How many nations are there in this country?
Posted on November 9th, 2011
Dr. Sudath Gunasekara: President Senior Citizens movement Mahanuwara. 9.11.2011.
This has been a very big puzzle for me for quite some time. I have no doubt that majority of you who read this note might have had the same problem. This is mainly because vey often people who mater in society, when they speak at public forum use to say “‘me rate Siyaluma jatinta”‘ meaning all nations in this country. What baffle and confuse me is the question as to how many nations are there in this country. Because I always thought there is only one Nation in this country. You would have heard and noticed this lose utterance over the TV, Radio the press, at public meetings and even at private conversations. I have seen this happening very often. Our politicians starting from the President, Prime Minister downwards, academia in universities including even some professors of Sinhala and History, few religious dignitaries, some so-called intellectuals who have got disoriented or brain washed in the course of their political and ideological transformations and many more go on uttering these lose words repeatedly like parrots most probably without knowing the seriousness of the damage they to the Nation that is Sri Lankan. In my opinion politicians who woo for minority votes to come to power, people who do not have that spiritual sentiment that infuse the sense of nationality and those who do not have a proper Jatakaya (birth) are the people who indulge in such nonsense. Of course those who really do not know the actual meaning also may use it. But they could be corrected where as the other categories cannot.
When all these big shots either driven by their personal agendas or in their ignorance of the real long term implications go on repeating it like parrots, minorities also begin to think they are separate nations. The most dangerous thing about this trend is the psychological transformation of the perception and attitude of the people that would settle down permanently in their minds and become irreversible. In this instance I would like to draw a parallel between the division of the Sinhala people living in the hills and the lowlands in to two rival groups as Kandyans and low country Sinhalese by the British. Until then they were one nation. But since then these artificially created two groups behaved as if they were two different nations and at the early stages of agitation for constitutional reforms in the 19th century they even asked for two separate federal states. Thanks to the fact they all belong to one race, speak the same language, professed the same religion and have common roots the differences were patched up and went back to square one. As such why can”‘t this band of ignoramus understand that this country, like most other countries in the world has only “…”One Nation”‘? The funniest thing is at the same time these very people talk, of one nation, some times in the course of the same speech. They say jati bhedayak neti ekama jatiyak. So it is no wonder that the ordinary people get confused and also begin to think that this country has more than one nation. The situation is made even worse when top Politicians from high flat forms describe this country as a multinational society. Minority communal elements meanwhile make the maximum use of his confusion. It is like the famous panina rilawunta iniman bendeema.
As for me from my small days I thought we have only one nation in this country. That was how the teachers of our day have taught us in school. According to them we are called the Sinahala nation and the country Sinhale, meaning the land of the Sinhala people. They also told us that that could be either because we descend from Vijaya (a man from the Sinha race whose father Sinhabahu is said to have killed the lion father) who is supposed to have found this nation or because we descend from the Sivhela namely, yaksha, Raksha, Deva and Naga who had been living in this Island long before Vijaya arrived in the 6th century BC. Since this Islandhad been known as Lanka or Lankadeepa or Lanka dvipa (the resplendent Isle) even from the time of legendary Ravana we were also called Lankan or Lankika Jatiya, meaning those who were born in Lanka. They also taught us that meanwhile there had been South Indian Tamil invaders, starting from 2nd century BC, who had been trying to capture this country from time to time. But every time they attempted to do so they were defeated and the Sinhala Kings ruled this country continuously until 1815 when the British conquered it by deceit.
Those invaders who were left behind from very early times got absorbed and integrated to the main stream and became Lankans or Sinhala people while some of them retained their religion and culture. Also in between there were others especially the Arab traders who came from time to time in small numbers, not as invaders but as traders who were later known as Muslims going by their religion. Most of them got married to local Sinhala women and even took Sinhala ge names and lived among the Sinhala people. But all these men got absorbed in to the main stream while retaining their religious identity only. In addition to the language of the country, that is Sinhala, they also spoke Tamil. This may be due to the fact that most of them came from southIndia and also they did business with both local and Indian Tamils across the sea. But the important thing to note here is that almost all these people, both Tamils and Muslims knew the language of the Land. So, even today nearly 95 % of the population in this country is conversant in Sinhala. The estate Tamils who were brought by the British after 1840s, even though they were deliberately kept separated from the local as a community also learnt Sinhala as they came in contact with the neighbouring Sinhala villages. So if you take the language as the dominant factor that unifies a nation, in this case Sinhala, what is the other name by which you should name this country? See our immediate neighbour India, then countries like Thailand, Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Spain and England to name only a few. All these countries are named after the dominant language spoken in those countries.
It is only at the Donoghmore reforms the Tamil politicians tried to establish a separate identity. With the growth of Tamil communal politics they assumed a “…”Tamil National”‚ attitude and Tamil nationalism emerged which in later years tried to assert as a separate nation within this country. No wonder these minions behave like goliaths when there are no statesmen of stature to draw the line and tell everybody that this country has only one nation and those who talk of many nations will be charged for treason or deported to their original places.
Although the idea of nationality is difficult to define the term nation in modern society is generally used to describe a community of race and language, geographic unity, community of religion, common political aspiration and, above all, historical development over a long time. This is of course not universal. But however it is essentially a sentiment of unity, spiritual in character and the will of a people to live together as Laski put it. The unity is the outcome of a common history. The Sinhala people even in this context had been a nation at least from the 6th century BC in this country. Even the four groups who lived here previously got identified as one nation as Sivhela or Sinhala. That is why the land was called Sinhale meaning the land of the Sivhela or Sinhala. With the introduction of Buddhism in 307 BC they became Buddhists and ever remained as “‘The Sinhala Buddhist Nation”‘ in this country. With all the vicissitudes of history even in 1815 more than 90 % of the people in this country came within this category.
The other thing is Tamils have a motherland in southIndiaand Muslims a motherland in Arabia where as the Sinhalese have only thisIslandas heir motherland. This was indeed their only motherland from the dawn of history. Thousands of archaeological, epigraphical and literary evidence often running even to prehistoric times spread over the entire length and breadth of this country bear enough evidence to this conclusion that has been proved beyond all doubts. Therefore it is irreputable.
In this historical backdrop Tamils, Muslims and any other minor ethnic group in this country that forms a part of the Sri Lanka nation or the Sinhala nation is only an integral part of the “‘Nation Lankan or Sinhala”‘ as this country had been known as the land of the Sinhala people right through out in history. No man or woman can contradict it unless he or she is an incurable lunatic. Therefore at least now these minority ethnic groups should understand their limitations and due role within the Lankan nation, and concede to this historical reality and learn to live with the major community without running to America, India and other countries asking to tame the Sinhala nation and thereby creating unwanted problems for us as well as for themselves. I am positive that the big majority, who are sensible, are prepared to do so. For those who are not prepared to concede to this irrefutable reality, I think, it is high time that they should renounce their craving for this day dream and go back to their own motherlands without trying to dream of a motherland on somebody else”‘s country and claiming illegal ownership of someone else”‘s soil by going round the world just denigrating our country.
On the part of our politicians I think it is high time that first they should rise above petty party politics and assert and behave as statesmen and write this provision in to the Constitution of this country and declare that anyone agitating, behaving or instigating, aiding and abetting others to talk, act or behave as separate nations or agitate for separation, contravening the law of the land, shall be charged for high treason.