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The Truth about Dhanu

To the Editors:

In Christian Caryl’s review “Why They Do It” [NYR, September 22], he alleges that I have written that Dhanu, the woman who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, was gang-raped. Allegations of Dhanu’s rape have never been proven and sources within the Indian government assert that she was still a virgin at the time of her death. Although such sources have cause to lie, in my interviews with the Tamil Tigers, they too do not think she was actually raped. There have been questions raised about whether her mother might have been the victim of sexual abuse by the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF) when they intervened in the coun-try in 1987–1990, but the main reason why Dhanu became a Tiger is that her brother was a well-known cadre who had died and she was carrying on the family tradition.

While it should be emphasized that checkpoint rape on the part of Sri Lankan military in Tamil areas (e.g., on the east coast) has certainly mobilized female Tamils, encouraged abused women to join the organization that would provide safe haven, protection, and acceptance, and provides evidence of the government’s cruelty, the story as it stands now in the current issue attributes to me an exaggeration of the facts I would not make.

Thank you for this correction.

Mia Bloom

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio

Christian Caryl replies:

My apologies to Ms. Bloom. I did indeed overstate the case in my paraphrase of her description of Dhanu. It is by no means a firmly established fact that Dhanu was gang-raped by Indian soldiers. It would seem, however, that some sort of sexual violence—either against her personally or someone in her family—may have served as an additional motive for her attack on Gandhi. In any case, I stand corrected.

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