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My vote for Eelam

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The last weekend in January saw the British Tamil referendum on the independent state of Tamil Eelam.

 

Along with several other Tamils up and down the country, my weekend had revolved around it.

 

Most of my family and friends had left early on Saturday morning in their cars, ready to drive the elderly to and from the polling stations or they set off to assist at the polling stations themselves.

 

On Sunday morning I rummaged through my desk drawers, found my passport and set off to cast my vote.

 

Stood in the queue outside the polling station, I nodded and smiled as I caught the eyes of other Tamils.

 

We didn’t know each other and it wasn’t merely the mutual recognition of each other’s undeniably Tamil face. This was different.

 

We were all there to play our part in the struggle for Tamil Eelam; to be the voice of our brothers and sisters imprisoned back at home.

 

The nod was a mutual acknowledgement of our shared and united belief in Eelam and the smile, a reciprocal appreciation of each other’s act of voting for our nation’s freedom.

 

Before leaving home, I had found my Tamil Eelam red-yellow scarf and wrapped it proudly around my neck. Glancing around, I was pleased to see I wasn’t the only one.

 

The man behind me wore a similar one, along with a badge reading ‘Free Tamil Eelam’.

 

He was there with an elderly lady, most probably his mother, who wore an identical badge as well as a red saree with a yellow border.

 

The gentleman in front of me, who appeared to be in his 70s, greeted me with a warm smile and shook my hand.

 

He told me how proud he was to see the younger generation carrying on the struggle and shared his memories of accompanying his grandfather to the Satyagrahas of the 1950s-60s.

 

I asked him whether he had ever lost hope in the possibility of freedom.

 

“Never” he replied.

 

Inside the polling stations, we were greeted by volunteers who guided us to the appropriate table.

 

Two independent officials, local councillors, sat in the corner watching over the volunteers, listening to the gentle hum of officials instructing voters of the procedure.

 

As I stood waiting for the official to flick through my passport, I sensed a buzz in the room.

 

Perhaps it was curiosity regarding the final results or anxiety over the possibility of a low voter turn-out.

 

The official handed my passport back to me and guided me to another table, where a man sat with a bottle of black ink and blotting paper.

 

A thick black mark was painted onto the tip of my finger and a yellow ballot paper given to me.

 

As we drove home from the polling station we compared the ink on our fingers.

 

Claims of the biggest, darkest and best were all rapidly put forward.

 

Our delight and zeal, was almost child-like in nature, as if we were comparing football cards in the playground.

 

We all wanted the pride of having the most prominent mark of our vote for Eelam.

 

Two hours to go till the polling stations close.

 

Pacing up and down with my mobile phone, I scrolled through my list of contacts, mentally dividing them into four categories: ‘can’t vote’ (they’re not Tamil), ‘would have definitely voted’, ‘two hours is not long enough to convince them to vote’ and ‘may have voted’.

 

One by one I called the latter; convinced that a bit of encouragement is all they need. 

 

“Have you voted?” There is a long silence, followed by a reluctant reply. “You won’t like what I have to say. I’m at work and I’m too busy.”

 

I try to hide my frustration and give directions to the nearest polling station, pointing out that it was less than 100m away.

 

After extracting a submission we say our goodbyes.

 

Thankfully, having gone through the rest of my phone book, such a conversation was not repeated.

 

Even members of my family who usually shy away from politics spoke enthusiastically about the idea of a democratic vote.

 

Later that night as the results started coming through there was a palpable sense of excitement.

 

Like with the ink on our fingers previously, once again my friends and I sat around and playfully boasted of our local area’s high turn-out and percentages of ‘Yes’ votes.

 

Shortly after 11pm, there was an electrifying cheer from the crowd as the final results were announced.

 

Over 64,000 votes cast; 99.33% of which were in favour of independence; an outstanding result.  

 

Surprisingly however, I did not feel the urge to celebrate.

 

Despite my previous enthusiasm, I was not jubilant or ecstatic.

 

Instead I had a feeling of immense satisfaction; content that the truth had prevailed.

 

It was then that it dawned on me – the buzz in the polling station earlier that morning was not anxiety or curiosity regarding the final result.

 

It was in fact the thrilling anticipation of what was to come.

 

As we voted that morning we had been excited, secure in the knowledge that today, the Tamil Diaspora in Britain would be able to prove to others what we have always known – the overwhelming majority of us want Tamil Eelam. 

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