Separatist political battles fought in  the fields of  history
Posted on September 7th, 2018

H. L. D. Mahindapala

One of the imperatives that drives the Tamil separatist lobby is the yearning to be on the side of history that makes them look and  sound great. They need this appearance of greatness most of all to sustain their claim for a separate state — their modern political  agenda.  Without this feeling of greatness they feel inadequate because they are overwhelmed by the monumental history of the Sinhala-Buddhists who were the makers of history as revealed in  recorded art, architecture, language, hydraulic engineering, culture and civilisation. In the absence of comparable historical achievements the Tamil ideologues labour indefatigably to fill the vacuum with either scraps picked up from here and there, or imaginative creations of their  own.

Challenging or denigrating the present and the past of the Sinhalese has been a part  of  the Tamil separatist strategy to claim a greatness superior to that of the Sinhalese and the  other communities, including the Tamils of Batticoloa and the Indian Tamils in the estates whom they deride as coolies. Underlying their demand for a separate state is their belief that they are a cut above the rest of  the nation. This is a noted characteristic of the Saivite Jaffna Vellalas (SJVs) who despise their own peninsular Tamils categorised as the pariahs, the outcasts.  Ever since the Dutch officially enthroned the SJVs on the top of the caste hierarchy, by legalising  the higher status of the SJVs in the Thesawalamai (1707), they had taken the upper hand to pursue arrogant and intransigent politics in the peninsula. Their demand for a separate state too is based on the political arrogance of the English-speaking.SJVs who were  anointed in the 19th century as God’s chosen people by their revered Saivite guru, Arumuka Navalar, a caste fanatic. The SJVs are also aware that they cannot claim greatness in  the present to claim a separate state without an impressive greatness attained in the past. So creating a past that makes them look great, at least in  their own eyes, is an indispensible necessity. Consequently, one of the biggest  industries of the Tamil ideologues has been to rush into the past to dig up any skeleton on which they can put  some  lipstick to make it look attractive and great. In other  words, their mission has been to politicise history to serve their present agenda. But they can’t go far into the past because history belongs to those who make it and not  to  those who claim it noisily without any substantial evidence.

Besides, history does not come out of thin air. History consists of the material conditions created by the labour of the pioneers who transformed the virgin land for habitation. Clearly, anyone claiming a superior right to own territory must prove that they were the pioneers who created the material conditions for the making of history in Sri Lanka. So what does the available evidence reveal about the original makers of history – the founding fathers who sowed the seeds for a brand new civilisation that was comparable to any other great civilisation of ancient or medieval times? What is relevant to  this discourse is the unbroken flow of mainstream  history that informed, influenced and determined the identity and the destiny of the nation as it evolved from the dim distant origins to this day. As far as it is known, there is only  one mainstream that maintained an  unbroken continuity determining the overall shape and form of  the  nation and that is the history of the Sinhala-Buddhists. Others were minor tributaries that flowed into  the mainstream.

The Indo-Aryan settlers of the pre-Christian era (Mahavamsa says they were the ”Sihalas” – VII:42)) were the only known pioneers who tamed the virgin land and prepared the ground for the rise and growth of one of the unique civilisations of the ancient and medieval worlds. With their advanced technology and their creative political skills they gave the world a new language, new culture and a new civilisation.  This achievement reduces the other competing cultures of minorities, however great  they may believe theirs to be, to a lower tier in the grand sc ales of history. The legacy they left behind makes them the founding fathers of a new nation with a distinct identity. All other migrants were mere imitators who were quite content to live in the comfort zones of the cultures they brought with them. They were basking in the glories of their imported feathers. Their imitative contributions were no match to the creative genius of the Indo-Aryans who came to be known as the Sinhalese.

From the time the Indo-Aryans stepped ashore they established an affinity with the land. They were drawn to the land instinctively as the land in which they would write their destiny. They knew that that the boats they came will be tied permanently to the  shores of new land and never be used to take them back — not even for a brief visit. They had no yearnings, nor ambitions of going back to the womb from which they came. They were permanent settlers determined to make their stay memorable and worthwhile by making their brand of history that would add to their glory in the annals of time. And as they made history in their ingenious and creative ways, history in turn would make them the supreme custodians of the land.

No one had a better right to ownership of the land as the creative custodians of the land who made history. Their commitment to  the  land as protective custodians is written in blood by defending the land against those who came to destroy their history. They embraced those who came to  join hands with them in their endeavours to make history jointly. They were equally ruthless with those who came  to destroy the history they were making. The over-determining forces  of creative history, intertwining with the people who were minting a new history, came together as inseparable and symbiotic twins feeding each other.

Nobody has a better claim to the land than those who made history in it.  After all the greatest achievement of man is in making history and though history belongs to all mankind – the Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays etc — those who made history in Sri Lanka as the founders, namely, the Sinhala-Buddhists, have a special right to claim what they made, protected and preserved as their heritage. No other community has the unique record of  protecting  the national values and its  history as the Sinhala-Buddhists. They remained as the prime guardians of the nation by protecting it  against the destructive forces of the external and  internal enemies.

Since the Indo-Aryans have been the makers of history for others to come and share, co-existing peacefully in the  historical/political space of their unique civilisation, they have the right, like all the other makers of history in other nations, to call it their exclusive and foremost homeland. They own the foremost right because they were the first to pave the path for others to follow. The others” grew in the shadow of the pioneers. As the creative custodians who laid the foundations for the birth, rise and growth of the nation they have the right to be the owners of the territory because others have not been in the forefront consistently to protect or guarantee the legacy/history  they have inherited from their founding fathers. The legatees have the  right of the first call because the others cannot match their  contributions  with that of the  pioneering makers of history.

This, however, does not confer an exclusive right to exclude the other”. In owning the foremost right the makers of history must necessarily give the other”, who came later into history, their due rights as minorities. It should be noted that one of the hallmarks of the Sinhala-Buddhist civilisation throughout known history has been the protection and space given to the minorities to live and  breathe freely with dignity. The Catholics persecuted by the Protestant Dutch were given protection in Wahakotte in Matale by the Kandyan kings. The Muslims persecuted by the Dutch and Prabhakaran were also given safe havens by the Sinhala-Buddhists. Despite the sporadic infirmities and insanities that threatened the minorities, it is not possible to deny that the Tamils ever experienced, in their entire history, including the 33- year-rule of the North under Velupillai  Prabhakaran, equality and liberty and dignity as known to them in the 70 years of Independence, which they describe as the reign of Sinhala governments”.

In the absence of a credible history to back their claims for a separate state the Tamil ideologues have laboured tirelessly to (1) demonise and denigrate the recorded Sinhala-Buddhists history, and, simultaneously (2) engage in elevating the Tamil history by inventing a new reality that never existed in the known  past, as seen in the Vadukoddai Resolution – the Bible of the Tamil separatists. The separatist lobby was desperately in need of a past  that glorified Tamil history. Their political agenda was, primarily,, to acquire power and territory and they needed a history that confirmed their claim of being equal with the Sinhala-Buddhists from the dawn of time”. They were desperately seeking to convince themselves and the others that they had shared power with the Sinhalese from the dawn of time” – a line they threw into the Vadukoddai Resolution to justify their claim for a separate state. This claim  is not confirmed by the Tamil historians who agree that the Tamils settled down as permanent settlers in the  Northern  strip only in the 12th-13th centuries. But the separatist ideologues did not  want to spoil their fiction with the historical truths. Consequently, their political strategy has been to denigrate the monumental records of Sinhala-Buddhist history and glorify a Tamil past  that exists only in their imagination.

This aspect needs to be explored at length in another chapter. However, looking back, it is clear that the Tamils of Jaffna have nothing comparable to that of the unique Sinhala-Buddhist civilisation and culture. Their claim to a statehood in an island that was tamed, cultured and developed by the Indo-Aryan settlers (Sihalas”) lacks the substance and the essence of a valid history to be equal  with  the  pioneers who made history. The Indo-Aryans dominated the classical period exclusively when they defeated and drove  out the Tamil invaders. Their supremacy was imprinted indelibly in stone, sand and sea. Chinese records state that the Sinhala kings built the tallest ships of the time to export elephants. For  all intents and purposes, the history,  the legacy, the legitimacy derived from the history and the glory belongs  to those who made history – i.e,, the Sinhala-Buddhists.

There are many teams that play in the  fields of history. Problems arise mainly when the B team and C team decide to challenge  the A team and dethrone them from their primary role of being the  original source which nurtured historical growth to be shared as a common good for all.

The overall pattern is clear : Nandikadal confirmed that new Dutugemunus will rise to repeat Vijithapura all over again. Nandikadal is also the latest instance that proves history has always been on the side of the Sinhalese at critical times. History has posed serious challenges to the makers of history from time to time but in the end it has always come round to rescue the Sinhalese. The tragedy of contemporary politics has been in the futile attempt to reverse this history. After Nandikadal the next deceitful attempt to rewrite and reverse history is visible clearly in the draft of the new Constitution-makers. Among other things, it  is an  insidious attempt to deny the legatees of the pioneering makers of  history their legacy, their territory and sometimes even their  memory. The ill-conceived educational policies of the UF government (1970 -1977),” wrote Prof. S. Pathmanathan, eliminated, almost entirely, the study of history at schools.” (p. xi – Facets of Sri Lankan History and Culture, Kumaran Book House, 2015). Dangers lurk in every nook and corner.

So will the Constitution-makers succeed in dismantling the entire historical edifice, built over millennia, and replace it with narrow compartments,  dividing the territory with  powers to separate the goats from  the sheep?

One Response to “Separatist political battles fought in  the fields of  history”

  1. Christie Says:

    It is not a “Separatist Battle”.

    It is a Supremists’ Battle.

    A battle by Indian Colonial Parasites sponsored by India.

    Sinhalese managed to beat the Indian terrorists the LTTE’

    But unfortunately we are still under their economic and political supremacy.

    Thanks Lankaweb for removing my comments from moderation that delayed my comments appearing in time.

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