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Grief and ghosts

September 6, 2011

There’s an elegant eulogy on Granta’s website here:


It’s written by a woman I’ve never met, V.V. Ganeshananthan. Her book, Love Marriage, is about the Tamil diaspora in Canada, but she writes about family and intrigue “back home” so accurately that I frequently had to stop reading to catch my breath.

And in this article, she writes one sentence that floored me. It’s this:  “You may never have heard of these deaths before, and you may never hear of them again, but in the spring of 2009, tens of thousands of civilians who were ethnically Tamil, as I am ethnically Tamil, were killed in Sri Lanka.”

The Sri Lankan government will deny these people died. Or they will say they may have died but they were killed by the Tigers. And sometimes they say they were not civilians but Tigers themselves. What the Sri Lankan government will not do is allow anyone else to investigate who these people were, and what happened to them.

Foreign aid agencies and journalists were ordered to leave the area before this final solution.  They still have not been allowed to go back in and find out what really happened.

What does it matter? My family are safe now – we all got out long before this happened. But the people who have vanished were the crowds of my childhood. They were the strangers in the street, the schoolgirls in my classroom, the audience in the cinema. They should still be there.


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