Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers

RAJ NARENRajasingham Narendran, presenting a blog comment within http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/6285 which is an article by Michael Roberts, “The Tamil Death Toll in Early 2009: A Misleading Count by Rohan Gunaratna,” 23 November 2011.**

As addendum to Prof. Michael Roberts presentation, I hereby present briefly what I witnessed with regard to the bodies of my family members and others killed by the IPKF on day 10 of their murders: My mother: 68 year old at the time of her killing. Slim build. Had been attacked by animals and crows and was in an advanced state of decay. My brother: 38 year old at the time of his death. neither obese or thin. Body intact though bloated. The gardener: Age approx. 60 years. Obese. All flesh had fallen off and the skeleton was clearly visible .A neighbour’s Watchman: Age approx. 60 years. medium build. Only thigh bones-femurs and the skull remained. The rest of the body had been consumed or carried away by animals.

IPKF TROPS WITHDRAWThe incident happened in the month of October, when the climate is relatively mild. Maggots and flies were swarming around the bodies.

These observations imply that in the Vanni in the period around April’ 2009, when the summer is at its hottest, bodies would have decomposed faster. the older and the obese bodies would have deteriorated faster than those of the younger and thinner ones. Being largely an area that is in proximity to jungles and teaming with wild animals of all sorts, most of the dead would have been partially or totally consumed by wild animals.  Flies and maggots would have accelerated the decay.

These observations indicate that the number of dead will always be unknown and subject to speculation. It will also be difficult to statistically enumerate the dead through surveys, because many were smuggled out of camps, many left by boats and many survivors simply do not know whether their relatives are living or dead. Many who had to abandon the week and infirm yet are unsure as to what happened to them.

I met a grandmother who had a 5-6 month old grandchild on her lap in the Gamini Vidyalaya transit camp (Vavuniya). She said that both her daughter and son-in law were dead and was unaware of what happened to her other relatives. There were many with similar tragic tales. One can only have a ‘feel’ for the possible numbers dead and this feel has to be translated into probable numbers. It can be approximate or likely, but can never be accurate.

**Editorial Note:  Narendran was addressing (1) some Tamil nationalist bloggers who seemed to think that a census would easily settle the issue of the death toll and (2)  one “Uthayakumar” (23 Nov. 2011) who purported to be living a “few kilometers from [the] Vanni boundary” and asserted that only 150 civilians died!


Filed under historical interpretation, indian armed forces, Indian Ocean politics, life stories, LTTE, military strategy, politIcal discourse, propaganda, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, tamil refugees, the imaginary and the real, trauma, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, violence of language, war crimes

49 responses to “Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers

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