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Between Two Armies-LTTE Tamil & Singalese Army

Between Two Armies-LTTE Tamil & Singalese Army

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Published by Veeramani Mani
Genocide War
Genocide War

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Published by: Veeramani Mani on Apr 19, 2013
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07/31/2013

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tehelka.com
http://tehelka.com/between-two-armies/?singlepage=1#
Current Affairs A- A+
MY HOME
is in Illuppakadavai in the Vanni. On January 2, 2007, at nine in themorning, the KFIRs [Sri Lankan Air Force jets] came. They bombed my village, theground was shaking and shrapnel flew everywhere. Many people were injured, and sowas I. That is how I lost my leg.Stella is 13 years old, fresh-faced and beautiful. I first met her on August 5, 2008, inManiyankulam, a village in North Sri Lanka’s Vanni, territory that was until thebeginning of this year under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Stella is at a pivotalstage of her life, her mind and body developing. But there is much to set her apart from others her age; shehas endured far beyond what can be expected from an average adolescent.“On June 20, 2008, there was shelling close to our new home, and we had to run away because we wereafraid. We could not take many things and I had to run as fast as I could with my crutches, with help frommy family and neighbours. We have been here for a week, and we have only one shelter for six families.That’s around 23 people. There are no proper toilets, and for me it is very difficult… because of my leg.“I don’t know how I’ll manage if we have to move from this place. I have a prosthetic leg, and I can ride abicycle. If I had a bicycle, life would be much easier.“I’ll be happy if we can get more shelters, to sleep comfortably, and a proper toilet; but more than that, whatI need most is a bicycle.I met Stella again on August 20, 2008. She described to me how the shelter in Maniyankulam had comeunder attack by the Sri Lankan Army two nights before.“The shelling started at 7:30 in the evening and we ran immediately to Konavil school, about five km away.Our family had to spend the night in the school as I couldn’t go on with my crutches. My family was carryingall our belongings and could not help me. I felt sad for my family that I was slowing them down. That nightwas very loud due to the shelling. Other families had managed to get further away, but we had to stay therebecause of my injuries.“We are now here in the school and again I feel bad. This school is like my old school, but we are using itfor a home and the children in this area will suffer. I am very scared that shelling will happen again in thisarea and we will have to run again. I am tired of perennially running from place to place and not feeling safein any place.
‘I met Stella again in 2008, who described how the army attacked Maniyankulam’ 
“If the Government and the LTTE allow us, I would be very happy to escape this area. I just want peace tocome to my family and me, and I don’t want to run anymore. I still have very bad dreams about the KFIRattack and when I hear the roar of the KFIRs these days, I get so scared.What Stella has been through since that time, I do not know. The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) hasvowed to remove the LTTE from Sri Lanka by the end of 2009 and restore democracy to the liberatedareas. Severely crippled since the SLA’s January 2 storming of the key town of Kilinochchi, the LTTE arefocused on fighting for the region at all costs. At this juncture, the question remains: what lies in store for the Tamil civilian population of the Vanni?
 
Thanks to the 2002-08 ceasefire between the GoSL and the LTTE, communities in the Vanni largely enjoyeda sense of development and progress. People had invested in homes and livelihoods, and looked towardsa brighter future of peace and reconciliation between Tamils and Sinhalese. These dreams were shatteredlast January when the GoSL formally ended the six-year-old ceasefire agreement, and Tamils once againhad to deal with the grim reality of displacement and its concomitant misery, uncertainty and insecurity.Sri Lanka now holds one of the world’s largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), with theconflict depriving an estimated three to four hundred thousand people of their homes. Seventy-thousandpeople — and counting — have died in a quarter-century of civil war.
THROUGHOUT 2008,
there was a sustained push by the SLA from the southwestern corner of the Vanni. As the army pushed forward, thousands of civilians began to flee their homes, paddy fields and fishingvillages to escape the approaching artillery. People packed up their belongings and made their way ontractor or foot northwards to safer areas. The Vanni is one of Sri Lanka’s most impoverished areas, manyfarmers and fisherman live hand-tomouth, and their meagre savings were spent on hiring tractors for themove to relative safety. “Many of us are living under trees and looking for shelter. How do I look after mystudents in this situation? I have no school for them to attend and I have no idea where many of them are,”says Pillai, a school teacher from Kilinochchi.
AS THE SLA
further pushed into the Vanni, many civilians, tired and virtually destitute, were forced tocontinue with further displacements. “I have been displaced from my home seven times over the past threeyears,” says Sandra from Jayapuram. “In 2005, we had a good life in Parapan Kandal, until the SLA began toshell the area near our home. My husband was a fisherman and we lived well.“At the time of the shelling, I was pregnant and had to run through the night to safety. Since then, I havebeen moving every six months due to the shelling. I am now sitting here under this tree and it’s the seventhtime. I am tired of running.The people from Mannar I met in September 2008 were hungry, tired, afraid and traumatised. Children hadnot attended school for months, fathers had lost their means of making a living, and mothers were dealing
 
with the raw emotion of not being able to protect, feed and educate their families. There was a great senseof exhaustion among the people; this was the final push of a 25- year-old struggle.Mary is a native of Jaffna but came to the Vanni in 1995. She has two children and a husband who is apaddy farmer. A loving and protective mother, she is desperate to leave Sri Lanka and start a new life withher family. “With the situation here, it is very difficult to be a mother,” she told me. “I have two children, a 16-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. There are many problems I face, but my biggest fear is therecruitment of my children by the LTTE.“My daughter does not understand much about what is happening here and I try not to tell her too mucheither; she has the chance to enjoy more of her childhood and I try hard not to spoil that for her. But myson understands everything.“He often comes home from school and tells me that another student has been taken to fight from thegrade above his. This is very hard for the children and they all discuss their birthdays and work out who willbe taken first, when the time comes. My son was born in 1992; at the moment, the LTTE are recruitingchildren born in 1991… next year it will be 1992.“Another major problem we have is the jealousy of our community. When a child is taken from a home, theparents will begin to tell the LTTE of other children that are hiding in neighbours’ homes. There is a senseof jealousy amongst our community that makes us tell on each other. I know a girl who hid in a pit for sixmonths. Her father brought her food and water every night and she stayed there out of sight. One hot day,a neighbour spotted her taking water from the well and returning to the pit. The next day the LTTE cameand took her from the pit. These kinds of incidents are really killing the foundations of our community.
Sri Lanka vows to stub LTTE by end 2009. What lies in store for the Tamils in the Vanni? 
“My children are also so scared of the KFIRs. My son walked home from school one evening and a KFIRswooped out of the sky and bombed an LTTE base close to our house. The sound was terribly loud andput so much fear inside me. I realised that my son would be walking in that area at the time and I screamedwith fright that he may have been hit. We met on the path running towards each other. I was so scared andhappy to see him. But now he is petrified of the KFIRs. He hears them before all of us at home. Suddenly,he will just jump up, run out and dive into the drainage channel behind the house. When this happens in theevening, he cannot study after that, and I am so worried about the affect this has on his education.
I WANT MY
children to receive the best education and study hard, but when we hear the KFIR in themorning I don’t want them to leave for school. I get so worried that they will be killed that day, so I tell themto stay at home. They sometimes miss a day or two every week because of my fear, and that makes mevery sad, like I’m being a bad mother, but I’m just trying to protect my children.Throughout 2008, the SLA continued to advance northwards along the western coast, towards Kilinochchiand the strategic stronghold of Elephant Pass, the link between Jaffna Peninsula and the rest of thecountry. The civilian population began to displace again towards the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK)between Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu. Until this point, the IDPs had lived in appalling conditions, but weresomewhat shielded from the main fighting area around Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass. All aid agencies, aside from ICRC, were evacuated from the Vanni on September 16, 2008 and relocated inthe government town of Vavuniya. Leaving these people behind at their greatest hour of need was the mostpainful experience of my life. Under extreme vulnerability and a barrage of artillery and air attacks, I had todrive away, leaving behind friends and colleagues to an immediate future of violence and uncertainty. SinceSeptember, aid agencies have been struggling every day to take food, shelter and hygiene materials to thepeople but with limited success. Continued blockages in the multiple systems have prevented the agenciesfrom reaching the increasingly desperate IDP population. With the onset of the monsoon in November,many thousands of families found themselves sheltering under trees and rationing their dwindling food

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