Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War

The “Secret” Stories of the Long War in Sri Lanka

The civil war in Sri Lanka can be termed as a war that was a defiant display of patriotism’s victory over terrorism and people who aren’t very much concerned with the state of their country. It’s a troubling idea to imagine that the war lasted 26 years and that many people in Sri Lanka bear permanent scars over it – it’s tough for children of conflict to accept war brutality and that is an attitude to be proud of because they have had to live through so much violence.

As India’s neighbour, the military offensives in Sri Lanka remained a public concern for the Indian government throughout the course of the war because the state is in constant turmoil for it. India’s involvement in the war had a two-pronged approach for the leaders who orchestrated it:

  1. demonstrate that India is indeed the mightiest country in the Indian subcontinent
  2. aid with regional security and support peacekeeping efforts in Sri Lanka, as the much more developed state

This book is a raw account of the civil war: what lay as the catalyst for the horrors of the war in Sri Lanka were numerous years of feuds between the terrorist organization, LTTE (also known as the Tamil Tigers) and the government. The atmosphere turned bloody, as ordinary Sri Lankans were used as human shields for defence purposes, shockingly, and most of the world turned a blind eye to the conflict or the country as it lies today.

The guerillas were barbaric towards the civilians: in the middle of a crossfire many schoolchildren, farmers and fishermen amongst others were pointlessly trapped and living in a lot of fear throughout the enormously long war. The government’s handling of the media was infiltrated so that most in the world worth informing lay in the cold dark about the deeper details of the war in Sri Lanka. Forming a part of ongoing war-crimes investigations at the UN, imagine the diplomatic catastrophes the war was responsible for.

This book brings you closer to that picture of war-crimes and it might be too startling and gruesome (and new) for many but that is what the harsh reality of the civil war in Sri Lanka has been. The book helps readers to sober up towards the atrocities and talk about the finer details of the Sri Lankan war. What I enjoyed most were the relatable tales of suffering from locals in Sri Lanka: many people treat the dead here for the war as a statistic but I believe that when the war is more glorious than the black hole that is the Syrian war, people will come up with all kinds of nonsense.

It is a documented fact that more civilians were killed in the manner of a few months leading up to the end of the war in 2009, than what had happened during a few years of the war in Syria. While it may be devastating to see buildings being reduced to rubble in Syria, it’s so much worse to imagine that the guerillas would trap so many thousands on a silver sand territory of NE Sri Lanka and kill all in the end.

These kinds of stories are not rare in the book: you have hopes of kind comments dropping in unannounced from leaders, wished for by people who actually know of the war (or have worked in Sri Lanka), you hear of cowardice in the middle of it and the emotional trauma that the victims must have had to live through for many years, singularly for all of that, and very interestingly, there is also a bold smattering number of “public firsts in stories” by people who witnessed (and live terrorised) from the Sri Lankan war.



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