Trigger Warning: abuse, physical violence, torture
Everyone called him “Sports Star.”
He was unbeatable.
Like the wind.
Everyone was in awe of my elder brother.
Everyone knew our family.
Then there was an attack in our area.
A Police big-shot was killed.
All hell broke loose.
They came for our village.
My brother, a bus conductor, left for work one day
And didn’t return home.
I went out looking for him the next day.
That’s when they got me.
They blindfolded me and bound my hands.
Pushed me into a white van and took me away.
The next day, they took me to a room.
From the corner of my eye I saw
My brother’s running shoes and backpack.
So I knew they had him too.
My beloved brother, what had they done to him?
I had no idea what was to come.
Every day for 3 months straight they beat me.
They were always drunk….always laughing.
First they would strip me.
Tie my hands behind my back and
Hang me upside down from a baalkaya (roof beam).
Then the beating would begin.
They’d each take a turn
Beating me with whatever they could get their hands on.
Poles, steel rods, even a wooden stool at times.
“You fucking terrorist, you did it didn’t you? Tell us the truth!”
“I don’t know anything. I’m just a three-wheel driver…”
Then there was another attack nearby.
A policeman who had known our family all our lives warned me,
“Go sit on the toilet and wait today. They’re going to come beat the shit out of you all.
I’m sorry there’s nothing more I can do to help you. Just go sit on the toilet.”
Then another night came.
They tied my hands behind my back,
Put a polythene bag over my head,
And started burning the bag with lit cigarettes.
The searing pain was unbearable.
My face was burning and there was nothing I could do or say to stop the pain!
“Para demala, tell us what you did? What else have you got planned? Tell us who else was involved?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about? Please… I beg of you, stop beating me!”
Why were they laughing? Oh God, what have I done wrong?
Then one night I saw him for the first time.
Seated at the far end of the room.
I wanted to run up to him and hug him.
But instead, they started beating me again.
He was made to watch his baby brother being beaten to a pulp.
“Admit it you piece of shit! Tell us everything, or you’ll never see your family again! Tell us. Tell us. TELL US!”
“I’m innocent. I’ve done nothing wrong! Please….oh God….I can’t take this pain. Please….oh God….please make them stop!"
He was my big brother. I always looked up to him.
But, he just sat there. Helpless.
He couldn’t bear it.
They laughed harder. Louder.
He just couldn’t bear it.
Day after godforsaken day, I spent this way
Until I couldn’t tell one day from the next.
One thing remained constant though.
Oh God, how I would dread the nights!
What new game would they play with me tonight?
Then it would start again.
Squeezing my genitals. Hour after hour.
I just couldn’t take it anymore.
“I admit it. I admit to everything. I’ll admit to anything! Just please…stop.
I just can’t take this anymore…I just can’t.”
And just like that, the beating stopped.
Five and a half years later,
They released me.
All charges against me dropped.
I was a free man.
I was going back home.
Home….where nobody knew me.
Home…where nobody wanted to know me.
Home….where my father had passed away.
Home…where my brother was.
Home….where he walked listlessly…talking to himself.
His eyes dull…..his spirit dead.
Home….where my hero used to live.
Message from the writer:
This writing is based on the real life experience of two brothers (one of whom I spoke to), who were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in Sri Lanka. Whilst versions of this same story is representative of many others who've been arrested under the PTA over the decades, each story is also excruciating and horrific in it's own right. This writing is an attempt to humanise those arrested under this draconian Act, and reiterate the larger longstanding call to repeal the PTA.
Photograph by Sampath Samarakoon.