20 March 2014

The true temperature of aggrieved-tears

Only a mother who has lost a child can fathom the grief of a woman who has lost her son.  Balendra Jeyakumari is not a mother who lost a son. She’s a mother who lost three sons.  That’s not three-times the grief.  It is unfathomable grief.  This side of death, whatever closure is possible can only be wrought from knowing what happened to each of them.  This is why Jeyakumari’s activism among families of disappeared individuals generates sympathy which of course is as eminently made for hijacking. That’s a different story.

It is no salve for her or anyone else that had her children been associated with the al-Qaeda their ‘disappearances’ would not get her a ticket out of her village, forget having her name and those of her sons being paraded in Geneva. 

Jeyakumari had three sons and one daughter.  The eldest was shot dead by unknown gunmen during the war. Her second son died during the latter stages of the war. Her third son, the youngest, Mahindan, appears to have been forcibly conscripted as a 15-year-old child soldier by the LTTE in the final stages of the war.  She claims he was handed over to the security forces. 

It matters not that her children were associated with the LTTE either willingly or through forcible conscription.  A child is a child is a child. For a mother.  It need not bother her that those whose responsibility is the security of a nation and all its citizenry are mandated to be vigilant at all times and take whatever precautions necessary to ensure peace and stability within the broader framework of the law.  She is a mother, after all.

The problem is that people have multiple identities.  Jeyakumari is not just a mother. She’s a widow too.  The problem is that identity is not limited to blood-ties or civil-ties.  Jeyakumari not only had children who were part of a terrorist organization that specialized in abduction and enforced ‘disappearance’; her overall identity contains a political component that includes close association with at least one person with a criminal record who also was, like her sons, a member of the LTTE, it is alleged.  It is claimed that this individual, Gobi, was hiding under a bed in Jeyakumari’s house and shot and wounded a police officer who came looking for him.

All this could be ‘trumped up’.  It may be the case that Jeyakumari is totally innocent of the charges leveled against her.  On the other hand, if all this is brushed aside on account of the word ‘claim’ then the same logic could be applied to her assertions too.  More importantly, it can be applied to the claims that also come with the tag ‘wild’ with respect to how the security forces, at great cost, conducted operations to free some three hundred thousand Tamil civilians held hostage by the LTTE.  That’s not ‘claim’.  It is fact.  The security forced in fact did carry out the greatest hostage rescue operation in known history ever.  Jeyakumari knows this.

Still, the emptiness of one claim does not mean that all claims are fairytales. This is why it is important to account for all missing persons.  The Government has amply proven its bona fides with respect to sticking with the zero-casualty policy.  The costs incurred in terms of personnel lost in rescue operations (acknowledged by the US Embassy no less), the enormous efforts expended to provide food and medicine to people forced to suffer by the LTTE in areas the terrorist outfit controlled, the facilities provided in camps set up to accommodate the tens of thousands who either fled the LTTE or were rescued by the security forces tells that story in full.

Despite all this, it is the responsibility of the Government to make sure that everyone is accounted for.  It is a tall order in the context of a 30 years long engagement with a brutal terrorist outfit.  People die in such battles and those who survive often have to live and die without really knowing what happened to loved ones who went missing.  It is a tall order also because some of the ‘disappeared’, vanished to other countries; naturally, without informing relevant authorities.  For an accounting that factors in these realities it is important that collaboration be sought and obtained from all countries to which such persons fled for valid reasons of fear or in search of greener pastures as the case may be.  All such efforts have had to deal with all kinds of obstacles, especially from those who claim (on behalf of the aggrieved) they need to know the truth. 

Such an accounting can do without outfits ready to sacrifice reconciliation in favor of continued political relevance.  Yes, the TNA.  The TNA’s tears over ‘disappearances’ are suspect simply because the TNA refuses point black to acknowledge and detail the LTTE’s considerable role in producing the outcomes that pains the likes of Jeyakumari. All this may not be relevant to a mother who wants to know what happened to her son, never mind if that son and his brothers ‘disappeared’ the sons and daughters of other mothers.  It is not irrelevant to the TNA, though. It is not irrelevant to reconciliation. 

That’s where ‘impossibility’ comes in.  That’s where we have to remind ourselves that reconciliation is not a one-hand-clap.  The TNA plays ostrich when it comes to the likes of Gobi and his operations.  The state cannot follow suit.  The TNA, by playing ostrich, loses the right to talk about ‘demilitarization’.  As long as the TNA dances to pro-LTTE tunes from its backers and funders abroad, the TNA can rest assured that the military will not back off but will be forced, by circumstances, to be vigilant. That’s what you get when you support out of conviction or cowardice a terrorist outfit. 

Jeyakumari’s tears may be transparent and honest – yes, the jury will remain out on that and she can thank the LTTE and TNA for that.  Her tears may be marketed in Geneva. That’s to be expected.  Her tears don’t cancel out the tears of other mothers on the other side of the political lines that those who champion her cause have drawn.  This is how tears lose their temperature, one might conclude.