The absurdity of war, mediated

CNN-IBN just happens to be on my television. This is what I see on the chyron, interspersed with the occasional story, mostly full of b-reel footage of the SLA and unending lines of shell-shocked families marching to an uncertain future.

Read between these lines below and you will see the war and its political context in India, stripped of all complexity and boiled down to its essential absurdity:

. . .

(Bold is a statement lifted from the screen, italic is reported speech or narration.)

. . .


SL govt: LTTE forcing minors to fight

SL govt: Not stopping operation against LTTE

The LTTE forcibly recruits Tamil children, and conscripts adults against their will. The children, like their young adult counterparts, receive anywhere from a few days to a few weeks of training and are put on the battlefront. They are now LTTE. Therefore, they can be killed.


US calls on LTTE to surrender to 3rd party

SL Foreign Secy: Won't support 3rd party intervention

Sri Lankan foreign secretary, Palitha Kohona, says the state is perfectly capable of handling the crisis on its own.

Assuming that low and mid-level cadres would surrender, the government makes it clear that there won't be a third party to surrender to, let alone to mediate or witness this "final war."

SL Depy Foreign Minister: No starvation deaths

The humanitarian crisis worsens

180,000 Tamils in temporary refugee camps

UN to send humanitarian team to no-fire zone

As the humanitarian crisis worsens by the day, the civilians are in desperate need of supplies. Food packets have not arrived since April 1st.

The state is "perfectly capable,"is it? Capable, it seems, of starving its citizens (lest those supplies reach the much dreaded LTTE), then denying it to prove a point... Dear Deputy Foreign Minister, telling the world that people are not dead, and therefore fed, is not the same as feeding them. Can't get food to your own citizens? So much for sovereignty. Maybe it's time to reconsider your stance on third-party monitoring and intervention.

"Next three days crucial," suggests CNN-IBN reporter, "on-the-ground" in Colombo (?!)

SL govt rejects India call for ceasefire

Lanka's foreign secretary denies reports of pressure for ceasefire, saying India supports the Sri Lankan government's war against LTTE.

According to nearly every major media outlet I've consulted, the Govt of India publicly calls for a ceasefire, again, and the GoSL not only says, "no dice," but denies it was even suggested in the first place? It might very well be true that the GoI supports the war against the LTTE, but this is a classic example of the Ministry of Misinformation at work

JAYA SEEKS EELAM: Jaya seeks Eelam for Lankan Tamils

Jaya does "an about face" and "stokes emotions" at an election rally in Erode, saying Tamil Eelam the only solution to the Lankan crisis:  "Under the leadership of my party, the AIADMK, we will establish a separate state of Tamil Eelam."

Cut to interview with Cho. Ramaswamy of Tughlak (Tamil magazine) who is "surprised" and evidently, not happy. What illusions did he harbour? We shouldn't be surprised; like all other Tamil Nadu leaders, Jayalalithaa's is a politics of convenience. One second, she says she does not support the Tigers, the next, she makes their platform her own.

And yet, this particular statement is remarkable in its timing. Tamil Eelam is a lost cause. Will the LTTE's loss be the ex-CM's gain?

Tamils protest in Paris, calling for an end to the war. The footage is all voiceover, the screen is filled with Tiger flags.

"Endgame for Prabhakaran" title, his disembodied head floating against a backsplash of red and yellow and marked by a target.

. . .

All this, amidst "Silly Points" election coverage with 'Mandira Lady,' IPL, and the news that Zaheer, a 10 year old boy from Lucknow, committed suicide after his impoverished family denied him Rs 5 to eat.

This is Sunday morning.

India and the world watches while Sri Lanka's war continues, Tamil civilians suffer, and Tamil Nadu politicians attempt to cash in.

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I sat through a debate today

I sat through a debate today about two different ways of approaching the Gaza invasion - the first called for sadness, 'balance' and an empahasis on peacebuilding; the second called for anger, investigations of Israel, 'justice', and a recognition of disproportionate force.  A comprehensive overall response probably has some elements from the first and more from the second on Israel.

I don't know yet about Sri Lanka.  I do know that if someone doesn't give me something positive to do sometime soon, I want to go mad...but I won't, because that's what the GoSL wants.  So please don't go mad - just be mad :)

Tamil defector claims Tigers

Tamil defector claims Tigers killed 200 civilians

A former spokesman for the Tamil Tigers who surrendered last week has accused the rebels of shooting dead at least 200 civilians, and forcibly recruiting children as young as 13.

Velayudam Dayanidi, better known as Daya Master, made the accusations in a video interview released today on the Defence Ministry's website ten days after surrendering with V.K. Pencharatnam, known as George, a former aide to the Tigers' late political chief.


released today on the

released today on the Defence Ministry's website

I'm not going to sit here and defend the LTTE, but I refuse to be a party to a propaganda war on either side any more than is necessary. I don't circulate videos of babies being killed, and I don't circulate information from the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry.  That phrase above is all I need to read to know how much weight I would put in this claim, which is itself a bit bizarre given the sheer number of people we're talking about (upwards of 100,000?).   As a result, I don't think comments like the one above are helpful except to exacerbate the polarization on this issue which itself is the biggest enemy of a clear understanding on the part of outside observers who are not invested one way or the other in the communal/nationalist conflict.  My two cents.

Dr A, understand where you're

Dr A, understand where you're coming from-- I agree that it is useless to post links to either the SL Defence Ministry, or various pro-LTTE propaganda sites without comment.

On the other hand, I just want to point out that sometimes people have reason to consult these websites. I know many Tamils (from Sri Lanka), living as refugees or in diaspora, who consult both. Yes, for some, they read what they want to believe, and "spy" on "the enemy." But for many, I think it's another version of a practice they were long used to back home, a practice of reading between the lines. Trusting neither, they hope that somewhere in between lies the truth.

I often find myself doing the same, but if anything, it's a path to nowhere for me. Instead of finding truth, I find wasted hours, dizziness, and a sudden need to lie down.

Well, I feel differently ( I

Well, I feel differently ( I am not the annoymous above).  I think those pictures of people being killed etc. are important footage to remind us of the ground realities.

Those of us who were exposed to images in Gaza will recall many of these pictures and I got them in my inbox with polite warnings of course on the fact that the images were disturbing.  The hundreds of children killed here and now in Sri Lanka, confirms the  absurdity (for want of a better term) of wars against "terror".  I will never forget an article by an Italian journalist who stayed in the war zone who called the hospitals "angel factories".  Out of approximately 1500 killed in Gaza, approx 700 were children.

We also remember the pictures of the prisoners in Abu ghraib.  Or the video footage of insurgents killed in the Fallujah mosque.

That iconic picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc when her home was struck with Napalm.  Those who have seen her interviewed as an adult would know of her work in raising awareness and helping innocent victims in war.

The reels of footage from the holocaust.

And even further back those stark realistic paintings by Goya that were a contrast to his usual restrained, gentile portraits.

I do find it offensive when footage by both parties are used in a triumphalist manner.  I have not myself seen photographs of corpses of soldiers displayed on official LTTE websties as proof of victory though it is possible they are out there.  I have seen corpses of LTTE cadres laid out and photographed like trophies on government websites which is quite bizarre.  No it is not anything to do with "white man's" values.  Just imagine if the Indian government displayed pictures on their official defence website of bodies of Kasmiri millitants who were killed.

On another topic, I did notice a discussion with a link to comments on an article by Rohini Hensman that I mentioned before is occuring here.

(Didn't expect to make so many comments sorry...probably should stop using "Anonymous" to avoid confusion)

correction *link to Indian


*link to Indian defence website:

*"genteel" not "gentile"

Sorry that was the wrong link

Sorry that was the wrong link agaaaain (though it is a very interesting site):

Indian armed forces:

And for the sake of comparison:

Pakistan Ministry of Defence:

Nepal Ministry of Defence: Not available

Bangladesh Ministry of Defence:

And finally:

The Sri Lankan ministry of defence News: (provides accounts of their conquests: eg.

And I think this looks like an official LTTE website: and this too is possibly an official website (direct link to accounts of their conquests) though they have not been updated.


Hi Anonymous, Sorry - I

Hi Anonymous,

Sorry - I should have had my thoughts more clear before i wrote.  It's hard to write about disturbing images and the prospect of seeing them without being disturbed at the idea but I do agree that sometimes we need to be disturbed.   However, because the tactic of spreading horrific videos designed to garner sympathy is very visceral, I feel a need to strongly believe that it's being down out of concern for the actual contents of the video rather than for another ideological purpose because it can be an extremely manipulative tactic if it is not done out of care, but rather for an idea besides humanity or peace or some such thing.


peace out :)

Yes, I got you :-) Just a

Yes, I got you :-)

Just a quick link to for those who want to understand how this affects the subcontinent:

The program was broadcast on the 15th of Feb 2009 in the Kashmiri broadcasting corporation Manchester studios.  The questions asked were extremely insightful and probably better than the answers.  This is one of the best programs I have seen for a long time:

Terror on Tamils

The sum up is prophetic.  I won't give it away.

The other day I read this article on the latest developments in Pakistan, from the guardian that sadly seemed to fulfill this prophecy:

Refugees on a wild frontier between army and Taliban

"Islamabad's war with its militants is destroying lives and dislocating communities, as civilians flee in rising numbers."....................

Todays reports indicate that the Pakistani government is expecting about 500 000 refugees.

Thanks for the link to the

Thanks for the link to the show, anonymous.  I actually watched the whole thing through - you should consider posting such things in the Tidbits section if you're interested and willing.  I have my criticisms which I will hold for now mostly, and found certain things extremely entertaining (e.g. asking the opinion of the guests on an untranslated interview they were shown), but at minimum it was really interesting to see a Kashmir-focused nationalist show hosting Tamil nationalists and hear talk of a different way of conceiving of South Asia.  Nationalists of the world unite?  Seems paradoxical except its not :)

Another thing that really struck me was the level of incoherence in the Tamil nationalist arguments over the course of the show, when taken together .  This is problematic on many levels, not least of which that there are spokespeople for Tamil nationalism that are able to exploit the blurred line between human rights activism (or whatever you want to call it) and Tamil nationalism that stems from the disproportionate power relationship in Sri Lanka.  Which undermines the human rights agenda and the credibility of statements one might make in support of it.  Things that need to be hashed out...

On a sidenote, I was hoping that Tariq Ali and Ayesha Siddiqa would magically appear at some point to talk about Pakistan as advertised in the little box thingy, but it didn't seem to happen...I guess it's another episode.

Dr. Anonymous.  I will

Dr. Anonymous.  I will comment in more depth later.  But just want to point out the series by the two Kashmiri presenters is not just about "Nationalism".  It looks at many issues including issues related to homelessness in the UK.  If you click through you will see different issues brought up by these two presenters on different programs.  I watched this one on the Tamil issue some time back and what i got from it was not just "nationalists" of the world unite.  I thought a statement by the presenters was made about people acrosss the subcontinent uniting against corruption and inequity in governence and creating something new in the region.

If I post up titbits, am I obligated to reply to comments?  Not sure I have the time or even the skill to be able to extend that courtesy to others, and I don't wish to offend.

Sure it's interesting and

Sure it's interesting and reading between the lines was something I was engaged in when the neocons and the realists started debating the merits of invading Iraq in 2002/2003 publicly in the American press.  It was disturbing.  But to recall where this conversation started - it was a link to an article on the Sri Lankan government's website which argued that a 'Tamil defector' was claiming that the LTTE was killing Tamils.  Now I'm pretty sure that most people familiar with the situation agree that the LTTE has killed noncombatants and Tamils and more broadly engaged in tactics that are offensive at best and morally criminal at worst.    However, what I was reacting against was the idea that we should take such a statement at all on a surface level - sure I can read between the lines and reject it as a source of information without even looking at it given the limited amount of time I spend reading about the situation in Sri Lanka, but of what benefit is it to circulate that link.

This is not meant as a personal criticism, Anonymous, and I hope you didn't take my crossness as directed at anonymous you personally :)  What i meant is what I said - that playing a party in a propaganda war between LTTE and the GoSL is part of a broader problen of not spending enough energy articulating that both of these 'sides' do not serve ordinary people - whether Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Burgher, or otherwise - and instead plays into the destructive war.  I would rather simply look at the mertis of what is being said and whether I believe it than have to constantly take into account that we are put in a position of both dismantling and dealing with a dominant narrative of 'Tamil'-'Sinhala' conflict without losing sight of the fact that currently disproportionate force is being used against people who are Tamil by a Sinhala-chauvinist government (and one might say polity) while at the same time attempting to build a different narrative that can bring ordinary people in who had spoken in the previous one to some extent and provide a third alternative for others.  This is the same problem as before, but it is in some ways simpler now because the LTTE has less power and therefore the task becomes a bit less complicated?

In this vein, I think it is not particularly useful to attempt to remind people by posting a link to the GoSL website which most people will either not kjnow what to make of or will believe or if they are Tamil nationalists will reject or as kettikili points out maybe read between the lines but still be sucked into that paralysing state.  I think it would be easier to simply say - that is complete bullshit, and I'm calling out the GoSL on it - without even looking at it.  If they want to propagandise me - the third party observer - then give me something more to work on - otherwise, I will continue to believe that at this point in time, they are the ones wiht a greater amount of power to remediate the situation.  For example, a statement that indicated why they believe it is necessary to 'finish' the war rather than to make peace that is both plausible and compelling and takes into account the history of the region and the struggle4 would be something i would read.  Hell, just letting the press into the zone would be a strong step in restoring a sense of credibility.  But short of those things, what do we gain from circulating information from a bad-faith actor that is more powerful than its adversary and shows no sign of any regret or willingness to halt?  if anything, they show the opposite on all fronts.

So, I will ignore things that are going to serve to paralyse me int he hopes of retaining some emotional energy to devote to other things, because these things have an opportunity cost, to put it in crass economic speak.

Sorry - I didn't mean to

Sorry - I didn't mean to offend!  I'm used to being very flip on the Internet, but you're totally right in calling me on it.  Many apologies.

I don't want to get too far into this, but I think the basic space that the presenters came from is Kashmiri nationalist.  At the same time, I agree that reducing them to caricatures would be unfair, as would denying that one can be both nationalist and interested in other forms of social justice rather than it being an either/or.

However, at the end of the day, I do have a difference with them - although I am interested in a different South Asia too and one that would probably grant greater autonomy to certain ethnic collectivities, I think their conception of a different South Asia in collective self-determination in the form of nations, something I don't wholly share.  It's a tolerable level of difference though, from what little I have seen of them.

On the tidbits and news- it's basically just an opportunity to do exactly what you did - just post items that you think are interesting for other people to see and fit broadly with the theme of the blog, which you can see in the About section.  There's no obligation to respond to comments etc etc etc.

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