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Thyagam & the Tamil Expatriate
Thyagam defies direct translation into English. The
closest English word, martyrdom, has too rough an edge to
it. Thyagam has a more rounded feel.
A thyagi knows that he not only has a duty but that he also has the right to act. At the same time he knows that he has no right to the fruits of his action. In the action lies the reward.
A thyagi knows that to seek change without a willingness to suffer to bring about that change, is but to end up making impotent pleas for fairplay and justice and issuing stultifying ultimatums without sanctions. A thyagi is no impotent pleader. He does not plead for fairplay and justice. He demands it. He does not beg for freedom. He is free.
The cyanide capsule in the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is evidence not of a simple minded willingness to die but of a fierce determination that cries out: ''I will not lose my freedom except with my life.''
It is this determination and this cry which has found an answering response in the hearts and minds of the Tamil people everywhere, living today in many lands and across distant seas.
It is this thyagam, it is this willingness to suffer to bring about change, which has made Velupillai Pirabaharan and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam not only the leaders of the Tamil national liberation struggle, but also its undying symbols.
The Tamil national struggle is no afternoon tea party. The new balances that are being struck in the emerging multi-polar world are not without relevance to the struggle in Tamil Eelam.
It used to be said that states have permanent interests but do not have permanent friends. This may be even more so in the case of nations struggling to become states.
Sometime ago, the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, sent out a letter seeking new subscribers for one of its publications. The letter read:
That which is true in relation to the office, the operating room and the court is perhaps even more true in relation to a national struggle for freedom. Answers to the deeper issues which confront the Tamil national liberation struggle are unlikely to come from those who devote a few moments of their undoubtedly busy lives to suggest the 'quick fix', which they believe has somehow escaped the attention of those who have taken the struggle forward on the ground during the past several years.
A busy expatriate Tamil professional in Australia once remarked to a Tamil activist: ''You know, the trouble is that the 'boys' have brawn but no brains''. The reply from the Tamil activist was perhaps, overly sharp but it was telling:
The 1-minute 'political adviser' is not very different from the 1-minute brain surgeon or the 1- minute trial lawyer. One minute is about how long he will last in the struggle before succumbing to the forces ranged against it.
Every Tamil, wherever he may live, will need to ask himself where he stands in relation to the Tamil struggle in the island of Sri Lanka. He needs to ask whether he supports the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for self determination.
He needs to ask whether the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka were subject to an ever widening and deepening oppression under successive Sinhala dominated governments for several decades and whether an oppressed people have both the moral and the legal right to take to arms to resist that oppression. He needs to ask whether the armed struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is not only just but also lawful.
He may also need to ask himself: ''What does that struggle in Tamil Eelam mean to me ?'' Is it some struggle 'out there' unrelated to his own existence? Or is it a struggle that is inextricably linked with his own natural identity and that of his children and his children's children?
He will know that he has not simply the duty but also the right to support the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom. He will know that he has the duty and the right to support, not blindly, but with eyes open, not only with his heart but also with his mind, reasoning, purifying and strengthening the struggle, at every stage, in its onward lawful progress - but at the same time bowing his head in all humility before the thyagam of those on the ground who have given so much of themselves so that we, as a people, may live in freedom.