CONFLICT – CIVILIAN PERSPECTIVE

Posted on November 15, 2008



 

There are two armed sides to the current conflict (escalated now to a full fledged war). Both are armed enough to inflict death of significant magnitude.

 

They live in fortresses, barriers built around them for protection, mines laid in the vicinity to get any trespassers and guns ready to go off with a simple order. They have bullet proof vests and body guards to protect. When they travel between fortresses they have escorts, they have fleets of vehicles and they have the right to speed and a force ready and empowered to close all the roads around. Armed centers of both sides have these luxuries to varying degree.

 

Civilians in both sides, on the other hand, have none of those luxuries.

 

When one side is unable to penetrate the defense lines of the other, they take civilians of other side as target; at least this is what both sides complain against the other. If this is not the case, they at least show their insensitiveness to the civilian deaths of the other side, in their efforts of suppressing the other side.

 

When Sinhala civilians are killed the South complains that NGO, peaceniks or International Community do not condemn. Even when these forces condemn such aristocracies, South often complains sound was not loud as was in the case of North.

 

When Tamil civilians are killed it is often said that the Sinhala media and public keeps a blind eye to the killings. Even when at least some papers in the South publishes about these North simply ignore that there are such publications (pointing out the circulation is limited to be taken seriously).

 

When there is carnage in the South, pro-South groups laments but when the same thing happens in the North they become numb. Reverse is equally true.

 

When a child dies in a bomb blast in the South, it is considered as a brutal act of LTTE by the patriotic forces of the South while same is considered a mishap in the road to the noble purpose by the LTTE and North. When air raids kill children in North, the South simply ignores or consider as a necessary evil in the war against terrorism while North creates a huge cry writing to International watchdogs about the irresponsible act of an elected government.

 

Both sides tell that other side is insensitive to the civilian deaths in their side of the fence but they (those who complain so) are equally insensitive to such happening in the other side.

 

Civilian death is loss to the family but the armed factions take it as a golden opportunity given by god for a political mileage. Banners appear, articles written, speeches made to prove their point of view.

 

By and large both sides are equal in terms of their complaints, their actions, their non-actions, their behavior, their statements and arguments with regards to the civilians in both sides of the camp.

 

In the mean time both sides request the civilians for more and more sacrifices, more and more patience and more and more patronage while they deliver the final victory (the emancipation of the country from the grips of LTTE and emancipation of the homeland from the grips of Sinhala rulers).

 

You can argue on either side (there are enough facts for both sides) to claim that you are completely right and other party is totally wrong. One might think (from either side of the fence) why not tolerate the last bit too, having come this far.

 

But what is increasingly evident is that final victory is going to be (if there is one) extremely costly as far as civilians (from both sides of the fence) are concerned.

 

It is not only in terms of lives, limbs and their beloved ones they might have to sacrifice in the process, but also in other forms. Those include food and other essentials (higher cost of living), their pay packets, trade union rights and even livelihoods. Those also include freedom of expression (Sri Lanka lately was adjudged the third deadliest country in the world and LTTE also had already been adjudged the deadliest of all terrorists), political rights and even freedom of movement (in both territories the road closures are common).

 

The war had been here for almost 25 years now. There had been many last assaults. This time it is going to be the “the last assault”, we are told in the South.  In the North it is said that the LTTE will never again believe in South (they never would have had) and that there is no other way than fighting to the end.

 

How long it will take to the final victory (that is spoken off by both sides in such enthusiastic form) is not known. But until such, civilians of both sides have to suffer.

 

There is only one way to make the suffering short it is told. Join the forces. Step out of the civilian frame. Be a partner in the war. Sure road to victory lies through the valleys of death. “There is no alternative”, it is being increasingly told.

 

The middle of the road is ridiculed and sent to gallows, by both sides. You either are on our side or the side of the opponent. There cannot be a middle ground, we are told.

 

Civilians of both sides are taking up this message with mixed sentiments right now. But we are told to ignore the negative sentiments. When war drums are played, war carnivals are in the air, war songs are sung, there is a sense of victory that is spread even awakening most weak elements in the community.

 

The primitive tribes met like this in ancient times to fight things out.

 

One striking difference was they did not have a language to negotiate. The only way was force. The other was they did not have third parties willing to mediate (interfere in the internal affairs of the two tribes). Now we have both. But still we are ready to repeat history in its most primitive form.

 

There is also a third difference that probably explains why we want to do it. In those days all, followers and leaders alike were equally exposed to the war unlike now. There was no separate military and every one has to do a bit of fighting. Hence the consequences of any trial were equally shared. Not any more.

 

Now we have a division of protected and unprotected (within that too exposed directly –security forces and indirectly- civilians). Unfortunately who takes decisions is protected and they need not face consequences as others.

 

Civilians, even those who like other modes of conflict resolution from both sides, have to face the consequences of the escalating war. Bullets and bombs don’t differentiate.

 

The lucky, are the ones who have the option of leaving this theatre of war. There are some, having left the theatre, still like to enjoy it at a distant, catering the theatre with fuel and power. More rallies are held in support of both sides in Metropolis of the world than in Sri Lanka. At times you see them playing the drums louder than any one inside the theatre.

 

Others have to pray and wait until sanity prevails. It is going to be a long night before the sun could rise. No body is sure when it will happen. One thing is sure when it happens many of us would be too, tired to see it (if not already dead and gone); gone through terrible nightmares.

 

Nightmares could be thrilling to some but not that sweet to all. Many opt to sleep through, irrespective of what they see (nightmares or sweet dreams), as it is still dark all around.

 

We could wish each other, sweet dreams until a nightmare strikes; hope not. It is probably the only way to stay calm in a hopeless situation.

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