Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka: Introduction & Index > Indictment against Sri Lanka - the Record Speaks

The Charge is Ethnic Cleansing


"This is not a question of an army man here and there, after liquor, indulging in excess (in 1961 against Tamils in Jaffna). No, there is some plan, some purpose. There is an indication that they are going on instructions and preparing for some trouble because the purpose of the government in imposing an emergency and allowing army and navy personnel to behave in that fashion is to intimidate... the Tamil minority in this country. That is the fact. That is the purpose." Sinhala Opposition Member of Parliament, Edmund Samarakody, Hansard, 3 May 1961 on Prime Minister Mrs.Srimavo Bandaranaike & the Sinhala Army in Jaffna

Jaffna Satygraha 1961
Mr.S.J.V. Chelvanayakam participating in a Satygaraha campaign in Trincomalee in February 1961, with then parliamentarians ( R-L) Mr. Thambiah Ehambaram ( Muttur MP), Mr.N.R.Rajavarothiam ( Trincomalee MP).

Jaffna Satyagraha 1961
Women Volunteers outside the Gates of Old Jaffna Secretariat

"At no time did we underestimate the might of the Prime Minister's (Srimavo Bandaranaike's) government. We are quite aware that she has powers enough to turn her armed forces against us. …The Prime Minister has made a radio speech touching on satyagraha. That speech is more benefiting an imperial dictator speaking to her subjects than a speech made by a democratic leader to her people. In fact the manner and the contents of her speech correctly depict the true status of the Tamil-speaking people in Ceylon. The rule over them is indeed colonial imperialism. … In her radio speech just before her departure to Great Britain, she made an appeal to those whom she called reasonable Tamils , "To disown the actions of the mischief makers, namely the Federalists". … The factual position is that there is no section of the Tamil-speaking people, certainly in the northern and eastern provinces, which does not fervently support the satyagraha movement." S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, 4 March 1961.

From Sri Lanka: Witness to History - A Journalist's Memoirs, 1930-2004 by S.Sivanayagam

"The satyagraha proper was limited to approved volunteers of the party who were strictly forbidden from any form of violence, either by word or deed, even under the gravest provocation. But such was the tremendous enthusiasm generated by this resistance movement among all sections of the people, that it gave the impression of a popular uprising, resulting in an initial sharp reaction from the government. … The police trampled on the satyagrahis with their boots, pulled them by their hands and feet, lifted some of them and hurled them away while attacking them with batons. … [Enraged] by police violence [some] hurled stones at the police jeeps and trucks. Thepolice then used tear gas to disperse the crowd outside, which fell back for a while, and kept surging forward again. … The Kachcheri did not function. …

"On 21 February the satyagraha was led by the MP for Vaddukoddai A. Amirthalingam: "Although the police were present, armed with shields, batons and helmets, there was a marked restraint in their behaviour. On the third day, the police arrived at the secretariat at dawn and took up positions trying to prevent volunteers from blocking the entrances, but a party of 300 volunteers … moved up despite the brandishing of batons and half-hearted use of force. …

"[On the 23 February] women plunged into the movement. Out of 500 satyagrahis led by the MP for Chavakachcheri VN Navaratnam, about 80 women … took up positions at the main entrance. … leading Muslims of Jaffna decided to throw their weight with the movement. …

"On the 24th the campaign spread to Mullaitivu, Mannar and the Eastern province. On the 25th, a large procession of Muslims led by Muslim lawyers and businessmen joined the satyagrahis in Jaffna.

"On the 26th, Nominated MP and leader of the plantation Tamils S. Thondaman warned against suppression of the campaign and alerted plantation Tamils to store food and provisions for three months should a struggle for Tamil rights becomes necessary. …

"On the 27th satyagraha and picketing was launched in Batticoloa and administration was brought to a halt both in the North and East. On the 28th, an Opposition suggestiong in the House of representatives that talks be initiated with the Federal Party was summarily rejected by Finance Minister Felix Dias (Banadaranaike), saying that the government was not prepared to negotiate under pressure. …

"[In the evening of 17 April] a special train carrying a detachment of 350 soldiers and 15 officers of the Sinha regiment, exclusively composed of Sinhalese, left for Jaffna. … Once the MPs were taken away, army men, some of them carrying rifles, swooped on the passive satyagrahis, attacking them with rifle butts, belts and clubs. The sleeping volunteers woke up groaning and writhing with pain. They were trampled with boots, kicked and dragged away from the kachcheri entrances. … They pulled down the party's "post office" structure, smashed up cars and bicycles parked in the vicinity, ripping tyres with bayonets and ramming windscreens. …

"On the 20th April, when the curfew was expired, a 12 hour curfew from 6 pm to 6 am was substituted. …

"By April 24, Chelvanayakam and 58 others, including 14 MPs were under arrest … Jaffna came under virtual army occupation. … Indisciplined , trigger-happy soldiers shot dead and injured persons outside curfew hours on the pretence of enforcing curfew."

1961 Jaffna Satyagraha

"Shoot if you must and I am ready to die" the young student tells the soldier who threatened him with death, if he did not move away. Source - S.Ponniah, Satyagraha and The Freedom Movement of The Tamils in Ceylon, 1963

Senator.S. Nadesan,Q.C. Sri Lanka Senate Hansard, 2 May 1961 (full text)

"...The voice of the representatives of the Tamil people has been virtually silenced. The military have been let loose on the Northern and Eastern Provinces and from all accounts are behaving - at any rate so far as the Jaffna Peninsula is concerned - as if they were a conquering army in occupation of enemy territory....

(In) the early hours of the 18th (of April) the military, without any warning and without informing the satyagrahis assembled at the Jaffna Kachcheri that an emergency had been declared, assaulted the men satyagrahis mercilessly, bundled the women satyagrahis into trucks and transported them. The military also vented their wrath on a large number of push bicycles and even on some motor cars parked at the Kachcheri gates.

If the reports are true, the army seems to have displayed considerable courage and valour in their attacks on unarmed 'satyagrahis and on inanimate objects like push bicycles! Certain Government quarters, I am told, believe that the Ceylon Army had covered itself with glory when, under the cover of darkness and armed with modern weapons, it routed a band of unarmed satyagrahis in what will go down in history as the "Battle of Jaffna"!... Immediately the "Battle of Jaffna" was over, the army proceeded to waylay and hit all and sundry on t he roads of Jaffna on the ground that they were breaking a curfew order, of which most of them were unaware."

So far as the population outside these areas were concerned, they were peaceful, non violent and attending to their normal work. Instead of this being done why was the army let loose on the entire population of the Jaffna peninsula?

Why was a curfew imposed? Why have the military on their own imposed a curfew even in villages where a curfew had not been declared? Why are the farmers of Jaffna who ordinarily go their fields in these hot days at 4 a.m. in the morning prevented from doing so till well after 6 a.m.? Why have the military been beating and thrashing innocent passers by on the streets of Jaffna?

Why have some of them been helping themselves to goods and articles in shops and asking the owners to send the bills to the Federal Party leader? Why have cars been commandeered as if a great military campaign was afoot? Why has petrol been issued on permits in Jaffna when there is enough petrol for everybody? Why have the military prevented people from having their lights on at night?... Why have they set fire to fences and madams and put the blame on the people?

Are these acts of organised terrorism and lawlessness the result of any orders given to the army to strike terror into the inhabitants of Jaffna so that they might give up their agitation for their language rights?

Today there is greater lawlessness in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and particularly in the Jaffna Peninsula than there has ever been at any time in its recent history - lawlessness by the guardians of the law...

If history teaches anything, it teaches us that national movements thrive on terrorism and repression - and the Ceylon army have by their conduct in the Jaffna Peninsula given an added impetus for the movement of a national minority to win its language rights. It must also be noted that the true solution to the problem facing Ceylon today cannot be found by resort to armed force."

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