Colombo, Sri Lanka
``Many people feel that India only wants to capture power'' in Sri Lanka, says a business student who fled Jaffna last week. ``The Indians no longer want to help the Tamil people.'' After the Indians launched their offensive Oct. 10, she took shelter in her college for five days. She then left the city by foot and managed to get on a bus, which took a circuitous route to avoid fighting and Indian checkpoints. Many civilians have died in shelling and house-to-house fighting, she says. She saw civilians' bodies in the streets.
As the ranks of Sri Lanka's displaced swell, stories such as this are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Velupillai Rewathan, a relief worker, escaped from Jaffna and went to Colombo by motor scooter, truck, bus, and train. His parents are still in a Jaffna refugee camp.
``The conditions in the city are very poor,'' he said. ``There is no food or medicine. The shops are empty and closed.'' A Tamil, he also maintained that many Tamils in Jaffna are bitter about the Indian troops. ``Now they understand that the Indians will never help Sri Lanka and never help the Tamils,'' Mr. Rewathan said.
Rewathan spent three days in Colombo to organize a relief mission for the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement, Sri Lanka's largest private relief organization, and had a tough time finding truck owners willing to drive to Jaffna. He left early Sunday, and the Savodaya people do not know if he made it back to Jaffna.
P.A. Gunadasa, a Sinhalese farmer from a village near Trincomalee, says his house and fields were ruined by Tamil terrorists several years ago. His son, a member of the home guard, which was armed by the Sri Lankan Army to protect Sinhalese residents, was killed in an ambush by Tamil extremists, he says. His wife later became ill and died.
``For three years, one by one, I've lost my family,'' says the farmer as he sat among his belongings at a relative's house in Colombo. ``There is no hope.''