Last week I happened to watch the Channel 4 documentary on the Srilankan Ealam war IV and I admit it was very disturbing. Irrespective of who was right or wrong in this entire war, I find the haplessness of the Tamil civilians more appalling. It makes a normal man with little emotion to cry and also wonder about the fragility of human lives. I felt really sorry for those people who moved from one area to another as herds with the hope of being not bombed enroute. You find entire families with children and elderly people struggling to get food to eat, treatment for their injuries and at the same time looking to safe-keep their belongings. I always believe the orderliness of our day to day lives is just a mirage and a war or a natural disaster can wreak great havoc on our lives and psyche.
The core idea of this Channel 4 documentary was to clearly portray the war crimes of unimaginable magnitude, which went unreported by the media at the time of occurrence. I am particularly aghast at the way the Indian media reacted to this Ealam War IV during 2009 and none of the major TV channels showed any interest or concerns for the suffering population at the hands of the Srilankan Army and LTTE. I am trying to sound neutral in respect to the war crimes committed by both the SL Army as well as the LTTE, but the majority of the blame has to be borne by the SL Army.
As per the documentary there were more than a million people who were displaced by the Ealam War IV in which the Srilankan Army completely wiped out LTTE, at least for now. The Srilankan Army used heavy artillery, aerial bombing, human concentration camps to completely silence the civilians and the crush LTTE. I saw footages which were shot at the time of actual bombing by the SL Army on Hospitals and makeshift tents of these nomadic civilians at that time. This resulted in heavy casualties with one estimate running to some 40,000 lives. How do you describe the scene where you see a family of a father and 2 daughters watching helplessly their mother being killed by aerial bombing. The father and 2 daughters were hiding in a bunker and suddenly there was a air-raid which kills their mother who could not return to the safety of the bunker in time. You go numb seeing these visuals. Mind you, all these were unarmed civilians.
The documentary clearly shows that the Srilankan Government announced "no fire zones" were repeatedly breached by the Srilankan Airforce and bombed the civilians. The Srilankan Government reportedly kept reducing the area under "no-fire zones" thereby pushing all the civilians into a very small piece of land. In the final stages, if I heard it right, the civilians numbering thousands were restricted to 1 square mile of land area. You can very imagine the suffering and agony each one of them would have gone through. The video clips, which I believe were taken using mobile phones, reveal pictures of victims family not even able to mourn the death of their dear ones and they have to keep moving to protect their lives.
The final few days, the atrocities increased manifolds by the SL Army with women being gang-raped and shot dead nude. No post mortems were conducted on the bodies of thousands of civilians and the video footage clearly shows the SL Army soldiers crossed all limits. There was a sequence towards the end of this documentary where alleged LTTE soldiers were stripped naked, blind-folded and hand-cuffed before being shot dead at point-blank range.
Red Cross and other international agencies who were involved in the relief and medical efforts for the major part of this war, could not sustain themselves in the hostile environment where all conventions of modern warfare were thrown to winds. Hospitals, makeshift and permanent, were targeted and attacked repeatedly during the entire war resulting in absolutely no or very less medical aid for the injured civilians.
After watching this hour long video, the following questions beg for answers:
1. What the UN officers and other International agencies, which now claims that there were human rights violations, were doing during this war when unarmed civilians were attacked brutally with heavy force? Did they raise this issue internally within the UN organisation and if yes, what kind of response they got? Who silenced these voices?
2. As a neighbouring country, why India didnt do anything to stop this genocide? Was it orchestrated or conducted with the blessings of the Indian Government?
3. Why the Indian media and even the International ones went completely silent on this mass human killing?
4. Why we, the Tamils of India, were so indifferent to these attrocities?
PS: I am not a Srilankan - Eelam war expert and no dont claim to be one. These are my reactions after watching the documentary. There are stories of even LTTE using civilians as human-shields in their war against Srilankan army. So please dont get carried away by what you see in this documentary.
In case you still want to go ahead and watch this, please click here. Please be aware visuals are very disturbing. Choice is yours.