Mullaitivu reaps peace dividends

The clear blue water is constantly disturbed by different flocks of birds that prey on fish. The location has become the latest destination of migrant birds as it has an abundance of fresh water fish. With no rain in sight, the fertile soil has turned rough. The gravel road which snails around the lagoon gets fresh layers of soil under the road expansion project which is being carried out.

With the clearance of the deadly anti-personnel mines, the lagoon has become a fine fishing spot. The blooming white and pink lotus seem to be dancing with the bright rays of the sun.

This is the infamous Nanthikadal lagoon. It sends a chill down one s spine as its murky waters was a silent witness to the LTTE s terror during the final battle in May 2009.

Today, the serene environs of the lagoon calms one s mind, but fails to calm the minds of 24-year-old Dayani and 36-year-old Jegadas.

For them, it is a place which would hold harrowing memories throughout their lives. It was in this blue water that their three-month-old baby girl disappeared. Three years ago…., Dayani couldn’t utter any more. She started crying. Yes… three years ago just like Dayani, almost all families in the area experienced the most horrific moments of their lives. Displaced several times and herded by LTTE terrorists, over 300,000 people begged for their lives, which was held at gunpoint. Boxed into a small patch of land at Puthumathalan, which is located in the middle of the sea and the lagoon, these people were used as hostages and those who defied the terrorists orders to flee had kissed the earth.

We tried to flee several times and abandoned the idea as the LTTE threatened to kill us if we tried to cross the lagoon. Several people were shot dead when they openly criticised the LTTE and crossed the lagoon without heeding their orders, Jegadas recalled the final days of their journey back to life three years ago.

The couple said it was a miracle how all of them, over 300,000 civilians, were alive today when they recall their journey from place to place herded by the terrorists who kept them as hostages, while the Government humanitarian operation was intensifying.

Harrowing experiences

Our children were crying in hunger with no place for shelter, the small ones were virtually dying with no water and in the unbearable heat. The LTTE, still kindling hopes of Eelam (a separate land for Tamils) were attacking the military with their heavy weapons installed among us. Finally, we a group of about a thousand people decided to escape by crossing the Nanthikadal lagoon , he explained the harrowing walk through rains of bullets and scores of warnings by the LTTE, to meet the saviours at the other end of the lagoon.

The couple is alive today, but their story ended with a life-long scar. The beautiful Nanthikadal lagoon reminds them how their tiny tot disappeared in the murky waters on that fateful day while the couple was swimming with their two daughters who were kept afloat on a tyre.

The LTTE started shooting us and we lost control of the tyre on which we were carrying the two girls. My baby dropped into the water. Jegadas saved the eldest but couldn t grab the small one and we saw her body disappear in the water. The LTTE shot at us and we ran, leaving our baby, to save the elder daughter who was almost dying of hunger , Dayani said she still felt the warmth of the three-month-old baby.

Three years after the deadly saga came to a close the couple has started their life with courage, to provide a better future for their daughter, who attends pre-school from last year.

The amazing fact about the people of Mullaitivu is their resistance to hardships, despite facing the worst incidents in their lives. Like Dayani and Jegadas, who lost all hopes for a better future, they are all brimming with hopes for life.

Jedadas had fallen prey to the LTTE as his brother, who had also been snatched by the LTTE, had abandoned the outfit. While Jegadas was returning home with a milk packet for the newly-born, he was taken to an LTTE training camp in Vellimullivaiikal, but was able to flee from the LTTE on the sixth day of his training. Since then, until they crossed the Nanthikadal, he lived in a bunker while Dayani took care of the two children and their old parents in a makeshift hut.............

By Shanika Sriyananda

(Courtesy - Sunday Observer)