Many young Tamil girls and boys having grown up with the war that plagued the country for over three decades have been idolising the terrorist outfit - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Young Jayawardhani was no different, and her mind was poisoned with hatred propagated by the terrorists since it was so easy for the LTTE because she was an orphan at the Sencholai home for orphans.
Jayawardhani never felt the warmth of a loving mother's hug and tenderness. Countless times she dreamed of that perfect life with a family, and could only wonder what life would have been like, had she not lost her parents. All she wanted was to live a life with people who cared about her.
All she ever wanted was to be free and happy. But life it seems never treated her fairly. The only family that Jayawardhani had ever known was the other orphans at the Sencholai Orphanage, and the LTTE. She received her education at the orphanage, which she is very grateful for.
She felt grateful to the LTTE for giving her a place to stay and educating her. Jayawardhani grew up to believe that the Sri Lankan army and the Sinhala people were cruel and unreliable. Her mind was poisoned with the notion that they were out to destroy the Tamils. The hatred persuaded her to later join the terrorist outfit and start a misguided journey to save the Tamil people. "The only family I knew was the other orphans at the home and the LTTErs were the heroes fighting to liberate my people. The only mother I knew was the lady who took care of us at the orphanage," she reminisced.
Having joined the LTTE she had fiercely fought against the government forces and did so with great pride and dedication. "I felt that I was fighting for a cause. I had never known anyone else in my life other than the children at the orphanage and later my fellow cadres. We were made to believe that the government forces, specially the army were brutal killers simply out to kill us." For many other cadres, fighting for the LTTE was similar to Jayawardhani's, as they too were brainwashed and misguided by the LTTE. They too have a story to tell of how the former 'killing machines' of the LTTE turned innocent youth into killers.
She had later met a young man SidambaranathanNaganathan senior to her in the terrorist organisation and the two of them fell in love. However their love affair was not looked upon favourably by the LTTE. "The terrorist leaders were of the opinion that if these cadres were to marry and raise families the organisation would not have the required manpower to battle. For Jayawadhani and Naganathan it was a long struggle that they finally were able to overcome. "However it was not a piece of cake and we had to each conduct our assigned missions successfully in order to have permission to enter wedlock. However we did what we had to do and finally got married and settled down in Murusumudai." They had their share of trials and tribulations, but they had somehow kept their marriage together.
Realising LTTE atrocities
As time went by, they had two children and Jayawardhani conceived their third son. Just like many others who had initially believed in the terrorists, her husband and she gradually saw the LTTE atrocities.
"I have seen the way they punished our fellow fighters if they dared to question the motives or actions of the terrorist leaders. I have also on several occasions seen them killing the very cadres who fought for their cause, but were unfortunate to have been left disabled having sustained injuries in battle. Even during the last stages of the war LTTE leaders destroyed many of their own cadres who were considered a burden on them," Naganathan recalled.
These innocent people were caught up in a struggle that they eventually realised not for the liberation of the Tamil people, but for power. Many innocent civilians had been caught up amid an escalating war between the security forces and the LTTE. They had lost everything and their lives have been shattered. They finally started to realise that the LTTE had no good intentions and that the Tamil people were just pawns in the whole scheme that was to gain power for LTTE leaders.
During the latter stages of the war, the government troops had ordered the people in the LTTE controlled areas to go toward the government troops, said Jayawardhani. "Yet the LTTE cadres did not allow them to cross and they kept shooting at those who tried to cross over to the army controlled areas. The ones crossing the earth bund, which held thousands, and separated them from the real world, had the courage to do so sensing that real freedom was not with the terrorists as they had been made to believe, but beyond the earth bund. Those who crossed over were urging the others to follow via loudspeakers, and many of the people were crossing over, and denying the LTTE the opportunity of holding them as a human shield to prevent being attacked by the government troops," she said.
The government did whatever it took to rescue those being held as a human shield by the LTTE.
The rebels on the other hand were enticing the government forces to commit mayhem on the civilians in the No Fire Zone to attract them the international attention and sympathy.
Almost 300,000 civilians were held under LTTE custody, which offered them protection from heavy Army gunfire or air raids, but allowed them the use of heavy weapons against government forces under the cover of the 'human shield'.
By this time Jayawardhani had given birth to her third son and she and her husband had decided to take their two older children and seven days old son and cross over to the government troops and surrender.
Jayawardhani was not the only one who experienced the LTTE's brutality. She had been a freedom fighter for them for many years; someone who had believed so passionately in their cause. However, once she felt the fragrance of real freedom beyond the earth bund, she wanted to go for it; but the LTTE who were supposed to be fighting for the freedom of Tamils were the very ones obstructing their freedom.
"My husband escorted me and my seven days old infant first and took us toward the earth bund to help me get across while he went back to get our other children. However, the LTTE fired at us and the last thing I knew was I felt something hitting my face," she said. Naganathan says that the instant he saw his wife fall he ran toward her, but saw her motionless body in a pool of blood. "I thought that my wife was dead along with our baby. Yet when I turned to leave, I heard the infant make a sound and I picked it up and ran toward the army. The army soldiers took the injured baby from my arms and put into a helicopter and I did not know where they took the infant at the time," he recalled agonisingly.
Somehow for Jayawardhani's luck the army had found her. Having found that she was still alive the army had transported her onboard a helicopter to Colombo. "I regained consciousness only after six months where the doctors had performed several surgeries on my face, as the blast had shattered part of it. I had lost one eye and my nose including several bones was shattered. I have no nose but the doctors have transplanted a piece of flesh from my thigh to construct my face. When I look at my face today in the mirror I am terrified at what I see, yet it is a stark reminder of what the very ones I trusted and believed in had done to me. I now realise that I was just a number, a part of the fighting machine, nothing more to the LTTE."
However Jayawardhani now views the army and the Sinhala people as her rescuers and her family. "Neither the army nor the government has valid reasons to save my life. Yet they struggled for six months to give me life and resurrect me from the dead. Contrary to the many allegations directed toward the army accusing them of theft and massacre, I am a good example of their kindness and love. I had lost my ring finger during the battle and you would not believe that the army soldiers who had found me had preserved my wedding ring on my lost finger and returned it to me after I regained consciousness," she said with immense gratitude toward her rescuers.
Jayawardhani's infant was taken to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital where the child was cared for during the time she was unconscious. "After I regained consciousness I told the hospital authorities that I had a seven-day-old infant born at the time of the attack. I had no idea if my son was alive or dead. Their records however indicated that the army had airlifted an infant to Colombo and that a motherless infant was receiving treatment at the children's hospital. After a DNA test, it was confirmed that the infant was mine and my little son was handed back to me.
I was moved beyond words at the sheer efforts taken by the Sinhala people to save me and my son, even today I cannot understand their generosity and kindness toward someone like me who had been intently out to destroy them. The magnitude of their kindness is far beyond my comprehension, as it had been a Sinhala doctor attached to the children's hospital, who also had a child at the time, breast fed my son too to keep him alive. How do I ever repay her, or the army for what has been done for me? No amount of words will ever be enough to express my gratitude toward them," she said.
The LTTE - the hypocrites
Jayawardhani says that she has nothing but hatred for most of the ex-LTTE leaders enjoying freedom today. "These are hypocrites who abandoned us and left us to die for carving their own way out," she added.
Today Jayawardhani and Naganathan live with their two children in Vadukkodai in Koddaikadu Jaffna, enjoying the freedom. Many other ex-LTTE cadres just like Jayawardhani and Naganathan are not forced today to do anything but live a life of peace. They are all now slowly rebuilding their shattered lives. Certain elements of the Tamil Diaspora whose children have all this time enjoying the comfort in foreign countries are now voicing their concerns for the Tamil people. Is it that they are doing so for their people or in fact for protecting their own interests to hold onto the privileges offered to them by these countries and prevent them from being sent back? They claim to be fighting for a separate land for the Tamil people, yet would any of them now domiciled in foreign countries ever give up their comforts and return to this country and live in this so called separate state that they say they want? No.
It is the people who have been caught up in the war that suffered the most. None of them want to go through that ever again. Never.
Courtesy: Ministry of Defence