Three women who spoke during a group discussion: Tavamani, Vasantharani, and Sarada.
Tavamani: During the end of the war everyone was in the bunkers because there was so much shelling that we couldn’t come out. I heard children crying in the next bunker. Their mother had left and did not return, so the children were alone. When it was time for us to leave, I decided to take the abandoned children with me. The older girl saw a person she knew and went with him. I kept the young boy with me. We were with more than a hundred people, and we all had to cross the neck-deep water of the Nandikadal Lagoon to reach government-held territory. The air was full of bullets so for the last kilometer we had to crawl, and there were dead bodies along the way. As we crawled people were injured by shrapnel and bullets and we just had to leave the badly injured behind. I saw a bullet go through the head of a child and the mother just had to leave her child’s body and keep going. At times a shell blast killed many people. Most of the bodies we have seen are the bodies of children who died from bullets, shrapnel, or bodies of those that drowned in the water. I don’t even know what village this boy is from. He doesn’t play with other children and he talks about his mother leaving him in the bunker and going away.
Vasantharani (mother of five children): We were living in Matalan, and on that day in the morning there was heavy shelling and I was washing the pots and pans. When I finished washing I walked a few steps to pour out the water. My husband came out of the bunker and he was standing beside me and we were talking. A shell exploded. All the pots and pans that I had washed went everywhere. The pot I was holding in my hand had five holes in it. The fragments passed me and injured my husband. When I took my husband to the hospital he was bleeding profusely. An attack by a helicopter gunship had killed more than a hundred people, and hundreds more were wounded by that as well as other attacks.
When I reached the hospital with my wounded husband, they were not taking care of the severely injured people. They let those people who were badly wounded bleed more and die. They said he would not survive because shrapnel damaged his liver. But he was breathing. There wasn’t any medication.
When there was a rocket propelled grenade blast very close to the hospital, he went into shock and he died. The Army launched this shell to force people to come to their side. This was the 5th of April, 2009.
On the 20th of April the Army captured the place where we were staying. Thousands of people were running toward the Army and the LTTE was shooting at the people from behind. In front of me and behind me people were falling and dying from the firing. When my son was injured they just tied his arm with a sarong and sent him out first. The Army transported him to the hospital. He is beginning to be able to flex his arm.
Researcher: How old is this little boy?
Sarada (the boy’s mother): He was born in the Vanni three days before we had to cross into the army controlled area. There were sixty families from our village who crossed on that day, February 10, 2009.
There was heavy fighting and we were living in a bunker. I went to the makeshift hospital to give birth. Very soon after he was born I walked back to the bunker because there were so many people at the hospital who were severely wounded and dying. Three days later, we walked toward army-controlled area past many dead bodies and a terrible smell came from them. We walked several miles from the LTTE-controlled area to reach the army-controlled area, and from there, we walked miles through the jungle to reach buses. I carried my baby in a basket the whole way. When we reached Omanthai the army wasn’t ready for so many people so we had to sleep on the road. It was really cold and I had to keep my son warm during the cold nights. I was praying to God to save my family and for everyone to reach safety.
We don’t want the presence of guns around us anymore. We don’t want to see weapons.
The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.