshanathan was a terrible blow. We met them in the afternoon a month after the event. Despite sad faces, they were able to talk calmly. Ganeshanathan was prevented from sitting for his A Levels in 1987, because he had been amongst the thousands of boys detained by the Sri Lankan army during Operation Liberation, and taken to Boosa. After his release, he took his responsibilities very seriously. He was looking after his ailing mother because the father was away from home. In his keeness to advance, he had sat for his OL English and had obtained a distinction. Having sat for his A Level bio‑science last year, he had received his University admission forms. The family was used to troop movements through their compound and were not over‑alarmed on that day. They thought that the army had nothing against them. After the shooting, five soldiers came into the compound. The women were standing out after shutting the men inside the younger sisters house. The troops walked straight into the house and found Ganeshanathan being protectively hugged by his cousin sister Kamala. Kamala was roughly dragged away from Ganeshanathan and the womenfolk were threatened with knives to prevent their intervention. Ganeshanathan was taken into the compound and shot. The others heard his agonising cry,please give me water. His mother pushed aside the hand of the soldier that was holding the knife near her, grabbed the water vessel nearby and went to her son. Ganeshanathan drank the water and gave up the ghost. The soldiers then made to take away his cousin brother Ganeshalingam Vadivelu for the same treatment. Just then an officer entered the compound and told the soldiers not to shoot. Ganeshalingam was marched to Manthikai with other detainees. They were periodically threatened with death and had to plead for life. Along the way the prisoners were witness to many of the Indian armys actions. Ganeshalingam was released the following day, on the familys plea that he was to light his brothers funeral pyre.
The family said that the officers had not been very serious about stopping the killings. The family also said that another neighbour, Kumarakulasingham Nadarajah, had also received his University admission forms. In the meantime he had got a bus conductors job and had thought that he could work for a couple of months for the fun of it. He too had been dragged out of the bus and shot. They found it a strange quirk of fate that a boy who had been taken to Boosa by the Sri Lankan army and had survived, should now be killed in cold blood by the Indian army which claimed to be protecting the Tamils.
They had been afraid even to cry while the soldiers were around. When the last of the soldiers vanished from sight, they drained their profuse grief in a flood of tears.
I am a Kurukkal (priest) helping regularly at the Manthikai, Puttalai Amman Kovil. I used to travel by bus from Karanavai. I usually prepare short eats for devotional offerings. I came as usual on the morning of 26th July and alighted from my bus at Manthikai, not knowing the situation. I was asked to sit down with several other males. Except for 3 of us, the rest were sent away. The three of us were taken near Amman temple and the soldiers opened fire. My two companions died. I was left injured and in terrible pain. It was only in the evening that Jacqueline came and fetched me. On being taken to hospital, I lost consciousness.
Thatchanamoorthy looked a very simple kind of boy, more puzzled than pained at the fate that had overtaken him. His halting speech testified to his state of shock. Both his legs were amputated above the knees. He added, I do not know why the Indian army did this to me. They knew me. They knew that I worked at the temple.
I was near Puloly junction on the morning of 26th July, when the firing began. I fled eastwards along Maruthankeni Road, pedalling as fast as I could. Indian soldiers were firing from near the junction. I saw a woman who sold earthenware being killed. I received a leg wound. I fell off my bicycle and took cover under a concrete tank by the roadside. I was later taken to the hospital by Jacqueline.
Kanthasamy was the father of five daughters.
I was in my house near the town centre during the morning of 2nd August when we heard firing noises. A little later soldiers came into my house and asked us to leave. We pleaded saying that we were very old. My brother (Kanthasamy Nadarajah, 61) then said that it was useless to talk to them and since I could not walk, he helped me along to the town centre. A number of us were made to sit at the square. We were people of all ages including women and children. All of a sudden we were fired upon. My brother who was next to me and had been comforting me was killed. I was injured. I lay there with the dead and wounded unable to move. I was left like that until evening, when a young man lifted me onto the bar of his bicycle and rolled it to Oorani hospital. Three days later I was transferred to Point Pedro hospital. Mrs. Manikarathinams daughter was very angry about the way the Indians prevented the patients from being taken to Point Pedro hospital in time. She said that even at Oorani hospital they were not spared of further ugly scenes. On the day following, through the hospital window they saw several of their young men being made to roll on the road outside the hospital and then assaulted. Unable to bear the sight the people in the hospital beat their heads against the wall and screamed.
I was in my shop in the town square when the firing broke out on the morning of 2nd August. Usually when there is trouble we close the shop and go through the back door. But before this could be done the soldiers were inside. Two lady customers were also there. Some soldiers and an officer who had come into the shop started assaulting us. We pleaded that we were not LTTE. It was of no use. The officer kicked me and we were asked to move. I heard the men being ordered to collect money. Three hundred rupees which was in my shirt pocket was taken out. I saw my drawer being emptied and the cash removed. One soldier was stuffing his pocket with toffees. Some young men had been injured during the armys shooting. One was Mathivannan (18) who also helped in a shop. Five of these young men were dragged into a truck and were driven towards Udupiddy. Nothing more has been heard of them, and there is no trace of them. About 45 or 50 of us were made to sit in the town square. About half an hour later soldiers walked away from us. A few yards away one of them turned round, got into firing position and emptied a round into us. He continued with a second and then a third round. During the firing of the 2nd round I was injured in my hand and during the 3rd round I was injured on my back, side ways. We were there bleeding until evening. Later I managed to struggle my way out. I was helped by friends and came very late to Point Pedro hospital. I recalled that at least 6 persons died in that square including a dhoby (washer) woman and a child. Amongst the others killed were two boys from Kesavan Stores. Our shops had been set on fire. I do not want you to use my name because it will be difficult for me to go back and live there. Some boys from town had joined militant groups close to the IPKF, and I am afraid of trouble from them if my name is used.
I own a hardware store in VVT and had come home briefly on the morning of 2nd August, when firing broke out. I could not think of my 2nd child and wife who were away from home. All I could think was to grab my eldest child and run to the place where I usually run at such times. This was the house of Sivaganesh who lives abroad. There were nearly seventy refugees at Sivaganeshs house. About five soldiers barged into the premises at 4 p.m. They separated the men from the women and picked out eight men. I was one of those picked out. One soldier tried to grab the child out of my hands. I resisted this and insisted on giving my child to a known lady who was there. The soldier then tried to grab the child from that lady . I do not know what they wanted to do with my child. But somehow this was resisted. The eight of us were then taken to a cowshed at the back of the compound where a cow was tied. We were then taken for execution in pairs. I was in the first pair. The executioner opened fire. My companion died. But I was just nicked. I fell down and pretended to be dead. The remaining six were brought and taken through the same motions. During the second burst of fire, one of my arm joints was smashed but I continued playing dead until the soldiers had gone.
Yogaguru later had an arm amputated. None of the five soldiers had been an officer, contrary to normal regulations of search. Of the eight who were taken to be shot, 4 survived with injuries.
Yogaguru said that he had never thought that the Indian army would do such a thing, especially at a place of refuge.
My home is near Ranjana theatre in VVT. Some time after trouble broke out on the 2nd of August, I came to the portico with a friend of mine. At that time, soldiers who were passing by in a vehicle opened fire. I was injured in both my legs. I then received first aid from a local practitioner. This stopped my bleeding, when theambulance finally arrived in VVT, someone must have given my name and address. I was picked up at home by Jacqueline. One of my legs is still numb. But I am told I will be normal. I learnt much later that the firing which injured me, may have been a consequence of a grenade thrown nearby.
A Professional, Nelliady, April 1989: When I returned home recently, my schoolgoing daughter was crying. Upon inquiry, she told me that while returning from school, she had seen a pro-IPKF militant group, badly assaulting a schoolboy who was in the SALT ( a pro LTTE student group). She said that she could not bear the sight. She said between her tears, give me a gun, 1 want to join the LTTE.I had a hard time pacifying her.
A Schoolmistress, August 1989: She is kind hearted although a stern disciplinarian. She would readily discipline persons irrespective of age, sex and position. When it comes to helping people, she ,would throw herself in
with unstoppable enthusiasm. Soon after Operation Liberation, a nephew of hers was amongst the over 2000 boys detained by the Sri Lankan army. Being a fluent practitioner of all three languages, she had barged into the army HQ at Pt. Pedro, brushing her way past sentries, ordering them in Sinhalese in such sharp tones hardly excelled by their commanding officers. Going upto Brigadier Rupasinghe. she had demanded the immediate release of the nephew. This was complied with..
Some weeks earlier. following an incident in her neighbourhood, she had been very uncompromising in her attitude towards the IPKF. She had refugees in her house. She felt that a peace keeping force which behaved like this had no business to be here:
Recently she was looking tired after walking weary miles, trying to obtain medicines for an ailing relative. Asked about the prospects for peace -she nodded her head in the-direction of three young men coming downthe road on two bicycles. It depends on what is going on in their mindss, she replied sadly, goodness knows what is in their heads. When the boys came near one of them pointed with a careless laugh to a burnt out house and remarked, That was ( a consequence of) our choriyal . Choriyal, meaning scratching, refers to a relatively slight action that provokes a heavy laborious response.
We finally present two contrasting opinions.
A Graduate (early 40s), May 1989: We invited the IPKF to put an end to what the Sri Lankan government was doing. Now we know that they did not come to help us. They came for something else. They must be sent out and ,they will be chased out. Once they are sent out, we are bound to have problems with the Sri Lankan forces. That we can look after when the time come. The LTTE has difficulties because only a tiny fraction of the popula-tion is struggling for liberation. Many of their cadres who were with them in good times have left. For this reason, they cannot help using some unorthodox means to boost their numbers. But things are changing because the conduct of- the IPKF has become so disagreeable. Six months ago. when approached by the boys people would generally turn them away, telling them not to cause them unnecessary trouble. Now it is different. My neighbour was a very timid lady who would not go near the boys. His son too was a studious sort, mostly confined to the house. The IPKF arrested him and gave him such rotten treatment. The mother now says she wished her son would join the Tigers and fight back, rather than face such treatment again. It may seem improbable now -but the IPKF is in the process of creating a mass movement which will bodily throw them out.
An Executive (early- 4Os) , August 1989 : You want to know what happened inmy neighbourhood. If you are representing the media of any kind, I am notgoing to tell you. Do you represent a political tendency of any kind? Ifyou are trying to cover up for India, that is contemptible. Did you see theDaily News of the 23rd? It reports the Indian High Commission as sayingthat 4 terrorists or some of that sort were killed. That is a damned lie. Iattended the funeral of three people in one home. I know they were notterrorists. Further down the road there was the funeral of another 4. Theytoo were not terrorists. But I could not bear going to another funeral. Inthe one I went to, it was so depressing that the person who lit the pyrehad to be doused with liquor before he could do the act. I will take it upwith the Indian High Commission. During the incident,. I was reduced tohaving to plead for my life. Two soldiers were arguing in my presencewhether or not to kill me. Perhaps the intervention of my parents tiltedthe scales.
If on the other hand, you want to give publicity to this incident andseek international sympathy for this cause, we can do without that. Why do we need the publicity of the Red Cross coming here to distribute rice after an incident? I know these people. They are farmers. Do you think they cannot survive without these gifts of rice? I have asked some of these boys what their strategy was. They could not answer me. They could not hold back the Sri Lankan army which counted its number in thousands. What is the big idea in confronting an army which counts its number in hundreds of thou-sands? Fighting is one thing. But shooting and running away allowing people to face the music is quite another. Some officers had reportedly said that they would kill ten of our people for every Indian soldier killed. After an incident, people come with cameras to give it publicity. Some even say that not 75, but a thousand should have died. Then it would have been a smashing story. If you are giving publicity to this kind of thing and drumming up sympathy for this cause, please remember: You are only killing your own eople! 90% of Jaffna is quiet. Why does only this remaining 10% have to suffer like this? [Top]
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