(By: M.I.M. Mohideen)
Courtesy: The Island
Before the Ceasefire Agreement of 22nd February 2002
With the increased activities of the Tamil militants in the early part of 1985, the animosity and resentment of the Tamils towards the North East Muslims took a more acrimonious turn. Consequent to it, numerous incidents of extortions of money, robbing jewellry and other valuables at gun point, and threat to co-operate with the separatist movement took place.
The breaking point came when the Tamil terrorists tried, in the course of robbing a rich Muslim trader, to take his daughter as hostage in Akkaraipattu, a predominant Muslim Town, in the Ampara District. Angered by this, the Muslims registered their protest by a- peaceful hartal from 08th to 12th April 1985 and hoisted Sri Lanka National Flag in the bazaar, declaring solidarity of the Muslims with the government and their rejection of the division of the Country.
With this incident, the Tamil, Muslim ethnic violence swiftly spread to Kalmunai, Kattankudi, Eravur, Ottamawadi, Valaichenai, Muthur and Kinniya. Hundreds of Muslims were killed by the armed Tamil separatists and many billions of Rupees worth of properties belonging to both the Tamil and Muslims were burnt and destroyed. It is during the April 1985 riots, that the Tamil and Muslims fought each other as separate communities for the first time in the East.
About 26 Muslims were killed and another 200 were injured when the IPKF shelled Ottamawadi, a predominant Muslim Village in the Batticaloa District on 02nd December 1987. A Number of houses and shops belonging to Muslims were burned and destroyed. Some Muslims women were also reported to have been raped by the IPKF. About 14,000 Muslims became refugees and fled to the North - Central Province, Polonnaruwa.
Kattankudi, the home of nearly 60,000 Muslims, situated 4 miles down South of Batticaloa, was attacked by the armed Tamil separatists on 30th of December 1987. In this fierce attack, nearly 60 Muslims were killed and more than 200 were injured. Properties worth 200 Millions belonging to the Muslims were burned and destroyed by armed Tamil militants. All these happened in the presence of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces - IPKF. Although the attack lasted for two days, Kattankudi was under siege until the 8th of January 1988. During this period, all movements, in and out of the area were blocked by the armed Tamil militants while the IPKF was supposed to be in control of the area.
Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims by the LTTE
The Muslims from the Northern Province were forced to leave their homes in the third week of October 1990. The ultimatum in many places was that they should leave the region within 48 hours. Most Muslims refugees continue to live in abject conditions outside the North. Contrary to many other situations of displacement in the country, the majority of the displaced Muslims as a result of the ethnic cleansing by LTTE have not been able to go back to their places of birth in the North. At present, there are about 65,000 Muslim refugees living in the North-Western coastal region in the Puttalam district. The value of assets robbed by the LTTE during 1990 ethnic cleansing is more than Rs. 10,256 Million or US$ 110 Million. Houses damaged 11,110 Million. The lands forcibly occupied 30,400 Acres.
Nearly 63,000 acres of paddy lands belonging to Muslims of the Eastern province were forcibly taken over by the LTTE and agricultural produce confiscated. The lands that belonged to the displaced Muslims from the Northern Province continues to remain under the control of the LTTE. Besides, agricultural implements, motor vehicles and cattle were taken away by force by the LTTE. Under the law of property in force in the country, a land owner loses his or her right to possession if their property is occupied by usurpers for 10 years. It is now more than 21 years since Muslims in the North East have been forcefully displaced from their properties by the LTTE.
Economic Destabilization of Muslims in the North - East
A politico-military strategy of the LTTE has been to weaken the economic strength of the Muslim community. In order to realize this objective, the LTTE, as was the case with other Tamil militants, have targeted economic ventures and business places of the Muslims. Robbing of business goods and abduction of businessmen for ransom remain the common spectre in the North-East.
Denial of Fishing Rights
With the eviction of the Muslim community from the North East, a considerable section of the Muslim fisher-folk have been rendered unemployed. In areas such as Valaichenai, Ottamavadi, Eravur and other coastal areas in the East, boats and fishing gears were routinely robed by the LTTE. Many Muslim fishermen have also been killed while at sea by the sea tigers.
Non-respect for Religion and Culture
In many instances, in the North East, the cultural and religious symbols of the Muslim community have come under attack from the LTTE and other Tamil militant groups. The grenade attack on a mosque in Akkraipattu and massacre of Muslims at congregational prayer in Kattankudy and Eravur, as well as the cold-blooded murder of Hajj pilgrims returning in 1990 in Kaluwanchikudi, demonstrate the extent of intolerance shown by the LTTE and Tamil militants towards the religion and culture of the Muslims.
Summary of identified Muslim Civilians Killed by LTTE-Tamil Militants.
* 26 Muslims at Ottamawadi in December 1987
* 41 Muslims at Karaitheevu in November 1987
* 35 Muslims at Kinniya in April 1987
* 52 Muslims at Mutur in October 1987
* 21 Muslims at Sammanthurai Mosque in April 1989
* 67 Muslims at Valaichchenai from April 1985 to July 2002
* 67 Muslims at Kattankudy in December 1987
* 168 Muslims at Kattankudy in July 1990
* 147 Muslims at Kattankudy Mosque in August 1990
* 58 Muslims at Akkaraipattu in July 1990
* 14 Muslims at Kattankudy Mosque in July 1990
* 13 Muslims in November 1989
* 19 Muslims at Alimnagar in August 1990
* 126 Muslims at Eravur in August 1990
* 53 Muslims at Ambalanthurai in August 1990
* 23 Muslims at Sainthamaruthu in September 1992
* 15 Muslims at Addalachchena in May 1990
* 37 Muslims at Pallitthidal, Akbarpuram in October 1992
* 200 Muslims at Kalmuna, Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil in June 1990
* 33 Muslim farmers at Ampara in August 1990
* 186 Muslims in June 1990
* 147 Muslims at Alingippottanai in April 1992
* 30 Muslims at Pottuvil in June 1991
After the Ceasefire Agreement of 22nd February 2002
On Friday the 28th June, 2002; Valaichena Pradeshiya Sabha Office was set on fire and destroyed. In the grenade attack on Muslims returning from Friday "Jummah" prayers, 7 were injured - 2 critically. Additional troops and Special Task Forces were airlifted. The Batticaloa and Ampara Districts were placed under curfew.
On Sunday the 30th June 2002, two bodies were found by the police in Kalmadu Village in Valichena. They were the two Muslim cooks who went to the house of a Tamil in Valichchnai, on Wednesday the 26th June, to prepare the wedding meals. The LTTE cadres have abducted the two Muslims killed and threw them in a paddy field. The father and few members of their family went to identify the bodies. After the post-mortem, the police loaded the dead in a tractor trailer to be taken for the burial according to Muslim rites. But the LTTE cadres with arms objected to the removal of the bodies and insisted the burning of them at the site. The Army Major Hettiarachi contacted the Head Quarters and he was given the orders from Colombo to leave the bodies and avoid any confrontation with the LTTE. Then the LTTE cadres put the bodies on a heap of tyres and burned them in front of the Army and Police and. destroyed all evidence of the horrendous human rights violation of the LTTE during cease fire.
Soon after the ceasefire agreement, the Muslims went back and started paddy cultivation in their fields in Kurangupanchan, Kinniya. They renovated the Mosque as decided at a meeting held on 11.06.2003. LTTE chased the Muslims families resettled here and put up their military camp in the Mosque building.
LTTE War Crimes against the Muslims
When the LTTE closed the Mavillaru anicut the government and the Army never understood their true intention in order to capture Muthur. They strengthened the safety of the Mavillaru area neglecting the security of Muthur. The government removed around 400 security personnel who were deployed in Muthur and posted them in the Mavilaru area and this had made Muthur more vulnerable to LTTE attacks.
The LTTE carefully observed the situation and entered Muthur on 02nd of August 2006 without any resistance from the security forces. They disconnected the electricity. The Muslims without any protection were caught unaware. They vacated their homes and went into the mosques and Arabic College hoping that they will not be attacked in those places. However what happened was something else. The LTTE used the Muslims as human shields when the army attacked them. The Muslims got caught in the crossfire.
Since Muthur was totally surrounded by LTTE, the town could not function normally. Business came to a stop. People did not have means to acquire their daily food, children suffered without milk, patience both from the hospital and the casualties suffered without treatment. The Muslims had to struggle for their mere survival.
The Muslims while running for their lives with white flags were attacked by the LTTE on the way. The women and elderly were tortured and the youngsters were separated and murdered. LTTE has been trying various methods, first it was the Interim Administration in the North East, then the Sub-committee on De-escalation and Normalization (SDN) and later the Sub-committee on Important Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs (SIHRN). The primary object of all these arrangements was to transfer the powers vested with the Centre to North East or rather to LTTE with international recognition. By this Process the LTTE was trying to get legitimacy and international support for its role as the sole representative of the North-East - the area of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking peoples - Tamils and Muslims.