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Chapter 11

Rajani’s Vision: The Local as the Agent of Broader Change


Thus when one appraises the political bleakness that confronts this community and this land, the women's history does have a triumph. There is powerlessness, disappointment and disillusionment, but also hope. We have done it... a little bit...”


- Rajani Thiranagama, No more tears sister, The Broken Palmyra


11.1 The Realm of Freedom


For Rajani, politics was about being committed to humanity and paying the price that commitment entailed. This meant that every commitment, whether to a person or to a group, deserved the zeal that most only afford to religion. She believed that she could only realise a Marxian ‘kingdom of freedom’ – that of creative human endeavour embracing all spheres including art and culture – by being responsible to her commitments and honest to her intellect. Karl Popper who nonetheless disagreed with Marx’s economic determinism said of him: 


“…he recognized in practice (as a practical dualist) that we are spirit and flesh, and, realistically enough, that the flesh is the fundamental of these two…But although he realized that the material world and its necessities are fundamental, he did not feel any love for the ‘kingdom of necessity’, as he called a society which is in bondage to its material needs. He cherished the spiritual world, the ‘kingdom of freedom’, and the spiritual side of ‘human nature’ as much as any Christian dualist; and in his writings there are even traces of hatred and contempt for the material (The Open Society and its Enemies Vol. II, p103).”


For Marx, Rajani and many other seers, the search for the ‘kingdom of freedom’ impelled them to confront injustice. They saw personal freedom as meaningless in the face of systemic degradation of one’s fellows. Rajani’s commentary was that of a sensitive insider; she spoke from within a ‘benumbed community’ literally and metaphorically standing in the midst of ‘debris and crumbling structures’. History for her, rather than episodic; was manifested in the way social forces among the Tamils and Sinhalese had developed and interacted over many years. For Rajani, understanding this offered more than an intellectual challenge: it was an act of compassion for all whose lives were placed on the line by narrow ideologies. 


Finally, now, having dissipated opportunities that came our way, we rail at India, the West, China, the World Bank, and Norway – without admitting that the choice of how to be a nation was ultimately ours. Beyond ethnicity, current measures in the Vanni are an attack on a once proud and independent peasantry – designed to further proletarianise and render them wage labourers for cash crop companies. Many from the Vanni displayed sterling qualities and made great sacrifices in defence of the community. Indeed, we know well the risks several of them took to protect dissidents whom the LTTE was hunting. Eventually, by stamping out progressive and left influences in the Vanni, the LTTE was able to use these same qualities to manipulate the people to their detriment.


11.2 The University and the Struggle for Tamil Identity

In facing challenges of the modern world, we frequently look to the past for inspiration. We readily find it in the universal ethics of the Silappathikaram and Kural that transcend caste and nation and in the poetry of Subramanya Bharathy. For Bharathy the realisation of freedom was inseparable from absolute fidelity to truth and the eradication of evils that cripple individuals and communities. In our immediate setting, we find exemplars in the legacy of the scholar-statesman Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and in the Gandhi-inspired Jaffna Youth Congress. Hardly any one of the foregoing is now given the importance in the University of Jaffna that is lavished on Arunachalam’s brother Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and, his mentor, Arumuga Navalar – mainly as props for a socially retrograde, partisan, post-militancy agenda.

Well into the 1980s, however, the University of Jaffna remained a place of hope; it held a central place in Rajani’s vision for meeting the challenges faced by broader society. Twenty years under LTTE tutelage helped to freeze worst tendencies and quench the better. Few academics have any sense of their function as autonomous agents; fewer still are willing to voice independent opinions. In other troubled societies, local universities rise to become leading voices of defence, pluralism, and freedom.   

Certainly it is easy to identify and criticise political charades like the university vice chancellors frogmarched to attack the UNSG’s advisory report on the last months of the war. But academics also face peer pressure to conform, which is certainly more subtle and perhaps just as insidious. We are encouraged to soften our stances through superficial pretensions to ‘inclusiveness, shared culture and coexistence’. The catch? A damper on truth. While not explicitly taboo, peer pressure [1] and the resultant self-censorship keeps truth – especially truth related to enormous loss of life – and its crude suppression – well at bay. Without truth, the legacy of violence can scarcely admit reconciliation; the most oppressed people, already brutally silenced during the war by the LTTE, continue to struggle, but against a different purveyor of silence. After its opportunistic adulation of the LTTE, the University bears a heavy responsibility for the plight of the Vanni.


In the University’s present passive state, it is helpful to recall its people-centred actions of earlier years. In fact it has a significant history of supporting Jaffna society and promoting sound responses to political pressure. In April 1977, for example, when a leading SLFP politician dispatched mobs to evict Hill Country Tamils from Delta and Sanquhar estates in Pusellawa, University students rushed there in solidarity with the Tamils, and subsequently issued a well-received report on the violence. And during the state-instigated 1977 communal violence, staff and students worked as one body to protect Sinhalese students and send them safely home. Although elements in the South launched a hate campaign alleging that Sinhalese students were attacked in Jaffna, the Sansoni Commission vindicated the University.

The following year, during Batticaloa’s devastating cyclone, the University community was at the forefront in providing relief to the victims. They were the first to cut through the jungle, and provide relief to certain marooned villages – before state agencies could act. Varatharajaperumal and Nithyanandan were among the persons leading the effort.

When the LTTE killed St. John’s College Principal Mr. Anandarajah in 1985 and massacred members of TELO in 1986, university students protested, while the rest of society was terrorised. In November 1986, when the LTTE abducted student Arunagirinathan Vijitharan (whom it later killed), the LTTE’s terror was almost absolute. But University students mounted a massive protest in Jaffna, and schools and the general public joined them. And in the wake of Rajani’s murder, the students rallied, despite mounting terror. Given the special historical circumstances in which the University found itself, it had a tradition of providing leadership to the community and acting as a forum to maintain healthy criticism of Tamil nationalism, particularly through discussion. We do well to remember the pioneering efforts of the Jaffna Youth Congress.

11.3 When Jaffna Was the Light of Lanka: The Legacy of Secularism

            For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice - T.S. Eliot

In the wake of the Vaddukkottai Resolution of 1974, fetishization of the right to self-determination gave the Government an alibi to perpetuate status quo. Any movement for meaningful self-determination must be argued on its common merits, and should canvas agreement of substantial sections of Sinhalese, Muslims, and Hill-Country Tamils.

Every generation must find its voice to address pressing issues of its time and leave behind a legacy to enable another generation to find its feet. The Gandhi-inspired Jaffna Youth Congress was in the 1920s far ahead of any local movement. The Jaffna Youth Congress fought caste oppression and spread the cooperative movement; some of its members became eminent school principals, who extended the practice begun by several Christian mission schools, of admitting oppressed castes to Hindu Board schools [2] : Orator Subramaniam’s Skandavarodhaya College produced some eminent left activists, including N. Shanmugathasan, who carried the fight against caste to the next phase among the peasantry.

The core of the Youth Congress was born in the Jaffna College of Principal John Bicknell, a Yale graduate. The intellectual freedom Jaffna College accorded its students would be the envy of any one of our universities today…  

Among the most important principles bequeathed by the Youth Congress is secularism. This enables persons with different religious backgrounds to work shoulder to shoulder. The powerful legacy of the Youth Congress has meant that since its heyday, nearly all major political movements among the Tamils from the TULF to the militant movements, including the LTTE, have avowed secularism.    

Until the early 1980s, the University of Jaffna held lively discussions featuring self-determination and among Tamils this was seen as meaningful only in a secular context. Their object lesson was the misery brought about by the Sri Lankan state as seen in the affirmation of secularism in the Vaddukkottai Resolution of 1976:

[Sinhalese governments] by giving the foremost place to Buddhism under the Republican Constitution [have] thereby reduce[ed] the Hindus, Christians, and Muslims to second class status in this country…Tamil Eelam shall be a secular state giving equal protection and assistance to all religions to which the people of the State may belong.”


For the more radical, and particularly left oriented, secularism went further, towards building bridges to the Hill Country Tamils and Muslims, for more than merely pragmatic reasons, and to an eradication of caste. Sadly, many in our educational establishments today are ready to throw overboard the hard-earned lessons of the Tamil people on secularism, despite their vocal anger over the proliferation of Buddha statues as symbols of conquest. Do we need to further polarise our society through erection of Hindu statues in former Christian mission schools in the name of fostering Tamil culture; and by obliterating the phenomenal contribution of mission schools that sought out and catered to educational needs in obscure corners, by giving them new mainly Hindu names [3] ? What does the University’s development of the modest Hindu shrine in former Parameswara College into its centrepiece have to do with its secular mission of furthering academic excellence? Are we fostering a culture where decadence of copious religiosity becomes a substitute for rigourous intellectual endeavour that uplifts? Unlike the University today, the Hindu Board which ran Parameswara gave precedence to modern secular education, and was not averse to Christians as principals…  

When the Tigers dominated Jaffna, they defined a Tamil narrowly, as one who toed the ideological line of the state power they represented. Others were rendered targets of hate – traitors. Many leading university figures toed the Tiger line in the movement’s heyday. It helped them to maintain their privileged status. Now the defence of privilege, post-LTTE, appears to demand another sectarian cause – religious obscurantism. 

11.4 The University and Postwar Ideological Battles

A University exhibition in 2011 featured posters from the Government Archaeology Department claiming Kantharodai, as it has been known for centuries, as the Sinhalese Buddhist site ‘Kadurugoda’. [4]   Another poster on Jaffna heritage by the University deprecated the contribution of Christian missions. As the selective histories of the Kadurugoda/Kantharodai poster and the Jaffna heritage poster show, the ideological battles of post-war Jaffna continue. In one case, a façade of partnership masks cleavages with peers in the hegemonic Sinhalese state, whose patronage is important for career advancement. In the other, an incomplete story represents the sectarian cover of a post-LTTE elitist Tamil nationalism that has lost its illusory bulwark.

11.4.2 Overthrow of Secularism and Reassertion of Caste and Religious Hegemony

On the opposite pole, a University poster about Jaffna’s heritage at the same exhibition to which schools were invited describes Arumuga Navalar as the leader of the Tamil renaissance and credits him with defending Hinduism against Christian missionaries. The same poster anoints Ramanathan as Navalar’s heir in the political arena. This advisory on Jaffna’s heritage stops dead in the 19th Century, and misses an opportunity to describe how the Youth Congress fostered Jaffna’s secular and liberal values.  

Under a scholarly veneer, the University advocates the sectarian Navalar-Pon Ramanathan mystique, denying Tamilness explicitly to one who is not a Hindu and implicitly to those of the wrong caste. The results of the mystique have little to do with Navalar or Ramanathan per se. Navalar’s important ethical injunction to vegetarianism is today largely ignored by his advocates, in whose hands the Navalar-Ramanathan canon fosters, like all narrow ideologies, animosity against the excluded. Papering over its elitist core, anachronistic content and caste-exclusion, it appeals to the broader mass of Hindus through feel-good slogans. Co-opting upcoming members of oppressed groups into a corrupt establishment actually reinforces barriers – the Plantation Tamils are a good example.


Even if not the author, the University’s role needs to be questioned on the current disturbing level of anti-Christian propaganda coming from the elite. One finds among the same officials involved in erasing the record of Christian missions in education, the practice of ganging up to prevent oppressed castes from being appointed principals of prestigious schools or to plot the removal of those in such rank. These moves of an educational mafia inevitably poison politics and corrupt education to a point beyond repair (Appendix 11)…

Today’s leaders in education are so willfully ignorant as to have forgotten that the Tamil University Movement was a secular movement comprising leading Tamil scholars and professionals in the late 1950s. It was a reaction to attempts at cutting down the number of Tamil entrants to the University of Ceylon (which became a reality with language-based standardisation in 1970). The Tamil University Movement was undermined chiefly by G.G. Ponnambalam and groups with marginal appeal trying to boost their following by playing the religious card and demanding a Hindu University in Jaffna instead.

Today’s attempts to steer Jaffna University along the lines advocated by opponents of the Tamil University Movement has inevitably its social counterpart. Forgetting our progressive history from Arunachalam and the Youth Congress that led to universal adult franchise, caste emancipation and made room for the left movements that followed, the decadence symbolised by the University today is as though to erase from our social consciousness the gains ushered in by the Donoughmore reforms of 1931. A culture where recognised merit encounters barbs becomes mediocre and markedly unfriendly…  

11.5 Azeez and Arunachalam

Is Tamil scholarship paying enough attention to the large Muslim population’s contribution to the enrichment of Tamil life and language? Surely the educationist and literary figure A.M.A. Azeez qualifies as one of the greatest sons of Jaffna. We quote Prof. W.L. Jeyasingham at the first convocation of the University of Jaffna on 13th September 1980, when Azeez, an old boy of Vaideeswara College, was posthumously awarded the D. Litt. honoris causa:    

Mr. Azeez was a distinguished Tamil scholar and an eminent literary figure who wrote extensively on literary, cultural and historical matters. His article “Ceylon” in the Encyclopaedia of Islam and the books titled “The West Re-appraised”, “Islam in Ceylon”, “Misrin Vasiyam” and Tamil Yathirai are noteworthy contributions. He was an extremely cultivated man who left a deep impression on the intellectual history of Sri Lanka. His close familial and cultural links with Jaffna naturally makes him specially endearing to the University of Jaffna.”

Ponnambalam Arunachalam, whom the University of Jaffna and Tamil intellectuals have largely ignored, was undoubtedly one whose intellect was sharpened by his concern for his fellows. We quote from Kumari Jayawardena: [5]


Ponnambalam Arunachalam was a pioneer, not only of political and social reform, but also of labour organizations in Sri Lanka…Unlike the moderate Sri Lanka leadership of the period, Arunachalam took a radical line on many issues, being forthright especially in questions affecting the working people. He was far ahead of his colleagues in championing self-government and universal suffrage…he had through the Social Service League, constantly highlighted the iniquities of the Master and Servant Ordinance of 1865, under which plantation workers who left their estates could be charged in court for breach of contract and returned to their former employers. In 1916 he spoke out against the conditions in the plantations, stating that “Being poor, ignorant and helpless, he is unable to protect himself against the cupidity and tyranny of the unscrupulous recruiters and bad employers…”’

The power of Arunachalam’s intellect appears in the Ceylon Census of 1901. Our grasp of history is built on fragments; we all have a curiosity about who we are and where we come from. What we build is an image, which may or may not stand the test of time. A man with a large heart keen on giving others their due is more likely to create an image that withstands this test. Arunachalam was familiar with the known history of India and Ceylon and saw developments in both as being complementary from pre-Christian times. Here is an excerpt from the history section of the 1901 Census, which he compiled: 

The Tamils however [in the pre-Christian centuries] made great advance in rice cultivation…Tamil colonies of agriculturalists and artificers were introduced [to Ceylon] in large numbers, and rice and other cultivation introduced. Irrigation works were constructed. In order to secure the organized and continuous labour necessary for their maintenance, the patriarchal village system, which still remains in modified form, was introduced. Large military forces were subsidized, and the highest offices of state thrown open to the new allies. The civil and military organization of the Island thus organized and the resources developed, Ceylon rose gradually to a high state of prosperity and civilization.”

Arunachalam’s picture is consonant with that of his eminent Sinhalese contemporary Mudaliyar W.F. Gunawardhana:

Scientifically therefore the determining factor of a language is not its vocabulary, but its structure viz., that aspect of it which is concerned with the arrangement and mutual adjustment of words in the expression of thought; and in this respect, it must be said, that Sinhalese is essentially a Dravidian language. This is not all. Its evolution too seems to have been on a Tamil basis. And so we seem safe in saying that, while in regard to word equipment, Sinhalese is the child of Pali and Sanskrit, it is, with regard to physical structure, essentially the daughter of Tamil.” [6]

The two writers above have avoided ideologically congenial stereotypes and claims to ancient possession that hold sway; and have left open novel possibilities. [7]

Ethnicity has positive aspects: it represents poetry, literature, music, the beauty of a landscape, and art, fashioned by many generations for all who claim it. These features of ethnic identification belong to the realm of freedom, which we would dearly love to foster and protect while respecting others’ corresponding desires. But we Tamils went about this entirely the wrong way, by an equally destructive response that reinforced chauvinism on both sides.


The foreboding and despair of Sinhalese who have kept their humanity intact over several trying decades is reflected by Tisaranee Gunasekera’s words on the current “post-conflict” scenario [8] : Today the past is returning. Like then, decent, respectable middleclass people are talking about the ‘Muslim menace’. The same apocryphal charges can be heard across Sinhala society: ‘They’ are everywhere; ‘They’ are taking over our land, our resources and, this time, our women; ‘They’ must be stopped…We lost this sense of common humanity in Black July and became lost in a moral-ethical wasteland. We were too busy being Sinhala patriots to be human – a fate that befalls any people who lapses into fanaticism.


Are we going to allow the barbarians within to decide our destiny, again? Are we going to be amoral and stupid, again?

The University forgot its plural heritage. The majority of Tamil-speaking people, including secular Hindus, would run away from the current narrowly sectarian version of ‘self-determination’. In this sectarian dispensation, a Tamil-speaking entity would be a nightmare! In the larger Tamil polity such attitudes lead to apathy over the urgent need to mend fences with the Muslims.

11.6 The Muslim Question and Tamil Chauvinism

When the LTTE expelled Muslims from the North in late 1990, Tamils and their leaders, especially the Roman Catholic Church in Mannar, though afraid, opposed it (UTHR(J) Report No.6). Local LTTE leader Suresh told these critics that a Batticaloa group had been put in charge of the expulsion. The Tamil leaders could not stop it, but the Muslims were grateful that many Tamils sincerely tried. But today many Muslims, who have returned to the North with little to call their own, face a lack of sympathy from Tamil politicians and administrators. Dire neglect forces many of them to go back South.

Regrettably, no section of the Tamil community – neither the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) nor the Church – has made a statement welcoming the Muslims back. Nor has the Tamil community helped its Muslim countrymen to repossess what is theirs. The TNA’s statements on returning IDPs and issues in the North-East rarely if ever take Northern Muslims into account; Tamil politicians generally mention the Muslim community when doing so supports a case against the State. No one has properly acknowledged all that Tamil nationalism cost the Muslims…  

An unruly Muslim [Minister] garners nationwide publicity, which veils other incidents of Buddhist monks close to the Rajapakses leading attacks on Muslim places of worship and businesses. One of these extremist organizations is the Bodu Bala Sena. Had it not been close to the rulers, it would have been categorized as a criminal organisation. The State’s indulgent attitude to the Bodu Bala Sena is seen in Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s answers in an interview to the Daily Mirror (4th July 2013): “Remember the majority community is 78% but if some 8% or 10% [9] of the community tries to bring various issues all the time it creates a suspicion among the majority community. It creates insecurity within the majority community and obviously there will be sections reacting to that… I did not create the Bodu Bala Sena, it was a creation as a reaction to what was happening.” The same mindset is reflected in President Mahinda Rajapakse’s Al Jazeera interview (‘Democracy Thrives in Sri Lanka’, Daily News, 30 Sept.2013). [10]

It would indeed be shortsighted for Tamils to fall victim to the Government’s devices and deny justice to Muslims. How can we forget that we lived amicably together for centuries? If Tamils cannot show fairness to Muslims in the North, this will endanger relations between Eastern Tamils and Muslims, and place a peaceful and prosperous North-East beyond our reach.

In the East, though tensions between Tamils and Muslims have a longer history, the situation at present is largely the result of the great harm inflicted upon Tamils by a nationalism that under the LTTE behaved like its savage Sinhalese counterpart. Tamils readily remember the massacres of Tamils by Muslim home guards and thugs in the early 1990s, but few remember that these were reprisals for senseless LTTE massacres of Muslims. Moreover, these were not the work of Muslim leaders, but were instigated or supported by the Armed Forces – unlike massacres of Muslims by putative sole leaders of the Tamils. It is mainly the Tamils who are holding back on a dialogue to mend fences…

The Muslim leadership, dominated by its business elite, has identified Muslim interests narrowly with buying patronage from the rulers regardless of the cost to others, as reflected in this leadership’s obsequious support for the 1948 Citizenship Bills, like the majority of Ceylon Tamil representatives no less. The fallacy of playing it safe has been dashed by Sinhalese mobs – with the rulers’ backing – attacking Muslim places of worship and businesses, as they did Tamils on several occasions starting from 1956. In turn, Tamil nationalist leaders, waxing in righteous indignation, have told Muslim leaders to withdraw their support for the Rajapakse regime, forgetting their own duplicity over the final ignominy in Mullivaikkal. This arrogance towards Muslims is aided by expatriate influence and money, and the Tamil media, which deceive the Tamils into fatal complacency.  


11.7: The Oppressed Castes and Tamil Nationalism: Jaffna’s Hidden Internal Conflict

The organised militancy in Jaffna began with the caste struggles of the 1960s. The violence of the high castes pushed the struggle against untouchability in a militant direction. Sporadic murder of oppressed castes remained largely unnoticed. The militant stance began with the Communist Party (Peking Wing or CPP) led by N. Shanmugathasan. The earlier strand which had begun in the 1940s was led by Joel Paul and M.C. Subramaniam. Their strategy was to explain the deprivation suffered by the oppressed castes to rulers in Colombo and seek affirmative action, which resulted in political alliances outside mainstream Tamil Nationalism. This brought benefits to the people, especially in education under Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It was a situation where oppressed castes were forced to seek legitimate help from outside, and in doing so they became vulnerable to being branded as traitors by the nationalist camp that did not want to look squarely at caste oppression…

In Jaffna itself this phenomenon of attempting caste liberation by adopting high caste values and practices is one of passive acceptance of Hindu upper caste ideology that demeans them. The LTTE was critical of the caste system, but without political substance it had no agenda for caste liberation. During its domination the high castes sought its patronage and even manipulated it, but their room for mobilisation was limited.


The LTTE is gone now, but how the oppressed castes who now comprise up to an estimated half of the population, fare post-war could be gauged from their representation in the recently (September 2013) elected Northern Provincial Council. [11] The Tamil National Alliance controls 30 of the 36 seats; of them the number of oppressed caste members is only three. Of the five provincial ministers, none is from the oppressed castes. Though hardly anyone talks about it, it is a token of what imitation of high caste ideology and religious ritual really means to the oppressed castes.


The militant movements failed the oppressed castes by trying to use them by talking about caste liberation without any programme or political content. A glance at the phenomenon of caste violence will show that the militant groups were mainly used to tighten upper caste domination…  

1970s and Continuing Violence: Violence against the oppressed castes continued with impunity in those times that still had functioning law and order, despite the LTTE becoming active with the murder of Alfred Duraiappah in 1975. During 1977, in Mylankadu, Erlalai, thugs working for the high castes, burnt a house on land where the high caste land owner had been trying to evict the tenant, killing Veeramuththu’s two children and his mother-in-law. Kunasingam remembers the corpses looking like roasted pigs. No arrests were made. 

In January 1982, Annasamy, a driver attached to the Ceylon Transport Board from Punnalaikadduvan North, was returning home to Eevinai after work, when he was intercepted by thugs working for the high castes and cut to pieces. Kunasingam took the relatives of the deceased to Chunnakam Police Station and made a complaint. Arrests were made and the case was heard in the Mallakam Magistrate’s Court by Judge C.V. Wigneswaran, who had earlier viewed the corpse at the site.

By this time the militant groups had become active and it was easy for high castes who had the ear of the militant groups to brand active members who fought on oppressed caste issues as traitors or informants and have them killed. Asked if it was the main nationalist groups, PLOTE, LTTE and TELO who did this as opposed to the more left groups, Kunasingam said he would not exclude the latter, all were capable of it. One of those killed in 1982 was Rasasekaran from Eevinai, who was active with Kunasingam. He was taken from his village by the LTTE, shot and burnt in a hole. The local situation had become too dangerous for Kunasingam, who left for employment in Saudi Arabia in early 1984. When he returned in 1987, he found those arrested for Annasamy’s murder at large. Apparently, the case had been dropped. He said there are many instances of such killings, which were hardly reported or investigated.

Kunasingam told us, “I do not blame Wigneswaran personally for the failure to bring Annasamy’s killers to book. There was a worsening situation in the North and by mid-1983 routine police work was at a standstill. But there was a general systemic trend. Were the victim of high caste, the case would have been wrapped up speedily and there were several months in which the job could have been done. It is the same even today. When the oppressed castes go to the Human Rights Commission or to the courts, they seldom get fair treatment.”…

Post May 2009: When the war ended all sections of Jaffna society were faced with an uncertain future. Those who had relied on LTTE patronage had to realign themselves. Religious groups had to think of new groupings to look after their interests in a field where the Government, Army and the EPDP were the main dispensers of patronage. And certainly Christian dignitaries too made their own useful contacts.

The direction of the society however is determined by how, in the absence of moderating principles, dormant prejudices, weaknesses, interests and ambitions of the leading forces coalesce and marginalise others. As regards caste, the process of acculturation, cooptation and patronage confuse the scene and make it harder to discern discrimination. Tamils as a whole have faced institutionalised discrimination in Sri Lanka, which is commonplace and well-known. But what the oppressed castes, whom we consider part of the Tamil nation, suffer, is both devious and largely suppressed.

We give the cases of Miss. Malar Sinniah who was principal of Kopay Teachers Training College and Mrs. Navamany Santhirasekaran, principal of Imayanan (1C [12] ) School in Vadamaratchy; both oppressed caste women in top rank jobs suffered devious acts of discrimination on account of it. Miss. Sinniah was removed from her post and ordered to spend the last one and a half years before retirement signing at an office, overnight reduced to a nondescript, without any charges being made or reasons for the action being inquired into within the mandatory three months. In her place a far less qualified high caste person was made principal. Going deeper into Miss. Sinniah’s case shows caste discrimination to be part and parcel of far reaching corruption in our educational establishment, where mafia-type intimidation is deployed by our putative educators (see Appendix 11). A body of high caste officials seems to have canvassed her superiors in Colombo and got them to act against her as Tiger woman. Were the Tigers in power, they would have branded her as anti-Tiger to the same end. Petty vindictiveness is seen in the manner the local authorities have hounded her…

Caste mentality is the thin end of the wedge that opens the door to widespread disregard for the rules, rank favouritism and debasement of merit in our educational environment. The most subtle weapon in the hands of those in power is deniability by distorting the rules and throwing malicious doubt on the credentials of those who have been cheated.

Rajadurai and Sivalingam: Kunasingam holds that the targeting of oppressed caste folk who come up in life has not ceased to this day. He gave the example of Central College Principal Rajadurai and Education officer Sivalingam. It is true, he said, that Kanapathy Rajadurai was killed on 12th October 2005 by the LTTE, ostensibly as reprisal for the State’s killing of Principal Sivakadatcham, but it could not have happened that way unless plans for Rajadurai’s murder had already been in place, awaiting a pretext. This reading has similarities to the murder of Principal Anandarajah in 1985 (see FN.1 of Ch.3). Kunasingam added that the LTTE had no reason to target Rajadurai and they usually made allowances for people in positions; Rajadurai had no more contact with the Government, Army or the EPDP than others in his position – e.g. Principal Sivakadatcham – had, and Rajadurai was certainly not an army spy. Kunasingam is convinced that some who did not like persons of Rajadurai’s caste in high positions had fed stories to the LTTE to have him killed.

Markandu Sivalingam (52) was Deputy Director of Education in Jaffna, from an oppressed caste, and was shot dead by gunmen who entered his house on the night of 26th December 2010. No one was arrested. It was amply clear that unless the killing was done by agents of the state, the Government would have left no stone unturned to find the killers at a time it claimed to be in complete control. Reasons for the killing were rumoured, such as Sivalingam had spoken out against the order to have the National Anthem sung in Sinhala-only – a rumour dismissed by concerned observers. Kunasingam, who knew Sivalingam well, said that he was a retiring man of moderate habits not given to political posturing, who suffered in silence insults alluding to caste.

Kunasingam added that before he was killed, Sivalingam had told him that he faced threats to his life from several persons, including X, who was senior in the educational field. Kunasingam knew X as one connected to the SLFP like himself, but also as one who helped the LTTE in logistics. Moreover, Sivalingam was promoted and was to assume the post of director of education the next day, which has left Kunasingam convinced that it was a caste killing done by priming official killers with false stories about Sivalingam. Moreover, Kunasingam said, X had told him that Sivalingam was killed because he had made a pro-LTTE speech at a function the previous day.

When told that those who knew X, did not regard him as capable of such harm, Kunasingam responded, “There were serious problems in what he told me. Sivalingam had neither gone to a function, nor made such a provocative speech. Even if X was not directly involved, he was spreading a false story intended to shift the blame. Look, the ethnic problem is a grave one, but the Sinhalese will neither admit that, nor their active or passive connivance in impunity and violence against Tamils. They don’t want to let go short term benefits that come from denying another community its rights. Caste is like that. It is a bigger issue here [in Jaffna] than the ethnic problem.”

The feelings and judgments of a man like Kunasingam who has dealt with countless cases of caste abuse and discrimination need to be taken seriously by those who mean Tamil society well: “We have won several battles. Formally there are no barriers now. The high castes sit with us and eat with us at functions, but that is deceptive; what is in their heart is quite different. Their intention is to use invisible means of manipulation to keep us in the category of pet dogs…  

“How the system works against us is very evident in the outlying villages in Jaffna. Many of our people live in crowded dwellings with hardly room for a lavatory or a well. If our people move into vacant crown land, immediately the Headman or Divisional Secretary would resort to legal action. If a high caste person does this they would help him to legalise his occupation. Take the Valikamam High Security Zone (HSZ). The Army is wrong to occupy the lands. But when the [nationalist] TNA brings foreign dignitaries to see those displaced, they take them to the squalor of IDP camps, almost exclusively occupied by oppressed castes from the HSZ. When protests are mounted, it is the oppressed castes who are mobilised to defy the security forces. The occupied land however, is owned mainly by the high castes who hold the titles, but have largely moved to suburban Jaffna or far beyond.

“The question is what is in it for the oppressed castes, whose misery and desperation are exhibited in the fight to redeem the land? It is they who broke the rocks, made the land fit for cultivation, and labour to make it produce, but barely own a viable patch of land. We only want to live in dignity and equality with others. But this is not what the TNA wants. The Tamil nationalists have offered token representation to a few from the oppressed castes. They are then used to consolidate high caste ideology and politics. Individually they and their families might do well. When those who are coopted commit abuses they are protected. But their record is one of betrayal. Very frankly I would support the Government rather than a high-caste dominated polity. Even governments bow down to high caste pressure, but what benefits we have, we got mainly from governments. The TNA wants to get rid of Major-General Chandrasiri from the post of governor. I could any time talk to Chandrasiri in a friendly and companionable manner. Could I do likewise with our elected Chief Minister, Wigneswaran?”

The question was put to Kunasingam that even well-meaning members of the high castes would dismiss what he has said as one-sided and many of the cases as having another side to them. He answered, “Take the lifting of a heavy stone. As one not directly involved, you would see that the stone that was on the ground had been lifted up. But he who lifts the stone knows how his muscles and sinews were strained in the act and the pain various parts of his body endured.”…

11.8 Masquerade for Power


Tamil nationalism and its mindset are reflected in the state of our institutions. C. Suntheralingam, the pioneer of the Eelam slogan, voted for the 1948 Citizenship Bill, but resigned from the cabinet thereafter. G.G. Ponnambalam, leader of the Tamil Congress, gave in 1947 the Indian Tamils a solemn written undertaking, “I pledge to support and shall adhere to the demand of the Ceylon Indian Congress for the rights and status of Indians in Ceylon” (S. Nadesan in the Senate, 15 Nov.1949). But Ponnambalam’s voting against the first Citizenship Bill appears merely a matter of timing. He was negotiating for a cabinet portfolio (as Muslim leaders have regularly done).


A few days after 22nd August 1948, when the first Citizenship Bill was passed, Ponnambalam called on D.S. Senanayake. It was a ‘historic’ event, as related by Senanayake’s valet Carolis to J.L. Fernando (Three Prime Ministers of Ceylon, p.26): “Sir, the Tamil worshipped the Sinhaya (Lion)”. Ponnambalam on seeing Senanayake come out ‘bent down and made obeisance in Oriental fashion’. Ponnambalam voted for the next two bills that sealed the fate not just of the Indian Tamils, but of all the minorities. So much for our much vaunted Tamil intelligence! Prabhakaran’s willingness in 2009 to sacrifice countless civilians in an attempt to save his own self followed in the same hallowed tradition of betrayal. 


The Rajapakses and their cronies relished the patriotic aura of having rid the country of Tamil terrorism. Their irrationality in blessing the Bodu Bala Sena’s anti-Muslim rampage appears to have much to do with their need for another patriotic cause, given urgency by the unearthing of the Matale mass graves in November 2012. That discovery, of course, is connected to those Sinhalese youths horribly tortured and killed during the late 1980s JVP insurgency. Matale is a rural town in the Central Province, from where many deprived Sinhalese youths joined the insurgency. The same crew acclaimed the heroes of Mullivaikkal in 2009 was active in Matale in 1989. [13] Where does this leave the humanitarian war claims?


The top-level justification for the huge toll in extra-judicial killings, while crushing the JVP, was the unverifiable presumption of 10 percent [resolute cadres] among those ‘taken out’ (Ranil Senanayake, Groundviews, 24. Feb.2013). The JVP, having supported the Government’s ‘war against terrorism’ in 2007 with no admission of its former lamentable role, has been caught in a dilemma over the Matale graves.


While immediate responsibility for the crimes lies with those giving the orders and the armed men under them, the greater share of the blame belongs to members of the intelligentsia who forged ideologies of murder. Their fantasies of wish fulfillment poisoned the masses and egged on politicians looking for means to consolidate power.


A young Sinhalese man asked his colleague, a senior engineer and Marxist who stayed in Jaffna through the worst years, for his view of changes after the war. The senior replied, “Murder has greatly diminished, but the rest of the rot remains intact.” He later explained, “It was not merely a few who implicitly supported the LTTE’s murders. But it was only a few that kept their moral convictions and quietly opposed its actions.” Jaffna now faces dilemmas similar to postwar Germany. The victorious government sought outward demonstrations of support only as a cover for its repression, a practice that made it easy for those complicit with the LTTE to change masks and be rewarded…  


…A number of individuals had come to the conclusion that Prabhakaran had to be killed for the good of Tamil society. We have here the dilemma of responsible action that we encountered in the Introduction. This is a dilemma of individuals who see that there can be no possibility of the rule of law under an oppressive regime that has closed all avenues of peaceful change. In doing such a deed the individuals act on their own responsibility in a lawless environment without any possibility of institutional support, ready to answer for their own actions. [14] This is very different from an established state killing those who had surrendered – an act totally repugnant to the rule of law.


Scarred by its opportunistic dalliance with the LTTE, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), post war, had an opportunity to exorcise this legacy. It needed to open its doors to persons who had stood up to the LTTE, be responsible in public utterances and build bridges to other communities. Instead the TNA has without any soul searching harped on the same rhetoric that spawned the LTTE for cheap gains. TNA has kept out the very persons who consistently defied the LTTE’s terror and would have brought with them an agenda for social emancipation, badly lacking in the TNA. With characteristic double-speak the TNA would go on avoiding the question whether its leaders killed by the LTTE were traitors or martyrs. It is a lurch to the right with nothing to offer the Tamils.


The TNA’s September 2013 NPC election rhetoric capitalised on latent nostalgia for the LTTE in the barren aftermath of its end. Their campaign was high on Tamil military valour with little on the reality of actual suffering. More abhorrent was the TNA trying to score points over the civilian dead in the final blistering ignominy of 2009, who were victims of Tamil nationalist egotism and cowardice, no less; and its glaringly insensitive use of the Tiger dead, many of them cynically conscripted after all hope was lost. Far from model heroes of platform rhetoric, these wretches wanted to, if possible, throw their guns and run away. The lies of convenience and empty rhetoric piled on these hapless victims will cost us dearly in the coming years. The violent fragmentation of Tamil politics began in 1972 with the fatwa against ‘traitors’ from a Federal Party platform. 


Instead of looking inward, our politics are stuck in the mire of the pot calling the kettle black. We have all been criminals in word. Deeds are a mere corollary. After eight decades of experiencing Sinhalese and Tamil nationalisms, what is most evident is that Sri Lankan experience of nationalism has been primarily a negative phenomenon. The Tamil-speaking people will do well to seek a leader outside mainstream Tamil society – a Hill Country Tamil or a Muslim, pragmatic, but firm on principle. 


This book began with an analysis of state racism through the legal instruments of the Citizenship Acts, and the institutionalisation of militarisation through state practices of Sinhalisation which exclude Muslims and Tamils. The analysis in this chapter comes full circle by focusing on the exclusionary impulse within Tamil nationalism that produces a mirror image of Hindu majoritarian casteism as a form of racism directed at oppressed castes, Christians and Muslims.


11.9 Hope and Betrayal: the Militancy of Rajani’s Generation


Born in 1954, Rajani’s generation occupies a central place in the early militant struggle, which Rajani’s daughter Sharika Thiranagama calls the ‘popular militancy’ of the 1980s in her book ‘In my Mother’s House’ (Pennsylvania University Press, 2012). She distinguishes this from the LTTE-monopolised militancy of the 1990s centred on recruitment through a quasi-state structure, tending increasingly to conscription.


The popular phase was marked by a yearning for egalitarian social transformation, besides liberation from Sinhalese chauvinism. Spontaneous public support refused to distinguish one militant group from another and longed for unity. This is illustrated in what the mother and aunt of Sakthi, of the EPRLF women’s wing, told LTTE cadres who came to arrest her niece in December 1986: “If you are going to shoot, then shoot us.” “Who are you?...You are not the only people in the struggle. We have helped your movement and we will help other movements too, they have come to fight, just like you”…The aunt even grabbed their shirt and told them “If you shoot, then shoot me.”


“Thus in the 1970s and the 1980s, the LTTE was one of the many different militant groups rather than the only significant one…Thus the widespread mobilisation of Tamil youth into militancy cannot be explained through the LTTE’s own account of its rise to power as an organic fact of evolution of Tamil nationalism and Sinhala chauvinism …Moreover, Sivaram’s figure of 44,800 people [in the militant movements] is around 2.8 percent of the overall 1984-1985 Sri Lankan Tamil population of the northeast. This 2.8 percent were almost all from the same generation – approximately ages 16 – 29. [The LTTE had in the mid-1980s, less than 3000 full-time trained cadres.] This concentration of militancy in a particular sizeable age range gave it intensity and high visibility in Tamil life in the north as a whole.” As Sharika recounts in her book,


“This…illuminates how central and yet completely unexamined the phenomenon of popular Tamil militancy was, one that haunts the lives of Tamils in their forties and fifties. The LTTE rise to supremacy saw 80-90 percent of those who had ‘risen up’ against state discrimination imagining themselves freedom fighters become labelled potential Tamil traitors instead. While current accounts have treated other Tamil militant groups as marginal to the story of Tamil nationalism, and the LTTE, I attempt to shed light on the marginal who were in fact the majority.”


And yet the dedication of the best of a generation became an embarrassment to the Tamil elite, who buried their memory under a mass of calumny, strewn with epithets such as traitor and quisling. What Sharika does in her book is attempt an archaeological exploration into this human debris. The betrayal of the generation was multi-layered. Indian tutelage was among the severest strains placed on the popular militancy. Its leaders became obliged to Indian handlers rather than to their grass roots. Sharika quotes a former TELO militant:


“The problem was that all the movements quickly turned to violence for everything. Whenever anyone talked something different, they said he was…against the movement …[and] the response was to chase [them] out or kill them. [We are answerable.] We could have changed it and we didn’t.” The LTTE alone had a clear notion of where it was headed:


The LTTE disavowed any hint of the agenda of social transformation that had characterized youth mobilization, and concentrated on building the vertical ties of Tamil nationalism. LTTE settled on the pursuit of land, tradition, and inheritance, all that the 1980s youth were frustrated with. The lives and deaths of traitors and martyrs, lives that were sacrificeable without retribution, became the central premise around which politics and Tamil life could be produced.” Its constituency is immediately evident.


Two events in Jaffna at the end of 1986 could be seen as the last gasp of the popular militancy before the LTTE’s final crackdown. One was the students’ protest over LTTE’s abduction of the student Vijitharan. Those who actively participated were ordinary people and young students, many of whom had militant links, but were disillusioned with their India-based leaderships. The other was the women’s protest on 12th December led by the EPRLF Women’s Wing. Sharika quotes Sakthi:


“…we wanted to be united, to discuss our nation and women together, and we wanted to say that you shouldn’t use violence against each other. The march wasn’t just women in our movement; it was also women from outside the movement who supported us. Many women came for that march from all ages: young, old and middle-aged.”


The following day the LTTE banned the EPRLF. The women who took part in the march had to go into hiding. Some were protected by their homes and villages in defiance of the LTTE. The success of the LTTE’s repression left the society facing moral anarchy as betrayal became nothing to be ashamed of. Sakthi was in her village when the IPKF (Indian Army) advanced in 1987:


“We were at home; the command was all in India…we were so angry. We had suffered already under the IPKF; we could not believe it. Not just our family, but we had seen what had happened in front of our eyes. All the deaths…we were so affected by this and on the radio they [EPRLF in India] were saying that the IPKF had not hurt anybody; that women had not been raped and so on, just lies…We were telling them [the EPRLF leadership] that people won’t accept us if we ally with the IPKF.” [15]


Despite internal misgivings the EPRLF allied with the IPKF: in a betrayal of its original vision of being a people’s democratic movement. The move was enjoined by the logic of militarisation, which led to distancing itself from the people and total dependence on India, especially after the LTTE cut off by violence all its political space on the ground.


During 2004, preparing for another round of war after the Karuna split, the LTTE unleashed another spree of assassinations targeting political opposition. Many of the victims were from the ‘popular militancy’ of the 1980s who painfully underwent soul searching and were an asset the society could ill afford to lose. Sharika observes:


As assassinations increased…the LTTE labeled all these as killings by ‘paramilitaries’, recusing themselves from such a label. Groups such as Amnesty International would only report the deaths of those who were not members or attributed members of formerly arms bearing groups (‘paramilitaries’)…the SLMM (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission) comprised of five Nordic nations overseeing the ceasefire did not count these assassinations as violations of the ceasefire. These deaths [which reached deep into the roots of Sri Lankan community owing to the wide prevalence of some form of militant politics among both Tamils and Sinhalese] were considered flotsam and jetsam from another era.”


Ultimately the dishonour heaped on the idealism and sacrifice of our lost generation of the popular militancy, owes much to the influence of the Tamil elite on foreigners: a cold hearted elite with no empathy for the lives or the suffering of people at home, having not the least sense of responsibility.


Sharika finally poses a question to survivors from the lost generation of the popular militancy, the generation of her mother, who, like several others of her time, wanted a united people’s struggle with its accent on social transformation; and experienced the sting of its perversion from both within and without:


“…this past militancy and shared biography, in ambiguous ways ties even those who oppose the LTTE to the LTTE. Now they, like all of us contemplate a new future. If fear of the LTTE imprisoned so many ex-militants in Sri Lanka and colonized the pasts of those abroad, then what will the sudden collapse of the feared but heavily invested presence of the LTTE do? Will this mean that Tamils will have to reflect more on their culpability for a culture of violence? If many saw their withdrawal from public life as the result of LTTE violence, now what will happen? One of the things I hope I have done here is to make it possible to understand and formulate more critically some of the pressing concerns for Sri Lanka today, not least the way Tamil political culture has been shaped and why it continues to produce particular politics of guilt, nostalgia, ‘failure’ and grief.  


11.10 Rajani’s Vision

Like the Youth Congress, Rajani – a graduate of Jaffna College – continually pressed for greater openness, finding strength in doing so. She advocated not grand initiatives but change through local initiatives in all concerns of life. We give below the words she penned for UTHR(J) Report No. 2 in early 1989:

In the aftermath of the October (1987) war amidst the feeling of near complete collapse (structurally, functionally and spiritually), the University community was ready to clutch at any straw. Thus, unlike in the past the University community was ready to listen to arguments for non-partisan attitudes and collective action. The first moves to assert institutional self-will, and collective activity started against the currents of the external situation of IPKF’s pervasive presence and terror, LTTE’s boycott campaign and the internally debilitating culture of patronage. It was also felt that the University should not only put forward its case, but also the case of the larger community, especially in instances of human rights violations. Though at first these suggestions were viewed with antipathy, the reality of the entwined destinies of the University as a community and the voicelessness of ordinary people convinced the majority.

“[The problems faced daily by students and employees] led the University community to organise and act with its limitations of its members. This process led to much disagreement, as well as debate. It was held by many that the principal aim of the University was to survive, and must therefore desist from getting involved with problems of the wider community…The view that finally held sway was that: Survival for its own sake was meaningless unless it was survival for the good of the community. We could not therefore separate ourselves from it. Moreover, outside our narrow walls we too were ordinary citizens. [Our persistent efforts at challenging the authorities and representing our problems] helped in creating an atmosphere or dignity for the institution and the University community.

Concurrently we strove to strengthen our unions, tried to organize our energies to approach problems in a wider context. One cannot say that the going was easy. Past experiences, mistrust, inbuilt frustrations and prejudice were in the way of coming together. Again reality proved that moves in this direction were our only hope of survival.

On another but complementary direction we started a process of self-criticism through dialogue and discussion and tried to re-examine our past and look into future – not directed by fear, but by fundamental principles of justice to the people. Thus we were critical of local militant groups, both with regards to their terror and murder as well as the actions that create conditions resulting in wanton, purposeless sacrifice of ordinary people.”

A people’s strength cannot be judged by head counts. Only our crude form of democracy fosters that illusion. But hasn’t being the majority been the downfall of the Sinhalese, who have allowed unscrupulous persons to wield unchecked power in their name? Minority communities can choose whether to be weak or strong. Strength comes from our ethical standards and the incomparable asset of a reputation for being trustworthy.

Rajani believed that with a democratic culture and greater openness Tamils could stand up once more as a liberated and prosperous people. 

11.11 A Last Word

In the preceding chapters we have dwelt on events and developments linked to Rajani’s assassination and her several premonitions of death. Did she receive definite signs and yet return to Jaffna and continue her work despite these? As far as we know, she did not confide in anyone about any specific warning portending her death. She valued life and was mindful of her responsibility towards her two daughters.

Her sister Nirmala too is unable to explain these premonitions, except to observe that unlike her, Rajani had something of a religious temperament. Every responsible person must of necessity carry a reserve, a reserve that is sacred ground, where other mortals must fear to tread. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who represented the best in German culture, put it aptly in his Letters and Papers from Prison [16] :

I believe we Germans have never properly understood the meaning of reticence, and that means in the last resort that we have not understood the status corruptionis of the world. Somewhere in his Anthropology [Immanuel] Kant makes the shrewd observation that the man who ignores outward appearances and repudiates everything external is a traitor against humanity.” Elsewhere he adds:

“…In a flower garden they grub around for the dung on which the flowers grow. The less responsible a man’s life, the more easily he falls victim to this attitude…It is as though a beautiful house could only be known after a cobweb has been found in the furthermost corner of the cellar, or as though a good play can only be appreciated after one had seen how the actors behave off-stage.”

Like the rest of us Rajani was human. She will be remembered for her sensitivity, deep concern for people, and for her tremendous sense of responsibility in standing up for her principles in a time and situation where few others dared.


Rajani's considerable talents, education, and career were avoidably dashed to the grave – and by this reckoning, one might judge her life a failure. But such an assessment would fail to account for the powerful example she sets even in death. Above all, Rajani sought humanity; she acted decisively and honestly when, all around her, others were being degraded by poverty and systemic violence. She understood that a community's greatness depends on all its members finding justice. 

Our hope: that every generation will yield men and women who can rise with principle to learn from the examples of courage that have preceded them – men and women like Rajani Thiranagama.

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[1] As much as Sri Lanka will not have a ‘Truth Commission’ in the lines of South Africa (even there, has black or white apartheid ended?) a slow process of reconciliation is on track in Sri Lanka and this must be supported and nurtured in order to counter and dilute parochialisms [among Sinhalese and Tamils]…” – Sudharshan Seneviratne, Professor of Archaeology, University of Peradeniya, The Island 21. Apr. 2010.

[2] This may have been done first at Jaffna Central College under Percival, in Jaffna College under John Bicknell, and St. John’s under Henry Peto and perhaps earlier at several Roman Catholic schools.

[3] Examples of the former name followed by the new: Avarankal Methodist Mission School – Nadarajar Vidyalayam, Ariyakulam Methodist Mission School – Sanmarkam Mahavidyalayam, Atchuvely American Mission School – Atchuvely Mahavidyalayam, Velanai American Mission School – Velanai Saraswathy Vidyalayam, Allaipiddy Methodist Mission School, Allaipiddy Parasakthy Vidyalayam.

[4] Postwar, the Archaeology Department is being used in a big way to convert historic sites in the North-East having long recognised plural traditions into Sinhalese-Buddhist sites. Another instance is the official replacement of the Kanniya Hot-Wells traditionally linked to the Ravana legend as the site of a Buddhist monastery. There were undoubtedly Buddhist connections to the region, but largely Mahayana.

[5] Ethnic Consciousness in Sri Lanka: Continuity and Change, Navrang, New Delhi, 1984

[6] 1918 lecture at Ananda College , Colombo , from pp 91-92, India in Ceylonese History, Society and Culture by M.D. Raghavan.


[7] On the peopling of Britain for example, archaeological evidence rules out ‘the popular model of Britons being ethnically cleansed or annihilated by waves of Saxon invaders’ moving from east to west (Carolyne Larrington on Guy Halsall’sWorlds of Arthur’, TLS 4 Oct.2013). An alternative model argued is that a considerable number of Saxons had been inducted into Britain by the Roman Empire , by 300 AD, as mercenary troops or auxiliaries along frontiers. The old English language being predominantly Saxon with few Celtic loan words, as opposed to Latin, is explained by a kind of Low Latin having been the lingua franca. Celtic influence on English shows regional variations and is held to be much greater than originally thought. See Stephen Laker, University of Leiden,

[8] “Barbarians Within,” Colombo Telegraph, 31 Mar.2013

[9] Which is about the proportion of Muslims in the country.

[10] Responding to the interviewer’s question on what the President was doing to stop attacks on minorities, the President said, There were some incidents and you have to go into the background of why they were attacked. A seven year old girl was raped. It is natural they will go and attack them no matter what community or religion they belong to.” The President had used a totally false incident where a love affair between a Muslim youth and a Sinhalese girl had been turned into a child rape story.

[11] In the caste structure of the Sri Lankan Tamils, the Vellala elite occupy the peak position as the dominant caste. Vellalas at the next levels and the Brahmins are also considered to be upper caste. In all they comprise 40% of the Tamil population. The middle castes comprise 30%. The remaining 30% are the downtrodden people who toil at the lowest level – S.K. Senthivel (FN.28). The five service castes who toil at the lowest level – Pallar, Nalavar (Toddy Tappers), Paraiar, Vannar (washermen) and Ambattar (Barbers) – are known as the Panjamar

[12] IC, having A. Level Commerce, but not Science, 1 AB, having A. Level Science

[13] The Defence Secretary and the commanders of the 53rd, 57th and 58th Divisions involved in the last phase of the war have been named in Gota’s War or by the Government’s media spokesman.

[14] One can find illuminating analogies in the history of Germany and its Nazi movement. In the late 1930s, the German Army’s Commander-in-chief Werner von Fritsch and Chief-of-staff Ludwig Beck, while in sympathy with ideological elements of Nazi propaganda, had begun to be uneasy. In a move to enforce Nazi control on the Army, the regime in 1938 framed Fritsch in a scandal. Other officers knew the accusations to be completely untrue. For Germans who had been blind to the treatment of Jews, this was another clear danger signal. But in the Prussian tradition of obedience Beck refused to let Franz Halder, alater commander-in-chief, talk to him about their chief Hitler’s shameful treatment of Fritsch. With this choice, this obedience, these men lost the opportunity to check Hitler. Helmut Thielicke observes (Between Heaven and Earth, James Clarke & Co, London, 1967), “One can only guess how thorny was the inner path that led this Prussian officer [Beck, in 1944,] to become the military head of a rebellion and to approve the attempt on Hitler’s life. He too paid for it with his life.”    


[15] The advance party of Tamil speaking soldiers of the Indian Army who entered Urumpirai were restrained and told the people to move away, warning them that those coming behind are unpredictable. Those who remained suffered many atrocities.

[16] Having been a pacifist and become familiar with Nazi atrocities, Bonhoeffer concluded, “the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.” He became active in the German resistance, which also smuggled out Jews. His specific role was through his church contacts, to inform and place the case of the German resistance before the Allies. By 1942, it was clear to thinking Germans that the war was lost. The idea was that a promise of generous terms by the Allies would tip German officers sitting on the fence to aid the resistance and end the war sooner. Bonhoeffer had a committed ally in George Bell, Bishop of Chichester and member of the House of Lords, but the British government ignored the resistance. One may compare this with the fate of the democratic Tamil resistance, which was largely ignored.

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