How the feudal Vellahlas dug their own graves -Part III
Posted on March 26th, 2014

H. L. D. Mahindapala

 The Vellahla political class/caste that dominated Jaffna politics in the feudal and colonial times as sub-rulers under the colonial masters was hoisted by their own petard when they passed the Vadukoddai Resolution on May 14, 1976. It was an official declaration of war by the ruling Vellahla elite against the democratically elected state of Sri Lanka. In it the Vellahlas handed over power to the militant youth to take up arms against the state until they achieve the separate state of Eelam. The Tamil militants took the guns and first turned it on the ruling Vellahlas before they targeted the Muslim and Sinhala communities.

 In  short, the children of the Vadukoddai Resolution devoured their political fathers. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the first born child of the Vadukoddai Resolution, calculated in his ruthless fashion, that the fathers of Vadukoddai Resolution must be liquidated first for him to be “the sole representative of the Tamils” —  the main objective of all Tamil parties. Prabhakaran eliminated, one by one, his political fathers — from Appapillai Amirthalingam, the successor to S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, to potential rivals like Neelan Tiruchelvam — to consolidate his position. Following the Chinese saying, he insisted that there cannot be two tigers hunting  in  the same mountain.

 Judging by his cold-blooded strategy which spared no Tamil rival, it can be concluded that Chelvanayakam escaped death at his hands only because he died of natural causes before Prabhakaran could get him. This then is grim story of Tamil politics. When the children of the Vadukoddai Resolution inherited the violent militarism legitimized in it they ran amok respecting no moral principle nor their own political fathers.

 Drunk with the power that came out of the barrels of the Vadukoddai guns the politically immature amateurs turned into terrorists disguised as “liberators”. In handing over the guns to the Tamil youth the Vellahlas also handed over their power which they had retained and exercised in the feudal and colonial times. The Vellahlas hoped that the Vadukoddai Resolution would be the birth of a new era for them to capture power from “the Sinhala governments”. But in the end it proved to be their death warrant.  The Resolution they conceived gave birth to their grave diggers. It also exposed their bogus brand of Gandhian politics.   

 May 14, 1976  was a decisive moment in Northern political history. In Vadukoddai the Tamil leadership took the decision to leave the democratic mainstream and resort to violence as a means of achieving their political goal of Eelam. By 1976 they had stretched Tamil ethnic extremism to the farthest point in the political spectrum. They had raised the expectations of the Jaffna Tamils to a point of no return. There was no higher point than the ultimate goal of a separate state. By the late 1970s it was either Eelam or nothing. And propelled by the internal forces of mono-ethnic extremism, which was honed by them in the preceding years into an indispensable dogma of separatism, the Tamil leadership that congregated in Vadukoddai opted for the military solution: the only logical move available at the time as there was no other place to go in the politics of mono-ethnic extremism. Separatism and violence were inseparable.

 Looking back in the post-Nandikadal Vadukoddai era it is obvious that it was the wrong turn. But they had no option at the time. They had created the necessary conditions through mono-ethnic extremism to paint themselves  into the corner of unattainable Eelam. They didn’t want to admit it at the time but they had to accept willy-nilly that events had overtaken them and pushed them into the inescapable corner of their own creation. They couldn’t control the forces they released by escalating ethnic demands from one extra seat in the south in the 20s, to fifty-fifty in the 30 and federalism in the forties and finally a separate state with the establishment of the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachch (ITAK ” Tamil State Party)  in 1949. Within a matter of decades in the post-independence era, they had  moved from the original “grievances” to “power sharing” to a “separate state”. The escalation from “grievances” to “aspirations” (meaning separate state) was a gigantic leap which was eventually embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution. At this point they were trapped in their concocted history and fictitious geography. They were also trapped in between their unattainable promises and hard realities of living in democratic mainstream which does not move as speedily as they would like to achieve their elusive land.

 Besides, the Tamil political parties embroiled in electoral politics of the North were competing fiendishly with each other to be the “sole representative of the Tamils”. These rival parties, whether it was G. G. Ponnambalam’s Ceylon Tamil Congress or S. J. V. Chelvanayakam’s  ITAK , had no constructive, creative or progressive political program to offer the Tamil electorate other than to claim that each would get more from “the Sinhala governments”. Their mono-ethnic  extremism was based intrinsically in the politics of Oliver Twist. The Marxist parties, both Trotskyites and Stalinists, tried in vain to break into the Northern electorate, advancing from the non-ethnic, pro-Tamil perspective. But ingrained casteism and communalism were overwhelming forces which they could not overcome. While the Marxist gained considerable ground in the open society of the South they could not breakthrough the conservative and closed society of the North. The impenetrable cadjan curtain of Jaffna kept all potential invaders that would threaten their entrenched position at bay.

 The entire Tamil political class in the North survived on a perennial diet of dogmatic Sinhala-Buddhist anathema. Their political rhetoric was aimed solely at demonizing the Sinhala South as the evil force that obstructed their path to political progress. Their tried and tested political strategy was to accuse any rival party of “collaborating” or “surrendering” to “the Sinhala governments” each time the other Tamil party decided to cooperate with “the Sinhala governments”.

 ITAK was, of course, riding two horses simultaneously by time they reached Vadukoddai. One leg was on their parliamentary seats and the other leg was placed strategically on the back of militant youth. Their argument was that since the parliamentary route had not taken them anywhere near their goal of a separate state they have opted to ride on the backs of the Tamil youth to grab power from the “Sinhala governments” and run it as an ethnic enclave exclusively for the Tamils with Tamil as the official language. They never dreamt that the forces they were unleashing would, sooner or later, turn against them. The so-called “moderate faction” was blindly opening the gates of violence which would eventually displace them as the chosen vehicle of Tamil politics. They did not have the foresight to calculate that they were taking a huge gamble.in deciding to go down the path of violence.

 They never anticipated that power would ever shift from the  Vellahlas who were the traditional and anointed guardians and holders of power. Nor did they realize that once they legitimized the arming  of militant youth that power would automatically slip from their hands and empower the Tamil militants as their successors. The Vellahla leadership failed to grasp that they were virtually abdicating power to an unknown, untried militants who would decimate them methodically and ruthlessly. The casteist Tamil leadership became their own hangmen in Vadukoddai.

 The Vellahlas were the last of the feudal remnants in Sri Lankan society. They were entrenched in Jaffna like the ancien regime. Attempts made by the colonial and post-colonial states to change the decadent, casteist ancient regime failed. The intransigent  resistance of the Vellahla caste to let the low-castes enter the Hindu kovils even as late as the sixties and seventies confirms the power of the Vellahlas to retain their feudal, casteist grip on Jaffna against the rising tide of modernity. It was obvious that Vellahla feudalism could be forced to give way to modernity only through violence. All internal and external forces to pressure the Vellahlas to restore justice to their own people by dismantling the rigid caste system and liberating  them from centuries of slavery met with defeat.

 On the eve of independence in 1948 Sri Lanka was balancing on three major  pillars : 1. dying feudalism; 2. rising capitalism and 3. the structural  legacies of departing colonialism. In short, it was a semi-feudal, semi-capitalist and semi-colonial state with two divergent brands of politics competing for supremacy. In the South  politics was mobilized around class ideology propagated by the Marxists. In the North politics was mobilized under a communalistic ideology propagated by Saiva-Jaffna-Vellahla high caste armed with an English education. The South interpreted politics in class terms and the North interpreted politics in ethnic terms. But the reality was that both were trapped in a stagnant economy where the biggest growth industry was in the public service. To be permanent and pensionable with free railway warrants was considered to be in the highest bracket of social security. Public service proved to be the primary source of income that guaranteed a secure future and social status. Since the biggest growth industry was in the public service the competition to get into the public service created rivalry between the North and the South with those competent in English having  an unfair advantage over the non-English speaking majority.  

 The English-educated Tamil Vellahlas had got into the public service first under colonial patronage and had grabbed the lion share in proportion to their population. A minority of 12% had grabbed a disproportionate 33% jobs in the public service. A popular saying which summarized the social aspirations of the Jaffnaites went like this: the son shone in Colombo while the father collected the harvest in Jaffna. The Jaffnaites argued that they cultivated their brains because they had no land to cultivate. The Jaffnaite, however, lived a double life: one in Colombo wearing trousers and, changing into customary verti the moment the morning train carrying them back reached Vavuniya,. This Janus-faced attitude was described best in the politics of Chelvanayakam who was labeled as a “trousered Gandhi”  (A. J. Wilson  in his biography of his father-in-law). Chelvanayakam was having the best of both worlds though he wanted the Jaffnaites to retain their feudal modes in every respect.

 Of course, the cultures of the North and the South differed in many respects. This difference needs to be delineated in clear terms. Jaffna was introverted. The South was extroverted. Jaffna was a closed society. The South was an open society. Jaffna was mono-cultural. The South was multicultural and cosmopolitan. Under colonialism the power of feudal casteism was attenuated in the South. In the North it remained as the dominant political forces ruling every aspect of religio-political life. With the impact of Buddhism the South was humanized, tolerant and inclusive. Under the grip of the Hindu casteist ideology the North was rigid, intolerant and exclusive. There was ample space in the south to breathe the air freely. The North was a narrow peninsular enclave that held the individual in the unrelenting grip of vicious socio-religious rigidities and even in shackles of slavery. The North put up defences against advancing modernity. The South took to modernity like duck to water.

 When the Jaffna man comes down south he lets his hair down and opens up like a bud. But he withdraws instantly like a snail into his peninsular shell when he returns to his home in the North. Consequently, Jaffna politics was shaped essentially by the narrow peninsularity of the Northern mind. In fact, it is recorded that Chelvanayakam never bought a house in the south fearing that his children will be polluted by the cosmopolitan culture of the liberal south. Like the Vellahlas who were bent on preserving  their caste purity Chelvanayakam represented the typical Jaffna mentality that was committed to retain the peninsular insularity in all matters ” from religion to the politics to caste, to food, clothing,  you name it.  It was by retaining peninsular feudalism that the Vellahlas could retain their casteist power anointed by Hindu religion.

 Jaffna truly was the heartland of the Vellahlas not  the Tamils as such. The Vellahlas found in Jaffna a haven for their feudal and colonial privileges, perks, powers and status.  The Vellahlas could not find this privileged status outside the boundaries of the peninsula. This was inevitable because the Vellahla customs, traditions, laws that preserved the Vellahla supremacy did not exist outside Jaffna. The enshrined Tesawalamai law which legitimized and enthroned the Vellahlas as the supreme masters were valid only within the boundaries of the peninsula. Hence their emotional attachment of Jaffna.

 To perpetuate their elevated status on an outdated feudal ideology the Vellahlas had to preserve the peninsula and its environs intact as an exclusive domain that would guarantee their casteist power and  privileges. But by the 30s the casteist ideology that legitimized their supremacy during feudal and colonial times had lost it validity. It was the fear of losing everything they had that turned them into communalists as the last resort. The only alternative was to flog communalism as a unifying force that could hold Jaffna together under the grip of the Vellahla supremacists. The rise of communalism in the thirties was symbolized by the virulent anti-Sinhala-Buddhist campaigns of G. G. Ponnambalam ” the fanatical founder of Tamil communalism who claimed 50% for 12% Tamils, also twisted as 50% for 23% minorities..

 After him came the deluge. All events since then led to historical and  geographical fabrications in Vadukoddai, illusions of  Eelam, fantasies of Prabhakaran and finally the reality of Nandikadal. 

6 Responses to “How the feudal Vellahlas dug their own graves -Part III”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    One aspect of Sri Lankan Hindu Tamil culture that must be stated is that they are starkly different from the Indian Tamils. The Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils worship Kali and Skanda with thousands of animals being offered as blood sacrifices on their alters of blood in their Kali Temples. Any Indian Tamil Swami would run screaming to the nearest spiritual cleansing ceremony if he were to ever be in contact with a Sri Lankan Hindu Kali worshiper.

    This is an important difference for all of South India’s culture are extremely steeped in vegetarianism. Their holy cities of Madurai, Tanjore, Cidambaram, Kanchipuram (or otherwise known as the “Varanasi of the South) do not have a single temple dedicated to Kali and the ritualistic slaughter of animals on alters of blood. This particular barbaric version of Hinduism is part and parcel the culture of the Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu population. To the South Indian Hindus the Sri Lankan Kali worshiping, animal slaughtering religions is spiritually filthy and so are the people.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Unfortunately Tamils have created ANOTHER JAFFNA in Colombo.

    Disgusting GHETTOES in Vellahla-watta, Kottan-Chennai, Wattalei, Deiwelai, Kochchi-kodai, Kirulabbannai, Mattakkuli, Mothara, Kollupiddi. This is like a CANCER.

    Dismantle them before dismantling shanties in Wanathamulla.

  3. Nimal Says:

    They are the most sneakiest lot I encountered in by life. They all enjoyed all the generous privileges of having the best jobs in the government but they betrayed us. Now they are living abroad on false claims as refugees. My short business life in Jaffna found that they were discriminating against their own humble people. Likes of Prabakaran should have fought the injustices of the high caste people who supressed their own but not the government that paid for their welfare.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    HLD,

    Thank you for going, once more, to the heart of the Tamil problem.

    ————

    Only Tamils of Dalit or low caste origin practice Animal Sacrifice. Sri Lanka paying dearly for earlier now diluted Tamil Caste system in the North. The Social Disabilities Act of 1957 brought forward by SWRD Bandaranaike, enabled low caste Tamils of the North to enter kovils and their children to actually enter a class room and gain an education. Successive GsOSLs have liberated the Caste/poverty bind of the North through Free Education and job creation by the governments, while erasing the Class structures all over the island too.
    So, how can the Government of Lanka (any government) be the enemy of the ordinary Tamil folk ?

    Please read book “Untouchables” by Dr Narendra Jadhav which reveals in a compassionate manner the whole story of ‘Untouchability” in India, the same practices carried out, of course, in Tamil Nadu, and then carried on in the North of Sri Lanka.

    Book review says : “Every sixth human being in the world today is an Indian, and every sixth Indian is an untouchable. For thousands of years the untouchables, or Dalits, the people at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, have been treated as subhuman. Their story has rarely been told. This remarkable book achieves something altogether unprecedented: it gives voice to India’s voiceless.
    In Untouchables, Narendra Jadhav tells the awe-inspiring story of his family’s struggle for equality and justice in India. While most Dalits had accepted their lowly position as fate, Jadhav’s father rebelled against the oppressive caste system and fought against all odds to forge for his children a destiny that was never ordained.
    Based on his father’s diaries and family stories, Jadhav has written the triumphant story of his parents — their great love, unwavering courage, and eventual victory in the struggle to free themselves and their children from the caste system. Jadhav vividly brings his parents’ world to light and unflinchingly documents the life of untouchables — the hunger, the cruel humiliations, the perpetual fear and brutal abuse.
    Compelling and deeply compassionate, Untouchables is a son’s tribute to his parents, an illuminating chronicle of one of the most important moments in Indian history, and an eye-opening work of nonfiction that gives readers access and insight into the lives of India’s 165 million Dalits, whose struggle for equality continues even today”.

    ———-

    Today, the Tamil Diaspora, which got to the west using the self created and trumped up false Riots of 1983 which also rode on the back of the Cold War politics of that time, is USING the west against the very country that helped them, Sri Lanka.
    What can we say but ‘Shame on You’ to the Diaspora Tamils who continue to bring false allegations against their Mother country, Sri Lanka. Except for a few fearless Tamil Diaspora folk who tell the truth, the rest continue to vilify the land that helped them.

    When will this untruth stop ? The Vadukoddai Resolution (1976) is still in place and not revoked. The Tessavalami is still in place and not removed. What is the TNA doing about these injustices against the very country that they and their families depend on ?

  5. Senevirath Says:

    FUDAL VELLALAS WERE SLAVE OWNERS. KOVIYAR NALAVAR PALLAVARS WERE SLVES UNDER VELLALAS

    NALAVAR AND PALLAVA CHILDREN WERE PAWNED FOR 6 “”phanums”” EACH AND LATER “”redeemed”
    IN 1821 BRITISH FREED ALL FEMALE SLAVES

    NOW THEY WANT SINHALESE AS THEIR SLAVES ARIVAR OR SAGES WERE THE HIGHEST CAST BUT LATER

    VELLALAS BECAME MORE POWERFUL AND RICH UNDER BRITISH AND WERE VERY MEAN TO THEIR OWN POOR VELALAS
    POOR VELLALAS WERE MENTIEND AS FALLEN VELLALAS””VEELKEDI ULUVAR””

    THIS IS THESAVALAMAI””RATE SIRITH””

  6. Nanda Says:

    VESAWALLAs are now digging MR’s grave.
    When will this bugger wakes up ?

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