Three Reviews by Female LTTE ex-Members (translated from Tamil)
by N. Malathy, Aakar Books, New Delhi, July 2019
ISBN : 9789350026229, Available from all major online book sellers.
This book records the changes that evolved in the Eelam Tamil Female society and the context in which it took place during a specific period. There is no doubt that this book is the need of the time. As the author has noted in the forward, it is indeed rare to see books about women’s condition from an empathetic standpoint. This is a tragic situation. One wonders if we are indeed living in apocalyptic times because instead of acting for the betterment of the society everyone appears to stand on the side of power and money. As such this book will greatly benefit the Tamil society and the people of the world.
The ten years following the Tamil Eelam armed conflict has clearly proved one thing. To bring positive changes in a society good leadership and a well-structured organization under that leadership is absolutely essential. Today, democracy has been turned into a philosophy of the selfish. The general population benefits nothing from this philosophy of democracy. The history of Eelam Tamils has established without any doubt that this philosophy brings no benefits but only destruction.
Revolution breaks out when conflict over state power intensifies between two groups. This was the philosophy of equality that formed the foundation for the two great revolutions, the Russian October revolution and the Mao’s Chinese revolution. Yet, these revolutions were unable sustain their victories because the devils hiding under the cover of democracy had sunk their knives into the hearts of these victorious nations.
Equality concepts are present in the struggle waged by the LTTE as seen in the writings of Anton Balasingam. I have been lucky enough to hold conversations with him and have noted the same ideas during these conversations.
The leader of the LTTE, Pirapaharan have learnt from many books: in Tamil literature, on Tamil war theories and on modern psychology. I know that he encouraged members of his organization to also read and learn from many books. Not only that, he had studied in-depth the histories of the modern national struggles. He adored Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution. He had shared time with several intellectuals, artists, and experts. It was this immense knowledge that he gathered through various means that enabled him to build and guide a liberation movement that the world admired. It paved the way for some modern war strategies. In particular he established a firm base through guerrilla strategies at the ground level. He gathered women in this struggle. He established separate female units thus respecting Tamil cultural concepts. The battle ground achievements of women came about through this.
In Tamil language, it is not only the words but even individual letters have meaning. Tamil scholars say that the meaning in Tamil words can indicate the period and the place when the word came into being. Those who have studied Tamil literature and grammar will understand this.
As such, the LTTE leader believed that the Tamil history that emphasizes justice will guide him on the path of Tamil national struggle. But the world mob ignorant of just conduct (அறம்), has got the blood of our people on its hands. The world mob also starts wars and takes lives for their profits. It claims it is feeding the world while it exploits the workers.
Whether victory or defeat, it is a brave history, a revolutionary history. In that spirit this book records the revolutionary aspects, especially the women’s revolutionary contributions for the world to see. The ground level situations of these revolutionary changes will give many lessons to future generations. It will especially give confidence to women and make them stand tall.
The author has not only recorded the female achievers of recent history. She has searched for brave women of Eelam from the 17th century onwards and noted them without bias. It demonstrates her keenness to show the continuum of female revolutionaries. In other words, starting from Ariyaaththai who tamed the rogue elephant to the LTTE women, she has collated information on women revolutionaries.
The author has also underlined the revolutionary role played by the Suthanthira Paravaikal movement under Thileepan’s leadership that laid the foundation for the social revolution. This shows the author’s desire for social liberation. The author worked in the de-facto Tamil Eelam and stayed on towards the end of war and gained experience to write this book. This shows her stubbornness to document the truth.
This book is a record of a particular aspect of a particualr period of history. It will contribute towards an understanding of that period. This book wil be a great asset to those who appraoch the history of the struggle with many questions.
The prioneer women in the struggle were amazing women. At a time when women did not show their faces in the public space, these women joined the path of liberation with immense confidence. This book has particularly focused on women pooraalis actions in the social space. It is a document of that role and as such it stands out. I have not seen another book like this that outlines this role. The views and criticisms it puts forward are therefore suited to this style of work.
Most of what is said in the book about Thamilini appears as criticism. Her role and the context compelled her on a particular path. Her time was engulfed by propaganda work and talking to visitors from outside. As such her other services were limited as noted in the book.
Someone is saying in the book that dowry practice in the north was also a push factor for women to join the liberation movements. I am of the view that this is not correct.
Though I have seen the author in Vanni, I do not know her well. I cannot remember talking to her at that time. However, her writing role and her work on women pooralis has drawn her to me. Even though we have not had a long relationship, I am elated that as a woman she appreciates me and my work. The author knows women pooralis. She has observed the perseverence and self confidence of the women pooralis. She is therefore very suited to write this book.
Negating the feeling that we have fallen; this book was like a medicine to me to feel proud and stand tall.
Speaking of the civil space created by the women, this book has simultaneously shattered the image that we were terrorists. It clearly shows that not only the female members of the LTTE but the civilian women also acted courageously. I think that directly experiencing the Vanni society has enabled the author to describe this society so clearly.
The book beautifully describes the struggle waged by the women to become part of the armed struggle. Even the LTTE members, who joined the movement after the 1996 mass displacement of Jaffna, are unlikely to know much about how the women section evolved. I learnt many facts about the early history by reading this book.
The intense war environment and the need to focus on it resulted in less attention being paid to the social programs. The author also notes this fact.
Many of us analyze the various reasons for the end of the armed struggle. This book clearly explains many reasons. I believe this book will be essential for future generations to understand the truth behind the silencing of the armed struggle.
I also felt unease reading some of the opinions expressed in the book about Tamilini acca. At the sametime I also very much liked what is said in the appendix about Tamilni acca’s book that has seen many criticisms.
Author notes the duty awaiting people like us.
“What follows is only a very brief description of these endeavours. Each of them could be expanded by those who have had extensive first-hand experience in it. Hopefully, for the benefit of the future generations, such early activists will write them down one day before the memories of it fades…”
I like to take this opportunity to appeal to my comrades that they should do so.
This book also reminded me that we have come a full circle back to where we had started. It made me feel sad. It also made me reflect whether this women’s revolution can come about in the absence of war. The author appears to think that it is possible.
Note: The Tamil version of the book will be out soon. Watch this space.
N. Malathy is a member of the Eelam Tamil diaspora who has lived in New Zealand for four decades. She is a computer scientist who has engaged with and written extensively on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Peradeniya in Electrical Engineering and holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
She spent four years in the country of Eezham Tamils, in Vanni under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), from 2005 till 2009. During this period she worked in a human rights body, a women’s organization, and an orphanage. Her experiences spanned working with civilian institutions in the de facto state of the Eezham Tamils, preparing documentation for peace talks, documenting systematic human rights violations by the Sri Lankan military and working on a project to raise awareness of domestic violence.