Indian morality is fuelled by Tamil humbuggery
Posted on October 16th, 2020

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The Indian Government has repeatedly intervened in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka based on the assumption that the policies of Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) needs correction by the Big Brother, using the cane if necessary. This interventionist policy continues to prevail  even though the overall Indian experience as a regional power has proved that it is not  the best policy for building up trust and easing tensions and confrontations among neighbours. In the latest summit between the two heads of statesPrime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse the usual interventionist exhortations were reiterated with neither party shifting from their standard positions, or benefiting from it. It is now a predictable  ritual at Indo-Sri Lanka meetings for  India to chant the usual mantra in  which India calls on the GOSL to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect ……” 

Pushing the political claims of Tamils of the North has been primarily India’s entry point to intervene in the domestic politics of Sri Lanka. In a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society where there are rival claims  of competing communities, India has taken only the side of the Tamils of the  North. For instance, India has not backed  the claims of  the Muslims stated in the Oluvil Declaration of January 29, 2003. It has, however, backed the Vadkoddai Resolution (May 14, 1976) and actively intervened to extract concessions from the Sri Lankan government to consolidate the mono-ethnic extremism of the Northern Tamils.

This intervention on behalf of the Tamils of the North alone, which, of course, can come only at the expense of other communities, happens to be the main bone  of contention. The rationale for the intervention too is based on the litany of complaints listed in the Vadukoddai Resolution. Exhorting the GOSL to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect ……” comes directly from the political agenda of the Vadukoddai Resolution.

It is this premise that gives the leverage India  needs to intervene, assuming the role of the highly moral Big Brother ever willing to bring the little brother into line. Whether the blaming of only the GOSL (aka ‘the Sinhala state”) for  the inevitable clashes of multi-factorial socio-economic forces competing in rival fields of multi-ethnic conditions is valid or not has not been examined critically, either to understand the problem  in all its dimensions or to work out a viable solution. In hindsight, it can be argued that it is the blind-sided acceptance of a mono-causal theory, blaming only the Sinhala-Buddhists in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and, hence, multi-dimensional political environment, that distorted the rational perspectives necessary to generate conditions for peaceful coexistence.

Particularly in the post-Donoughmore period when the Tamil Vellala elite that dominated Jaffna politics realised that they were losing  their dominance in the entrenched colonial administrative and legislative seats, they laboured incessantly to manufacture a history to boost their claim to be the founders and the  masters of nation from the dawn of time”. (Vadukoddai Resolution). Their tactic was to rewrite yesterday’s history to fill in the yawning gaps to boost today’s politics. Above all, in the absence of a substantial history, they felt the  need to pose as a superior breed, standing heads and shoulders above the rest, including  the regional and Tamil-speaking Muslims. It is the self-serving conclusions derived from distorted historical realities that led to the worsening of North-South  relations – a tragic logic that ran all the way to Nandikadal.

The Tamil Vellala elite had nothing to offer by way of a political program except their claim  to be superior human beings because (1) they speak Tamil, one  of the  oldest languages in the world  (2) they were in Sri Lanka from the dawn  of time” and (3) they are the God-anointed caste, in the absence of the Brahmins in Jaffna, chosen to rule Jaffna, as defined by Saivite  casteist guru, Arumuka Navalar ( 1822 – 1879 ). It is Arumuka Navalar who played the decisive role of defining the superior status of the Vellalas. He is the most revered religious guru of Jaffna mainly because he has been the patron saint of the Vellalas, the dominant majority in the peninsula. It was his revisionist Hinduism that elevated the Vellalas to the highest caste in Jaffna hierarchy. Though he attained the status of a demi-God in the eyes of Vellalas the low-caste stoned his statue when it was taken round Jaffna by V. Navaratnam in the sixties. The Sinhala state” had to send Police from the South to protect the right of the Vellalas to honour their guru.

The arrogant sense of Vellala supremacy was taken to extreme ends. They went to the obnoxious extreme of restricting the membership of the Tamil community only to the Vellalas. They denied the low-caste Nalavar and Pallar slaves as being Tamils. They were excluded from the Tamil community.

Prof. Bryan Pfaffenberger, a leading authority on the Jaffna caste system, wrote: To maintain the social boundary between Vellalars and untouchables, Vellalas employ ritual to sustain a belief that Minority Tamils (low-castes) are a non-Tamilian, “aboriginal” people of a despicably low status…. According to extreme Vellalar thinking, this stigma denies Minority Tamils full membership in the Tamil community. The Nalavars’ and Pallars’ recent historical origins in Dutch-sponsored immigrations from South India and their putatively darker skin serve to deepen the Vellalar sense that the Minority Tamils are a people apart from the mainstream….

If Vellalars deny that Nalavars and Pallalars are Tamils, as some indeed did in the early 1970s, where are the grounds for unifying the Tamil community? The Minority Tamils have long laid claim to full membership in the Tamil community, but in a way that could not fail to alarm Vellalars and stimulate a defensive reaction. As Kenneth David has noted, the Pallars of Jaffna expressly conceive themselves to be descended from one of two Vellalar brothers; after the older brother’s death, the widow-a “bad woman,” according to the tale-made the younger one into a landless slave (David 1976: 189-90). Thus, Minority Tamils’ claim to full membership in the Tamil community is also a claim to Vellalar status-which is precisely why Vellalars have fought their mobility campaigns with such vehemence.” (Bryan Pfaffenberger: Political Construction of Defensive Nationalism: The 1968 Temple-Entry Crisis in Northern Sri Lanka).

Religion, casteism intertwined inextricably with religion, and the Tamil language borrowed from S. India, were the three main strands that were rolled into one ideology– three inter-meshing forces that went to make the Tamil identity in the twentieth century. The identity politics of Jaffna was based primarily on this ideology. In the twentieth century when the Vellalas were turning  into a class from being dominant caste in feudal and colonial times they had no progressive ideology – liberalism, socialism, democratic pluralism etc — to justify their supremacy. Every one of those  ideologies would have undermined their casteist supremacy. So the Vellalas manufactured Tamil identitarian  politics as a vital for their own survival.

Their initial struggle to preserve their supremacy was based on casteist Saivism of Arumuka Navalar which they did with extra-legal force against the low-castes when necessary. But invading market forces, democratisation of the political system and modernity were undermining their casteist supremacy. It was when the outdated Vellala feudal fortress was crumbling that they took to the Tamil identitarian politics to unite Jaffna fragmented on casteist faultlines. It was also the last defence available to  them to retain their supremacy. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s last mission to the Colonial Secretary in the late twenties was to persuade the colonial masters on the necessity of maintaining the caste system for the preservation  of law and order. Every aspect of Jaffna society, everything from the womb to the tomb, was determined and enforced by the Vellala norms, ranks and gangs.

Any threat to the universe of the Vellala supremacists was seen as chaos. To maintain their supremacy they did not hesitate to reduce the low-caste slaves to subhuman conditions. In Jaffna,” wrote Pfaffenberger, in the 1940s and 1950s, for instance, Minority Tamils were forbidden to enter or live near temples; to draw water from the wells of high-caste families; to enter laundries, barber shops, cafes, or taxis; to keep women in seclusion and protect them by enacting domestic rituals; to wear shoes; to sit on bus seats; to register their names properly so that social benefits could be obtained; to attend school; to cover the upper part of the body; to wear gold earrings; if male, to cut their hair; to use umbrellas; to own bicycles or cars; to cremate the dead; or to convert to Christianity or Buddhism (Holmes1980:232-34). To enforce these restrictions extralegally, Vellalars have fielded gangs of thugs to punish upwardly mobile Pallars or Nalavars. These gangs pollute untouchable wells with dead dogs, fecal matter, or garbage; burn down untouchable fences or houses; physically assault and beat Minority Tamils, and sometimes kill them. Preceding the Maviddapuram crisis there had been several altercations in which Minority Tamils died (Times of Ceylon, Feb. 17, 1968, p. 1).” (Ibid).

One more critical issue that reveals the inhuman way in which the Tamil leadership treated their own people down the ages. It was demonstrated in 1968 when the low-castes staged a non-violent protest at the Maviddipuram Temple to gain admittance. Here’s the description  of the events that followed by Prof. Pfaffenberger: After days of tense but peaceful confrontation, the demonstration turned violent as dozens of self-styled “Defenders of Saivism,” Hindus of high-caste rank (Vellalars and their domestic servants, the Koviyars), beat back the Minority Tamils with iron rods and sand-filled bottles. Feelings ran very high throughout the peninsula, and there were many incidents of violence, some lethal.” (Ibid).

The obscene record of Tamils massacring Tamils, of Tamil oppressing Tamils, of Tamils dehumanising Tamils is the darkest chapter in Sri Lankan history. No other community was  treated with utter contempt by their leaders as the Tamils. No other community was persecuted, tortured, oppressed and reduced to subhuman slaves as the Tamils of Jaffna. It was a haven for the Vellala supremacists who ran Jaffna with an iron-fist. It was also a glorious regime for the  Tamil Tigers who turned the peninsula into a fascist gulag. But to the victims of these fascist leaders it was a hell-hole.

It is against this background that the accusation of blaming the Sinhala state” should be judged. Any judgement or accusation levelled against the GOSL must be compared  with the treatment meted out to the Tamils by the Tamil leaders. Before pointing the accusing finger at the Sinhala state” isn’t it only fair that there should be a fair and objective assessment of the manner in which the Tamil leaders treated the Tamils? After all, the Sinhala state” had  been there  only for the last 72 years. The Tamils of the North were ruled by their Tamils leaders during the feudal and colonial periods. Besides, the Tamils also  came under the rule of a Tamil leader from around 1976, after the Declaration of War by the Tamil leaders at Vadukoddai,  when the North and the East were occupied by the de facto state run by the Tamil Tigers. What kind of treatment  did the Tamils get under Velupillai Prabhakaran, their Surya Devan”? How does the treatment meted out to the Tamils by the Tamil leaders compare with the treatment they received under the Sinhala state?

So, when the Indian panjandrums pressure Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect ……” have they ever paused to ask what degree of equality, justice, peace and respect was given to  the Tamils by the Tamil regimes / leaders throughout their history? In comparison, the historical record proves that the Tamils never had it so good as under the Sinhala states”. For instance, no Tamil residing in other  parts of the world, including India, their one and only homeland, has had the privilege of being represented in  the national flag – the highest symbol of recognition and respect given to any community. The Tamils fly high among  the 193 flags at the UN because the Sinhala state” has given them their due respect and place.  Their language and their equal status have  been recognised and honoured in  the currency, the stamps and all official records of the Sinhala state”. No Tamil regime in  the past or in contemporary times  have delivered justice, however, flawed it may be, as the Sinhala state”. In fact, the best of Tamil lawyers practiced law in the courts of the Sinhala state” and not in the  Tamil courts of the de facto state of Prabhakaran. What justice was given to the low-castes Tamils protesting non-violently at the Maviddipuram Temple by the Vellalas? What equality did the Vellalas grant to the Tamil protestors when they cracked their heads with  iron rod and bottles filled with sand merely because they asked for permission to pray to the same God/s in the same  temple?

It is the Vellala leadership which dehumanised their fellow-Tamils and treated them as outcasts. It is the same leaderrship that is going behind India to put pressure on the GOSL to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect.” The Tamil community will agree, if they are honest enough, that the record of their leaders treating their fellow-Tamils stinks to high heaven. Again, they will agree, if they are honest enough, that on balance the Sinhala state” has applied the principles of equality, justice and peace in dealing with all communities. There are, of course, instances of deviating from this norm. But any judgment on an historical scale will confirm that the  Sinhala state” have been far fairer and just to the Tamils than the Tamils have been to the Tamils.

So, where does this leave the Indians who are asking the Sinhala state” to address the aspirations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and respect”? What justification is there for India to lecture to GOSL in dealing with only the Tamil minority who, tragically,  has been the perennial victims of their fascist leaders? The GOSL which has been in search of peaceful coexistence has gone a long distance to ameliorate the conditions of the Tamils. For instance, the first ever legal step to dismantle the fascist  caste structure was taken by S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who passed the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act of 1957. In 2009 it was Mahinda Rajapakse who  liberated the Tamils from the fascist tyranny of the Tamil Pol Pot.

The Tamil leaders of Jaffna, of course, have been shedding  crocodile tears for the oppressed Tamils. Their humbuggery in blaming the Sinhala state” for their failure to deliver  their  people from the systemic evils of casteism is unforgiveable. Jaffna political class has survived by passing the buck to the Sinhala state. They never took responsibility for the consequences of the decadent and evil caste system that enslaved the Tamil people from the Dutch period to modern times. What is worse is the Indian morality that goes along with the Tamil humbuggery. They know what is happening under their noses. And yet they opt to go along  with Tamil humbuggery.

Tamil leaders of Jaffna are the last whingers who are entitled to complain about the denial of  equality, justice, peace and respect” to the Tamil people. Would Prabhakaran ever have invited R. Sampanthan to be his  leader of the Opposition? Would India  have allowed Muthiah Muralidharan to step into any part of Indian territory if he was throwing hand grenades for Prabhakaran? Wasn’t it because Murali was given respect and  treated equally that he became a famous Tamilian? India, on the contrary, trained Prabhakaran to throw hand grenades in Sirumalai, near Madurai and paid for it dearly.

So, when India accepts the humbuggery of the Tamil oppressors and  lectures to the GOSL on how to deal with its most privileged minority it degrades its claim to be a moral leader. It deviates from  the Gandhi-Nehruvian morality that made it a shining star, pointing the way to peace and security in a troubled world. Following the Tamil accusations blindly has given  India a moral veneer in the past to (1) violate international law (air space), (2) train Tamil terrorists to subvert and destabilise a  democratically elected neighbour, (3) send its military forces in the guise of disarming  the Tamil terrorists it trained, financed and exported to Sri Lanka and (4) generally twist the arm of GOSL to thrust the 13th Amendment down the throat  of Sri Lanka devolving power to the Tamils – its main objective – and (5) leave Sri Lanka achieving nothing to resolve the problem after beating Sri Lanka with its Big  Brother stick.

After throwing in  all its resources, after mobilising all its diplomatic, military and economic power India is still stuck in the place where it began. Besides, Sri Lanka too has gone the distance it could to accommodate the Indian solution”. Sri Lanka even opened its gates and  invited the Indian forces to come  and  fix the problem. It accepted the Indian political formula it imposed in the form of the 13th Amendment. Sri Lanka has been bending over backwards not  to offend India. And yet, after going along with India’s solutions” s far as it could, India  is refusing to take any responsibility for the failure of its interventionist policy. It is still exhorting Sri Lanka to address equality, justice, peace and respect” as claimed by the Tamils of the North. Didn’t India come in to do that job saying that Indian Big Brother can do what Sri Lankan younger brother can’t do? So why is India pointing a finger at Sri Lanka after failing in its mission?

The fourth largest army in the world couldn’t even disarm, as promised in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, the terrorists it trained in Indian  soil. Indian meddling in Sri Lanka has not brought a satisfactory solution to the Tamils, the Sri Lankans and, least of all,  to the Indians. The issue continues to simmer with the Tamil tail twisting  the Indian head in Delhi. Consequently, isn’t its India’s duty to revisit the problem and examine critically where it went wrong and ask: why has India gone nowhere so far? Could it be  that India has got its fundamentals wrong? Isn’t it clear that India has failed, even after exhausting all its options,  because it has not come to grips with the historical and political realities that fuelled the North-South crisis? Can India  provide a solution if it can’t get its basics right?

With all its accumulated experience that adds up to a failure so far, it is obvious that India  must go for a mid-course correction. If so from where should India begin? The most appropriate place would be to test the Indian premise on which India has acted so far to intervene in Sri Lankan affairs. Accepting the usual litany of complaints made by the Tamils of the North as its official line for intervention questions India’s judgemental capacity to evaluate critical issues relevant to its national and regional interests. So where should India begin since it has failed in achieving a solution by follow slavishly the political line sold by the Tamils to India.?

It is common knowledge that if you begin with the wrong premise you end up with the wrong conclusions. No logical, rational or acceptable solution can come if you start from a wrong premise. For instance, if a new critical analysis establishes that it is the Tamil leadership that  has been guilty of denying the oppressed Tamils their rights and their due place in the sun  will not the conclusion lead to different solutions? Why did the Tamil leadership fail to redeem their own people who were suffering under the yoke of Vellala casteism? Why did they go along with Prabhakaranist fascism and blame GOSL for not giving  into his demands? Why did they pass the buck to the Sinhala bogeyman and still continue to mislead the world with their self-serving narrative?

Since India has adopted the usual litany of complaints made by the Tamils of the North as its official line for intervention it is imperative that India should, even at this  late stage, revisit its premise and evaluate how far it can go down the failed path with the Tamils. The success of foreign policies depends on objective and critical analysis, particularly if  it is stuck in a rut. No foreign policy can survive for long on myths and  fiction.

One Response to “Indian morality is fuelled by Tamil humbuggery”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Towards an Assertive Sri Lanka!

    India had over 75 years to become the benevolent Big Brother. They have miserably failed. All what they have done is to become the Great Big Black Hole in South Asia trying to suck in all in her neighbourhood thinking that is the way for her survival. As if this

    The problem of her bellicose attitude to her neighbours lies in the fact that India is a colonial construct inherently unstable and only kept together by her Indian-ness and the feeling together we are safe feeling. It has its own vulnerabilities being a union of several nations and fiefdoms.

    The only thing that can bring India together – Centrifugal Forces – are based on Indian-ness. In the absence of Indian-ness they all tend to go their own way – the Centripetal Forces. They are divided by culture, language and even geography. The ‘Indians’ become Indians only when there are external threats against India and her British demarcated territorial borders. This insecurity has become the ‘beggars wound’ which India keeps pinching and peddling to the Indians to stay together and not get balkanized. Thus, it has become a necessity to time and again pick up a ‘fight’ even with Maldives to keep India from falling apart. it is always important to show that India is threatened by outsiders – even by her frailest of neighbours – Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and mostly Sri Lanka!

    They started picking up quarrels with China in 1971 and got their noses badly bloodied and thereafter they never to tried that ruse again other than for insignificant border skirmishes! Then it was with Pakistan. The only success it had was to divide Pakistan and make the so called West Pakistan, Bangladesh. Now they have two belligerent nations on their West and East instead of one!

    The quarrels with Sri Lanka also ended up by getting a ‘bloody nose’, when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) also famously called the Innocent People Killing Force ended up raping and looting the very Tamils they came to rescue. In the end, they beat a hasty retreat taking their dead – nearly 1500 Jawans and looted booty. This left many Tamil citizens with a bad taste in their pallet about their benefactors across the Palk Straits – the Indians!

    After 75 years it is time Sri Lanka took an assertive stance and build a nation who could stand their ground against International Robber Barons – The US, China and even India. In simple words Sri Lanka must become the ‘poison prawn’ of the Indian Ocean. You eat me – you die! This is the strategy that was used by Singapore to keep Malaysia and Indonesia at bay and from devouring and destroying her.

    It is time Sri Lanka took an assertive stance and slowly started to balance the outside forces for her advantage and build up her defensive forces through mandatory national conscription. For a start Sri Lanka should volunteer for a bigger role in keeping the southern sea routes safe all the while giving the Indians confidence on the security of their southern flank from outside forces.

    India’s gambit to keep Sri Lanka unsettled and weak should not be allowed to happen! We must assert ourselves to be a force to reckon with. For this we must lay the foundation now!

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