7500, 15000, or 20000?

When Bob Dylan wrote ‘How many people will it take till he knows that too many people have died?’ he would not have known how many times this question is going to be raised till we realise it is people we are talking about. Such was the plight last week when UN, Amnesty and the Sri Lankan government fought over the number of civilians died in the final and ultimate battle between the Sri Lankan Army and the Tamil terrorists. As the bloodthirsty Prabhakaran’s death got finally acknowledged by his outfit, few really questioned how one man’s unyielding hunger for power has wrecked such carnage, and after Darfur, after Rwanda, and Serbia, we still haven’t learned the lesson. In Sri Lanka, the carnage was unlike the other pogroms where they were caused either by military regimes or due to ethnic conflicts. In Sri Lanka though, what started as an ethnic conflict quickly transformed into a fight for one man’s self obsession.

Then there were arguments about how many were killed by the army’s shells and how many died in the hands of the rebels. The UN did not ask the question of why that many people who died from the shells will have to be hanging around the place where the shells were due to fall. Why thousands of people will have to surround a mere hundred and odd rebels shooting from the shoulders of the civilians. Why, the man whom the media in Tamil Nadu branded as a martyr and Alexander has had to hide behind the civilians. Those who question the determination of Sri Lanka to finish off the militancy even at the cost of the civilians, do not seem to question the obstinacy of the rebels to go on fighting even at the cost of the civilians, whose welfare incidentally is the cause for which the fights began in the first place. After chasing out thousands out of the country and after killing the rest, what kind of governance did the rebels intend to establish in Eelam? Those who clamoured for ceasefire during the war, what kind of plan did they have if Sri Lanka had declared ceasefire? Allow the rebels to regroup, rearm, and live to fight for another day? And then witness the death of a million people? And then hail Prabhakaran as the greatest, indefatigable militant leader of the world? A suggestion to Sri Lanka: Why not declare that 20,000 people have indeed died in the last phase of the war? Let the world know how obdurate their leader was, that in the midst of hundreds of his own people falling, knowing very well that they have all died defending him -voluntarily or otherwise-, he did not flinch an inch and continued to allow them to die and even killed those who attempted to flee.

And imagine what would have happened if we had created Eelam and made him at the helm!