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A tale of two wars

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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SRI LANKA: Tamil Tiger guerrilla trains other women at a drill in Jaffna in 2005. GEMUNU AMARASINGHE

NEPAL: A Maoist woman guerrilla at a mass meeting in Bhabang, Rukum in 2004. KUMAR SHRESTHA

Few are unaffected when they visit the exhibition of photographs of the Sri Lanka war by Gemunu Amarasinghe. There are pictures of a young boy in a make-believe US Army combat fatigue with this mother at his father’s grave, clouds of flies at a morgue where the bodies of civilians lie scattered, a group of women break down in front of a headless body, a ditch full of the corpses of massacred villagers many of them with their hands tied behind their backs.

Amarasinghe took pictures of the Sri Lanka conflict between 1995-2006, and his lens is  sharply focussed on the civilian victims of the war that took 120,000 lives over 25 years. Amarasinghe now works for AP in Nepal and has taken strikingly dramatic pictures like the haunting one of the Gadimai massacre of water buffaloes that went around the world. His work now takes him frequently across South Asia and into Afghanistan.

SRI LANKA: Rani Rajan weeps as she sees the remains of her brother Pakiyarasa Baskaran at a morgue in northeastern town of Trincomalee  in 2006. GEMUNU AMARASINGHE

NEPAL: A brother comforts his two sisters after their father was killed in Bhaktapur in 2005. SURESH SAIJU

Thirty of Amarasinghe’s photographs are on display in Kathmandu amidst the images of the Nepal conflict from the book, ‘A People War’. The juxtaposition of the Sri Lanka pictures with the photographs of the Nepal conflict evoke strong emotions that transcends boundaries, and highlights the universality of images of suffering and pain.

“What I wanted to do was show the war from the point of view of the civilian victims,” said Amarasinghe at the inauguration of the exhibit last week, “by humanizing the war, you can show that people are more than just statistics.”

The exhibition will continue till January 11, 2011 as a part of the Shanti Sangralaya that has a collection of images of photographs of the Nepal war. Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya is converting this permanent exhibition into a historical museum of the Nepal conflict.

Most visitors have compared the Sri Lanka and Nepal conflicts to look for lessons. Unlike Nepal’s class war, the Sri Lanka conflict was an ethno-separatist one. And because of that it was much more virulent and brutal, it has left a legacy of bad blood which makes the reconciliation process much more difficult. Four years after the comprehensive peace accord, Nepal’s peace process may be stuck, but the healing process here has been easier.

SRI LANKA: An unidentified Tamil boy and his mother weep as his grand mother looks on at the grave of his father who lost his life fighting for the Tamil Tigers. GEMUNU AMARASINGHE

NEPAL: A young woman grieves on finding the body of her husband after the battle of Naumule in which 36 policemen were killed in 2002. CHANDRA SHEKHAR KARKI

In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers who developed terrorism and suicide bombing into a fine art, were vanquished in a violent finale that exacted a terrible price on civilians. Nepal’s conflict, on the other hand, had neither victors nor losers. Both sides became rulers. Even though the monarchy was replaced with a republic, the king wasn’t hounded into exile as has happened elsewhere.

Gemunu Amarasinghe will be on hand at the Madan Puraskar venue on Saturday January 8 for a special edition of photo-circle to discuss his war photography.

‘People In Between’

Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya, Patan Dhoka
Till 10 January, 2011
11am-4pm, open all days except Tuesday

See also: The wars within

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7 Responses to “A tale of two wars”

  1. who cares on Says:

    common points between two war:
    1: both wars was held to make one individual king, and ethnicity were misused.

    2: in the both cases, same country helped to raise opposition while that country tagged both the opposition terrorists.

    3: for the country that helped oppositions, backfired.

    4: other third countries too acted similarly, on the one hand they tagged opposition terrorist and on the other hand bullied govt. in the name of human right.

    5: one EU country- N tried their best to let the war continue and milk the victim country.

    6: in the both case, oppositions misused civilians, used to kill attack civilians to blackmail respective govts.

    7: in both the countries, things got better when they ignored foreign powers.

    8: in the both cases, oppositions used to/still try to misused dialogue, peace agreement, cease-firing etc.

    9: the weapons, the both oppositions had/have are: blackmailing, lying, looting, forcing etc.

    dissimilarities:

    1: srilanka has managed to protect their dignity, they did not tolerated blackmailing… on the other hand, nepal… .. the same individuals who want to cash on with the situation have been using the sweet terms like peace, cooperation, unity….


  2. Suresh R on Says:

    There are uncanny similarities between the pictures of the two wars, I agree with Kundajee that the images of suffering are universal. You see the same body language in Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Cambodia. Our deep appreciation to Mr Gemunu for bringing these pictures to the audience in Kathmandu. The other similarity is that the people had to die and suffer for the political ambitions of the Big Men in the capitals. Nepalis and Sri Lankans were both cannon fodder for the greedy and ambitious rulers.


  3. ritz on Says:

    Thank you for sharing these photos on blog. I have “People war” and “People after war” photo books but unfortunately I missed this exhibition. I really appreciate your idea of establishing permanent historical museum or peace museum, where we can share not only photos but movies, interviews and things like even original bombed wall etc..with next generations and with people from other countries.
    I am Japanese. I have visited Hiroshima peace museum when I was young. It is heritage as well as very good venue as peace education for youth and foreigners, to remember misery war.


  4. ritz on Says:

    Thank you for sharing these photos on blog. I have “People war” and “People after war” books but unfortunately I missed this exhibition. I really appreciate your idea of establishing permanent historical museum or peace museum, where we can share not only photos but movies, interviews and things like even original bombed wall etc..with next generations and with people from other countries.
    I am Japanese. I have visited Hiroshima peace museum when I was young. It is a heritage as well as very good venue as peace education for youth and foreigners, to remember misery war.


  5. Nabin Banjara on Says:

    In this article, photo itself is speaking 1000 words rather than words of an article.


  6. senthil on Says:

    The pain of war is universal. War can be differentiated from terorism. If cant, then no nations go on war with other. In both the cases suppressed rose up to get their justice. Intially the Non-violence was their tool but eventually failed. Combat started with the aid from outside- For Maoist -its china and for Tigers- its India. Nepal succeed to address but srilanka fails miserably. Even Post-war pictures in srilanka are nightmare. Finaly Nepal is rejuvenated inclusively. Srilanka Suceeded by supressing the supressed.


  7. Kumar Shrestha on Says:

    Dear Editor,
    Pls correct Picture Credit – NEPAL: A Maoist woman guerrilla at a mass meeting in Rolpa in 2004. KIYOKO OGURA-. This picture is taken by me in Bhabang, Rukkum. Thx


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