IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Puttalam

The divide between Muslims and Tamils: Perspective of an IDP

Opinion of Fathima, 24 and mother of one child from Karambe camp in Puttlam

“I was eight year -old, when we were forced out of Jaffna. I was crying throughout the journey from Jaffna to Puttlam. We came to Puliyankulam, Vavuniya and Puttalam. It took three days for us to reach Puttlam. Initially I was in a camp along with the others. Food and immediate needs were met by various organizations. My other family members bring to my reluctant memory even now. I forgot every sweet memories of my mother town in Jaffna. I don’t know the present situation our house or the surroundings in Jaffna. The unbearable issues is that we lost our culture. I will not go back to Jaffna, because I am used to this place and people, and it’s very hard for me to go back and adjust. The Internally Displaced Persons are still called “Agathi” or refugee by several host community members. We did not choose to be Internally Displaced Persons but we were made to. Even the National Identity Card has house number in which we’re temporarily sheltered and the camp address instead of our home town address”

My family lost everything due to displacement. My parents managed to send me to school in Puttlam, and I have finished my education. But most parents found it difficult to let their children to continue their education. Because they were pushed to poverty after displacement; forced to stay in camps; and they were jobless; and could not afford to send their children to school.
The children who were displaced had to face discrimination at schools. I was not allowed to take part in any sports or extra curricular activities. Our talents were wasted. I have one child, who was born in Puttlam. He doesn’t know anything about the habitat in our memories. I wanted to take them to Jaffna to show the dignity and freedom I experienced once. But the situation does not permit to take him and stay there for a while. This child will grow up without knowing the values of our culture and tradition. On the other hand I do not want to take any risk, and go and settle in Jaffna, because of their education

“I do not have a dislike Tamil people. Tamils and Muslims lived in harmony before 1990. Even after we got expelled, we have no hatred feelings towards them. They were not responsible for the expulsion. I am very worried about the existence of the relationship between the Tamils and Muslims. Before the displacement, Tamils and Muslims shared a lot and had a lot in common. But the displacement made a huge gap, which is growing. I wonder who is going to fill the yawning gap between these two communities. Muslims attended the weddings, funerals, house warming ceremonies, age attaining ceremonies and various other ceremonies of the Tamils before displacement, and Tamils attended similar function of Muslims as well. Now we hardly attend any ceremonies of this nature. I am very saddened about the current trend, which will lead us nowhere except for more misunderstandings between the communities.

Muslims from the North spoke the same Tamil which is spoken by the Tamil brothers and sisters (dialect). I called my father “Appa”, like the Tamils call their fathers. I never called my father “Vaappaa” just like Muslims call their fathers. We lived like own brothers and sisters. I am looking forward to a day, when Tamils and Muslims will rejoin each other and forget the bitter past, and live as one family. That will be the happiest day in my life.

The Politicians make a lot of promises during their election campaigns, but once the election is over, they always become broken promises. And the people have no hope; we have learnt to live with what is available. I hoped the peace is not far from us but after the withdraw of CFA by government another blink in our future is spotted seemingly.”