By Udeshika Jayasekara –
The end of the thirty-year civil war marked a new era in Sri Lankan history. Even after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the ‘ethnic tension’ in Sri Lanka arises a sense of suspense and uncertainty between India and Sri Lanka. This opposite tensions are under the ashes, but it effects the Indo-Sri Lanka relations, between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of India and Tamil Nadu. Further, it creates chaos within the country itself.
Influence of Tamil Nadu
The seventy million Tamils living in Tamil Nadu are linked ethnically to the Tamils in east and north of Sri Lanka. From Sri Lanka’s perspective, the regional political parties in Tamil Nadu unduly influenced India’s actions on the Sri Lankan government and the east and north Tamil issues in a critical manner. India also voted against Sri Lanka in the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to settle its domestic Tamil constituency especially in Tamil Nadu. Furthermore, social media played a major role in Tamil’s students protest across Tamil Nadu, where more than 600 colleges and schools were shut down out of fury among students. This has forced the ruling government to pass a resolution in Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly against the Sri Lankan government and demanded the union government impose economic sanctions on Sri Lanka. (Jegannathan, 2013)[i] It is the best evidence that social media enables the democratic struggle against authoritarian regimes and acts as a force factor. This create a negative impression on east and north Tamils in Colombo and south people within the country.
Influence of Indian media
Indian media play a major role in creating a tension between the Colombo and South with the North and East Tamils. They are well aware that Sri Lanka is one of a handful of countries, which can manipulate easily by using the social media platforms that already very popular among Sri Lankans. In Sri Lanka, most of the Tamil people resided in both North and East. Thus, these internet and other media platforms targeted directly the Sri Lankan Tamils in the North and East and have allowed them to exhaust their collective resentment against the Sri Lankan government without any censorship or scrutiny. This moreover have a deep influence to make a segregation between the South and Colombo with North and East. This provides a new battlefield for this cold war by the boundless social media and networking sites. It is very much active in cyberspace, over which the Sri Lankan government has limited control. Photographs and videos capturing the cruelty of the last phase of the war have gone viral online and on social media over the last few years. If someone googles ‘Sri Lanka’ the online websites refers to the genocide that happens in Sri Lanka by the military. (Gunaratna, 2020) [ii] Further Tamil Nadu and the Indian media force Sri Lankan government to celebrate the ‘Maveerar Naal’ on 27th of November to commemorate war heroes who sacrificed their lives for the Tamil Eelam. Besides, there is a special government meeting of the transnational government of Tamil Eelam is also scheduled on 5th and 6th of December and It meets through e technology. (JVPNEWS.com, 2020)[iii] Those are indicating how the social media and the new technology have transformed the ethnic conflict within the new realm of cyberspace and the impact on post-war Sri Lankan ethnic tension.
Indian Cinema – Tamil Cinema
Tamil cinema connected with the Tamil people, their culture and society. When considering the Tamil cinema, there was a three decade long separatist struggle, that led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), against the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lankan Tamils in the North and East, and the Sri Lankan Tamil refugee diaspora are a major market for Tamil films. The best recent example is that Muttiah Muralitharan biopic 800 has created huge chaos in Tamil Nadu, India. He does not belong to the North or the East of Sri Lanka, which formed the geographical territory of Eelam, he is from the hill country. Tamil cinema hero Vijay Sethupathi decided to produce a biopic on legendary Sri Lankan Tamil cricketer Muralitharan, one of the finest bowlers ever (800 wickets in Tests and 534 in ODIs). Nonetheless, it has aroused strong protests from pro Tamil groups in Tamil Nadu with the social media platform Twitter exploding with the hash-tag “Shammeon VijaySethupathi”. (Charindra, 2020)[iv] In the meantime, the film Raging Tiger, directed by Venkatesh Kumar a biography of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is in action. Thenali (2000), Kannathil Muthamittaal, Nala Damayanthi (2003) and Rameswaram (2007) were made references to or incorporated Sri Lankan Tamils and the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. (Maya Ranganathan & Dr Selvaraj Velayutham, 2012)[v] Therefore, in the absence of an outpouring of cohesion through these kinds of films, they cause negative influence for the audience, specially the Tamils in North and East, who have bitter experiences from the Civil war in Sri Lanka. That will increase the tension between South and Colombo with North and East, and it will gradually lead to another conflict in the future.
The ethnic tension between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka has not been subdued with the elimination of LTTE rather it has been reinvented by social media and new technology. Therefore, the government needs to address these issues regarding cyber space and update the laws constantly with the changing of media and technology. In addition to that, should maintain stability in the bilateral relations among the two countries, the Sri Lankan side has to understand the interests of India as a regional power in South Asia, and develop positive behaviour towards them and further Sri Lankan government also should thorough the laws to shield all the holes within their system.
[i] Jegannathan, J. (2013, June). Sri Lanka’s New War Zone. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies , 6. Retrieved from file:///I:/NEW%20RESEARCH/IB226-Jegan-SriLankaSocialMedia.pdf
[ii] Gunaratna, P. R. (2020, November 23). Online falsehoods should be criminalised. New Delhi Times, 3.
[iii] JVPNEWS.com. (2020, December). Two foreign dignitaries to address the Government of Tamil Nadu.
[iv] Charindra. (2020, October 18). Protests are a blessing for Murali movie! The Sunday Morning, 2. Retrieved from http://www.themorning.lk/protests-are-a-blessing-for-murali-movie/
[v] Maya Ranganathan & Dr Selvaraj Velayutham. (2012, December). Imagining Eelam Tamils in Tamil cinema. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 26. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262965880_Imagining_Eelam_Tamils_in_Tamil_cinema
* Udeshika Jayasekara is a Prevention Officer at the Bribery and Corruption Commission in Sri Lanka (CIABOC). The opinion expressed is her own and not necessarily reflective of the Commission or the government.