Anyone who has a rudimentary knowledge about the role of women in the LTTE would know the role Thileepan played in urging women to come out and be active. Amazingly, he understood the importance of women taking part in the revolutionary struggle of Tamil Eelam. Women’s role in the LTTE began only after 1983-84 period and Thileepan died in September 1987. As result only a few hundred women who had joined the LTTE during this four year period from 84 to 87 had come to know him closely. Even among them, those who trained in India, did not have the opportunity to know him well. It was the women who had worked in the Suthanthira Paravaikal (SP) movement who knew him most. Here are their voices about Thileepan. The names of those still living have been changed and the LTTE names of those who are not alive are unchanged.
While the first batch of women had started training in India, Thileepan was actively urging women to participate in political work towards women’s liberation,. This work had started towards the end of 1984 and a network of women had been formed. In 1985 the first SP magazine came. By then women were able to write their own independent views in the SP magazine.
Thileepan always approached matters through discussion of action rather than policy or theory. I was confident as long as Thileepan was there. After his death I lost confidence. I was against Thileepan taking part in the fast because I had not met anyone else like Thileepan in the LTTE.
I was able to stand alone in my decision and the credit must be given to Thileepan who gave us training to think independently.
Thileepan was a great leader for us despite being a man. He urged all the women to be active and supported us all greatly. He was the main coordinator for SP. He was the kind of leader who never reprimanded but would always discussed alternative ways in which the task could have been handled. When Thileepan was to start his fast, he called for some of us but we did not go because we did not want him to go on the fast. When we went later, Thileepan’s condition had deteriorated. We did not expect that level of deterioration. We did not think he would die. He called us and talked to us about how we should continue to function. He said “I am trusting this job in your hands when I go. You should continue the work as we planned”. He explained the danger of changing the plans at random and how that will lead to serious errors.
After the departure of the Indian forces, Yalini selected 30 women to work in the political division. When we arrived in Jaffna we learnt that Seetha and not Yalini is our poruppalar. Seetha was neither active in the SP movement of Thileepan nor had she participated in military battles. She was a University graduate. She stayed in Jaffna during the time of Indian intervention. Whereas, the 30 women have faced many battles with the Indians in the jungle. Many of us were active even earlier in SP and SOLT. These women felt that someone who was groomed by Thileepan should be women’s political wing poruppalar.
Yalini was in Thileepan’s first batch of SP women .and she was groomed by him. When she was made J/district head, Seetha was not prepared to listen to her, confident that she rather than Yalini was right. Seetha was seen as more suitable by others because at that time the political division was also seen as a political party. Yalini and Barathy, if they were given the space to work they would have made a great revolution in the society. Seetha, being academically oriented, was unaware of societal issues re: women and had no clear thinking on what should be done.
Mithila would proudly claim she is Thileepan’s pupil. I would say that I am Thileepan’s pupil’s pupil. It is always energizing to say that. Thileepan trained people would take their assistants with them when they go to meet seniors including meetings with the leader, Pirapaharan. It was a kind of leadership which they wanted to pass on to the next generation.