"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Kanthasamy, the Karma Yogi

published in "An Untimely Death" - Kanthasamy Commemoration Committee

15 June 1989

K.Kanthasamy was abducted in June 1988 by a Tamil 'group' and was presumed killed. He was a human rights activist who organised practical assistance for Tamils displaced and dispossessed by the conflict in the island. He also helped to found the Tamil Information Centre in London. He returned to Jaffna in 1987 after the signing of the Indo Sri Lanka Accord and was engaged in refugee rehabilitation work in the Tamil homeland at the time of his abduction.

"...As a Tamil, I must confess to a feeling of shame not unmixed with anger, that a so called Tamil 'liberation' group should have been responsible for Kantha's abduction and murder. We, as a people, cannot liberate ourselves from anything by killing those with whom we disagree. Kantha was an honourable man. He was a good man. And to him, work was worship - he was the karma yogi par excellence. And when we honour his memory and his work, we not only strengthen that which is good and honourable amongst the Tamil people - we also renew our own commitment to the Tamil national liberation struggle to which Kantha gave his life."


It was more than twenty five years ago, in the early 1960s, that I first met with Kanthasamy. At that time, he was a young lawyer working in Advocate N. Nadarasa's chambers at Kollupitiya. But he was already displaying some of the qualities which would stand him in good stead in the years to come.

He addressed himself, in a systematic and disciplined manner, to whatever task that was assigned to him. He was dependable. He was a doer - not a talker. His honesty and integrity were never in dispute. And there was an attractive simplicity about him as he travelled around in a motor scooter from chambers to Hultsdorf and back. But then, Kantha was a simple and honest man.

Many years later, I remember meeting him at Saraswathy Hall in Bambalapitiya. It was a couple of months after the burning of the Jaffna Public Library in June 1981. That was an incident which had left its mark on the consciousness of many thousands of Tamils, including myself. Kantha was at Saraswathy Hall, involved in the campaign to collect books to establish a new library, writing down carefully the titles of all the books that were handed over and the names of the donors. It was a time consuming task and not particularly glamorous - but, typically, Kantha approached his duties with cheerfulness and with dedication.

Kantha had appeared as Counsel before the Sansoni Commission which inquired into the attacks against the Tamil people in 1977, and this was the period in his life that he was working almost full time in the rehabilitation of Tamils who had been displaced by such attacks, and who had become refugees in their own land.

And, it was his involvement in such refugee rehabilitation work that eventually led him to become a refugee himself and seek political asylum in the United Kingdom.

I met with him in London in late 1983 and he took me with some pride to the newly established office of the Tamil Information Centre which he had set up with the help of a few friends. He was full of the work he was doing, despite a recent heart attack and despite being told that he would need to undergo a by pass operation.

There was a certain dignity about all that he did - he would tell me " You know, when I go to funding agencies for donations, I tell them that we are not beggars, but I know that in a way I am begging - but I beg not for myself but so that we can do something for our people."

The next few years in London were years of sustained activity for Kantha. There were occasions when I met with him, early in the morning, at his home in North London, before he left for the TIC office which was situated in South London. He would be dictating letters to a typist who had come - and, he would leave home, after the first morning mail was delivered. It was his way of maximising the efficient use of his time.

And for more than four years, until the signing of the Indo Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987, the Tamil Information Centre and the Central British Refugee Rehabilitation Fund which Kantha founded served as important focal points in the Tamil national liberation struggle.

I remember talking with him for more than 6 hours in early August 1987, trying to persuade him to change his decision to close the Tamil Information Centre and go back to Sri Lanka. As a refugee who had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom, Kantha could have stayed in London for as long as he wished but his basic response was that there was a need for him to go back and work amongst the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka - he felt that refugee rehabilitation work was the urgent need of the hour and that his own contribution to the struggle lay in this field.

A couple of days before he finally left the United Kingdom, Kantha travelled down to Cambridge to spend a day with my wife and I. We talked for several hours. It was a time for reminiscences. It was also a time to look at what the future held for us as a people. Kantha was not unaware of the difficulties that he would face from some political groups who may see his work amongst the Tamil people as a threat to their own influence and power. But Kantha was not only a simple and honest man - he was also a courageous one. And as we embraced each other at my door step, and said good bye, both Kantha and I were not unaware that we may not see each other again.

As a Tamil, I must confess to a feeling of shame not unmixed with anger, that a so called Tamil 'liberation' group should have been responsible for Kantha's abduction and murder. We, as a people, cannot liberate ourselves from anything by killing those with whom we disagree. Kantha was an honourable man. He was a good man. And to him, work was worship - he was the karma yogi par excellence. And when we honour his memory and his work, we not only strengthen that which is good and honourable amongst the Tamil people - we also renew our own commitment to the Tamil national liberation struggle to which Kantha gave his life.

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