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21 September 1989

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University lecturer and human rights activist, Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, is shot dead. The Tamil Tigers are blamed for the assassination.

At the time of her assassination, Rajani was head of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Jaffna. There, she and some of her colleagues founded the Jaffna branch of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), which documented the human rights violations committed by the LTTE, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the Sri Lankan government forces on the Tamil civilian population in Jaffna. Rajani co-authored the seminal book, The Broken Palmyra, which documents the violence in Jaffna during the 1980s. Weeks after its publication, Rajini was shot dead in front of her house in at Thirunelvely, Jaffna while cycling back from work.

Dr. Rajani Thiranagama: Her contribution to the University Teachers for Human Rights (U.T.H.R.), Rajan Hoole, 2 October 1989; No More Tears Sister: An Anatomy of Hope and Betrayal, directed by Helen Klodawsky, produced by the National Film Board of Canada (2005).

In her own words: excerpts from Dr. Rajani Thiranagama’s writing

“Men in battle garb, whether they come with swords or guns, on a horse or in armored cars, the price of conquest seems heightened by the violation of women.”

“They came to interrogate me in the Dean’s Office. They said that they had come to have a conversation with an intellectual — that I had been extremely hostile. I think that they will try to irritate me. I can handle it pretty well. Some were complaining of my sharp tongue — maybe it’s my sharp tongue that will save me.”

“I would feel so depressed if in my young age — I had not stood with my people especially in this hour of immense suffering — that I had lied to my spirit, to the spirit of my people, to the millions of oppressed people. Maybe it looks grandiose — the betrayed — but that’s how I would feel — that I have chosen comfort and love, the fulfillment of my own desires — to that of their suffering.”

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This event was the subject of a feature: Assassination of an activist.

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