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Claiming Land, Claiming Home, Claiming Justice

Oct 29, 2020 2:30:34 PM - colombotelegraph.com

One day, on a day after tomorrow,

I too will return to my land

with mine and my own, and all around me,

to give life to a lovely spreading tree, 

touching the skies, 

growing from the root, still breathing. 

On that day, your

brothers, and sisters, little then,

now grown, will have made

a new place in a new time.
Will they embrace us in a warm welcome

or turn away? Or, will they merely turn around, 

without welcome, without word. 

~ Mullai Mustheefa in Iruthalin Azhaippu

30 years ago. In October 1990, 75000 -80000 Muslims were evicted from their northern homeland in the wake of increasing hostilities and armed conflict in the north and east. The LTTE which was dominant militarily in the north at that time and controlled large swathes of territory ordered an entire community to leave the province in 2 days with only a shopping bag and 500 rupees. In Jaffna peninsula they were given a mere two hours’ notice. Today, 30 years later, as we remember the eviction and memorialise it, and as we remember the pain of its brutal injustice, we  also remember that all of us, Tamils and Muslims,  lost a part of ourselves that day. The war had been cruel, and both our communities had been torn apart. Both the communities had been uprooted from their domiciles repeatedly, in the bombing and shelling, in the brutality of state militarisation and in the brutality of militancy. 30 years later, we are still looking for answers to all our concerns and feel the need for solidarity.

While it is 11 years since the war drew to a close, the ethnic conflict and the issues it spawned are far from resolved. The quest for a viable political solution from a majoritarian state is a primary concern for many of us. Continued insecurity in the face of militarization is an urgent matter. Armed militancy and a political culture of violence that characterised the past, have further eroded into the democratic fabric of society. Resettlement and rehabilitation remain unresolved problems. Distribution of land, access to state and social networks, language parity, devolution of power, inter-ethnic reconciliation and the continued presence of gender, class and caste stratifications are a part of the political landscape. Also, the ongoing crisis triggered by the pandemic will lead us into an economic depression and greater authoritarianism, creating a sense of overwhelming fear and polarisation of perceptions, locally and nationally. 

Today, as we are compelled to forge new paths of activism for our own survival, we need to formulate responses that are born out of dialogue between and among communities. This is essential if we are seeking a just and democratic political solution. As a step toward this, there has to be a public disavowal of the eviction from all parties concerned, political and civil. We shall wholeheartedly say that never again will such a heinous act like the eviction take place amidst us. Never again shall we condone such acts of ethnic cleansing amidst us. 

Our survival in the north as human subjects rests on the social, political and economic inter dependence of Tamils, Muslims and other communities in the region.  

Return and resettlement in war torn north and east of the country had been a thorny issue from the very beginning.  Return has not been easy for any community. It has not been easy for the Tamil community. In this fraught reconstruction process, the return and resettlement of Muslims has received scant attention. Return is costly as it involves building a home and society from scratch. It entails finding a viable path to a livelihood in a new and often hostile environment. The natural increase of the community during the 30 years of displacement implies that in resettlement one needs to acquire more land to meet the needs of a community.  Land and dwellings had been lost of jungle in many places.  Often returnees found in their lands and homes that they left long ago displaced Tamils, who themselves had lost their own land over time in the war. Two displaced and marginalized communities often find themselves locked in a contest for land, and other resources Competition over allocations, jobs, schools and other distributory mechanisms are mired in battles that bring up old wounds. The younger generations have no context for this return and resettlement, which exacerbates the situation.  The establishment of military bases in some areas, the appropriation of land for roads and development projects have further complicated the problem, complicating the politics of reclaiming land. These have exacerbated relations between the Tamil and Muslim communities. But these are not intractable problems. We can resolve them if there is political will.  

In that spirit we appeal to:

the political leaderships of Tamils and Muslims to constantly engage in dialogue across ethnicities, and be inclusive in their actions, in a recognition that neither community can survive without collaboration. Our political leadership should constantly act against militarisation and authoritarianism in an inclusive manner. 

the northern bureaucracies to address the needs of the displaced, the returnees, to address the problems that make return difficult, and thereby facilitate an easy process of return. 

educational institutes and other civil organizations to make a concerted attempt to make dialogue, discussion and dissent central features of its democratic practice. 

To leaders of religious organizations to make an effort to build bridges among communities. 

In remembering the eviction and its continuing legacy, we the northern people  make a commitment to forge lines of solidarity across cultural, ethnic and religious differences; and to attend to concerns of class, gender, caste and other forms of marginality among our communities and across communities. Thus, we in the north can shape a common vision for its future founded on social cohesion, democratic practice and political justice. 

Signatories:

  1. Naina Mohamed Abdullah, Jaffna Kilinochchi Muslim Council
  2. A. Ajitha, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  3. Ragavan Alphonsus
  4. Mohamed Ameen – Rosa Textile
  5. Abdul Gaffoor Anees –Research and Action Forum (RAFF)
  6. Sengarapillai Arivalzahan, University of Jaffna
  7. Rev. Stephen Arulampalam – Theological College of Lanka, Pilimathalawa
  8. Swasthika Arulingam
  9. Bisliya Bhuto – Social Activist
  10. Najeeha Buhary – Jaffna Women’s Development Centre
  11. Jancy Cafoor – J/Kadeeja Maha vidyalaya
  12. Rengan Devarajan, Attorney-at-Law
  13. Cayathri Divakalala, Independent Researcher
  14. Mohamed Easteen – Thaha Foundation
  15. S. Easwary, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  16. S. C. C. Elankovan
  17. Mohamed Faais – Lawyer
  18. Prathaban Francis
  19. A. Girithy, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  20. Sahul Hameed –  Kamal Mosque
  21. Prof. Farzana Hanifffa – University of Colombo
  22. Jafar Hasbullah, University of British Columbia
  23. K. Hemalatha, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  24. Elijah Hoole
  25. Rajan Hoole
  26. Hasanah Cegu Isadeen
  27. S. Ithayarani, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  28. Very Revd. Fr. P. J. Jebaratnam. Vicar General, Roman Catholic Diocese. Bishop’s House, Jaffna.
  29. S. Jeevasuthan – University of Jaffna
  30. Thivakaran Jeyabalakrishnan
  31. J. Prince Jeyadevan, University of Jaffna
  32. S. Jeyasankar, Eastern University Sri Lanka
  33. Ahilan Kadirgamar, University of Jaffna
  34. Niyanthini Kadirgamar
  35. Rev. S. Kadirgamar
  36. Mohamed Kais – JMA
  37. S. Keetheswary, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  38. S. Kopika, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  39. R. Kounthini, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  40. Rasaratnam Krishnakumar
  41. Prithiviraj Kulasingham
  42. Mahaluxmy Kurushanthan MWDF
  43. J. Thayalini, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  44. Jensila Majeed
  45. S. Mariyarosalin – Vallamai –Movement for Social Change
  46. Jamal Mohideen – Mohideen Mosque
  47. Juwairiya Mohideen – Muslim Women’s Trust 
  48. Azeez Movlavi – Sivalapalli Mosque 
  49. Jafir Movlavi – Mohideen Mosque
  50. Nisara Nawas – J/ Al Hadeeja Pre-school
  51. Rufinas Nawas – Jaffna Women’s Development Centre
  52. M. Nirmala, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  53. S. Nithika, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  54. S. Niventhini, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  55. Siyana Niyas – Jaffna Women’s Development Centre
  56. M. A. Nuhman – Retired Professor, University of Peradeniya
  57. Ven. Fr. Samuel J Ponniah, Archdeacon of Jaffna, Diocese of Colombo, Church of Ceylon (Anglican)
  58. Angel Queentus, Jaffna Transgender Network
  59. Rusiya Sajeeth – Sarvodaya Shramadana Society
  60. R. Rajany, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  61. Vasuki Rajasingham
  62. A. Rahman, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  63. Fathusa Ramees –  Osmaniya College
  64. Bahirathy J. Rasanen, University of Jaffna.
  65. Mohamed Razeen – Elders’ Society
  66. S. H. M. Rizni –Research and Action Forum (RAFF)
  67. M. M. Saburudeen, Attorney at Law, Mannar
  68. The Rev. Jurinesz R. Shadrach, Church of Ceylon (Anglican)
  69. Mohamed Samees –  JMA
  70. V. Shamini, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  71. K. Saranhan, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  72. K. Sathiyaseelan, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change 
  73. Muttukrisna Sarvananthan, University of Jaffna
  74. Sutharshan Sellathurai – University of Peradeniya
  75. S. K. Senthivel, New Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party
  76. Shreen Saroor 
  77. V. Sinthuka, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  78. Mafasa Siraj –  Osmaniya College
  79. N. Sivapalan, University of Jaffna
  80. Navaratnam Sivakaran, University of Jaffna
  81. S. Sivasuthan, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  82. M. Sooriyasekaram
  83. A. Sornalingam
  84. Sivamohan Sumathy – University of Peradeniya
  85. S. Suganthi, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  86. Esther Surenthiraraj, University of Colombo
  87. Sivasanthirabos Sureshkumar, Oppuravillam, Church of Ceylon
  88. Saba Thanujan, Co-Secretary, Mass Movement for Social Justice
  89. S. Tharsan, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  90. Selvy Thiruchandran
  91. S. Thileepan, Vallamai – Movement for Social Change
  92. Mahendran Thiruvarangan, University of Jaffna
  93. Thisanthini Thiruchelvam 
  94. Yathursha Ulakentheran, Undergraduate, University of Peradeniya

The post Claiming Land, Claiming Home, Claiming Justice appeared first on Colombo Telegraph.