All you need to do is go back in time...find
refugees from previous rounds of fighting. They are forgotten and easily
visited. Just out of sight. People from Trincomalee, just down the coast from
the current ongoing carnage and suffering, fled the renewal of the armed
conflict in 2006. They have been living in tin shacks on the beach in what aid
agencies call a "tsunami hazard zone" ever since.
The man in this picture is from Jaffna in Sri Lanka,
one of the earliest theaters in the
civil war; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting for an
independent Tamil state since 1983. He's been living in a camp deep in
the countryside in the state of Tamil
Nadu, India, for the past 17 years. He's married,
and his children have grown up in the camp. There are perhaps 100,000 people
from Sri Lanka in India who fled
the war living in small camps that now resemble any South Indian village. They
don't have the right to leave the province, and must be back home before
nightfall. Those who work do so mostly as day laborers, infrequently. Journalists
aren't allowed to visit these camps. It took the help of a local development
NGO to introduce me to some people, all very friendly and willing to talk about
their lives, their problems, and their hopes to return home and live normally.
When I met this man in November, he had a
newspaper with him, one of the local Tamil-language papers. Because of the
cultural and linguistic links, there is solidarity between Indian and Sri
Lankan Tamils. People in India
have been protesting to end the suffering and fighting. As the battle raged for
the capture of Kilinochchi, the rebel capital, last month, independent media wasn't allowed near the front lines.
Very few images made it out, some via the Tamil side. He is holding up a page
with pictures of destroyed buildings in Kilinochchi.
Ruthless, effective control of the media
has meant that one of Asia's longest-running
wars has run its course out of sight of all but the soldiers, the unreachable
civilians in the crossfire, and the dead.
Sacha Guney is a freelance Canadian journalist
who has recently travelled in India
and Sri Lanka.