23 October, 2018

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Black July: A Note On Buddhism, Caste & The New Sinhalese Nationalism

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 11 –

In South Asia in general the principal mark of identity is caste. Language and religion are transmutable. Thus when the Kandyan kingdom in the 18th century was in need of a Kshatriya prince to fill the throne, a Hindu Tamil-speaking Nayakkar from South India was made king and the protector of Buddhism. Such perceptions of identity still have considerable life as a survival from a feudal past. A passing fashion among Western scholars of the 19th century identified language with race and popular nationalism on both sides began to speak of Sinhalese Aryans and Tamil Dravidians. Kumari Jayawardhana in her work traces the use of new perceptions of identity to hate campaigns against Indian and Moor business competitors and Indian labour from the early 20th century.

The introduction of universal adult franchise with the Donoughmore reforms of 1931 found several members of the Sinhalese ruling class changing their religious allegiance from Christianity to Buddhism. Among the ‘Donoughmore Buddhists’ were Bandaranaike and Jayewardene who had been Anglican Christians. Jayewardene, the choirboy at St. Michael’s, Polwatte, was among the earliest to play the Buddhist card openly. Campaigning in the 40s against his opponent E.W. Perera for the Kelaniya seat, Jayewardene asked, “As much as I hold E.W. Perera in great esteem, how can this hallowed city of Kelaniya be represented by a Christian?”

The UNP took a resounding beating in 1956 and Jayewardene siezed on the Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact to devolve more power to the North-East, to revive the UNP’s fortunes. Jayewardene organised a march to another ‘hallowed city’ – Kandy with the Temple of the Tooth – to pray for the welfare of Ceylon, which he accused Bandaranaike of selling to the Tamils. Dudley Senanayake, then re-entering politics after 5 years called the B-C Pact an act of treachery. The UNP leaders then publicly swore from the Temple of the Tooth that they would, to the end, oppose the formation of regional councils under the B-C Pact. [See p. 82- 83 of T. Sabaratnam’s The Murder of a Moderate.]

For Jayewardene with his visions of monarchical grandeur, the Temple of the Tooth became an obsession. It was he who began the public appearance of the new head-of-state at the Temple of the Tooth. It was from the precincts of this Temple in the late 70s that some of the notable productions of Cyril Mathew’s Ministry of Industries & Scientific Affairs – the hate literature against the Tamils – were first distributed to the public.

Mathew’s rise to prominence is another interesting phenomenon in Sinhalese nationalism. He comes from one of the service castes who together comprise about 40% of the Sinhalese population and are known to be of fairly recent South Indian origin. Colonial education, particularly under the British, and new commercial opportunities helped many of them to advance within Sinhalese society, although they were only grudgingly accepted by their peers from the Govigama (Sudra, Vellala) caste.

To Jayewardene and Bandaranaike Buddhism was primarily a means to getting votes. To Mathew it was something much more. His zeal for planting or allegedly discovering Buddhist temples in Tamil- speaking areas is well-known. It was as though this zeal was for him a means of fighting for a place in Sinhalese society which tolerated, rather than accepted him. Jayewardene pandered to his vanity by making him MP for the ‘hallowed city’ of Kelaniya, where Mathew in turn made himself President of the Kelaniya Sacred City Trust.

Mathew’s assumed pro-Buddhist and anti- Tamil zeal points to another phenomenon – an attempt to make Buddhism the key element in the Sinhalese identity while playing down caste. Today the most strident of Sinhalese publicists and scholars who move towards demonising the Tamils while eloquently holding out against political accommodation with them, come mainly from the service castes.

The new however jostles uneasily with the old. Gamini Dissanayake was a Kandyan Govigama. During the July 1983 violence he and his wife dropped in one evening among old friends visiting a Tamil lawyer on holiday from Britain. In private discussion, Dissanayake lamented the state of the Left. “Earlier”, he told another visitor, “in dealing with the Left, one could have talked to a good Govigama like Dr. N.M. Perera or to a good Dutch Burgher like Pieter Kenuman”. “But now”, he added, “the leadership of the Left has gone to the scum!”

Part one – Sri Lanka’s Black July: Borella, 24th Evening

Part two – Sri Lanka’s Black July: What Really Happened At Kanatte?

Part three – Black July: ‘Api Suddha Kara’ – JR’s Failure To Declare Curfew

Part four – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Cover Up

Part five –  30th July 1983: The Second Naxalite Plot

Part six  – Black July: The Testimony Of Lionel Bopage, Then General Secretary Of The JVP

Part seven – Black July: Thondaman & Muttetuwegama

Part eight – What Was Behind Tiger Friday – 29th July? -The Significance Of The Pettah

Part nine – Tamil Merchants In The Pettah – Post July 1983

Part ten –  Sri Lanka’s Black July: A Family’s Tragedy In Colombo

*From Chapter 9 of  Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power  – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To be continued..

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  • 1
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    Cyril Mathew, believed to be of recent low-caste Kerala origin of toddy tappers (some of whom in Ceylon went into the Cinnamon peeling trade) suffers that syndrome of “badly wanting to belong” to the society you find yourself in. This is a malady that afflicted the Austrian Hitler, Keralite-Muslim Mahattir Mohamed of Malaysia, Christian JRJ, the arch-Communalist MP of the 1960s KMP Rajaratne from the UVA (from the South Indian Konar caste) among others. Some might
    want to include in that list Champika Ranawake of JHU – believed to have been groomed to Christian/Catholic priesthood – but now a die-hard Sinhala Buddhist champion.

    Senguttuvan

    • 1
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      Senguttuvan

      Nayakar SWRD Banda

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        NV
        SWRDB was from the Tamil temple worker caste of PANDARAM. His ancestors worked as pandarams in Kandy hindu temples.

      • 0
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        Jasmine Gunaratne, a niece of SWRDB, wrote a book “Relative Merits”. She gives the ancestory of SWRDB.

    • 0
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      Senguttuvan,

      “The introduction of universal adult franchise with the Donoughmore reforms of 1931 found several members of the Sinhalese ruling class changing their religious allegiance from Christianity to Buddhism.”

      Well, the opportunists, figured out that Jesus Christ is no longer the Savior, and it was Nirvana and Rebirth that was the savior. We are still on the Buddhist Nirvana savior and rebirth track. It matters very little that these are all myths. After all everybody knows that most people are fools anyway.

      The Karave all are supposed to be from South India, from the Southern Indian Gene Pool.

      Not only the Karave, All Sinhala, Tamil and most Muslims, not all, are from the Southerns Indian gene Pool.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genographic_Project

    • 0
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      Cyril Mathew was a SALAGAMA. They were brought to Sri Lanka from South Indian caste SALIYAS for weaving during the Nayak Rule (Vijaya Nagar Empire).

      When their population grew up many found employment as cinnamon peelers.

      Becoming a Christian still a “good fortune” for Tamils too. S.J.V.Chelvanayakam’s ancestry traced to PARAYAN caste of Tholpuram. In Jaffna many low castes became HIGH castes after becoming Christians and wealthy! G.G.Ponnambalam’s case also the same!

      Can you mention any of the HIGH castes from current Tamil politicians?

      • 0
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        M.SIVANANTHAN

        Please do not talk rubbish!

        What do you know about the Sinhala caste system? Do not invent stories from thin air.

        I belong to the SALAGAMA caste and I know very well that Cyril Mathew does not belong to our caste. Our caste can be easily recognized from family names.

        This guy M.SIVANANTHAN is talking thro his Ass. Dear readers, please do not believe anything what he says unless he provide evidence/proof to cross check what he says.

        • 0
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          M.Sivananthan belongs to the Mokkan caste. Cant you see the initial.

        • 0
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          Why are you crying like a stoned dog? You better prove Cyril Mathew was not a SALAGAMA!

          Sinhala caste system is derived from the Hindu caste system.

          ZOYSA is a common Portuguese name. Come with your original SALAGAMA name if you have one!

          • 0
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            M.SIVANANTHAN

            You are a blatant liar. None of what you say here has any thrth. Are you imaginaging things and inventing stories from thin air or are you hallucinating?

            If you want to know the SALAGAMA family names, go to google and you will find them.

            You said Cyril Mathew is a SALAGAMA! Can you prove what you said is true?

            Dear readers,

            This M.SIVANANTHAN is either paid by someone to mislead the readers or he has escaped from mental asylum or he is writing after heavy dose of drugs. If you read what he writes here, there is no evidence what so ever to prove any of them and he never gives any source. The only source is his insane or drugged mind. I hope the readers are not foolish enough to believe what this moron says.

            • 0
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              The famous De Soyzas and De Silvas are from the SALAGAMA caste. For your information, Cyril Mathew belongs to the Durawa caste which is not at all related to the SALAGAMA.

              Do not talk rubbish, if you are ignorant try to learn.

            • 0
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              Zoysa:

              hahaha
              why someone pay me to tell Cyril Mathew was a SALAGAMA? I am a Tamil man and have no respect to this Mathew whether he belongs to any caste.

              Once I met his son and he claimed this caste matter.

              Did SALAGAMAS come from Lisbon? You are a twister and try to fool yourself. Mentioning Portuguese names sounds funny!

              Karawe people too have the said names (Silva or Zoysa). Tamils in Puttalam have the name de Zoysa. What the hell you cry here?

              So, you are a lier.

        • 1
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          Zoysa

          “Dear readers, please do not believe anything what he says unless he provide evidence/proof to cross check what he says.”

          Thanks for the advice.

          I don’t believe anything anyone says in this forum.

      • 0
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        How do you all this?What is your source and evidence about SJVC and GGP?Please please let us know.
        Thanks

    • 0
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      Senguttavan, So What? It is an established fact, that people who become Buddhists or Christians or Muslims by Conviction rather than By Birth follow the Ideologies of their adopted Religion better than those who are born to One. Why find excuses like “badly wanting to belong” to the society they find themselves in?

  • 0
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    Senguttuvan

    I would like to read your comment under the following article :

    What Paranavitana Said To McGilvray; “Do Your Homework Son”
    By Darshanie Ratnawalli

    Please give it a bash.

  • 0
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    Minister Alahapperuma?

    • 0
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      Allahaperuma? It is a standard name among Kerala Vishnavites: Allahaperumal.WHEN THEY CONVERT TO Sinhalahood they drop the last consonant: Weeraperuma,Illayaperuma,etc A case of assimilation by phonetic change as opposed religious change and the adoption of Portuguese names

      On another point raised by Senguttavan:It is the case that most of the fervant Anti Tamil propagandists are descendants of Tamil migrants — Salgamas,Karavas,Beravas,etc displaying the fervour of converts.It is another way of claiming that now they are good and authentic Sinhalas, if not quite Arya Sinnhala in Dharmapala’s definitions

  • 0
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    Rajan Hoole:

    I read the title of your article as well as the article ?

    So, what is your point ?

    Even those who wrote comments above me seem to be racist and feeling inferior, I mean they don’t talk like equals.

  • 0
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    I tried to understand how this article relates to LTTE killing of 13 soldiers and Tamils taking back the return on it, Buddhism, Sinhala nationalism and Caste issue.

    But, I don’t see any connection.

    It is simply an article written by a Tamil who is reluctant to talk about his society.

    why ?

  • 0
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    THE KETTLE CALLING THE POT BLACK
    ONE SHUDRA CALLING THE OTHER LOW

    THIS IS THE DISGUSTING SOUL OF CONFUSED SOUTH ASIA
    THE EVIL EUGENICS AND RACE THEORY MAKES MORE SENSE
    THATS WHY THE BROWNIES ARE THE 3RD WORLD, 3RD CLASS !!!

    • 0
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      Ipod:

      If you did not have the loot from the third world things would have been different.

      • 0
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        Even looting is for skilled people

        Our Vijaya & Co looting this land
        Then accusing more capable looters for looting us

        (why ‘jim softly’ & these looters technology, dont use computers, then your opinio will be taken more seriously)

  • 0
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    [Edited out]
    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.
    For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    /*
    The introduction of universal adult franchise with the Donoughmore reforms of 1931 found several members of the Sinhalese ruling class changing their religious allegiance from Christianity to Buddhism.
    */

    I agree. The universal adult franchise was a turning point for all these “elites”. The Sinhala leaders converts to Buddhism to appeal to the masses. Tamil leaders on the other hand work to suppress voting rights of their low caste masses.

    Ramanathan argued strongly against the granting of voting rights to the people of depressed classes. He submitted that granting voting rights to non-vellalas was anathema to the Hindu way of life. He argued that giving voting rights to the people of depressed castes would be a grave mistake.

    http://www.sangam.org/2011/01/Tamil_Struggle_20.ph

    They play to the gallery with Tamil nationalism when that fails.

    Tamil politicians sensed the double danger of dismantling the caste system and mainstream political parties penetrating into the Tamil community. They took up a racial slogan that pit Tamils against Sinhalese. It worked well in the short run as racial sentiments and fears were drummed up. In the short term it unified Tamils across the caste/region/class divide. Large scale protests, satyagrahas and demonstrations broke out. Ministers were mobbed, Sinhala letters were tarred over a petty issue (having a Sinhala letter instead of English letters in vehicle registration numbers) and a civil disobedience campaign was launched by Tamil race based political parties (Tamil Kachchi and Tamil Congress).

    http://www.colomboherald.com/world-politics/tamil-caste-discrimination

    I still can’t imagine Tamil “coolie” castes allowed to become leaders in Jaffna. Sinhalese on the other hand have had men, women from all classes and creeds leading them since independence. It is thanks to progressive Buddhism that castes becoming insignificant among Sinhalese.

    The one and only thing that reduce caste factor in Jaffna was the LTTE. Which itself is significant because one of its core objectives was removal of caste from Jaffna. If not for LTTE there would have been hardly any change. There has never been such terror uprisings due to caste among Sinhala masses.

    The Vellala mill keeps pumping out crap like this in the mean time. Nationalism and cateism is a Tamil cottage industry imported to Sri Lanka.

    • 0
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      Can you explain why Sinhala Buddhists have their “ASGIRIYA”, MALWATTE AND OTHER sects BASED ON CASTES?

    • 0
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      Vibushana contiunues to spew his nonsense.He has to go back a hundred years to Ramanathan to make his point.The point Vidushaha is that no one paid any attention to Ramanathan and universal adult franchise was in fact intruduced.IT IS IN FACT BECAUSE of UNIVERSAL ADULT FRANCHISE THAT THE VELLALAR CONTINUE TO DOMINATE JAFFNA POLITICS. THEY ARE IN A SUBSTANTIAL MAJORITY– JUST LIKE THE GOIGAMAS AMONG THE SINHALSESE.
      You and fellow Vellalar-obsessed propagandists in some of the newspapers and blogs and scurrilous “journalists”are unable to recognise this fact — or operhaps you do and carry on nevertherless poisoning the political discourse and laying the groundwork for another pogrom.
      AND WE CAN TAL;K AGAIN WHEN YOU HACE A SALAGAMA OR KARAWA OR BERAWA OR A RODIYA AS PRESIDENT!

      • 0
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        VIBUSHANA:
        I am waiting for your response to my refutation of you silly and fundamentally un-schoraly ahistorical diatribe.

  • 0
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    So the chameleons proved how valueable their color changing ablity is, regardles of being Singhala or Tamil. The Buddhist and Hindu chameleons first changed to Anglican/Christain colour to benefit from the colonisers and enrich themselves. Onces riches are amassed the caste goes through revisions via marriages. When the time is right they change colour once again to pretend to be Buddhist and Hindu for power and wealth.

    • 0
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      NAK

      Can you name atleast one Tamil politician who changed his/her religion from Christain to Hindu in order for the sake of power and wealth? It is the Sinhala politicians who did that but not a single Tamil changed religion to do local politics.

  • 1
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    My Sinhalese Brothers….
    Get to know the facts.Who is ruling the corporate sector in Srilanka?
    The Sinhale chiristian Karawa community.The cream of the Sinhale Intelligencea is from the Karawa community,who are dissidents from south India.The original Sinhalayaas are muts…

    • 0
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      Maha Goiya Bandaranayakes, aka Nilaperumal kalukapuge, Ratwattes, other Kandian chiefs were South Indian.
      So were others including many kings and half the Sinhala gene pool are of neighbouring South Indian descent (Kandyan treaty signed mostly in Tamil, the king could not write Sinhala).

      The coastal people are no different, mixed, perhaps more mixed, may explain the better brains you talk of, but to say they are more intelligent is not necessarily true. The interior rural communities are moving to their needs, otherwise who is going to farm, they may be less urbanised and thats fine.

      Some saw the farm and the hill, others the sea and the ships, so natural to advance in business and learning about stuff beyond our Island.

      Kotalawala was ‘Christian’, but I thik was a G and not a K
      Stafford motors, AMW and many others owned by Buddist westernized/modernized, so the religious sterotyping is not true.
      However, Buddhist view is not the most commercial when compaired to Hindu, Jew, Muslim and Christian.

      • 1
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        The Karava (fisher folk), Durava (toddy tappers) or Salagama (Cinnamon peelers) Sinhala castes were late South Indian migrants from Kerela and Tamil Nadu. Even the Kandyan Govigama is having both Tamil and South Indian blood connections.

        The low country Sinhalese (or Sinhalised Tamils of the South) like Prof. Nalin De Silva, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka , Don David Hewavitarana aka Anagarika Dharmapala and all other De Silvas, Fernandos, Fonsekas, Dias, Coorays, De Souzas, Pereras, Peiris, Mendis, Dons and so on are either Sinhala Buddhists or Catholics today but their forefathers were brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese/Dutch from South India (from Malabar and Coramandel coast) as menial labourers/slaves (for growing/peeling cinnamon, fishing/pearl diving, coconut planting/plucking and toddy tapping) who later adopted Portuguese surnames to hide their original identity. Today, they are the champions of Sinhala-Buddhism and Sinhala-Buddhist racism.

        • 0
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          Suresh

          ” Even the Kandyan Govigama is having both Tamil and South Indian blood connections.”

          This proves my point that the Tamils and Sinhala/Buddhists are irredeemably stupid.

        • 0
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          The caste factor is on the way out gradually – modern education, a world homing on the economic factor etc being the chief causes.
          We must allow this divisive feature to quietly disappear. The accent of birth should not be allowed to determine the fortunes of man in today’s world. Merit, education, content of character should be the more determining features.

          Senguttuvan

        • 0
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          NOT SO, LIKE THE KINGS OF THEIR TIME CONVERTING, MANY LOCALS CONVERTED
          THERE WERE ENOUGH PEOPLE IN THE ISLAND AND NO NEED TO IMPORT OTHER THAN SOLDIERS, SERFS, ETC.

          I THINK THE OLDEST CASTE MENTIONED IN SL IS THE KARAVA, FROM THE ‘KARAVA NAVIKA’ OF THE ABAYAGIRI VIHARAYA (1ST CENTURY BC). THE OLDEST ROYAL EMBLEMS OF THE ISLAND COUNTRY IS THE FISH SYMBOL,FOR INSTANCE THE KATARAGAMA KSATERIYA, DUTUGAMUNU’S BROTHER SADHATHISSA, ETC. ISLAND COUNTRY DOES NOT NEED NEW IMPORTED FISHERMAN. WAS THERE A NEED FOR IMPORTED FARMERS?

          KARAVA THE TRADITIONAL COASTAL PEOPLE OF THE ISLAND AND THE NEIGHBOURING COAST, ARE ALSO MENTIONED IN THE JAFFNA WAR AGAINST THE PORTUGUESE, THE KING REFUSING; ‘THE KARAVA KING AND THE VADUGA ARMY WHO CAME TO ASSIST THE KING WILL NOT BE SURENDERED TO THE PORTUGUESE’. LOCAL KARAVAS FOUGHT ON THE PORTUGUESE/KOTTE KINGS SIDE AND THE FIRST GOVERNOR/ADIGAR OF DUTCH JAFFNA WAS ONE DE ANDRADO OF THE SOUTH, WHO ALSO TOOK PART IN THE SEIGE OF KOCHIN, KERALA. THE ABOVE MENTIONED VADUGAR ARE FROM ANDRA PRADESH (CLOSEST TO SINHALA WRITING/LETTERS) AND NORTHERN TAMIL NADU, THE NAYAKAR DYNASTY IS OF THE VADUAR RACE.

          PORTUGUESE NEVER HAD CONTROL OF THE COROMANDAL COAST, THEIR BASE WAS THE MALABAR (SOUTH-WEST) COAST OF INDIA.

          UPULUVAN OR VARUNA (SEA GOD) IS AN ORIGINAL GUARDIAN DIETY (LIKE KATARAGAMA, SAMAN) OF THE ISLAND (CARRIED AS A CLAN NAME, FULL OF MEANING), HAS BECOME VISHNU IN LATTER TIMES, REWRITING OUR HISTORY AND A BETRAYAL OF OUR ANCESTORS WHO HAD NO OTHER MEANS OF GETTING HERE; ACCROSS THE SEAS ON SHIPS.

          DON BARTHALAMEW (SENANAYAKE), DON HENRICK (RAJAPAKSA), DE ALWIS ARE FAMOUS PADDY FARMER CASTE PEOPLE WITH THESE PORTUGUESE NAMES. THE NUMEROUS SERVICE CASTE WHO DID THE FIELD WORK HAD A FIELS DAY UNDER THE DUTCH, GOVI BECOMING GOVIGAMA.

          APARENTLY THAT BRAND IS SUPERIOR TO THE OTHER FARMER BATHGAMA, ETC. CASE OF RICE MUD OVER POT MUD, BRICK MUD. THESE NILAPERUMALS CALL OTHERS MORE RECENT. CLASSIC IS ONE LARGE FARMER CASTE IS DISEMPOWERED AND CALLED PLANQUIN CARRIERS, HOW MANY PLANQUINS WERE THERE TO CARRY!.

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          Some information on Salagama http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salagama

  • 0
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    The late Cyril Mathew didn’t belong to Salagama or Durawa castes as claimed by some commentators here.He belonged to the Dewa(Wahumpura)community which is said to be the second largest caste formation(30%) only behind the Govigama(50%).It is evident from his ge name “Caluwadewage” since most people from that community carry the ge name “Dewage”.Minister Gunaratne weerakoon,UNP MPs Harrison(Anuradhapura)Premadasa(Kegalle),Justice Warawewa are from that community.

    • 0
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      Gunaratne – what is the origin for this name? Gunaratnam??

      • 0
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        SANSKRIT.

    • 0
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      But I am still wondering why his son KALUWA DEWAGE NANTHA MATHEW me his caste was SALAGAMA in the 70s.

  • 0
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    M.Sivananthan,
    I don’t know how a person born to Dewa parents can be a Salagama.As far as I know Nanada Mathew never claimed he was a Salagama.He didn’t have to since the electorate he contested in 1977 election (Kolonna) was a Dewa majority one. The reason he was picked to contest Kolonna in the Ratnapura district was nothing but Caste.P.O Wimalanga of LSSP,a lawyer from Colombo represented this electorate in 70-77 government.He too was a Dewa.This electorate was given to the LSSP under the no-contest arrangement they had with SLFP in 1970.N.M Perera cleverly selected Wimlanaga taking in to account the caste factor.

    On what basis are you saying Mathew Jnr was a Salagama?

  • 0
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    I am a bit amused that Rajan identifies JRJ as having a Christian heritage. JRJ would have been a choirboy at St Michaels Polwatte. There were a lot of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists at that school as well. JRJ in actual fact had a Muslim heritage. His real name was TMJR Jayawardane – Thambi Mudiyanselage Junius Richard Jayawardene. To be fair I do not know anymore than this fact. I have also been told that during JRJ’s uni days he stowly let the first two initials of his name go unmentioned. Can anyone shed more light on this.

  • 0
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    referring to Devamitta’s comment on August 10, 2013, I must say that Justice Warawewa belongs to Govigama Cast.. I know it for a fact. both the writer and Devamitta are mistaken. Justice Warawewa does not belong to that particular community and cast…

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