Doctor categorically clears allegations of abuse on Army Tamil woman recruits
The following is an interview in Tamil done by BBC’s Tamil service correspondent Seevakan with Dr. Sivasubramaniyam Sivadas, the doctor who treated the 15 Army Tamil woman recruits who were admitted to the Killinochchi hospital recently.
The doctor who treated the 15 Tamil army woman recruits who were admitted to Kilinochchi hospital after falling sick says ‘none of them are sexually abused’
He said that he had began treating them only after authorities consented to his conditions to act according to his advice regarding the psychologically affected girls and that he should have liberty to speak personally with them.
Mr. Seevakan from the BBC contacted Dr Sivasubramaniyam Sivadas who treated these women and inquired into their present condition.
Dr Sivadas: There are 15 of them. Out of that 02 are admitted to the wards. The remaining 13 are kept in a room in the upper floor in order to be consulted by me. Many people requested me to see them. I clearly informed them about two matters. I will see them if only you accept my decision after I diagnose them. The other one is that I wanted to meet the patients personally.
After that one medical officer from the Army arrived. He contacted higher authorities and said ‘that they are ready to accept my recommendations’. After that only I met all 15 girls personally.
BBC Seevakan: What type of illness did they have? How did they look ?
Dr Sivadas: They are like, what we call in our villages ‘goddess dance’ (possessed by god). They are also faced with the similar issue. One week back about 108 .. or 103 girls were recruited to the army. They are between 18 -25 years old. Out of them one girl a week ago had told another girl that while she was going to a distance place in the camp she felt that some shadow or someone was coming with her
The other girl has said that a lot of people had died in that area and that she might have been possessed by a lost soul. Only divine power will cure it. Otherwise nothing can be done, she has said’. The girl got frightened and fainted.
The other girl took to pose like a goddess and started to dance.
BBC Seevakan: That all fifteen had this type of illness or only these two?
Dr Sivadas: No no. It started from this two and slowly spread to all 15 in that camp.
Some are not making a big dance but some think that it is true. It can happen to them too like that stated to scared.
Few of them began to do ‘cobra dance’
These phenomena can be commonly observed in Wanni. In my three and a half years of experience I have seen this type of collective hysteria…at least ten times I seen this collective hysteria.
One was among the child soldiers at Poonthodam camp. When 50 women were recruited to the garment factory 04 of them started dancing like snakes.
So for me it was not a big issue.
BBC Seevakan: Medically what you are guessing as the reason for this?
Dr. Sivadas: There are two minds, a deep and superficial one. 10 percent of our matters are decided in the superficial mind the rest 90 percent is decided in the deep mind.
In the deep mind …if inner conflict arise …means something unsolvable or matters which are complicated …disturbs the deep mind… in many occasions they will express (it) in ways like this.
Commonly Tamil people call it as ‘Kaali had arrived’ (Being possessed by god Kali) and Singhalese people say ‘Patthini dheyyo arrived.’ (Possessed by god Patthini)
BBC Seevakan: For this mental state to happen to them, what was the reason you detected? While you talked to them were you able to uncover anything?
Dr Sivadas: All of them, for the majority this is the (only) job which give Rs.30,000 monthly salary, is an attractive job. They themselves willfully enrolled. Not like what is being said outside that they were forcefully recruited. While I freely talk to them I observed that they willfully joined.
Because they said ‘we don’t have a monthly income we drink only Kanjee (Porridge). That much of poverty is in Wanni. For us this job is a great gift,… because of that they went.
But after they joined they got inner conflict (in their mind) ..this contradicted their culture ..The life they lived in the last thirty years …(They thought) I have to go because of the salary ..for income I have to do this…but my culture ..we as Tamils is this a right choice..
BBC Seevakan: But (you are telling) this is due to the inner conflict of mind. ..Possibility of any type of abuse committed to them after they joined the army .. May it be the reason?
Dr. Sivadas: I have completely seen all fifteen of them. The rest of 103 I went and saw in three camps that night. Nothing of this sort had happened to them.
Further while they did ‘divine dance’ not even a single army soldier or woman soldier had assault them.
Sometimes if they had assaulted these girls they might not continue in the army. But without assaulting them they brought them there (to the hospital) and (got them) admitted.
One thing they (girls) pleaded and begged me saying, ‘Sir please safeguards us from the allegation of sexual abuse, Please salvage us from this dirt, Daily, we listen to the news and got to know (about this allegation). Please inform to the world that nothing (happened) like that. Please tell the world that we are not having any serious mental illness. No sexual abuses were committed to us.’
In my point of view, I personally worked in Wanni for the last three and a half years. I’ve worked with many ex -combatants. I will say this is not a sexual abuse. Rather than that this is ‘media abuse’ or ‘political abuse’
BBC Seevakan: All right. What type of treatment are you giving them?
Dr Sivadas: We usually explain to them that this type of incident happened because of problems in their mind and not because of a god or devil possessing and doing it.
BBC Seevakan: So now you are saying that their situation is settled down?
Dr Sivadas: Well settled. I promise to meet them after one week. ..I am not going to be the person who assists them to join in the army. Because basically as a person who believes on Tamil nationalism my opinion is ‘government should not do these types of work (recruitment) this much sooner’
But I have a necessity to proof as a medical officer working in Wanni or as a specialist that they (girls) are not affected. They don’t have any mental disorders. They are not sexually abused.
The full interview of Dr Sivasubramaniam Sivadas who is working as a mental health specialist in Vavuniya hospital can be heard on www.bbctamil.com