Monday, 27 May 2013

BOOK REVIEW : Still counting The Dead : Survivors of Sri Lanka's Hidden War by Frances Harrison

Still Counting The Dead : Survivors of Sri Lanka's Hidden War by Frances Harrison

I have always been the one who loved fiction and never attempted to read anything serious. I came across this book while going through the Flipkart site and was compelled to order it. The book arrived four days back and I finished reading it  in two days flat. This is not because I read fast but because I could not put it down. Just reading the author's summary on the back of the book  made me uneasy and guilty for remaining ignorant about the state of the Sri Lankan Tamils during the final stages of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.
As the author herself says, this book does not talk about the origin of LTTE or the ethnic clashes prevalent in Sri Lanka since the early 1970's. This book is an honest and a real attempt by Harrison to bring to the world's notice the apathy of the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were caught in the crossfire when the war between the rebels and the government reached its bloody climax.
In this book Harrison shares the true stories of the Sri Lankan Tamils  who were the pawns in the hands of both the rebels and the government and who were even betrayed by the United Nations in their time of deepest despair.
In all the stories of these brave tamilians two things are highlighted. The first is the cruel and selfish nature of man for whom his own survival comes first, even at the cost of being human. The second facet of man which is shown is that there have been many who with bravery, sacrifice and generosity helped complete strangers in their time of gloom.
As Harrison has written that the motivation behind the telling of these stories is not revenge or making a political stand. "It is about making the dead count for something".
While reading this book one thing  became crystal clear. It is the greed, jealousy and hunger for the absolute power which makes one human do such unimaginable crimes on a fellow human. And this is the sad truth which is prevalent everywhere in the world, be it our own country India or our neighbour Pakistan or Greece or Syria.
Every person who stands for human rights should read this book to feel a small percentage of what the tamilians had to go through for being Tamils and fort staying in the rebel controlled area in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
Uma, a teacher in the rebel area who survived the war summarised the hopelessness of her community, " They took away our individuality, our intellect, our confidence, our hope, physical wealth comes last. I used to be a teacher, a fighter, a wife, and then I was reduced to being a fugitive, a person in hiding. Now they have taken everything from me."