In the Shadow of a Sharp-Edged Sword
Mangayarkarasi Amirthalingam had been an inspiration to several Tamil women political activists in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Popularly known as Mangai Akka, Mrs. Amirthalingam had even been the only woman political activist to be detained along with scores of Tamil politicians including her husband Amirthalingam at Panagoda Military Camp for instigating a civil disobedience movement in 1961.
However, with the beginning of the Tamil militancy in the early eighties, hundreds of young Tamil girls from the North and the East joined the Tamil militant outfits as gun totting cadres along with their male counterparts engaging in clashes against the Security Forces.
The LTTE launched its women wing naming it as Suthanthira Paravaikal (Independent Birds) in December 1984. Since the inception of the women's wing, hundreds of women cadres took part in several clashes not only with the Lankan Security Forces but they even fought against the Indian troops of the IPKF.
So, the autobiography of the LTTE's late women political wing leader Thamilini was released last Saturday (19) by her husband M. Jeyakumaran in the presence of nearly three hundred ex-LTTE cadres. Most of them were contemporaries of Thamilini in the outfit and also fellow inmates with her at the rehabilitation centre in Poonthottam in Vavuniya where the LTTE cadres who were netted by the Security Forces at the end of the final phase of the war were detained.
Handpicked by LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran and his theoretician Dr. Anton Balasingham, Thamilini played a supportive role to LTTE's Political Wing Leader S. Thamilselvan as the women's wing leader.
Thamilini was even included in the LTTE's delegation to take part in the peace process initiated by Norway in 2002.
Thamilini joined the outfit as a teenager in 1990.Being versatile in her political activities she was an articulate speaker and even remained as a woman activist within the outfit voicing the equality of women.
Groomed in the outfit by LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham's Australia-born wife Adele Balasingham who was affectionately called by the LTTE cadres as Aunty Adele, Thamilini according to her husband Jeyakumaran, was meticulous in her activities and she remained committed to whatever task she was assigned with.
Adele Balasingham being part and parcel of the LTTE along with her husband wrote her book on the outfit and it was published in 2001 titled The Will to Freedom: An Inside View of Tamil Resistance.
The latest book which was released last week by another high profile LTTE cadre Thamilini titled In the Shadow of a Sharp-Edged Sword is entirely an autobiography of the ex-women wing leader of the outfit who had penned her memoirs, which had highlighted her burning desire for peace with dignity.
Thamilini's book of 268 pages which contains rare pictures, has also clearly highlighted several inside details which had led to the downfall of the outfit.
Penning her memories Thamilini had written that when the Security Forces were encircling Kilinochchi in 2009, some of the senior cadres had even advised the LTTE hierarchy to give up the fight. However, Prabhakaran was adamant and continued with the struggle to see the total annihilation of the outfit.
According to Thamilini at the later stages of the war LTTE Leader Prabhakaran had made his son Charles Anthony to lead the operations against the Security Forces sidelining several senior commanders of the outfit who were with Prabhakaran even very much before Charles Anthony was born.
Mentioning about her first interaction with the Sinhala people in the South she has written that along with other cadres she was taken on an excursion to various places in the South during the rehabilitation period.
According to Thamilini, for the first time, she had witnessed the hospitality of the Sinhala people when she was taken to a village down South along with other cadres where the innocent villagers had given them a warm welcome and she was in tears to experience the manner she was treated along with other cadres by the villagers.
Thamilini claimed that as any energetic teenager she had also joined the LTTE at the age of 19 and later on with her responsibilities as a political wing leader she realized that the war was not going to take the Tamils anywhere and dedicated herself to strengthening the political process.
Closely interacting with several foreign dignitaries when she toured along with the LTTE delegation during the period of peace process facilitated by Norway, Thamilini was among several senior cadres of the LTTE who had remained helpless despite their burning desire to bring an end to the North and the East war through political means.
In the Shadow of a Sharp Edged-Sword, the autobiography written in Tamil by Thamilini at the latter stages of her life highlights the megalomaniacal attitude of the LTTE under the guise of a freedom struggle and the opportunities lost by the outfit in reaching a durable political settlement to the Tamil question with dignity.
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