Our vehicles were moving on the Palaly road, my one time usual path in the school days, which link the Jaffna town and the Palaly Airport. German students were keenly gazing at the surroundings.
We were passing the junction where once thirteen Sri Lankan soldiers died in an LTTE ambush and the event thereafter erupted into terrible violence in the South of the Island where at least thousands of Tamils were massacred by the angry mob in 1983 and turned the ethnic crisis into one of international import. Sri Lanka also became one of the world’s severe examples where lack of political system to govern the different ethnic, religious, language groups harmoniously led to chaos.
The colonial forces that united different politico-cultural territories and people together failed to come out with a suitable political system when they left their colonies and left us with mess and chaos.
Our vehicles were moving near Kondavil, a sleepy village in the Peninsula where my family was there for more than a decade.
Once in the very beginning of the war in the early eighties, we some friends were talking under a large shady tree. When a jeep was turning at the junction some hundred meters away and coming towards us, the speed we showed out of panic to escape was a silent witness to the horror of the war and the terror under which we were living then.
In the middle of the war in the late eighties one day, we all were highly puzzled by the fast moving supersonic jets circling around over the Peninsula in the sky. We were wondering which country had entered the sky and was wondering whether it was India, China or the US. While we were in highly anxious speculation, we had seen number of cargo planes in the sky releasing parachute-aided cargo everywhere in the Peninsula. We realized in a while what was happening.
The Indian Government had sent the message to then Sri Lankan government to halt its operation in the Peninsula.
The military offensive had caused hundreds of civilian casualties in the Peninsula. India sent initially by sea the food and medicines but the Sri Lankan Government prevented it. This led to the so-called “Operation Garland” that we had seen over the Peninsula on June 4, 1987; the air-drop of 24 tons of relief supplies by five AN-32 Russian Antanov cargo planes escorted by four French Mirage 2000H Supersonic fighter Jets.
Later on Rajiv Gandhi, then Indian Prime Minister visited Sri Lanka and signed the Indo-Lanka Agreement on July 29, 1987 with then Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene. Immediately after the announcement of the Agreement through media, we had seen India’s superiority in the region by the flight of large Jets over the sky towards the Palaly Airport.
The LTTE leader was airlifted from India to the Jaffna Peninsula.
The Sri Lankan Army arrested LTTE senior members in the shallow seas of the Bay of Bengal. When they were forcibly taken to Colombo for investigation, they swallowed cyanide and died instantly.
In the Jaffna peninsula warring clouds started to loom once again. The LTTE blamed the Indian forces for their cadres’ death and started to attack the Indian troops. Indian troops also started to attack in a massive way. Diplomacy was at its lowest ebb.
The IPKF commenced its operations, code-named ‘Operation Pawan’ on the night of October 11, 1987 in the Peninsula against LTTE. The Indian Army started to advance towards LTTE-controlled Jaffna Fort from all directions from the Palay Airport and other areas.
Soviet infantry BMP-1 fighting vehicles and Soviet-designed main T-72 battle tanks were rolling over the Palaly Road which was heavily mined.
The LTTE used snipers from the buildings, treetops and even coconut palms equipped with powerful telescopic infrared sights causing heavy casualties to the IPKF.
The events were moving like a Hollywood action- thriller.
People were fleeing from the heart of the peninsula leaving the Palaly Road and other major roads to interior areas. My mother, brother and sisters fled to the nearest small Islands. I was left alone with my sick grandmother and the poultry, which I was rearing as a hobby and for my pocket expenses. While I was shifting the poultry after my grandmother the artillery shells were falling everywhere and blasting like thunder.
I had hardly seen people in the streets on my way. Even I couldn’t see the dogs in the streets. Broken branches of the trees caused by artillery shelling, littered the streets. The exploding shells were at times deafening my ears while I was riding on the pushbike and I thought I might have ended up in a disaster very soon. But nothing happened fortunately and I escaped from the shelling range. I managed to sell the poultry to a farm and joined with my grandmother.
The old events were just like yesterday rolling into mind when our vehicles were moving on the Palaly Road.