Remembrance and Reflection
Today is a difficult day for many of us in the Tamil community as we remember and pay our respects to the thousands who lost their lives at Mullivaikal twelve years ago at the hands of state forces. It is a time where those of us in the diaspora reflect on our recent painful histories in the homeland and the complex array of direct and indirect impacts this has had on our community. As someone who has been engaged with development projects in the homeland and has been involved in advocacy and archiving our histories, I think of those individuals I have encountered who have lost loved ones, were displaced a countless number of times and have had to rebuild their lives post 2009.
This reflection brings up feelings of anger, hurt but also, quite strikingly, guilt. This guilt is something that I’ve discussed with friends of mine, even if we are engaged in some way with struggles back home it never feels enough. But I think sometimes what we forget is that activism is not a monolithic thing, it comes in many shapes and forms. The commonality is the need to do the work. Educating ourselves, building meaningful solidarities and stepping up when its needed.
So, I wonder if on today’s day of reflection we could channel the guilt and anger into action. What would that look like I hear you ask…
A great place to start is to check out the Remember May 2009 website which was created by the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, Tamil guardian and 47 roots in 2019. The website includes a timeline of events, art work and a number of resources documenting the atrocities from the final months of the conflict and the impacts and struggles ten years on.
There are a range of publications that document the histories and political struggles of the Tamil people. Check out and follow the Tamil Reads community who spotlight key texts and have a reading group. #TamilReads #EelamReads 📚 (@tamilreads) • Instagram photos and videos
If you’re not a big reader there are also a number of documentaries out there. I was involved in making a short documentary in 2019 titled Women’s Plight: Dreams of a Better Life which ties together the voices of conflict affected women and grassroots activists discussing their struggles during the war and post-war as well as their aspirations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIFT2pvthso&feature=youtu.be.
Volunteer and/or join an organisation
There are many Tamil organisations doing important work focussed on different parts of the struggle from political advocacy to development. This includes organisations working in the diaspora on issues such as refugee rights and gender-based violence. We need to be able to connect struggles to draw meaningful solidarities, there is no point trying to get involved in women’s empowerment back in the homeland and neglecting women’s rights issues on our doorstep in the diaspora. We need to understand how these oppressions are connected in many ways but also separate.
If you are unable to donate time as a volunteer perhaps you can donate resources and/or money. There are organisations doing really great work and always need financial support to continue their essential work. Make sure you do your research about their work and their approach. Think about if their initiatives are sustainable and actually empowering.
As the Sri Lankan state tries to deny and cover up what happened at Mullivaikal twelve years ago we must remember and resist.
ANBU UK Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)