24 September, 2020

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Tamil Nationalism Under The Scanner

By Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Mahendran Thiruvarangan

The election campaign of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) in the Tamil-majority regions in the Northern and Eastern provinces has re-animated the discussions on the political solution to the national question. While the major political parties in the south have rejected national self-determination and federalism, the solutions presented by the two major Tamil political groups are, for the most part, in line with the fundamental principles of Tamil nationalism put forward by the collective of Tamil groups during their peace negotiations with the Sri Lankan government in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu in 1985. These fundamentals include the recognition of the Tamils as a nation, their right to self-determination and the merged northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka as their homelands. The TNPF has stated that it seeks the people’s mandate for these principles in the upcoming elections. The election manifesto of the TNA includes a slight variation of these fundamentals. Instead of nation, the TNA manifesto describes the Tamils as “a distinct People with their own culture, civilization, language and heritage [who] from time immemorial have inhabited [the] island [of Sri Lanka] together with the Sinhalese People and others” or, as stated in the Tamil version of the manifesto, as a “Thesiya Inam” meaning nationality.

Rajavayothi Sampanthan - The Leader TNA

Rajavayothi Sampanthan – The Leader TNA

The polarization of communities that politics grounded on notions like ethnic self-determination and autonomy has brought about in Sri Lanka and elsewhere behooves us to place them under careful scrutiny. Framing self-determination in an ethnicized or national collective sense indeed generates an oppositional consciousness among oppressed communities at the receiving end of majoritarian, nationalistic states and strengthens them in their pursuit of emancipation. But ethnic self-determination alone would not lead to the harmonious cohabitation of different communities in a shared territory. This is why it is important for us to discuss the inadequacies of the Tamil nationalist constructions of identity and territory and Tamil nationalism’s skewed vision for ethnic cohabitation. Calling attention to the exclusivist predilections of Tamil nationalist politics, however, does not imply that all is well with the manner in which Sinhala-based political parties and social movements approach the national question. The JVP’s indifference to ethnicity in Lankan politics and its outright rejection of federalism, for instance, deserve as much criticism as the narrow, ahistorical articulations of national self-determination by the TNA and the TNPF.

The Tamil identity that calls for its liberation in Sri Lanka is a product of the prolonged discrimination that the Sri Lankan state has directed at a section of its polity. The collective Tamil self that has emerged as a result of this history of oppression is political. This point is lost on Tamil nationalists when they frame Tamil as a pre-political identity or self that has its origins in the pre-colonial era. State re-formation is a process and each phase of this process involves addressing the consequences of the current state. But (Tamil) nationalism attempts to form the state on a clean slate by re-framing an identity that has arisen as a consequence of the existing state as a pre-political identity. Nationalism selectively unearths historical narratives to legitimize the claims over territory that it makes on behalf of this re-invented collective self. When nationalism combines territories and pre-political (ethnic) identities in a one-to-one manner without attending to the multiple identities of and claims over land, the project of self-determination, which arose organically in response to hegemony, loses its radical edge. Instead of challenging the ethnic binaries produced by the state and imagining an inclusive and shared future for everyone inhabiting its territory, nationalism merely demands the re-organization of those binaries territorially and institutionally in a divisive manner.

In Sri Lanka, post-colonial state building has been an exclusivist project spearheaded by Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Various legislations, including the disenfranchisement of the Hill Country Tamils, the ‘Sinhala Only’ policy and the constitutional protection accorded to Buddhism, and state-sponsored violence against ethno-religious minorities or the state’s involvement in the ethnic re-engineering of the island’s north-east by settling Sinhala Buddhist populations in the region indicate the Sinhala-Buddhisization of the Sri Lankan state. Tamil nationalism emerged as a movement of resistance when state-aided discrimination against the Tamils and the political aspirations of an educated Jaffna-based Tamil middle class with a strong sense of ethnic and cultural self-consciousness converged at one point. The Tamil middle class’ conservative preoccupation with the history and identity of its community in the island to the exclusion and alienation of the other communities and the collective failure of the island’s people including the majority community to build common social movements to challenge the hegemony of the Sinhala-Buddhist state have contributed to a larger section of the Tamil community viewing ethnic self-determination within the merged north and east region of the island as the only viable solution to the national question.

Rather than initiating a politics that would bring the communities divided along ethnic and religious lines closer to one another, Tamil resistance focuses more on creating a unit of self-governance for its community in the contiguous territories in the north-east where the Tamils make up the majority of the total population. Structurally this unit was conceived as either a separate Tamil state or a federal administrative body where the Tamil nation would exercise its right to self-determination. As evident in the election campaign of the two major Tamil nationalist parties, Tamil nationalism, even today, views the separation, territorialization and constitutionalization of pre-political national identities as the sole pathway to counter the majoritarian nationalism of the state.

The TNPF proposes a binational state as the solution to the national question. The sovereignty of this binational federal (Sri Lankan) state, in the political imagination of the TNPF, is conceivable only if the separate sovereignties of the Sinhala and Tamil nations and their right to self-determination within delimited territories are recognized in equal terms in a political contract. In advocating this line of political thinking, the TNPF and its allies overlook the polarizing nature of the Tamil national project and its sheer disregard for the political status of the large number of Tamils living outside the Northern and Eastern provinces. It is appropriate here to reflect on Hannah Arendt’s opposition to binationalism which recognizes the separate sovereignties of different nations. When a federated binational state was proposed by Judah Magnes and Martin Buber as solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine, Hannah Arendt in 1943 opposed it on the grounds that their use of the term federation reproduced the nation-state in a different way. Arendt had argued that in order to prevent member nations of the federation from being discriminatory like the nation-state, no member nation should have its own sovereign authority. Instead of distributing sovereignty among member nations, Arendt recommends the dispersion of sovereignty into a plurality that cannot be divided (territorially) into two different sovereign nations. The rationale behind Arendt’s opposition to national sovereignty is that national interests, unlike common interests, privilege one community over another. Arendt argues that federation should be re-imagined as a political structure that “undoes the notion of sovereignty as unified and ultimate power” and makes it “impossible (for one) to conceive of a nation or its actions outside the context of plural and concerted action” (Judith Butler. Parting Ways (2012). Page: 146). Thus, Arendt viewed the Jewish community as a nation “only as long as that national status did not give them sovereign power to decide with whom to govern the state” (ibid). Arendt does not reject binationalism wholesale. But her critique of the binational federation proposed by Magnes and Buber underlines the importance of striving for racial equality and cohabitation at the local and regional levels of the state.

The binationalism of the TNPF in Sri Lanka is in many ways similar to the binationalism that Arendt critiques. A similar critique exposing the divisive nature of the TNPF’s version of binationalism is necessary to carve out a federation in Sri Lanka that ensures the protection of regional minorities inhabiting the territories of the Sinhala and Tamil member nations. Arendt’s critique of binationalism encourages us to pose the question of whether the major ethnic communities in Sri Lanka—the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Hill Country Tamils—that share territories in the different parts of the island with each other can present themselves as sovereign communities for purposes of state formation. Discussions on regional self-rule and sovereignty in Sri Lanka should take into consideration the minority populations inhabiting the national homelands and the connections that communities have forged among themselves across national territorial boundaries through their various acts of mobility.

Sharika Thiranagama raises a pertinent question about homes and homelands with respect to state reforms in Sri Lanka: “What do we do when people have homes but no homeland? When the places they live in are not the places they are recognized to belong in?” (In My Mother’s House: Civil War in Sri Lanka (2011). Page 255). The movement of Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim laboring people across the national territories from precolonial and colonial times have produced economic communities that do not align neatly with the narratives of the Tamil nationalism. State-aided colonization schemes since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 have altered the ethnic make-up of the island’s territories. Even as we unequivocally condemn the state’s attempt to settle Sinhala people in the Tamil majority areas in order to change the demography of the region in ways that would benefit its Sinhala-Buddhist project, and demand the resettlement of the evicted communities, we need to keep in mind that the settled Sinhalese populations, many of whom are in the throes of severe economic hardships, have now become a part of the polity of the north-east of the island and that they too have a place in the historical narrative of this region. Similarly, many Tamils and Muslims, who were displaced during the war from the Northern and Eastern provinces, now live in the Southern parts of the country in places like Wellawatte and Puttalam which according to the TNPF’s version of Tamil nationalism lie within the territory where the Sinhala nation would exercise its right to self-determination. Many of these displaced people may have no intention of returning to their ‘homelands’ in the Northern and Eastern provinces. These minority populations, minority economic communities and migrant groups within the nations disrupt the project of national self-determination in Sri Lanka. The Tamil nationalist project constitutionally renders these groups minorities or secondary citizens in their present locations. The TNPF’s manifesto states that the party would recognize the right to self-determination of the Muslim and Hill Country Tamils if the two communities make such a demand when a political solution to the ethnic conflict is explored. Whether or not these communities articulate themselves as nations, we need to recognize that they too contribute to the ethnic plurality of the island, and as constituents of its polity, they are not subordinate to the Tamils or the Sinhalese.

Ethnic pluralism is an important consideration in state re-construction in a country like Sri Lanka where ethno-nationalist majoritarianism is felt by the minorities in their everyday lives. But in finding a political solution to the ethnic conflict, we have to pay attention to the complex ways in which ethnic identities are situated territorially. ‘Liminality’ is a useful concept to describe the relationship between territories and ethnic identities in Sri Lanka. Liminality denotes the state in which the identity of something is ambiguous, mobile and fluid, as opposed to being singular, fixed and static. There are many regions in Sri Lanka, including several areas of the north-east, whose identities are liminal due to ethnic diversity, people’s mobility, state-aided colonialization and globalization. For a robust re-invention of Sri Lanka and the north-east of Sri Lanka as places of radical plurality where communities can co-exist with one another peacefully, debates on state-(re)formation need to foreground the liminality of the island’s territories. Liminality disallows the sovereignty of a territory to be predicated on an ethnic group exclusively while making it impossible for us to imagine it by excluding that group. The self/ves that constitute/s a new political order in such a context is both singular and plural simultaneously. As the state simultaneously pluralizes its citizens (Sri Lankans) as subjects (Tamils, Sinhalese, and Muslims) and singularizes its subjects as citizens, state re-construction needs to be seen as an unending revolution. Ethnic equality, which according to nationalists could be achieved via national self-determination, is in fact a state of existence that is always ‘to come’ and is always undermined by the hierarchies of class, caste and gender that the state produces when it (re)makes its citizens as subjects with multiple identities and vice versa.

Self-determination in ethnic or national terms may work when we emphasize our collectiveness in the face of discrimination. But the self/ves that seek/s to re-constitute itself/themselves as a new polity under a new political structure at the center and the peripheries cannot be the same as the self that struggles to liberate itself from the existing political system; because the ethnic plurality that we observe in the country is ungraspable by the territorial dualism that Tamil nationalism wants us to believe in. The plurality of the island’s ethnic landscape, produced by the local minorities and displaced and settled populations, is a challenge to federalism in Sri Lanka. But we need to see it as a productive challenge because it compels us to situate our efforts to promote ethnic cohabitation as inseparable from our quest for a more egalitarian state. Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka may well demand a measure of self-governance in the north-east of Sri Lanka. But they would not be able to demand self-rule in the name of their ethnic identity or their nation alone because they share the north-east with Sinhalese and Muslims at present whether or not they like it. In the run up to the August 17 polls, both the Tamil National Alliance and the Tamil National People’s Front would rehash the unimaginative slogans of Tamil nationalism- nation/nationality, self-determination and homelands- and glorify them as non-negotiable, revolutionary principles to attract voters. But the Tamil community in the north-east should be wary of the polarizing ideology of Tamil nationalism shrouded in emancipatory garbs and come forward, beyond the electoral battlefield, to chart an inclusive and connective political route for its liberation by building bridges with the other communities in the northern and eastern regions and the rest of the island.

*Mahendran Thiruvarangan is a graduate student in English at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and a member of the Collective for Economic Democratization in Sri Lanka

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    This is the first time in history the political group consisting FP is unwelcome in some Tamil areas. Why s it?

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      Dear Mr. Mahendran Thiruvarangan,

      We know where the Tamils came from there is a Native Tamil population in South India but where did the Sinhalese come from? Is it India?

      That is impossible as Sinhalese do not and did not exist in India. The only place in the world where Sinhalese are endemic is Sri Lanka.

      Thus there is no counter evidence to prove that Sinhalese are not Children of Lanka while all available evidence confirm that they are children of Lanka.

      Who are the Parents of the Sinhalese?

      Genetically, the Sinhalese share an Indian Subcontinent gene pool. “The result shown in Figure 5 accounted for 52.59% of the total variation. All the Sinhalese and Tamil subgroups intermingle well with the majority of the Indian subcontinental populations, forming a large genetic matrix” (Ref “Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people: their relations within the island and with the Indian subcontinental populations” 2013 by Lanka Ranaweera, Supannee Kaewsutthi, Aung Win Tun, Hathaichanoke Boonyarit, Samerchai Poolsuwan and Patcharee Lertrit)

      Thus SOME parents of the Sinhalese are of Indian Subcontinental origin including Tamils.

      There are also traces of Vedda genes in the Sinhalese gene pool (Ref “Genetic affiliations of the Sri Lankan population” (1995) Dr. Gautam K. Kshatriya). Unfortunately a gene pool of the early natives of Lanka are not available for comparison with the Sinhalese gene pool except that of the Vedda (which too has been breeding in isolation for a long time).

      What is the Religion of the early Sinhalese?
      Were they Buddhists or Hindu?

      Hinduism was the Majority religion of India and it predates Buddhism. Hence the early immigrants to Lanka from the Indian Subcontinent were definitely not Buddhists but had a preponderance of Hindus.

      Thus the early Sinhalese who evolved from Hindu parental populations and Local parental populations of a local religion (possibly pagan) would profess the religion of the dominant parent. Which would be Hindu.

      Why did the Sinhalese need a language of their own?

      Language evolves due to the need to communicate. In Lanka we had immigrants from India speaking different languages including Tamil and indigenous Local populations speaking local languages. This mixed society evolved a language that is a mixture of languages which over time the mixed society could understand.

      Why was Tamil Language not dominant in Lanka?

      The possibility is that the indigenous population was much larger than the immigrant Tamils and hence could not establish itself as the dominant Language. This would be the same for the Bengali’s and other immigrants from the subcontinent.

      Hence undoubtedly Tamils came here earlier as immigrants and the Sinhalese evolved from them (The subcontinent immigrants are a Parent of the Sinhala child).

      Thus the early immigrant Tamils, Bengalis etc evolved with the Local population and became Sinhalese. These early Tamil immigrants after their evolution are no Longer Tamils but Sinhalese.

      Who are the Tamils of Lanka?

      1. Ancient migrants from India (they evolved to be the Sinhalese)
      2. Those brought by Sinhala Kings for work & military service
      3. Invaders from Chola, 1017 AD and later
      4. Those who were brought by the Portuguese
      5. Those who were brought by the Dutch
      6. Those who were brought by the British
      7. Illegal immigrants (still on going)

      The sub groups 2 would have been a small group amongst the larger Sinhala polity and came at a time the current ethnic consciousness was not in evidence. Hence they would have assimilated in to the larger Sinhala Polity.

      Some within the Sub groups 3 to 7 have assimilated into the larger Sinhala Polity while others remained as Tamil retaining the Tamil Language. It is significant that those who retained the Tamil Language were physically proximal to Tamil India.

      In the early days Lanka was divided into three main divisions Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti. These are described in the ancient Kadaim books. Here is a quote from “Tales of the Land: British Geography and Kandyan Resistance in Sri Lanka, c. 1803–1850” by Dr Sujit Sivasunderam.

      “Firstly, the kadaim, or boundary books, are state documents which describe the three main divisions of the island of Sri Lanka, and which were in the custody of the lekam-gey-attan or functionaries to the secretariat at court

      In the kadaim books, Tri Simhale, which denotes the entire island, is divided into three principalities or kingdoms, namely Maya, Pihiti and Ruhunu. The oldest kadaim book, Sri Lamkadvipaye Kadaim, divides the entire island into 114 ratas or countries; Maya has 28 ratas, Pihiti has 43 ratas and Ruhunu has 43 ratas. Boundary pillars mark off the limits of particular ratas.”
      End Quote

      Some Tamil historians’, notably Dr K. Indrapala and S. Pathmanathan’s, research on the Tamil settlements on the Jaffna Peninsula shows,” that there was a Tamil kingdom during the thirteenth—fifteenth centuries around the Jaffna Peninsula even though the chronological order of the kingdom could not be established.” The limits of the territory, however, were never extended beyond the isthmus of the Elephant Pass to the south. The Eastern Province had never been a constituent pan of this short-lived Tamil kingdom as acknowledged by many Tamil scholars.” (see The Rise of Tamil Separatism in Sri Lanka: From Communalism to Secession By Gnanapala Welhengama, Nirmala Pillai)

      Sinnappah Arasaratnam in his book “The Kingdom of Kandy: Aspects of its External Relations and Commerce, 1658-1710,” p110 states

      “The Kandians had control over five ports at the time the Dutch succeeded the Portuguese on the coastal belt in the seventeenth century: these were Kalpitiya and Puttalam on the west coast and Trincomalee, Kottiyar, and Batticaloa on the east coast Each of these ports was linked to a particular segment of the Kandyan kingdom” cited by Dr Sujit Sivasunderam in his book “Islanded”.

      Finally here is the status of Lanka during the Dutch period.

      The Map below is dated 1724 – 1726 AD and it depicts the Dutch Ruled Jaffna Tamil Kingdom and the Land of the Vanniars. There is no Tamil dominant territory South of Elephant Pass in the East.
      .
      The map is currently safely housed in a Dutch Museum.
      .
      http://www.atlasofmutualheritage.nl/en/Map-Ceylon.5852
      .
      This Dutch record confirms the Map and states unequivocally that the Boundary of the Kandyan Kingdom of the Sinhalese extended up to Elephant Pass.
      .
      http://www.atlasofmutualheritage.nl/en/Elephant-Pass.813p#Details
      .
      There is also a Logical Fallacy that has been overlooked by those who claim a Tamil dominant, CONTIGUOUS HABITATION from the Northern Peninsular to the East.
      .
      Using census data the population growth can be estimated. Hence working backwards from known data we can arrive at a plausible estimate of the Tamil population before the arrival of the British. Thus in 1792 the Tamil population would be about 75,000 – 80,000.
      .
      How this small population populated, 26,000 sq km CONTIGUOUSLY and defended a POROUS boundary of nearly 2000 km, against a competing population more than 7 times their size, defies all reason.
      .
      The above comment deals with the claim of a contiguous Tamil territory from Jaffna peninsular to the East. It establishes beyond any doubt that this claim is fraudulent.
      .
      I will discuss other issues you have raised which are historically inaccurate or false such as Oppression of Tamils, in my next response.
      .
      Kind Regards,
      OTC

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        Dear Mr. Mahendran Thiruvarangan,

        Buddhism and the State

        Pre Colonial Era

        In the Sinhala Kingdoms Buddhism was the State Religion while in the Tamil Kingdom Hinduism was the State Religion.

        Colonial Era

        Portuguese and Dutch

        Vassal States of Jaffna Tamil Kingdom and Kotte, Christianity in many forms were State Religions. In States that were unconquered the State Religion remained Buddhism

        During British rule, Christianity was the defacto State Religion everywhere other than the Kandyan Kingdom which was unconquered. In the Kandyan Kingdom Buddhism was the State religion.

        The British agreed to be the protector of Buddhism and to maintain the status quo of Buddhism within the territory of the Kandyan Kingdom.

        At no time in the two millennia+ history, was Sri Lanka secular, it always had a State religion.

        After the Colonials leave it is the right of the indigenous population to revert back to their indigenous practices.

        Thus it would be just, to accord to Hinduism, the identical status of Buddhism, within the territory of the former Tamil Kingdom and restrict the status of Buddhism to the rest of Lanka where historically Buddhism was the State Religion. Other than that attempting to make a secular state of a historically Non secular state is futile and illogical.

        Even the British who ruled Lanka is from a Christian State. Their govt is a Christian govt even today.

        Kind Regards,
        OTC

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    There are many ardent and influentiat writers posting on CT forecasting the Tamil problem in different ways or in different perspective. The Tamils seeking power sharing with the centre is not new. The Tamils have been demanding it for over 70years. Now it is the third generation of the Tamils who has put a new demand for self determination. It will go on for ever. The TNA , the TNPF and other Tamils contesting the elections are all cheating the Tamil population and cheating themselves. They know very well they cannot achieve anything for the Tamil people from the. Majority Sinhalese. Then why all these hue and cry.

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      Dear Sellam,
      .
      The District Councils and the Dudley Chelva Pact
      .
      The Tamil Ruling Class led by Chelvanayakam negotiated an agreement with Dudley Senanayake in 1965 to create District Councils. This is commonly referred to as the Dudley/Chelva Pact.
      .
      The reason for the Pact was to form a coalition Govt of Chelva’s FP and Dudley’s UNP with Dudley as the Prime Minister. That coalition govt gazetted the District Councils Bill in 1968 for power devolution.
      .
      The “All Ceylon Minority Tamils United Front” was an organisation representing the Oppressed class. They represented over 80% of the total Tamil population of Lanka. But they had no political voice.
      .
      The “All Ceylon Minority Tamils United Front” requested the Prime Minister to stay the implementation of the legislation until caste discrimination was eradicated from Jaffna, for this would become another tool in the hands of the Tamil Ruling Class to increase the domination and oppression already practiced on the Tamil depressed class.

      Unfortunately they could not raise the issue in Parliament as ALL Tamil members of parliament were from the Ruling Class. They had no VOICE in parliament.

      They asked for and received help from the SLFP, which was in the opposition. The ensuing agitation against the bill forced the PM Dudley, to abrogate the DC Bill (Dudley Chelva Pact) despite the partner in govt, the FP, assuring the PM that cast discrimination would be abolished.

      Quote “The concerted opposition of both Sinhalese dominated political parties and oppressed Tamil groups in the Jaffna Peninsula resulted in the abandonment of the District Council Bill in 1968, an event regarded by both the elite of the Ceylon Tamils and its youth league as an act of betrayal by the Sinhalese” Unquote (“The Rise of Tamil Separatism in Sri Lanka: From Communalism to Secession” By Gnanapala Welhengama, Nirmala Pillay)

      Quote
      “In fact, in 1968, Chelvanayakam was confronted by low-caste Tamils challenging him to stand down from his parliamentary seat and contest it again. Other Federalist leaders, S. Nadaraja and A. Amirthalingam (who succeeded Chelvanayakam as leader of the FP, and later the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF)) also failed to respond to the frustrated youth faction of the low-caste Tamils. By 1968 low-caste Tamils lost almost all faith in the FP to move in a new direction” Unquote (ibid)

      Due to the political shock wave caused by the opposition of the Tamil Oppressed Class (the majority Tamil polity) to the implementation of the Dudley Chelva pact, Chelvanayakam’s Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (FP), for the FIRST time since it’s formation in 1949, was FORCED to accommodate OPPRESSED CLASS Tamils within the Party, which for 20 years, had none.

      Quote
      the FP had to pay a price. It was forced to accommodate the disgruntled low caste while continuing to rely on the high-caste, landowning Vellalas who held high government positions. Unquote (ibid)

      These overtures failed to pacify the Oppressed Class Tamils whose OPPRESSION by the Ruling class never ceased.

      Quote
      low-caste Tamils remained dissatisfied and became increasingly militant. Their opposition to both the traditional leadership of the FP and to non-Tamil nationals on the Peninsula was vividly demonstrated in the 1970 general election. The FP suffered the heaviest losses for the first time since the 1956 general election. Both the Chairman of the FP, S.M. Rasamanickain and his deputy leader, E.M.V. Naganathan, were defeated while the leader, Chelvanayakam, barely managed to avoid defeat. Unquote (ibid)

      In 1968, the Oppressed class Tamils staged a non violent protest in front of the gates of the Lord Kandasamy (Skanda) Hindu Temple at Maviddapuram demanding that they be allowed to enter the Temple. At that point of time only 17% of Hindu Temples were open to the Oppressed class Tamils. (Nira wickramasinghe in Sri Lanka in the Modern Age)
      .
      The Ruling class countered with the formation of the ‘All Ceylon Saiva Practices and Observances Protection Society’.
      .
      Quote “Colombo based political parties volunteered to support the All-Ceylon Minority Tamils’ United Front. The SLFP, the main opposition party in parliament, introduced a parliamentary bill in 1968 urging the government to inquire into discriminatory practices perpetrated against low-caste Tamils. It wanted the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act of 1957 to be amended to include oppressive practices and discriminatory customs” Unquote (Pfaffenberger, ‘The Political Construction of Defensive Nationalism’, 1990, p.90 cited by Gnanapala Welhengama, Nirmala Pillay)

      After days of tense but peaceful confrontation, the demonstration turned violent as dozens of self styled “Defenders of Saivism,” Hindus of high caste rank (Veḷḷāḷars and their domestic servants, the Kōviyars), beat back the Minority Tamils with iron rods and sand-filled bottles (Bryan Pfaffenberger The Political Construction of Defensive Nationalism)

      Information available on OPPRESSED class organisations such as the “Minority Tamils Liberation Front” (formed to counter the Ruling class “Tamil United Liberation Front” (TULF)) or the “All Ceylon Minority Tamils Association” or the Mass movement for the eradication of OPPRESSION and Slavery practiced on the oppressed class by the Ruling Class is scarce.

      But the little that is available including first hand narratives of the oppressed, builds a picture of Tamil Society as an INHUMAN SLAVE CAMP where Rape, Arson and Violence was practiced with impunity on the VOICELESS majority Tamil population by a Tamil Ruling class that held them in a Vice Grip.

      Thus since Independence the Majority amongst Tamils did not have a Political Voice it was Hijacked by an Oppressive Tamil Ruling Class minority who had no respect for Human Rights whatsoever

      It took 30 years post Independence, for the FIRST SERVILE CLASS Tamil to be elected to Parliament. In any other society with universal suffrage, it would be strange to see Non representation of the majority population for 30 long years, but it happened in the Tamil North.
      .
      Can you explain why?

      The time you have been lying uncontested is over.

      Kind Regards,
      OTC

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        OTC,

        “The reason for the Pact was to form a coalition Govt of Chelva’s FP and Dudley’s UNP with Dudley as the Prime Minister.”

        Will history repeat itself after the elections if the UNP receives no clear majority?

        Your facts on caste in Jaffna are correct but once again I want to say that things have changed.

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          Dear Heretic,

          Sellam said “The Tamils seeking power sharing with the centre is not new. The Tamils have been demanding it for over 70years”

          Which is an ABSOLUTE LIE.

          Tamils (the majority) did not demand it they objected to it. In fact it was they who stopped the District Development Council Bill in it’s tracks. Those who demanded it were the Slave Drivers that ground the Tamils under their Jack Boots. It is these Slave Drivers who have hijacked Tamil opinion.

          For 30 years the Tamil majority in the North could not elect a single member to parliament when they should have had the majority Tamil representation in Parliament.

          All what Sellam says is about past history. A history dominated by an OPPRESSIVE Ruling Tamil minority that prohibited even Education to that Tamil majority.

          This article is about Nation Building. How can you build a Nation by keeping it’s population Ignorant by force?

          It is unfortunate that people like Sellam and Mahendran Thiruvarangan keep repeating this racist Bullshit.

          Yes I am aware that these issues have gone underground now, mostly because the Landed Ruling class has left Lanka. Instead of being overt it is covert now.

          Dr Nagalingam Edirweerasingham wrote this in Sept 2014.

          “As for the caste problems, as you rightly pointed out, it is a problem of both communities. In Jaffna I have witnessed it from childhood to present. In the fifties, there were two separate churches, two burial grounds. The catholic church compromised to recruit all devotees. There were two cremation grounds. There were many fights over integration and Temple entry. As I child I could not comprehend such rules. It is less overt now than in the forties to seventies.,,,,, It really does not matter how the caste system evolved or in what manner it is practiced by whoever. It is surprising that Hindu academics, high ranking officials in various departments still discriminate overtly and subtly. LTTE did not practice such discrimination and tried to stop it but could not succeed. When Jaffna displaced, LTTE had difficulty providing shelter near source of water to the refugees who were not Vellalars and the Vanni Vellalar’s would not let the others from drawing water from their wells. The LTTE did ask teachers, students and appealed to village elders to share water with the refugees. I have participated in such meetings. As a compromise specific times were allocated for the refugees to use the well. The group of shelters were also segregated. When I asked the Tigers who were in responsible position to integrate why can’t such discrimination be prevented. They said that the Vellalars are merchants and don’t want to antagonize them and loose support. To their credit they did by law, education and by deed reduced some discrimination.

          Even the construction of causeways in Jaffna by the govt, to make poor villages accessible were obstructed by these hypocrites because those villages were inhabited by the Low Cast Tamils.

          These are the people who are writing about Nation Building!

          Kind Regards,
          OTC

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            OTC,

            “Yes I am aware that these issues have gone underground now, mostly because the Landed Ruling class has left Lanka. Instead of being overt it is covert now.”

            What you are describing is the way life was in Jaffna many years ago. There has been major change but parts of the old caste system still exist in the minds of people.

            Many Vellalah have left but I believe that 40% of the Jaffna population still is Vellalah. In my opinion the major change has been in the status of the castes “lower” than Vellalah but “higher” than the so called out castes who are maybe 20% of the population. It is important to understand that all the other castes look down at the so called out castes not only the Vellalah.

            Unfortunately the out castes continue mostly excluded from political power, education and income. Note that this is an opinion not based on any reliable facts. Some politicians try to mobilize low caste voters election time but I don’t know if there are many out caste politicians. Otherwise only some Protestant Churches seem to care about them. They have their own missionaries.

            Dr Rajan Hoole writes in his latest book about Northern dalits fighting the Southern dalits based on interviews somebody did. That is a good description of the long conflict.

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      Sellam,

      “They know very well they cannot achieve anything for the Tamil people from the. Majority Sinhalese.”

      What is your solution?

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    Well said Thiruvarangan! I kindly request you to submit the same for the Pulitzer Prize over there if you can and also kindly request you to translate it in Tamil and Sinhala and publish in one of our local tabloids in the North and in the South. A well thoroughly analysed piece of Tamil politics in the present Sri Lankan political context I read so far (especially concerning Tamil nationalism and the Sri Lankan Politics). I would consider very much this as the best article for creating Peace among Tamils. I want to re-quote some of your para’s for the Tamil politicians who read this and to the educated circle around CT.

    ‘Instead of challenging the ethnic binaries produced by the state and imagining an inclusive and shared future for everyone inhabiting its territory, nationalism merely demands the re-organization of those binaries territorially and institutionally in a divisive manner.’

    I totally agree with you here, should we still hold that slogan ‘nationalism’ instead seeking realistic approaches towards the (post war) issues which discriminate communities on the basis of the declaration of international human rights? This should not be misunderstood as we Tamils ‘give in’ to Sinhalese because we do not have ‘hard power’ as Sumanthiran said in a speech. We know even what ‘SMART POWER’ means. But we should better understand the changing reality within Sri Lanka and also in the global political context which is very much lacking for our Tamil politicians. They still hold the ‘உசுப்பேத்தும் அரசியல்’ and trying to do the same mistake we did in the past. This should not be allowed anymore.

    ‘Rather than initiating a politics that would bring the communities divided along ethnic and religious lines closer to one another, Tamil resistance focuses more on creating a unit of self-governance for its community in the contiguous territories in the north-east where the Tamils make up the majority of the total population. Structurally this unit was conceived as either a separate Tamil state or a federal administrative body where the Tamil nation would exercise its right to self-determination. As evident in the election campaign of the two major Tamil nationalist parties, Tamil nationalism, even today, views the separation, territorialization and constitutionalization of pre-political national identities as the sole pathway to counter the majoritarian nationalism of the state.’

    This is the very tragic state of our politician and I too feel that we are again heading to the starting point but with differently reiterated slogans which our Tamil politicians even can’t explain how to achieve!!are the masses aware of these is my basic question. It is ugly to see some of our politicians in the villages behave like the preschool children running after chairs in the musical chair!ok people choose them and send them to the parliament. what they can do for us if they do not know the changes around us and the realities?

    ‘no member nation should have its own sovereign authority. Instead of distributing sovereignty among member nations, Arendt recommends the dispersion of sovereignty into a plurality that cannot be divided (territorially) into two different sovereign nations. The rationale behind Arendt’s opposition to national sovereignty is that national interests, unlike common interests, privilege one community over another.’

    If our (Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Indian Tamis and the Burghers) interests and aspirations are still articulated around the national line/interests it will always advantage one community over another and we’ll never experience peace in this island. We will thus be responsible to direct our generation mistakenly and constantly again even after a terrible loss unfortunately at the expense of those who already suffered in multiple phases within us. That’s why I think we should aim towards the Human Rights principles. We have the “carried past’’ and ‘cherished memories’ ok, but understanding the realities which are in front of us will not support us to further carry on the ‘carried past’. We have the written history of what had happened to us by the majoriratian govt time to time, no one can delete that in the registry of historiography but now realizing the realities on the ground we have to make very strategic and very ‘realistic moves’instead of false moves which collapse the whole game again.

    ‘whether the major ethnic communities in Sri Lanka—the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Hill Country Tamils—that share territories in the different parts of the island with each other can present themselves as sovereign communities for purposes of state formation. Discussions on regional self-rule and sovereignty in Sri Lanka should take into consideration the minority populations inhabiting the national homelands and the connections that communities have forged among themselves across national territorial boundaries through their various acts of mobility.’

    This can be a very starting point of discussion I think…

    ‘But the self/ves that seek/s to re-constitute itself/themselves as a new polity under a new political structure at the center and the peripheries cannot be the same as the self that struggles to liberate itself from the existing political system; because the ethnic plurality that we observe in the country is ungraspable by the territorial dualism that Tamil nationalism wants us to believe in.’

    Indeed!

    ‘But the Tamil community in the north-east should be wary of the polarizing ideology of Tamil nationalism shrouded in emancipatory garbs and come forward, beyond the electoral battlefield, to chart an inclusive and connective political route for its liberation by building bridges with the other communities in the northern and eastern regions and the rest of the island.’

    Well said Comrade!
    In the same spirit,
    Bahirathy

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      “Well said Thiruvarangan! I kindly request you to submit the same for the Pulitzer Prize over there if you can”

      How modest! Thiru deserves the Nobel peace prize for his efforts.

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        Dear The Rogue Ayer,

        I believe your comment was Sarcastic and hope it is.

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      Dear Bahirathy Jeeweshwara Rasanen,

      I have addressed two responses to Mr Mahendran Thiruvarangan and one response to Sellam.

      They deal with the following questions that Thiru has raised in his article.

      1. Who are the Sinhalese?
      2. Who are the Tamils of Lanka?
      3. Who are the Parents of the Sinhalese?
      4. What is the Religion of the early Sinhalese?
      5. Why did the Sinhalese need a language of their own?
      6. Why was Tamil Language not dominant in Lanka?
      7. Why was Tamil Language not dominant in Lanka?
      8. What are the Historic Divisions of Lanka?
      9. What was the status of Lanka during the Dutch period?
      10. Who Oppressed Tamils? The Tamils themselves or the Sinhalese?
      11. Why was the Dudley Chelva Pact abrogated? Due to opposition of the Tamil majority, the depressed classes, for fear of increased Oppression, by the Tamil Ruling Class or broken Sinhala promises?

      12. What was the Historical relationship of the Sri Lankan State with Religion?

      Since you aplaud Thiru’s Article would you care to respond?

      Kind Regards,
      OTC

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    ‘The Tamil identity that calls for its liberation in Sri Lanka is a product of the prolonged discrimination that the Sri Lankan state has directed at a section of its polity’

    This is often said regarding the so called tamil issue in SL.

    But research into history will reveal a totally different picture.

    Tamil identity equating them as a separate nation and calling for liberation is a very old project.
    It was in 1922 Arunachalam talked about it first.
    And Federal party was started in 1951 before the so called sinhala only policy.

    Therefore the notion tamil leaders asked for separation due to discrimination is false

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    Hmmm,…..sounds good. Must read again. I think it is : each community to have autonomy wherever they are, with Sinhala South accepted as Sinhala cultural Nation, and Tamil North accepted as Tamil cultural Nation. It’s a 500 year plan, which at the end will have both and all races as one Lankan race.

    It boils down to the point that Sinhalese will learn Tamil as 2nd language, and Tamil will learn Sinhalese as 2nd language (both to learn respective literature and cultural heritage). Basic English will be taught as link language for outside communication.

    (of course commerce and trade with India and Tamil Nadu will be central government dictate….if we are not going China).

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    Dear OTC,
    I think that you will agree that all the texts/writings have multiple readings; the meanings are shifted depending on what is read, by whom, over time and the contexts. I think in my humble opinion what Thiru wanted to pass it on is not what you thought or how you understood. It is exactly the opposite if you at least read the last lines carefully ‘But the Tamil community in the north-east should be wary of the polarizing ideology of Tamil nationalism shrouded in emancipatory garbs and come forward, beyond the electoral battlefield, to chart an inclusive and connective political route for its liberation by building bridges with the other communities in the northern and eastern regions and the rest of the island.’

    We should not keep digging the past and keep (re)producing and (re)constructing US and Them between us. It will never lead for ethnic reconciliation instead ever continues unending divisions.
    History is a way of seeing the world, in other words, a social order is constructed by historians in the way they wanted to see the world and it has always contestations and (re)interpretations.

    I do not like to place my replies for your questions here and frankly accept that I can even answer for a single! But I know one thing for sure that there are multiple histories of Lanka produced by different historians with different stories in it. What we as academics and peace lovers should do is to deconstruct these antagonistic identities. For instance, Tambiah said several ways to do this and one is just ‘illuminating the differences between the original texts message and how those were manipulated and interpreted according to politics and time by historians’ (Tambiah, 1986: 6).

    It is relevant to emphasize here that all of this history-making in both communities was constructed by prominent historians or social scientists, who were highly educated, thus held high prestige!

    Most importantly what I think we should do at this juncture while our country has shown many signs for heading towards good governance is, instead of sharpening or illuminating Us and Them divide between us, we should highlight that we as Sri Lankans are not in a situation of a modern married couple who can go for divorce if they decide to separate each other, we are sort of couple because we share the same land and also sort of neighbours who can support us in need. We all have to co-exist with each other whatever help we seek from outsiders internationally. Also the dominant(s) oppresses the vulnerable(s) should be stopped between and within communities. History should not repeat the same mistakes!
    Kind regards,
    Bahirathy

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    “Most importantly what I think we should do at this juncture while our country has shown many signs for heading towards good governance is, instead of sharpening or illuminating Us and Them divide between us, we should highlight that we as Sri Lankans are not in a situation of a modern married couple who can go for divorce if they decide to separate each other, we are sort of couple because we share the same land and also sort of neighbours who can support us in need. We all have to co-exist with each other whatever help we seek from outsiders internationally. Also the dominant(s) oppresses the vulnerable(s) should be stopped between and within communities. History should not repeat the same mistakes!”

    I have changed my mind. Maybe the Nobel peace prize should go to Bahirathy instead of Thiru. Or can they think about sharing it?

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