Remembering March and April as ‘bloodiest’ months in Jaffna Peninsula

By Manekshaw

The early eighties had witnessed Jaffna Peninsula gradually turning into a land of merciless killings with the emergence of several Tamil militant outfits with the slogan of liberation struggle for Eelam.

Leaders of some of the Tamil militant outfits including Douglas Devananda, K. Pathmanabha and Suresh K. Premachandran from the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) had the opportunity of even getting trained with the Palestine militants in the Middle East.

As law and order in the peninsula was rapidly deteriorating with the militants carrying arms targeting Police personnel and Police stations in the North, the innocent civilians remained as the silent majority in a helpless state witnessing the lamp post killings, bank robberies, abductions and the land mine attacks targeting the Security Forces.

Except for the LTTE other militant outfits were trained in Uttarpradesh in India with the blessings of the Indian Government.

However, the LTTE right from the beginning kept itself away from directly being trained by India and opted to set up its bases in the coastal areas of State of Tamil Nadu and built itself up as a self-trained outfit.

The emergence of Tamil militant outfits in the early eighties gradually led to clashes with each other for supremacy which resulted in the brutal deaths of scores of gun toting young men who were in their mid twenties.

As the LTTE took the upper hand with its fire power it openly prohibited the activities of all other militant outfits with its iron fist in a ruthless manner.

It was the merciless approach of the LTTE towards other militant outfits beginning in April 1986, first targeting the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) that made the entire Jaffna Peninsula a graveyard.

The LTTE’s hunt for the TELO cadres commenced in the latter part of April and ended up with the gunning down of its leader Sri Sabaratnam despite him surrendering and pleading with LTTE’s then Jaffna commander Sathasivam Krishnakumar not to kill him.

When the LTTE launched its attacks against the TELO cadres in 1986, the bodies of the fallen cadres were even put on the roadsides on vehicles tires and set on fire.

There were instances where the families of the TELO cadres were running to the LTTE offices and pleading not to do any harm to their children.

More than 400 TELO cadres were gunned down by the LTTE in a week from April 29 until the gunning down point blank of the TELO leader Sri Sabaratnam, at a tobacco cultivation in Kondavil , Jaffna on 6 May 1986 .

The 31st anniversary of the deaths of more than 400 TELO cadres is commemorated today (6 May) at the place where the outfit’s leader Sri Sabaratnam was gunned down by the LTTE’s Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias Kittu.

The LTTE’s brutal approach towards the TELO cadres was the first indication to the silent majority in the Northern Province that the so- called ‘Eelam struggle’ was now on the path of the people in the North and the East digging their own grave.

One year later, another big blow struck the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) when the LTTE ‘s Jaffna commander Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias kittu came under a grenade attack due to internal rivalry in the LTTE.


Gopalaswamy Mahendraraja alias Mahattaya who was at logger heads with Kittu had lobbed a grenade and the explosion had led to the amputation of right leg of Kittu on 30 March 1987.

Following the attack, Selvakumar Chellasamy alias Aruna who had been a confidante of Kittu rushed to a house in Nallur bearing the name Kanthan Karunai and opened fire at the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) cadres who were detained there in a room by the LTTE.

The trigger happy Aruna fired with his AK -47 assault rifle gunning down 63 EPRLF cadres in a couple of minutes.

The barbaric approach of the LTTE towards its own people without any farsightedness in its political thinking led to its total annihilation eight years ago in May in 2009.

As the call for investigations into the alleged war crimes believed to have been committed during the final phase of the North and the East war, along with the families of the involuntarily disappeared persons seeking justice over the disappearances of their beloved ones, a message was released in 1995 to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the massacre of 63 EPRLF cadres by the LTTE in 1987.

The message which was released by the sympathizers of those 63 appeared as, ‘When the Sinhalese kill Tamils- call it genocide.’

‘When the IPKF kills Tamils – call it mass murder’

‘When Tigers kill Tamils – How do we call it? Do we call it liberation?’

As the remembrance events for TELO Leader, Sri Sabaratnam and more than 400 of his cadres, who were killed at the hands of the LTTE thirty years ago, are taking place on a massive scale in the North and the East today, the message above highlights clearly the barbarism which prevailed under the guise of a liberation struggle.

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