People who were dragged to the LTTE Movement
When we went to Women Army Camp in Kilinochchi to meet the Tamil Women who had joined the SLA recently, we met Maj. Bandula, Officer-in charge of the SLA Camps in Kilinochchi. He has explained to us the activities of the SLA in Kilonochchi.
"When we had captured Kilinochchi, there were no living creatures except birds. It was totally abandoned. The Tigers had taken the people to Kilinochchi along with them as human shields. However the army did not cause even slightest of damage to the houses and the Hindu temples here. In the last four years after the completion of the final phase of the war, 1,35,605 Tamils of 42,580 Tamil families have been resettled so far.
There is no distress situation here as allegedly campaigned in Tamil Nadu. There is not even a single family in the barbed-fenced camp in Kilinochchi. Not even single Sinhala family except the army cadres have been settled here. All are rumors only. Those who raise such allegations should tell it with evidence like "a barbed-fenced camp is situated in this area…so many people are staying there… This many Sinhala families are settled in this area etc.," They should not make irresponsible statements.
In fact, SLA strongly supports the Tamils here. The government has allocated 1.75mn for the rehabilitation of Kilinochchi and spending money accordingly. More than 20,000 houses are being built. We educate 3,000 Tamil students at SLA's cost. Apart from this, it has been made compulsory for each and every army soldier to give a minimum of Rs. 100 per month to the Education of Tamil students as a donation. With the help of this money, scholarships are given to 400 Tamil students. Free shoes are given to the students at the cost of the SLA. The SLA itself has given free bicycles to more than 1000 school boys and girls.
Moreover, free technical training is provided, on behalf of the army, to the young men and women in this area. They are provided with training in various fields like electrical works, mason works, carpentry works, tailoring work, cooking, bakery works, repairs of cell phones, computers and beautician courses etc., So far around 14,000 people including 10,683 former Tigers have received training in these fields", Major Bandula explained.
Finally he said one thing: "SLA's task was only to eliminate terrorism and not decimate the Tamils. War was over long back. The present goal of the army is to create 5 R's namely Rehabilitation, Reintegration, Reconstruction, Resettlement and Reconciliation. These are the five goals of the army now. We will implement them," he said.
Subsequently, we were given an opportunity to meet around 40 women out of 102 Tamil women who had joined the SLA recently. We had a discussion independently with these Tamil women without the presence of any of the army officials around us. All young women were about 21-25 years old. They draw a salary of SL.Rs. 35,000 per month. They have said that they get SL.RS. 30,000/- as net salary after a deduction of Rs. 5,000/-. They said that this salary was a great help to their economically-down families.
One of these women said, "We feel as to why we have joined this job. All our relatives abroad degrade our family and view us as "traitors". They have stopped the assistance, which they were extending to us in the past, because of this reason" she said sadly.
Another woman has said, "Even in my house there was a big opposition for my decision of joining the army. My Mother was scared that our relatives will talk bad about us. However I categorically told my Mother that "only we have to improve our economy. we can't starve and die just because of the fact that we should get a good name from our well-to do relatives abroad" and convinced her to allow me to join this job", she said. Some women even asked us, "Brother, what do you think about this matter. Do you mistake us", they asked. Our Tamil sympathizers have created a guilty feeling, to that extent, among these women. [We replied to these women, "this is your life, there is nothing wrong in doing something which you feel as right. Those in foreign countries will send you only their words and not lives," we told them].
The women have said that they live in peace and harmony after the war. They said that the army cadres treat them very respectfully and affectionately. We had doubt as to whether there were any cameras in the room in which we had a discussion with these women and whether the army cadres had already threatened them that they should speak only in this way. Subsequently, we took few women to the shade of a tree outside and talked to them separately. The army officials did not object it. At that venue also the women had praised the army in the same manner. They have categorically told us "we were not compelled to talk only like this to you". They also told us, amidst happiness, that "truly they treat us very affectionately. They have given loans to us to buy two-wheeler now", they said.
We had asked them who and who had served the LTTE organization. They initially hesitated to tell about those details. However, after we had replied to all their questions and the situation was somewhat eased out, two women raised their hands. [They asked us questions like whether they could meet Rajini if they visit Chennai, whether Shalini and Jyotika will act in Tamil films in the future and whether Simbhu- Dhanush clash was true or not etc.,]
We met those two women separately. They had served the LTTE organization only for few months. [The Tamils there mention the LTTE organization as "Iyakkam" i.e. Movement, in short).
Both of these women were not the ones who had joined the Movement voluntarily. They were forcefully dragged by the Tigers to join the Movement. The Tigers who had initially imposed a condition that each and every family should give a child to the Movement, had been dragging young men and women to their Movement during the final phase of the war. They did not spare even minor children aged 14-15.
The first woman (name removed) had served the movement only for few months. "The Movement had captured me and my younger sister first. They did not involve us in training since the final phase of the war was going on then. When we had surrendered before the army later, the army cadres had detained me in a detention camp for nine months since I was a former militant. Subsequently they had freed me after realizing that I had served the Movement only by force as I was young. I was not put to any kind of torture at that detention camp. The army, apart from giving me food and cloths, had also helped me to continue my education. However, I am not aware of the whereabouts of my younger sister so far. She went missing after she was taken away by the Tigers. I don't know as to whether she is still alive or dead," she said amidst tears.
The second woman [name removed] was forcefully recruited to the Movement during the end of 2008. She said "LTTE had recruited me and my elder Brother. My Mother went all around to make sure that she gets back at least one of us. She went to each and every camp and pleaded there. Subsequently, they had taken away my younger sister too. However, my younger sister was a courageous girl. Even if the LTTE captures her, she would return home after escaping from them, within few days. I neither knew the route nor had courage. Once I made such an attempt to escape and got caught. When the LTTE catches those who escape, they will tonsure the head of the boys and do bob cut for girls. They had used these techniques to ensure that they grab those who escape easily next time. Many girls had wept and screamed for losing their long hair.
"I had undergone training for 1½ months. I did not have strength to carry guns. I used to be awake at nights due to fear. They thought that I was waiting to escape and hence threatened me that "they will shoot me if I try to escape". During the final phase of the war, they had taken away even minor children due to shortage of people. Mothers had cried inconsolably then, do you know that? Minor children, who could not hold even riffles, were also dragged away. Because of these reasons all had started hating Tigers. I and few others went to the "Receiving Points" in Sudandirapuram in February 2009. I was not aware of the whereabouts of my family members then. I wanted to see my Mother at the camp but it did not happen. I was so fond of my younger brother but I could not see him too. Due to these sad feelings I was roaming around the Camp without eating for many days. I gave letters to the army listing out the names of the missing members of my family. Subsequently, I came to know through a neighbor that my Mother too had come to the "Receiving Point" and I finally met her at the camp', she said.
Of course, this woman was in the Movement only for few months. However, once the army came to know that she was in the Movement they had detained her in the detention camp for 2¾ years and in prison for 4 months. The name, which was given to her by the Movement, was the reason behind this lengthy detention. Once a person joins their Movement, Tigers used to give new Tamil names to them. Accordingly, this woman was given the name of a dead woman militant. Since that name was a well known and familiar name to the SLA, she was subjected to a lengthy inquiry due to a fear that the woman was actually the dead militant.
The woman, who was blaming LTTE organization for losing her young days unjustifiably, said, "The army did not treat us badly ever after coming to know that we were former Tigers. Until I stayed at that camp they gave me education apart from providing food and clothes to me. I wrote my school final examinations when I was at that army camp only. I neither experienced any sexual harassment nor witnessed them. I did not hear any such incidents among the fellow inmates as well. However there is such a talk outside. But, as far as myself is concerned, I did not witness any such things," she said.
She further said, "my aunt's family came to my place [name of the place removed] from Jaffna to celebrate Pongal with us in 2006. However, the LTTE had blocked the road by burying landmines during that time and they had suffered a hell of a pain since they could not return to Jaffna. There were incidents wherein some well-to do people paid money to the Movement and got released. However, all cannot afford to do this, is it not?" she said.
Those, who had served the LTTE voluntarily as well as those who were forcefully recruited to the LTTE, came to "Receiving Points" of the army along with the civilians during the final phase of the war and surrendered before the SLA. However, how the army cadres had identified those Tigers from the surrendered civilians and separated them? We will tell about those facts, which cannot be digested at all by the Pro-LTTE supporters here, in our next edition.
[to be continued].
NOTE: Since all the interviews were mostly recorded in audio and video, there was an opportunity to listen to these interviews once again and publish this article in the local language of the Sri Lankan Tamils itself. However, the article is published in the media Tamil itself since it would be very difficult for the readers to understand and also we have to give explanations frequently in brackets.
– S.J. Idhaya and A. A. Samy.
Are Hindu Temples being Demolished?
An Army official has challenged us by saying "It was campaigned throughout Tamil Nadu that Hindu temples were demolished and Buddhist temples were built". You go to any Tamil area and inquire. Not even a single Hindu temple in any of these areas is demolished. Buddhism is mixed well with Hinduism. Buddhist temples have places even for Hindu Gods. The Buddhists worship Hindu Gods too. Hindu temples are getting refurbished at government's cost after the war. However, a leader, who was holding the post of Chief Minister in Tamil Nadu, had himself complained that Hindu temples were demolished in Sri Lanka. There is no better example than this to show that only misinformation reach Tamil Nadu", he pointed out. When we asked about this from TNA's Saravanabavan, MP, he said "Of course, they are building new Buddhist temples here but there is no information that Hindu temples were demolished here". When we met the Mayor of Jaffna, she said "No Hindu temples were demolished. The Government refurbishes each and every Hindu temple here at a cost of several lakhs of rupees.
We ourselves saw new Buddhist temples built in Kilinochcdhi, Pudukudiruppu and Mullaitivu areas. When we asked an Army official about it, he said "These (Buddhist) temples were not built with a specific vow that Buddhist temples should be built in Tamil areas. In the past these areas were completely under LTTE's control. However, now army camps are put up here on "national security" reasons. These temples have been built for the Buddhists living in these army camps to worship. Building a new Buddhist temple doesn't mean that Hindu religion is getting destroyed. Just see how many Lord Muguga & Lord Vinayaga temples have been built by the Hindus, who got migrated from here, in Canada, Britain, Norway and Australia. Were the people in those nations thought that these Hindus were thinking of ruining the Christian religion in their nations because of building Hindu temples there?" he questioned us.
"Why the Tamils escape to foreign countries even now?'
Many members of Tamil Diaspora send cash assistance to the Tamils living in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu areas now. Many Tamil families told us "independent Eelam…oh my goodness. What we had gone through is enough" but requested us not to publish either their names or photos. When we asked them the reason for it, they said "the members of Tamil Diaspora support independent Eelam. If we say that "independent Eelam is not at all necessary", they will become angry on us and stop sending money to us"
During our conversations, we could understand that the local Tamils were jealous and little angry on the Members of Tamil Diaspora. "They had migrated to foreign countries and settled their lives there before they face big loses like deaths, loss of body parts, loss of lives of members of families etc., It is not sure as to whether they or their generation will come and live in Eelam if in case Eelam is formed here. However, they have been provoking more and more from there, by saying "independent nation, public referendum" etc.,
Because they could continue their life in those countries only if this issue exists continuously. Moreover, they could bring their other close relatives, living here, to their places in the guise of "refugees". Hence, there is no point in holding a referendum on independent Eelam among the Members of Tamil Diaspora" they said. On the other hand, many of the Tamils in Vanni still have a wish to migrate to foreign countries including Canada, Europe and Australia. A Tamil family has said "we want to forget the cruelties we had experienced in this land. Moreover, the movement of the army here still causes stiffness in our life. We cannot hide the fact that we still have a hidden fear as to what would happen and when it would happen. Hence, many of us have a mentality that it is good to have a settled life in a peaceful foreign country. Hence, incidents, of fleeing to foreign countries in illegal ferries, are taking place" they said.
© THUGLAK, 2013