by Usha Sriskandarajah, October 10, 2018
Remembering Malati and Celebrating Women’s Day of Awakening
Today is a solemn day as well as a day that ought to inspire all Tamil women and men – to take the ideals of our freedom fighters and continue the struggle for the emancipation and restoration of Tamil Eelam. We have to win back Tamil Eelam for them who sacrificed everything for this sacred cause.
Today 10th October, we are commemorating the 31st anniversary of the first woman martyr 2nd Lt Malati. It is in Malati’s honour and the many women martyrs after her, that the 10th of October was proclaimed Pengal Eluchchi Naal – பெண்கள் எழுச்சி நாள்– Women’s Day of Awakening – the awakening of and the rising up of Tamil women against not only tyranny but all forms of discrimination and oppression directed at women:
The statement that followed the proclamation speaks volumes: and I quote: “The people should remember the contributions of 2nd Lt. Malati and recognize the fundamental changes the Tamil liberation struggle has created in Tamil society in regard to the equality of women… The struggle has freed people from the shackles of superstitious customs, infused new blood and taken the society in new directions… “Liberation does not mean just freedom from foreign domination and tyranny, but also freedom from religious and gender discrimination and oppression of women.”
Tamil Women Freedom Fighters were far ahead of their time!
2nd Lt Malati was the first woman freedom fighter who gave her life for at the age of 20 on the 10th October 1987 in Kopay, Jaffna in a confrontation with the IPKF. She was not only the first woman but also the first to die defending the Tamil homeland – the Thamil Munn against an Indian army that turned against us.
Adele Balasingham in her “Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers” … writes
And I quote:
“The Indo- LTTE war broke out on the 10th October 1987. On the very first day of the war, the LTTE women’s unit confronted the Indian troops at the strategic junction of Kopay, a village 5 kilometers from the Jaffna city. As a convoy of Indian troops advanced along the Navatkuli-Kopay Road the LTTE women fighters encamped at Kopay were prepared to confront a powerful force.
The women fighters were near the Kopay junction in defensive positions when a convoy of Indian troops arrived in the black of night. Hundreds of troops jumped out of their vehicles and started to advance towards the women fighter’s positions. Heavy fighting broke out. Our women cadres fought hard, putting up fierce resistance against a formidable contingent with superior firepower. In that clash Malati died. Malati was the first women fighter to die in battle. Janani, a veteran of many battles, takes up the story of Malati’s death.
“We were in our bunkers firing at the army. Hundreds of Indian troops had jumped out of their vehicles and were firing as they moved towards us. Motor shells were exploding everywhere. We knew the army was advancing quickly. Malati was shot in both legs. She couldn’t move and she was bleeding profusely. Realising that she was mortally wounded, she swallowed cyanide. A decision had been made to withdraw because we were heavily out-numbered. Myself and another girl went over to carry Malati. Malati refused to come with us. She begged us to leave her and asked us to withdraw. Nevertheless, we lifted Malati and carried her and when we arrived at a safe place she was dead.”
Since then there have been countless Malatis who have given their lives for the cause of freedom, some who survived but suffer the scars of war, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the men, second to no one and showed unbelievable and unparalleled courage and chivalry this world has ever witnessed.
They are icons, their names will be engraved in gold in our history, they dared to go where others have feared and faltered and we salute them.
Only way we can repay them, in a small way, is to carry the mantle – but also to help former women freedom fighters and wives and daughters of freedom fighters – and also former men freedom fighters, who still suffer the traumas of war, to rebuild their lives and stand on their feet – advocate to free those languishing in jails without charge, although we the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam are essentially a political formation to win the restoration of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam – as individuals – each one of us, can come forward to be responsible for improving the lives of at least one of them.
Today 10th October, the year two thousand and eighteen, I speak for many Tamil women, that we will live by the solemn oath we’ve taken in our own minds, that we will work to ensure that Tamil destiny will be in Tamil hands, that we will reinforce the promise we made to ourselves to vindicate the sacrifice of our women freedom fighters and men, engage, educate, persuade and convince the international community towards conducting a referendum, as we continue the struggle for justice and freedom, that we will not rest and do whatever it takes, even if we are no more, to bring the younger generation of Tamils to take over the struggle, until it is won.
This is our promise to our women freedom fighters.