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Editorial > Crime and Punishment
TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Crime and Punishment
Oru Paper, 18 August 2006
We, the Tamil expatriates are mourning
another massacre of our young ones. Why innocent children? we ask. How can
they? most weep. Revenge! some shout. In war one does not kill children. That is
a fundamental human instinct, common to all peoples and all cultures. Even a
Tamil who wants to take revenge for the hundreds of our children killed by the
Sri Lankan forces should not take revenge on children. No moral commandment says
“a child for a child”.
The people who plan and execute these killings on behalf of the Sri Lankan state
are not crazy killers or blood-thirsty monsters. Most of them are quite
ordinary, non-violent Sinhalese. Many of them are not Buddhist fundamentalists.
These persons belong to all social classes; some come from poor families but
others come from middle class families and most of them are well educated.
So what makes them to do such barbaric things? What makes other Sinhalese
In order to cope, one has to understand the core problem, as without
understanding it is impossible to cope, and this is, that the majority of the
Sinhalese sincerely believe that the land of Lanka belongs to them.
their promised land and they are the chosen people. Anyone who is not
willing to accept this fundamental principle is an enemy and s/he should be
killed or chased away. The children of the enemy are targets too as they are the
enemy of the future. It is difficult to digest this but it is the sad truth.
A Middle-eastern poet Bialik wrote a hundred years ago, after a pogrom: “Even
Satan has not yet invented the revenge for the blood of a little child.” Satan
may not have but the Sri Lankan State certainly has! So what now, we ask
The fourth Eelam war is on and the political and military chiefs of Sri Lankan
state have a simple solution to win this war: hit, hit and hit again. Kill the
attackers. Kill their supporters. Destroy their organizations, including the
schools. Demolish the homes of their families and chase away their relatives.
But, wonder of wonders, these methods achieve the opposite as in the previous
Eelam wars. For example after the huge Sri Lankan bombardments of the ‘war for
peace’ of the late 90’s that flattened the “Tamil terrorist infrastructure” a
new “infrastructure” came into being within couple of years. So how does this
happen? It can be summed up in one word: rage.
An ordinary Sinhalese or a white man, who has never been in the Tamil Northeast,
cannot even imagine the reasons for this rage. The global media totally ignore
the events there, or describe them in small, diluted doses. The average
Sinhalese knows somehow that the Tamils suffer (it’s their own fault, of
course), but he has no idea what’s really happening there. It doesn’t concern
Homes are demolished. A teacher, businessman, ordinary craftsman, respected in
his community, turns overnight into a “homeless” beggar, he and his children and
grandchildren, internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the UN’s statistics. He
burns with rage.
In Tamil villages of the East there is state sponsored colonisation by Sinhalese
thugs. The army defends these settlements by erecting a ‘high security zone’.
Tamil villagers are forbidden to work in their fields within this zone, so that
the security of the colonies will not be endangered. The Tamil farmers see from
afar, with longing eyes how their fields are being covered by thorns and
thistles waist high, while their children have nothing to eat. They burn with
Rage that wipes out all limitations, eclipses all values, breaks the chains of
family and responsibility.
And with all this, people are killed. Their torn bodies lie in the streets, for
everyone to see. Most of these men, women and children are killed “by mistake”,
“accidentally”, “trying to escape”, “were close to the source of fire” - and all
the hundred and one pretexts of a professional spokesman. The Sri Lankan state
does not apologize; officers and soldiers
convicted, because “that’s how things are in war”. But each of the people
killed has parents, brothers, sons, cousins. These people burn with rage.
And beyond all these, the total humiliation which every Tamil in the Northeast,
without distinction of age, gender or social standing, experiences every moment
of his life. Not an abstract humiliation, but an altogether concrete one. To be
dependent for life and death on the whim of an 18-year old Sinhalese soldier in
the street. All of us burn with rage.
A foreigner or indeed a Sinhalese who has not seen it cannot imagine such a
life, a situation of “every bastard a king”, a situation of curses and pushes at
best, threats with weapons in many cases, actual shootings in some. Not to
mention the sick on the way to dialysis, the pregnant women on the way to
hospital, students who don’t get to their classes, children who can’t reach
their schools. The youngsters who see their venerable grandfather publicly
humiliated by some Sinhalese boy in uniform with a runny nose. And to each of
these the Tamil’s heart fills with rage.
And they rage.
Terrible rage that fills the soul of a human being, leaving no space for
anything else. Rage that dominates a person’s whole life, making life itself
unimportant. Rage that wipes out all limitations, eclipses all values, breaks
the chains of family and responsibility. Rage that a person wakes up with in the
morning, goes to sleep with in the evening, and dreams about at night. Rage that
tells a person: get up; take a weapon and resist, no matter what the
Thus the Tamil resistance goes on.