Demons of Peace - Ceylon to Ukraine

by Kiri Vadivelu | 3 min. read genocide

When compassionate appeals met with force, people rebel or surrender to colonizers only to face the real demons

In 1947, when the last colonizer British left Ceylon, they handed the power over to the majority of the country. The majority 85% were Sinhalese while less than 15% were Tamils. British favoured Tamils over the majority Sinhalese to lead the country for variety of reasons; however, abruptly left without any framework to run the country with 20 million people.

Comrade Theepan on Hunger Strike
Comrade Theepan on Hunger Strike, 1987 | © Kiri Vadivelu

During British occupation, Tamils enjoyed close connections to British administrations and were employed in high ranking roles. That embroiled bitter taste in the majority Sinhalese administrations. The ring wing Sinhalese majority seized power and began crushing the Tamil minority through all legal means to make Tamils secondary citizens.

Out of frustrations, Tamils took to the streets and protested against all illegal laws. In 1983, named black July after thousands of peaceful Tamil protesters were shot and killed by the Sinhalese military forces. While the unrest was in progress, cities were on fire, Tamils were mass prisoned, tortured and killed in the prisons. The cruel Sinhalese government stripped clothes, fed poisoned food, pulled eyes out, raped women, cut off testicles, burnt children and disabled many Tamil protesters while in the prison camps similar to Hitler treatment of Jewish in Germany. Many died in the prison camps which expanded civil unrest and Tamils formed military out of necessity.

In the midst of civil war, as a young student of University of Jaffna, Thileepan Rasiah aka comrade Theepan took to the street to protest against apartheid Sri Lanka government. He resisted peacefully and placed his life on the line through hunger strike to seek fair negation with the ruling party. He positioned himself in the city where I was born, played and grow up to live free one day. Unlike he desired, justice did not prevail, he was left to die on the street and I was not able to live free either. On September 26, 1987, his death ended the hunger strike without any solution to the civil unrest. I was a toddler at the time and did not know anything. It pains to imagine his loss through my parents.

Comrade Theepan demanded the following five demands in order to end the hunger strike.

  1. withdraw Sinhalese army camps from Tamil areas,

  2. suspend all rehabilitation work until the formation of an interim (Tamil) government for the Tamil homelands,

  3. stop the continuing Sinhala colonization in the Tamil homeland,

  4. halt the setting up of Sinhala-manned police stations in Tamil areas and

  5. release all detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act

None of his demands were addressed. Day after day his health declined which made him quieter. He refused to drink even water till colonizer act on compassion. He fought till the last breath while holding the mic in front of thousands.

Comrade Theepan lost fighting the holiest battle any man can fight to liberate the oppressed from the evils. He lives forever in my heart to remind that the best of any humans for do for others. Christ may have died for all but I know Theepan died for me.

Unlike what you are being told, Comrade Theepan did not ask for ammunition nor provoked any violence against the Sinhalese colonizers. What happened afterwards is what imperialist wants to talk about; yes, I regret that as well. My heart breaks every time when I think about his sacrifice, he is my hero.

Tamils were unable to win on compassionate grounds against Sinhalese colonizers and were forced to rebel at any means necessary to protect the life and liberty. After 30 years of guerrilla warfare, the Tamil liberation was overpowered in May 2009 using international coalition of nine imperial governments most notably apartheid.

I do not endorse war or violence; however, history indicates that colonizers of all kinds do not loosen the grip until knife is placed on their neck. Remember, Nelson Mandela was once a terrorist till the label became inconvenient for the imperialist agenda. No one free till all the oppressed are free.

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