In the hospitality of war
We left them their dead
To remember us by
-Archilochus, Greek poet-soldier, 7th century BC
I first heard of the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle for liberation around 1986 in the midst of the atrocities being suffered by the Sikhs in India. As a adolescent growing in Punjab I had a soft heart for Tamil struggle, without understanding it, as I was able to connect it with the suffering of people of the Sikh faith in India. More, it intrigued me as in 1986-1987 when India sent their peacekeeping forces to Sri Lanka which included the members of the 4th Jat Battalion of the Indian army corps. 4 Jat was the army unit in which my father served for 20 years until he resigned in 1983 and became a political\human rights activist to protect and advocate for the Sikh interests.
Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was sent to Sri Lanka under the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord (1987) with the mandated role of peacekeeping, counterinsurgency and special operations. On the contrary my mother was very clear on the understanding of IPKF. She was convinced that Rajiv Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, is using this opportunity to send large amount of Sikh Indian army men into the mouth of death. She was sure that this is another way of eliminating young men of Sikh faith, a faith which was facing its own genocide in India.
Not sure if IPKF was able to play the role of peacekeeping, but it seem that Sri Lanka became the killing field and IPKF paid heavy price with casualties and this chapter went down in history as a cluster of Indian intelligence failures. The biggest dark spot came when Indian Army killed around 70 civilian patients and staff of a Jaffna teaching hospital, this is known as Jaffna hospital massacre. On 21st May 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by Tamil fighters.
Tamils suffered heavily and especially the civilians paid the price of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. According to media reports civilians on the both sides suffered and became scape goats to serve the interests of government and the Tamil guerrillas. Similarly, war crime allegations came across on the both sides especially in 2009 which I like to call as “The Last Battle” of the Sri Lankan civil war. Tamils were butchered, shot, and raped. Refugees in the government camps were denied food, medicine, and water and possibly killed with no outside eye witness. A United Nations panel of experts was setup to provide advice and assess violations of human rights in Sri Lanka by either sides.
On June 10th 2009 Canadian MP Bob Rae was denied entry to Sri Lanka at the Bandaranaike International Airport. Bob Rae was traveling to the war ripped country to meet with UN officials and assess the situation. I strongly believe that he was denied entry to hide the truth from the rest of the World, Sri Lanka definitely had something to hide.
Tamil genocide is being marked around the World this week and it makes my heart bleed to hear and read the tales of horrific inhuman treatment of Tamils for many decades. It is important for us to write, speak and remember the acts of genocides irrespective of where and to whom it happens.