BENGALURU: Firebrand Sri Lankan MP Ananthy Sasitharan stood quietly in a corner, bearing a placard, at the XVI Biennial Gathering of the Women in Black, which took place in Bengaluru on Wednesday evening.
Ananthy, who is a member of the Northern Provincial Council, Jaffna District, Sri Lanka, is also the wife of Velayutham Sasitharan (alias Elilan), the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's political head for Trincomalee.
Full of steely determination to help the massive number of women-led families in Sri Lanka, she talked about the government's plans to decimate the Tamils living there, whom, she says, are subjected to racism on a daily basis. âDuring the war, they threw poisoned hand grenades at us and cut off our supplies of food and medicine,â she told Deccan Chronicle. âThe war ended six years ago, but there are no rights for Tamils.â
Their land, she said, has been reclaimed by the government. âYoung women are forced to undergo tubectomies so that they cannot bear children. They are trying to systematically wipe out the Tamils living in Sri Lanka.â
The aim of attending the Women in Black conference, said Mithila Sri Padmanabhan, Sasitharan's companion, is to start an organisation as strong as Vimochana that will work with women whose husbands lost their lives in the war. Iraqi professor and activist Eman Khammas left Iraq, her homeland, nearly a decade ago, after being severely threatened by the militia.
âDuring the US-led occupation of Iraq, we started a group called the Occupation Watch, which looked into political, economic, legislative and human rights violations,â she said. âWe would write about the violations and the sectarian government the US had set up in Iraq.
Soon, I was being threatened by the militia and I had to leave, for the sake of my family. We left everything behind and I dream of going back,â she said.
Kerstin, an activist of Swedish-origin, who has lived in Israel for 40 years, talks casually about âbeing interrogated by the Secret Policeâ and being âarrested several times.â Putting into perspective for peacetime nations, a world where arrests and interrogations are a point of pride, she said, âWe are a Jewish group working towards facilitating the return of Palestinian refugees,â she said. âItâs a very controversial subject â in Israel, we are not even allowed to talk about the events of 1948, but we have, over the years, made a difference.â
The Women in Black vigil, which had survivors and activists from war-torn nations all over the country, was an hour of hope and celebration. Participants stepped out onto the street when the traffic signals turned red, holding up their placards. The vigil was spearheaded in Bengaluru by city-based womensâ rights organisation, Vimochana.
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