Lanka Web presents the introduction to H. L. D. Mahindapala’s book titled:
Posted on February 24th, 2011

The bloody road from Vadukoddai to Nandikadal.

 Part 1

The post-Prabhakaran period, settling down to a new era far removed from the blinding smoke of gun fire and exploding bombs, opens up new perspectives to view the past that was dominated by dogmatic ideologies, theories and formulas constructed for the analysis of the convulsive events that shook the nation to its foundations ever since the Jaffna Vellahla elite declared war on the rest of the nation on May 14, 1976 in the Vadukoddai Resolution “”…” the most explosive force in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka. Eliminating the Vadukoddai violence has eased the inhibiting ethnic passions and the obfuscating heat of divisive politics and created a more dispassionate ambience to revisit and review (1) the primary sources of violence, (2) the inter-acting north-south forces that exacerbated ethnic tensions and (3) the meandering course of violence that ended in the Nandikadal Lagoon.

 The punditry of ideologues, particularly in the pro-separatist lobbies and NGOs, went down with Velupillai Prabhakaran in Nandikadal Lagoon on May 18th 2009 “”…” the day the Vadukoddai War ended. The motivational power of the Vadukoddai ideology that led to the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War (give or take a few days) too has lost its force as it sank in the Nandikadal Lagoon and those who are still tied to the northern separatists and their “aspirations” are floundering in an ideological vacuum because the old theories no longer fit into the new realities. The Tamil separatists lost not only their most formidable leader in Nandikadal Lagoon but also the motivating power of the Vadukoddai ideology which formed the basis for academics, public intellectuals and Jaffna Tamil politicians to justify, sustain and prolong Vadukoddai violence.

 By and large the dominant ideology prevailing in the post-Vadukoddai Resolution period blamed the “Sinhala governments” for not accommodating the demands of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), which in the eyes of the LTTErs boiled down to a separate state with Prabhakaran as “the sole representative of the Tamils”. The ideologues in academia, media, NGOs, Churchmen and other public intellectuals generally accepted this thesis. Their theorizing, analyzing and conclusions drawn to justify Vadukoddai violence were based essentially on the mono-causal theory of blaming only the Sinhala-Buddhists. They argued that Velupillai Prabhakaran did not come out of the introverted and mono-ethnic Jaffna politics which endorsed violence and a military solution in the Vadukoddai Resolution but from a reaction to Sinhala-Buddhist politics in the south.

 Consequently, the literature that dealt with the north-south crisis tended to black out the causes that flowed from the north to exacerbate inter-ethnic relations. The internal imperatives of peninsular political culture that incrementally escalated until the mono-ethnic forces reached the peak in the Vadukoddai military solution were hardly factored into the public discourses that were managed craftily by the NGOs in particular. There was a deliberate attempt to hide the political roots of the crises emerging from the north.

 The hidden history of Jaffna, of course, raises several issues:

     1) What are the internal imperatives of Jaffna that were hidden and excluded from the political equation of the north-south crisis?

     2) Who organized, dominated and directed the hidden political culture of Jaffna and for what end?

     3) What was the disguise adopted to hide the political culture of Jaffna that was heading towards violence laid down in the Vadukoddai Resolution?

     4) How did this political culture gather momentum and power to threaten all the communities, including the dissident Jaffna Tamils?

     5) What were the characteristics of the forces of the hidden political culture of Jaffna that exploded with devastating violence right across the nation?

    6) When there were non-violent alternatives available to resolve ethnic differences (as in the case of the other Tamil-speaking communities of Muslims and Indian Tamils) why did the so-called Gandhians of Jaffna decided to go down the path of violence?

     7) Why did the doctrinaire intellectuals follow the mono-causal political line laid down in the Vadukoddai Resolution without critically analyzing the inter-acting the north-south forces?

     8) Is the ideological backing stated in (7) one of the primary causes for prolonging the Vadukoddai violence for 33 years?

 The contents of the book are designed to answer each one of these and other related issues. In answering these questions the focus will necessarily be on Jaffna mainly because the southern forces have been exploited ad infinitum to promote partisan narratives and ideologies that blamed only the south. This particular focus on Jaffna political culture is inevitable not only to answer the questions raised above but also to restore a balance in the narrative that led to the Vadukoddai War.

 If there is one crucial aspect that is missing in evaluating the intrinsic forces that led to the north-south crisis, starting from the declaration of the Vadukoddai War in May 1976 by the political caste/class of Jaffna, it is a fair balance which takes into consideration the interplay and the intertwining of the north-south forces. The inter-related, inter-active forces colliding head-on from colonial times are missing in the arguments of those who accept the Vadukoddai ideology. In the rare instances where some of the northern forces are introduced the emphasis is tilted to construct a mono-causal origin blaming only the south.  

 The imbalance is in the orthodox view that reinforced the mono-causal theory of blaming the south for the Vadukoddai War declared in the north. In this narrative the north is viewed as the victims of discrimination, denial of rights of the Tamil-speaking people, and oppression by the Sinhala-Buddhist majority. The recurring litany of accusations made by the north can be questioned and dismissed with critical analyses “”…” a task that will be dealt with later. However, the tragic consequences of this mono-causal theory have been to deny the internal factors of the north that made the Vadukoddai War inevitable. Invariably the focus is on the external (i.e., the southern) factors to exonerate the north of any blame for deciding on a military solution embedded irrevocably by the Jaffna ruling caste/class in the Vadukoddai Resolution. When there were options available for non-violent courses of action within the parliamentary process, as seen in the case of the Tamil-speaking Muslims and the Indian Tamils, it was only the Jaffna Tamils that decided go down the bloody road from Vadukoddai to Nanthikadal. And yet the finger-pointing was directed at the south.

 Besides, to accept the mono-causal view of blaming only the south is like believing in a crocodile that can fly with only one wing. One of the primary objectives of this publication is to question this mono-causal theory not only because it lacks balance but also because it distorts the historical realities that exacerbated the north-south inter-ethnic relations and led to the futile Vadukoddai War.

 Recognition of the north-south forces that met and collided is vital for reconciliation, peace and multi-ethnic co-existence. The ideology that comes out of a one-sided narrative will keep the nation divided into two irreconcilable camps. The way out of the ideological mire is to recognize the historical sequence of events where the previous acts of commission or omission led incrementally to escalate the tensions of both sides until the whole chain of events culminated in the declaration of the Vadukoddai War.

 There is a logical movement in history in which events flow from A to B, B to C and so on and so forth sequentially until you reach Z. Following this sequence of events is the most rational way of explaining the past without getting entangled in abstract theories, or starting the narrative from arbitrary or politically convenient dates. Besides, the logic of events invariably shuns fabricated theories. Fashionable theories are more like meteors: though they streak through the skies attracting instant attention they burn out very fast. Straightforward narratives are more like constant stars guiding the travelers in the dark of the night.  Plain narratives are also open-ended and not boxed in like limited theories which must necessarily exclude the inconvenient truths to gain some credibility. 

 Opting for one-sided, narrow theories, by and large, is an exercise comparable to pushing tooth-paste back into the narrow tubes with a tiny exit hole. The vast past that comes down like an avalanche cannot be packed inside tubes of limited theories. Any attempt to squeeze the complexities of the past into a mono-causal tube also distorts and dislocates the tooth-paste (the evidence) and the tube (theory) that contains it.

 My narrative, by and large, is to trace the sequence of events as recorded in the annals of our time and to follow them, without going as far as possible into abstract theories borrowed mostly from the West, to where the logic of the events move on its own volition to eventual conclusions. It will be my earnest endeavour to let the logic of events flow, uncluttered by imported theories, to conclusions which are intended to confront and contradict the mono-causal orthodoxy that dominates the public discourse.

 Besides, a plethora of theories have been bruited by various competing schools viewing the north-south crisis from different angles “”…” most of which come down to the mono-causal theory. The evolving events which ended finally in Nanthikadal Lagoon on May 18, 2009 proved conclusively that none of the popular theories that preoccupied the minds of the intellectuals in various quarters worked either in making a realistic assessment of the unfolding events or in ending the Vadukoddai War.

 The violent events heading inexorably to Nanthikadal also crushed the theoreticians and the pundits who backed the Vadukoddai violence. One lot of ideologues blinkered by Marxist theoretical dogmas and the other lot stuck intransigently in the pro-separatist NGOs, misread and misinterpreted the historical roots of the north-south crisis and projected the bitter struggle for survival of the dying feudalistic Vellahla caste in Jaffna — the most reactionary political elite in Sri Lanka — as  a “nationalistic movement” of the Tamil-speaking people.

 Jaffna was the last refuge of the dying Vellahla caste. The Vellahlas were the only ruling elite that dominated peninsular politics. The insular politics of Jaffna consisted essentially of the Vellahla hegemonists. It was driven by Vellahla casteist hegemonism. And it was manipulated for the Vellahlas to retain their hegemony against internal opposition from the low-castes and external forces of modernity undermining the last bastion of feudalism in Sri Lanka.  In the early twenties the Vellahlas were a feudalistic caste in transition to a class under colonial impact.  Their struggle was, first, to retain the feudalistic hegemony and superior status legitimized by the Hindu ideology and, second, to retain the disproportionate privileges, positions and power gained under colonial patronage. So Vellahlaism was an internal imperative that was driving the hegemonic upper-caste elite of Jaffna to fight tooth and nail to protect, preserve and maintain their feudal and colonial privileges.

 The Vellahlas could not sustain their power and positions on the dying feudalistic caste codes that protected and preserved them as the ruling elite of Jaffna. Power was beginning to slip away from them because the low-caste Tamils, after centuries of inhuman oppression by the Vellahlas, were threatening to challenge the supremacy of the feudalistic Vellahlas and assert their rights as equals in Jaffna society. Their challenge was also threatening to fragment Jaffna and weaken the grip of the Vellahlas. The Vellahlas could no longer unite the fragmented Jaffna society on the outdated Hindu ideology that sanctified casteism. They could hold the peninsula under their hegemony only under a broad secular ideology. So when the low-caste forces were rising against them, challenging the decadent, illegal, dying power base of the Vellahlas in Jaffna “”…” the only domain in which Vellahlaism was recognized traditionally as a legitimate religio-political force — they diverted attention to the “other” in the south to unite the divided peninsular Tamils behind them.

 Faced with the rising internal and external threats demonizing the Sinhalese was the most politically expedient tactic they could adopt to prop up the crumbling casteist structures. Diverting attention to the south was also the last remaining option for the Vellahlas to remove the casteist stigma and transform them into a higher class of Tamil “nationalists”. At this critical juncture, when the oppressive Vellahla hegemony was under threat, they recast and reinvented themselves as the champion guardians of Tamils not to serve all the Tamil-speaking communities, as they claimed, but to retain their hegemonic grip on the peninsula “”…” the only traditional homeland of the Vellahlas.

 The Vadukoddai Resolution was the last resort of the Vellahlas to ride on the back of the low-castes into the seats of power. The ideological industry in academia and NGOs “”…” the biggest growth industry among public intellectuals in the post-Vadukoddai Resolution period — fell in line with the Vadukoddai violence to legitimize and propagate the myth of the Sinhala bogey. Ironically, Vellahla dominance in Jaffna peninsula slipped out of their hands the day they decided to resort to violence abandoning their parliamentary politics. The unexpected consequences the Vadukoddai military solution was to transfer the feudalistic Vellahla power to the fascist tyranny of the children they fathered in the Vadukoddai Resolution. Inhuman Vellahlaism was replaced by brutal Prabhkaranism. Both were two sides of the same political coin.

 The ideologues who went along with the political agenda of the Vadukoddai Resolution refused to even look over the ubiquitous cadjan fences in Jaffna and examine the internal imperatives that were driving the Vellahla casteist elite to go down the bloody road from Vadukoddai to Nandikadal. The ideologues first backed the Vadukoddai Resolution. Then they backed Prabhakaran who came out of the Vadukoddai Resolution. But with the elimination of Prabhakaran from the political equation their theories have sunk to the bottom of Nandikadal Lagoon.

6 Responses to “Lanka Web presents the introduction to H. L. D. Mahindapala’s book titled:”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Wow! This is the truth told boldly. Most SLs fear to tell the truth for fear of hurting someone. But often they don’t realize that the person they wish not to hurt by telling the truth is a prisoner of wrong beliefs. So the best thing to do is to reveal the truth no matter how painful it is to some. Only then will that someone will realize (if he/she is capable) that there is problem with their beliefs. Otherwise they will do what they have been doing.

    The root cause of SL’s problems is Jaffna Jingoism. It must be defeated, subjugated, destroyed and turned into a subservient creature to serve us – SL – as we fancy. This is the challenge of political solutions.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Many thanks to Mr Mahindapala for bringing into the open ALL the hidden forces that has rocked Lanka for many decades. We can still feel the reverberations of Jaffna plans. It is so true that the poorer, low caste Tamil people fell from the fry pan into the fire after the Vaddukoddai Resolution. Brilliant and a must read book, we are sure – anyone who cares to defend Lanka in her hour of need should buy this book.

    The “Demonization of the Sinhala Nation” was felt keenly by us during some of our travels abroad. Many a time, misinformed foreigners (even to date) turned/turn on us Sinhalas with some anger asking why Tamils of Lanka are mistreated, when in truth they all enjoy the very same facilities that the Sinahala people do, i.e. free education, free health care, democratic rule, freedom in religion, etc.
    Portraying President MR in a negative light was/is also on the cards of those who want to ‘divide & rule’ Lanka.

  3. jayt Says:

    The “Demonization of the Sinhala Nation” was felt keenly by us during some of our travels abroad. Many a time, misinformed foreigners
    Portraying President MR in a negative light was/is also on the cards of those who want to ‘divide & rule’ Lanka.

    Misinform people and attacking Sinhalese or President is part of tactic played by tiger supporters in the west who owned news media to “trigger” Sri lanka launch programs that help their future operation. In addition to that, they used war crimes charges to ‘trigger” Sinhalese to give more power to the president where they can furthur manapulate president through their international news net work to get all south Indian tigers and other Indian want from Sinhalese right from President.

    Some westerners asking why Tamils of Lanka are mistreated; Whay they don’t ask Indian about million
    of Indian of defferent race are treated as slave? Where are Suicide bombers funded against all part of India? Where is fund raisng for all Indian groups? Where is smuggling slaved people from India except Tamil? Where is propaganda aganst India? Where is war crime charges against India?

    And today what happening in Sri lanka is what is excatly these Tiger supporters, Indian and Tamil Nudu Tigers want. This is the proof: Tigers and Tigers supporters say, Sinhalese will not win as long as Tamil population grow in Sri lanka, and Tigers lost but not Tamil. Second, Sinhalese do not have any military power to send Tamil back to India or they do not know of any other method to get rid of Tamil from Sri lanka, and if they do, Then, they will have the real permenant victory.

    All these are true. Tiger supporters are right. Tigers are right. Here is how they are right: Before 1948 some leading Indian group conspiring against Sri lanka, and Tamil Nadu and Jaffna Tamil and Indian Tamil labour become a great victory for them. After 1948, Britain gave full right to Indian decide about
    Indian Tamil labour which become a great victory for Indian and Tamil Nudu Tigers who were historically and constantly looking for opponuties to own Sinhalese land deep in the country to use for future militaristic plans. However, I do not blame Britain for this. Britain gave full power to Sinhalese and Sinhalese had full power and full right to conspire back and get these Tamil back to Tamil Nadu with or without help of any country who might help Sinhalese. And Sinhalese had that right then, have it now and have it in the future.
    Misers Bandaranayake did some but Indian cheated Miss Bandaranayake saying only we take some. And in the past UNP govt renewed it but Tiger supporting agent triggered something by covertly promoting presdent pramadasa against kandian UNPers by fueling his low caste status and arranging him to kill thousand of UNP Kandian in order to divide UNP votes and made Pramadasa canceled repatriating Tamil to get indian lobur vote and stay in power.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    jayt: Buddhist kindness to minorities may be interpreted as weakness. Laws have to be put in place at different levels to safeguard the sovereignty of Lanka. Illegal migration to Lanka must never be tolerated ever. Tough standards must be set for Naturalisation & Citizenship. If those in power in Lanka put out such laws earlier, we would never had got into trouble like this.
    We must never forget that there are vast numbers of Tamil people in Tamil Nadu who want to get out of TN because of Caste Issues and Poverty Issues. Lanka being TN’s closest neighbor will be their port of choice ! We have been prevented from developing and progressing due mostly to TN’s long standing unresolved problems impinging on Lanka & due to 500 yrs of colonial rule. So, now we must first safeguard our land from marauders while concentrating on Green (sustainable) Development and not waste our time on none important factors.

  5. Terry Says:

    HLDM writes the same old stuff.Packaged, re-packed and re-re packed. The message is the same -nothing new.
    Getting rather tedious but entertaining none the less.
    Perhaps, HLDM could share with us his experience of the Premadasa days and in particular his “take”on the demise of Richard De Zoysa. It’s only 21 years, his memory is not that bad is it?

  6. Lorenzo Says:


    It is the same old threat that is why it is the same old facts.

    The say Tamil seperatists, Tamil Elamists and Tamil racist federalists leave SL completely, there is no need to harp on this issue any more. Until then it will continue.

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