Liberation Tigers of
Tehelka Interviews Tamizh Kavi:
Prabhakaran's speech writer
9 November 2005
'Prabhakaran is a voracious reader.
He is a fan of my writing. Once he sent me a book
about prostitution and red light areas. He sends us
messages to see good films as well'
Tamizh Kavi is a
writer and broadcaster for the Voice of Tigers radio
station. Born to a poor peasant family, she rose through
the LTTE ranks to become one of the well-known voices of
the Tamil struggle for self-determination. She is also
Prabhakaran's favourite orator.
Her fiery speeches on the right to freedom and dignity
have attracted generations of Tamil youth to the LTTE. "I
write to keep the flame of the Tamil aspiration for a
homeland in Sri Lanka alive," she told VK Shashikumar in
her first interview sanctioned by the LTTE. Excerpts:
What events shaped you as a writer?
In the communal riots of 1958, Tamils were massacred. It
was a mass murder in Vavuniya. I was eight years old
then. In that surcharged atmosphere, I sat on my father's
shoulders at a political meeting and shouted slogans -
Sirachalai Poonjolai, Tamil Vazhgha (The prison is a
garden, Long live Tamils)! I, along with thousands of
others, felt that we had been suppressed for far too
long, treated as slaves, second-class citizens. We felt
the urge for freedom. The Sri Lankan government imposed
curfew and it led to a police crackdown. We were beaten
up. Riots had broken out all over Sri Lanka and refugees
were streaming into Vavuniya. They were given refuge in
the Sivaprakasam School, which was still under
construction. From here the refugees moved on towards
Jaffna. I saw these refugees when I accompanied my father
as he transported vegetables and foodstuffs to the
Many families, including ours, gave shelter to at least
one refugee family. So, a family which had run away from
the murderous rioters came to stay with us. Among our
guests was a 12-year-old girl called Poovayi. She was
bleeding profusely. I was eight years old then and my
mother shooed my friends and me away. One of the refugees
brought a Philips radio. That was the only radio in the
entire village. A group of 40-50 villagers would assemble
to listen to the news. It was through that radio that we
came to know that the girl had been raped.
Did this incident change your life?
I had not attained puberty at that time. My village was
on the other side of the Joseph Army Camp. I had to cross
the runway in the Joseph Camp to reach my school. My
grandmother told me Poovayi's story and asked me to
discontinue my studies. She felt that safeguarding my
honour from the predatory soldiers was more important
than my education. This event had a strong bearing on my
first novel Ini Vaanam Velithidum. It ruined my education
and left an inerasable scar in my mind. This is the main
inspiration for my writing. I completed my graduation in
law after my marriage.
Your childhood experiences have had a strong influence
on you as a writer.
I express my true feelings in my writing. My first novel
is Ini Vaanam Velithidum, which won an award. I wrote it
in 2002 and finished it in two months. Once the
manuscript was ready I showed it to our political wing
leader SP Tamilchelvan. He likes my writing. Our leader
Prabhakaran is also a fan of my writing. He called me and
complimented my writing and gave me a prize. My second
book, Irul Iri Vilagum, was released in Eelam. This book
has also reached Tamil Nadu through some friends. But so
far it has not been circulated outside because it is
about our struggle.
What is your new book about?
After the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) entered Jaffna in the
mid-1990s and the LTTE withdrew, many cadres stayed
behind to work among the civilians in order to ease their
struggle of living under occupation. Their real
identities were not known either to the SLA or to the
Jaffna residents. Our women also went to Jaffna. The
women, like the men, had undergone rigorous training.
They got to Jaffna with innumerable difficulties. Some
attained martyrdom and I have written about them. I have
also written about some of the techniques adopted by the
cadres during combat operations.
What does Prabhakaran read?
He told me that his mother was fond of reading and picked
up the habit from her. He reads Kalki, Kumudham and
Anantha Vikatan. In the 1950s, there used to be a
children's series in Kalki called 'Thonga Surangam' (Gold
Mine) in which there was a character called Prabhakaran.
He says that his mother named him after that character.
He is a voracious reader. Once he sent me a book about
prostitution and red light areas. He sends us messages to
see good films as well.
Some would argue that what you write is LTTE
Politics is an integral part of my books. As a writer who
is a member of the LTTE, I write about what we think,
what our leader thinks, and what he wants to tell the
people. I address issues - 'do we become inactive because
of the ceasefire? Have we become dormant?' During the war
we were alert every moment. Many of our cadres would wake
up facing a soldier. I lost two of my sons in the
For security reasons we cannot take our leader to the
people. He can't make public appearances to prove that he
is alive. To compensate for this, we organise plays,
write articles and stories in newspapers and magazines.
During the war we didn't have radio or newspapers like we
have now (after the ceasefire). We also sent our folk
artists to remote rural areas to keep the flame of
Suddenly, the world seems to be openly admitting that the
LTTE does control areas in the north and east. Even
former US President Clinton during his recent tsunami
fund raising visit, asked the Sri Lankan government to
work in tandem with the LTTE...
We are certain that Tamil Eelam, a homeland for Tamils in
Sri Lanka, will definitely become a reality. I hope this
comes about through peaceful negotiations. After the
tsunami, the world has realised that the Sri Lankan
government is ignoring the massive humanitarian crisis
that the Tamils are facing in the north and east. So the
government has to decide whether it wants the ceasefire
to translate into a negotiated settlement or whether it
wants war to settle the Tamil national question.
Women comprise more than 70 percent of the
administrative staff in Tamil Eelam.
Yes, women in Eelam are confident and strong. During the
war, Tamil men could not venture out to army controlled
areas because the army would arrest them on some pretext.
Many civilians were killed in custody. This forced women
to travel for work and business. Women had to be stronger
for the survival of their families. Moreover, the men
went to war, some died, some went missing, some lost
their limbs or were taken prisoners. So women have
inevitably become heads of many households. The stories
of the women martyrs are also a source of inspiration for
the women in Tamil Eelam and have made them feel like
equal contributors to our struggle. Even within the LTTE,
women are treated as equals and are involved in every
aspect, from planning an operation to combat
What role can India play now?
We want India to play a big role and our leader has been
talking about it for some time now. To live peacefully,
we must have friendly neighbours. The Indian Army trained
us during Mrs Indira Gandhi's time. MG Ramachandran, too,
extended full support to us. After that there was a
change in Indian politics and the government turned
against us. Personally, I feel that neither we nor the
Sri Lankan government can solve this problem without
If you meet Sonia Gandhi what would you like to tell
Sonia is an Italian by birth. But she is a woman, a wife
and the mother of two children. Like Chandrika, Sirimavo,
Benazir and Khaleda, she has also been affected by
politics. She is fighting for the country of her husband
and children, which is commendable. Though she won the
elections she gave away the prime ministership. She has
never interfered in our struggle and not politicised her
husband's killing. I appreciate her will to continue her
husband's mission to make India a developed country. In
spite of all the opposition, she works to keep the
Congress party intact. If I meet her I will tell her that
I want to be her friend and that she could be a role
model for women all over the world