Today marks thirty years since the death of 2nd Lt. Maalathy, the first female fighter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to lose her life in the Tamil armed struggle against Sri Lankan state oppression.
She was killed at the age of 20, on the 10th of October 1987, during a confrontation with the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) in Jaffna.
The following account is told by a cadre that was by her side.
"We were in our bunkers firing at the (Indian) army. Hundreds of Indian troops had jumped out of their vehicles and were firing as they moved towards us. Mortar shells were exploding everywhere. We knew the army was advancing quickly. Maalathy was shot in both legs. She couldn't move and she was bleeding profusely. Realising that she was mortally wounded, she swallowed cyanide. A decision had been made to withdraw because we were heavily out-numbered. Myself and another girl Viji went over to carry Maalathy. Maalathy refused to come with us. She begged us to leave her and asked us to withdraw. Nevertheless, we lifted Maalathy and carried her and when we arrived at a safe place she was dead." (Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers, Adele Anne Balasingham, 1993)
seeds of liberation: new roots will surely grow
LTTE poster marking 6th anniversary of Malathy's death
Marking her death in 2003, the LTTE released a statement saying,
“Liberation does not mean just freedom from foreign domination and tyranny, but also freedom from religious and gender discrimination and oppression of women.”
hands will extend anew
LTTE poster on the 7th anniversary of Malathy's death
Her namesake, the Malathy Brigade was one of the two brigades of the LTTE's women's wing.
A memorial statue was built commemorating Maalathy in 2004 and was later destroyed by Sri Lankan military forces upon taking over Killinochi.
Her death was commemorated widely amongst the Tamil community in the North-East and was marked as women's uprising day in the de-facto LTTE state.