By Izeth Hussain –
The term “ethnic” can be defined in a hundred ways without any one of them commanding unanimous assent. But there is broad agreement about what are the components that constitute ethnicity. One of them is language. Ethnic groups defined in terms of language – though with some exceptions – constitute the states that form the Indian union. Ethnic groups can also be defined in terms of religion. In the pre-1947 Indian sub-continent all Bengalis spoke the same language but they were divided by the religions of Hinduism and Islam. On the linguistic plane they were united to the extent of taking a common pride in having produced two great Bengali poets: Tagore, a Hindu, and Nazrul Islam, a Muslim. All the same the Bengalis were divided, lethally divided, by their religions. Bengal, along with the Punjab, was the site of the most lethal riots during the 1947 Partition.
At the time of Partition India inherited scores of millions of Muslims. How did Delhi cope with that problem? Kashmiri Muslims were allowed devolution because of historical circumstances, a unique exception because at that time the rest of India had states established on the basis of language, not religion. Since that time relations between Kashmir and Delhi have been troubled, in recent times very troubled, and it now seems that in refusing to allow self-determination for Kashmir India assumed a weight that it will have to carry over a long time. What about the rest of the Muslims who don’t have devolution on the basis of religion? The contrast with the plight of the Kashmiri Muslims is very striking indeed. There was the Babri Masjid horror, the demolition of the mosque at Ajodhya by the RSS Hindu fundamentalists, and there was the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims. But apart from those horrors the relations between the Hindus and the Muslims over the seventy years since Partition have been by and large peaceful. What is the reason? The only reason the writer can think of is that India has had for seventy years – except for two years of the Indira Emergency – a fully functioning democracy under which the minorities have been given a reasonable degree of fair and equal treatment.
Next we must consider the rather special case of Kalistan. Hindus and Sikhs have different religions but there was never antagonism between them because of religion. The antagonism arose because of India’s appallingly poor economic performance and Sikh pride in having had a Sikh empire for over 150 years. That led to the demand for a Sikh state within the Indian union, which was given in the form of Haryana in the mid-sixties. It was an attempt to solve an ethnic problem through devolution but instead of a solution it led to an aggravation of the problem with the demand for the separate state of Kalistan. That produced Longowal and the more extreme Bindranwale, the sacking of the Golden Temple, and the assassination of Indira Gandhi followed by horrendous anti-Sikh rioting. But since around 2000 the demand for Kalistan has died out. What is the explanation? The writer believes that it is two-fold: India has made spectacular economic progress and under a fully functioning democracy the Sikhs have been given a reasonable degree of fair and equal treatment.
What conclusions can we draw from the data collated in this article? India has had three models for dealing with ethnicity, the most important of which is devolution on the basis of language. As stated in the first part of this article, inter-ethnic relations can be equable and co-operative or they can be agonistic and antagonistic. Inter-ethnic relations based on language have been of the first kind in India whereas they have been of the second kind in Sri Lanka. It is therefore very difficult to believe that the replication of that Indian model will succeed in Sri Lanka. It is more likely to compound the problem. The second Indian model is devolution based on factors other than language: religion in the case of Kashmir and Sikh identity in the case of the Sikhs. Religion in India notoriously led to horribly agonistic and antagonistic relations between Hindus and Muslims, so that it is not surprising that devolution in Kashmir has been a failure up to now. As for the Sikhs, devolution in the form of Haryana seriously compounded the Sikh problem for decades, as noted above. The third Indian model for dealing with ethnicity is democracy, which also as noted above has been a success for seventy years for over a hundred million Muslims. True, there was the Gujarat massacre of Muslims in 2002 but unlike over the 1983 holocaust in Sri Lanka there were investigations for years together with some amount of punitive action. That was democracy in action in Gujarat. The writer would add that even the Indian success of linguistic devolution had to have behind it a democratic culture, making possible the compromise and accommodativeness without which devolution cannot be operated successfully. So, what has succeeded in India in dealing with antagonistic inter-ethnic relations is democracy, not devolution.
Sri Lanka’s experience of devolution has been very instructive. The Eastern Provincial Council has been working smoothly enough, and its relationship with the Government in Colombo has been equable and cooperative. By contrast the Northern Provincial Council gives the impression that it is not working at all. What is the explanation for this stark contrast? In the Eastern Province all three Sri Lankan ethnic groups are represented while the Northern Province is predominantly Tamil. The contrast is between devolution on a multi-ethnic basis in the Eastern Province and on a mono-ethnic basis in the Northern Province. Therefore a Sinhalese-Tamil polarization takes place in the case of the Northern Province, the factor of antagonistic inter-ethnic relations comes into play, and the NPC is rendered virtually inoperative. The contrast suggests strongly that devolution on an ethnic basis cannot work smoothly in Sri Lanka.
Some, indeed many, would hold that the real problem in the NPC is a character defect of Chief Minister Wigneswaran: a judge who has strayed into politics, who furthermore has an injudicious gift for striking provocative belligerent postures. The present writer believes that the explanation is to be found rather in the problem of interpellation. The writer, at the risk of seeming to be intellectually pretentious, is invoking the theory of Louis Althusser, which should be given weight because he was the foremost Marxist philosopher of the last century. Here the present writer will spell out briefly the bare essentials of the theory, leaving it to the interested reader to turn to the internet which has much information about it.
When a police officer interpellates an individual Hey! You there! a relationship is established that transcends the two individuals. The one represents the State, the other is a citizen; one has power behind him, the other has no power; one is super-ordinate, the other is subordinate, and so on, implying the positions of the two individuals in a society. What is involved also is Foucault’s notion that where there is power there is also the contestation of power, explicit or implicit. So when an individual is interpellated as the member of an ethnic minority, certain reactions come into play. When there is devolution on an ethnic basis and inter-ethnic relations are already agonistic and antagonistic – as between the Sinhalese and the Tamils – the contestation of power has to be expected. The travails of the NPC have to be explained in such terms, not only in terms of the peculiarities to be expected of a judge turned politician. On the other hand, when an individual is interpellated as a citizen who in a democracy has equal rights irrespective of his ethnic identity, his ethnicity is transcended and the agonistic and the antagonistic in inter-ethnic relations are in abeyance. So, when inter-ethnic relations are not equable and cooperative, ethnic problems have a better chance of being resolved through democracy rather than through devolution on an ethnic basis.
The writer would advocate the jettisoning of 13 Amendment after reaching an understanding with India. We should attempt a solution through a fully functioning democracy with adequate safeguards for the rights and legitimate interests of the minorities as in the West. The Tamils are living quite happily under that dispensation in the West and elsewhere. Why not here? The familiar answer is that they are indigenous to Sri Lankan territory and are therefore entitled to self-determination here. It is a nonsensical claim, but they are at liberty to go on clamoring for it in Geneva and elsewhere while their problems get solved through democracy here. We must bear in mind that we did have a fully functioning democracy before 1956, and right now we are in the process of entrenching it. There should be no great problem about working out the laws and institutions to safeguard minority rights and interests. So, let’s try democracy as the solution, and as for devolution – Chuck it. (Concluded)
Tasan / March 4, 2017
Izeth, please make sure that the Tamils don’t get much, specially anything closer to federalism. Push for 13 minus, and then we can delay the whole thing. The whole UN, India and the US are behind Mangala now. The Tamils don’t deserve anything. Please talk to Dayan and he could help you after talking with Rajapakse clan. It will be good for the Buddhist Sri Lanka, and they will build a statue for you.
Thiru / March 4, 2017
Izeth is acting the same way the Muslims helped the Sri Lanka government forces to defeat the Tigers. Then they let loose the BBS to deal with the Muslims: The present rulers contained it.
You are right once Tamils are completely done with, then they will make Rohingyas out of the Muslims. An Ashin Wirathu will be let loose on the Muslims to send them as boat people all over the world!
Mama Sinhalam / March 4, 2017
Bring back the BBS. Give liberty to Islamic females. Let them give up their gonibilla dress and not be slaves to Islamic goondas. Izeth has a lot of reform to do within his community and not worry about the Tamils. But, being a hate filled Wahabist, he is more worried about other peoples problems.
jim softy / March 4, 2017
Political power sharing or devolution never work for the country, or the people whether it is ethnic or otherwise.
Concentrate the political power and decentralize the administistrative power.
Cut down the number or white collar thieves by cutting down the number of politicians. that will streamline everything.
Bring back the constitution worked before 1972 and amend it with the good parts in 1972 and 1978 constitutions.
the govt should be careful what to decentralize and what not to decentralize because, Extremism by Ethnic and religious minoritirs in Sinhala\e already have destroyed the country for the Majority people.
P. U. Kaymile / March 5, 2017
There is only one workable model in Sri Lanka… that is “Sri Lanka Model.” All others are just undeliverable promises being made by crooks practising politics, playing games with the gullible masses aimimg to get rich quick.
Remember where the Tamil Terrorist Diaspora’s “glow in the dark” Elaam promise ended up?
Get a job, man.
Kettikaran / March 5, 2017
The demand for Kalistan petered out because the paymasters of the project – the Pakistani army vide the ISI – found their sources of funding choked. They had to chose between their surreptitious support between the more emotional Kashmir separatists issue and the Kalistanis. This has a direct relationship to the reduced flow of American funding to Pakistan drying up as a consequence of both warmer relations between Washington and New Delhi and the changing political landscape in Asia per the reading of American experts. Hussain’s analogy, therefore, is just as misplaced as his poor equation of the immortal Rabindranath Tagore with the far lesser known Nazrul Islam. It will be seen this is part of Hussain;s habit of obliquely promoting the Islamic agenda.
Note the hilarious claim “The Eastern Provincial Council has been working smoothly enough, and its relationship with the Government in Colombo has been equable and cooperative” It is outrageous minority scheming Muslims in the Province have conspired with other interests in the Province and have stolen the EPC from the Tamils. There is burning dissatisfaction among Batticaloa Tamils in this unacceptable turn of events. Colombo – and indeed India and the world – are all too aware of this grotesque development. The Tamil majority status has been rudely changed by various underhand tactics – State-sponsored colonisation, displacement of Tamils from their lands by Muslim government officials, unnatural increase of population, the Police and the army being some. Tamils will not rest until justice is restored to them. One way out is the restoration of the merger or something akin to that well functioning arrangement that was torpedoed by
Sinhala extremism with a maverick CJ working for his political future.
CM Justice Wigneswaren has disappointed in the NPC. His problem well could be he has chosen to engage in too many fronts simultaneously – against PM Wickremasinghe, the TNA and the Governor. His political career is clearly a non-starter. The Tamil Nation will have to free themselves from this political novice – now under the influence of many conflicting forces – both within and external. The fact is the political reality in the NEP is in a state of flux today. But this will soon return to its rightful place – if you read the signs in the UN/Geneve and GoSL right.
Izeth Hussain / March 5, 2017
Kettikaran – I wrote that Bengali Hindus and Muslims take a common pride in having produced two great Bengali poets, Tagore and Nazrul Islam. That that is a factually accurate statement is shown by one stark fact:: when Nazrul Islam died a day of mourning was declared both by the Bangladesh and West Bengal Governments. – IH
Real Siva Sankaran Sarma / March 6, 2017
But Tamil Muslims like you in Sri Lanka do not make any common front with your fellow Hindu and Christian Tamils but connive with Sinhalese racists to destroy everything Tamil, under a fake Arab origin and heritage that only a small percentage of you partially have. A little bit of Arab does not make you Arab. Worship everything Arab using that little bit of Arab as your excuse and hate and destroy everything Tamil that makes up more than 95% of the Sri Lankan Muslims DNA heritage language and culture. Shameful creatures. Came to the island and to the east as refuges and now backstabbing and trying to steal from the very same people who gave you refuge.
EnAG / March 7, 2017
People of Islam religeon in Lanka are not only shameful creatures but are parasites as well. They falsely call themselves as different ethnicity, aided by the divide and rule policy of Sinhala governments, but eat into Tamil jobs like Tamil-medium teachers, Tamil radio and TV announcers, Tamil speaking police personnel etc.
Mallaiyuran / March 5, 2017
This is most idiotic essay.
Our friend is saying CV is the problem in NPC. So why confidence motion is so far was brought by the other members? Why the UNP who sacked the Varadhar Government did not sack CV’s government? I think his brain is already dead and he can’t remember history!
JR brought 13A, working with India. Varadhar an appointment India, backed by India and a friend of JR, who worked with India, but could not last on the post for more than one year. That time NEPC had a Sinhala Minister, Thero De Silva, too. Muslims were there too. Still Varadhar was forced to run to India. Further, North didn’t have had a government for 30 years. Old Royals forced Rebel Party, Widows Party, Tamilini, Daya Master all to contest against CV. Army even printed a second Udyan. Sinhala government, who hated CV, has been suppressing North to that extent. CV is a person lives a life as Sinhalese and Tamils as husband and wives. Muslims, if intermarriages take place, immediately convert them because of the hates towards other religions. If, at least, one this fact is still lighted in this fellow’s head, he will not write CV, who has survived with Sinhala Masters for four years including 1 1/2 years with the most notorious Idi Amin of Lankawe, as a troublemaker. There is not even moral support from West for CV to depend on.
He writes another dupe about East. There many Tamils death in East by Muslims shooting with the support of Yahapalanaya. Yahapalanaya is not ready to investigate those cases. That is how the real peace between the civilians. There is agreement between the crooks politicians and they are working toward common looting.
Mallaiyuran / March 5, 2017
When Gnanam went to Batticaloa to start a fight with Muslims, it was Tamils stopped him. Gnanam cursed Tamils when he was returning back to Colombo. None of the Muslim MPs wanted to complain about Gnanam to New King or Ranil and stop him. This kind of dirty cooperation is taking place between Muslim rulers in East and government because Muslims rulers and writers wants to have the MMDA and Wahhabi Saudi Funding saved by Sinhala leaders. To be honest, Tamils do not ask dirty boons from Sinhala masters like one of MMDA and they don’t support Gnanam come to Batticaloa, unlike the Muslims politicians did.
The biggest draw after Varadhar happened was between Ahmed Nazeer and Yahapalanaya. There was a case opened to investigate and sack Ahmed from EPC CM. New King who was in china came back and closed it, like with Hakeem cases. After all, there is no legitimate government in East. Nazeer is the coolie of the Sinhala government, forcefully occupying the CM seat with the backing of Yahapalanaya. That is TNA’s seat and TNA is the election winning party. There, now, CV2 should have been in power. This guy writes things worse than Ganja hallucination.
Hindu-Muslims war in Bangladesh-West Bengal was not the British India’s biggest massacres. It is West Pakistan- Punjab split. But that is not the biggest war crime connected Pakistan-s. West Pakistan’s rapes and murders in the East Pakistan was the biggest ever happened in the Indian Subcontinent. Here are the numbers for the political and history baby Izeth:Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami killed according to Bangladeshi and Indian sources up to 3,000,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women This much of murders and rapes were made possible by the Pakistan’s’ unitary government. Izeth is putting hat on others heads. He should first put one to his head.
Mallaiyuran / March 5, 2017
He is muddling through his explanation why Sikhs fought for separate country. The Simple reason is they are of Punjabi origins. Punjabis has no connection to Indian subcontinent. They are a migrated warrior race. When they came to Hinduism, they naturally stopped fighting. Afghan, Persian and Mongolian Muslims started spread Islam to them. After half of their brethren were converted to Islam they formed Sikhs militant religion to fight back Islam. Sikhism is more militant than Islam because it was formed to fight off another militant religion. Once the Islam was got rid of India in the name of Pakistan, Sikhs turned their attention on Hinduism. So, why Sikhs were fighting with Hindus? Because, they are of Punjabi origin. Have any doubt on that? Just look at the other side of the border. What is going between Punjabi Muslims and other Muslims? Fight! Izeth is a baba knows nothing.
Izeth is trying to prove that India had very good democratic PMs. That is a real comedy. There are none after Shastri, san Vajpayee. Even If he gets through his dupe, for Lankawe to copy India’s democracy, it has to be better than Lankawe’s. There was no PM in India, even from Nehru time, like DS, SWRD, JR, and Chandrika were for Sinhalese. Their cheating, murders, oppressions and deportations all were against only to Tamils. They were considered as very good leaders by Sinhalese, including Old King., who style Sinhalese overwhelmingly like. Sinhalese select their leaders as dictators only to be bad for Tamils, but Indian cannot select leaders. Not just Old King, even Karuna was able to go EU. But Modi was refused Visa. That is why, in the world arena, Lankawe’s leaders enjoy better recognition than Indian leaders. Izeth puny brain cannot comprehend how this system worked/works.
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 7, 2017
Islam has come a cropper against militant religions like Judaism, Sikhism and to some extent Catholicism. It is the pacifist religions like Hinduism and Buddhism that suffered due to atrocities committed by Muslims. Due to the mistaken belief that the world was flat as preached by Koran, Muslims feared to venture beyond as they may fall into hell and Islam never spread south of equator or across Atlantic ocean and to far east.
sarrij / March 8, 2017
IH is obviously making a very valid, scholarly contribution and presentation against the 13 amendment.
Your silly sweeping inaccurate comment does not have any relevance to this article.
Think Myanmar in recent history.