Thileepan dies and thousands grieve

Place: Nallur, Jaffna | Date: 19870926

The Citizen Committees, trade unions, students unions, teachers associations, religious leaders, all held meetings and discussed the issues relating to Thileepan's fast and passed resolutions and submitted memoranda to the overall commander of the IPKF, Lt. General Depinder Singh requesting the Indian representatives to intervene and stop the fast and initiate immediate efforts to set up the interim administration in the North and East. But nothing moved fast enough to stop Thileepan's death. Thileepan died on the 26th of September 1987. There was widespread grief in the North. There can be little doubt that Thileepan's martyrdom had a profound effect on every Tamil soul in Sri Lanka. Thousands of people from the North and East poured into Jaffna as the news of his death spread.

But no violent reaction at funeral

Judging by past events, everyone expected a violent reaction in the North and East, following Thileepan's death, but to everybody's surprise the funeral turned into a peaceful day of mourning. The LTTE members moved in decisively to curb any kind of violence. They moved all state owned buses into depots and guarded them. They also provided cover to government institutions after some attempts had been made to set fire to them. The Tamil daily Eelamurasu as well as the TV Nitharshan carried the LTTE leader, Prabakharan's appealed to the people not to destroy or damage public property, as this was the property of Tamil Eelam. Black flags were seen everywhere - on the roads, in houses, churches, temples, trees, public buildings and so on Thousands of sobbing men, women and children followed the body covered with the red flag of the Tigers with their emblem on it. Thileepan's body was taken on a decorated van through the villages for the people to pay their homage and finally taken to Suthumalai where it was kept for the people to pay their last respects. I was later informed that his body was donated to the medical faculty of Jaffna University. The LTTE said that this had been his last wish.

Thileepan's death brought sadness and sorrow and also fear to many people. Most of them had genuinely believed that the Indians would intervene and stop the disaster. They began to have doubts about India's conduct. They began to say 'this could have been avoided' and 'India should have moved fast' and 'India should not have let this happen' and so on. The Tamil dailies began to carry articles criticising the handling of the whole issue by the Indians. I could feel the tension mounting.