By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
The Muslims of Mannar were forced to leave in 1990. Most of them were fishermen and farmers. Some of them have changed their traditional job over a period, and doing business to earn a better income.
A large number of people are still living in cadjan huts, where a few of the displaced people have managed to build houses on their own. They have been living in these tiny huts for seventeen years.
There are 650 families-1,700 persons living in Arafa Nagar, which is situated in Nuraichcolai, near Katpity in North-West Sri Lanka.
The refugees are very frustrated, saying that they are a forgotten community. They are left alone to survive.
“I like to go to Mannar and see my parents’ birth place” says Mohamed Junais Mohamed Hisam (11), who was born in Nuraichcholai after his parents were displaced from Mannar in 1990
Women work in fields planted with chilies
“I was displaced from Mannar in 1990 along with my family. I have been living in Arafa Nagar since then. I had to leave my own house and belongings. I am living with my daughter now. I work in the agro filed which cultivates onion, chillies, and cabbage. I go to the field and earn Rs.150/= per day, which is not enough to manage myself” says Sabeena Zubair (54)
Chillies will be sent to Colombo for distribution
“I water the crops in this field, and earn Rs.8,000/= per month. It’s very hot and can’t work for long hours in the sun. I have four children, who are still schooling” says Mohamed Zabir (44)
Women say that they have no other option except to work in the agro field for low wages,because they lack education
The owners of the agro fields say that, it’s cheaper to hire women workers
Zahira (50) was displaced from Erukkalampitty in 1990. She works in the agro field to look after her family of five
Onion, chillies and cabbage are planted in rotation
“My liberty is lost. I lost my independence on the day I left my home in Pandaaraveli,Silapaththurai in Mannar in 1990” says Ismail Mohamed Junaiz (40 ), who is a father of four
They refugees have no better future
A lot of them never went to their home town since the displacement