Memorial for IPKF
By Dr. T. Somasekaram
I was shocked, saddened and angered when I read the news item on 17 March 2004 that a memorial is to be erected in Colombo for the IPKF soldiers who died in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 2000. The simple fact of the matter is that a foreign country, with designs of becoming a regional superpower, maneuvered to send its Army here as Peace Keepers but massacred thousands of innocent Tamil civilians, raped the women and plundered valuables. If memorials are to be erected, then it should be for innocent civilians massacred by the IPKF. Let me provide a FEW samples from my personal knowledge. These represent but the tip of an iceberg. I write as an authentic son of Jaffna, born and bred there, educated at Jaffna Hindu College and the only house my wife and I own is in Jaffna.
Civilians Massacred by IPKF
Jaffna Hospital . Doctors, Nurses and Patients inside the Jaffna Teaching Hospital, numbering 68 in all. .Their names are:- Dr A. Sivapathasuntheram, Dr M.K. Ganesharatnam, Dr Parimelalahar, Mrs Vadivelu, Matron, Mrs Leelawathie, Nurse, Mrs Sivapakiam, Nurse, Mrs Ramanathan, Nurse, Mr Shanmugalingam, Ambulance Driver, Mr Kanagalingam, Telephone Operator, Mr Krishnarajah, Works Supervisor, Mr Selvarajah, Works Supervisor, Eleven (11) Minor employees and forty six (46) patients
Duraiswamy brothers . Two sons of late Sir Waithialingam Duraiswamy, Speaker of the State Council, residing in their ancestral home next to the Jaffna Clock Tower. One was R. Duraiswamy (SLAS) Retd. Secretary. Ministry of Local Government and M. Duraiwswamy Retd. Staff Officer Bank of Ceylon.
Retd Director of Irrigation Mr. S. Sivasubramaniam, retired Director of Irrigation, Mrs. Sivasubramaniam, his retired teacher wife and their only son, a brilliant boy who had studied at St. John’s College, Jaffna, scored 4A’s in the GCE(Al) and was in the second year of Medical College.
Other Civilians Killed in Jaffna:- Prof. P. Chandrasekeram, University of Jaffna, Dr R.W. Crossette Thambiah, Dr Selvaratnam Former DMO Maskeliya, Dr S. Pararajasingham J.M.O, L.F.M. Samuel Rtd. Teacher (St. Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia & Royal College), K.J. Sambanthar Retd. DLO & Asst. Land Commissioner, Jaffna, Mrs S. Sivanandaraja (mother), Mohanraj (son) Technical Officer, Irrigation .Dept, Mrs Kishnam, Mrs M. Sebastiampillai, Mrs N.R. Thuriappa, Mrs V. Ruthiralingam, C.S. Aaron .
Urumpirai:- A. Subramanium Attorney at Law, Mr & Mrs Pancharatnam, Rtd. Teachers, K. Navaratnam Rtd. Divisional Supdt. of Post Offices, S. Nadarajah, Formerly SLBC, Tamil Service, P. Arooran , M. Nadaraja, S. Rasanayagam Rtd. Credit Controller CCC Ltd.
Anaikoddai :- Mrs M. Weerasegaram Pillai, (Mother), Pillai Yasotha Weerasegaram (Daughter), Mrs S. Thanapalasingham (Mother) Miss N. Thanapalasingham (Daughter) S. Kulasegerampillai, Retd. Station Master, Mrs M. Arumugam .Mrs R. Gnanamuttu , A. Candappu Rtd. State Officer, S. Selvaranee
Pirampadi, Kokuvil etc A large number of civilians were killed in Pirampadi and Kokuvil and buried in mass graves. The whole matter requires a book to do full justice.
Ariyalai (my village)
Ariyalai is at the eastern end of Jaffna town and the A9 highway passes through it. This was one of the four routes the Indian Army took to enter and capture Jaffna. From Oct 10, 1987, we, living in Dehiwala, lost all contact with our relatives who lived in Ariyalai, among them my wife’s 71 year old mother, her sisters and their children, my close friends from my boyhood days in Jaffna. For twenty one (21) days, there was a continuous curfew imposed by the IPKF with half an hours notice. The local and foreign media were completely cut off from the scene of operations and terrible things - yes, I use words carefully, TERRIBLE THINGS, were done to the Tamils in Jaffna. Rumours were rife. The militants said 30,000 civilians were killed. But I searched for reliable evidence, and these started trickling in, from late October 1987.
One reliable class of evidence is the number of persons known to me personally, quite a number are blood relatives, who were killed. Among those killed were a 45 year old cousin brother, S. Shanmugasuntharam, Electrician, Jaffna Municipal Council, married, with two children, shot while going to his paddy field in East Ariyalai. No one could reach the body; jackals and dogs ate the flesh and his brother Sinnathurai told me that the limbs and other parts were in different part of the paddy field and he gathered them and buried them in the paddy field. Sinnathurai had wept tears of a different sort in 1981 when he told me what he found on the day following the burning of the Jaffna Library, where he worked as an Assistant Librarian. But let us remain focussed on the IPKF in this article.
An 84 year old uncle, S. Thambiah, father of the well known Journalist T. Sabaratnam, was killed inside his home by an Indian artillery shell. His daughter Pathma and grandchildren had taken refuge inside Ariyalai Sri Sithivinayagar temple and were unaware of what had happened. One of my childhood classmates, Poologasingam, who lived nearby and had also not gone to the temple as a refugee, discovered what had happened, cut a pit in the garden, put my uncle in a sack and buried him there. No last rites; no cremation. Poologasingam went near the temple and shouted, "Pillai Pathma, Appah Vaikundam poddar; naan thevai yathanich seythu poddan" (Child Pathma, your father has gone to heaven; I have done what was necessary).
My cousin Sabaratnam’s loss did not stop with his father. His mother in law, 80 year old Mrs. Thambimuttu was a refugee inside the temple. But an old lady cannot easily adjust to conditions inside a tightly packed temple - and Hindu temples do not have toilet facilities, as devotees are expected to come in a ‘clean’ state. So she went to her home within 250 metres of the temple for her morning ablutions. She was walking back feebly, with the aid of a walking stick and holding a flickering lamp, and was within 50 metres of the temple when she was shot dead by the Indian soldiers, from Sri Parwathi Vidyasalai which they were occupying. They discovered who they had killed and set fire to the body where it lay, using a tyre. She and my late mother Mrs. Saraswathy Thamotharam had been classmates in Chundikuli Girls’s College, Jaffna. She had been a source of comfort to my mother when we lost our father when mother was 28 years old and had to face the grim prospect of feeding, clothing and educating my brother (7 yrs) and myself (2 yrs), with not even a pension as father had served for less than 10 years. I felt so deeply about her loss that I ventured into blank verse.
The Gentle Old Aachi
The gentle old aachi,
Weak and wobbly with age,
Walking with her pollu,
Slowly to the temple.
Husband gone long before,
Children retired or about to,
Grandchildren in their prime,
Great grandchildren by the dozen.
Weak of eye, weak of limb,
Fond memories of yester year,
Longing to meet her God,
Slowly walking to his abode.
Om Ganesha!, What hit me?
What burning pain,
What great thirst,
She writhed briefly on the road,
And then lay still,
White saree bathed in blood.
The gentle old aachi,
Felled by an alien bullet,
Fired by an alien hand,
In this our free land,
The gentle old aachi,
Shot like a dog and burnt at the spot.
More than our relatives, we mourn the death of the elder son of the chief priest of our temple, Subramaniya Kurukkal. Young Kannan Iyer, 24 years old, very fair, very handsome, well versed in Hindu neethi and also a fully qualified Accountant, was managing his own Accounting firm in Jaffna and assisting his father in carrying out the temple duties. He told his father on Deepavali Day in Oct 1987, when the father was getting ready to go to the temple to open the inner sanctum and light the lamps inside, to stay at home and that he would go by bicycle by a circuitous route to the temple to light the lamps. The inner sanctum had not been opened or lit after the influx of refugees. Only Brahmin priests can enter the inner sanctum. Instead of going to the temple, he went to heaven.
If anyone is interested, I shall take him or her to speak to Kannan Iyer’s mother. His father, the chief priest of our temple, performed the ancient Hindu marriage ceremony for me and my wife in 1962. He repeated it for our elder daughter and son-in-law in 1982. He is a learned and pious man and he has the spiritual resources to withstand the loss of his elder son. But tears flowed down the cheeks of his wife for the entire 45 minutes we spent with them in March 1988, five months after the joy of their life was snuffed out by the Indian army. To me, this is the worst crime of the IPKF assault on Jaffna. The life of a young and brilliant Brahmin priest, who would have risen to great heights promoting Saivaism, was snuffed out wantonly - and this on Deepavali day when he set out to open the sanctum sanctorum and light a lamp inside the temple.
Twenty six persons lost their lives in my village alone, during the Indian army’s campaign to gain control of Jaffna Peninsula in October-November 1987.
The IPKF Operation in Jaffna did not stop with massacres of civilians. A large number of women were raped. The following quotation is taken from Prof Daya Somasundaram’s book Scarred Minds - The Psychological Impact of War on Sri Lankan Tamils. Prof Daya Somasundaram is the Professor of Psychiatry in the University of Jaffna and concurrently Consultant Psychiatrist, General (Teaching Hospital) Jaffna. He was one of the four authors of the book, Broken Palmyrah, which was critical of the LTTE, a co-author of Mental Health in Cambodia, where he served as a Consultant Psychiatrist and Manavadu in Tamil
Rape by Indian Soldiers
"From time immemorial, plunder and rape have been considered the spoils of war. A form of ‘psychopathic liberation’ resulting in looting, rape and heavy drinking is reported to follow major stressful events (Kinston and Rosser, 1974). Although the total number of rapes during the Indian army operations are not known, it seemed to reach epidemic proportions. It has been verified that quite a large number, ranging from young girls who had just attained puberty to old women well past the menopause stage, were brutally raped.
What is said about violence in general is applicable to sexual violence. However, aggressive sexual assault has its own unique characteristics and consequences. Thus,
Rape is a violent crime in which sexuality is used to express power, anger and aggression, with a core meaning of devaluation, humiliation, sheer terror and most intimate violation of the self for the victim. What is translated to the victim is the life-threatening nature of assault, her helplessness, her loss of control and her experience of herself as an object of the assailants’ rage (Mezy, 1985).
Rape became common in the context of total war as it obtained in the months of October to December (1987), when all the customary discipline and restraint operative in the army disappeared. As discussed earlier, there appears to have been a policy decision to apply terror in the face of early losses and frustration over the prolongation of the conflict. The public was seen as being too sympathetic to the Tigers, harbouring and helping them against the Indian army. Thus terror became an instrument of control, a punishment for the lack of support and a lesson to the public. The army hierarchical structure worked to allow the jawans to carry out the acts on their behalf, although at times lower-rank officers also vented their pent up frustration in this way. But rape was much more gruesome as it was aimed specifically at women. It was carried out with considerable brutality and impersonality, where the victims were publicly defeminised and destroyed.
Rape can be seen as a loss-event for the victim where she loses her trust in others, self-respect, sense of security, chastity and virginity, social identity and becomes liable to secondary victimization due to social norms and values. The psychological reactions to rape have been described as a three-stage phenomena with an initial state of ‘shock and disbelief’ with disruption of normal behaviour. This may be followed by feelings of guilt, self-blame, and physical complaints. If the resolution to the psychological trauma is incomplete, long-term consequences include depression (40 per cent of victims), psychosomatic problems, sexual dysfunction, specific rape-related phobias, impaired task performance, social maladjustment and risk of suicide attempts (Mezey, 1985).
In our cultural setting, sexual violence takes on a more serious significance and has a severe psychologically traumatizing effect on the victim and her close relations, including her husband. Chastity is traditionally considered one of the supreme virtues of women, to be safeguarded with the same diligence as their life. The screams and pleading of a young, attractive girl, whom three soldiers were trying to rape at gun point, still echoes in my ears. She fell at their feet and begged, ‘Please, brother, shoot me, but don’t do this...’ Fortunately for her, her pleading got through to an officer who took pity and let her go, after slapping her. A young rape victim in Tinnavelly immediately attempted to commit suicide by jumping into a well.
Loss of virginity in a young girl even if against her will, meant that she could not aspire to marriage in our society and if already married, there is a good chance that she will be abandoned. All rape victims are socially ostracized and this usually extends to the family also. It is not surprising that rape victims were not forthcoming to report such incidents and usually swallowed the suffering and injury silently.
These incidents of rape, the lack of protection for women and the rumours that spread, created great fear among the women of Jaffna. The threat to womanhood was very real in the months of October and November. Most women experienced sexual anxiety and felt exposed and vulnerable. Many fled to areas they felt were safe, a large exodus reaching Colombo in December, when transport became available. Those left behind started acting with circumspection by following the well-meant advice of sympathetic, Tamil-speaking jawans of ‘wearing saris, putting poddus and staying indoors’.
At the beginning, there was lack of action by the commanders, probably because they had to maintain troop morale in a difficult situation during the first two months and rape itself became part of army action. Later, disciplinary action was taken with identification parades and punishment, usually in the form of public thrashing and transfer to another unit. After December the jawans were more discreet and circumspect. By 1988, the higher authorities showed much sensitivity to the issue of rape, probably due to the wide publicity outside Jaffna. They even brought in female police and paramilitary to ally the fears of local women.
The public outcry and wide publicity of this aspect of the Indians’ occupation that gained momentum from December reflected the deep-rooted feeling of insecurity and the cultural significance of this threat to our women."
This ends the quotation from Prof Daya Somasundaram’s book. But there was other evidence as well.
Inside Ariyalai Temple Inside our village temple, Ariyalai Sri Sithi Vinayagar Kovil, where people had gathered as refugees, young village girls were molested by the Indian soldiers inside the temple. Dr. W. Paramanathan, great grandson of Proctor V. Casipillai who had rebuilt the temple in 1900, after its destruction during the Portugese occupation, was an eye witness. "My blood boiled; but I was helpless" he told me. In fact, being a young man, he was taken out twice to be shot as a Tiger and only the strong pleadings of his aunt Miss K. Charavanamuttu, retired Principal of Vadamarachchy Hindu Ladies College saved his life. Dr. Paramanathan has migrated to the United States and is living there.
The 21 day curfew proved to be a golden opportunity - in a real golden sense - to the Indian soldiers. They broke into every house, broke open every almyrah and stole the valuables inside. As everyone knows, all Jaffna Tamil Hindu women wear a lot of gold jewellery. When they had to flee at half an hour’s notice, they could not remove all their valuables. When the families returned, they found their gold jewellery, imported watches and Parker pens missing. In 1987, India was still a closed economy and these imported items were not available in India. Not merely the soldiers, even the officers helped themselves. This is what the Island of 22 Feb 1988 reported.
"IPKF Major Returning to India Apprehended - Alleged Contraband Jewellery:
A Major of the IPKF who is said to have returned to India from Jaffna on a month’s holiday is alleged to have been apprehended at Chandigarh airport with having carried jewellery believed to be contraband.
A news report appearing in the "Rani Weekly" of January 31, 1988 published in Tamil Nadu state that this Major serving in Jaffna had flown to Madras by plane and then to Chandigarh in Punjab on a month’s holiday. The Police there had searched him like any other passenger and found in his possession "100 sovreigns of jewellery consisting of bangles, broken chains, necklaces etc"
The story states "The Police suspect that he might have snatched them from Sri Lankan Tamils. But he says they were bought by him. The magazine asks, "If they were bought by him, could the jewellery be broken in pieces?"
The behaviour of the Indian Army in Jaffna was so atrocious that even Sinhalese politicians were moved to protest. After all, we share this island home. Prime Minister R. Premadasa, Minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of Rehabilitation Lionel Jayatilleke and Opposition Leader Anura Bandaranaike condemned the atrocities in strong language in Parliament on 21 Jan 1988. Please see Hansard Vol 47, Section 14, Hansard Vol 50, Section 2 . In fact, the Prime Minister spoke of a "79 year old woman having been raped".
To summarise, the Indian Army came here, massacred innocent Tamil civilians, raped our women and plundered our valuables. The acronym IPKF will always stand for Indian People Killing Force where we are concerned. I was collecting this material to submit to the International Criminal Court, when it was about to be set up. Unfortunately, the crimes of the IPKF are time barred; the Court considers only cases after it was set up in July 2002. If not for this time bar, there is enough evidence against the Indian Generals and others higher up to indict them before the Court. Instead of facing the Court, they and former High Commissioner Dixit are writing books and making money out of the tragedy.
Please go ahead and erect the memorial. Every passing Tamil will think in his heart that the memorial stands for Indian People Killing Force. We will one day erect a memorial in the heart of Jaffna town, in the centre of Hospital Road, in memory of all the innocent civilians - ranging in age from the very old past 80 to young children massacred by the IPKF and to the women who were raped.
Dr. T. Somasekaram,
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