By V. Kanthaiya –
Note – I have a special message to those self-proclaimed guardians of justice and law, who call for an independent investigation of the Jaffna University brawl. Please lie down on your back. Make sure there is no wind. Spit on the air and experience the outcome. Think about the thousands of Tamil Civilians massacred in the War against Tamil Terrorism and remember, this country is not even ready to investigate those massacres.
This country has seen so much of violence. No need to tell you about the 1956, 1977, 1983 July and the subsequent massacres, both by the Tamil militants and by the democratically elected governments of Sri Lanka. The latest one to join this enormously long list of violence is the brawl in the Jaffna University on 16th July. The incident took much concern in the social media and other print and electronic media except those of the state. Since, the outline and the setting of the brawl has been extensively disclosed to the public, I believe it is a good time to initiate an open discussion about the causes of the brawl which is of ethno-religious nature and find solutions, to prevent the occurrence of such acts in the future.
Well, various political scientists and columnists would view this incident from their own perspective. For example, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka (Dr.DJ) will call this a result of shift in the strength of the ethno-nationalistic factors (only the God and Dr. DJ know what they are), which have roots in the balance of the equilibrium of the USA-India-Zionist alliance against that of the neo-communist china and the sovereign third world countries. On the other hand, Izeth Hussain would call this the result of the ‘Tamil Castiest Racism’, which is the second most serious threat to the global security and stability after Wahhabi Fundamentalism (readers are asked to keep in mind that Islam and Wahhabism are two completely different concepts and again asked to keep in mind that this is not a joke). But being continuously identified as a Tamil in the Sri Lankan society and my association with the Tamil community since by birth, I would like to present my views to the readers. I believe the roots of the recent Jaffna University brawl in specific and the ethnic conflict of Sri Lanka in general, are deeper than what is thought by our political scientists and columnists.
The key reason is the Territorial Instinct of the people of this Country which stems out right from their DNA. First let me elaborate what a territory is. Wikipedia says, “Territory is the sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics (or, occasionally, animals of other species). A territory is crucial is for an animal ‘survival, for its food and mating rights. An animal would take extensive steps to mark the boundaries of its territory, in order to clearly communicate it to the conspecifics and would fiercefully defend its territory in case there is an aggression.
Scent marking is a key aspect of territorial instinct. We have seen dogs urinating on the telephone posts and tree trunks. Since humans are more advanced compared to dogs and always carry a smart phone, they adopt various methodologies of ‘scent marking’ to display their territorial boundary.
The Tamils in Sri Lanka are highly territorial. They have a constant fear that their land is being encroached. One intriguing aspect in the Northern Province, especially in Jaffna district is that all the land plots will be heavily fenced. Sometimes it would be astonishing that a single acre agricultural land would be protected with a concrete parapet walls. The cost of the parapet wall would be much higher than the value of the land.
Another intriguing aspect of Tamils is their fear for strangers, which is also stemming out from their territorial instinct. I left my village in Jaffna in 1995, at the age of nine and moved to Visvamadu located in Mullaithivu District, at the outbreak of ‘Rivirasa’ operation. Then I moved to Colombo and to date I don’t know most of the people in my village, vice versa the people in my village. I go to my village once in a year. Whenever I pass a group of people talking on the road, they will immediately stop their chat and stare at me and then start to discuss who I am. One late evening, I was stopped by a group of youth and asked who I am, then I had to call my cousin who proved my identity and got myself released. Such is there fear towards strangers.
This behavior of Tamils is an outright response to the long term territorial aggression by Sinhalese of the country. Like the Tamils, Sinhalese have their own methods of ‘scent marking’. In the sparsely populated areas of Vavunia, Mannar and Mullaithivu districts, which have very low number of Sinhalese people, there are shrines of Lord Buddha constructed in highly isolated places, where no Buddhist exists. These shrines are not places of worship. They do not have anything to do with the principles of love, kindness and non-violence Buddha has taught to the world. These statues of Lord Buddha are just a symbol to the other communities that particular place belong to the Sinhala Buddhists also. This means that Lord Buddha is purely used for the purpose of ‘scent marking’, something Lord Buddha himself would not have imagined during his time.
Right after the war, the Sinhalese people took extensive effort to do their ‘scent marking’ in the so called liberated places. Again, this is done with the Statues of Lord Buddha. I had a friend in Wanni who explained me the process a ‘Bo’ sapling on the road side evolving into a Pansala. He said that there is an army check point in his village, generally manned by two soldiers in each shift and there was a tiny ‘Bo’ tree close to that. Once the soldiers found the ‘Bo’ tree, they erected a post with a tiny box and placed Lord Buddha’s portrait and every evening they lit oil lamp. Then the tiny box was converted into a small shrine with a statue of Buddha. Now the villagers fear whether the shrine would be converted into a ‘Pansala’ and later would be run by a Buddhist monk followed by several novice monks. Remember, all these things are to meet the spiritual needs to those soldiers manning the check point. Now my friend says that whenever the villagers see a ‘Bo’ sapling, they immediately pull it off the ground and destroy it. I have also observed that every ‘Three wheel stand’, to have its own lord Buddha shrine in Sri Lanka. I used to wonder whether most, if not all of Sri Lankan military personnel and trishaw drivers are highly spiritual and ardent followers of Buddha’s principles of kindness and non-violence.
The Jaffna University brawl is another issue of scent marking. The Sinhalese students arranged a Kandyan style welcoming to the freshers which the Tamil students presumed a ‘scent marking’ activity in their own ‘territory’. So the brawl started. I believe, in this specific instant, the blame should be on the Tamil students’ stupid attitude that a Kandyan Dance could destroy the age old Tamil culture. On the other hand, Culture itself is a constantly changing phenomena. Perhaps, the Tamil students are trying to prove the rest of the world that they are also equally stupid and arrogant as the Sri Lankan state. Remember, no self-proclaimed guardian of Tamil culture in Jaffna is wearing the traditional ‘Kovanam’ a.k.a ‘langodu’. They always opt for the branded Calvin Klein or Jockey.
We, Sri Lankans are deeply divided. It will take another generation of time to heal the scars and bring the true reconciliation. At least until such time, each community should stop ‘scent marking’ into others’ territories and should start to respect each other’s’ values.