18 September, 2021

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The Underside Of Black July

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

He was at one time the foremost Tamil leader espousing the Eelam cause, a man who fired the separatist imagination of a generation of Tamil youth, a man who went from being referred to ‘Thalapathy’ (Commander/General) by admiring supporters to ‘Thurogi’ (traitor) by the very same one-time admirers and later killed by forces he himself unleashed.  He was assassinated on July 13, 1989.  Only the inimitable D.B.S. Jeyaraj, provider of the above information, remembered the 25th anniversary of his assassination.  Everyone else forgot ‘Thalapathy’.

July 1983’ or ‘Black July’, a part product of the communalist politics that the likes of Amirthalingam indulged in and benefited from, is annually commemorated on the other hand.  There’s politics and commerce in commemoration.  Chandragupta Thenuwara, for example, gets mileage for his ‘art’, claiming unending trauma associated with July 1983, a kind of angst that did not touch him in the far more brutal and mindless violence at the end of the same decade.

‘Black July’ is also a frequent referent used by those concerned with (obsessed by?) peace, conflict-resolution, reconciliation and other such processes/concepts that have currency in the ‘free’ market of ‘activism’.  The NGO-economy has thrived and the money that has propped it does not and will not come agenda-free.  ‘No More July’ is therefore an assured fund-bringer in the political economy of commemoration.

1983 July | pic by Chandraguptha Amarasingha - A Tamil boy stripped naked and later beaten to death by Sinhala youth in Boralla bustation

1983 July | pic by Chandraguptha Amarasingha – A Tamil boy stripped naked and later beaten to death by Sinhala youth in Boralla bustation

Let’s not get confused here. July 1983 happened. It should not happen again. Not to anyone. To the extent that commemoration reminds, warns and insures against reenactment, it is certainly a useful exercise, dampened only by the not so innocent politics of the commemorators and other profiteers.  This side of the positives, looking back, is an issue which is less colorful and hopeful than what the kites, lamps, candles and other commemorative frills exude.  Let us call it the underside of ‘Black July’.

It’s more than 30 years since ‘Black July’.  Rarely have those who consider the Sinhalese (and of course Sinhala-Buddhists) as villains (for whatever reason) failed to tag the entire community to that violent political moment and the blame-game pertaining to it.  The politics of commemoration and reminder have gone beyond the blaming, in both intent and effect.  ‘July 83 PLUS’ (shall we call it?), that is a moment and violence blamed on all Sinhalese (‘anti-Tamil pogram’ implies unanimous intent and involvement by the communal other, the Sinhalese), was thrown in the face of every Sinhalese who thought fit to object to Tamil Nationalism/Separatism in any of its many ideological forms and concrete articulations including assassinations, explosion of bombs and other acts of terrorism.

There was a time when affirmation of identity was denied to the Sinhalese and Buddhists through instilled fear of vilification.  Instead they were required to affirm and champion a ‘Sri Lankan identity’ even as identity was not only the flagship political of other communities but was affirmed by gun, bullet and bomb.  Proxies of that kind of politics included a deliberate vilification of any political position that championed the unitary state.  The Sinhalese, by being constantly reminded of ‘Black July’ were duly ‘guilted’ into ideological silence.  Communal projects of other groups had a field day throughout the nineties and in the first few years of the new millennium.

So who benefitted?  Certainly not Appapillai Amirthalingam, Vettivelu Yogeswaran, his wife Sarojini or the many Tamil politicians who planted and watered the communalist seeds in Tamil youth. Extremism was empowered and one reason is probably the fact that objection from Sinhalese was muffled or stifled.  That empowerment effectively robbed voice of those who advocated saner and in hindsight more pragmatic courses of action. Extremism had a good run, but in the end the entire Tamil community suffered the kinds of violence that put ‘Black July’ to shame. Abduction of children, hostage-taking, the obvious depravations of armed conflict, assassination, infighting among Tamil groups, you name it, it was the Tamils who lost most and not at the hands of the so-called ‘Sinhala Buddhist State’ alone.  In short everyone lost.

We are not done with commemoration politics, it seems. ‘Black July’ was resurrected when ‘Alutgama’ happened. There’s logic to it that goes beyond narrow communal politics and the by now old and boring vilification of Sinhalese and Buddhists. Few wanted an ‘Alutgama’.  Few want another Black July.  But there was over simplification, wild extrapolation and veiled and direct vilification that did not and will not help the cause of national unity. Lost in ‘Alutgama’ was ‘Welipenna’.  That’s not an accident. That’s political.

If the politics of reminding forced Sinhala objectors to Tamil chauvinism, separatism and extremism to preface statement with apology and solemn vow not to let Black July happen again, today those who have ideological issues with certain extremist Muslim political positions or even justifiable anxieties of intense identity assertion by that community are forced to first back-foot themselves, apologize on behalf of extremists and for violence they unleashed.  It’s post-Black July all over again, one might say.

There is danger in silencing through vilification.  There is danger in taking the majority community out of the equation of identity politics. It will not affect those who are ideologically predisposed to vilify the Sinhalese and Buddhists, among them of course agents of destabilization located strategically in NGOs with fairytale names, adherents of other faiths operating under the cover of ‘secularization politics’ and thereby winning space for cultural erasure and other kinds of body blows that make control easier.  But it will impact the very same communities in whose name and in whose ‘defense’ this silencing is attempted.

Today, no one talks about the critical role played by thugs who were part of the then ruling party’s trade union, the JSS in ‘Black July’.  There may very well come a ‘tomorrow’ when few remember the BBS and ‘Rev’ Gnanasara.  There is many a Black July waiting to happen. Theoretically there can be any number of ‘Nandikadaals’ too.  Between these, there’s only one thing possible: tragedy. For all.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 10
    3

    How many other riots were there in Sri Lanka?
    There were many from the 1950s to 1983
    And there was even a few during british rule before that
    And now in Aluthgama
    You paint the Sinhalese as ‘victims’
    When it is Sinhala racism that is the root cause of the problem in Sri Lanka
    Nothing has changed to this day

    • 8
      1

      This [Edited out] Malinda Seneviratne is handsomely paid by the Mara regime to be the false propagandist Goebbels of Sri Lanka.

  • 13
    3

    Another attempt to reduce the pogrom that was 83, well what else can you expect from a government [Edited out]

  • 6
    14

    In Sri Lanka, both Tamils and muslims play communal politics. Christians stay a side and cry out loud for equality, for tamils, and for all sorts of freedom.

    Sinhala buddhists is a bad word in Sri Lankan politics.

    Sinhala buddhists have to be buddhists. Only tamils can play ethnic or communal politics, Muslims can play religious politics. both Muslims and christians can expand. Buddhists should meditate until others finish their jobs.

    • 7
      1

      JimSofty

      “Sinhala buddhists is a bad word in Sri Lankan politics”

      Because Sinhala/Buddhists are indeed very bad people.

    • 0
      0

      Correction please, Sinhala Buddhist should be correctly spelled as ‘Sinhala Bullshits’ and pronounced “Sinhala Bushists”.

  • 10
    4

    Malinda Seneviratne –

    Are you still a Shill whitewashing the Para-Sinhala Buddhist regime?

    • 8
      4

      @ Amarasiri

      As a RAW (Rajapassa Arse Wipe) he gets a big pay packet every month!

    • 1
      0

      It is not even para Sinhala-buddihst Regime. It is Government of teh Family by teh Family fro teh Family and Mallinda is paid well by teh Family to write this rubbish.
      I wonder where will Mallinda go once teh Family is out of power

      • 1
        0

        The Raja,

        He teh will be the on teh opposition when teh family is teh about to be teh stripped of teh power teh.

  • 8
    3

    .
    Srilanka is ruled by Sinhalese, by Sinhalese parties, supported by Sinhalese police force and military.

    These Sinhalese Leaders and Sinhalese parties, Sinhalese Police and Sinhalese Military has no guts to arrest and punish those who are responsible for the riots against minorities.

    Therefore black July, nandhikadal and aluthgama keep repeating.

    What a shame.

    :-)

  • 3
    4

    “If the politics of reminding forced Sinhala objectors to Tamil chauvinism, separatism and extremism to preface statement with apology and solemn vow not to let Black July happen again, today those who have ideological issues with certain extremist Muslim political positions or even justifiable anxieties of intense identity assertion by that community are forced to first back-foot themselves, apologize on behalf of extremists and for violence they unleashed. It’s post-Black July all over again, one might say.” Malinda

    Excellent doctoring of Malinda.

    In fact Malinda qualifies to be the policy format-or of BBS,JHU and Mahinda Family altogether.

    As per Malinda’s doctrine (not at all Buddhist doctrine)Other’s wrong ideology will justify our violence. Now Malinda sarcastically charging certain extremist Muslim political positions responsible for Aluthgama violence. Malinda never see the pre-planed atrocities with the support of power as a crime. malinda confused with self-deference and hatred and inferiority complex of him and his allies BBS, JHU and Rajapakse family. As long as we have this kind of hate manufacturers Mahinda and Gota keep dragging the country in to astray.

    • 1
      0

      Renouka,What is all this unintelligible gobbledygook you are writing?Give us breather. Your Singlish needs translation to Queens English.Better go to night school or better ask Malinda the Gratien Prize winner to give you some help.

      • 0
        0

        Ah its that Leela, you remind me always of Night School and Malalasekara. Do we still have schools in the night?

    • 0
      0

      There is a time knocking at the backdoors of Malinda that Mussolini is waiting for him in the streets.

  • 1
    1

    “The Underside Of Black July”

    If any one ask me without showing who is the author or which publication this can be, I can guess Either Malinda and his The Nation. (Unlike The Nation. (CT is giving us the right to express the other opinion in the form of comment or another article.)

    What ever the truth and facts, Malinda is mastered to purify his ethnicity. Do not feel or try to justify everything from one sidedly. As long as Malinda have such attitude, will behave same as this for ever and witness the dogmatic Buddhism.

  • 0
    1

    ‘Black July’ was not an aberration as some apologists continue to claim. It was the culmination of a series of pogroms estimated to be six until then by Professor S J Tambiah of Harvard University in his book ‘Sri Lanka :Ethnic Fratricide and the the Dismantling of Democracy’ (University of Chicago Press, 1991 P 13).

    As for ‘Black July’ following a fact finding mission to Sri Lanka, the Chairman of the British Section of the International Commission of Jurists , Paul Seighart concluded that it comprised a series of deliberate acts, executed in accordance with a concerted plan,conceived and organised well in advance.No more needs to be said!

    The purpose of all pogroms including ‘Black July’ and the massacre of civilians in 2009 who had been lured into so called safe zones only to be killed in their thousands was underpinned by intent and hence falls within the UN definition of genocide.

    • 0
      0

      This same Tambiah with another Catholic sinhalese has written a book Against buddhism too.

      IT is a white man who wrote comments against that book saying that book was a complete lie.

      • 0
        0

        Do you know the mission of Anagarika the Joe Abeywickrema lookalike? He too was a christian who got robed in yellow, and tarnished the image of the gospel of Siddharta.

  • 1
    2

    What started in 1983 ended in victory in May 2009!

    Tamil Madu is ruled by Tamils, always! How unfortunate! Tamils in SL are safer in Tamil Madu.

  • 0
    1

    Pretty sure it wasn’t Amirthalingam that came to Kanatte and asked the Sinhalese to riot, tbh.

    • 0
      0

      Yeah, Malinda felt of an Amirthalingam of Goatabhaya and writes the same against the Amirthalingam.

  • 3
    1

    Malinda Seneviratne is either in Coma of blind, Deaf or memory lost;

  • 5
    1

    Malinda,

    The only reason people compare Aluthgama to black July 1983 is because the government of the day is not maintaining law and order. Some sections are trying to justify it is not a big issue. It’s murder. It’s robbery. It’s arson. What right do mobs have to act like that? Even if the police and STF failed the duty at the time shouldn’t a government at least investigate and arrest all law breakers? If that happens at least majority will have confidence in the country’s law makers and the police even if it is a big personal loss for those who are affected.

    When nothing happens weeks and months later people will definitely draw parallels with Black July.

    NOTHING justifies mobs going on a rampage and its unpardonable for the government/police not to take action at least after the fact.

    We need to understand that is why we are being watched and asked too behave by US, EU Canada, UN and Human Rights organisations. If we implemented the law no one can point the finger at us.

    This is why we say niyapoththen kapanna thiyana de porawen kapanawa.

    • 3
      1

      Malinda is not showing any reporting that condemning such act or demanding justice to those who became a victim of Aluthgama Event.

      As a media, if truly represent people, then it should reveal the injustice occurred to people and stand for justice to them through proper timely reporting and due pressure to authorities. Here Malinda wholeheartedly belive this is acceptable as it has ideological reason as he and BBS, JHU and Mahinda Family think.

      But for Malinda and his The Nation news paper, the justice to Victims of Aluthgama is not a subject at all.

      Shame on Malinda and The Nation!!

  • 2
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 0
    0

    DBS Jeyaraj publishes an article on the assassination of Amirthalingam by an LTTE trio, and the instant elimination of the latter by a Sinhala hero cop.

  • 3
    0

    The picture of a naked boy(Tamil)surrounded by a baila- dancing trio has become an iconic symbol of Black July reproduced many times.
    However,what happend to the boy?Was he killed,burned, or what?Were the perpetrators ever aprehended since their pictures were available?Where are they now?
    Perhaps Malinda Seneviratne — or his father,a powerful government official according to his own account in the Island–will know.
    Or,perhaps,they are working for The NATION…

    • 1
      1

      What happened to the Tamil trash in the picture and our boys so spiritedly doing their duty for the motherland?

      A good question no one had the sense to ask all this time and now is the time to tell the truth.

      After this picture was taken, the Tamil boy put on his clothes and he and his Tamil and Muslim friends beat up the others in the picture who were all poor Sinhala Buddhists only having a bit of fun while doing their duty, and went on to their homes and slept with their unclean Tamil and Muslim wives as we SBs never do, and produced more and more Tamil and Muslim children who have now grown up and threaten our religion and our sangha and in addition blacken the reputation of our country with their malicious lies and fake videos.

      And that is the story according to the maha neshun written for the vicious joy and ever increasing toxic emotion of the .. of the pious children of ape sri lanka.

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