Pradeep Jeganathan : Forgive, but do not Forget

Forgive “What about the beginning and middle, is my question, though simple in construction, grave and serious in its import.

Surely, from the burning of the public library in Jaffna, to the massacre of pilgrims at the sacred Bo tree in Anuradhapura, to the massacre of women and children in Sathurukondan,

to the killing of worshippers in the mosques in Kattankudy, there are the most inhuman and vicious atrocities that punctuate the unremitting brutality of our civil war. No list would be complete, my four events are simply, and obviously, a sampler.


As far as I know, three of these events have not been investigated at all, but a Presidential Commission investigated the massacre at Sathurukondan. The Commission’s account is very detailed because an anthropologist doing field work in the area, assisted them greatly. As I have argued in my paper, in the ‘Ruins of Truth: the work Melancholia and Act of Memory,” one of the central outcomes of the investigation is the number of those killed. A Number like 173. I call that the ruins of truth.

So, firstly, the Canadians have missed this. In the mid 1990s, a number of presidential commissions investigated grave and serious allegations of human rights abuses. The yield of these commissions for those who suffered has been minuscule, not because they were particularly biased, but because this kind of investigation can only produce a result like a number. This number then cycles back into the simmering conflict, and becomes the basis of more conflict.

No doubt many will disagree with me. I ask them then, given the logic of that disagreement, why they do not ask for serious investigations in to what we might determine as the four, five, six or twenty gravest moments of human rights violations we have lived through in the last three decades or so. I mean, am I to imagine that just because the United Nations didn’t investigate them, so the Canadians could echo them, all that I lived through in the terrible past of my country didn’t happen? That every brutality was confined to the ‘end.’

No, I cannot imagine that, and no, I am not asking for an investigation. I am asking that we stop taking sides, because it will destroy us all. We need to understand and remember that we all did terrible things to each other, and in so doing, try to not forget, but forgive each other, and forgive ourselves.

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