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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam > Maaveerar - மாவீரர் - அணையாத தீபங்கள் > Maria Vasanthi Michael - Sorthia
MaaVeerar - மாவீரர்
Maria Vasanthi Michael - Sothia
20 September 1963 - 11 January 1990
After the racial holocaust of 1983, the young women of Tamil Eelam were fuelled with patriotic zeal. So intense were such sentiments and passions that many young women simply walked out of their houses to seek military training and to become combatants in the national struggle. One of the first young women to do so was Sorthia the departed leader of the women's military wing of the LTTE.
From her inception into the LTTE in 1984 until her death, Sorthia has worked with absolute dedication and co-operation to further women's participation in the struggle, to develop the LTTE and to advance the people's struggle, Her constant work and involvement took her to many dimensions of experience and, as time went on, Sorthia's personality and character strengthened making her of such capability that she became the inevitable leader of the women's military wing.
The foundation on which Sorthia grew to leadership stature was her military training. Not only did the training give her confidence in her ability to defend herself but it was the initial phase of stretching herself in a challenging situation and confronting such a vastly different mode of existence. It was also a stage when, as a group leader, she assumed responsibility for others and started to learn the art of balancing friendship, responsibility and discipline to bring out the best in colleagues and to give her best to them. She was successful and earned friendship and respect from her comrades from the outset of her participation in the movement. Her knowledge of first aid and her training in communication work expanded her skills and placed her in a situation of being able to be helpful and useful in many dimensions of the movement. Every area of work demanded different approaches and the diversity of her personality and her ability to apply herself in many areas of work made her an invaluable member of the LTTE.
In the field
When the women guerrillas were deployed in the field Sorthia galvanised all her skills and potential to the maximum, with each new situation working on Sorthia and shaping her personality and ideas. As a group leader in Mannar she had the fortune to learn from such experienced guerrilla fighters as Lt. Col. Victor and Lt. Col. Ratha. She fought, in armed confrontation, next to Lt. Col. Ratha, to defend the camp base at Mandai, when the Sri Lankan army rounded up the area. She was in the field at the time of the death of Lt. Col. Victor.
Eventually the female guerrillas were moved to Jaffna where Sorthia gained a great deal of battle experience. She was deeply involved in the defence of Jaffna prior to the intervention by the Indian army. On several occasions Sorthia led her group in fighting back the Sri Lankan army and preventing them from entering Jaffna town. Sorthia's group came under heavy mortar shelling at the sentry point outside the Navatkuli camp in Jaffna Sorthia's group returned the fire. In response to the heavy fighting by Sorthia and her comrades, a helicopter attack of the sentry point was embarked on by the Sri Lankan forces. The female guerrillas fought back ferociously preventing the landing of the helicopter.
A more exemplary demonstration of Sorthia's courage was her involvement in face to face fighting with the Sri Lankan armed forces at the Fort army camp. Sorthia, along with other LTTE guerrillas, stood, face to face, at a range of 25-30 yards and fought the advancing Sri Lankan troops. The troops, unable to withstand the firepower, withdrew to their barracks. Sorthia was also involved in the defence of Jaffna by fighting back advancing troops at Tellipallai.
Sorthia fights back Indian troops
At the time of the outbreak of the Indo-LTTE war, Sorthia was in the Jaffna peninsula. Here again, leading a group and working with the legendary Lt. Col. Johnny, Sorthia participated in fierce military battles stalling the advance of the Indian troops. At Kallundaiveli, Sorthia was engaged in a raging battle with the Indian troops that lasted for a full day. Such was her courage and determination in this confrontation that Lt. Col. Johnny commended Sorthia to LTTE leader Mr. Pirabakaran. At Manipay too, Sorthia was involved in capturing an Indian army truck.
When the Indian troops took control of Jaffna, Sorthia withdrew to the jungles. The battles in Jaffna involved urban guerrilla warfare. The withdrawal to the jungle areas transformed the mode of struggle to jungle guerrilla warfare. During her time in the jungle, Sorthia faced extremely difficult conditions and the real depth and potential of Sorthia's character expressed itself. The pains of hunger gnawed at her stomach, thirst tore at her throat, the cold often chilled her bones, bombs rained down on the jungle, colleagues died in front of her eyes, mines presented her with dangerous obstacle courses. Yet she carried on, undeterred. She walked for food supplies, she dug for water, she tended the wounded, she took her turn at sentry work, she cooked and she never complained but rather, she went on and on until the point where her endurance became an inspiration and rallying point for her female colleagues and a beacon of respect from her male colleagues.
Sorthia leads LTTE Women Guerrillas
With such a vast experience behind her, and commanding the respect of the LTTE leadership and cadres, Sorthia set about realising her political ideals. For Sorthia the female guerrillas of the LTTE should function as a women's military wing, organising independently and learning to manage situations and solve problems from their own initiative, creativity and experience. This, she thought, would make the female cadres self sufficient, confident and thoroughly efficient.
The implementation of her ideals was well underway when illness struck her down.
When sudden illness prematurely snatched away the life of Sorthia the LTTE women cadres were deprived of a courageous and reliable comrade-in-arms, the counsel and warmth of an elder sister and inspiring and radical leadership. Gone also was the vast experience and maturity of a senior female guerrilla who had fought with determination and courage both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Indian troops; a young woman who had enriched and shaped her personality and sharpened her ideas from the concrete reality of her participation in armed struggle for national and social emancipation. Sorthia has become a legend and her legacy lives on. She was indeed a true daughter of the soil.