By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
Chelvanayakam and Prabhakaran are two sides of the same Tamil coin : Chelvanayakam laid the ideological and the political foundations for the Vadukoddai war and Prabhakaran executed it. Chelvanayakam was acclaimed as the “father of the Tamils” (“Thanthai”) and the separatist movement and Prabhakaran became the first born son of the Vadukoddai Resolution that took to violence with fiendish glee. Chelvanayakam promised to give more security to the Tamils by passing the Vadukoddai Resolution which was committed to a military solution. Prabhakaran too was committed to give security to the Tamils by killing more Tamils than anyone else. Chelvanayakam was garlanded by Tamil assassins and even proudly accepted a pottu drawn from the blood of an assassin who placed it on his forehead. Prabhakaran did one better : he became the assassin of Tamil people, particularly Chelvanayakam’s lieutenants, including his deputy Appapillai Amirthalingam. Chelvanayakam participated in satyagraha sit-ins which distributed wooden pistols. Prabhakaran had no qualms about using live ones that killed fellow-Tamils. Chelvanayakam imitated Jinnah of Pakistan and Mujibir Rahman of Bangladesh. Prabhakaran imitated Ciint Eastwood, the celluloid fixer of Hollywood.
Both corralled the Tamil people and dragged them to Nandikadal, promising the elusive Eelam all the way. Both failed to achieve their common objective of establishing Eelam. Both promised to liberate their people from the Sinhala oppression but both ended up, helping each other in their separate ways, to establish the most oppressive fascist regime that imprisoned the Tamils under the jackboot of Prabhakaran. Both had the opportunities to sort out their problems non-violently if they negotiated / bargained with the vulnerable “Sinhala” governments like the Muslim and the Indian minority communities. But both opted for the military solution which ended in a futile war. The Tamils had no one to blame except their foolish leaders who did not know what they were doing. If they knew what they were doing how come they led their people to Nandikadal?
The failed Vadukoddai War remains as the last stand of the violent theories and brutal leaders. It has disproved, once and for all, the claim that violence can achieve what democratic means fail to win. Besides, the future of organised violence seems dim in this post-9/11 era where international opinion militates against terrorist attacks on democratically elected states. Even before 9/11, history has taken the side of non-violent politics. Whether it was the LTTE in the north or the JVP in the south, violence was doomed from the start. The politics of violence, whether motivated by the lumpen Marxist theories of the JVP, or the anti-democratic racist theories of the north, failed to achieve their goals. The state, with all its tardiness and infirmities, succeeded in defeating violence aimed at deposing the democratically elected governments.
The record of the post-independent period establishes that more political goals have been achieved through the non-violent democratic processes than through chaotic and fascist violence. In particular, the failure of the organised violence unleashed by the Tamil leadership in the north confirms, beyond doubt, that the Tamil people deserve a leadership far better than those who competed with each other to be “the sole representatives” of the largest mass graves in the North. In the end, Chelvanayakam and Prabhakaran are bound to go down in history as the most successful undertakers in Sri Lankan politics. They were so successful as killers of their own people that they even managed to be a peg or two above the evil fascist of south, Rohana Wijeweera, the brutal killer of the Sinhala people. Tamil politics failed because they relied solely on intransigent violence in a country where violence was doomed to fail.
The Vadukoddai violence endorsed by the Tamil leadership, without any consideration for the consequences that would inevitably follow when the Tamils were thrown into the fires of hate politics, reveals the racist machinations of the cynical and manipulative leadership of Jaffna. They were as concerned about the morals of the violence they were unleashing as the prostitutes were about their virginity. The horror of the violence unleashed by the Chelva-Prabha duo – officially from May 14, 1976 in Vadukoddai to May 18, 2009 in Nandikadal – leads to the incontrovertible conclusion that both were two misguided missiles. The futility of their brutal violence seen in the post-Nandikadal period make them look like a couple of political idiots who continued in their bloody path knowing that it was not taking them anywhere. Their mindless violence that led to the deaths of tens of thousands does not elevate them to the status of being saviours of the Tamil people. Their failure to deliver the promised political political goal condemn them as evil and immoral political speculators gambling with the precious lives of the Tamils. They fought the longest running war in Asia to achieve nothing. The Tamils gave everything they had to Prabhakaran and his legacy to the Tamil people in the end were (1) his swimming pool and (2) acres of graveyards.
Drunk with the arrogance of imagined power they conceptualised the Eelamist goal and threw everything they had into it without realising that it was a risky gamble that could go either way. In the end it proved to be goal beyond their reach. Their intransigent arrogance was always far greater than their capacity to achieve their goal. Blinded by their inflated arrogance and hate politics they were determined to fight to the last hoping that either India or the West would come to their rescue. What is unforgiveable is that they were throwing the innocent Tamils into frontlines knowing that their days were numbered. A leadership that had no respect for the lives of their people dying in a shrinking and indefensible frontline deserves only utter contempt. There is no heroism or glory in throwing away the lives of other people in the face of impending defeat. It is the dry bones of the trapped Tamils who were forced to stand as the human shield to protect the Thalaivar and his swimming pool that remain today as the legacy of the great Tamil culture of Jaffna. When the Tamil Thalivar forcibly detains his helpless people at gun point to stand as a human shield to protect his back it reveals that he was not only a coward but a heartless exploiter of his people for his own self-centred gains. Tamil people were useful to him only in two main ways : 1. as a human shield to protect him and 2. as cat’s paw to be thrown to the frontline to pull his chestnuts out.
That was not all. In the dying days of the pseudo-state of Eelam, when their politics of hate ran out of new recruits to man the shrinking frontline, the great Tamil leadership came up with the brilliant strategy that not even Napoleon / Clint Eastwood could have imagined : pluck Tamil children forcibly from their weeping mothers’ protective arms and throw them into the frontline where they would face certain death. This was the peak point of Tamil culture. A culture that engaged in the forcible recruitment of its helpless children and remained silent while they were dying in a futile war must be either insane or barbaric. What is the quantum of morality left in a society that sends its children to fight the wars of their ageing and pot-bellied leaders? This subhuman culture of Jaffna was even blessed by the Church which gave a helping hand to forcibly abduct the Tamil children who were kept in their care by the panic-stricken parents. The high-profile moral agents of Jaffna, in the Churches, in politics, in the media, and academia, went along with the most obscene and oppressive regime that took the children away forcibly to fight a losing war. Today the pro-Prabhakaranistas are parading as high priests of morality in the corridors of the UNHRC and pointing an accusing finger at the government of Sri Lanka that put an end to senseless killing.
In hindsight, it is apparent that the Tamil culture was based primarily on hate politics. It was the fuel that kept the Tamil politics burning. First, the Tamil leadership hated each other, sometimes more than their bete noir the Sinhalese. Like all Tamil leaders they were obsessed with the idea of being “the sole representative of the Tamils.” G. G. Ponnambalam and Chelvanayakam hated each other and fought bitterly in public, hurling abusive names at each other (“liar’, “thief”” etc.,) and accusations of political betrayal. All Tamil leaders try to beat each other in the Tamil electorates by raising the bogey of the Sinhala man. After Ponnambalam went for “50 –50” it was politically logical for his rival, Chelvanayakam, to go for separatism, which was one step ahead of “50-50” to beat the rival. If Ponnambalam went for 50% why not go the whole hog and ask for 100%? It is primarily this competition for electoral votes that drove the peninsular politics from one extreme to the other.
Second, the upper caste hated the dalits and vice versa. Saivite Jaffna Vellahlas wielded all the power they had to keep the marginalised dalit victims of Saivite Hinduism suppressed. Third, when, in the post-Vadukoddai period, power slipped from the traditional Vellahlas into the hands of the new leadership headed by Prabhakaran he first turned his guns on his political fathers. He slaughtered the entire Tamil leadership because the ambition of being “the sole representative of the Tamils” is the main driving force of peninsular politics. The hate politics of Tamil rivals is as great as their hatred of the Sinhalese or any other outsider who is seen as a threat to be the “sole representative of the Tamils.”
Hate politics of the Tamils is encapsulated in the violence of Prabhakaran. He began his career by assassinating Alfred Duraiappah, one of the finest mild-mannered, reasonable, and peace-loving Tamil gentleman I’ve met. He also ended his career by killing the Tamils fleeing from his gulag into the arms of the Security Forces who gave them food, shelter and medicine. The oppression and killing of Tamils by the Tamil leadership has been the standard political culture of Jaffna. Jaffna was a glorious haven for the English-educated Saivite, Jaffna Vellahlas. It was hell for the non-Vellahla dalits who were not allowed even to step into the seventh outer court of their sacred temples to worship their common God/s.
By the 70s Tamil ideology had crystalized into pure hate politics. Those who were not with Chelvanayakam – Prabhakaran line of politics had to be eliminated. When Appapillai Amirthalingam, leader of the TULF, who was close to Prabhakaran, was questioned about the killing of Duraiappah his response was to say : “What else can you do with him?” (p. 44 —The Arrogance of Power, Myths, Decadence and Murder, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Wasala Publication, July 2001). Commenting on this facet of Tamil politics Prof. Rajan Hoole wrote : “However, the hate campaign against those who disagreed with the nationalist claims (of the Tamils) and the very act of usurping the right to Duraippah’s life, set the direction of the Tamil politics on the course of tragedy. Grief over Duraippah’s death brought forth an outpouring of tears. Today there are no tears left.” (p.19 – Ibid).
Jaffna was dragged into a futile war by their own leaders that brought untold suffering particularly to the Tamil people. The decision to go to war until they achieve Eelam was taken solely by the Tamil leadership that met in Vadukoddai on May 14, 1976. It was the Tamil leadership that declared war, financed the war, directed the war, recruited forcibly even children to the war, internationalised the war that was eventually waged by the cruel and fascist leader who was the first born child of the Vadukoddai Resolution : Velupillai Prabhakaran. The decision to go for a military solution, without knowing which way it would go, was irresponsible, immoral and suicidal. In declaring war when negotiable options were available, however tardy it may have been, was a crime against peace. IN passing the Vadukoddai Resolution the arrogant and intransigent Tamil leadership was hoping to hold a gun to the head of the democratically elected government. But it backfired. The militarised Tamil youth recruited to fight the Vadukoddai War, turned their guns on the fathers of Vadukoddai Resolution first. The hypocritical and immoral Tamil leadership reaped the violence they sowed so arrogantly. The primary blame for the 33-year-old war that followed should go to the Tamil leadership that took to doomed politics of hate and violence.
If there is any trace of moral values left in Tamil politics in the post-Nandikadal phase then it is bounden duty of the Tamil leadership to abandon hate politics and lead the Tamil people down a non-confrontational path. The Vadukoddai violence came out of cynical, expedient and immoral values inherent in hate politics. A culture that respect humane values cannot subscribe to immoral politics that drag their people violently to another Nandikadal. The abject failure of Vadukoddai violence and militarism condemns the Tamil leadership as deranged lemmings going over the cliff to commit mass suicide.
Looking back of what is left of Vadukoddai violence it is clear that the Tamil leaders were a bunch of incurable mytho-maniacs defeated by the backlash of their own vicious fictions and hate politics. The way forward is not to go back to failed politics. The hero-worshipping of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the personality cult gathered around him, the rallying of Tamils behind his Tiger flag which has no civilised or redeeming symbols, and the expectations of some of the Tamils for his second coming are indicators of the iconic status he enjoys among some, if not most, of the Tamils, both abroad and at home, either covertly or overtly. There is no other figures that towers above him in the Tamil political landscape. Not even S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the father of the separatist ideology, can hold a candle to him. Chelvanayakam is in fact irrelevant as a model that can inspire the generation led by C.V. Wigneswaran, the Chief Minister of NPC, and his hard-line extremists.
It is indeed tragic to see that in the brief history of Jaffna there is nothing left in the Tamil culture there is nothing left in the collective psyche of the Tamils to hero-worship other than Prabhakaran — the wild beast that came out of the womb of Jaffna. This questions the fundamental values of the Jaffna Tamil political and moral culture. If at the end of eight centuries of recorded history, starting from Jaffna’s first settlements in the 13th century, according to Prof. Sinappah Arasaratnam, the history of the Sri Lankan Tamils has climaxed in producing only Velupillai Prabhakaran – the biggest known persecutor and killer of Tamils, including its leaders, children and oldies – what does it say about the culture of Jaffna? When identical fascist leaders like Prabhakaran are rejected in other civilised cultures (examples : Germany (Hitler) and Cambodia (Pol Pot)) why are the Jaffnaites hanging on to his brutal and obscene flag? And why have the Jaffnaites failed to find a more humane alternative to the sub-human politics of Prabhakaran? Are Jaffnaites bereft of all human values to fall at the feet of the power-drunk, fascist Tamil leader who trampled them and kept them as slaves under his political jackboot? Or are they abject fools who are born to be sado-masochists ever willing to be kicked around by their leaders who treated their fellow-Tamils as dehumanised objects, fit only to fill empty graves?
Perhaps, a better way of comparing the Tamil fascist movement is with that of the JVP – the fascist movement of the so-called liberators of the south. They were not only wiped out also by “the Sinhala governments” but their failed politics, wrapped in brutal violence, have been erased from the political stage without leaving cult heroes. More than that, their leaders have apologised to the people for the crimes they committed against their own people. Nor is there a hero-worshipping cult thrown round Rohana Wijeweera to perpetuate or glorify his violence. And the left-overs have taken to democratic politics.
It would have been conducive for the intractable politics of reconciliation for leaders of the north and the south to offer their apologies to the Tamil and Sinhala people. As far as I know the Sinhala leaders have apologised to the Tamil people. But I am yet to hear the apologies of the Tamil leaders to the Sinhala people. It has only a symbolic value, something like two opponents shaking hands over the net after a tennis match. But Tamil arrogance would dare not go that far thinking that it would be an admission of guilt on their part. So let’s leave it out. What would be admirable and meaningful would be apologies from the Tamil leaders to their own people for misleading them and dragging them all the way to Nandikadal and committing crimes against their own people en route. If the Sinhala leaders could apologise to the Tamil people, quite rightly in the spirit of reconciliation, why is it difficult for the Tamil leaders to apologise to their own people?
No they will not. They will continue to blame everyone else –the British, the Indians, and, of course, the Sinhalese — without ever accepting that the Tamil leaders have been the perennial oppressors and assassins of Tamils. The killing of Tamils by Tamils began with Sankilli going down to Mannar on the Christmas eve of 1544 and massacring 600 Tamil Catholics for owing allegiance to the King of Portugal and ended (hopefully?) with Prabhakaran bombing and shooting the Tamils leaving him and rushing into the safe arms of the Security Forces of the vilified “Sinhala Government”. With all their faults and failures the Sinhala people have consistently risen to give a helping hand to the Tamils in times of crises, whether it is the tsunami or providing security to the Tamils hunted by Prabhakaran. There is always so much to be gained by helping each other. But how is it possible to get together when the Tamils are led by a Chief Minister, Wigneswaran, who begins by chanting Sanskrit prayers and ends by worshipping in English “Swamy” Premanada, a murderer and a rapist of young girls? (Explanation: His lachrymose appeals to Prime Minister Modi to save “Swamy” Premananda are in English).
What is the future of Tamils when the Tamils are led by worshippers of murderers, rapists and oppressors of Tamils, including Prabhakaran — Wigneswaran’s other “Surya Devan”?
To be continued