Guest post by MAHENDRAN THIRUVARANGAN
When the civil war came to an end in May 2009 I was still a final year undergraduate at the University of Peradeniya. Peradeniya was miles away from the war zone. The only venues that supplied us with details about the happenings in the war theatre were the television channels stationed in the South, self-censoring the civilian casualties incurred and feeding to the Sinhala nationalist jubilation of the times. And on the other side were websites like Tamilnet and Puthinam run by parties sympathetic to the LTTE releasing carefully filtered out reports singularly focusing on the deaths of civilians caused by the military leaving no trace about how the top leadership of the LTTE was recruiting children and adults, despite knowing so well they had already lost the battle or how the civilians who were trying to flee the war zone were shot down by the militants.
One had to work around these competing narratives to get at least a partial sense of the nature of the violence that the people ensnared in the No Fire Zone were exposed to. Some of us had friends whose relatives had been in the LTTE-controlled areas. When the guns breathed their last in Mullivaikal, some of them had already moved to hospitals and camps in Trincomalee and Vavuniya with their loved ones injured during the war. It was from these wounded men and women and their families that the harrowing experiences of the thousands of people inside the narrow battlefield trickled down to us in May 2009. The South erupted into celebrations when the re-unification of the island was announced via the media. As the former president in his televised address from Parliament was busy instructing the people of the country to annul the notions of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ from their political discourses, fire crackers celebrating the military victory started to deafen the ears of those of us who were seated under the senate building of the University of Peradeniya—Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and Malays—pondering in groups what was awaiting us and the country in the days and years to come. Continue reading Seven Years After the End of Sri Lanka’s Civil War: Mahendran Thiruvarangan
श्रीलंका अभी खबरों में है. लेकिन ज़्यादातर हिंदी अखबारों को पढ़ने से आपको अंदाज़ नहीं मिलेगा कि सुदूर दक्षिण में स्थित इस नन्हें-से मुल्क में क्या कुछ हो रहा है जिससे हमारा भी रिश्ता है.वहाँ अभी‘कॉमनवेल्थ’ देशों का सम्मलेन हो रहा है और हमारे प्रधानमंत्री उसमें शामिल नहीं हो पा रहे हैं.श्रीलंका ने कहा है कि वह उनकी मजबूरी समझता है. तमिल राजनेताओं के हंगामे की वजह से प्रधानमंत्री ने अपनी जगह विदेश मंत्री को इस सम्मलेन में भारत का प्रतिनिधित्व करने को कहा है. इस सम्मलेन में श्रीलंका को अगले दो साल के लिए ‘कॉमनवेल्थ’ का नेतृत्व करने को कहा जाएगा. इस पर भारत को ऐतराज नहीं है और अब तक किसी और मुल्क ने भी अपनी आपत्ति दर्ज नहीं कराई है. Continue reading श्रीलंका और हम
On 7th November the full length version of the documentary “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ will be premiered at the India International Center for the first time in India and discussed by eminent thinkers, journalists and activists. Callum Macrae, the Director of ‘No Fire Zone’, a film on the last days of the civil war in Sri Lanka has not received his visa to come to India and participate in the discussions despite applying over eight months ago!
Two years ago when Channel 4 in the UK first aired the documentary, it sent shockwaves through the international community. The Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in mid-2009 with the decimation of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan army was supposed to have been a ‘glorious’ chapter in the vanquishing of a ‘terrorist’ force. Continue reading Waiting for the Director:Indian Premiere of ‘No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’
Guest post by LEENA MANIMEKALAI
‘By the wayside’
“This wreath/ with no name attached /is for you/who has no grave/ As the place of earth/ which embraced you/ could not be found/this wreath was placed by the wayside/Forgive me/ for placing a memorial for you/ by the roadside.”
…writes Basil Fernando about the memorial constructed by families of disappeared at Radoluwa Junction in Seeduwa, a town near the city of Negombo, Srilanka. When I visited the memorial with lingering faces of the disappeared, it signified an important attempt to keep the memories alive, a yearning to prevent recurrence of mass disappearances and seek justice on behalf of the victims of disappearances and their families. Srilanka which has a deep and complex history of political violence is struggling to redeem the past with a frozen present and a black hole future. Communal riots, political assassinations and ethnic conflict have been an element of the socio-political landscape of this tear nation for more than a century. Two heads of State, dozen national political leaders and numerous regional and local politicians, journalists, activists and artists have been assassinated by groups representing virtually every shade of political spectrum. The Srilankan state deploys disappearances and extra judicial killings as an instrument of public policy in the name of State Emergencies, Prevention of Terrorism Act, dubbing of persons as terrorists, unpatriotic, enemies of state. Brutal suppression of two armed insurrections in the Sinhala South in 1971-72, 1987-89 led by Peoples Liberation Front (JVP) and an armed Tamil Separatist Movement since 1970s led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Tamil North and East of the island had spotted Srilankan state guilty of horrific human rights abuses. Now the nation is the world leader in number of disappeared crossing millions who have no date of death, no place of death, no body, and no grave or funeral rites. Obviously there is no shelling, no bombing in the island since 2009 and the State wants the world to believe that war is over but who will bring peace to the families who continue to lose their members to State Terror and also been denied their basic right to even open their mouth about the injustice. Continue reading The Unknown Fate of Thousands in Sri Lanka: Leena Manimekalai
Guest post by ROHINI HENSMAN
The hectic discussion over the Kashmir meeting in Delhi in October entitled ‘Azadi – The Only Way’ has made it urgent to revisit the debate between Lenin and Luxemburg on the right of nations to self-determination. Lenin, starting from his experience in imperialist Russia, insisted on the right of nations like the Ukraine to self-determination (in the sense of their right to form separate states), contending that denial of this right would merely strengthen Great Russian nationalism. In a colonial situation, Lenin was surely right. When a country is under foreign occupation, all sections other than a very small number of collaborators want to be free of the occupiers, even if there are sharp differences between these sections. A striking example is RAWA (the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) which, despite speaking for a section of the population which is sorely oppressed by the Taliban, and continuing to fight against it, nonetheless shares with the latter the goal of ending the occupation by US and NATO forces. In such situations, the right of an occupied nation to self-determination makes sense.
Continue reading Dilemmas of ‘Right of Nations to Self Determination’: Rohini Hensman
Guest post by ROHINI HENSMAN
Different sections of Sri Lankans protest against the 18th Amendment
Sri Lanka’s claim to be a democracy has been tenuous for years, but the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution by parliament on 8 September 2010 dealt it a fatal blow. It changed Sri Lanka into a de facto dictatorship like Zimbabwe and Myanmar, where it is abundantly clear that elections alone cannot unseat Mugabe or Than Shwe.
Continue reading Sri Lanka’s 18th Amendment: A Charter for Dictatorship: Rohini Hensman