Rebirth and Memory Black July, 40 Years Later
Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy
It is painful to read how Sri Lankan government ministers rallied
their goondas to fan out in neighborhoods looking for Tamil
homes marked on voter lists. It is painful to know that ethnic
affiliation is part of all identity documents, that forty years later
such ethnic flags remain part of electoral law. Or shall
we call it, the law to abuse, pillage, burn and murder?
Or shall we call it, the island never advances, just tries to forget
and says all is well on its many miles of white sand beaches
where elephants swim, driven to the ocean hoping for rescue,
that all is only well on Horton Plains which keeps its original
topography while everywhere else the land has been changed
absolutely? But I am moving away from the principal argument
on this fortieth anniversary of the pogrom called Black July
where government colluded with police, army and thugs
to revenge the ambush of thirteen soldiers by Kittu and his gang
of Tigers, who in turn revenged the abduction and rape of three
Tamil school girls and the killing of Charles Anthony, a founder
member of the Tigers. But the problem of scale characterizes
the Sri Lankan eye for an eye. So three girls raped becomes
thirteen soldiers ambushed then close to six thousand Tamil
civilians killed, more than eighteen thousand homes
and businesses burned and a quarter of a million refugees;
and then the Uncivil War gets off to a blazing start while
several hundred thousand Tamils become strangers
in strange lands, and others join the fight against the state
that had allowed family members to be identified, eviscerated, burnt.
When will justice be found, forty years after? And what is fair
and just? One for one? One for twenty thousand? Why can’t
deedholders to confiscated lands be given back their private
property in the otherwise capitalist free market of Sri Lanka?
Why can’t Tamil families mourn their soldiers killed in the war?
Why can’t the criminal actors of the Black July genocide
be prosecuted? Or will those who survive remain unpunished until
they die and face the condemnation of rebirth as Tamils and Muslims?