Dr. Rajani Thiranagama
|Born||23 February 1954|
Jaffna, Sri Lanka
|Died||21 September 1989 (aged 35)|
Jaffna, Sri Lanka
|Children||Narmada Thiranagama, Sharika Thiranagama|
Dr. Rajani Thiranagama (née Rajasingham) (23 February 1954 – 21 September 1989) was a Tamil human rights activist and feminist who was assassinated by Tamil Tigers cadres after she criticised them for their atrocities. At the time of her assassination she was the head of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Jaffna and an active member of University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna branch of which she is one of the founding members.
Early life and education
Rajani was born in Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, to middle-class Tamil Christian parents. She was the second child of the four female children. She followed her primary and secondary school education in Jaffna and in 1973, she entered the University of Colombo to study medicine. At university, she became actively involved in student politics.
Marriage and children
During her stay at Colombo University she met a politically active student leader from Kelaniya University named Dayapala Thiranagama. Dayapala was from a rural Sinhala Buddhist background. Rajani broke ethnic and religious barriers and married Dayapala in 1977. They had two daughters: Narmada, (1978), and Sharika, 1980. At present, Narmada lives in Britain and works for the public sector union UNISON. Sharika is currently living in California, married to the anthropologist Thomas Blom Hansen and is teaching at Stanford University. In 2005 Sharika portrayed her mother's role in the documentary film on Rajani called No More Tears Sister.
1978 Rajani begins her first posting as an intern medical doctor at Jaffna Hospital. After the completion of the intern, in 1979 she travelled to Haldumulla, a small village situated near Haputale to work as a medical doctor. By 1980 she returned to Jaffna as a lecturer in anatomy in the newly formed Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna. By this time, Jaffna was a battle zone in the early stages of Sri Lanka's civil war. Many were leaving Jaffna for Colombo or migrating to other countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
Links with the LTTE
Inspired by her elder sister Nirmala, then a member of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Rajani became involved with the LTTE, administering care to those wounded in action. In 1983, Rajani travelled to England under Commonwealth scholarship for postgraduate studies in anatomy at Liverpool Medical School. There she launched a major international campaign for the release of her sister who was imprisoned in 1982 under Sri Lanka's Prevention of Terrorism Act. She also maintained her links with LTTE by joining its London Committee to educate human rights groups and other international organisations about the atrocities occurring in Sri Lanka. While continuing to write and publish scientific papers, she also became implicated in grassroots organisations fighting for women's rights and against the discrimination of Britain's black people and became involved in the international campaigns of other liberation groups.
As a human rights activist
Over time, constant exposure to politically motivated killings by armed groups on all sides caused Rajani to rethink her position on armed struggle. A determined idealist, she criticised the narrow nationalism of the LTTE, and the atrocities committed by the LTTE, the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the Sri Lankan government forces upon the innocent Tamil civilian population in Jaffna. She began to collect evidence of human rights violations of IPKF and LTTE. At the University of Jaffna, Rajani and some of her teacher colleagues founded the Jaffna branch of the University Teachers for Human Rights.
A few weeks after the publication of book The Broken Palmyra, on 21 September 1989, she was shot dead at Thirunelvely, Jaffna in front of her house by a gunman while cycling back from work. University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna and Rajani's sister accuse the LTTE of her murder, retaliating against her criticism of their violent tactics.
Legacy and memorials
Malayalam novel Sugandhi Enna Aandal Devanayaki by author T. D. Ramakrishnan portrayed the life and times of Rajani, author even paid tribute to Rajani by dedicating the novel to her quoting No More Tears Sister.
Embracing feminism and a belief in human rights, Dr, Rajani felt that women in particular were the primary casualties of war;
Men in battle garb, whether they come with swords or guns, on a horse or in armored cars, the price of conquest seems heightened by the violation of women,
One day some gun will silence me and it will not be held by an outsider but by the son born in the womb of this very society, from a woman with whom my history is shared,
wrote Rajani in 1989, a few months before she was killed.
- "On the occasion of the release of No More Tears Sister, a film on the life and times of Rajani Thiranagama". Retrieved 12 February 2007.
- "Surviving the Plots of RAW and Premadasa". Retrieved 22 November 2006.
- "RAJANI THIRANAGAMA BIOGRAPHY" (PDF). Retrieved 22 November 2006.
- "South African LTTE Connections Exposed, By Rohan Gunaratna". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2007.
- "RAJANI THIRANAGAMA HISTORY OF CONFLICT". Retrieved 22 November 2006.[dead link]
- "The Broken Palmyra". Retrieved 22 November 2006.
- "The Broken Palmyra Forward". Retrieved 23 November 2006.
- "The Broken Palmyra review". Retrieved 23 November 2006.[dead link]
- "University Teachers for Human Rights". Retrieved 22 November 2006.
- "No More Tears Sister Film". Retrieved 22 November 2006.
- Meena T. Pillai (9 July 2015). "Mixing myth and memory". The Hindu. Trivandrum. Retrieved 18 April 2018.