Maaveerar Naal, annual practices honouring Tamil dead in Sri Lanka’s civil war continue in Scarborough, but there is some disagreement on how long the solemn remembrance period should last.
Local ceremonies for the thousands of separatist Tamil “martyrs” were for years held during the week leading to Nov. 27, the day the first Tamil Tiger casualty, a Lieutenant Shankar, is said to have died in combat.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated as the decades-long war ended in 2009, but Maaveerar Naal remains.
This year, however, the Tamil Youth Organization - Canada announced student groups had dedicated the entire month of November “as a month of purity and remembrance” in which they will “seek to protect and promote Tamil Identity” on their campuses.
“The month of November is dedicated solely to remembering, commemorating and reflecting on the sacrifices of our fallen heroes,” said the statement, which was signed by 11 Tamil student groups including the University of Toronto Scarborough Tamil Students’ Association.
“Therefore, we kindly ask all students, youth and community members to withhold from organizing and participating in events not associated with our martyrs as a symbol of respect for their sacrifice.”
The Scarborough-based Canadian Tamil Congress issued its own statement late last month after the group “received numerous inquiries” about the issue.
While acknowledging Maaveerar Naal is “an important time for most Tamils to remember and respect the lives perished in the civil war,” and stressing it was not endorsing any position on its length, the Congress voiced disagreement with an “attempt by certain individuals or organizations to mark the entire calendar month of November as ‘Maaveerar month’ - thereby unilaterally declaring it as a month where activities that involve entertainment and leisure (are) frowned upon.”
“This is something new that has come up only now with no historical reference or relevance,” the statement said, adding the Congress “remains concerned that these views should not be forced upon the community nor should these views be used to intimidate others into following certain beliefs.”
People can decide to observe Maaveerar Naal for a full month and to avoid entertainment or leisure activities, “but in a free and fair society, you cannot force something onto others,” David Poopalapillai, CTC national spokesperson, added this week.
“There’s no room for this kind of hardline talking in Canada.”
Attempts this week to reach a spokesperson for TYO - Canada, which has a Scarborough post office box as a mailing address, and the UTSC TSA, which planned to hold a Maaveerar Naal event at 6 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 22, at the Meeting Place on the Scarborough campus, were unsuccessful.
Another ceremony is planned Sunday, Nov. 25, at the Metropolitan Centre on Finch Avenue for what TYO - Canada calls “a youth Maaveerar Naal.”
In its statement, TYO - Canada and the student groups urged continued “central use” in remembrance events of the “national symbols of Tamil Eelam,” which include the Karththikaipoo, a lily sometimes called the November flower.