Amnesty International recently launched “Silenced Shadows”, a poetry competition on disappearances in Sri Lanka. Poet R Cheran, one of our competition judges, explains how literature can be a force for change.
More than 80,000 people disappeared in Sri Lanka. Many people there, including me, have relatives or friends who have disappeared in the past 30 years during the war. It is still an open wound. When a friend or relative is killed, painful as that is, at least you know their fate and you can have some closure. But if someone you love disappears, it is more cruel. You will be like a small bird trapped in a dark cage, searching for a corner where none exists. This pain is unbearable.
The major issue in Sri Lanka is the state’s brutality over the past 30 years. It is not just an ethnic chauvinist state, but one that is very willing to kill thousands of people or "disappear" them without hesitation. The state is the source of human rights violations. And when it comes to literature and fine arts, like many states in the world, it is illiterate.