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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

HOSPITAL MASSACRE  BY INDIAN ARMY
ON DEEPAVALI DAY, OCTOBER 1987
[See also Rajiv Gandhi's War Crimes]

An eyewitness account ...21 October 1987
From the Broken Palmyra
V. Thangavelu Canada, 27 February 2001 
Jaffna medical staff massacred by IPKF remembered - 2003
17th  Anniversary of  IPKF Jaffna Hospital massacre, 22 October 2004
18th Anniversary of IPKF Jaffna Hospital Massacre, 21 October 2005

"The Indian Army came firing into the Radiology Block and fired indiscriminately at this whole mass of people huddled together. We saw patients dying. We lay there without moving a finger pretending to be dead. We were wondering all the time whether we would be burnt or shot when the bodies of the dead were collected ... "

கடமையின் போது உயிர் நீத்த ஊழியர்கள்

Dr A. Sivapathasuntheram, Dr M.K. Ganesharatnam, Dr Parimelalahar, Mrs Vadivelu, Matron, Mrs Leelawathie, Nurse, Mrs Sivapakiam, Nurse, Mrs Ramanathan, Nurse, Mr Shanmugalingam, Ambulance Driver, Mr Kanagalingam, Telephone Operator, Mr Krishnarajah, Works Supervisor, Mr Selvarajah, Works Supervisor

21-22 October 1987


An eyewitness account ...
"It was a Diwali day - 21 October 1987. In the history of Tamils it will come to be regarded as a "dark day". Due to the military offensive started by the IPKF on the 10th day of October 1987, many hospitals were not functioning, and there were no transport facilities. There was a tense situation prevailing as many innocent civilians had been either killed or wounded. Jaffna General Hospital was still functioning in midst of hardships.

But the barbaric acts carried out by the IPKF inside the Jaffna Hospital on that day killed many. The dead included those at work - in the X ray building, doctors in the resting room, in doctors' offices, in guest houses of the doctors, and also all those injured civilians who had been brought there from all over the peninsula.

Dr.C.K.Ganesaratnam who finished his medical studies at the Jaffna University and working as a Surgeon at Jaffna General hospital, Dr. Parimezhakar, head nurse Mrs. P.Vadivelu, nurse Mrs.Mangaitkarasi, the superviors at Leelavati Private Nursing Home- Mr.Selvaraja, S.Seevaratnam, Ambulance Driver V.Shanmugalingam, and active workers at the Jaffna General Hospital Mr.Peter, Mr.M.Thurairasa were among those killed on the spot by the IPKF.

An infant and few other children also became the victims of the IPKF when they made noise, watching these horrors. Struck by a heart attack an aged civlian died died singing the "sivapuraaNam" Barrels and barrels of bullets were spent on innocent patients who tried to seek help. They did the same to the children and the aged who asked for water.

On the next morning, 22 October 1987, Dr.Sivapathasuntharam, who had unknowingly came into hospital premises attempted to save his injured coworkers, was killed by the army personnel who were on guard. The next day the IPKF collected all the dead bodies and burnt all the bodies at the back of the mortuary.

A total of 68 innocent Tamils were killed during this particular barbaric offensive of the IPKF. This number included three Doctors, three nurses, seventeen coworkers at the Jaffna hospital and others were the patients admitted to the hospital.

The killings of Dr.Sivapathasuntharam and other doctors who continued to serve the Tamil community unlike the other doctors who fled to alien lands after 1983 riots has become a dark spot in the history of Tamil people. "

From the Broken Palmyra
From The Broken Palmyra - The Tamil Crisis in Sri Lanka: An Inside Account By Rajan Hoole, Daya Somasundaram, K.Sritharan and Rajani Thiranagama.1990  pp 265-271 [Book is available on line at http://www.uthr.org/BP/Content.htm]

The War of October 1987 (India's Disarming Operation - Jaffna Hospital

"...An attempt by the Indian Army to capture Jaffna Town had been expected for a few days. For this reason many members of the staff had kept away. Others thought the Indian Army would be considerate and stayed on performing necessary functions. Many injured by shelling and many of those wounded kept on arriving at the hospital. Medicines were in short supply, making surgery difficult. Over 70 dead bodies were said to be piled up in the mortuary.

A false sense of security prevailed because the intensity of shelling had been noticeably reduced after a telephone call made from the G.A.'s office to the Indian Embassy by leading citizens in Jaffna. They telephoned on 13 October (1987) complaining about the shelling and aerial bombing. According to these sources the Indian Embassy had denied that they had any knowledge of such military action which was bound to cause grievous harm to civilians.

The environs of the hospital came under cannon fire from the Fort and from overhead helicopters at 11:00 a.m. on 21 October - Deepavali day.

A shell fell on the O.P.D. building at 11:30 a.m.. The O.P.D. officer went running to the administration building and informed a Consultant of what had happened. At 1:00 p.m. the Consultant was informed that Indian troops had been sighted at the top of Shanti Theatre Lane. At 1:30 p.m. a shell fell on Ward 8 killing 7 persons. The Consultant who went out with another doctor to survey the situation spotted some empty cartridges suggesting that persons had been firing from inside the hospital premises.

At 2:00 p.m. the Consultant's attention was drawn to the presence of some armed L.T.T.E. men inside the hospital premises. The Consultant went with Dr. Ganesharatnam and requested them to leave, pointing out the danger they would cause the inmates. The leader of the group agreed and they went away. 5 minutes later the Consultant was informed that another group of L.T.T.E. men had come inside. Dr. Ganesharatnam requested that the Consultant go with someone else this time as he was, because of his outspokenness, already having a problematic relationship with the L.T.T.E.. The Consultant went this time with one of the lady doctors and spoke to the L.T.T.E. party. According to the Consultant, they agreed to go and "disappeared from sight."

There was a lull after 2.00 p.m.. According to this Consultant:

"I really did not know what advice to give those in the hospital. If I had known it was safe to go, I would have advised everyone to leave. But this was by no means certain because there was a curfew on and the army was near at hand. My decision to leave was mainly on the consideration that I was hungry and the decision to chance it was casually taken. I left through the back entrance at 2:30 p.m. with one of my colleagues and reached home without incident.

"At about 4 p.m. we heard shooting again for 15 to 20 minutes from the vicinity of the petrol shed on Hospital Road. There was no retaliatory fire from the hospital. At that time, to our knowledge there were no Tigers in the hospital."

Thus begins the story of the harrowing experience of the resident doctors of this foremost and biggest hospital in the war torn North. One of them went on with their terrible tale:

"We were in the radiology block in the tea room at that time. The whole place was crammed with people including the patients from the evacuated ward 7 as well. We heard the noise of firing coming closer. But we were sure that even if the Indian Army entered, they would check us, and then explanations could be offered. Dr. Ganesharatnam who was with us went out of the room. Some of our colleagues were still in the wards. The noise of the firing was drawing very close. All around us was the noise of firing. We realised the danger and lay flat on the floor.

The Indian Army came firing into the Radiology Block and fired indiscriminately at this whole mass of people huddled together. We saw patients dying. We lay there without moving a finger pretending to be dead. We were wondering all the time whether we would be burnt or shot when the bodies of the dead were collected ...

In the night we heard few bursts of fire. Most of the time we heard them moving on the floor above, where out quarters were situated. We were like this for almost 18 hours until 11:00 a.m. the next day."

Another of them took over the narration:

"The Indian Army entered through the out gate, came up along the corridor and fired indiscriminately. They fired into the Overseer's office, and into other offices. I saw many of my fellow workers die... Another worker whispered to me: ' Keep lying down and do not move'.

"So we lay down quietly, under one of the dead bodies, throughout the night. One of the overseers had a cough and he groaned and coughed once in a way in the night.  One Indian soldier, threw a grenade at this man killing some more persons. I know the ambulance driver died. In another spot one man got up with his hand up and cried out: "We are innocent. We are supporters of Indira Gandhi." A grenade was thrown at him. He and his brother next to him died.

The night passed by, and the morning dawned. Still it was absolutely tense. At about 8:30 a.m., Dr. Sivapathasundaram, the Paediatrician, came walking along the corridor with 3 nurses. He had convinced them that they should identify themselves and surrender. They were walking with their hands up shouting: "We surrender, we are innocent doctors and nurses."

Dr. Sivapathasundaram was gunned down point blank and the nurses injured. He was a man who had come to save the lives of the children and neonates marooned in the hospital. His dedication was replied with violence and death in the hands of this army from a country that called itself the champion of peace and nonviolence.

Those who survived continued to lay among the dead, as if dead, until 11:00 a.m. the following day.

The residents said they were rescued only when an officer turned up at one of the wards and was confronted by a lady doctor there. This doctor explained the situation to the officer and later on came to where they were with the army, holding her hands up. She had called out to her colleagues and those who were injured. They found their colleague Dr. Ganesharatnam with a stethoscope lying dead.

When the residents went up to their rooms saw the whole place ransacked - with bloodied boot marks on their clothing scattered on the floor. They had lost all their valuables. Later they continued work - but a guard was at their door. They were absolutely terror stricken those days. Another resident doctor picked up the story:

"I lay along the corridor leading away from the foyer of the Radiology Bock. My legs were sticking out and evening sunlight coming through an open window was falling on it. I was scared and lay as stiff as possible making sure that no movement could be seen ...I am indeed fortunate to have survived. The soldiers threw a grenade, and in the morning I discovered that all the people lying in front of me were dead. The blasting grenades made tremendous noises as if bombs were exploding. Then the debris and dust would settle on us and cake in the fresh blood of those dead and injured.

All through the night as I lay awake I heard noises, voices, an occasional spray of shooting above our heads or a grenade thrown. I heard a child cry: "Amma (mother), tea, tea, tea."
Another baby screamed. I thought maybe the mother had died. Another woman said: "My legs are numb. They are cold. There is a corpse on it. Please remove it." Unable to bear her moans, I shouted: "Please anybody near her, can't you remove the corpse? Are you deaf?"

The woman continued to moan ... till in the morning I knew the reason for the silence. All those around and the woman herself were dead. One man was reciting the Hindu religious work, the Sivapuranam, and was calling out:"Long live Rajiv. Long live Indira Gandhi."

In the morning we found him the victim of a grenade blast. Then we discovered that there were a few others who had survived in the toilet. We whispered together: Hearing about all this, maybe the Director of the hospital and the others would come over immediately and rescue us from the hospital ... They were all in the refugee camps. So most probably they could get together, complain, and perhaps come out as a group, all of them holding white flags. They will then rescue us. Let's wait for the morning...

And we waited eagerly from the dawn to break. We were indeed very hopeful. At about 8:00 or 8:30 on the 22nd ... I heard Dr. Sivapathasuntheram's voice. He was shouting as he was coming along: "We are innocent doctors and nurses. We surrender. We surrender..."

As he turned into the foyer, we saw the soldier on the stairs leading from the foyer shoot repeatedly. Dr. Sivapathasuntharam was dead ...

We saw later that the nurses whom he had pushed down on either side of him had escaped with injuries. Now we knew that our fate was sealed. We lay there awaiting death.

Later on, around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., we heard our co-resident, a woman doctor, her voice calling out to the living and the injured to get up with their hands held up. I thought only six of us in the room had survived, but I found out that at least 10 of us were there. All of us with our hands up were walking out of the room. We stepped over the dead bodies that were in front of us. They seemed to stretch over almost a mile. They must have acted as a deterrent to the Indians' coming close to us. That's why we survived ... Some of us started crying. Then the only Consultant amongst us, quietened us down. He told us: "Do not cry .,, this is not the hour for crying. We have lost so much, so many. But we have tasks, enormous tasks to do. Let us keep together and work."

We know that if he had not said so, we would have been totally demoralised. It was this spirit of courage and dedication of this small band of doctors, nurses and other employees that made Jaffna Hospital unique and placed it proudly among the hospitals that functioned under siege, despair and fear. I was reminded of hospital in the camp of Bourj al Barajneh, Beruit under the Imal siege."

So it was from the 22nd to the 29th of October, that this band of persons with all their anxieties attended to the wounded day and night single handedly. As the surgeon said:

"I did not know what happened to my wife and two small daughters. I had left them at the refugee camp ... After the first two days we knew we are not going to be killed in cold blood. That was a relief. We knew we were walking on a tight rope ... between life and death ... I used to lose my temper, my anger burst out ... as we saw many shells hit patients. We also had Indian Army men injured by land mines.. totally smashed up. We were asked to treat them as well. For us doctors, the moment they come into the hospital they were patients. They were the sick ... and our duties were dear."

As he was talking to us pouring out his harrowing tale, characteristically spiced with his sense of humor, we knew the spirit of medical care that pervaded this hospital in the war torn city of Jaffna.

This ordeal is unprecedented especially when viewed in the light of the earlier pronouncements of the Indian Red Cross on how a hospital should be treated even in war time - that was when Sri Lankan forces were around. Many questions were hanging unanswered. Why was no attempt to evacuate, warn or isolate the sick and the stall' make? Why was the hospital not surrounded? Why was the Indian entry into the hospital made only through the front, thus leaving the back of the hospital open for those who wanted to escape to do so - while the sick and those who cared for the sick remained behind to be killed?

It is true that the Tigers were there earlier in the day. One person said that he had seen them hanging their clothing to dry. Another saw a few arms left behind on the premises.

Be that as it may, why did the professional army of a great nation storm a civilian hospital, with such callous disregard for both international covenants and the cost in human lives which may never be determined precisely.

The Indian authorities seem to have decided that there will be no public inquiry into the incident..."
 

V. Thangavelu Canada, 27 February 2001 
"My thanks to Sachi Sri Kantha for recapitulating the summary execution of Dr.K. Visvaranjan by the Sri Lanka army. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who met similar fate like Dr. K. Visvaranjan but remain unheard, unsung and unwept. The same goes to the doctors, nurses and hospital staff gunned down without any provocation by the murderous IPKF on October 21, 1987. The tragedy is that none of the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes were ever brought to justice. Politicians like G.K.Moopanar and journalists like N.Ram and Cho are still mourning the demise of Rajiv Gandhi who despatched the murderous IPKF on a killing spree, when they have no tears for the thousands of innocent Tamils who perished like Dr.K.Visvaranjan..."
17th  Anniversary of  IPKF Jaffna Hospital massacre commemorated, 22 October 2004
Seventeenth death anniversary of twenty-one persons including medical specialists, nurses, attendants, patients and members of public who were massacred inside Jaffna Teaching Hospital (JTH) by Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) troops stationed in Jaffna Fort on 21st October, 1987 was observed Thursday in the hospital premises, civil sources said.  Medical Superintendent of the JTH Dr.Sathurmugam presided over the event attended by medical officers, nurses, hospital employees and members of public. Nallur Division Head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Mr.Cheliyan also attended the event.

Participants offered flowers in front of the photographs of those massacred by Indian troops who arrived in Sri Lanka after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lankan peace accord by then President of Sri Lanka  Mr.J.R.Jayawardene and Indian Prime Minister Mr.Rajiv Gandhi.

The victims of the massacre included three leading medical specialists at that time, Dr.A.Sivapathasuntharam, Dr.K.Parimelalahar and Dr.K.Ganesharatnam, three nurses and fifteen other employees.
18th Anniversary of Massacre commemorated in Jaffna Hospital, 21 October 2005
Eighteenth death anniversary of twenty-one persons including medical specialists, nurses, attendants, patients and members of public who were massacred inside Jaffna Teaching Hospital (JTH) by Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) troops stationed in Jaffna Fort on 21st October, 1987 was held at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital Friday, sources in Jaffna said. Deputy Director of the Hospital, R Raviraj, presided the event.Eye surgeon Dr V Sivanthan, Hospital Treasurer Mr Suthanthirapalan, relatives of the victims and Hospital workers lit the common flame.



Workers and relatives garlanded and paid floral tribute to the picture frames of the twenty one victims.

Several doctors at the spoke at the function accusing the Indian army for committing the atrocity violating the human rights of people where sick and the disabled take refuge, and where professionals are engaged in the most humanitarian endeavor of looking after the sick and injured.

The victims of the massacre included three leading medical specialists at that time, Dr.A.Sivapathasuntharam, Dr.K.Parimelalahar and Dr.K.Ganesharatnam, three nurses and fifteen other employees.

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