‘Blessed are the girls, for they will not be forced to bed with
Everyone living in Sri Lanka, including foreigners, be they tourists,
business persons, professionals, volunteers, students, INGO employees,
diplomats and other workers in foreign missions and UN personnel (and
later, those working for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission), from 1983 to
May 2009 were potential victims to bomb explosions, suicide attacks and
other crimes against humanity planned and executed by the LTTE.
Politicians, journalists, academics and artists opposed to the LTTE
were high-value targets, as were senior officers in the security forces
and the Police. Needless to say, those in the security forces and Police
were especially targeted by the terrorists.
children playing. File photo
Those living in threatened villages and Sinhalese and Muslims living
in areas that the LTTE believed were ‘exclusive traditional homelands of
the Tamil community’ were in a constant state of apprehension. They
expected violent death every moment at every turn.
There was another ‘special’ category: the Tamil civilian. All things
considered, they were the most unfortunate. Hundreds of thousands in
this category found themselves residence in the middle of a firefight,
frilled with landmines, artillery fire, grenade-tossing and so on.
‘Wrong place, wrong time’ was an ‘always’ thing and an ‘everywhere’
Only they would know; I can only surmise. Some may have identified
with the ‘cause’, some not. Some may have seen ‘Sinhala soldier’. Some
may have lamented loved ones killed by a soldier who was Sinhalese,
never mind if the victim held a gun or carried a grenade. Some may have
thought, ‘our boys, right or wrong’. Some not. But all, not some, lived
in a territory where terrorist could drop fatigues, wear sarong and
transform from combatant to civilian in a matter of seconds. Most were
part of the water which the ‘liberator-fish’ needed, and/or part of the
human shield behind which the terrorist took cover, placed heavy weapons
and threw grenades. All, not some, if they were ‘able-bodied’ were
fair-game for recruitment. ‘Choice’ was not their comparative advantage.
Everyone, excluding the absolutely incapacitated, the senile, the
infants and the pregnant, were put to use, one way or another. Or at
least sought after. Some fled. Some could not. And it got worse when the
biggest myth created by the LTTE (invincible) began to come apart. This
was when the LTTE, severely handicapped in terms of human resources,
decided that among the young, only pregnant women and women with infants
would be spared.
Parents with young daughters of marriageable age were distraught.
There were no men around for them to marry off their daughters to. No
men even to get their daughters pregnant. This is how fathers, out of
love for child and fear for her safety, were forced to impregnate their
No, not all such girls had to suffer the horror, humility and
desecration of things held sacred from infancy, through childhood,
growing up and looked forward to tomorrows. They all knew, though. They
knew it could happen and they had to make a terrible choice. Some opted
to join the LTTE.
Through it all, the LTTE claimed it was ‘the sole representatives of
the Tamil community’. Through it all, the LTTE’s proxies in the
democratic mainstream, its supporters in the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora
and its happy launderers in Colombo, played Ostrich.
It was just ‘another of those things’ for such people. Like the
forcible conscription of children. Like ethnically cleansing the
Peninsula of Muslims. Like a thousand other terrible acts which were
duly left out of the stories they blurted out to the world.
For the young girls who never thought a father’s love would push him
to commit acts unimaginable, these are all academic. The resultant scars
are invisible. Not recorded.
That time is gone. If there were any Tamil father and mother who
prayed that such a fate would not befall them, then their prayers have
been answered. Life returns slowly. Surviving reigns over living. There
are men in the villages. Marriageable men. There is love and
love-making. Even under harsh circumstances. Young girls do not have to
look into their fathers eyes, ask from father and self the question that
would not be voiced and wonder whether within those circles made of and
for love-gaze, there lurked fear, guilt, anxiety and self-condemnation.
Young girls do not have to worry whether there will come a time when
they have to talk about paternity to their children.
This was not so in May 2009. And had things not ended the way they
did, then there is nothing to say that young girls and their parents and
indeed an entire community would not have to contemplate or be horrified
by the unthinkable.
This is May 2011. It is a different country. Different villages.
Families can be families, even in the midst of suspicion and doubt.
There would be a thousand questions and a million wants for no human
being is ever fully satisfied.
There is little to gain, after all, from the consideration of
relative merits, one glass of rice-gruel given by the LTTE compared to
three cooked meals a day away from gunfire and scream.
There would be, I am sure, random moments of thanksgiving, if not
uttered as shout or even whisper, echoing in heart and mind. Not to
anyone in particular, perhaps, but in appreciation of a time that is not
the time that was.
This is May 2011. A young girl is, as I write, looking at her father
without any question marks hanging over mind and heart. A gaze is being
returned, innocent as a newborn babe.
A wife and a mother is smiling or making a snide remark of someone
being someone else’s favourite. It is not the best of times, but these
are better times than days gone by.