"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

Thyagam & the Tamil Expatriate

August 1993

உங்கள் உடல்கள் சாய்ந்ததால், எங்கள் தலைகள் நிமிர்ந்தன..
இன்று.. நாங்கள் வெறும் கவிதை பாடிக் கொண்டிருக்கிறோம்..
நீங்களோ.. காவியமாகி விட்டீர்கள்..
 
- ManNin Maintharkal - A poem by Raj Swarnan


Thyagam defies direct translation into English. The closest English word, martyrdom, has too rough an edge to it. Thygam has a more rounded feel.

A thyagi knows that he not only has a duty but that he also has the right to act. At the same time he knows that he has no right to the fruits of his action. In the action lies the reward.

A thyagi knows that to seek change without a willingness to suffer to bring about that change, is but to end up making impotent pleas for fairplay and justice and issuing stultifying ultimatums without sanctions. A thyagi is no impotent pleader. He does not plead for fairplay and justice. He demands it. He does not beg for freedom. He is free.

The cyanide capsule in the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is evidence not of a simple minded willingness to die but of a fierce determination that cries out: ''I will not lose my freedom except with my life.''

It is this determination and this cry which has found an answering response in the hearts and minds of the Tamil people everywhere, living today in many lands and across distant seas.

It is this thyagam, it is this willingness to suffer to bring about change, which has made Velupillai Pirabaharan and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam not only the leaders of the Tamil national liberation struggle, but also its undying symbols.

The words of Velupillai Pirabaharan uttered on the occasion of the Maha Veerar Naal in November 1992 bear repetition:

"The strength of our struggle arises from the fierce determination of our fighters. Their firm commitment and their courage to act without the fear of death are the force and resource of our struggle.

The whole world is providing arms and funds to our enemy. We are not begging from the world. We stand firm on our own legs, on our own soil, with our own people and fight with our own hands.

Since we are firmly rooted in our own strength we stand upright without bowing to the pressures of others. Today, our liberation struggle is situated in a complex historical conjuncture faced with new challenges and new crises.

Our enemy, having firmly closed down the doors of peace, has embarked on a course of escalating the war...We are not warmongers who love violence. We want a permanent, stable and honourable peace. One day, when our enemy knocks at our doors for peace, we will extend the hand of friendship."

The Tamil national struggle is no afternoon tea party. The new balances that are being struck in the emerging multi-polar world are not without relevance to the struggle in Tamil Eelam.

It used to be said that states have permanent interests but do not have permanent friends. This may be even more so in the case of nations struggling to become states.

Sometime ago, the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, sent out a letter seeking new subscribers for one of its publications. The letter read:

"The professional practise of management is as challenging and complex as the practices of medicine and law. Yet we never hear of a 1-minute trial lawyer. One minute is about how long the physician or attorney who tries it will last. The quick fix. The too simple solution. The latest fad. They have no more place in your office than in the operating room or the court room."

That which is true in relation to the office, the operating room and the court is perhaps even more true in relation to a national struggle for freedom. Answers to the deeper issues which confront the Tamil national liberation struggle are unlikely to come from those who devote a few moments of their undoubtedly busy lives to suggest the 'quick fix', which they believe has somehow escaped the attention of those who have taken the struggle forward on the ground during the past several years.

A busy expatriate Tamil professional in Australia once remarked to a Tamil activist: ''You know, the trouble is that the 'boys' have brawn but no brains''. The reply from the Tamil activist was perhaps, overly sharp but it was telling:

''My dear friend, the trouble with you is that you have neither the brawn nor the brains - neither the brawn to go to Tamil Eelam and join the struggle nor the brains to look deeper into the issues that confront the struggle and make a useful contribution from outside. If you had done the latter, you would have hopefully, begun to learn that to a leadership which has gone through the university of the liberation struggle on the ground, much of what you say will seem to come from the kindergarten''.

The 1-minute 'political adviser' is not very different from the 1-minute brain surgeon or the 1- minute trial lawyer. One minute is about how long he will last in the struggle before succumbing to the forces ranged against it.

Every Tamil, wherever he may live, will need to ask himself where he stands in relation to the Tamil struggle in the island of Sri Lanka. He needs to ask whether he supports the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for self determination.

He needs to ask whether the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka were subject to an ever widening and deepening oppression under successive Sinhala dominated governments for several decades and whether an oppressed people have both the moral and the legal right to take to arms to resist that oppression. He needs to ask whether the armed struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is not only just but also lawful.

He may also need to ask himself: ''What does that struggle in Tamil Eelam mean to me ?'' Is it some struggle 'out there' unrelated to his own existence? Or is it a struggle that is inextricably linked with his own natural identity and that of his children and his children's children?

If he does not seek to deny his own past; if, on the contrary, he feels enrichened by his Tamil heritage;

if he shares the pain and suffering of his brothers and sisters in Tamil Eelam because he has known something about the nature of that pain himself;

if he knows that wherever he may live, his environment will continue to remind him, even on those occasions that he may forget, that he is a Tamil;

if he believes that the culture of a people will die without the political power of a state committed to preserve it;

if he recognises that to live with dignity as a Tamil in any land and not as a wandering nomad without a land, Tamil Eelam must take its place amongst the nations of the world -

if he knows all this, then he will know that he has not simply the duty but also the right to involve himself in the struggle for Tamil Eelam and take it forward.

He will know that he has not simply the duty but also the right to support the leaders of that struggle, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He will know that he has the duty and the right to support, not blindly, but with eyes open, not only with his heart but also with his mind, reasoning, purifying and strengthening the struggle, at every stage, in its onward lawful progress - but at the same time bowing his head in all humility before the thyagam of those on the ground who have given so much of themselves so that we, as a people, may live in freedom.

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