‘’The attackers came behind me from the side of the Natchimarr temple. Four people come on two motor cycles. The motor cycles were not new models. One of them I think was a red one. I did not see the numbers. I was riding a bicycle. Those who came after me in motor cycles suddenly pushed me down and started to assault me.”
by Ramesh Khanna
Army personnel in the guise of mystery men had attacked the secretary of the student union of the Jaffna University Paramalingam Dharasandh, with iron rods and sharp weapons. He was severely injured and had to shed a lot of blood. This attack is a threat not only against the university students but against the Tamil speaking community on the whole. Throughout the history the students of the Jaffna University have been fighting for the Tamil community against the oppressors. This attack has been made because the oppressors were unable to stand such a rise and a supporting voice by the students.
The day was May 18th. The day the Mullivaikkaal genocide was being remembered in the minds of the Tamil people. The incidents of the Mullivaikkal genocide are remembered this week during every year as ‘the week of pain’ by the campus students.
Dharsanandh was one of the thousands of students who went to this event. He was the secretary of the student union of the Jaffna University.
This attack has taken place in the midst of the Tamil people being killed and struggles of the Tamils being crushed and acts of genocide and war charges meted out on them, and the big news that this attack implies is that the Tamils who were affected by the genocide and war charges are not allowed to pay their due respects to their dead kith and kin. You invite us forcibly to celebrate the victory, but can’t we cry for the pain from the wounds of war. Is this the ethnic reconciliation of the Sri Lankan government?
Dharsanandh explains the moments of the attack on him like this. ‘The attackers came behind me from the side of the Natchimarr temple. Four people come on two motor cycles. The motor cycles were not new models. One of them I think was a red one. I did not see the numbers. I was riding a bicycle. Those who came after me in motor cycles suddenly pushed me down and started to assault me. I can’t remember them exactly. But one of them was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I don’t remember his face’. He was recollecting the moment of horror and was explaining it.
They have now introduced a new killing tradition in Jaffna. Earlier they came on motor cycles and shot down the people. This happened almost every day and before that, they abducted the people, tortured them and buried them in Cemmani. Now the pattern has changed. They attack with iron rods and sharp weapons. That was how journalist Kuganathan and student union president Thavabalasingham were attacked. Each of these assaults was meant to cause death, according to those who were attacked and the doctors who treated them. These attacks were very severe and savage.
Dharsanandh explains below the modus operandi of the attackers. ‘They attacked with the 1 ½ feet iron rods they had been hiding with them. They had brought the iron rods wrapped in paper. As soon as I was hit I ran in to a tailoring shop at the junction and hid behind a sewing machine. But three of them hit me over the machine. My head was broken and blood was flowing down. I was covering my head with my hands to stop the attack on my head. Therefore all the hits fell on my hands. The swelling is still on. They attacked me inside the tailor shop for more than one minute. Then after crowds gathered at the scene, and they left the place, after that I came out and asked for some cloth from the same shop and tied on my head and with the help of the student leader of the Arts faculty I went to the hospital and got myself admitted in the ward No 24. Seven stitches were put on my head and my arms were put on plaster bandage’ said Dharsanandh.
Student union president Thavabalasingham was attacked earlier, before the secretary was attacked. Blood flow of the students has now become a continuous act. In the earlier days there were vice-chancellors who were fighting with the security forces whenever the forces laid their lands on the students. Vice-chancellors like BalasunderamPillai Mohandas and Shanmugalingam were very much concerned about the protection of the students. Special mention should be made about the former Vice-chancellor BalasundaramPillai who immediately got the students released whenever they are arrested. Mohandas went on procession with the student against army arrogance. Shanmugalingam had gone to the courts to stop the army from entering the campus. The army was afraid to lay their hands on the students during their times.
The former Vice-chancellors acted courageously during the days when severe war going on and killings and wrongs were also happening every now and then. They allowed the students to operate freely and took great care in the protection of the students.
The students say that the present vice chancellor does not have the knowledge of how students will be, and their behavior. After Vasanthi Arasarathnam became the vice chancellor the security forces entered the campus, arrested the students and put them in the cells. The students allege that Vasanthy Arasaratnam had permitted the army and the police to act freely and to silence the voice of the students and to stop the basic needs of the student.
An incident which happened recently should be mentioned here. Nothing like that had happened before in the history of the Jaffna University. Vice chancellor Vasanthy Arasarathnam’s portrait was set on fire by the campus students and her office was attacked and window panes were shattered. This in fact was the outcome of anger the students had against the vice chancellor.
Those who attacked Thavabalan had asked him whether he wanted Tamil Eelam when he was attacked. But the attackers in his case did not speak anything, says Dharsanandh. Who could have made this attack? When asked form Dharsanandh ‘no doubt, it is the work of the army intelligentsia. I do not have any enemy in my private life. The reason for this attack was that I took part in the 3rd year remembrance event of the Mullivaikkaal incident. Apart from this the university premises were under the strict surveillance of the intelligence unit for the past 4 days. Death threats were made over the phone, to the president of students union of the Arts faculty, and to the president of the student union of the university. A direct threat was made to the student union leader of the commerce faculty at the Tirunelveli junction, last Friday.
This is the problem. What has the Sri Lanka government done for the Tamils? The students will always tell what the army is doing. in Jaffna. They will not hide the truth like the officers and the politicians. The Jaffna university students have been doing this throughout the history. This did not end with the arrest of Baheerathan or Purusothaman. That is why the army is continuously making attacks on the students.
Dharsanandh says that he was attacked because he was organizing the requiem mass for the dead during the Mullivaikkaal atrocity. The army which took the young students of Jaffna schools to the 3rd year victory celebrations. The army personnel were given stars and were also given lotus flowers during this victory parade by the young students, but the army is attacking the students for lightning candles and conducting requiem masses. Those who took the students to give lotus flowers to the soldiers and those who allowed the students to be attacked by iron rods are in fact teaching the students.
The scenes where Dharsanandh lies in a pool of blood and the young students standing sadly in front of the soldiers are almost the same. Reports were out even before blood of Dharsanandh dried up, although many of the reports condemned the attackers but none of them said that the army was responsible for the attack. At least they should have repeated the sayings of the student who faced the attack. The saying of the commander of the Jaffna district Mahinda Hathurusinghe seems to say that the army personnel were the attackers.
‘Don’t indulge in politics when you study, indulge in politics after you finish your studies’ he seems to say. ‘If you indulge in politics while you study we will attack like this’, is what is implied from his saying. What a saying from an army commander.
While a university student has been attacked with sharp weapons Mahinda Hathurusinghe is replying with arrogance. This is the reconciliation of Sri Lanka.
Dharsanandh explains the impact of the attack make on him ad. The impact it will make on the university like this; on the individual basis this attack has affected me physically and mentally and my family fears more, and urges me to go abroad, which I don’t like. If I do so, that will become a reason for obstructing the National minded students from working towards a cause. Even the students, who like to serve for a cause, feel that the same thing will happen to them and fall back. This in the long term will make the situation turn positive towards those who attacked me.
Students should not ask questions nor speak about their problems says the university administration under the leadership of the vice chancellor and thereby oppresses the students. Similarly the army says that the students should not ask questions about the injustice the forces mete out in the community you are living in, and don’t speak about your problems and tries to oppress the students in the same way. There is no difference between these oppressions made for the aspirations of those in power.
The world expects the university students to have self thinking along with an interest for the community and a political knowledge, but the students of the Jaffna university are facing other sort of problems, but whatever situation they have to face our students will not let the situation that others aspire to take place in the university, says Dharsanandh.
This has been the confidence of every student and every student leader. With new students being added every year, they are in fact are turning out to be the voices of the community with a big vigor.
These students should not be attacked but should be listened to for what they ask and why they ask them?
The army under the leadership of Hathusursinghe and the university administration under Vasanthy Arasarathnam should think over.
The bloodshed by Dharsanandh was for the community he lives for. What else?