Sunday, December 7, 2008
Walking across the Wanni
(Author's observations after being the first to commence an open dialogue with those who made the crossing from the shrinking LTTE controlled territory to areas under government control.)
Do not be under the magic charm of yarns churn out by the twist merchants, of a survival in unhappiness for those who lived under the LTTE management. There are a lot of aspects of the terrorist law that appealed to them before life became unbearable, a new phenomenon. The end of the CFA accelerated the process. Those Tamils who complete the journey from the uncleared areas to government prohibited areas keep varied approach of the days under the rule of Prabhakaran. It was a sour pill with a sugar coating. With the sugar having melted, tablet tastes more similar to cyanide.
They breathe air of a new life style in more tranquil surroundings, in provisional somewhere to live off the compressed path on the road between Mannar and Medawachchiya. The trip was long and disturbing through jungle paths with minimum sleep. They did it for their children; to give them freedom, to bring them to safety. Some are rich by northern standards- to bring their live assets to safety was paramount - the fixed assets paled into unimportance. The short story is Prabhakaran touched a sensitive spot of a group of people that lived for their children. There lived an monster who stole their children. That hole the umbilical cord by which Prabhakaran held them.
The invite to express opinion honestly and be coaxed to speak candidly was a strange experience to a generation that was suppressed. apart from 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 ring of friends and relations; the open discussion initiated was a freak event- it began as drip, became a trickle, distended to a flow and ended as a overdo. Once confidence was restored and bona fides were established, Tamils and Sinhalese become one people.
To them LTTE had done much good in the near the beginning days, dishonesty was eliminated comprehensively. It was a comparatively clean society with equivalent opportunity of limited facility until the cadres began extracting benefits and for their continued retention chance had to be bestowed with more perquisites. (So are we!). Alcohol and drugs were out of reach for the youth, smoking was harshly curtailed and these prohibitions were severely compulsory unlike in our loose legislation. So was entertainment-no cinema music not even of their customers in South India. With no electricity, power evolved around the battery; a single cell costing Rs 750 many peddled a bicycle to make active a dynamo to listen to the news shed on a transistor radio in in order hungry homes. Names of the heroes who died in battle were understand writing out on the terrorist's radio, most names were suspended from the death list in fear of declines in staffing. Often this was the only notice homes traditional of an obituary of its youthful occupants. The daily news hut was an moving event-such was life! Radio was used sparingly in an surroundings that denied entertainment apart from the adoration of the LTTE. Otherwise it was a enduring blast of LTTE songs, which was barely music to the ear when played perennially. No dating for the cadres in a people where feel affection for was under license, sex was under punishment.
In true Taliban method visits were not confident to place of worship or minster 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 huge One in times of fear and pressure which was hardly comforting. The deprived were better cared than the rich 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 cloth of the pseudo brahamin echelons in the Penninsula; now visible in the person in exile camps as people of a former caste ridden civilization share common bathing spouts provided by the global Red Cross. They have come from a moral people over disciplined, over regimented to infringe on the liberty of the individual. The breaking through the cadjan wall is unsafe as vaulting over the Berlin Wall or creeping from side to side the Wall across Jerusalem.
The inspiring plea made by the LTTE was the cry of Tamil loyalty with pride of put 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 group of people that previously lived on clip diet of flaccid South Indian cinema idols politely slaughtering villains was an good-looking proposition. Here he was, in flesh on your own soil previous to your eyes, presenting a live alternative and delivering results. The hardship, endurance and give up were convenient but not for 25 years and with time the far-away vision was becoming more distanced.
Most crossings get 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 awkward to the people of the North to whom children are the most treasured possession, where the child and parent association 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 by force carried away coverage 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 remote man almost certainly did not get the feed rear of the reaction he was encountering and making an ugly image of a 'goni billa', which permanently erased the limited goodwill he had earned.
With the reduction in the cadre ranks, the new workers after a month of preparation, was pressed to the front line as human fodder with a battle tested veteran to lead, to give the second line of protection consisting of knowledgeable fighters a breathing room to be in a state of battle readiness. Most parents knew of the plan and are bitter, as they realize, the child quick is a human give up. This gave rise to opposition within the cadres, where bouts of shadow boxing between the new recruits and the more knowledgeable 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 relations had the liberty 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 sum for work.
There was a time when youth flocked to join the cause - Prabhakaran lit the glow of Tamil loyalty with his string of victories which was an inspirational factor not sustainable due to his own foolishness 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 lie dormant around the organization, pending to be a part of history in a cause of an underdog, desiring to practice the university grounds trained vision of western liberalism which welcomed forms of terrorism if not and until it affected them. The Northern welcome 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 painful 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 stomach but was influential to another white man.
If a family reduced by one was unbearable, the next clever caress was more tempting -to disposes whole families of their farmhouse with no a warning. Instead of a journey to a promised land, proud householders were forced to leave home and towards reason unidentified to give human shields. Overnight householders became itinerant 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 family homes on 4th August 2008 and have made them pitch tent on unlike 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 adversary. There is a limit to tolerance and that total them move.
The LTTE had determined 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 hereditarily evil. These on foot across the Wanni, yet, feel more safe and safe among the Sinhala people and believe now more of the stories their mothers related- Sinhalese are like us. Whether they are content is too near the beginning to forecast.
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