Due to the area being a strategic sea-port for the Tamil Tigers to smuggle arms from India, Gurunagar became a hotly contested battleground. Primarily a Christian area, the people of Gurungar were forced to negotiate a series of checkpoints simply to reach their boats and ply their trade. In 1996, the area became restricted to military personnel only, causing people to lose their homes and their livelihood. It was only in 2010 that Gurunagar was reopened by authorities, and people were allowed to return. Today, bullet holes still scar bombed-out homes, and ruined cottages line the seawall. Yet the people of Gurungar are rebuilding their lives and reviving their livelihood. New homes are being established and fishermen clean their nets after a long day’s catch.
Still an impoverished area, women line up to access water at communal taps, and washing is hung amongst the remnants of ruined homes. Yet children are able to attend school and safely play marbles in the street. Gurunagar is also a staging post for asylum seekers risking their lives at sea by boat, some trying to reach as far as Australia. As, while the war might have finished, tensions still simmer, and the fear of torturous interrogation still looms for some Tamil. While no one will forget the horrors of the war, the people of Gununagar celebrate their survival, and look forward to a future for their children. For the elderly – who have experienced decades of war – now is a chance to see out the rest of their days in peace.
About the author
Ali MC is a writer, photographer and musician based in Melbourne, Australia, and is currently studying a Masters in Human Rights Law. His recent exhibition, ‘Rohingya: Refugee Crisis in Colour’ was included as part of the Australian Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. He works solely in film photography, in particular, medium format.