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 Post subject: Violent death key to Tamil Tiger struggle
 Post Posted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:09 am 
Violent death key to Tamil Tiger struggle

@ LBO / 05 July 2006

KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka, July 5, 2006 (AFP) - A tangle of fairy lights -- reds, blues and greens -- blink merrily around the photos of stern-faced Tamil Tiger cadre, staring grimly out into the world.

These are the Tigers' "martyrs", young men and women, some of whom have blown themselves up, starved to death in protest or otherwise died in the struggle for a Tamil homeland.

The same faces can be seen in offices all over town, or on posters pasted to sign posts and shop walls in this rebel-held town in northern Sri Lanka; a chilling reminder that violent death is a cornerstone of the Tiger mythology.

A few kilometers outside of town Kilinochchi's Kanagapuram Martyrs's Cemetery emerges out of the dusty scrubland -- a well-tended memorial to Tiger dead with almost 2,000 uniform stone grave markers lined up in precise rows.

"They should be honoured, and this encourages others to join the military struggle," Srirajakumar Kanagalingam, an English teacher in a nearby village, says of the dead.

"It encourages people to sacrifice their lives for the motherland," he says.

Since 1987, 261 "Black Tigers" have blown themselves, and many others, apart in suicide bombings -- a practice that the Tigers proudly say they pioneered.

Thousands of others have died equally hard deaths in Sri Lanka's separatist struggle -- 18,000 of whom are buried in similar heroes' graveyards around the island's north, Kanagalingam says.

"We always keep with us the memory of these people. This (memorial) is information to carry on the to next generation -- it is a kind of chronology, a history of the struggle. It is giving honour and respect to our martyrs," he says.

Acts of vandalism against martyrs' cemeteries allegedly committed by Sri Lankan soldiers are near daily fodder for pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) websites and seem almost to elicit more outrage than violence against the living.

But this almost total devotion to its fallen fighters has played a significant role in making the Tigers the uncompromising military force it is today.

"Those people who contributed to defending the Tamil nation, who paid the supreme price ... they are being venerated and look towards for inspiration," LTTE political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan told AFP in an interview earlier this week.

"Every fighter wishes to become a 'Black Tiger' because it is a way he can achieve maximum results," he said.

But most, like Bavi Chandran, are not so lucky. The 19 year-old Tiger fighter died an ordinary death -- blown apart by a government Claymore mine -- and was the most recent person buried in Kanagapuram, says Kanesh Koneshwary.

The 38-year-old woman is one of the five permanent caretakers here, sitting in a pavilion near the cemetery grounds under the photographic gaze of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and half a dozen "martyrs" whom he sent to their deaths.

As the body count rises amid increasing daily violence and Sri Lanka again veers dangerously close to war, teacher Kanagalingam is asked if he thinks the 100-acre (41 hectare) cemetery will eventually be covered over with graves.

"The sad thing is, this probably will be filled," he says.

- by Seth Meixner

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