24 June 2017

Sri Lankan Muslims leaders: Have you forgotten the violations US/West have committed against the Muslims?

There are 50 Muslim majority countries in the world. Since 1980 Syria has become the 14th Muslim country US has illegally bombed & invaded. At the same time there are also 5 Muslim countries that support US airstrikes on Syria - Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan. However, we now come to learn that Qatar has fallen out of favor with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Just the other day the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq was completely destroyed by ISIS. ISIS comprises Muslim militants but trained by US/West. Amnesty International says US supplied $1.3billion worth arms to ISIS in 2016 alone! So why are Sri Lanka’s Muslim leaders playing with fire by inviting the US to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs? Have they not learnt from what eschewed when LTTE issue became internationalized and armed struggle became a geopolitically used trump card against a sovereign nation?

The 14 Muslim countries that have been victims of US aggression
1.         Iran (1980, 1987-1988),
2.         Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011),
3.         Lebanon (1983),
4.         Kuwait (1991),
5.         Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-),
6.         Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-),
7.         Bosnia (1995),
8.         Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996),
9.         Afghanistan (1998, 2001-),
10.      Sudan (1998),
11.      Kosovo (1999),
12.      Yemen (2000, 2002-),
13.      Pakistan (2004-) and now
14.      Syria.

The list however omits bombing of Muslim countries by US/West Muslim satellite states. Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen a fellow Muslim country leaving the nation in virtual starvation. Now Qatar is facing sanctions too.

In 2016 USA under orders of Muslim President Barak Obama dropped 26,171 Bombs on 7 Muslim-Majority Countries (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan)
Afghanistan was recipient of at least 1,337 bombs. US has been illegally occupying Afghanistan since 2002.

In 2015 under the same Muslim President, US dropped at least 23,144 bombs on six Muslim-majority countries

US & NATO have destroyed Libya and killed its leader Gaddafi. Libya was the richest country in Africa today after 5 years of ‘liberation & democracy’ delivered by the West, Libya has been declared a failed state. Libyans under Gaddafi enjoyed not only free health-care and free education, but also free electricity and interest-free loans. Now thanks to the West’s democracy healthcare is about to collapse, Libyans are fleeing their country, professionals are fleeing their country, it’s a free terrain for all types of men in arms, women are unsafe. Under Gaddafi even UNHRC praised him for women’s rights!
After attacking these countries the US has been building military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Seychelles, Kenya, South Sudan, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Amnesty International claims that in 2016 US supplied $1.3billion worth in arms to ISIS. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) Its strength is estimated to be 80,000. Al-Nusra Front formed in 2012 is said to have 20,000 cadres. Free Syrian Army emerged in 2011 with the help of US, Turkey, Saudi and has a strength of 100,000. These are all Muslims killing Muslims at the behest of the West. That’s just one side of the story.

There are 3.5million Muslims living in the US.  Immediately after 9/11 - 481 documented hate crimes against Muslims in 2001. Muslims in Sri Lanka complaining about hate crimes must read this to realize the extent of open abuse Muslims who are living in the US are subject to on a daily basis - https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/us/politics/hate-crimes-american-muslims-rise.html

In 2016, a New York Imam and his assistant were killed in cold-blood. Between March 2015 and March 2016 - 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence. 18 incidents per month during the 12-month period, including 12 murders, 34 physical assaults, 49 verbal assaults or threats against individuals and institutions, 56 acts of vandalism or destruction of property, nine arsons, and eight shootings and bombings. (Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR))

The Huffington Post’s Islamophobia tracker recorded 87 acts of aggression

No statistics will admit the open racism and hate speech Muslims in US are subject to. But over in Sri Lanka, the Muslims appear to be playing a double game and courting the very country that is on a witch hunt against the Muslims, knowing that the West is eyeing Sri Lanka for geopolitical reasons and knowing that the West is using the minority card as its trump card to arm-twist Sri Lanka. This is totally unprincipled and against the very norms that the Muslims claim to practice.

We saw the first of these practices in the manner that the Chief Minister in the East openly ridiculed a naval officer just to score brownie points from the same US ambassador who was grinning sheepishly from a side.

When EU nations, UK & US are attacking Muslim citizens living in their countries while also dropping bombs galore upon Muslim nations, the US envoy in Sri Lanka is issuing demarches to Sri Lanka asking us to protect places of religious worship. We are compelled to wonder whether these attacks have some scheme and whether the culprits are even known for the news propaganda is of religious places being attacked and shop-a-day attacks. Unless it is planned, whoever attacks shops on a daily basis!!! That gave the scheme away!

We cannot understand what this chemistry between the Islamic world and the west is all about. From ancient times they had been killing each other and then they cannot do without the other and together they end up making a nightmare to the rest of the inhabitants in the world. They bomb Muslim countries to the stone age, destroy their ancient cities, mosques etc but then insist that non-Muslim majority countries allow them to proliferate mosques, madrassas and encourage all types of extremism especially in the countries that the West eye for geopolitical/trade/resource advantage.

It cannot be that the Muslim community is unaware of these dynamics. Leaving aside the opportunism of Muslim politicians at least the learnd Muslims general public should understand what the US & West are upto the neoliberal agenda clearly establishes their desire to return to Asia and loot what they could not do under colonial rule.
Shenali D Waduge

23 June 2017

பிராமணாள் புனிதமும் மனித வாழ்க்கையும்

சாண்டில்யன் (அராலியூர் கந்தர் பாலநாதன்)

இக்கட்டுரை, இப்புவிமாதாமேல் வாழ்ந்த எனது எழுபத்தி நான்கு வருட வாழ்க்கையின் அனுபவங்களும், நான் செய்த ஆய்வின் விடைகளையும் ஒரு கட்டுரையாக எழுதுகின்றேன்.

எம்மில் அதிகமானோர், ten commandments  திரையை பார்த்திருப்போம். இரட்ஷகரான் மோசேஸ் யூதருக்கு விடுதலை அளித்தபோது, யூதர் குழு இரண்டாக பிரிந்ததாம். ஒன்று, மது, மாதுவுக்கு, விலை போன குழு, இரண்டாவது, பொன்னுக்கும், பொருளுக்கும் பெண்ணுக்கும் அடிமைப்படாத குழு.

அதேபோல சிந்து வெளிக்குள் புகுந்த ஆரியர்களில், ஒரு சாரார் பொன்னுக்கும், பொருளுக்கும் பெண்ணுக்கும் அடிமைப்படாத குழு. இவர்கள் ஆன்மிகம், தர்மம், நீதி, நெறி,  ஒழுங்கு, ஆண்டவன் வழிபாட்டில் ஆழமான செறிவு கொண்டவர்களாக இருந்தார்களாம் என்பது வரலாறு. இசையிலும் மோகம்  கொண்டவர்கள் என்பதும் வரலாறு. இவர்கள்தான் இன்றைய பிராமணாள்கள்.

பல்லவ அரசாட்சியில், பல்லவ மன்னர்கள் பிராமணாள் குலத்தை முதல் குலம் என நிறுவியதில் பிராமணாள் குலம் முதல் குலமாக  மக்களிடையே மதிப்புப் பெற்றது. பிராமணாள் ஆன்மீகம், ஆண்டவன் வழிபாடு, நன்னடத்தை, ஒருவனுக்கு ஒரு மனைவி  என்று வாழ்ந்தார்கள். மக்களுக்கு ஆன்மீகத்தை போதித்தார்கள். ஆலயத்தோடு ஒட்டிய அக்கிரகாரம் என்று கூறப்படுகின்ற தங்கள் மனைகளில் வாழ்ந்தார்கள்.

நீதி, நெறிமுறைகள், அறம், தர்மம், இவைகளை தழுவி வாழ்பவர்கள் பிராமணாள்.
நெறிமுறைகள் ஆங்கிலத்தில் - social norms என்று கூறப்படும். ஒரு சமூகத்தில் மக்கள் எவ்வாறு வாழவேண்டும் என்று அச் சமுதாயத்தினால் நடைமுறைப் படுத்தப்படும் முறைகள்/விதிகளே  நெறிமுறைகளாகும். இந்நெறிமுறைகள் எழுதப்படாத மக்கள் கடைபிடிக்கும் விதிகளேயாகும். வாழ்க்கையில் பல, பல நெறிமுறைகள் கடைப்பிடிக்கப்படுகின்றன. அன்றைய காலகட்டத்தில், பிராமணாள் குல மக்கள் இந்நெறிமுறைகளை அரசனுக்கு ஆலோசனை வைத்து அவை மக்களுக்கு அறிவுறுத்தப்படும். சில சட்டமாக பிரகடனப்படுத்தப்படும்.
அறமாவது ஒழுக்கம், வழக்கு, தண்டம் என மூவகைப்படும். 

அறம் என்றால் மனு போன்ற நூல்களில்  ,சொன்னவற்றை செய்வது, அது செய்யக் கூடாது என்று   சொன்னவற்றை  செய்யாமல்  இருப்பது
. கெட்டவர்கள் அற வழியில் செல்லாமல், அறம் அற்ற  வழியில்  செல்பவர்கள். இவர்கள் ஒழுக்க முறைகளை கடைப்பிடிக்காதவர்கள். 

அப்படி ஒழுக்கம் அற்றவர்களை எப்படி திருத்துவது என்றும் பரிமேலழகர்  கூறுகிறார்

ஒழுக்கம் தவறியவர்களுக்கு அவர்களை மீண்டும் அற வழியில் செலுத்த  இரண்டு விதிகள் இருக்கிறது
.  ஒன்று வழக்கு.  இன்னொன்று தண்டம்.
சேலம் பத்மசாலியர் சமூகத்தின் கருத்து.

“வருணாச்சிரம தர்மத்தின் ஒரு விரும்பத் தகாத வெளிப்பாடு இது எனக் கருதுகின்றேன்! சமுதாய அமைப்பில்ஆரம்ப காலத்தில் தொழில் ரீதியாக இது ஆரம்பிக்கப் பட்டிருக்கலாம். இதன் பின்பிராமணர்கள்,இதை வேதங்களுடன் தொடர்பு படுத்தி,

பிரமாவின் சிரசிலிருந்து 'பிராமணர்கள்தோன்றியதாகவும்,

புயங்களில் இருந்து 'சத்திரியர்கள்தோன்றியதாகவும்,

 இடுப்புப் பாகத்திலிருந்து வேளாளர்கள் தோன்றியதாகவும்,

பாதத்தில் இருந்து, 'சூத்திரர்கள்தோன்றியதாகவும் கூறினார்கள்!

சூத்திரர்கள்அறிவு சம்பந்தம்மான எதற்கும் அருகதையில்லாதவர்கள் எனவும் கருதினார்கள்! பொதுவாகஇவர்கள் தீண்டத்தகாதவர்கள் என வகைப் படுத்தப் பட்டார்கள்! இவர்கள் வேதம் படிக்க முனைந்தால் இவர்களின்காதுகளில் காச்சிய 'ஈயம்ஊற்றப் பட்ட சம்பவங்களும் நடந்திருக்கின்றன! இவர்கள் மேலே வரக்கூடாதுஎன்பதற்காகஇவர்களுக்கு 'அறிவுசம்பந்தமான எல்லாமே மறுக்கப் பட்டது!”

இவைகள் அன்றைய கருத்துக்கள்.

ஆனால் இன்றைய பிராமணாள்களை பார்ப்போமா?

இன்று தமிழகத்தில் நடக்கும் கொலைகளும் கொலைகளும், கற்பளிப்புக்களுக்கும் பிராமணாள்கள் காரணமானவர்கள் இல்லை. இவர்கள் ஆலய வழிபாட்டில் தங்கள் முழு நேரத்தையும் செலவிடுகின்றார்கள். பிராமணாள் குலத்தில் அதிக விழுக்காடு படித்தவர்கள், அறிவாளிகள். சட்டத்தரணிகள்.

இன்றைய தமிழகத்தில் அப்படி என்றால் யார் சாதி, குலம், தலித் கொலை, தலித் கற்பழிப்பு, கலப்புத் திருமண கொலை இவைகளுக்கு காரணம். காரணம், பிராமணர்கள் அல்லாதார்தான் இந்த அட்டூளியங்களை கையில் எடுக்கின்றார்கள்.
காரணம்: வன்னியர், தேவர், கள்ளர், மறவர், அகமுடையார் இப்படிப்பட்டோர் தலித் மக்களையும், தாழ்ந்த குலத்தோரையும் வதைக்கின்றார்கள்.

இலங்கை வாழ் பிராமணர்கள்தான் உலகத்திலேயே சிறந்த முதல் குலத்தவர். 

இவர்கள், படித்தவர்கள், இல்லையேல், ஆலய வழிபாட்டில் தங்களை ஈடுபடுத்துபவர்கள். சமஸ்கிருதம் உலகில் மிகவும் இனிமையான மொழி. நாலாயிரம் ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பு தோன்றிய மொழி. இன்றும் நாம் பேசும் தமிழில் சுமார் எண்பது விழுக்காடில் சம்ஸ்கிருத சொற்கள் இருக்கின்றன. இதை நாம் புரிவதில்லை. தமிழேன்கின்றோம். ஆனால் இவை சம்ஸ்கிருத சொற்கள்.

மற்றைய மத குருக்கள், உதாரணம்: கிருஸ்தவ மத குருக்கள், பயங்கரவாதிகளோடு தொடர்பு வைத்திருந்தார்கள். பாலியல் குற்றம் என்று பல. ஆனால் இலங்கை வாழ் சைவ மத குருக்களும், பிராமணரும்  சுத்தமானவர்கள்.

மற்றையோர் இலங்கை வாழ் சைவ, பிராமண குலத்தினரை பார்த்து வாழவேண்டும்.

வாழ்க பிராமண குலம்.

21 June 2017

Batakotte (Vadukoddai) Resolution Written By Jaffna Pinocchio’s
By H. L. D. Mahindapala –

Starting from the Dutch period to modern times, the Jaffna Tamil leadership, which consisted exclusively of the Vellalas, relied entirely on two fundamental ideologies to retain their power and privileges in the peninsula. Both ruling ideologies were defined in two separate documents. First was the Tesawalamai codified by Class Isaacksz, Dissawe of Jaffna, on January 30, 1707, for the guidance of Dutch rulers. Second was the Batakotte (Tamilised as Vadukoddai) Resolution (1976) written by the Vellalas for the preservation and glory of the Vellalas.
The Tamil translation of the Tesawalamai was vetted and endorsed by the twelve Jaffna mudliyars (all of whom were Vellalas) as the primary laws and customs of the land. In essence, it legitimised and consolidated the power of the ruling elite, the Vellahlas. Like most laws it represented the social, economic and political interests of the ruling Vellalas. It confirmed the hierarchical status of the Vellalas which included the right to own and rule over the low-castes and the slaves imported from S. India. The oppressed low-castes were legally condemned as human beings unfit for Vellala society. The low-castes remained as slaves and outcasts. They neither had the organisational power nor a leadership (example: Dr. Ambedkar of India) to challenge the oppressive might of the ruling Vellalas. The Dutch and the British accepted Tesawalamai as the legal norm and they turned a blind eye to Vellala oppression, as long as the Vellalas played their subservient role to the colonial masters.
The Batakotte Resolution, on the other hand, defined the ultimate political ambitions of the Vellalas to retain their political supremacy which was under siege by the invasions of modernity in the dying days of the British raj and post-independent era. On May 14, 1976 the creme de la creme of the Tamil elite met at Batakotte to present their political manifesto to establish a separate state – the last refuge of Vellalas to retain their power, prestige and privileges. In the feudal and colonial periods they legitimised their oppressive rule on the casteist ideology derived from Hinduism. In the post-independent era they switched to Tamil nationalism because the divine rights guaranteed in Hinduism could no longer justify their supremacy over the restless non-Vellala population rising against Vellala oppressors.
The Batakotte Resolution produced the alternative ideology of “Tamil nationalism” to replace anachronistic Hindu casteism. It now stands as the political Bible of the Tamils which contains the essential arguments for the establishment of Tamil Eelam – arguments derived from their version of history. It also outlined their means / strategies to achieve Eelam. It is necessary to examine this document even at this late stage because there isn’t a greater declaration of the Tamils justifying Tamil separatist politics and Tamil violence that went along with it. After the Batakotte Resolution a whole new industry began to justify Tamil separatism and violence.
Among those who drafted it are S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the Father of Tamil separatism, Appapillai Amirthalingam, Dr. E. M. V. Naganathan, joined by the elitist Vellalas. The authors of the Batakotte Resolution scoured the nooks and corners of history to produce a plausible justification for the creation of a separate state. Every word in it was written to pave the path for Eelam. They never expected it to end in Nandikadal.
Like all politics of Jaffna in British and post-independent times, it was drafted by the English-speaking, Saivite, Jaffna Vellala elite for the power and glory of their caste. It is the ultimate political manifesto of the Tamils which laid down the central arguments for (1) the declaration of war against the rest by the Tamil leadership, (2) on the promise of creating a separate state for the Tamils of the North. What is examined here is not their tragic political miscalculations which led the Tamils into the arms of fascist tyrant, Prabhakaran, and through him to Nandikadal. The focus here is on one of the central arguments of the Batakotte Resolution which is stated in the opening paragraphs of the Resolution. This is how it is worded in the second paragraph:
Whereas, the Tamil Kingdom was overthrown in war and conquered by the Portuguese in 1619, and from them by the Dutch and the British in turn, independent of the Sinhalese Kingdoms; And,
Whereas, the British Colonists, who ruled the territories of the Sinhalese and Tamil Kingdoms separately, joined under compulsion the territories of the Sinhalese and the Tamil Kingdoms for purposes of administrative convenience on the recommendation of the Colebrooke Commission in 1833; And,
Whereas, the Tamil Leaders were in the forefront of the Freedom movement to rid Ceylon of colonial bondage which ultimately led to the grant of independence to Ceylon in 1948; And,
Whereas, the foregoing facts of history were completely overlooked, and power over the entire country was transferred to the Sinhalese nation on the basis of a numerical majority, thereby reducing the amil nation to the position of subject people;”
Error 1 : The Tamils blame the British for overlooking the facts of history and handing over power to the Sinhalese nation on the basis of numerical majority. In saying this the Battakottians contradict their own claim that they joined hands with the majority to win independence. According to the argument of the Tamils, independence was granted because the majority and the minority joined hands together to live together as one nation. If they “were in the forefront of the Freedom movement to rid Ceylon of colonial bondage” and if they fought together for the birth of one nation how could the British transfer power to the Tamils who never asked for a separate state? So why should the British be blamed for the miscalculated afterthoughts of the Tamils? The Battakotte argument that the Tamils joined hands with majority disprove their claim that power was transferred “on the basis of numerical majority.”
Error 2 : According to the Batakotte argument, power was transferred by the Tamil king (Sankili II) in 1619 to the Portuguese, who handed it over to the Dutch who handed it over to the British and, at independence, according to Tamil logic, the British should have transferred power back to the Tamils who transferred power initially to the Portuguese. This argument stands out as the central argument argument for the creation of a separate state. They argue that the British should have recognised the sequence of historical events and transferred power back to the Tamils who initially handed their power to the Portuguese.
The bankruptcy of Tamil politics is revealed in this Resolution. It confirms that the best of Tamil leadership had no better argument than this unsustainable assertion drawn from their version of history. In the first place, there are no credible records in history to justify this argument. More of this later. But on the surface of it alone, this is argument reveals the failure of the Jaffna Tamil leadership to justify their claim even with a modicum of commonsensical reasoning. In examining this argument closely it is clear that it verges on the edge of irrational absurdity.
The implication of this argument is that the British had a moral, political and legal obligation to hand over power to the Tamils in 1948 because the Sankili II handed over power to the Portuguese in 1619. If this argument is valid then the British should have handed over the territories / kingdoms they acquired from the maharajas of India to their descendants and not to Nehru or Jinnah. Where would India be today if the Batakotte argument was raised to break-up the sub-continent into separate states?
The argument that the British should have handed over the territory they held under colonial rule to extinct regional powers who held it once upon a time is not justifiable because both India and Sri Lanka fought for freedom not on a regional basis but on a common national front. This is conceded by the Tamils in the Battakotte Resolution. If, as stated in the Batakotte Resolution, the Tamils were “in the forefront of the independent movement of Ceylon”, there was no necessity for the British to recognise regional borders. More so, because the Tamils never asked for a separate state in 1948. That began on December 18, 1949 when S. J. V. Chelvanayakam launched his Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachci at the GCSU Hall in Maradana. Mark you, not in Jaffna – the so-called “homeland” of the Tamils!
Nor did the Nallur Convention (1619) contain a clause to prove that the Portuguese, or their colonial successors, undertook to hand over Jaffna to the descendants of Sankili II at the time of leaving the shores of Sri Lanka. The plain historical fact is that they captured Sankili II, took him to Goa and hanged him. End of story. So on what basis did the Tamil legal eagles who assembled at Batakotte conclude that the British should have handed over Jaffna to the Tamils? In any case, the successive colonial masters (the Dutch and the British) had no contractual agreement with each other or with the Tamils to hand over power to the descendants of Sankili II. If this argument is valid then the British should have handed over power in 1948 to the Kandyans which is the only state with whom they concluded a treaty of accession. There is no tenable theory to prove that the regional borders of feudal times should remain valid in mid-twentieth century. The fact that there was a separate kingdom in feudal times does not necessarily mean that the colonial masters had to restore in 1948 the bygone borders of 1619.
Besides, why stop at the borders of 1619? Why not go beyond that to the time when the Sinhalese borders circled the entire island. The British, in fact, did nothing wrong. They transferred power to the nation as a whole, based on the original borders established by Dutugemunu and Parakramabahu who, among others, were the sole sovereigns from coast to coast without any regional borders obstructing their supremacy. Their claim supersedes that of latter-day feudatories of Tamil rulers, who invariably paid tributes to the Sinhala kings. Fr. Queroz states that Jaffna was one of the fifteen kinglets that paid tribute to the Sinhala kings. The British, restored the historical borders of the Sinhala sovereigns that ruled the nation before the itinerant Tamil migrants established, for the first time, a permanent settlement in the 13th century.Tamil historians dates the Tamil kingdom from 1215 – 1619. The British, therefore, rightfully transferred power to the Sinhala sovereigns who ruled Jaffna before 1215 without any borders..
Besides, this there is a more telling historical argument which debunks their claim of Tamil power being transferred by the last King of Jaffna to the Portuguese. The Batakotte argument assumes that power was transferred to the Portuguese by the last Tamil King of Jaffna, Sankili II. If this claim is historically accurate then there is the possibility of mounting an argument on the grounds that power was transferred by Sankili II, however flimsy it may be. But history records a different story. The last battle for Jaffna was not fought by Sankili II but by the King of Kandy, Senarat in 1629. This makes him the last king of Jaffna and power finally flowed from him to the Portuguese. So this knocks the bottom out of the Batakotte argument that power was transferred by the Sankili in 1619.
In 1629, King Senarat of Kandy, whose two sons had married princesses of Jaffna, sent his kinsman, Mudliyar Atapattu to rescue Jaffna from the tyrannical grip of the Portuguese who were persecuting the people of Jaffna. Mudliyar Attapattu swept through Jaffna, virtually unopposed with the backing of the oppressed Tamils. For a short while Mudliyar Atapattu was the master of Jaffna, as stated by Queroz, until Constantine de Saa sent his forces from the south to defeat him.
History records that the last battle for Jaffna was fought by the Sinhalese. And power flowed from Sinhala-Buddhist king to the Portuguese. This negates the basic argument in the Batakotte Resolution that power was transferred by the Tamil king to the Portuguese.
In an earlier article (see : The last king of Jaffna was a Sinhala-BuddhistColombo Telegraph) I cited the Portuguese historians who confirmed that it was the Sinhalese who waged the last battle to save Jaffna from the Portuguese oppressors. Mahinda Rajapakse repeated that history when he fought the final battle to save Jaffna from the fascist oppression of Velupillai Prabhakaran – the first born child of the Batakotte Resolution. Ironically, it was the children of the Batakotte Resolution that turned the guns on the Fathers who legitimised their brutal violence.
It seems that history has a way of making those who distort its sacred contents pay dearly for their inexcusable sins

Vellalas -- the missing link in Sri Lankan politics                          

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The stark contrast in the approach to the long-running North-South crisis, plagued with political and military confrontations, is seen clearly in the “S.J.V. Chelvanayakam Memorial lecture” delivered by Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health, on 26th April 2017. In it he lauds “Chelva”, the Father of Tamil separatism, to stratospheric heights as if he was the God-granted saviour of the Tamils and, by extension, the nation as well. His objective undoubtedly is to win Tamil votes and keep the TNA within the UNP fold. But the persistent counter moves pursued by V. Wigneswaran to demonise the Sinhala leaders has undermined the goodwill that Dr. Senaratne hopes to achieve. “Wiggs” has been using his official position as Chief Minister of the Northern Province to generate hate against the Sinhalese by denigrating and condemning all Sinhala leaders,  from D. S. Senanayake to Mahinda Rajapakse, as genocidal exterminators of Tamils. It would have enhanced his image if his accusations were based on historical realities. But then, as the informed community is aware, writing political fiction to demonise the Sinhala-Buddhists has been the permanent occupation of Tamil leaders and their agents in the South from colonial days.

The hostile reaction of “Wiggs” is in keeping with the Tamil tradition of demonising the Sinhala South at every turn. From the Northern perspective, anti-Sinhala-Buddhist politics has always enabled the Vellala leaders to pose as the defenders of Tamil rights, protecting them from “the Sinhala enemies.” But there is a hidden agenda to this anti-Sinhala-Buddhist politics of the Vellalas – the dominant masters of Jaffna who invariably determined the course of Tamil politics. It was they who defined, programmed and implemented peninsular politics at all times. And their strategy was to define the Sinhala-Buddhists as their bogeyman. Their calculated strategy of accusing the Sinhala majority of discriminating against the minority has succeeded not because it is true but because it has been repeated ad nauseam over the years..

Demonising the Sinhala south gave them political mileage which the most advanced advertising agency could not program. With that they managed to gain global political sympathy as victims of majoritarianism. But there is a contradiction in this. Available statistic prove that they have been the most privileged community in Sri Lanka when  they were claiming  to be the victims of discrimination by the majority. This cry was first raised by G. G. Ponnambalam in his ten-hour  lecture to the Soulbury Commission in the late thirties. The Commissioners dismissed it as unsubstantiated propaganda. Later, of course, there were missteps which contributed to worsening  of the North-South relations. Despite the infirmities which affected all three communities – Tamils, Muslims and Indian Tamils – only the Jaffna Tamils took to violence. Why? If the majority Sinhalese were that bad against the Tamil-speaking minorities how did the Tamil-speaking Muslims and Indian Tamils manage to co-exist peacefully with the majority? The accusations against the majority by the Tamil minority evaporate when only they refused to co-exist peacefully. If two of the minorities could resolve their difference non-violently, within the democratic framework, why did only the Vellala Tamils of North fail?  Obviously, the Vellala Tamil agenda would have gone way beyond that of the other two communities who  did  not  resort to violence.

The failure to rope in all the Tamil-speaking  people  into  the Vellala agenda was a deadly blow to their claims of victimology. Besides, they had to swallow their  pride when their strategy eventually boomeranged on them. The very forces they unleashed to beat the Sinhalese turned against  them. First, the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist campaigns painted the Vellalas into a corner from  which they couldn’t get out. The more they demonised the Sinhala-Buddhist the more they were forced to withdraw into the extreme end of aggressive politics. And finally when they unleashed the Vadukoddian “boys” to beat the Sinhalese, they turned against the Vellalas and annihilated the leadership that fathered the Vadukoddai Resolution. The plus factor to the Vellalas, however, was that the more they took to the extreme racism the more they were able to tighten the grip on Jaffna as the saviours of Tamils. This, in short, is the history of post-independent era. It a history that flowed from provocative and arrogant politics of G. G. Ponnambalam, and his successor S. J. Chelvanayakam. They were the two decisive figures who laid the foundations for peninsular politics and both of them took Jaffna, in stages, to the extreme end of the racist spectrum.

But their roles, as Vellala leaders, were portrayed as defenders of Tamil “nationalism”— a fiction which popped up  in the minds of Tamils in the late fifties when they were looking for an  excuse to justify Tamil extremism. For instance, both shot  into the limelight raising cries of “discrimination” and not  “nationalism”. The thirties and the forties were the years when massive tidal waves of anti-imperialistic passions were sweeping  the globe. Neither of the Tamil leaders raised a nationalistic cry then. “GG” cried for “50 – 50” in the thirties and “SJV” cried for federalism in the forties. Both rose to power and held power in Jaffna on the support of the English-speaking Vellalas, mainly in  government  service, who dominated peninsular politics. “On the whole,” wrote Prof. A. J. Wilson, son-in law of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, “the Tamil vellalas have dominated government service and the  professions, with the occasional member from minority castes,” (p. 140 -- S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947 – 1977, A political Biography, A. J. Wilson, Lake House Bookshop, 1993). Both leaders banked  on  this group of  Vellala public servants to launch and promote their Jaffna-centric politics. They were also dependent on the Vellala villagers who dominated the electorates in Jaffna..Besides, both leaders represented Vellala interests and not that of all the Tamils, most of whom were excluded as pariahs. The omission of  the critical role played by the Vellalas has distorted the main  perspectives of national politics, leading to a one-eyed view of blaming only the Sinhala south. It resulted in a mono-causal view which exonerated the Vellalas from any responsibilities of directing Jaffna politics into the  hell-hole in Nandikadal.

Consequently, national politics has been projected as if  there was only one-way traffic with Yal Devi going up North and never coming down to the South. The unrelenting flow of Northern forces coming down to bedevil national politics was hardly drawn to explain the division of the nation into two hostile camps. It was, as if the Vellalas, the over-determining force in Northern politics, were non-existent, or only a negligible factor. They were hiding behind the mask of being Tamils to  claim the status of a minority oppressed by the majority Sinhalese. Furthermore, their upbringing and their casteist environment made them prisoners of Vellala interests only. Their arrogance and superiority complex also  provided no space for anything  other than Vellalaism in Jaffna.

The  grim  realities, as depicted by K. Daniel in his classic  novel, Kanal, confirm that the  sole factor that  determined Jaffna culture was Vellalaism. Daniel dramatically exposed how the Vellalas lived their  separate lives, keeping  the  other half away from  the temples, schools, farms, churches, buses, etc. The Vellalas even dictated to the low-castes how they should conduct their weddings and funerals. If they violated the Vellala customs and laws they were beaten,sometimes to death. They would not share a drop of water with the low-castes or allow them to walk in daylight in case they polluted the pure eyes of the Vellalas. With the Vellalas suppressing and excluding the “other” there was no  space for  the other half  to play a role in  peninsular politics.  The Jaffna culture was structured from feudal times to hand over supremacy only to the Vellalas. Consequently, there was only one player in peninsular politics : the Vellalas.It was the Vellala factor that steered peninsular and national politics.

Yet this over-determining factor is missing in the analyses of Northern political landscape. Sweeping  the critical role played by the Vellalas under the carpet gave the upper  hand to the Vellalas to hide their obscene casteist politics. They needed ideological masks because they could not operate, either  inside Jaffna or  outside, as a casteist force. Not in  modern times. They could win  respectability and integrity only if they shifted to a more acceptable and broader brand name  known as the Tamils. They were, of  course, proud to be Vellalas in  feudal and colonial times. But they could not survive as Vellalas in modern times. They were equally proud to proclaim their status as Vellalas inside Jaffna. But when they came out  of the peninsular and moved  into the civilised world they declared themselves to be Tamils. They played the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide craftily depending  on which face would help them to extract the maximum political advantage to retain / expand their power and privileges. So from time to time they changed their masks. For instance in London they could not claim to be Vellalas, except among themselves, because the English would have no sympathy for oppressive caste-masters. In London they would pose as Tamils oppressed by the Sinhalese. When they come  to Jaffna they would resume their Vellala status to regain all the power and privileges available only inside the closed society. In short, their geographical location determined their identity. This explains why the Vellalas have been operating under the smokescreen  of Tamils which has no relevance to the realities of Jaffna politics.

The Vellalas and the Tamils were two different communities put together by force of circumstances in the gulag  of Jaffna. The absence of  this factor is the fundamental flaw in the political analyses of Sri Lankan politics. Their critical role has been disguised and passed off as Tamils though they would not  have bar of being one with the Tamils living  outside their caste fence. The fact is that there was no Tamils politics, encompassing all layers of Jaffna society. There was only Vellala politics. And it was their politics that dragged Jaffna all the way from the first communal  riots provoked by “GG” in Navalapitiya in 1939 to Battekotte (Vadukoddai in Tamil) Resolution in 1976 and then finally to Nandikadal. It was the Vellalas who determined the destiny of Jaffna every step of the way, from feudal and colonial times to the end of their “boys”, led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, the first-born child  of the Vellala Battekotte Resolution.

Yes, of course, the Vellalas were Tamils at birth but as adults were the Vellalas for the Tamils whom they oppressed during feudal and colonial times? Throughout their history they fought the low-castes tooth and nail to maintain their supremacy by oppressing their fellow-Tamils. The caste factor was so ingrained in their genes that at one stage they were willing to join hands with the Sinhala Goigamas  to maintain their  supremacy over the low-caste Tamils. Their hatred of the Tamil low-castes was so great that they held talks with the Sinhala Goigamas (the equivalent of Vellalas of the north) to form political alliances. “In fact,” wrote Wilson, “during these years (1920s) there was discussion in certain influential Tamil circles about the possibility of a political alliance between the Sinhalese Goyigama and their Ceylon Tamil vellala counterparts. Such a view was seriously put forward at a closed meeting of Ceylon Tamils held  at the Colombo town Hall in 1954. These Ceylon Tamils hoped to  trade on the contempt that some of the influential Goyigama politicians had for the Karawas. / There continued vague prospects of Goyigama – Vellala partnership when sections of the Ceylon Tamil political elites, after independence , cooperated with the Goyigama-oriented United National Party governments (1948 – 1956). Ceylon Tamils held important portfolios relating to trade commerce, industries, industrial research and fisheries and housing in these governments.(pp. 466 – 467 – Race, Religion, Language and Caste in the Subnationalisms of Sri Lanka, A Jeyaratnam Wilson in Collective Identities Nationalism and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka, Marga Institute, 1979). Clearly, the Vellalas were a serious threat to the Tamils as well as the other communities.

This omission of the critical role played by the Vellalas has been the missing link in analysing national politics. It is their self-serving, aggressive politics that pushed the national agenda too. In short, national politics would not have been pushed into military confrontations if there were only Tamils, as seen in the case of the other two communities, the Muslims and the Indian Tamils. It is the Vellalas who manufactured anti-Sinhala-Buddhist venom, in the name of protecting the Tamils, to poison the Jaffna  landscape. The other two communities managed to resolve their  difference without violent confrontations. So why did only the Jaffna fail to co-exist  peacefully, despite resolving the major “grievances” with which they launched their anti-Sinhala-Buddhist campaigns? Historical records establish that it is the provocative Vellala leadership that intransigently and implacably dragged Jaffna in the pre-and-post independent era to military confrontations. And they paid for their folly with the annihilation of the Vellala fathers who passed the Battekotte Resolution.

Throughout their post-independent campaigns they cunningly manipulated their propaganda to present themselves as the saviours of the Tamils. The international community too was made to believe that at the  core of the North-South conflict was a majority-minority issue. There was no concerted or intelligent campaign to challenge the myths of the Vellalas – the most privileged community in Sri Lanka – posing as the oppressed minority. The Vellalas still survive globally on this myth of victimology. If the fiction of discriminating against  minorities is such a dominant and deeply divisive factor how come the other two communities refused to join the Vellalas? In fact, “SJV” launched his iyakkam (movement) of the Thamil Payasoom Makkal ( Tamil-speaking people) to  form  a common front but it failed to take off the ground. Why? Obviously, there was no common agreement  about “discrimination” by the “Sinhala state” among  the Tamil-speaking people. Consequently, only one minority – i.e. the Vellala Tamils – refused to co-exist with the majority on the grounds of “discrimination”? And they got away with their myth of victimology, mainly because our so-called intellectuals refused / failed to analyse the underlying issues objectively. Our intellectual and academic  mytho-maniacs too joined the bandwagon to promote and substantiate the Vellala fictions of  victimology.

The result was to project the Vellalas oppressors as the saviours of the Tamils. This Cyclopian view  distorted the main  perspectives of national politics, leading to the one-eyed  accusation of blaming only the Sinhala south. It resulted in a mono-causal view which exonerated the Vellalas who consistently drove Northern  politics to mono-ethnic extremism by demonising the Sinhala-Buddhists as their implacable enemies.

P.S. : Please note that this  article is based on Tamil sources all of whom are respected authorities on peninsular politics. Critics should argue against them if they disagree.  
How many homelands do the Jaffna Tamils need?

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Scholarly narratives tracing the brief history of the Tamils agree that the itinerant migrants from S. India turned into an organic and  distinct entity of their own in Sri Lanka only after they decided to be permanent  settlers in the northern region in the 13th and 14th centuries. “The establishment of an independent Tamil kingdom in Ceylon in the thirteenth century,” wrote historian S. Arasaratnam, “is a landmark in history of the Ceylon Tamils. No doubt it was helped by the weakness of Sinhalese political power.......What we can say with certainty is that by 1325 the Tamil kingdom had come onto the historical scene.” (p.103 - 104 -  Ceylon, S. Arasaratnam, Prentice-Hall Inc., New Jersey, USA).

Prior to that the Tamil migrants drifted in and out of Sri Lanka as adventurers, traders, marauders, invaders, craftsmen, mercenaries, mostly for Sinhala kings, fishermen, explorers but never as permanent settlers with a commitment to make Sri Lanka their home. They always went back to their one and only homeland in S. India because they were instinctively drawn to  their roots. Even when they became  permanent settlers they were dependent primarily on the original S. Indian base that shaped their Tamil identity. The S. Indian umbilical cord was the sole source that sustained their spiritual, cultural and political needs. Their Freudian  urge to go into the womb in S. India was an innate part of their genetic makeup. 

In short, when they left S. India they never abandoned their homeland. As legatees of the Dravidian cultural, spiritual and  historical heritage, which they carried religiously on their backs, they knew that they could never construct another homeland overseas to replace the original homeland they left behind. Any attempt to replicate the original homeland in foreign lands could only result in creating a “fake-land” and  not a genuine homeland. In any case, like all migrants the S. Indians who crossed the Palk Straits  regarded Jaffna only as a transit lounge until they could return to their roots in the S. Indian  homeland  sooner or later.

K. S. Sivakumaran, a Sri Lankan journalist, reflecting on his S. Indian roots, reveals his inner feelings when he said :  “ Well, let me put it this way – as a Tamilian I felt proud to be in Tamilnadu. The Tamil consciousness reigns supreme there. Having lived in a cosmopolitan city like Colombo for over thirty years – most Sri Lankans are more westernized than most people in India – I’m used to the lack of an exclusively Tamil context. But in Tamilnadu – in Madras and other places – I could feel a cultural atmosphere springing from a Dravidian foundation...” (p.50 – Le Roy Robinson in Conversation with K.S. Sivakumaran on Aspects of Culture in Sri Lanka, Chamara Printers, Colombo 6, 1992). Mark you, he is writing this in 1992 and he is still yearning to go back to the “Dravidian foundation” even after living in cosmopolitan Colombo.

The cultural affinities that attaches him inseparably to his Dravidian homeland is the common experience of all Tamil migrants. The indelible feelings of Tamil exiled from S. India is expressed emphatically by Sivakumaran writing  in 1992. Undoubtedly, the gravitational pull of the Jaffnaites to Tamil Nadu is stronger than those who had migrated to distant parts of the globe. Their proximity to Tamil Nadu makes it their home away from home. Obviously, this means that though the Jaffna Tamils claim their migrant settlement in the North of Sri Lanka to be their homeland they know, in their heart of hearts, that their one and only homeland is in S. India, the birthplace of all Tamils who migrated to other lands. All other overseas settlements lack not only the genuine spirit of a homeland but also the substance of a history which can transform the alien geography into a homeland. In fact, in India there is a sacredness attached to the homeland. For instance, the Brahmins, who came from the  head  of Brahma, according to  classical Hindu caste system, were forbidden to cross the seas. Only the low-castes, like the Vellalas who belonged to the Sudra  caste that came from the feet of Brahma, ventured out. Those who crossed the seas lost their Brahmanical status and Gandhi, for instance, had to be re-baptised to be admitted into Indian society.
Naturally, all Tamils who  migrated from S. India had “the Dravidian foundation” tattooed in the back of their minds.It was permanently located in their memory as the dependable and homely “backyard” – the first and last resort from which they could derive strength in  times of need. It was,above all, a historical haven to lift them up from the cultural desert in Jaffna. This apart, the Jaffna Tamils would know that there is a hollowness and a contradiction in claiming Jaffna as their homeland while sitting next door to their one and only homeland in Tamil Nadu. Those who claim Jaffna as their homeland, in addition to that of Tamil Nadu, are confused, with one leg planted in both territories. As seen  in the case of Sivakumaran, they are confused in their divided minds, not knowing whether they belong to Tamil Nadu or Jaffna. Their heart strings pulling strongly in the direction of a Dravidian homeland make them feel that they belong to Tamil Nadu primarily because of the glories of its history. Jaffna has nothing to offer in comparison to the monumental achievements of their ancestors in Tamil Nadu.  In fact, in revealing his  heart, Sivakumaran makes it clear that he is just not speaking at the end of a sentimental journey into his past. No. He was affirming that he was back in his ancestral homeland – the place where the Tamils originated and later fanned out to occupy various  parts of foreign lands. Sivakumaran’s experiences in Tamil Nadu comes out as if he had regained his paradise after living in exile in Jaffna. It is a natural and genuine feeling which the migrant Tamils cannot escape.

Once they  go back to their roots in Tamil Nadu the old atavistic feelings, buried deep within, rise to  bond  with  their homeland – a feeling that is  not evoked in the minds of Tamils returning to their domiciled homes in alien lands abroad. So if their hearts and minds are in Tamil Nadu and only their body is in Jaffna where is their  homeland? What is more, when they stare across the Palk Straits doesn’t it make a mockery of their claim to have two homelands, one sitting next to another on  the shores of the Indian Ocean? When the same people claim two homelands, one next another, won’t they be in two minds not knowing to which land they belong, particularly because all what they claim to be Tamil culture exist only in Tamil Nadu?

And this leads to a more serious question : If the autochthonous Tamils of Tamil Nadu have not being given a state of  their own to make it their homeland after reigning over great and independent kingdoms recorded in their glorious  history, on what basis can the migrant settlers in Jaffna, with a dubious and a Lilliputian history, claim to have a separate state of their own in Sri Lanka? This does not mean that the Tamils are incapable of creatively manufacturing history to claim a homeland wherever they are located, west, east, north or south. Not surprisingly, in 1983, the Tamils circulated a spurious claim in Australia saying that they were the first to greet Captain Cook, with thosai, vadai, poomalai and  nagasalam, when he first landed in Botany Bay in Sydney! Of course, no one  took it seriously, except some nutty Tamil fanatics. This claim was based on historian Manning  Clark’s theory  that the Veddahs of Sri Lanka were among the first wave of migrants to Australia. (p.1 Chapter 1, Short History of Australia, Manning Clark).

A critical look at the post-independent Sri Lanka will reveal that the mainstream political trajectory spiralled downward into violence, and finally to Nandikadal, because the Tamils, in their obsession with a history that exists only in their minds, refused to face the hard realities of their superficial past. Their sudden urge to establish a separate state forced them to create a history that warped the minds of the Tamils. The best they could produce as history was a hastily written political tract to boost the claims to a separate state in the Battekotte (Vadukoddai) Resolution. But a homeland needs a sacred and undisputed history. It can only come out of the hands of those who make history with their innate genius to transform a  land built in their own image. Their labour of love for the land leaves a proud legacy which their successors can call it their  own. For instance, the American created a unique culture which they could proudly claim to be their own. They surpassed the European culture from which they borrowed to make a new civilisation of their own. All civilisations are built on borrowings. The genius is in putting their indelible stamp of identity as they marched into history. So have the Tamils of Jaffna come anywhere near to a level which would qualify them to be that of innovative homemakers like those in Tamil Nadu or in Sri Lanka? Where is the genius in physically transporting  everything from S. India and transplanting them  in Jaffna? Besides, a homeland is made at home not overseas. Everything  in Jaffna was made across the Palk Straits. So where is their homeland?

Since the Tamils of Jaffna remained as mediocre copy cats, imitating the superior culture of Tamil Nadu, can they be considered to be innovative creators who laid the foundations for a homeland of  their own in Sri Lanka? Or should they be categorised as mere carters who transported readymade products from Tamil Nadu imagining that they were a part of their creative genius? Their best achievement was in transporting slaves from Malabar, or in denying the low-castes their basic rights even to walk in daylight. Under the fascist Vellala rulers Jaffna was turned into an abominable gulag divided into upper caste priviligentsia and the outcasts who were treated as sub-humans. Velupillai Prabhakaran who inherited this fascist Vellala culture took it to the extreme and eliminated all Tamils who refused to pay pooja to the “sole representative of the Tamils.” As usual, it is the Sinhala south that had to  move in and save the Tamils from their  barbaric oppressors. 

Jaffna was a haven for the Vellala upper-caste but a suffocating hell-hole for the oppressed low-castes. Even the upper-caste had to either go to S. India or to the Sinhala south to get a breath of fresh air and breathe easily. With nothing much to claim as their own contribution to the Tamil culture they invariably had to fall back on the history and culture of Tamil Nadu. Before the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist vitriolic was injected into Jaffna politics by G. G. Ponnambalam, the Jaffna aristocracy headed by Arunachalam and Ramanathan brothers, were invariably singing  the  praises of the ancient Sinhala-Buddhist culture. Those who know their history are aware that the brief history in the miniscule geography of the north is not a patch on the magnificent achievements of Tamil Nadu, or the Sinhala south.

It is the overwhelming Tamil Nadu culture that reigns supreme in their minds, as stated by Sivakumaran. His spiritual / mental / cultural affinities with Tamil Nadu culture reveal the underlying factors that go to make a Tamil. The Tamilness that he felt in Tamil Nadu is a unique force that is confined exclusively to its historical borders. The “cultural atmosphere springing from a Dravidian foundation” could not be found in Jaffna. Sivakumaran’s confession makes  it clear that the pristine Tamilness that moved him in Tamil Nadu is missing in Jaffna. Though  he does not say it specifically, his statement acknowledges that his spiritual homeland is in Tamil Nadu.  Period. Jaffna, to all intents and purposes, is a mere arid geographical strip hanging like a tail from the main body of Tamil Nadu. It could not – and has not – produced the culture of Tamil Nadu which makes it the only homeland of the Tamils. Jaffna can be considered the first post of the Tamil migrants moving out to occupy foreign lands in the Tamil diaspora. Jaffna has been a homeland for the Tamil settlers only to establish a legal claim for a bit real estate from the Sinhalese.

Feeling the pervasive weight of Tamil cultural  heritage Sivakumaran asserted that he was proud to be a Tamilian in Tamil Nadu. That is natural and understandable. But  how many Tamil Naduans can look around Jaffna and feel proud of the Jaffna culture? What is there inspiring in the imitative and mediocre culture of Jaffna? In  contrast, take the case of an American who can justifiably take pride in the achievements of his/her homeland by putting the distinct stamp  of American identity on every inch of land and making it their own  from valley to mountain peak. Today the distinction between England and America is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean that keeps them  apart.  Winston Churchill who was sharp enough to notice the difference said that America and England are two countries divided by one language! Well, in comparison what is it  that the Jaffnaites have achieved on their own which the Tamil Naduans had not achieved? The Jaffnaites are still playing second fiddle to the Tamil Naduans and they feel that the Tamil Nadu Dravidians are still their superior masters. The Jaffnaites, however, take some  pride in preserving the purity of Tamil language. Apart from  this, both Tamil Naduans and Jaffnaites know that there can  only be one homeland and that is in Tamil Nadu and not in Jaffna. Tamils from Jaffna must be the only community in the world who claim to have two homelands in one ocean – one filled with the originals and the other filled with the flotsam and jetsam that went ashore as unintended consequences of accidental history. 

The migrant Tamils who settled down overseas knew for certain that there could never be another homeland outside Tamil Nadu. As a result they were quite content, once they settled down in Sri Lanka, to be mere imitators basking  in the glory of the S. Indian culture. Surveying the past of the North, Arasaratnam wrote: “No original artistic tradition grew   in Tamil Ceylon. Culturally, the Tamils looked upon their arts as part of the Dravidian tradition of south India.” (p.115 – Ibid). There was nothing noteworthy in the Jaffna Tamil culture. This  could be one reason why the  great cultural  savant of South Asia, Dr. Ananda Coomarasawamy, wrote his classic monograph on Medieval Sinhala Art. If there were any outstanding cultural achievements worth protecting he couldn’t have missed it because he came from Jaffna.

(To be continued)
Jaundiced Jaffna jingoism ran all the way to Nandikadal

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The flow of migrants to Sri Lanka never ceased throughout its history.  Each  migratory wave came with its own characteristics. Each found its own niche in the over-arching Sinhala-Buddhist society. Historical records do not indicate that the new migrants encountered any difficulties in settling down with the numerically preponderant Sinhala-Buddhists. Take the example  Robert Knox. He is noteworthy because he  has  left a record of his sojourn in the Kandyan  Kingdom. Though he was not a migrant (he was a prisoner of the Kandyan King) his narrative gives an intimate account of the easy-going, friendly, hospitable and accommodating nature of the Sinhalese. Whatever prejudices the Sinhalese may have against foreigners initially, they disappear once they get to know them. In time the migrants become a part of the mainstream. The Sinhalese also have a continuous history of assimilation which explains, to some  extent, why the Sinhalese population grew exponentially, leaving  the other communities behind.  Living with the “other” became a defining principle of the Sinhala-Buddhist culture. Multiculturalism and pluralism became a way of  life.  Peaceful co-existence has been the norm in the open Sinhala-Buddhist culture which provided ample space for diverse cultures.

In particular, the persecuted minorities who had nowhere to go invariably found refuge in the arms of the Sinhala-Buddhists.When the Catholics left behind by the Portuguese were persecuted by the Dutch they found refuge in the Sinhala-Buddhist  kingdom. Wahakotte, for  instance, remains as a Catholic island in a sea of Sinhala-Buddhists. When the Muslims were also persecuted by the Dutch they found security and prosperity among the Sinhala-Buddhists. And the Muslims who were driven out of Jaffna in feudal and modern times always found alternative shelter among  the Sinhala-Buddhists.When Velupillai Prabhakaran hunted Tamil intellectuals, Tamil  politicians etc., who were opposed to him, they found a safe haven in the Sinhala-Buddhist south.  Even when the lunatic fringe of the Sinhala-Buddhist society went on rampage against minorities it was the majority of the Sinhala-Buddhists that rushed to their rescue. The opportunities for the minorities to rise within the overall Sinhala-Buddhist framework is demonstrated in the demography of Colombo : the minorities have overtaken the capital. The Sinhalese have withdrawn into the interior. Well, a capital that is dominated by the minorities cannot be all that bad for the minorities despite their repeated cries of discrimination.

Here I refer to the mainstream flow of events.  I am not referring to aberrations which mar the image of all civilised societies. It is wrong to take the odd aberration and project it as a systemic failure of the whole. Any judgement should be proportionate to the whole because no society is absolutely pure. Walter Benjamin, who was a leading light of the Frankfurt School of Marxists,  in his “Theses   on the Philosophy of History” hit the nail on the head when he said that “there is no document of civilisation that  is not at the same  time a document  of barbarism.” It means that there is a dark side to all societies. Political idealism has been striving – in vain so far – to shepherd society into the sunny side of civilisation. So in this imperfect world only those who possess a higher proportion of goodness, tolerance, and  humaneness have a right to cast the first stone.

Judged on this scale, the Sinhala-Buddhists, who had lived in communal harmony with diverse communities, have been commended by leading scholars.The leading Tamil political scientist, Prof. A. J. Wilson, son-in-law of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the father of Tamil separatism, argued convincingly that one of the reasons for the success of the parliamentary democracy was the tolerant Buddhist culture. In his  essay on  The Future of Parliamentary Government he wrote : “ ...the Sinhalese Buddhist ethos of tolerance does help to overcome in limited ways militancy and rigidity of Sinhalese language and Sinhalese Buddhist extremists. The tolerance helps produce an atmosphere for accommodating the demands of minority groups. In this way extreme elements on  both sides are inhibited from gaining the upper hand.” (p. 41, The Ceylon  Journal of Historical and Social Studies, Vol.IV, Nos. 1 and 2, Jan-December,1975).

Historian Dr. G. C. Mendis, too focused on this aspect of communal amity that was writ large in the pages of  pre-modern periods. He pointed out that there are no records of inter-ethnic tensions or violence under Portuguese and Dutch periods. North-South communal tensions exploded only in the thirties. It began with G. G. Ponnambalam, the rising star of Tamil communalism, provocatively vilifying the Sinhala-Buddhists. He demonised the Sinhala-Buddhists and ridiculed the Mahavamsa, claiming, in the same breath, that  it was the Tamils who made history in Ceylon, as it was known then. The Hindu Organ (June, 22, 1939) wrote in its editorial, THE WRITING  ON THE WALL  : “Ceylon today is seething with petty problems which  have been created by thoughtless gas-bags, and which threaten to poison the peaceful conditions in the country.....A verbal bombshell dropped unwittingly by a Tamil politician at Nawalapitiya appears to have set  the South  on fire......” In hindsight, this  editorial note stands out as a prophecy, as suggested in its title. The destructive fire ignited by Ponnambalam could  not be snuffed out until  it ran into the waters of Nandikadal.

K. Indrapala, the first  professor of history at the Jaffna University, too stated : “There have been political and social conflict among them (migrants) but the kind of ethnic consciousness and destructive prejudices that have surfaced in  the twentieth century and continue to plague the island were not a part of Sri Lanka’s pre-colonial history.” (ix , Evolution of an Ethnic Identity, The Tamils in Sri Lanka, C 300 B.C.to C 1200 C.E., The South Asian Studies Centre, 2005).

Prof Wilson’s explanation for the success of parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka was laid out in his book, The Nature of Politics in Sri Lanka (1974). It was a time when parliamentary democracy was hanging in  the balance. In 1970 the JVP held a gun to the parliamentary system. Tamil parties too rejected the parliamentary system arguing  that it did not  give them a fair share of  power. The Tamil leadership  began by demanding a 50% share of power for 12% of Jaffna Tamils which later turned into federalism and finally morphed into a separate state. The Marxists, on the other hand,  argued that the parliamentary democracy was only an instrument of the capitalist class to hoodwink the working class and perpetuate their exploitation and oppression. Besides, both groups who were in the  opposition argued that parliamentary democracy would  not  bring  solutions to their problems. Only the Sinhala-Buddhists stood steadfastly by the parliamentary system.

Commending Wilson’s book as “the finest work yet to appear on Ceylonese politics,”  Prof. Calvin A. Woodward, Associate Professor of New Brunswick University, wrote : “Certainly then. the key to the future lies in the understanding of the past. How and why, in other words, has the democratic experiment been able to work so well in Sri Lanka? The author (Wilson) investigates this and concludes that the political stability so far maintained in Sri Lanka is due mainly to two forces, one of the indigenous origin and the other result of Western implantation. Primary is the Buddhist ethos and the doctrine of tolerance. This, according to Wilson, has acted to dissuade the majority community from unduly imposing itself on the minorities and encouraged it to respect the fundamental rights and distinction of other in the plural society. Similar in effect to the Western notion of compromise, the doctrine of tolerance has facilitated compromise and provided essential underpinning in society to the parliamentary system.Of equal importance, according to the author, has been the superb leadership supplied by the Ceylonese political elite, a fact which has always highly impressed the knowledgeable foreign observer....  I think Wilson has revealed the essential character of the Ceylonese political culture. Its core is the “middle way”, a principle that owed origin both to the liberalism of the Westernized elite and to the idea of tolerance espoused by the Buddhist majority. (pp. 72-73, The Ceylon  Journal of Historical and Social Studies, Vol.  III, July-December 1973).

What should be noted is that Wilson wrote this book in 1974, long after the Sinhala Only Act of 1956. And also after the uprising of the JVP in April 1970. He does not blame S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike or the Sinhala-Buddhists as Tamil-haters or extremists. On  the  contrary, he argued that Buddhism was a restraining factor that lowered the temperature  of the extremists and led to the success of democracy. He goes even further, and in a footnote adds that “Buddhism among the Sinhalese has helped to mitigate the rigours of the caste system, which is otherwise similar to that of the Tamils.” (p.75 – S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947 – 1977, A Political Biography, Lake House Bookshop, 1994). In other words, he admits, sotto voce, that the dehumanising Tamil caste system denied their own people the  basic human rights and dignity.

Wilson undoubtedly would have agreed with Calvin who wrote that he (Wilson) had “revealed the essential character of the Ceylonese political culture...the idea of tolerance espoused by the Buddhist majority.”  But shortly after that the Tamil political lobby launched a massive propaganda campaign to demonize the Sinhala Buddhists. Two years after Wilson had published his book, his father-in-law, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the  father of Tamil separatism, was screaming for  the blood of the Sinhalese. By 1976 the Tamil leadership had pushed mono-ethnic politics of the peninsula to the extreme end. The Batakotte (Vadukoddai) Resolution had (1) declared war abandoning the non-violent parliamentary process and (2) urged the Tamil youth to “come forward to throw themselves fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the gaol of a sovereign state of Tamil Eelam is reached.” In other words, Chelvanayakam fathered the Batakotte (Vadukoddai) War. Was it necessary? What did the Tamils achieve  by going  to war?

Tamil leadership  has a lot to  answer for misleading  their  people and dragging them to the extreme end of the racist spectrum. The Batakotte (Vadukoddai) War was an extreme act and, as proved by subsequent events, doomed to fail. Besides, the brutal violence unleashed by the Batakotte (Vadukoddai) Resolution, which  gave birth to its first-born son,Velupillai Prabhkaran, was inevitable considering that the Tamil political culture was entrenched in extremism. Internally it was entrenched in casteist extremism that oppressed its own people throughout its brief history, denying them the basic human  rights and dignity. Externally,the English-educated Vellala leadership took to extreme racism to survive in the competitive electoral politics of the peninsular. It was the mean by which they could divide and  perpetuate their feudal rule. In the absence of any progressive political ideology they stuck stubbornly to the tried and tested anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism, the winning card in peninsular politics.

The Vellalas, who reigned  in feudal and colonial times with an  iron fist, treating the Tamils discarded from  their “pure” high-caste society as despicable subhumans, find their political kinsmen in the Nazis of fascist Germany. In the mistaken belief of being superior to the “other”, the Germans persecuted the gypsies,the disabled and, of  course, the Jews. Unmistakably, the judgement of the British historian A. J. P. Taylor on German history applies to the vicious Vellalas who treated the “other” with absolute contempt. He wrote: “The history of the Germans is a history of extremes. It contains everything except moderation, and in the course of a thousand years the Germans have experienced everything except normality.” (The Course of German History – A. J. P. Taylor.)

There was nothing normal about Jaffna politics. The Vellala elite, who were  in the driving  seat of Jaffna politics, assumed that they had the divine right to enslave the low-caste “other”. They used the Hindu casteist ideology to justify, oppress and persecute their own people during feudal and colonial centuries. The Saivite-Vellala ideology inculcated into them an arrogance that turned them into fascist  oppressors. In the end, their sense of  superiority inflated their self-image into a destructive force. It infused into them a sense of superior exclusiveness that rejected any co-existence with the “other”. They acquired an unlimited capacity to imagine a greatness which they do not  possess. For instance, Radhika Coomaraswamy, former head of the foreign-funded NGO, the ICES, in a lecture on her knighted ancestor, Sir. Muttu Coomaraswamy, said that he posed as a prince of Jaffna in the St. James’ court in London!

It was partly this arrogance that misled them all the way to Nandikadal. At every stage they rejected opportunities that were offered to them for peaceful coexistence, even when the solutions for peace came with international guarantees. Taking up extreme positions, from “50 – 50” to federalism, and finally to separatism, they led the way to the ultimate extreme at Batakotte (Vadukoddai) where they declared war against the Sinhalese. Which, of  course, led to Nandikadal. At every critical stage the Jaffna Tamil leadership, labelled by Prof. Kumar David, as “congenital idiots”, pushed Jaffna, step by step, from one extreme into another. They began by demanding in the twenties one extra seat in the Sinhala Western province, in addition to the seats given to  them in the Tamil North. Then in the thirties G. G. Ponnambalam took Jaffna to the extreme of demanding “50 – 50” – i.e, 12% demanding 50% of power. In the forties, his successor and rival, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, raised the stakes to federalism and finally to separate state. The political, ideological and tactical trajectory of the Jaffna leadership kept moving unrelentingly, like an arrow, from  one  extreme to another, until they had nowhere to go except to Batakotte (Vadukoddai) which took them straight to Nandikadal.

At the core of the North-South conflict was the extremism of the Tamil leadership which  poisoned inter-ethnic  relations. They never stopped demanding disproportionate claims that were bound  to blowback on them. They overestimated their  power and assumed that they could push the majority to surrender to their arrogant extremism. It only raised the hackles of the majority community who reacted defensively to preserve and protect national unity and territorial integrity. For instance, a minority of 12% demanding 50% share of power would be laughed out of court in any known democracy. When G. G. Ponnambalam, the father of “50-50”, argued for it with the British rulers of the time they dismissed it out  of  hand.

The aggressive arrogance of the Tamil leadership was self-destructive. When the Sinhala leadership offered 47%  Ponnambalam  pooh-poohed  it and rejected it. It was an  opportunity that the Tamils could not afford to miss. It was a blunder of Himalayan proportions. No sensible, rational political leader would fail to grab such a grand opportunity. Imagine 12% minority rejecting an  offer of 47%! It was the best deal ever that a minority could get from a majority of 75%.  But  “the congenital idiots” rejected it and blamed the Sinhalese for not cooperating or compromising. They consistently blamed the “Mahavamsa mentality”. Both Prof. Wilson, a political scientist, and Prof. S. Arasaratnam, historian, blamed Ponnambalam for missing the bus with  his arrogance. The backlash from  the Sinhala-Buddhist majority  was inevitable. They reacted with  their brand of nationalism to counter Tamil arrogance which has gone beyond the limits of reason, tolerance and endurance.

So who  is responsible for the exacerbation of inter-ethnic relations? Is it the “Mahavamsa mentality”, or the Jaffna jingoism that dragged the Tamils all the way to Nandikadal?

The answer is blowing  in the cold winds that sweep the murky waters of Nandikadal where the body of Velupillai Prabhakaran was found floating, ensuring, at last, that the Tamil children could  go to school without being abducted on the way. 

The Tamil Boko Haram is dead. Long  live the Tamil children without fear of being dragged into another Nandikadal by another Tamil Boko Haram !