In this exclusive, Lankaweb presents the final part of the introduction to H. L. D. Mahindapala’s book titled: The bloody road from Vadukoddai to Nandkadal
Posted on February 28th, 2011

Part III

Understanding the whole from the parts and vice versa tends to dominate the study of history. It is this symbiotic relationship that weaves the panoramic view of history. Of course, the grand sweep of history has to be viewed in parts “”…” parts such as periods, regions, themes, castes, clans, class, etc., which are necessary and valuable tools for the mapping of history. Periodization, regionalization or thematization is vital to bring order and perspective into the chaotic mass of history. But the problem arises when historiographers pick starting points that are convenient to their contemporaneous political agendas. The impact of picking arbitrary, or politicized starting points, can lead to gross distortions of the realities underpinning the present. Under certain tense and trying conditions the consequences of such ideological distortions can lead to prolonged and intractable political violence. 

The Sri Lankan crisis is a notable example of political violence arising from ideological distortions. Extremist violence that reigned supreme in the northern and southern regions in the post-colonial period had its origins in ideologies constructed to breed and instigate violence against the state and/or ethnic communities.  In the south a diluted and distorted version of Marxist extremism exploded with unprecedented violence. In the north violence erupted with ideologies of mono-ethnic extremism. Both ideologies were grabbed by the disaffected and disillusioned youth who were trapped inside a stagnant system that failed to provide upward social mobility. Both were peripheral movements that challenged the democratically elected centre as the demon that must be slain for their liberation. Both aimed at skipping the evolutionary processes of history with a view to leap straight from an inherited status quo into the future through violence endorsed by their political fathers as the way out.

Both relied exclusively and excessively on violence. Both groups sank in the rivers of blood they generated. Both ideologies misled the youth with promises they could never achieve. Both were misled by political ideologues who exploited the frustrations of the time to justify violence as the only means to a soteriological end. Both were born out of ideological distortions, perversions and fictions.

Of the two, Tamil violence of the north inflicted the most amount of suffering on their own people. The violence that came out from the mythologies embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution dragged the Jaffna Tamils from Vadukoddai to Nandikadal. The Jaffna Tamils, like the other two Tamil-speaking communities, had all the opportunities to co-exist with other ethnic communities without going down the road from Vadukoddai to a futile end in Nandikadal.

So was this Vadukoddai War necessary? Did it solve any of the major issues that were raised, with ideological and theoretical justifications? Did the Vadukoddai ideology liberate the Tamil people from their perceived “enemies” or did this ideology inflict more suffering and oppression than the perceived denial of rights by the so-called “Sinhala governments”? Since they failed to achieve their ultimate goal of Eelam, with all the might of Jaffna Tamils thrown behind Prabhakaran, do they still want to take the Vadukoddai road to nothing? Why did the academic and public intellectual gang up collectively to justify the fascist violence that flowed from the Vadukoddai Resolution into the hands of Prabhakaran when they knew that ideological, theoretical, historical, political hypothesis on which it was constructed were racist, fictitious and untenable? [4] Though in the heat of the raging war there was a general taboo to question or criticize the theories and the ideologies that rationalized the Vadukoddai violence in hindsight it is obvious that the Vadukoddai thesis “”…” particularly the finger-pointing at the Sinhala-Buddhists of the south as the sole cause — has come apart, both as an ideology and as an agenda for reconciliation and peace.   

This makes it imperative that the interactive, intertwining northern forces should be factored in to arrive at any balanced assessment of the north-south conflict. But in the conventional thinking that ruled some of the best minds the northern factor was hidden, or marginalized almost as an irrelevancy that had no bearing on the north-south crisis. The main thrust of the diverse studies, researches, analyses was to blame the south exclusively, exonerating the north as the victims of Sinhala-Buddhist discrimination, oppression and denial of minority rights. This mono-causal theory gained currency in fashionable intellectual circles as the heat of the Vadukoddai violence escalated after the passing of rhe Vadukoddai Resolution in the late seventies. The obvious fact that a crisis of this magnitude could not occur without complex forces inter-acting and intertwining was not taken into consideration in the political calculations of the one-eyed theoreticians. The debate was hijacked by a pro-Tamil lobby that manufactured theories for the origins, justifications for violence and excuses for the perpetuation of the Vadukoddai War. This book is an attempt to explore the northern factors to fill in the blanks and dispel the myths and the politicized history that have clouded the hidden realities behind the Vadukoddai War.  

In conclusion, I wish I could echo the words of Bhikku Mahanama, the father of Sri Lankan history, (though not so comprehensively or intricately as Herodotus) who wrote at the end of each chapter in Mahavamsa that it was “compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious”. Much as I would like to say so, there is not a shred of evidence to prove that the Vadukoddai Resolution that resulted in the Vadukoddai War was aimed at producing serene joy or piety. Of course, the northern and southern terrorists took to violence hoping to usher in their promised lands with a kind of ideological piety which they believed would bring them serene joy. Both failed, making both violent movements unnecessary and avoidable political cimes.

 In the final calculation, the price for pursuing politics of violence to the bitter end “”…” even when the options were there to avoid the needless deaths of Tamil civilians used as a human shield — was paid by the fathers, the children and the grand children of the Vadukoddai Resolution. The irony of it all is that the children of the Vadukoddai Resolution turned the guns of Vadukoddai violence first on the fathers of the Vadukoddai Resolution. Then in last days of the Vadukoddai War the children of the Vadukoddai Resolution went for the under-aged grandchildren. The first born of the Vadukoddai Resolution, who swore to fight until they achieved Eelam, went down ignominiously waiting for international rescuers to save them. They waited in vain because the rescuers never came. In fact they were marooned and isolated in the cold waters of the Nanthikadal Lagoon. Nothing is left of them now “”…” not even a shred of their vaunted Eelam which was almost within their grasp under provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement. 

 Mrs. M. Amirthalingam, widow of the slain leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, Appapillai Amirthalingam, who was also a prime mover in formulating the Vadukoddai Resolution, expressed the futility of their bitter struggle when she said: “I think they (the Tamil Tigers) lost an opportunity to solve the issue. The LTTE should have negotiated a political settlement with the government while they had power.” [5]

What is left of the Vadukoddai War is only the sound and fury of destructive political violence that dragged the Jaffna Tamils to their lowest depths at the bottom of Nandikadal Lagoon. It was a meaningless war waged by ideological fanatics who refused to accept reality and overreacted, exceeding their limits of power. The initial success of their violence made them believe that they were endowed with the invincible power to dictate to the world, just not to Sri Lanka.

Drunk with the power of the gun they lost sight of the ground realities. After President Ranasinghe Premadasa initiated diplomatic and military moves to force the IPKF out of Sri Lanka the Tamil Tigers took credit and boasted that they even defeated the world’s fourth largest army. Events proved that they over-rated their power and went for the overkill. When they collapsed they had no one to blame except their own conceited folly. After eliminating all his Tamil rivals Velupillai Prabhakaran stood triumphant on a mounting pile of Tamil corpses. But it was a Pyrrhic victory. By sticking intransigently to violence he painted himself into a corner which took him all the way “”…” not to Eelam “”…” but to Nanthikadal Lagoon.

It is a tragic story of good people following misguided leaders drunk with the power of ideological fantasies.

 At every critical stage of their escalating demands they were offered the best deal that was possible, as will be shown later. Even in the last stages they had the next best thing to Eelam when “the Sinhala government” (as they say) of Ranil Wickremesinghe signed the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). The Jaffna Tamils were given on a platter the maximum power they could hope to achieve under the prevailing circumstances, particularly considering the political parameters drawn by the international community which refused to grant an independent state. But obsessed with delusions of invincible power, partly derived from the military solution endorsed in the Vadukoddai Resolution and partly encouraged by equally delusional interventionists like those in Tamil diaspora, academia, I/NGOs and Churchmen, Prabhakaran refused to face the grim political realities confronting him.

 As usual, the Tamil leadership carrying the burdens of the Vadukoddai ideology threw away the last offer that came with international guarantees in the same arrogant fashion as their predecessors who rejected the most generous offers given to them by “the Sinhala governments”. They gambled with the lives of the innocent Tamil civilians even when they knew that they were defeated. They also refused to negotiate except on the extremist terms laid down by them. They were demanding that all other communities should give into their extremist demands, as if all the other communities were placed in history to fulfill only their insatiable political illusions. In the end they wrote the darkest chapter in the history of Jaffna in the blood of the innocent Tamil civilians. Tamil Tiger violence, combined with fascist terror, reduced the proud Jaffna Tamils to subhuman victims of the ideology that promised them a separate state which never materialized.

 Jaffna Tamil addicted to divisive politics, based on the mono-causal theory of blaming the “other” in the south, came to believe that a separate state was round the corner and all what they had to do was to finance and promote the violence to achieve it. The separatist ideology also demanded total obedience. Though the misguided Tamils invested all that they had in the separatist ideology they got nothing in return. The ideology that promised them everything boomeranged on them, leaving them with nothing. In the end neither the ideology nor the ideologues and their fellow-travelers were there to save the Tamil separatists. The sweet irony is that the task of saving the Jaffna Tamils has fallen once again upon the shoulders of the Sinhalese “”…” the community vilified by the Jaffna Tamils as oppressors and aliens.

 The ultimate victims were the Jaffna Tamils who were misled by their political Pied Pipers with their mono-ethnic extremism and unrelenting commitment to violence. The Vadukoddai War was a gamble for all or nothing and, in the end, the Jaffna Tamils got nothing. The misguided and power-drunk Tamil leadership is responsible for their burial in the unmarked, unseen, unsung watery grave at the bottom of the wind-swept, hoary lagoon of Nanthikadal.

 The tragic story recorded in this book is a straightforward narrative of arrogant political mythomaniacs who sacrificed their people on the altar of their fictitious ideologies bred and nurtured in the insular and dark womb of mono-ethnic Jaffna.


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