Today marks 35 years since Lt Col. Thileepan began his hunger strike at Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in protest against the failure of the Indian government to honour the pledges made to the Tamil people.
Thileepan began his fast on 15th September 1987, surrounded by over 100,000 supporters, and died 11 days later, on the 26th September 1987.
On the 13th September 1987, Thileepan put forward five demands to the Indian government:
1) All Tamils detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be released.
2) The colonisation by Sinhalese in Tamil areas under the guise of rehabilitation should be stopped.
3) All such rehabilitation should be stopped until an interim government is formed.
4) The Sri Lankan government should stop opening new Police stations and camps in the North-eastern province.
5) The Sri Lankan army and Police should withdraw from schools in Tamil villages and the weapons given by the Sri Lankan government to ‘homeguards’ should be withdrawn under the supervision of the Indian army.
See a video of his famous speech below.
An excerpt from Adele Balasingham's eye witness account of Thileepan's protest:
Thileepan's non-violent struggle was unique and extraordinary for its commitment. Although an armed guerilla fighter, he chose the spiritual mode of 'ahimsa' as enunciated by the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi to impress upon India the plight and predicament of the people of Tamil Eelam.
The levels to which the Tamil people or more specifically, the LTTE cadres, are prepared to gof ro their freedom mirrors not only a deep passion for their liberation, but indicates the phenomnela degree of oppression they have been subjected to. It is only those who experience intolerable oppression of such a magnitude, of being threatened with extinction, that are capable of supreme forms of self sacrifice as we have seen from Thileepan's episode.
See the full account here.