One of the most traumatic events in the early stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka, still raging after more than 25 years, was the burning of Jaffna Public Libraryâ€“a major landmark in Tamil cultural heritage housing more than 97,000 books and irreplaceable palm-leaf manuscripts.
This documentary attempts to document the war-scarred life of the Library and the socio-political violence connected with it. The Jaffna Public Library was the major repository of literary source materials of the Tamil people and Tamil language. It was a vibrant place of historic and symbolic importance to the local minority Sri Lankan Tamil people until 1981, when police and government-sponsored thugs set fire to it, destroying it completely. The film narrates the entire history of the library since its inception in 1933 by juxtaposing voiceovers and interviews with former employees.
The interviews of the people who had benefited from the library are heart-rending, including Mr Sabaratnam who had been the member of the library since 1948. Archival footage of an interview of Mr Rasa Viswanathan in 1981, then Mayor of Jaffna, recollects the entire incident including the involvement of armed constabulary in the devastation.
The film highlights the traumatic cultural impact of the Sri Lankan civil war on Tamil culture and aims to bring the memories of a unique cultural asset to life for newer generations.