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Discoveries of People Crossing The Border

"The inspirational appeal made by the LTTE was the cry of Tamil patriotism with pride of place to its culture and civilization. It was indeed tempting."

by Gomin Dayasri

(December 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Do not be under the spell of yarns churned out by the spin merchants, of a life in misery for those who lived under the LTTE administration. There are many aspects of the terrorist rule that appealed to them before life became intolerable, a recent phenomenon. The ending of the CFA accelerated the process. Those Tamils who made the crossing from the uncleared areas to government controlled areas retain mixed feelings of the days under the rule of Prabhakaran. It was a bitter pill with a sugar coating. With the sugar having melted, capsule tastes more like cyanide.

They breathe air of a fresh life style in more relaxed surroundings, in temporary accommodation off the beaten track on the road between Mannar and Medawachchiya. The journey was long and harrowing through jungle paths with minimum sleep. They did it for their children; to give them freedom, to bring them to safety. Some are affluent by northern standards- to bring their live assets to safety was paramount – the fixed assets paled into insignificance. The short story is Prabhakaran touched a sensitive spot of a community that lived for their children. There lived an ogre who stole their children. That split the umbilical cord by which Prabhakaran held them.

The invitation to express opinion frankly and be coaxed to speak openly was a bizarre experience to a generation that was suppressed. Except for the undergraduates – not even college students- free expression was an unknown realm; the initial diffidence was obvious, it was satisfying to watch the metamorphosis of a silent society moving towards an open society. Hitherto they exercised the freedom of speech within a limited circle of friends and relations; the open discussion initiated was a freak event- it began as a drip, became a trickle, enlarged to a flow and ended as a splurge. Once confidence was restored and bona fides were established, Tamils and Sinhalese become one people.

To them LTTE had done much good in the early days, corruption was eliminated comprehensively. It was a relatively clean society with equal opportunity of limited facility until the cadres began extracting benefits and for their continued retention opportunity had to be bestowed with more perquisites. (So are we!). Alcohol and drugs were out of reach for the youth, smoking was severely curtailed and these prohibitions were strictly enforced unlike in our loose legislation. So was entertainment-no cinema music not even of their patrons in South India. With no electricity, power evolved around the battery; a single cell costing Rs 750 many peddled a bicycle to activate a dynamo to listen to the news cast on a transistor radio in information hungry homes. Names of the heroes who died in battle were read out on the terrorist’s radio, most names were withheld from the death list in fear of declines in recruitment. Often this was the only notice homes received of an obituary of its youthful occupants. The daily news cast was an emotional event-such was life! Radio was used sparingly in an environment that denied entertainment except the glorification of the LTTE. Otherwise it was a permanent blast of LTTE songs, which was hardly music to the ear when played perennially. No dating for the cadres in a society where love was under license, sex was under punishment.

In true Taliban style visits were not encouraged to temple or church for their cadres but the rule was relaxed to the civilians. The only god was the God Man himself. No holy ash on the body of a military cadre on off duty- could only invoke the protection of the Great One in times of fear and stress which was hardly comforting. The poor were better cared than the affluent which was a welcome novelty in these days of western liberalism. The non Vellalls became stake holders in society- the most penetrating. formidable and devastating achievement under the LTTE in breaking the social fabric of the pseudo brahamin echelons in the Penninsula; now visible in the refugee camps as people of a former caste ridden society share common bathing spouts provided by the International Red Cross. They have come from a moral society over disciplined, over regimented to infringe on the freedom of the individual. The breaking through the cadjan wall is perilous as vaulting over the Berlin Wall or creeping through the Wall across Jerusalem.

The inspirational appeal made by the LTTE was the cry of Tamil patriotism with pride of place to its culture and civilization. It was indeed tempting. An invitation to become a partner of an epic journey to a promised land to create a nation state, to a community that previously lived on staple diet of flabby South Indian cinema idols chivalrously slaughtering villains was an attractive proposition. Here he was, in flesh on your own soil before your eyes, presenting a live option and delivering results. The hardship, endurance and sacrifice were bearable but not for 25 years and with time the distant dream was becoming more distanced.

Most crossings take place because, Prabhakaran, the prime child snatcher, made a fatal error when he began to hold a parent in hostage until a child was offered. A child had to make a selfless offer to free a parent, often mothers. This was humiliating to the people of the North to whom children are the most treasured possession, where the child and parent relationship is sacred. The parents hid in jungles with children to save them from being abducted and meals were carried from the village to selected sites. There were the green eyed informants whose children were forcibly carried away reporting on other children located in hide outs in the jungle. It was endless months of playing hide and seek with the local LTTE chieftains and other jealous parents. Sun God became the god of hate in the minds of the captured children. The isolated man probably did not get the feed back of the backlash he was encountering and making an ugly image of a ‘goni billa’, which permanently erased the limited goodwill he had earned.

With the depletion in the cadre ranks, the new recruits after a month of training, was pushed to the front line as human fodder with a battle tested veteran to lead, to give the second line of defense consisting of experienced fighters a breathing space to be in a state of battle readiness. Most parents knew of the strategy and are bitter, as they realize, the child snatched is a human sacrifice. This gave rise to dissension within the cadres, where bouts of shadow boxing between the new recruits and the more experienced loyal hands, often takes place. The forcibly recruited children were given four days an year to be with their parents (too dangerous to desert) and two sittings per year for parents for visitations. However, once a child is sacrificed the rest of the family had the privilege of an easier life style; they could cross the border in search of employment- a problem arose again only if there were more than 5 children-a search party comes for the second child. Only married cadres received a payment for work.

There was a time when youth flocked to join the cause - Prabhakaran lit the lamp of Tamil patriotism with his string of victories which was an inspirational factor not sustainable due to his own stupidity and the military tsunami he faced. Foreigners in the guise of NGO activists – in truth, tourists on shoe strings were made to feel important –allowed to hibernate around the organization, awaiting to be a part of history in a cause of an underdog, desiring to practice the campus taught vision of western liberalism which welcomed forms of terrorism unless and until it affected them. The Northern hospitality and the genuine goodwill of the people overflowed to these traveling ambassadors which impressed them immensely (give a meal to a hippie and watch him glow!) and were unofficially accredited as LTTE ambassadors at large and made to feel good and look important. These hired white skinned Foreign Service personnel were often rewarded with delicious fresh sea food meals cooked with skills of the northern cuisine by LTTE cooks. These hungry diplomats traveled on their belly but was convincing to another white man.

If a family reduced by one was unbearable, the next nifty stroke was more devastating -to disposes entire families of their homestead without a warning. Instead of a journey to a promised land, proud householders were forced to leave home and towards destination unknown to provide human shields. Overnight householders became wandering nomadic tribal people. Kanakarayakullam has not been reached by Sri Lankan Forces (until 5th Dec) as I spoke to them in the last week of November 2008 but the LTTE ejected the people from their ancestral homes on 4th August 2008 and have made them pitch tent on different turfs making them live lives of gypsies. It seems Prabhakaran has mastered the art of making enemies and driving people to the bosom of the central government in an exercise which make him, his own enemy. There is a limit to tolerance and that made them move.

The LTTE had driven home the message the Armed Forces (they torture boys, rape the girls before killing-so cyanide capsule is comfort death) are historically cruel, Sinhalese are genetically evil. Those walking across the Wanni, yet, feel more safe and secure among the Sinhala people and believe now more of the stories their mothers related- Sinhalese are like us. Whether they are happy is too early to predict.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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