A writer who fought – and died – for Tamil Eelam (Book Review)

Title: War Journey – Diary of a Tamil Tiger; Author: Malaravan; Publisher: Penguin Books; Pages: 123; Price: Rs.250 (Paperback)

This is the English version of a war diary that a LTTE fighter, known by his nom de guerre Malaravan, maintained – and which was found by fellow guerrillas after his death in November 1992. This diary of combat – and emotions – is an important piece of historical record of a violent movement that got destroyed in the very nihilism it preached. Malaravan was from a family of writers, and so he wrote movingly of the ups and downs of an uncertain life.

Of course Malaravan (real name Vijinthan) firmly believed, like so many others, that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam would never get vanquished. “The enemy is stronger than us in numbers and weaponry,” he wrote. “Our strength is in our determination, belief in our goal, and our love for the land and our people.” In the final analysis, however, the LTTE’s zeal for Tamil Eelam got crushed by the superior arms and weapons the Sri Lankan state possessed.

In what was originally titled “Por Ulla” (War Journey), Malaravan faithfully records the stealthy preparations behind LTTE attacks, vivid descriptions of fighting, raw courage in the battlefield, agonizing deaths, hardships in war, frustration with Tamil civilians not on the same page vis-a-vis the Tamil Tigers, suicide attacks and more.

The book was originally written in Tamil in 1990, about a major battle in Sri Lanka’s north that year. It was the year the LTTE broke a truce with Colombo and went to war. The translation took place in 2007, by when the Norway-sponsored ceasefire was in tatters. Even then “I did not for a moment imagine that the society that created Malaravan would be destroyed”, says the translator, a Sri Lankan Tamil from New Zealand. It is this inability to see the LTTE’s demise that has left many Tamils today bitter and frustrated, and wondering what went wrong.

(02.07.2013 – M.R. Narayan Swamy, Executive Editor of IANS, is a Sri Lanka watcher. He can be reached on [email protected])

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