Annai Poopathy

Annai Poopathi-2012One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

நாட்டுப்பற்றாளர் – Naatu Patralar

3 November 1932 – 19 April 1988

“Today, we cherish the memory of a great martyr and salute her supreme sacrifice. Mother Poopathi has earned our highest esteem as one of the noble martyrs who have become legends in the history of our liberation struggle. As a woman, as a mother, as the maternal head of the family, Poopathi amma transcended her ordinary life and the bonds of existential attachment in sacrificing her life for the emancipation of her nation. ..”

Velupillai Pirabaharan on Second Anniversary of Annai Poopathy’s death, April 1990

[see also Rajiv Gandhi’s War Crimes]

Annai Poopathy’s Fast for Freedom – Adele Ann Balasingham


The history of the Tamil struggle for national self-determination is a history of extraordinary examples of courage, determination and sacrifice. Thileepan, the senior LTTE cadre who fasted to death in 1987 demanding the fulfilment of promises made by the Indian government to the LTTE leadership, superseded such historical figures as Mahatma Gandhi and IRA activist Bobby Sands, in the use of fasting as a political weapon. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Bobby Sands went without food during their fast, whereas Thileepan refused both food and fluids.

Into the history of great feats of courage and determination must go the struggle waged by a 56 year old mother of ten children and grandmother, Mrs Kanapathipillai Poopathy. Mother Poopathy, as this extraordinary woman has come to be affectionately known, went without food and fluids for thirty days before her death on 19th April 1988.

Kanapathipillai Poopathyannai Poopathi Large cutout seen in Chunnakam junction

When Annamuthu and his wife Periyapillai from the ancient Tamil village of Kiran in Batticaloa looked down affectionately on their baby daughter Poopathy on 3rd November 1932 it would never have entered their minds that this child would grow up to become a legendary political figure, the first woman in political history to fast to death for a cause; they did not know their daughter would be venerated by millions of people.

There is nothing extraordinary in Poopathy’s childhood. Her biography reflects this history of her times. She was one girl among three, with two brothers. The best interests for a girl the family held was to fulfil the ideal type of life that prevailed at that time. Thus Poopathy, with basic literacy skills, was withdrawn from school and married at the age of twelve. Two sons were born from this union.

At a very young age Poopathy soon developed the emotions of a matured woman. Married at twelve years of age, twice a mother and widowed all within a short span of life. But Poopathy married again to Mr Kanapathipillai, a widower with two sons and a daughter. Her family then expanded. Two more sons and two daughters resulted from this marriage and Poopathy became a mother of ten children.

Poopathy struggled to raise a family in the face of shrinking opportunities for Tamil and Muslim children and mounting Sinhala State oppression.

The young men of Poopathy’s children’s generation were targets of the military operations by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Indiscriminate killings, ‘disappearances’ and torture confronted the generation of her children. Eventually the horror and pain of military operations came to her doorstep.

Poopathy’s 28 year old son was shot dead by the Sri Lankan army. She tried to remove her family from the area of military operations by shifting to Navatkerni near Batticaloa. Again however, her eldest son by the second marriage was randomly shot dead by the Special Task Force.

Another son, arrested during round up operations, was held in Boosa army camp and subjected to severe torture. Poopathy’s response to the death and pain of her children was grief and sadness. But grief and sadness, rather than weighing her down in perpetual morbidity, turned to rage and selflessness.

Poopathy amma transformed depressing, individual emotions into positive social action. Poopathy knew that her experiences were the experiences of countless numbers of women. She came into contact with the Mother’s Front in Navatkerni and through this organisation was able to support, help and inspire other women who were going through the same traumas as she herself had been.

Poopathy amma as a member of the Mother’s Front, became a vociferous critique of the military operations and widespread violation of human rights by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Undeterred by the armed forces potential for killing and maiming, Poopathy protested against the military atrocities of the Sri Lankan troops. She often went to the army camp to enquire about the disappearance of husbands and sons.

The height of Poopathy amma’s political campaign against the oppression of the Tamil and Muslim people and the violation of human rights came during the occupation of the north and east by the Indian army. The outbreak of war between the Indian army and the LTTE and the subsequent death and atrocities perpetrated against innocent Tamil and Muslim people horrified Poopathy amma.

Poopathy amma, with grave risk to herself from a ruthless army of occupation, was determined to lodge her protest against the war and the consequent death and mayhem caused by the Indian army. When political activity was banned by the Indian army, Poopathy boldly ignored the orders and organised demonstrations and protests against the atrocities perpetrated by them.

Ultimately the Women’s Front decided that it would use the weapon of fasting to express its disapproval of the war against the people. Two Tamil women, Mrs Annammah David and Mrs Nesammah Vadivel commenced a fast unto death. The occupying Indian army severely embarrassed by the determination of Tamil women to demonstrate their dislike of the presence of the troops broke up the hunger strike.

Poopathy amma, however, outraged by this impingement on political freedoms and determined to protest to the world the injustice of the war, resolved to carry on the hunger strike to achieve her political goals.

On 19th March 1988 Poopathy amma took up residence at Mahmangam Pillayar temple and commenced her fast. She put forward two demands: (1)An immediate unconditional ceasefire between the LTTE and the IPKF. (2)Unconditional talks between the LTTE and the Indian government.

*****Ms Kaaronja lighting the flame of sacrifice
NorthEast to observe Annai Poopathi anniversary [TamilNet, Sunday, 18 April 2004, 11:01 GMT]
Arrangements have been made in several parts of NorthEast to celebrate the 16th death anniversary of Annai Poopathi on Monday (April 19). She died after fasting for 31 days from 19 March 1988 demanding that the Indian government should stop the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and initiate talks with the LTTE.

In the wake of the collapse of Karuna’s revolt, there is increased interest in the Batticaloa region in observing the death anniversary of Annai Poopathi on a grand scale, sources said.

The Batticaloa District Mothers’ Front in a statement appealed to Tamils in this region to observe the Annai Poopathi remembrance day by flying red and yellow flags in their houses and business establishments and to attend the final day event scheduled to held Monday evening Annai Poopathi mausoleum.

Annai Poopathi remembrance events are organized in the Jaffna district on the divisional basis. From morning till evening with token fasting, sources said.

The Remembrance Day events will take place at Karanavai Mootha Vinayagar Kovil premises in Vadamaradchchi division, Colonel Kittu mausoleum premises in Muththirai Santhi in Jaffna division, Velanai Thuraiyoor Iyananar Community Centre premises in the islets and the Open Air Theatre in Kayts division.

In Thenmaradchchi area Annai Poopathi Remembrance Day events will be held at Sangaththanai Murugan Kovil premises, said a statement released by the Jaffna political division of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

In Trincomalee district sports events were held in the LTTE controlled Muttur east Sunday and the winners would be presented with prizes and certificates Monday at Chenaiyoor at the concluding Remembrance Day event, sources said.

Poopathy Kanapathipillai was born in a small ancient Tamil village of Kiran in Batticaloa, as the third daughter to Mr. Annamuthu and his wife Periyapillai. Because of her family’s economic situation she was withdrawn from her school and was married at a tender age of only twelve. Twice a mother and widowed all within a short span of life. Poopathy married again to Mr. Kanapathipillai, a widower with two sons and a daughter. Two more sons and two more daughters resulted from this marriage and Poopathy became the mother of ten children.

“Annai Poopathy has made an indelible mark in the golden history of our struggle. She sacrificed her life for the freedom struggle of her people renouncing her life as a mother, as head of a household and as a woman. Her moral war against the Indian army was an embarrasment India. She did not die as a human being. Her sacrifice symbolized the uprising of Tamil eelam motherhood,” said Pirapaharan, in a release about her death.

Annai Poopathy, a supreme model for Tamils- Ilamparithi [TamilNet, Sunday, 02 April 2006, 14:15 GMT]
“Annai Poopathy who sacrificed her life, in a fast-to-death protest in March 1988 protesting against the Indian peace keeping forces (IPKF) and supporting the Tamils liberation struggle, is an example for all Tamils to emulate. In all key events, like the local council elections, we have to tell the world that we Tamils stand determined and united in achieving our just aspirations,” said S. Ilamparithi, Jaffna district head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE political wing, presiding at the 18th anniversary memorial celebration held Saturday 10 a.m, at Palai Maha Vidyalayam.Ms. Pathmini Sithamparanathan garlanding Annai Poopathy's image

Annai Poopathy, an epitome to be emulated – Ilamparuthi
Ms. Pathmini Sithamparanathan garlanding Annai Poopathy’s image.
Annai Poopathy, an epitome to be emulated – Ilamparuthi

TNA M.P Sivanesan garlanding Annai Poopathy's image.
TNA M.P Sivanesan garlanding Annai Poopathy’s image.
The celeberation was followed by a discussion workshop, on the social tasks facing the nominees to the Jaffna district local authority elections, participated by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians, LTTE officials, staff and students of educational institutions, parents of martyrs and members of social organisations, in the district of Jaffna, said attendees.

As the first event of the day, the Common flame was lit, by Mr. Kanagalingam, Secretary National Awakening Assembly (NAA) Pungudutivu and Mr. Kunaseelan, Principal, Palai Maha Vidyalayam. Ilamparithi hoisted the Tamileelam National flag while Mavai Senathirajah, TNA M.P and P. Kanagasabai, President Jaffna district Co-operative societies lit the Flame of sacrifice in front of Annai Poopathy’s framed photograph.

Following this, Jaffna district TNA parliamentarians Ms. Pathmini Sithamparanathan, Sivanesan, S. Gajendran garlanded Annai Poopathy’s picture.

In the memorial day address, Ilamparithy said, “Many National patriots like Annai Poopathy too have sacrificed their lives for redeeming our nation just as our martyrs had. With their sacrifice, and guidance of our national leader, we have arrived at a very important stage in our struggle for liberation.
Annai Poopathy, an epitome to be emulated – Ilamparuthi
S. Ilamparuthi, LTTE Jaffna wing political head.
Annai Poopathy, an epitome to be emulated – Ilamparuthi
“When the enemy employs military means to defeat us we counter them using the same means; when the enemy tries to defeat us in the political arena we meet on the same ground overcoming all obstacles. Our leadership constantly strengthens and guides us and the liberation struggle adopting superior political and military strategies. In the international stage too, our leader’s unique diplomacy has proved to be a formidable and progressive force accommodating universal norms and values, earning us respect.

“In the same manner we too should strive to vanquish all the obstacles placed in the path of our struggle for liberation

“Our enemies try to create an illusion that they have the support of the people. Bur our people have clearly illustrated repeatedly that they are always with the Tamil leadership.

Mavai Senathirajah, speaking at the ceremony said, “The local authority election results in Trincomalee and Amparai districts clearly reveal how the north and east are seen as one Tamil homeland by the people of the east.

“The Thamil Arasu Kadchy has earned a spectacular victory in these two districts where the people were plagued with the atrocities, harassment, abductions, assassinations and restrictions of the Sri Lanka Army aided by the Tamil paramilitaries.
Annai Poopathy, an epitome to be emulated
Common flame lit by Secretary Kanagalingam, Secretary Pungudutivu NAA.
Annai Poopathy, an epitome to be emulatedThe flame of sacrifice lit by TNA M.P, Mavai Senatirajah.
The flame of sacrifice lit by TNA M.P, Mavai Senatirajah.
“Particularly on the polling day, several restrictions were made to prevent the Tamils from voting in these two districts. But, surprisingly, they had voted in defiance of threats and violence, declaring not only to the south but also to the international community that they stand firm with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the Tamils liberation struggle.

“Although the Sinhala hegemonic national parties, the JVP and the Jahika Hela Urumaya were routed, the polls still demonstrate widespread support in the South to the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse who had not made any progressive attempt to deal with the Tamil National question.

“The international community, with the clear evidence that the Eastern Tamils have provided, should exert pressure on Mahinda Rajapakse to recast his policy document to include recognition of Tamil homeland and Tamil rights to self-determination. Without acceptance of these principles Sri Lanks will only be led to a path of destruction.

“The Tamils paramilitaries should be cleared from Tamil Homeland with their weapons if any progress in peace talks is to be achieved, said Mr Senathirajah.

K. V. Balakumaran, an LTTE senior member, delivered the special address followed by speeches made by TNA Jaffna district Parliamentarians, MS. Pathmini Sithamparanathan, Sivanesan and Gajenthiran.

Annai Poopathi anniversary celebrated in Batticaloa[TamilNet, Thursday, 20 March 2003, 04:03 GMT]
“Today represents a historic day in our freedom struggle. The fifteenth year anniversay of the day Annai (mother) Poopathi sacrificed her life waging non-violent struggle against the might of the Indian Army. She demonstrated that no force can suppress the determination of the Tamils to fight for their rights,” said Batticaloa-Amparai special commander of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), T. Ramesh, addressing the anniversary celebrations held in Navalady, Batticaloa, sources said.

Ramesh at Poopathi Memorial
Special commander Ramesh hoisting Tamil eelam flag
Batticaloa district LTTE head of administration, Senathirajah, presided the event.

Commander Ramesh hoisted the Tamil Eelam flag at the Navalady Poopathy Memorial. Martyr Lt. Vijaya Kartig’s mother hoisted the flag of Mother’s Front. Batticaloa-Amparai district head of LTTE political section, Kausalyan, lit the ceremonial flame. Rev. Joseph Mary and Priest Bramasiri Jeyanatha Kurukkal lit the sacrificial flame.

General meeting began after Batticaloa-Amparai district head of the LTTE politicial section women’s wing, Banuka, garlanded mother Poopathi’s picture frame.

Kausalyan at Poopathi Memorial
Kausalyan lighting the ceremonial lamp
“Tamils have been discriminated by successive governments from the time Sri Lanka gained independence. Annai Poopathi sacrificed her life so that the future Tamil generations can live in peace. Tamil leaders of the past staged non-violent struggle to obtain our rights. We were forced to takeup arms as our non-violent struggle failed to deliver results,” continued Ramesh in his speech.

“Our military strength has finally convinced SriLanka government ot seek a negotiated solution to the conflict. Convincing articulation of Tamil peoples’ just rights in the peace talks has given us legitimacy in the within the international community. We have agreed to explore our right to self-determination within a Federal configuration. If the Sri Lanka Government fails to deliver a just solution then international community will have to support our right to secession.

“We have to be vigilant as there is uncertainty in the political dynamics of the South. New elections can be held, and new parties can become key players in the future. We have to be prepared and be ready to face these potential changes,” said Ramesh.

LTTE’s Banuka and Parliamentarian, Joseph Pararajasingam, also spoke.