Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Time to Chisel Our Own Destiny

by Eelavall, December 24, 2007

I met a boy of 17 years whom I asked which area of Tamil Eelam he is from. He answered, “Amma, I have been running since I was three. I have lived under the trees. Slept in open places. Eating whatever is available and my mother has told me that she even had to quench my thirst with the water running in a canal that carried dirty water. I haven’t attended schools regularly. I was in several schools. I couldn’t concentrate in my studies for I didn’t know where I would go next.”

A journey from elsewhere into Wanni gives one an extremely different experience. Especially someone who travels from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, can easily realize the contrasting atmosphere, lifestyle and the difficulties. I do not know if I should say that I was happy to be there or I had to leave the place with a heavy heart wondering ‘Oh, there is a lot of ways in which these people have to be helped out. Here, I share with you my personal experiences I endured during my recent visit to the land of our own – Tamil Eelam. My few days there were just enough for me to imagine decades of sufferings the nation is undergoing. Indeed, I appreciated their perseverance amidst all their difficulties.

Entry into the land of sufferings

Omanthai Crossing Point Sri Lankan Government Post, September 2007

At Omanthai, the main Checkpoint before entering Wanni, there were so many lorries with goods. People in Wanni still have to live with certain restrictions imposed on many goods and commodities. What is enjoyed in one part of the country is restricted for another part. No matter what the reason may be, but certainly it places one section of the people as privileged against the other. They have to wait there for two – three days when they could be checked and allowed to proceed. Only certain items are allowed in and every single item from the lorry has to be unloaded and opened and then packed and again loaded. That was so strenuous. The weather will be extremely hot or will be raining and muddy. There are no basic facilities for anyone to stay overnight. Still they must manage everything. As for the people passing thorough the checkpoint, no vehicles are allowed beyond the point till the next checkpoint of the LTTE at Puliyangkulam. Hence, they have to carry all their goods and walk the distance.

This certainly is a difficult task for those who have most probably traveled a long way and waited in queues at the checkpoints and are already tired of the proceedings at every checkpoint. As mine was a long journey that took almost three days at a stretch, I was dead tired and to take out the bags at every checkpoint and open each and let it to be checked and then proceed was awful. Even the batteries that were in the camera were not allowed to be taken into Wanni as they are one of the prohibited items. Again there is a checkpoint at Puliyangkulam as well. At last, when I learnt that I would have no more checking I let go a sigh of relief.  

Waking up to daily shelling

But the relief at that point doesn’t mean that life is going to be one of peace and luxury. I realized that during my stay over there. The people in Wanni  live and have learnt to live in a place where their days are begun either with the sound of the artillery shelling or Kfirs bombing. I wondered how these people who woke up at the sound of the temple bells and singing of birds could live amidst these disastrous noises. The thunderous blows of the shells come in from all directions, from the north of Wanni, from Mannar, Kilali, Poonagari, Muhamaalai and Naagarkovil and bang the borders.  It sounds as if to push the land. The blows would be like pounding one's chest. At the beginning I would be shaken out of a sudden thud. But then I felt that it is almost a daily routine for the people. I realized that everyone has to learn to live with it.

I wondered if one who is far away from the places of shelling is affected so much by the sound itself, how much more those who are facing it and the people closer to it will be feeling! People become displaced as a result and the suffering as a result is immense. If not for those who are guarding day and night at these borders, the people in Wanni will have no peace of mind. They will not be going on with their daily activities. They are there day and night amidst rain and heat, amidst animals and snakes that swarm throughout the forests. Thanks in first place to those souls, who are really, really, great.

A land of joy becomes a land of cries. 

The land however, by nature’s bliss is a lovely place to live and the people are hardworking to make it prosperous. The days I was in Wanni had a mild weather and I didn’t have to face the heat. The weather was fine.

You wouldn’t like to huddle in the bed a few more minutes- a few more minutes - to escape the cold and chill in the morning as you do in Canada: You would love to run into the lawn to enjoy the nature’s bliss that is showered early in the morning. It would send you into the happiest feelings to start a fresh day. The birds singing, the flowers blooming in different hues, the breeze that embraces you and the joy of seeing people actively starting the day with much hope and enthusiasm. You would just like to absorb all the happiness into every nerve of your body.

What was agony - Then and now

In the blink of an eye you are robbed of all the happiness and turned out to be a panicky poor soul who would have not even a second to think if you are going to be alive or dead. In my childhood, while I was in our land of pride many years ago, I enjoyed the scene when a hen would take its recently hatched chicken out in the lawn at the dawn of the day. Scratching the soil with its claws, to reveal some kind of food buried in the soil for the chicks to eat. The lovely little chicks would make their way towards the spot to feast on their mother’s venture. So happy they are – that one would love to think, how nice it will be to be like them. But this won’t last long.

All of a sudden the hen becomes panicky and gives a signal fluttering its wings. The tiny chicks, whom we thought were just brainless little souls, run towards their mother to find shelter under her wings. All happens in a jiffy. The hen and the chicks under the hen’s wings lie motionless under the shade of some foliage. There in the sky you see the hungry devilish eagle circling the spot ready to plunge on the innocent chicks. It is not always that the chicks escape the demonic eyes of the eagle and that the hen could protect her babies. The eagle is at times quicker and lucky to carry away a chick. The mother hen cries loud, sounds her inability, runs after the eagle and all the other chicks would run about helplessly. I would just run after the eagle shouting out ‘choo choo’- all just efforts to save the chick if the eagle by accident let the chick go off its claws. But even if it happens, the poor chick wouldn’t live long in my hands. The ultimate feelings, however, are to realize that one is desperate and can do nothing about it.

Those were the days we felt for the chicks. But now in Wanni - in the area of the Tamils of Tamil Eelam - it is far, far, far more a tragedy to see humans suffering the same fate.

Kfir – Daily Messengers of Death

What a difference! In place of the eagle that took the lives of the chicks, there is the Man-operated Kfir. I couldn’t conclude if the man or the Kfir is the messenger of death. But certainly the man has his role. The Kfir is a huge man-made iron air vessel that carries the dangerous poisonous thing called bombs that are shifted into its belly using cranes. They are so huge and heavy. The iron structure called the Israeli-made Kfir flies from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, in just ten minutes. It comes with the sole purpose of taking the lives of Tamils, lives that have become so cheap in the eyes of the Sri Lankan government - a democratic government said to be adhering to the noble truths of Lord Buddha who preached against the killings of lives in whatever form. The eagle as said above sticks to no moral rules, neither does it have the capacity to think. But the government that sends the killer in the form of a Kfir and the man in the cockpit are capable of thinking. They do think - in terms of killing Tamils. Let it be anybody - children, elderly, or sick, they are Tamils and they should be killed.

I happened to feel a piece of the outer covering of the bomb which at the blast was thrown to a distance of about 500 meters. It was about ten inches in length, sharp at all sides, uneven and weighed more than two kilos. That was enough to take the life of someone if it fell on some ill-fated person. It is made up of some poisonous metal. The bomb itself is more than a ton heavy and if that happened to be targeted on the people, how much worse can the effect be? Have men become so heartless to think about it or are they rather obsessed with killing people? Can anyone ever find pleasure in such merciless killings? I got no answer.

Even a small child in Tamil Eelam knows about a Kfir. It is the deadly dragon that comes to prey on them. It has become a daily exercise for the people to be prepared to protect themselves at the sound of a Kfir. In whatever activities they may be engaged, they should be ready to abandon it at once and seek protection. There is always the tension and fear. Still they have to go on with their daily activities. They have learned to live a life with all the fear and tension, worries and sorrow.  It is just because of this they are able to save themselves and not because of any kind of mercy shown towards them. Everybody, including the elderly, sick, mothers with new-born babies, school children and the invalid have to run for shelter. Although no shelter guarantees safety, that is their maximum effort to save themselves.

In the eye of the storm

It was the 25th of November 2007. I was sitting at the door-step of the house, relaxing and enjoying the outside view - the garden and the flowers and the unpolluted atmosphere that refreshes anyone both mentally and physically.  There were some children playing in the opposite compound, giggling and shouting in their natural carefree childhood innocence. I enjoyed it very much. But this didn’t last long.

All of a sudden, there was the sound of the Kfir approaching. Before I could gather my senses, the children took to their heels and fled somewhere and I too was called to run away.  There wasn’t time to run. I could just go to the back door of the house and there was the deadly noise of the bomb being dropped and the blast of it from all sides, the banging of the doors and windows and the people running and shouting out in panic. I heard as if a heap of daggers were being dashed simultaneously. I felt it close–so close that the noise rang in my ears. I shut my ears, closed my eyes and pressed myself against a wall and stood motionless. All what I could think was that I cannot do anything other than accepting whatever fate decides for me. My throat was parched; I lost the capacity to think anymore and everything was beyond my control. When all is over and there was absolute silence I couldn’t even think that I am saved. There was smoke everywhere. The unpolluted atmosphere I just enjoyed got surrounded with poisonous gaseous elements from the bomb. A silence that predicted the death of some innocent lives prevailed in the neighbourhood. People were running helter-skelter. They were running to see what had happened and who is left dead and injured. At once they started acting and rushed to the spot for help. All in a moment depicting how unpredictable is life in Tamil Eelam. What can we do to help these people? The question always absorbed my thoughts.

Again the following day I had a worse experience. In the nick of time I heard the sound, the Kfir was there preparing itself to drop the bomb. I was neither in the house nor in a place to protect myself. I couldn’t run any further for the Kfir was almost ready to drop the bomb. The only alternative left was to lie on the floor and see if I survived or not. Your life is not yours – it is all I could feel. But I survived again.

Then came the worst of all days. It was November 27th. The whole of Wanni was decorated with red and yellow flags and posters of the Martyrs were everywhere, roads were cleaned and it was a commemorative day for Eelam Tamils to visit the martyrs who laid down their lives in the freedom fight. People were going towards the memorial with garlands of flowers in their hands to pay respect to their loved ones. The roads were full of people of all ages. The land was so beautiful that the people never would have had the intention to think about the danger to their lives. Although they knew that the enemy is heartless, they were fully absorbed in the thoughts of the loved ones to whom they were going to pay homage. But the cruel enemy did come on their way in the demonic Kfir to take the lives of some more innocent people.

Silenced Voice of Tamils

Voice of Tigers is the radio that currently brings the news in Tamil Eelam to the people around the world. The whole world was anxiously waiting to listen to the speech made by the national leader Mr. Velupppillai Pirabahararn. The time was 6pm. Just before the time the messenger of death assisted with a MIG aircraft entered the land of Wanni. It had the specific place of its target. The Voice of Tigers radio station is right on the A9 highway and they had no strain in locating the place. It plunged on the building smashing the place with repeated bombing. The whole of Kilinochchi came to a standstill. Although most of the workers from the radio station expected such a disaster and escaped to safer a place, three of them, including an engineer and a worker who is a mother of three, got killed at the spot. The pedestrians on their way to the memorial fields were no exemption. Eleven civilians were killed and 15 were wounded. 17 of the nearby houses were also attacked. A person inside the house who was trying to switch on the TV to listen to the leader's speech got his head severed and died on the spot. An International non-governmental organization, ‘Forut,’ was also severely affected.

On the same day 11 were killed in a claymore attack carried out by the Deep Penetration Unit of the Sri Lankan army. This included seven schoolgirls and three male volunteers and the driver. It was just 50 meters from the place of attack that the children had alighted into a minibus to volunteer at the memorial celebrations. With all this, the speech was put on the air at the scheduled time using a clandestine transmitter.  After a while I had the opportunity to see the radio station and the affected area. They were in shambles and remained a proof for a war torn area. That was not the only disaster on that day. There were still more bombings in other areas of Wanni as well.  

All these were news in the international media. But did anyone help us out? No one could do anything. Is this the fate of Tamils? I became tired of thinking. ‘No choice’ is what makes the people go about with their daily routine with all the pain they experience throughout. But still you can never, never reject the impact of these, which are to affect the lives of the people permanently. Is ‘trauma’ the only word to express the suffering of these people? Will the elite group of people who enjoy the message of such disaster ever realize their pain?  

Life on the run

I met a boy of 17 years whom I asked which area of Tamil Eelam he is from. He answered, “Amma, I have been running since I was three. I have lived under the trees. Slept in open places. Eating whatever is available and my mother has told me that she even had to quench my thirst with the water running in a canal that carried dirty water. I haven’t attended schools regularly. I was in several schools. I couldn’t concentrate in my studies for I didn’t know where I would go next.” He is not the only youth with such a story. There are many such people. Their agony doesn’t end there. They have seen people being killed due to the bombing and shelling. They have seen the distorted bodies; helped to clean them up. There live so many people who lost their limbs and eye-sight. The worry, the memories and the impact is too much to bear.  

Every day news from the north of Wanni - the Jaffna peninsula stands out as a proof for our mere helplessness.  It is a silent process. There are arrests, disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the area, which is claimed to have been 'freed.' Every single day there is no dawn without a killing of a youth. Yet we can do nothing. Nothing to help our people. Are we that incapable even in lands where at least our cries are heard?     

Eelam – a clarion call

We know for sure there is no mercy we can expect from the Sri Lankan governments. However loud the expatriate Tamil community tries to bring this to the attention of the foreign governments, they too keep silent as they believe only what the Sri Lankan government announces - because that is said to be the ethics of the governments. Where are we to turn for help? Even those who try to be a voice for the Tamils are branded as Tiger supporters and neglected and even pushed aside. All the atrocities against the Tamils have to be stopped. We have to work relentlessly until it is stopped. The international community definitely has the power to take control of the deadly activities of the Sri Lankan Government. They just don’t have to interfere in the domestic affairs, but can definitely stop supporting and encouraging.

The situation as of now is such, it is only the expatriate Tamils who must think of the plight of those in Tamil Eelam. We do know that and it is because of this that we always keep an eye on the news from Tamil Eelam. Hence, we do not fail to see the daily news. We sit in a cozy place and read the news either on a computer or sit on a comfortable sofa and watch TV or read the newspapers. We do feel sorry for the Eelam Tamils and express our feelings in several ways and try to help the suffering of the people in Eelam. With that we forget everything and turn our attention towards various activities – working for our survival in our countries of refuge, caring for our families here and at home, and partying, and amusing ourselves in whatever possible ways. But what we have to keep in mind is that we still have a lot to do. The dying nation has its fullest faith in us – the expatriate Tamils. Are we doing enough? The answer is ‘NO’, not enough. We must act vigorously. This is what I personally felt during my recent visit to the land of our own. We are a nation full of capabilities. We have the strength. We have the resources. We are successful people with lots of talents. We should feel that nothing is impossible. It is possible!


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