BY Mirudhula Thambiah
People in the North are yet to recover from the shock of the tragic death of a frustrated youth on Thursday (26), who sacrificed his life for the cause of Tamil political prisoners who are languishing in prisons for a number of years.
Although several protests and hunger strikes were launched, only a handful of prisoners were released and there are many more to be released. The continuous struggle to free the political prisoners has taken a toll on the lives of the people in the North and East. This was evident during the recent hartal observed in both areas urging the release of the prisoners.
Likewise, the grievances of the Tamil political prisoners may have had a negative impact on the psychological well-being of the 18-year-old student Rajeswaran Senthuran, which ultimately prompted him to sacrifice his life by committing suicide.
Senthuran is now considered as one of the great heroes by the people in the North, as they perceive his death as a sacrifice for the betterment of the struggling political prisoners.
Senthuran, resident of Valaithottam of Kopay-North committed suicide on Thursday morning, by jumping in front of a Jaffna bound train that had originated from Kankesanthurai, which was nearing the Kondavil Railway Station.
The student left a suicide note in Tamil, addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena, demanding the release of Tamil political detainees who have been imprisoned under the draconian legislation, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
His letter reads:
“To Tamil Eelam; give freedom, shed light
His Excellency the Presidency’s good-governance regime must rehabilitate and release all political prisoners immediately.
Not a single Tamil Political Prisoner can remain imprisoned any longer. When even I have realized the urgent need to release these political prisoners, it causes me much pain that this good-governance regime has not realized it.
In Tamil Eelam,
Yours, with love for the Tamil people greater than life,
Senthuran, an Advanced Level student of Kokkuvil Hindu College was studying media studies, geography and Tamil in the Art Stream and he was preparing to sit for the final exam in August 2016.
Although he had been a silent and reserved type, he had shined very well in education and sports. He was interested in reading newspapers and never failed to read all dailies at the city and school library.
As Senthuran was a reserved student, he did not have many friends. His parents, according to the mentality in Jaffna, did not encourage him to have allies, as they feared it would spoil the enthusiasm of their child for education as he had never failed to fulfil the dreams of his parents.
Living in poverty
He was born in Kopay-North on 18 September 1997 as the third child in his family. He has four siblings, two elder sisters, a younger sister and brother.
The family mainly depended on farming. After the war, his father had to depend on daily wage jobs to feed his family.
Rajeswaran, the father of Senthuran, said that if he had been aware of his son’s intentions on Thursday morning, he would have prevented him from going to school.
“My son was very kind-hearted. I was shocked to hear his death. I didn’t expect him to commit suicide. I inquired from my wife regarding his behaviour and she said it was usual as every day. We had no doubts about his movements. He was perfect and always concentrated on studies and he was a brilliant student,” he said.On the day of the incident, Senthuran left home at 7 a.m. to attend school on his bicycle and as usual he was well dressed, including the school tie. According to his father, he was quite enthusiastic to sit for term tests as he was well prepared. “My son always assured that he would look after the family and take over the responsibilities as soon as he completed his A/Ls,” he said.
“The Principal of the school telephoned us at 8 a.m. to inform that my son had met with an accident at the Kondavil Railway Station. I didn’t expect him to die on the spot. I thought it was just an accident. However, my daughter and I ran to the place. When my daughter saw Senthuran’s slippers and books she fainted. I couldn’t even identify his body as I was in severe shock. I couldn’t even cry. No father in this world should face a similar situation. It was terrible,” he said.
“People at the Railway Station showed a suicide note to me and it was in my son’s handwriting. I have no knowledge about how to lodge a complaint with the Police. With the help of the people I managed to inform the Police and the Kopay Police rushed to the scene,” he said.
Meanwhile, his school friends claimed that he was an intelligent student but was never involved in any sort of political debate, to be influenced by the grievances of the political prisoners. He did not even post Facebook updates on any sort of political arguments.
Also, he was not directly affected by the war. When the people of Jaffna were displaced in Chavakachcheri, he was not even born. When the war was over in 2009 he was 12 years and lived in Jaffna thus he did not experience the last phase of the war. “My son was not involved in any political activity. We did not notice any difference in him. My children are always under my observation. I would have easily noticed if there was any difference in his behaviour,” Senthuran’s father said.
According to sources, Senthuran had first headed to the Kokkuvil Railways Station and was chased by the railway employees. He had then headed to the Kondavil Railway Station.
An official at the Kondavil Railway Station said, “We noticed this boy standing near the railway track at a little distance from the station. When the express train was nearing the station, he suddenly lied down on the track. We couldn’t stop him, as the next minute the train reached the station. His body was cut to several pieces due to the force of the train.”
Immediately after Senthuran’s tragic death, the Jaffna University students paid a solidarity tribute followed by a silent protest march urging the release of Tamil political prisoners.
The Northern Province Education Ministry issued a circular declaring Friday (27) as a holiday and a day of mourning by all schools in the North.
Meanwhile, Tamil political prisoners in all prisons paid tribute to Senthuran. Political Prisoners also urged that none should sacrifice lives in the name of their struggle.
Opposition Leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan said the death of Senthuran was an outcome of the frustration of the Northern youth while Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran said that his sacrifice should not be ignored.
Police Spokesman ASP Ruwan Gunasekera said that the suicide note has been sent to the Government Analysts Department for further investigations, while the post-mortem report confirmed it was a suicide.