Do you remember Johnny Batta? The irony of it all…

A comment on De-Mining Sri Lanka: A Job for Widows and Survivors

Screen shot 2016-01-19 at 11.40.22 AMRead Smriti Daniel’s article on Al-Jazeera published on 12 January 2016. Enter a world you didn’t know existed, but one which Vimaleswaran Gunamala, Ananda Chandrasiri, Damian O’ Brien of the HALO trust —and even His Excellency the British High Commissioner James Dauris, who previously in Columbia knew de-mining and HALO’s work and visited Kilinochchi last May—are fully aware of.

This is Mahumalai, Kilinochchi in the baking heat of a northern sun.

The LTTE laid a circle of explosives around a well where soldiers might stop for water or in the gardens of homes they abandoned to the advancing Sri Lankan army. Mines have been found in pots of curd and plastic cricket bats.

Sounds fantastic I know to those who’ve never seen a landmine or never had a brother come home with his foot blown off.   I didn’t, though I do remember ‘Johnny Batta,’ growing up in the war years.

Smriti Daniel covers a story which reminds you of a movie, the pathos of women who have unbearable burdens and hopeless futures.   Flashes of The English Patient illuminated the account of young women and men who took these mines out of the soil.  But the names make it real.  The photos are too lifelike for this to be a movie on someone else’s country.

The irony is that the de-miners include ex-combatants who’ve passed the security test. It’s a job and a livelihood, and one that thanks to the present government will continue till 2020 hopefully or thereafter.

O Sri Lanka!   It hurts to read of these women, the household burden, and the contrast in the land.  What will happen when there are no more mines to de-mine?  Will the coconut groves, the fishing village and chilli gardens they remember, overtake the shadow of war and reclaim the land?  The war ended in my lifetime.  I am relieved and content.  But will these women in their lifetime see an end to their misery, a reward for their resilience?


The image is used with credit to the Halo archive. No copyright infringement intended.


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