Three years after the Mullivaikkal massacre, Tamils are beginning to assert their rights in Sri Lanka in spite of continuing incidents of state oppression, and increasing militarisation of their homeland.
Last Sunday, thousands of people defied threats by the Sri Lankan armed forces and attended a protest meeting in Mannar town to condemn the industry and commerce minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s outrageous outburst against the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph in Parliament.
An eyewitness said about 5000 – 6000 people attended last Sunday’s meeting in Mannar
The minister had compared the Bishop to Ven Innamaluwe Sumangala Nayak Thero, a Buddhist monk from the Golden temple in Dambulla who in late April had backed a Buddhist mob that attacked a mosque.
An eyewitness said about 5000 – 6000 people attended last Sunday’s meeting in Mannar, turning it into one of the largest public meetings post-Mullivaikkal massacre.
Tamil politicians who participated included TULF leader, V. Anandasangari, Parliamentarians Sivasakti Anandan (Vavuniya MP), Selvam Adaikalanathan (Mannar MP), Vino Noharathalingam, (Vanni district MP), Suresh Premachandran, (Jaffna MP), and former Parliamentarians, Selvarasa Gajendran, and P. Soosaithasan.
Sources said the authorities in Mannar had adopted every trick to stop the meeting. The state police had gone to the extent of filing a case against five priests who organised the meeting on charges that it would lead to communal tension and traffic jam.
But people poured into Mannar town from different places sending out a clear message that they would no longer be cowed down by the terror tactics of the Sinhala State.
In the recent past the Bishop of Mannar has been targeted by various sections of the ruling class for raising the issue of 146,679 unaccounted civilians who have gone missing since September 2008.
In March 2012 during the 19th session of the UNHRC at Geneva, the Bishop and 30 other Tamil priests had urged the UN to intervene in implementing the Sri Lankan state appointed LLRC report.
Sinhala chauvinists including Minister Mervin Silva had targeted the Bishop and labelled him a traitor.
At the same session of the UNHRC meet, Forum Asia, a well known Human Rights group, had spoken about the threat to the Bishop’s life.
The Weekend Leader too had published two articles recently highlighting the Bishop’s work for the Tamils and the consequent threats to his life.
More recently, the Hong Kong based Asia Human Rights Commission issued a statement condemning the targeting of the Bishop who is looked upon as a symbol of communal harmony in Mannar and an outright critic of human rights violations.
In another incident that demonstrated the spirit of defiance that is becoming evident among the Tamils, students of Jaffna University organised the Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day on May 18 despite a lethal attack on Jaffna University Students’ Union Secretary, Dharshananth.
Despite the heavy presence of the armed forces, students came out in full force carrying torches and candles to send out a message that the memory of the thousands who laid down their lives in the country’s bloody civil war cannot be wiped out by force.
In the Vavuniya campus of the University of Jaffna hundreds of girl students who were holding candles were seen crying at the event.
These are not events in isolation, in February this year at Mannar 564 women from 9 villages came out in open to protest against increased militarisation and submitted a signed memorandum.
On February 14, more than 500 fisher men from Mannar came to the streets to protest against the fuel price hike and other related issues.
The message is very clear: it is not just the Diaspora Tamils or Tamils in Tamil Nadu who are coming to the streets to protest against the atrocities of the Sri Lankan state, the Eelam Tamils too are beginning to raise their voice.