My grief, too, had a political dimension


V. V. Ganeshananthan reflects on remembering the violence in Sri Lanka @ Granta.In the case of September 11 2001, communal loss is – comparatively, at least – well understood. Everyone saw or could see those deaths; they were on the news even as they happened; the broadcast was part of their lasting tragedy. Few perceived denial of the deaths as rational. The people who had killed them made sure there was plenty of physical evidence. No one fought the act of mourning and was taken seriously. Not so with what I saw from a great distance eight years later: the deaths of Tamil civilians at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war. These deaths require, among other tasks, ongoing announcement and explanation – and because certain authorities have failed to fully acknowledge that the casualties occurred, saying I grieve means stating, repeatedly, I believe that they did. It is a kind of complicated voting. This recitation of the facts means a commitment not only to how definitively these people are gone, but also to hearing it over and over again as I am forced to argue for it. I resent this more than I could ever have thought possible, because in this country of grief, the best kind of shelter is to be understood, to have someone stop next to me and without asking anything, put their umbrella over us both, between us and the more