Reference – Article extracted from the Tamil weekly newspaper Thinamurasu published on the 12th – 18th of April 1998 by the Tamil. Thinamurasu’s then managing editor Nadarajah Atputharajah alias “Ramesh”, who was also an EPDP parliamentarian was assassinated on the 2nd of November 1999.
The original article published in Thinamurasu was translated into Sinhala and republished on 26.02.2021 in the state newspaper Dinamina. https://tinyurl.com/24wc9x5p
A murder that took place at the beginning of 1989 is still a mystery.
It was the killing of Rajini Thiranagama, a lecturer at the teaching hospital at the University of Jaffna. Rajini Thiranagama is a sister of Nirmala who was also a lecturer at the University of Jaffna and who left the Tigers [LTTE- Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam].
She was a human rights activist who genuinely cared for human rights and the freedom of women. Even in a life-threatening situation, she was the one who worked hard to for the University of Jaffna to be active. Rajini Thiranagama was very angry at human rights violations and tragedies caused by the Indian troops [IPKF- Indian Peace Keeping Force].
Rajini said, “We should impartially tell what happens around us, and let people feel this suffering history.” She was one of the founders of University Teachers for Human Rights at the University of Jaffna to publish their contemporary sufferings. The University teachers began publishing reports of human rights violations.
Rajini Thiranagama was courageous enough to start another significant action. It was to put together a document called “Broken Palmyra”. She started this with other brave university teachers Rajan Reel, Daya Somasundharam, K. Sritharan from the University of Jaffna, highlighting injustices.
There is and will always be a group of people who want to make their name and face popular in the name of giving a voice to human rights and against human suffering. If these people highlight human rights violations, they become a headache for journalists. They would scream if their names or faces are shown on the news or in photos. Some of them will escape from the country, aware of the dangers to their lives. They would return to the country and boast about themselves when they see it is safe to talk freely. But Rajini was not like that. She was a fighter, and she stood courageously in a situation where frequent killings happened; she was a fighter who worked hard to highlight human suffering while she was in danger. She preferred to act rather than talk.
Anger of the Forces
For their ‘Broken Palmyra’ project, Rajini and other lecturers at the University of Jaffna met many affected people. They had to collect information by visiting places where the Indian troops hunted down people.
News of this project reached the Indian troops. They feared that their human rights violations would be brought out to the world. They went to Rajini’s house three times and searched, but they found nothing. She received anonymous threats. Rajini was also aware that someone was stalking her. Rajini and the University teachers for human rights had also criticized the LTTE and exposed their misconduct.
However, the teachers’ activities mainly involved the Indian troops and their movements rather than the LTTE. One of the world’s largest armies was bloodthirsty in Sri Lanka, engaged in raping and massacring people in a Jaffna hospital. Exposing such cruelty can permanently ruin the name of the Indian army. They feared that if such documents were to be published by the university teachers who are well recognized the documents would be taken as reliable. A plan therefore to kill Rajini Thiranagam was formed in this situation.
Henceforth, the information I provide can differ from other opinions and messages, but I would am setting out the raw data.
The secret plan
A group of Indian troops decided to murder Rajini Thiranagama and to blame the Tigers for her murder. Execution of this murder plan was given to Colonel Sasikumar of the Indian army. Colonel Sasikumar then immediately contacted Rafeeq, a commander of the EPRLF [Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front] for Jaffna district. The real name of Rafeeq is Ravindran. He lived near Perumal Temple in Jaffna. Rafeeq was aware that the Indian troops would leave and could not continue for a long time. In addition to this, as he was involved in many robbery cases and was wanted, he began collecting money.
Rafeeq rationalized his actions by telling others that the leaders were taking money from India and losing everything. Rafeeq, a trustworthy person to Pathmanabha [Secretary-General of Eelam Peoples Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF)], started to collect money without the knowledge of Pathmanabha. He was also in contact with the Indian troops and the spy division of the Indian army. Over time his contact developed to personal relationships.
When Indian army Colonel Sasikumar told Rafeeq about murdering Rajini, he accepted without question. At that time, ‘tapping’ [killing] was very ordinary. EPRLF had already killed economics teacher, Krishnananthan, and many other teachers. As all these murders were happening so Rafeeq quickly took on murdering Rajini Thirangama.
It is not possible to confirm whether Pathmanabha was informed of this or not. Rafeeq made both Karthik and Thomas responsible for killing Rajini. For some days, they monitored the actions of Rajini and then followed her every day.
On the 21st of September 1989, Rajini was shot dead at Thirunelveli Junction near the University of Jaffna. Thomas was the one who shot Rajini. He attacked her quickly and then escaped. So, the courageous fighter Rajini who once gave voice for human rights was left in a bloodbath. Rafeeq warned the killers involved that senior commanders had ordered not to disclose this killing to anyone.
Even before the news of the murder came out, the EPRLF (Indian paramilitary) reported that ‘the Tigers (LTTE) were responsible for the murder’. They condemned it. When Rajini Thiranagama was shot dead at Thirunalveli junction (Jaffna), an important LTTE person had walked by when gunfire was heard; some people confirmed seeing him pass by on the road at that time. Like as they say that fruit from the palmyra tree does not falls when a crow sits on it (The force of the bird’s weight is not enough for the fruit to fall from the tree, you need more than), this was the reason for the Tigers to be blamed for the murder.
This information came from Karthik, who was directly involved in the killing. Both Karthik and Thomas belonged to the Mandayan Group (IPKF/Indian paramilitary) [Skull Group for shooting into skulls] of EPRLF. Their purpose was to kill their enemies without exposing the EPRLF. I have explained about this group previously in this series.
After the Indian troops left, Karthik got away from EPRLF and joined EPDP [Eelam People’s Democratic Party]. Thomas became a bodyguard to the secretary, Suresh Premachandran, in Colombo. Currently, he is living abroad. Karthik got away from EPDP. Later, he was hacked to death in a personal dispute at Trincomalee.
The Tigers had refused responsibility for the assassination of Rajini Thirangama. But, till now, it is believed that the Tigers were responsible for it. Meanwhile, the Indian IPKF Colonel Sasikumar, who planned the murder of Rajini, was killed in action by the Tigers in an area of the Ariyalai Maniam Thottam in Jaffna.
Fourteen days before her death, Rajini had written in a letter to a friend. “Someday, a gun would make me silent; it would not be by an alien. It will be a gun carried by a son who was born from a womb of a woman from the community with whom I share my history.”