Why? – Varscha Arul

“An angry, bare and potent shout in the darkness of social indifference. This young author processes the generational trauma of a people, presents its horrors and dares you to keep ignoring it. Essential, painful and needed.” – Dan Bernardo

I remember a time when all my problems could fit into the tiny palms of my hands. I remember a time when my only question was: why is the sky so blue? ‘Why’ is the word that would send me spiralling into my familiar ball of curiosity and mystery; ‘why’ was my favourite word. It was the word that would open steel doors, part huge seas, avenge destructive storms; it was the word that gave me and everything around me an impetus, it began a new page for an old chapter I call ‘life.’

But as you grow older, you come to know the word ‘why’ is no longer just there to question the existence of others. It’s there for you to question yourself.

I often ask myself: Why did it have to end like that? I look at my parent’s faces and see two perspicacious people thriving in a new, strange country that prides itself on its culture and diversity but secretly spits on the hardworking hands of millions of immigrants who helped shape what is now known as ‘British culture’. But in the rare times that I catch my parent’s gaze, I don’t see their love for me. I don’t see their determination to provide me a better life. I don’t see their courage or intelligence. What I see is their undying pain, their deep-rooted trauma branded into their everyday thoughts, their everyday actions; I feel their affliction, I hear the questions that they’re unable to ask: why doesn’t anyone know what happened to us?

I wonder often about that question too: Why doesn’t anyone know about what happened to them? I’m talking about Sri Lanka, a country who chose the path of, several thousands of innocent people, to self-destruction. A country whose desire for power and greed sparked a 25 year long civil war that ended with rape, torture, destruction and imprisonment. A country whose government has been hiding the answers to the ‘unexplainable’ disappearances of over 100,000 children, women and young men. People often admire Sri Lanka for its exotic beaches and picturesque sites but don’t care enough to realise it’s the country with the most conspiratorial disappearances in the world.

I’m talking about the one day out of 10,000 when my mum saw her whole family tortured to death by the government; an indescribable vision of broken limbs, eyes, fingers, organs scattered and unidentifiable, lifeless faces staring blankly at the sky. Cousins, uncles and aunts, a whole family just dead, their right to live ripped right out of their hearts, proudly in the grasp of a Singhalese man’s hand. Why? Why? My mum was 12. Her cousins 5 and 6. What grave sin did they commit to be thrown into a heartless world of corruption and chaos, to watch their l oved ones burn to ash right before their eyes? Imagine the fear that must’ve been inching its claws around their tiny, racing hearts. Imagine the aching embrace of loss and death my mum felt as she watched her cousins slowly but unwillingly read the last word of the last chapter in their short books that we call ‘life.’ How many more tears and blood need to be shed for the world to hear their cries and pain? How many more hunger strikes? How many more unexplained disappearances does it take for the world to finally acknowledge who the people of Tamil Eelam are and what we’ve been through?

I often ask myself that too: Why aren’t we heard?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because we’re not trending. It’s because the genocide of my people is not something society deems is worthy enough to decide whether someone is ‘woke’ or not. What’s important is not the change you inspire or the impact of your actions; what’s important is your ideal image, your social CV, the various charity links in your Instagram bio. What’s important is you giving your undivided attention and time to call out celebrities for cheating on each other rather than helping the Tamil Eelam community speak up about a silenced population back home, living in fear of being murdered for wanting what is known to us as our birth-given right: freedom. Why is it, that a girl dancing in the middle of the road gets more attention and ‘views’ than the video of a UK Mum on the 16th day of her hunger strike, pleading for the justice of Tamil people, my people, that people like you, turn a blind eye to?

It’s 2021 now. My mum escaped that hellhole and came to the UK for a better life. Others weren’t so lucky. Our people back home are all grown up now, with new families and new identities; with new realistic goals and dreams after their right to achieve them had been taken away. It’s 2021 now. Those people are still living in the same place that they watched a part of them die, co-existing alongside their abusers and rapists, controlled by a government of murderers. But I believe in change. I believe we will be heard. I will not let you or other people ignore what the people of Tamil Eelam, my people, went through, and are still going through. Tamil Eelam is not a hashtag nor is it a trend that ‘woke’ people can use to improve their social CV’s. I’m done with screaming our problems and troubles alone to people who don’t know how to listen. I’m done begging the few friends I have to repost the Tamil Eelam threads on their Instagram stories, hoping that somewhere in their hearts they really do care about what the thread has to say. I’m done with feeling alone in the fight for my people to get their identities back, to be able to openly express where they come from, to be able to retain back their right to know what happened to their missing sons and daughters and mothers and fathers. Tamil Eelam is my home and it’s my job, as well as the job of other fellow Tamilians, to finally make the world listen to what we have to say. I firmly believe that there will be new change. I firmly believe that my people back home will get the answers they deserve. I believe that together, we can help steer this movement forward in a new direction. But of course, it always starts small.