Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I remember Rajani...


Photo credit : Kevin Lemoine

September 21st marked the 20th year of the assassination of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama.

An academic, idealist, feminist, human rights activist and a deeply compassionate human being, she was brutally assassinated as she cycled home to her two daughters. Her killers cynically waited until the last Anatomy examination was held before punping bullets into her head - a defenceless woman, travelling alone. She was only 35 years old.

Indoctrinated to the LTTE ideology by her sister, Rajani cared for the war wounded and campaigned for support both in the UK and in Sri Lanka. An academic to the core, she continued to publish scientific papers, completed her post graduate studies and was appointed as the head of the department of Anatomy at the Jaffna Medical Faculty.

Atrocities in the name of "truth" "freedom" and "social justice", which were merely used as screens for political and personal gain, caused her to rethink her position. She felt there was something fundamentally wrong in a political group that not only had no room for dissent, but also did not allow the dissenters to leave. She rejected the narrow and totalitarian ideology to stand up for what she believed.

Rajani stood up aginst the insane adherence to the gun... she abhorred actions that were cowardly, destructive and unjust. Creating a "space for truth" she co-founded the University Teachers for Human Rights that documented and publicized human rights violations by all parties involved - the LTTE, the IPKF and the state of Sri Lanka. She went on to say "a life is a life... we wanted to show, in the first place, we valued life".

The Broken Palmyrah, a book co-authored with three other academics, describes many mind numbing events - among them the devastation of the Jaffna University, the despicable invasion of the Jaffna hospital, with mindless lobbing of grenades that killed scores of patients and healthcare workers. It provides a brilliant political analysis of the background and early days of a struggle that turned into militancy. It was the writing and impending publication of this book that was the stamp of finality on her death warrant.

Although intially there was doubt as to who her killers were, it was later proven to be the LTTE, who, as usual, claimed no responsibility. The meticulous planning and timing of the assassination was almost a hallmark of their proven brutality. And brutal to the very end, they showed no mercy to the woman who had tended to their injured with such compassion.

And so, on a lonely stretch of road leading away from the Jaffna University, Rajani died. Two children lost their mother. A husband lost his wife. Sri Lanka lost a bright spirit that embodied brilliance, compassion and a deep sense of justice.

When I remember Rajani, I remember the countless others, unnamed, unknown who died pointless deaths for similar reasons. I remember the values she promoted, in precept and in practice.
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14 comments:

surani said...

May she rest in peace...

Scrumpulicious said...

We can only hope that the future doesn't hold these kind of events... :(

Jack Point said...

Very nice post.

N said...

Check out this link for an amazing post written by her husband. Like JP said...very nice post.

santhoshi said...

Great post angel!

santhoshi said...

Great post angel!

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how you beat around the bush and never say that the LTTE killed her.

LTTE even managed to ensure that her entire family had to live "underground". The family suffered numerous hardships. It helps the victim and their closest if you can clearly identify the murderers.

Angel said...

Annon: you are quite right and that was rather waffly of me. I have added an extra paragraph, the bush has been thrashed across the midde! :)

Surani, Scrumpy : amen to those thoughts!

JP, , Santhoshi : thanks

Knatolee said...

What a tragic story, and such a loss to your country!

Dee said...

i;d like to read that book

Jack Point said...

There was a memorial lecture that was pretty good. Am trying to see if someone has posted it anywhere online.

Angel said...

N : thanks for the link

Knotolee : It is a great loss indeed...

Dee : the book can be downloaded at the UTHR website... someone mentioned it was out of print, but I'm not sure...

JP : I too heard that it was good (was unable to attend) but the orgnisers were accused more or less of what I wasaccused by Annon. above - not stateing clearly who her killers were perhaps for the fear of raising an unknown goul frought with issues! Let me know if you find it...

Anonymous said...

I remember everyone around me talking about her death, I was nine at that time...and lived in Jaffna...
Remembered one of her daughters being in the same class as me....even though it's been 20 years...its in my mind like it happened only yesterday...

VA

Angel said...

Annon (VA) : thanks so much for dropping by and for your comment. My heart goes out to Rajani's family and all those who experienced those troubled and frightening times...