The murder of a nobody

“Where is it written that you can be beaten to death? Which article is it written thus? I am not afraid of anyone. I don’t care who you are. Come and shoot me. I am not afraid. People need justice and the truth. The people who beat my son up are animals. My heart burns. Those who killed my son will suffer the same fate. I didn’t teach my son to steal or kill. My son’s father worked hard to raise my son. Nothing good will come to them. Shoot me, I am not afraid. Bullets can enter my heart. I will be in pain. But I am unafraid. I had my son after waiting twelve years. I enjoyed bringing my son up. If my child had done wrong, he should have gone to courts and received punishment. But what law has it that my child was tortured and killed? My son was hidden somewhere and killed. If you had killed my son in front of me, you would understand who I am. Now they have surrounded my house with thousands of guns. I have nothing. Come, if you can. From the hand that fed you string-hoppers, I now put ‘vaikkarasi’. Take me too, my son. My god, take me too and go.”

Six years ago, almost to the month, your columnist focussed on what at the time was a senseless attack on civilians, towards the fag end of the CFA, by the LTTE. Noting that the “denials of the LTTE regarding the atrocity [were] very hard to believe, since the organisation never seems to move from denials to the active support of an investigation into the incident” the article went on to note that “we do not really know the logic that drives terrorism, a logic so alien to us that we cannot even imagine it”.

Terror today mirrors the terror then. In what can only in the fullest sense of the word be called tragic, three years after the end of war, we have sections within government, the Police and armed forces, when acting in concealed concert, are indistinguishable from the erstwhile LTTE in their use and pursuit of violence against Tamils. The massacre in Kebithigollewa resulted in a media frenzy of images and stories. The victims were Sinhalese. A mother’s profound lament, a few days ago, went largely unreported in mainstream English and Sinhala media. The mother was Tamil. She was burying her only son.

The story of how he died is one that should deeply shock and shame the majority in this country. It does not, because the essential illogic of the LTTE’s manic violence is now embedded in government, and worse, our national psyche. We seek to justify violence against Tamils with the same vigour we seek to memorialise those killed by the LTTE. If that submission stands to offend the good Sinhalese reader, consider why there isn’t a public outcry over this young boy’s death? Why isn’t the mainstream media incensed? We devour daily entire pages of the most inane high society gossip. Why hasn’t this mother’s ululation, even in some abbreviated or edited form, appeared even once? Could it be that to publish it would be to jar our roseate fiction of post-war peace? Could it be that those who assaulted her son are our fathers, brothers and lovers – good, loving, patriotic, temple-going men, who in a moment and for whatever reason, turn sadists and terrorists? And if the justification for this boy’s death is that he was a victim of fringe lunacy – and that our democracy is really above all this madness – where is the independent investigation into the incident? Why has there been no response – even in the form of a vehement denial – to an open letter to the President alleging the most unimaginable torture against this mother’s son, penned by leading politicians and activists? If a heart-attack was really the reason for the boy’s death, why did the government fear so much to release his body? Why are we not incensed when a mother and father, who go to a morgue to identify a blood stained cadaver, are then told they cannot have their son’s body to respectfully bury? What mad barbarism is this government condoning, and through silence, are we supporting?

Full colour, full page advertisements, TV and radio spots, statues, commemorative days, speeches, billboards, fly-overs, march pasts, lotteries, concerts, conferences, parades and awards will remember the many Sinhalese patriots who died during war. Who dares remember this solitary mother, and ask why her son had to die in the way he did, three years after the war ended?

How will you choose to explain, or forget?

###

Published in the print edition of The Nation, 5 August 2012.

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