30 September, 2020

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Three Problematic ‘Traditional Homelands’ Can Intersect To Create A Wholesome Fourth

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Eelamist sections of the Tamil Diaspora, including of course its Sri Lankan component, naturally subscribe to the unsubstantiated claims of the North and East being the exclusive traditional homelands of Tamil people.  Land-grabbing, resource-base-enhancing politics often plays with myths and legends, turning the imagined into fact and spreading the bad news around. This is par for the course of communal politics.  To date, not a single Eelamist would dare put on the table anything of substance to buttress land-claim and indeed their anti-Sinhala, anti-Buddhist cheering squad, overt and covert, are given to deleting the history factor from the political equation for reasons that do not require elaboration.

It will take time for those who purchased the traditional homeland myth to acknowledge that they were taken for suckers because of the emotional investment involved, the bucks that were sent with little to show by way of investment-return, the debts owed to the notion on account of finding real estate in greener pastures and the flowering of career paths.  There will be a natural period of transition from fantasy to reality. This is why the end of the LTTE sparked so much of protest in Western capitals.  It had the dressing of outrage but the body that self-righteous anger covered was made up of disappointment, denial and the nagging suspicion of being gullible.

Sooner or later, Eelamists, i.e. those who actually believed the myths tossed around as fact and those who regardless of claim-legitimacy aspired to an ethnic enclave that could be transformed into a nation state, will have to come to terms with certain realities: a) history does not support the claim, b) the archaeological evidence rebels against exclusivity, c) demographic patterns including communal-composition, pull and push of economic and social realities render untenable the vision of a ‘gated’ Tamil community, and d) it is simply not feasible politically and Prabhakaran’s failure even under conditions most favourable for secession should be sobering.

Quo Vadis ‘traditional homeland’ then?  I can think of three places where the ‘traditional homeland’ thesis did have substance and tangibility.  The first was the relevant Diaspora.  In that rarified and un-moored place, the notion had natural currency on account of the natural angst for lost familiarity and abandoned home.  ‘Diaspora’ was common ground and one that was fertile for myth-planting. Magnificent edifices of ‘past’ and ‘future’ were duly constructed and happily and hopefully inhabited and indulged.  Hence the horror and disbelief at the nothingness that the deflated LTTE balloon yielded on terra firma.  In Sri Lanka, this particular traditional homeland is looked at with increasing suspicion by the principal recipients of tragedy, the Tamil civilians in the North and East as well as those who gullibly believed Prabhakaran was invincible and would deliver a nation, by hook or by crook.   In time, Diasporic Disbeblief will give way to acknowledgment of reality and the retirement of fantasy.

The there is Cyber Space. This is so seamless and without forbidding that fantasy had a free reign.  Networks were established. They grew.  The growers and the growing did not realize that cyber-networks don’t necessarily transform or nurture on-the-ground communities.  It confers a sense of participation and community, allows for dreaming but, like cybersex, is not the same thing as the real article.  The truth is that Eelam had a better footing in virtual reality than on reality.  The end of the war pulled the rug on the virtual and the ‘traditional homeland’ in cyberspace fell hard on its real behind.  The dreamers and fanatics will continue to play.  The realists and intelligent will move on to other games or to real life or both.

The third ‘traditional homeland’ is of course Tamil Nadu.  India deftly resolved the problem of possible irritants flowing from incipient nationalism from the South by fostering secessionist moves in Sri Lanka, happily arming, training and funding terrorists.  It gave the nation-wanting Tamil Nationalist in Tamil Nadu something to dream about, without being taxed for fantasy.  Sooner or later, Tamil Nationalism will revert to its true and logical traditional homeland, Tamil Nadu, i.e. in terms of solid claim, favourable demographic pattern and greater political feasibility.

Where does all this leave the Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalist and Tamil Nationalism vis-à-vis the idea of ‘traditional homeland’? I believe that the three ‘traditional homelands’ can be considered spaces and that their intersection, metaphorically and pragmatically makes for a fourth ‘traditional homeland’ for the Tamil community and one which has logical residence right here in Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nationalism could see the territoriality of ‘homeland’ as a metaphor and not land-fact.  There are histories that play into ‘other’ homelands and these include spin-offs from pandering to the homeland idea that proved and will prove to be untenable.  The divide-and-rule policy of the British which saw accessibility to education extremely skewed in favour of the Tamil community (in terms of percentages, not absolute numbers, the latter fact being the source of the 50-50 claim) helped produce large numbers of educated and professional persons.  Resource-lack fed the communal need to seek betterment through education.  Conflict, regardless of ontology, saw people to relocating overseas and this, even if spurred by not-so-genuine claims of political harassment, and the thus relocated once again saw education as the pathway to better futures, especially in technical fields.

Eelamism and reasonable hope of actually turning fiction into something tangible spurred, as mentioned above, the proliferation of cyber-Eelamists.  The propaganda machine of the LTTE was comprehensive and effective.  What they lacked on the ground by way of collective, community and faith, they compensated for in cyber-networks.

Tamils in Tamil Nadu haven’t shown the same enthusiasm for secession that their counterparts in Sri Lanka did.  That shows how successful the Indian Central Government has been in dealing with a potentially explosive problem.  Instead, Tamil Nadu decided to up their collective regional competencies.

The intersection of these ‘homelands’ points to a peculiar and fortuitous coming together of interests that can create the 4th ‘traditional homeland’ alluded to above.  It is non-territorial but could have a land-base somewhere in the so-called traditional homelands, if preferred.  The Tamil Community is ideally placed, given resources, communal solidarities, anxieties regarding security and future legitimate or otherwise, and acquired competencies, to create a ‘traditional homeland’ in the form of an IT hub of immense potential.  That would be employing ‘comparative advantage’ in meaningful, life-affirming, community-developing ways that are also politically feasible and moreover capable of stamping communal presence in the larger polity of Sri Lanka.

It is time to give fantasy a rest and to employ the acquisitions that fantasizing demanded to better and more fruitful use.  There’s a traditional homeland waiting to be created.  It won’t have a flag or an anthem. It won’t need either.  It will, however, give far more self-determination to Tamils, as individuals and as a collective, than anything that Prabhakaran promised.

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

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    Thiviyan,

    “If there is no archaeological or historical evidence to indicate Dutu Gemunu identify him as a Sinhala, what makes you think the ancient Hela people were Sinhalese? The Sinhala identity evolved in much later period. The Hela people might be the ancestors of present day Sinhalese and Tamils.”
    o the world, Sri Lanka was known as ‘Heladiva’ before the arrival of the Aryan prince ‘Vijaya’. ‘Heladiva’ simply translates to ‘the land of the Hela People’, where the Hela people are the collective members of the four known tribes that existed before the invasion of Vijaya. These tribes are Naga (Serpent worshipers), Raaksha (Demon worshipers), Deva (Tribes who worshiped godly deities) and Yaksha (Demon Worshipers). The term Sinhala, which was later applied to the race of people and the language appears to have arisen after Vijaya, referred to in legend as partly descended from a lion, was coined from the joining of the Sanskrit word for Lion (Sinha) and Hela, resulting in Sinhala.

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      Ravi Perera

      “[To the world, Sri Lanka was known as ‘Heladiva’ before the arrival of the Aryan prince ‘Vijaya’.]”

      To which world??? Is it outer world??? Can you show some evidence, to which part of the world Sri Lanka was known as ‘Heladiva’??? Many outsiders have visited the island during the ancient period. Can you tell us who called it ‘Heladiva’ and where is it said.

      “[‘Heladiva’ simply translates to ‘the land of the Hela People’, where the Hela people are the collective members of the four known tribes that existed before the invasion of Vijaya. These tribes are Naga (Serpent worshipers), Raaksha (Demon worshipers), Deva (Tribes who worshiped godly deities) and Yaksha (Demon Worshipers). The term Sinhala, which was later applied to the race of people and the language appears to have arisen after Vijaya, referred to in legend as partly descended from a lion, was coined from the joining of the Sanskrit word for Lion (Sinha) and Hela, resulting in Sinhala.]”

      The above statement is absolutely hilarious. Before coming to the Argument about the myth – four known tribes that existed before the invasion of Vijaya also known as ‘Siv-Hela’, let me say a few words about the terms used in Mahavamsa and from where they were derived. The scholarly monks of the Mahavihara in Anuradapura who wrote the Pali chronicles must have been very well versed in the Sanskrit texts of India such as the Mahabaratha, the Ramayana, and the Jathaka. The terms Lanka, Sinhala, Deva, Naga, Yaksha, Rakshasa, etc are mentioned for the very first time only in the Indian Mythology Ramayana and Mahabaratha and the historians are not sure if they were true. Very much later, the Mahavamsa has also adopted it (from Mahabaratha and Ramayana) but with a different twist by including a new (Lion) story. The beginning chapters of the Mahavamsa stories which includes the names Sinhala, Lanka, and the four Deva, Naga, Yaksha, Rakshasa, tribes has NO archeological/epigraphic evidence in Sri Lanka and the present day historians do not accept any of them as true. The island was named ‘Lanka’ (influenced by Ramayana), the people were named ‘Sinhala’ (influenced by Mahabaratha), and the four tribes Deva, Naga, Yaksha, Rakshasa is nothing but a cut and paste from the Mahabaratha. There is a group of Sinhala-Buddhists by the name Hela Havula (Sinhalese literary organization founded by Munidasa Cumaratunga) that has created a new theory (Siv + Hela = Sinhala) linking Ravana to the Sinhalas and totally contradicting the Mahavamsa to say that the Sinhalas are the original natives of Sri Lanka from the four tribes (four Hela) known as Siv-hela (Deva, Naga, Yaksha, & Rakshasa) and not migrants from India as mentioned in the Mahavamsa. Their theory is purely based on the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabaratha. Some of them even want to add the Mahayana Buddhist text Lankavatara Sutta which is based on Ramayana to Sinhala-Buddhism. It should be noted that Ramayana is a mythology that talks of the story of Rama and Ravana that happened very much before the Buddha. Mahabaratha is even older than Ramayana. How did “Siv-hela” (four Hela tribes) becomes “Sinhala”? First of all, there is no any historical evidence to prove that the term ‘hela’ was used to denote any race or country. On the other hand the term ‘Siv-hela’ cannot be seen in any of the ancient inscriptions in Sri Lanka or in any of the ancient literary works. . I would like to ask Malinda or any other member of the Hela Havula, from where did you get this concept of Siv(four) hela? Can you present any piece of evidence to show that the concept of Siv-hela was used anywhere in our literature or any of the ancient inscriptions? Even if you take the Sinhala Language, there is no any rule in Sinhala grammar to derive Siv+hela to sinhala. If it is so Kav+pela should become Kanpela, Pav+hela should become panhala or pansala. Your derivation from Siv+hela to Sinhala is just another non-creative creation.

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    Prasad,

    “The above statement is absolutely hilarious”

    It is to make people like you hilarious that the above description is on web.
    https://sites.google.com/site/helafamily/our-origins

    You have given a whole heap things about Mahabaratha, Mahavansa etc.

    The truth is along with so many facts there are whole heap of add ons in these documents. As you said quite correctly we really do not know what exactly the truth is. Along with these documents, logic and common sense could drive us in the right direction.

    Which ever way you look at it Sri Lanka (Eelam,sinhaladveep, heladiva ) is the country that gave birth to the sinhala civilisation. Mahavansa too says about Vijaya marrying kuveni (A Raksh aprince) and having children.
    There is a reason why sinhala people do highlight only the aryan connection. The original tribes like any other south Indian race are Dravidians. Sinhala people confuse the word Dravidian with Tamil and that is the main reason most sinhalese say that we are descendents of Aryans forgetting the fact that we are more Dravidian than Aryan.

    I would like to ask you a question which know other Tamil has so far given a convincing answer. I HOPE YOU WILL GIVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER THAT AVOIDING.

    (1)HOW WAS THE SINHALA RACE BORN ? There is a reason why I am asking this.
    Sri Lanka is the country that gave birth to the sinhala civilisation.(like Tamil Nadu is for the Tamils, Andhar Pradesh is for the Telegus and Karnataka is for the Kannadigas.)
    If not your answer can prove otherwise.

    (You have mentioned earlier that Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka was liked physically and this was part f the Tamil Land. This is Hillarios especially using this argument you can say the same thing about Karnataka and other south Indian states too.)

    (2) How are you going to Justify the inclusion of Eastern Province in a Tamil government?

    You have mentioned about ethnic ratios of 1904s but I have answered it well.
    Here is a reproduction of it if you have forgotten.

    There is clearly no justification for once racial group claiming proprietary , exclusive rights over the others within these two boundaries set artificially by the British merely because there are more members of that group over the others. If there is any validity in such contention it would follow with even greater force from the same principle, since there is and always has been within the natural borders of Sri Lanka, am overwhelming preponderance of Sinhalese, the entirety of Sri Lanka is the homeland of the Sinhalese.

    Secondly the Tamil speaking Muslims are a separate entity with a clear separate leadership and they will not accept their areas being put under a Tamil administration.

    If you can give a convincing answer to the ABOVE TWO QUESTIONS You have won half the Battle.

    HAVE A GO THANBI

    • 1
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      Ravi Perera Anna & Prasad Aiya

      Ravi Perera is the Kallathoni descendant of Sinhala speaking Tamil.

      Prasad is the Kallathoni descendant of Tamil speaking Tamil.

      I do not see any difference between you Annas or Aiyas.

      Both think alike, lookalike, eat alike, both are land grabbers, corrupt, devious, and stupid, ……………… I can go on until the cows come home.

      You can call yourself with any name, yet the fact remain that you are descendants of Kallathonies.

      Names don’t make any sense, go check your DNA, you will see mostly Tamilnadu desi DNA.

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      “Secondly the Tamil speaking Muslims are a separate entity with a clear separate leadership and they will not accept their areas being put under a Tamil administration.” This is what called divide and rule. Very convenient for Sinhalese.

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      Ravi Perera,

      1. HOW WAS THE SINHALA RACE BORN ?

      There was NO Sinhala in Sri Lanka until the Mahavihara monks created it in the 4th/5th century AD. (the term Sihala also may have been adopted from the term Simhala/Sinhala found in the Mahabharata which predates the Mahavansa by many centuries. (The Indian epic Mahabharata talks of Sinhalas as barbarous mlecchas in its Book 1, Chapter 177, in Book 2, Chapter 33 & 51, and in Book 7, Chapter 20).
      When Hindu/Brahmanical influence posed a serious challenge to Buddhism and when Buddhism started to lose popular support and the patronage from the rulers, the Buddhist institutions in India came under attack. The Mahavihara monks of Anuradapura including Ven. Mahanama, the author of the Pali chronicle Mahavamsa and a close relative of the Buddhist Naga king Dhatusena would have witnessed the decline and disorientation of Buddhism in India. The events that took place in India against Buddhism must have prompted the Mahavihara monks in Sri Lanka to come up with a plan/strategy to protect Buddhism. Due to their strong devotion to Buddhism and desire to consolidate and protect this religion in Sri Lanka they must have decided to write the Pali chronicles Deepavamsa/Mahavamsa making Sri Lanka a Dammadeepa/Sinhaladvipa (chosen land of Buddha where Buddhism will prevail for 5000 years) and creating the Sinhala race by integrating all the Buddhists from different tribes/ethnic groups into one group/race and making them the sustainers of Buddhism (Gautama Buddha’s chosen people) to protect Buddhism in Sri Lanka for 5000 years until the next Maithriya Buddha arrive. With the patronage of the Buddhist Kings, it is the Mahavihara monks who assimilated all the Buddhists from many different tribes (mainly Nagas and Damilas) together and called them Sihala (followers of Mythical Vijaya). There may have been instances where the convicted criminals from India (Sanskrit speaking Bengali/Gujarati) who were exiled would have seek asylum in the island and would have been allowed to settle and got assimilated with the local population, but there is NO historical evidence what so ever to prove Vijaya’s arrival with 700 men or to say there were Sinhalese during the Early Historic period. The term ‘Sihala’ itself along with its associated myths first appeared ONLY in the 4th/5th Century AD Pali chronicles Deepavamsa/Mahavamsa and that also ONLY twice in the beginning chapters. Even such a literature, which projects Tamils as invaders, could not help linking the Pandyas of Tamil country in the genesis of Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. The Hela/Sinhala race and the Elu/Helu language would have started evolving only from this period after the foundation was laid by the Buddhist monks and the kings.

      2. How are you going to justify the inclusion of Eastern Province in a Tamil government?
      I have given you full details including the ethnic ratios of Eastern province right from 1827 including the web links to prove that the Eastern province was more than 80% Tamil before 1948. Please read it carefully until you understand it.

    • 1
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      Ravi Perera

      You are not only confused but also seem to be either blind or unable to understand basic language and stuff. I have given web links and have already answered all your questions/doubts in my previous comments. Either you have not read them or you are not capable enough to understand things.

      Please go back and read my previous comments word by word until you understand what I am saying. If you still do not have the capacity to understand, then you need to grow up. Save everything what is written here and read it after 5 years when you are old enough to understand basic things. After that you may think of coming to arguments.

  • 0
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    Anpu,

    “This is what called divide and rule. Very convenient for Sinhalese.”

    Certainly it is so. Your Sun God create the initial division.

    But that is the reality today.

  • 0
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    Prasad Thanbi,

    “Ravi Perera
    You are not only confused but also seem to be either blind or unable to understand basic language and stuff. I have given web links and have already answered all your questions/doubts in my previous comments. Either you have not read them or you are not capable enough to understand things.”

    Is it you or me who has difficulaty in understanding. Read my replies and you do not seem to be understaning what I am saying.
    When asked to justify that East is part of the Tamil homeland you demalas give the ethnic ratios of the Eastern province in 1904 etc.
    This has so far not had any impact in the international arena due to the following reason which I have written million times.

    Who created the Eastern province ? Before British there was no Eastern Province. When the British arrived the three Kingdoms were Kotte , Jaffna and Kandayan. Eastern province was part of the Kandyanm Kingdom.

    Eastern province was part of the Kandyan Kingdom. Relatively thickly populated Coastal belt of the East (about 10 miles from the shore) was annexed to a large tracks of sparsly populated sinhala purana villages and created the eastern province. Does that make you the owners of east.

    There is clearly no justification for once racial group claiming proprietary , exclusive rights over the others within these two boundaries set artificially by the British merely because there are more members of that group over the others. If there is any validity in such contention it would follow with even greater force from the same principle, since there is and always has been within the natural borders of Sri Lanka, am overwhelming preponderance of Sinhalese, the entirety of Sri Lanka is the homeland of the Sinhalese.Also Go back to the territory of the Kandyan Kingdom and the Tamils in the east were a minority in the Kandyan Kingdom

    Secondly the Tamil speaking Muslims are a separate entity with a clear separate leadership and they will not accept their areas being put under a Tamil administration.

    Now thanbi this is the reason you have not been able to convince the internatiuonal community on East. North you may if India does not object. The great Goal scored by sungod VP in the form of Rajive Gandhi will be a hard one to overcome. Any way keep trying

  • 0
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    Prasad Thanbi,

    About the sinhala race. Though I do not necessarily agree with what you have written (in terms of details) I agree in summary with what you have written.Birth of the sinhala race is in this country (Sinahaldveep, Sinhala , Eelam) from many races.Original Tribes – (Naga , Yaksha,) Bengalis, demals etc.

    The fact that sri lanak gave birth to the sinhala culture,is another difficulty you guys are having when trying to sell your mythical homeland concept to the international community.

    Plan another uprising, there are some in this forum who talk about demalas inventing a nuclear weapon.Keep dreaming

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