Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

We Die Before We Fall

by Jagmohan Singh, World Sikh News, May 20, 2009

Now it is time to keep the idea afloat - the idea that every man has the right and liberty to live as per his or her choice.  The acceptance of the gory fact that countries in South Asia have yet to evolve a pluralistic model for the respect of rights of all sections of society.  The idea that it is better to rebel and oppose and dissent, if required to rebel and die, than to live a life of subservience.  The idea that “we die before we fall.”

As the three decade long battle of Sri Lankan Tamils nears its military end, Jagmohan Singh writes an Open letter to an unknown Eelam Tamil soldier who managed to escape death while pursuing the struggle for self-rule of the Sri Lankan Tamils.  He points out that the battle may appear to have been lost, the struggle for rights of the Tamil people will continue and the international community must make immediate political and humanitarian intervention.

 

Dear Eelam Soldier:

As the world looks in awe at the virtual end of the military engagement of the Sri Lankan army by you and your comrades in the bitter and long drawn three decade struggle for freedom for Tamil Eelam, I take this opportunity to salute you for your determination and sacrifice. Through you I pay tributes to the thousands who laid down their lives to combat the violent face of what is considered a docile and non-violent Buddhist religion.

The more I ponder over the Tamil struggle for self-rule in a small area of Sri Lanka bordering on India, I deeply wonder about this aspect.  While the world community has noticed, though not acted against state terror of the Sinhalese government in Sri Lanka, though human rights bodies, including the ICRC and HRW have documented in detail the humanitarian crisis that now prevails in post-war Sri Lanka, military analysts, journalists, chroniclers and historians have failed to see this violent face of Buddhism.  It is quiet distressing to note that ninety-eight percent of the Sinhalese population is Buddhist and they have been supporting, edging and spearheading the campaign against Tamil rights. 

The open and flagrant manner in which they have celebrated the death of Tamil fighters and the crassness with which the military and political leadership has orchestrated the death of Tamil fighters on state-controlled television is nothing but shocking.  Equally disturbing is how Indian channel CNN-IBN had the gumption to say, ‘we are the first Indian channel to beam the pictures of the corpse of Vellipullai Prabhakaran.”  They have failed to note that Prabhakaran may be dead; Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale is also dead, but the spirit of freedom is alive, it cannot be killed, it cannot be snubbed, it cannot be subdued, it will live till eternity.

I am a little amazed that this aspect has not been touched in great detail and am curious to know whether it crossed your mind while you were fighting in the jungles of Mullaitivu that a peace leader like the Dalai Llama could have had some impact on the Sri Lankan government. Perhaps. I do not even know why he has chosen to remain silent. Did his conscience not prick him all this while when thousands were being massacred in the name of Buddhism?

While you were fighting, you braved all difficulties.  Whatever the media may have called you, courage, bravery and determination stood as hallmarks of your commitment and served as an inspiration to all struggling peoples and nations.  Many a people in the subcontinent, whom you do not know, whom you may never know, have shed a tear watching the present fall of Tamil fighters.

 

Now it is time to keep the idea afloat. The idea that every man has the right and liberty to live as per his or her choice.  The acceptance of the gory fact that countries in South Asia have yet to evolve a pluralistic model for the respect of rights of all sections of society.  The idea that it is better to rebel, oppose and dissent, if required to rebel and die, than to live a life of subservience.

During the course of your fighting you saw many ups and downs…friends turning into enemies, supporting nations becoming killers, Tamil political leadership in India vacillating like a pendulum from being foes to friends to foes to rehabilitators, but during all this death never deterred you and your ilk from your avowed goal of achieving a place for your people wherein your civil and political rights are fully protected.

The last decade also saw the international community doing a complete U-turn against you. In this day and age, the Sri Lankan government succeeded in having an iron curtain separating it from the rest of the world.  Even today, the disdain for the collective leadership of the world by the Buddhism-driven Sri Lankan leadership is not only symbolic but frightening. “We need homegrown solutions,” said Sri Lankan president Rajapakse, while celebrating his victory over you. He did not acknowledge or accept any of the submissions of the International Committee of the Red Cross that a humanitarian catastrophe of a gigantic magnitude stood in the face, though I am sure that the Sri Lankan government will shamelessly accept the millions of dollars which India will give as rehabilitation aid.

What will you do now?

It is a miracle that you are alive. There will be some who would call you names. There are others who think that you would soon become a fighter again. Think about it.

It may sound a little disturbing to you for death was never a worry for you. I think, in the interest of your people, it is necessary to live. May be live to die at some time in the future, but for the present it is necessary to live.  It is time to accept the hard reality that your struggle for Eelam rights has to still continue, its paradigm, shape and idiom has to change.

For no fault of yours and because of events over which you had no control, while you were fighting, the world changed its strategies. Sadly, most of your leadership has been killed. Take time and evolve a new leadership. Do not rush to die.

I know it is very easy for someone like me to talk about strategies in the drawing room.  Fighting a battle is a different cup of tea. A similar situation prevailed in Punjab some time ago and an almost similar situation prevails in Kashmir today. Key leadership fighting a fierce battle on the ground has been killed in both these places.

Like your leadership, in Punjab and Kashmir, political input was either absent or not a front runner of the armed struggle.  Though it must be admitted that the Tamil Diaspora was active on this front but the cohesiveness was a little missing.

Now it is time to keep the idea afloat -the idea that every man has the right and liberty to live as per his or her choice.  The acceptance of the gory fact that countries in South Asia have yet to evolve a pluralistic model for the respect of rights of all sections of society.  The idea that it is better to rebel and oppose and dissent, if required to rebel and die, than to live a life of subservience.  The idea that “we die before we fall.”

I salute the thousands including your leaders who attained martyrdom fighting for their homeland. May God bless you and your people so that some day they too can stand on their own feet and not be dependent on the temporary and expedient goodwill of those who claim to be your masters, supporters or well-wishers.

I hope to live to see that day.

Fraternally

Jagmohan Singh

Jagmohan Singh is a columnist based in Ludhiana. He may be contacted at jsbigideas@gmail.com