In 2006, the Tamileelam national leadership had declared the memorial day of Annai Poobathy, who fougth for the Tamileelam national uprising, as Patriot’s Day. The people of Tamileelam and the diaspora Tamils are emotionally remembering Annai Poobathy´s memorial day as Patriot’s Day. The purpose of this article is to discuss the fact that the patriots have been a great force in the history of freedom struggles.
The Indian Army, which entered Tamileelam through the India-Sri Lanka Agreement, became an occupying force and engaged in violence that destroyed the struggle for the rights of the people of Tamileelam. At that time, the people of Tamileelam contributed in many ways the support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam and the nationalism of Tamileelam.
Annai Poopathy´s crusade was the highest form of sacrifice, the pinnacle of her contribution to this nation. “The Indian Army should immediately implement a ceasefire and engage in peace talks with the LTTE”. Mrs. Poopathi Ganapathipillai on behalf of the Batticaloa Mother’s Front started a non-violent hunger strike. On March 19th, 1988, at 10.45 AM on Saturday morning, Annai Poopathy started her hunger strike till her death under the shade of the tree in the front of Sri Mamangeswarar Temple, Amritagazi, Batticaloa.
It was the time when the Tamileelam liberation struggle was at its most critical time! “I consider the day when the Indian Army set foot on our homeland as the darkest day of our struggle It must be said that the intervention of the Indian Army in our struggle is a dark chapter”. That period faced many crises” Tamileelam national leader Prabhakaran said about this military occupation.
The world’s fourth largest army, the Indian army and the Sri Lanka Government giving shape to Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinist ideas, in one hand and on the other hand, the Tamil factions supporting both of them, the Eelam Tamils faced hardships! As the national leader said, it was the time of the darkest chapter in the history of Tamileelam struggle!
In the midst of all these risks and crises, a common woman, the head of the family, without fear of anything, had much courage and self-sacrifice she to start her struggle in a non-violent way.
“Today, India, which came to protect us, has become more deadly than the Sri Lankan army. We have embarked on this struggle with the determination to prevent this. We are used to seeing heroic deaths.
Even after my death, we will achieve our goal. The Mother’s Organzation will never fall” – said Annai Poopathi with a sense of sacrifice and heart. Annai Poopathi, who started her hunger strike till her death at 10.45 am on Saturday 19th March 1988, breathed her last on Tuesday 19th April at 8.45 am with the wind of Tamileelam.
Thirty one long days!
The occupying army against which Annai Poopathi had fought – the Indian Army – left Tamileelam on 24.03.1990 with massive losses and immense humiliation. The quest for liberation and the sacrifice of an ordinary Tamil woman named Mrs. Poopathi Ganapathipilla became the pinnacle of nationalism. Many patriots have lived in Tamileelam before and after the martyrdom of Annai Poopathi.
They are still living today. Their patriotism, sacrifice and contribution is in no way less than anyone else’s! However, we think that it is appropriate that Annai Poopathi becomes a symbol of all the devotees of the country. Among all the patriots who have contributed to the liberation struggle of Tamileelam, the contribution of Tamil women is unique!
The price women have to pay for wars of aggression and violence against their own race is immense. They lost their husbands and their sons. They were also subjected to sexual violence by foreign forces. They too were murdered and died.
Apart from this, they took care of their families and continued to contribute to the freedom struggle of their country. The histories of struggle still bear witness to the fact that the role of women in a period of struggle is significant.
It has been women who have been feeding, sheltering and caring for the wounded. The contribution of Tamil women in the history of the freedom struggle of Tamileelam is one that can occupy a relatively noble place in the history of the world freedom struggle.
In this way, we should consider Annai Poopathi non-violent struggle as an expression of the anger and desire for freedom of all Tamileelam women and Tamils.
As we have already pointed out, facing the violence of the world’s fourth largest army, the Indian forces, the crises of the Sinhalese army and the atrocities of the Tamil gangs, Annai Poopathi carried out her non-violent struggle till death, which is the pinnacle of the determination of the liberation quest.
Annai Poopathi’s struggle as the first woman in the world to sacrifice her life by holding a hunger strike for the political liberation of a nation and against the occupying army, and as an ordinary family woman who gave up her personal life and carried out a hunger strike for her country, stands for many values.
She is not a freedom fighter!
As a freedom fighter, martyr Thiyaki Thileepan died by fasting without drinking a single drop of water. But the fact that a non-freedom fighter – a common woman – a householder – sacrificed herself not only for her people but also for her freedom fighters is a historical event!
Annai Poopathy´s sacrifice is a symbol of the sacrifice and dedication of the patriots who offered their life for the ideal of the freedom figthers who lay down their lives to save the people! In that sense, Annai Poopathy´s memorial day has been declared as “Patriot’s Day” by the Tamileelam National Leadership.
At a time when Annai Poopathy is known as the symbol of Tamileelam patriots, we believe it would be appropriate to put forward some ideas about the power of patriots. The patriots of a nation have been the bearers of the freedom struggle.
History shows that oppressive governments have continued to act in an attempt to crush the freedom struggle by killing patriots.
It was reported earlier that the US government had screened a war film for the US troops fighting in Iraq. If we take a closer look at this incident, we can observe many things that are not visible.1 This war movie is called “Battle of Algiers” This movie is not a new movie either!
I think this movie should have come out about forty years ago. What is the reason for the American government to screen a very old movie to its military in this modern age, when the military industry has achieved a lot of technological development?
There is a very important reason behind this. The war film “Battle of Algiers” (1956–57) depicts the struggle of the Algerian people against French occupation. Algeria was enslaved under the colonial rule of France for about one hundred and twenty-four years. Against this struggle for Algerian autonomy, France unleashed the most brutal massacres.
Algerian patriots were mercilessly massacred. They were also subjected to severe torture. The French army carried out all kinds of atrocities to demoralize the Algerian people and withdraw them from the struggle.
Yet the Algerian people continued to fight. They fought for their freedom with tears and suffering poverty. They faced big hardships and losses. The war lasted from 1954 to 1962. In the end, the struggle of the Algerian people won and France left.
But what is the need for the US government to screen a film depicting this struggle to US troops in Iraq?1 Because this war movie captures the deadly ways of suppressing a people’s struggle. The film depicts in detail how the French army used deadly methods to torture and kill the Algerian people – patriots – and demoralize them.1 The film shows how these deadly tactics of the French army were ineffective in crushing a protest that day.
This is what the US government has shown to US troops stationed in Iraq.1 The screening of this movie has proved a point once again. In other words, this incident proves that if a people’s uprising is to be suppressed, they must first crush the patriots who are supporting that struggle.
History shows that those who bear a liberation struggle are patriots. It is on the basis of these historical facts that we should understand the patriots of Tamileelam and their great work and sacrifice.
It must be mentioned here that sometimes the patriots faced dangers that the LTTE did not face. Fighters will shift according to field realities and battle patterns. But the patriots who are common people will continue to stay in their residence and fight against the occupation.
Even when they do not have the tools to resist the violence of occupation, they face the violence and absorb it. Because of that they will suffer death and destruction.
However, they will continue to endure the liberation struggle.
The Sri Lankan government has been trying to destroy and subdue the Tamileelam loyalists by using various strategies since then. But the liberation struggle of Tamileelam along with various liberation struggles has proved that the patriots’ desire for liberation cannot be destroyed.
Here we have to point out one more very important point.
Annai Poopathy´s non-violent hunger strike and martyr Thiyaki Thileepan´s non-violent hunger strike were protests for peace. We must also consider that the dominant powers do not care about peaceful non-violent struggles for peace and tranquility. Basically, India is a nation that has accepted Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and non-violent struggles! But Annai Poopathy and martyr Thiyaki Thileepan stand witness to the fact that even such an India throws away non-violence and peace when it comes to oppression. It is hypocritical for anyone to believe that the Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinist governments, which continue to be bloodthirsty and oppressive, will keep peace when India, which preaches non-violence, behaves this way.
It should be considered that the Sinhalese governments have been killing the patriots of Tamileelam since then.
We have discussed the reasons for that historically. The killings of the patriots of Tamileelam prove that “if the people want to suppress the uprising, they must crush the patriots who are supporting the struggle”.
Such great patriots and their symbol Annai Poopathy are great examples for common people like us.1 “Annai Poopathy´s crusade was a great form of national upheaval.” – Prabhakaran, the National Leader of Tamileelam.
Shanmugam Sabesan (18.04.2008 – Australia).