A Voice from the East
Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is not merely the ceasefire and negotiated solutions of the warring parties. Peace has to come from the earth, bottom up from the masses. People need to and want to come out, congregate, mourn for the past and affirm the peace. The people have suffered and they want to rise up against the state and the various military forces that have oppressed them; to cynically exploit these sentiments to further the agenda of a particular organization is to only augment the injury -- an organization that has itself been one of the principle actors in a brutal war. Peace processes are fragile and have to be born out of the experiences of the masses, genuinely renouncing war for a just and better society. In the past, Sri Lanka has seen three opportunities for peace manipulated and thrown away. Fresh hopes have been raised among a war-weary people with a new round of talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE. However, there are also concerns that the LTTE is using the cover of a fragile peace to commit atrocities with impunity.
"Pongu Thamil" are massive meetings orchestrated by the LTTE and forced on the people under the guise of mass uprisings. The slogans and demands raised at these meetings are those of the LTTE and not necessarily of the people. A young woman living in the East of Sri Lanka sent the following poem. For safety reasons her identity is not given.
A voice from the East
Here in the East there is a feeling of fear all around me
People bowing to things because of fear;
People doing things saying things because of fear
Losing their ability to decide,
No longer do they chose to act
They act out of fear...
Voicing protest in the safety of their homes
That too in muted tones
Lest someone hears.
Their fear transforming to be my fear?
Those who were with me falling in line
Being left alone, isolated,
The wave so powerful
That I can't seem to stop any from joining in.
I have no influence, no power
In this overwhelming wave
I am trying hard to be me
Trying not to bow to what most say
I cry out for support
To come to terms with my feelings
Acquiescing, adjusting, justifying,
Now this is our reality; so do the best in it.
Travel along this road and soon......
Their thoughts will be my thoughts
No independent thought
Living to survive the day.
Pongu Thamil an uprising!
Seeing all those people
Can I ask each of them "what brought you here?"
Being part of such a massive crowd
Does it make you feel the futility of struggling against the tide you have stepped into?
I know it is easier to merge with them.
They speak my language, they are part of my culture
Not an alien culture hostile to me and so I am ready to celebrate,
I am one of them.
I even forget what I need to stand up for.
I looked around for at least one face, one person
That may cry "foul"!
Nobody did, nobody dared.
A mass of humanity without a heart
Poetry without the poet
Story without its author.