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An animated history of the Tamil struggle

We explore figures from the early decades of the Tamil struggle by animating and bringing to life photographs taken throughout the decades.

Using the ‘Deep Nostalgia’ feature, developed by the genealogy platform MyHeritage, the animated photographs offers a chance to see some of the Tamil struggle’s most memorable figures and moments in a new form.

For many of these figures, no video footage of them exists.


SJV Chelvanayagam

Affectionately known by Eelam Tamils as “Thanthai Chelva”, Chelvanayagam was the founder of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi and one of the founding leaders of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), which passed the Vaddukoddai resolution, calling for the creation of an independent state of Tamil Eelam.


Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran

Sivakumaran was a member of the Tamil Manavar Peravai (or Tamil Student Federation, TSF) and a leading militant in the early armed Tamil struggle. He became the first Tamil militant to die in the armed struggle, when he committed suicide to evade capture by Sri Lankan security forces in 1974.


Velupillai Prabhakaran

The founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) photographed here as a teenager.


Annai Poopathy

As a member of the Navatkerny Mother's Front, Poopathy Kanapathipillai from Batticaloa, commenced a fast unto death on March 19, 1988 to protest the injustices and atrocities committed by the IPKF. Her fast ended on April 19 with her death.


Kuttimani and Thangathurai

Selvarajah Yogachandran, referred to as Kuttimani, and Nadarajah Thangavelu, alias Thangathurai were the co-founding leaders of TLO (Tamil Liberation Organisation).

Both were brutally murdered in Welikada Maximum Security Prison on 25th July 1983. Kuttimani’s tormentors “gouged out” his eyes and Thangathurai’s tongue was cut off for his speeches of nonconformity.


Lieutenant Shankar

Lieutenant Shankar was the first LTTE fighter to given his life to the Tamil struggle. Lt. Shankar's death at 6.05pm on November 27, 1982 led to the day being chosen as the day of remembrance for fallen LTTE cadre, known as Maaveerar Naal or 'Great Heroes Day'.


Lieutenant Seelan

Charles Lucas Anthony, commonly known by the nom de guerre Seelan, was one of the founding members of the LTTE. He died on 15 July 1983, aged 22 years old.

The first regular regiment and later a special force of the LTTE, the Charles Antony Regiment, was formed in 1991 in his honour.


Lieutenant Sellakili

Lieutenant Sellakili led the LTTE attack on a group of Sri Lanka army soldiers on 23rd July 1983 at Thirunelvely in Jaffna town. 13 soldiers were killed in the attack.

He was martyred in the operation.


Captain Pandithar

Pandithar joined the LTTE in 1981 and was a reported childhood friend of Prabhakaran.

He was martyred on 9 January 1985 in Jaffna.


Major Ganesh

A senior commander in the LTTE from Kantalai in Trincomalee. He died in a battle with the Sri Lanka Army at 64th milepost area in Muttur east on 5 November 1986.


Captain Miller

Captain Miller was the LTTE’s first Black Tiger.

On July 5 1987, he attacked a Sri Lankan Army garrison in Nelliyadi in the Jaffna district, by driving a small truck with explosives into it. At least forty Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in the attack. He was 21 years old.

See an animated photograph of Miller in uniform below.


2nd Lieutenant Maalathy

2nd Lt. Maalathy, was the first female fighter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to lose her life in the Tamil armed struggle.

She was killed at the age of 20, on the 10th of October 1987, during a confrontation with the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) in Jaffna.


Major Sothiya

Major Sothiya joined the LTTE in 1984 and took part in many battles, as female cadres began to take part in combat operations from 1986 onwards. She died on 11 January 1990 after only six months as the Women's Military Unit leader.


Colonel Kittu

Colonel Kittu rose to public prominence as the LTTE’s Jaffna Commander from 1985-1987 and was based in the Paduvankarai region during the first phase of the war. He was later appointed head of the LTTE’s International Secretariat in London and was on his way home from the UK when his ship was intercepted.

Kittu and nine other LTTE cadres committed suicide after being surrounded by Indian navy warships in 1993.


Captain Angayarkanni

Captain Angayarkanni became the LTTE’s first female Black Tiger to die in combat on 10 August 1994. She reportedly took down a Sri Lankan navy vessel single handedly.


Anton Balasingham

The chief negotiator and political strategist of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Balasingham passed away on December 14, 2006. His death sparked grief across the Tamil nation, and he received the title “Voice of the Nation” posthumously.


Brigadier S. P. Thamilselvan

S. P. Thamilselvan, the head of the political wing of the LTTE was assassinated by the Sri Lankan air force on November 2, 2007. Five other LTTE officials - Lt. Col. Anpumani (Alex), Major Mikuthan, Major Nethaaji, Lt. Aadchiveal and Lt. Maavaikkumaran - were killed alongside Brigadier Thamilselvan, in the attack.

The assassination came as the Sri Lankan government ramped up its military offensive in the Tamil homeland.



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