ICG Report on Eezham Tamil women receives flak from diaspora feminist
In an article published on Countercurrents, an Indian online journal, Janani Paramsothy, a student in a British University, criticized the ICG report on Eezham Tamil women report for having deliberately ignored the real problem of genocide of Eezham Tamils, in which, sexual violence on Tamil women is an essential component. Ms. Paramsothy, who had been a vocal participant in protests in the UK during the period of Mu’l’livaikaal genocide and after, came down heavily on the ICG for maligning genuine voices in the diaspora addressing the national question and for having produced a distorted picture of the progress of women achieved under the LTTE. “Tamil women- safe under LTTE, raped and pillaged under Sri Lankan forces with no one to support them… For Tamil women to be safe under a Sri Lankan state is simply impossible”, she said.
Ms. Paramsothy, a second generation Eezham Tamil woman in the UK, is a law student at University College London.
The political and intellectual intervention of Eezham Tamil feminists in the diaspora on the plight that their fellow nationals face in the homeland is positive in the sense that they alone can provide an authentic representation of the problems that the women in the homeland face owing to their lived experience as both women and Tamils, remarked a Tamil academic.
Emphasising on the need for such feminists to build solidarity with women in the homeland, Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in the diaspora, the academic added that the articulation of gender based violence that Tamil women face, within the paradigms of the structural genocide that the Eezham Tamil nation experiences in the homeland, as has emerged in Ms. Paramsothy’s article, and a co-ordinated effort to act on the same understanding alone can solve the problems of Eezham Tamil women.
Excerpts from Ms. Paramsothy’s article titled ‘ICG report on Tamil women is woefully wrong’ in Countercurrents follow:
“This current report, like the ones before it, plays an interesting game. It accuses the Sri Lankan state while excusing it, exposes the smaller problems while masking the underlying bigger one, and although it cannot be entirely dismissed out of hand, as it provides essential evidence about what is happening to our women in Sri Lanka, it is such an apologist work that it cannot be regarded as having the final say on what the real situation is in Sri Lanka.”
“First and foremost, Western culture generally needs to let go of this illusion of ultimate control that they think they hold and of the accompanying notion where they think they know what is best for everyone everywhere. This lingering ignorance from imperialist years, leads to many a misunderstanding, some too grave to allow.”
“They cannot dictate to us what is right and what is wrong, without taking into account what our own understanding of the situation may be. And our understanding of the situation here is not parallel to that of the ICG’s since it fundamentally ignores the genocidal nature of what has been done.”
“In this event, the report appears somewhat patronising and a little removed from reality. Although comments of a very serious nature have been made, some of the additional comments appear so misguided, it is hard to know whether to laugh or be angry.”
“It appears- and this is observable with many international actors who have failed the Eelam Tamils- that the ICG simply cannot face up to the fact that it is they who have been wrong and we who have been right about Sri Lanka all along. The international community, its NGOs and its media have spectacularly failed in the case of Sri Lanka, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and they are all still in denial. Therefore, instead of admitting that they have done wrong, they appear to choose to justify their actions by pointing fingers at what the Tamils have done.”
They say that the Sri Lankan government dismiss allegations ‘as part of an LTTE conspiracy to garner international sympathy and demonise Sri Lanka’s “war heroes”’ while in part, helping to do just that themselves.
“This is illustrated widely throughout the report- in the many references to the diaspora for example, in which we have been made to appear like bloodhounds intent on the destruction and humiliation of Sri Lanka.”
“So despite the fact that those people suffering out there are our family members, our friends and our kin, despite the fact that many of the Diaspora are people who have suffered in Sri Lanka first hand themselves, despite the fact that we- Diaspora and inhabitants of Sri Lanka alike- consider ourselves, and indeed are one single entity, we have been painted as the scavengers who would gladly sacrifice our kin in homeland, just so we can gain ground on our ‘elusive political solution’.”
“The entire point of Tamil Eelam is to ensure that those very people are not sold out, not because we want to win points in some imaginary sparring game with the government, but because there is no other solution to check the protracted genocide of the Tamils that has been happening ever since Sri Lanka gained ‘independence’ in 1948.”
“The report itself acknowledges that there was a ‘degree’ of equality under the LTTE, many women have openly said their lives were infinitely better under the LTTE- maybe because they weren’t subjects of mass rape then, any citizen living under any state has their life dictated by that state to an extent- this does not diminish their equality in any way, and since the LTTE were first and foremost a military organisation, engaged in war, it is perhaps understandable that some freedoms had to take a back seat to national security, especially since, these weren’t not exclusively restricted for women.”
““The male dominated leadership of the organisation prioritised the fight for a separate Tamil nation, and their own survival, over all other goals” states the report. Let us conveniently forget the fact that the LTTE’s decision making body, its Central Committee had five women in a twelve member team. Let us take their statement as true. Even then, it is entirely reasonable because without the success of the war effort, for men and women alike, there is nothing. “
“This has been clearly demonstrated now. Tamil women- safe under LTTE, raped and pillaged under Sri Lankan forces with no one to support them. It’s quite a simple equation really. For Tamil women to be safe under a Sri Lankan state is simply impossible.”
“The problem is that the Sri Lankan state does not intend to address our concerns. It is not because they are indifferent about our suffering; it is because they are active agents bringing it about. They want it to happen because it all fits in with their pre-planned attack on the Tamil nation as a whole.”
“When the report points out that the government ‘carefully nurtured nationalist sentiment within Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority to build support for its efforts to destroy the LTTE’ it is not entirely true. This sentiment already existed; it is what the government were voted in on and what successive Sinhala governments have all been nurturing over the years.”
“Reading and hearing about what is happening to our sisters while sitting in England is hard enough. I don’t actually face the physical threat- although many of our Sinhala neighbours here have made many verbal ones over the internet- yet we still feel violated. Our empathy with our sisters leads to fear and anger. We as Diaspora Tamil women also share the additional feeling of helplessness sometimes because we cannot physically go out to Sri Lanka and stop this violence ourselves.”
“Often when we were younger, many activists would talk of forming our own ‘human shield’ around the ‘safe zones’ to protect the people. As we all know now though, this probably would not have deterred the government. They would have shot us all.”
“Tamil women actually on the island have a greater need to protect themselves. The feelings we feel are only magnified and exacerbated. More importantly, they have the chance to physically be there and protect one another. Indeed it is a chance they cannot afford to pass by. And since being a shield won’t work, they have to be the sword.”
“In conclusion, the ICG report, although acknowledging some important truths is fundamentally flawed. In an attempt to wash over their own mistakes, they have wiped under the carpet, the most important issue of all- the genocide of Tamils, in which process sexual violence against Eelam Tamil women is part and parcel- and in doing so, have produced a severely constricted view of how to deal with the issue.”