Former Tamil MP Ponnambalam puts it simply: “I think it’s dangerous for us to think about what is possible. If we start thinking about that, it only means assimilation. We must stop talking Tamil, we must give up our religion. We must be Sinhalese and Buddhist.”
OVER AND above the geopolitics and domestic Tamil politics that directly affects India, the Sri Lankan Tamils’ story raises a disturbing question. Can the desperate and continuing plight of a people be explained away by terrorism alone? For now, more than 22 lakh Tamils within Sri Lanka and an estimated 10 lakh in the diaspora, are asking this universally perplexing question. As their story also serves as a warning to other displaced people without a nation — while the world and the UN plays a double game, your idea of nationhood could be the next to disappear.
But even in the aftermath of the terror and genocide, the Tamil idea of nationhood has not disappeared. If India does not want another cycle of violence at its doorstep, it cannot afford to be indifferent to the voices of the Lankan Tamils.
I can clearly see a bright future for Vidyananda. The College Anthem refers to Vidyananda as: “Vanni Ninruyar Tharagai” which translates as: The Ascending Star in the Firmament of Vanni. We who take pride in our Adangapattu Heritage, in order to revive our ancient glory that is Vanni, must strengthen and enhance the status of Vidyananda College as the foremost Educational Institution in Vanni.
Sri Lanka, as It Heals from War Amy Karafin for The New York Times Clockwise from upper left, the Keerimalai spring, thought to have healing powers, used to require an armed guard for a visit; an island-bound ferry; the edge of the city of Jaffna; a detail from the Naguleswaram Shiva Temple, recently restored. As… Read more »
The infrastructure in the North of Sri Lanka has been changed, and the intention is clear. Indeed, there is no need, and no attempt, to hide it. Everywhere, land is reserved for settlement by the army. In the past, the Vanni was able to cultivate sufficient paddy for the entire North; now I met famers turned into helpless beggars, waiting for rations doled by the army-controlled administration. In this area, property, houses and land once belonged to the people. Later, they were taken over and occupied by the LTTE. Now, they are the possession of the Army. I saw land near where my father-in-law lives which belongs to a close relation of ours. She lost her husband, and was delayed returning because she was alone. That land has simply been taken over by the army, and is being cultivated by them.
Sri Lanka has long had a problem with disappearances. Accordingly, the LLRC sought to address this issue in its final report, which includes the following two recommendations:
Recommendation 9.46: Investigate allegations of abductions, enforced or involuntary disappearance; bring perpetrators to justice.
Recommendation 9.51: “…the Commission recommends that a Special Commissioner of Investigation be appointed to investigate alleged disappearances and provide material to the Attorney General to initiate criminal proceedings where appropriate.”
Yet the GoSL’s record on disappearances continues to be a concern. Appallingly, 25% of TSA survey respondents have had a family member disappear. And that individual was usually the principal incomer earner of the family.
Despite all their suffering and deprivation during the war, the spirits and dignity of the people of the Vanni were resolute and indomitable. That spirit was infectious, and I felt for the first time that I could hold my head up proudly and not feel the indignity of a lesser class of citizenship in my own mother country.
Heinrich Böll said of the Second World War: as long as the pus continues to drain from the wound of war, you cannot say the nation is free from war. I saw that, in Sri Lanka, an unseen war is still being waged, one that seeks to destroy the spirit of a people.
Despite all their suffering and deprivation during the war, the spirits and dignity of the people of the Vanni were resolute and indomitable. That spirit was infectious, and I felt for the first time that I could hold my head up proudly and not feel the indignity of a lesser class of citizenship in my own mother country…
There was always one thought in my mind: I was surely in God’s own country with God’s own people and I wished and hoped that I would be able to spend the rest of my mortal life here in the midst of these idyllic surroundings and people.