Kill love

I painted a scorpion over your smiling face,

broke the rhythm of your songs,

frowned at your absurd journeys,

and mocked the glossy colours of your house,

I detested-

your boring tales,

silly dreams,

frivolous anxieties,

dreary memories,

Everything… everything about you.

I laboured so hard to hate you,

Fatigued, every night-

I slept in the warmth of your arms.

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Profile of a Refugee Activist

The life and dreams of a young activist who works for the rehabilitation of Sri Lankan refugees in India.

Chennai, 4 March 2010 

A fearsome boat journey cutting throughthe choppy waters of Indian Ocean, twenty years ago, brought Senthil Kumar (name changed for privacy reasons) to the shores of Tamilnadu, which has become his temporary home since then.

Sri Lankan refugees coming to India, Photo courtesy:www.protectthehuman.com

Now he works for people like him who had fled the troublesome Sri Lankan soil and has taken refuge in India. A young, confidant-looking, energetic man dedicated to the cause of helping refugees, Senthil had a mark of soberness on his face and a slight tone of dissatisfaction in his voice.

“We are always grateful to the Indian government and the people here. We are given free food, shelter, electricity, and provisions for education .There are people in India who do not have access to all these. We are treated very well in the refugee camps. But when the situation is all safe there (Sri Lanka) I will definitely go back. We have to fulfill our responsibilities towards the nation. We will have to start everything from the scratch”, said Senthil.

Senthil (24) was born in Mullaitivu, a small town on the north-eastern coast of Sri Lanka which was an important military base of the LTTE till the Sri Lankan army took control of the town in a fierce battle in Januray 2009.

After August, 1989, with the start of Eelam War II, around thousands of Sri Lankans left their homeland in fear for their lives. Senthil’s family also decided to leave. They stayed in the Mannar forest area for sometime and then went to the coastal region of Thalaimannar. His uncle owned boats and in that they came to the shores of Nagapattinam.

After screening, the refugees are initially sent to quarantine camps where they are provided preventive medication. Then, they are taken to the Mandapam Camp and finally sent to one of the 115 refugee camps for Srilankans in different parts of Tamilnadu.

Senthil’s family has been in the Samugarengapuram camp in Thirunelveli since then. His father was shot dead during the war. Senthil and his mother work with OfERR (Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation). His elder sister works as a teacher and younger sister is in her final year of graduation.

Senthil did his graduation in B.Sc,Chemistry in Thirunelveli and completed Post-Graduated Diploma in Conflict Transformation from Henry Monte International Institution For Reconciliation Programs. His educational expenses were paid by OfERR. Now he works as a Programme Monitoring Officer in the Advocay Unit of OfERR .

When asked about his life in India Senthil said,” Tamilians in India have an ethnic affinity to Sri Lankan Tamils. We were kindly accepted; they listened to our stories and offered us help. ”

He recalled that during his college days his colleagues had always stood by him. The Eelam IV war had reached its peak during May 2009 and student protests were taking place all over Tamilnadu. It was a perturbed situation .Many of his friends from Tamilnadu were supporters of LTTE. (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

“Earlier even I sympathized with LTTE’s cause, but gradually I learned about their “pros and cons”. I realised that they have committed many unpardonable mistakes like using helpless people as human-shields.”

Senthil feels that the restriction on the movement of refugees is more beneficial for their own safety and protection, since they are a very vulnerable group. Refugees are required to sign in while they leave the camps and they should be back by 8 p.m. But OfERR has given Senthil a bonafide certificate that would allow him to stay away from the camp to work for the organization.

“Half the Sri Lankan Tamil population in India wants to go back to their homeland. The other half has comfortably settled here. If they go back they will have to start everything anew. So they do not want to go back”, said Senthil in a bitter tone. “The war may have ended but the conflicts will not die down soon. By not going back we are subsequently allowing the Sinhalese to take over our land there. We educated young Sri Lankans have to go back and rebuild our nation”, he added.

 

Written for ACJNEWSLINE- the student E-Zine of Asian College of Journalism, http://acjnewsline.asianmedia.org.in/Nileena_Refugee_Profile.html