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Pathways of Dissent: Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka
 2009029791, 9788132102229

Table of contents :
Contents
List of Abbreviations
Preface
Pathways of Dissent: An Introduction
1 - Nationalism, Historiography and Archaeology in Sri Lanka
2 - Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka
3 - Brides as Bridges? Movements, Actors, Documents and Anticipation in Constructing Tamilness
4 - Confi guring Spaces and Constructing Nations in Sri Lankan Tamil Literature
5 - Painting the Artist’s Self: Location, Relocation and the Metamorphosis
6 - Being Tamil in a Different Way: A Feminist Critique of the Tamil Nation
7 - Making Sense of the Census in Sri Lanka: Up-country Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism
8 - The Economics of Tamil Nationalism: Evolution and Challenges
9 - Nationalism in the Era of Neo-liberalism: The Changing Global Parameters of Self-determination and Statehood
Appendix
Bibliography
About the Editor and Contributors
Index

Citation preview

Contents

PATHWAYS OF DISSENT

Pathways of Dissent

Contents

PATHWAYS OF DISSENT Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka

Edited by

R. CHERAN

Pathways of Dissent

Copyright © International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, 2009 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First published in 2009 by SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd B1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area Mathura Road, New Delhi 110044, India www.sagepub.in SAGE Publications Inc 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320, USA SAGE Publications Ltd 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road London EC1Y 1SP, United Kingdom SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd 33 Pekin Street #02-01 Far East Square Singapore 048763 Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10.5/12.5 pt Minion by Star Compugraphics Private Limited, Delhi and printed at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Pathways of dissent: Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka/edited by R. Cheran. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Tamil (Indic people)—Sri Lanka—Ethnic identity. 2. Nationalism—Sri Lanka. 3. Ethnic conflict—Sri Lanka. I. Cheran, R. DS489.25.T3P374

320.540899′481105493—dc22

2009

2009029791

ISBN: 978-81-321-0222-9 (HB)8-81-7829-891-7 The SAGE Team: Elina Majumdar, Anupam Choudhury, Amrita Saha and Trinankur Banerjee

Contents

Contents ™ List of Abbreviations Preface Pathways of Dissent: An Introduction to Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka R. Cheran 1. Nationalism, Historiography and Archaeology in Sri Lanka S.K. Sitrampalam

vii ix xiii

1

2. Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka Ravi Vaitheespara

33

3. Brides as Bridges? Movements, Actors, Documents and Anticipation in Constructing Tamilness Sidharthan Maunaguru

55

4. Configuring Spaces and Constructing Nations in Sri Lankan Tamil Literature Chelva Kanaganayakam

81

5. Painting the Artist’s Self: Location, Relocation and the Metamorphosis T. Shanaathanan

93

6. Being Tamil in a Different Way: A Feminist Critique of the Tamil Nation 107 Radhika Coomaraswamy and Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham v

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7. Making Sense of the Census in Sri Lanka: Up-country Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism Daniel Bass

139

8. The Economics of Tamil Nationalism: Evolution and Challenges V. Nithiyanandam

152

9. Nationalism in the Era of Neo-liberalism: The Changing Global Parameters of Self-determination and Statehood Rajesh Venugopal

198

Appendix Jaffna Youth Radicalism: The 1920s and 1930s Santasilan Kadirgamar Bibliography About the Editor and Contributors Index

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208 241 266 270

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List of Abbreviations ™ AEVS ANC CERIS CFTU CP CWC DK DMK EMLF ENLF EPRLF EPZ EROS EWLF FP GCSU GUES JSS JVP LSSP LTTE

Arasaunga Eluthu Vinaignan Sangum African National Congress Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration and Settlement Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions Communist Party (pro-Moscow) Ceylon Workers’ Congress Dravida Kazhagam [Dravidian Front] Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [Dravidian Progressive Front] Eelam Muslim Liberation Front Eelam National Liberation Front Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front Export Promotion Zones Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students Eelam Women’s Liberation Front (Tamil) Federal Party Government Clerical Services Union General Union of Eelam Students Jathika Sevaya Sangamayat Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna [(Sinhalese) People’s Liberation Front] Lanka Sama Samaja Party [Trotskyist] Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

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MDN NLFT NMAT NSSP PA PCTE PFLT PLOTE SAARC SBM

Movement for the Defence of the Nation National Liberation Front of Tamileelam National Movement Against Terrorism Nava Sama Samaja Party People’s Alliance Penal Code of Tamil Eelam People’s Front of Liberation Tigers People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation Sinhala Bala Mandalaya [Circle of Sinhalese Force/Authority] SLFP Sri Lanka Freedom Party SSM Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement TELO Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization TESO Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organization [in Tamil Nadu] TMPP Thamil Makkal Pathukaapu Peravai TRC Tamil Resource Center TUF Tamil United Front TULF Tamil United Liberation Front UNP United National Party USTA United Sinhala Traders Association UTHR-J University Teachers for Human Rights-Jaffna WTM World Tamil Movement

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Preface ™

W

hile sociological and political studies dealing with Sinhalese nationalism are remarkable in quality and quantity, Tamil nationalism remained an under-researched area for some time. Important studies on Tamil nationalism were available only in the Tamil language. There was a critical need to address the complexities and contours of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka. This volume is an important attempt in that direction. Prominent Sinhala nationalist ideologue and popular writer Gunadasa Amerasekera often used the phrase ‘the post-1956 generation’ to describe the generation of Tamils and Sinhalese who were born and grew up after the introduction of the Official Languages Act, commonly known as the Sinhala Only Act. The segregation of that generation and the generations that followed along linguistic and ethnic lines was perhaps the most important factor in accelerating the nascent Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms. The history of Sri Lankan ethnic conflict tells a painful story. The essays assembled in this volume address diverse issues pertaining to Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka. This is the first time Tamil nationalism has been studied and documented from various disciplinary perspectives such as Anthropology, Sociology, History, Historiography, Political Science, Economics, Literature and Cultural Studies. My introductory chapter traces and conceptualizes the significant political and sociological co-ordinates of Tamil nationalism from its early phase to the rise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). ix

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The introductory chapter also functions as a backdrop to the overall organization of the essays in this volume. Vaitheespara and Kadirgamar provide a historical account of the emergence of Tamil nationalism and its complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with the Left movement in Sri Lanka while Sitrampalam meticulously details the Tamil claims from archaeological evidence and perspective. Nithiyanandam analyzes the economic factors that contributed to the consolidation of Tamil nationalism. The essay by Venugopal is somewhat complementary to Nithiyanandam’s work—raising important questions related to sovereignty and autonomy in the era of globalization. Coomaraswamy and Rajasingham critically explore the gendered nature of Tamil nationalism and provide a concise account of the contested nature of women’s agency in the Tamil nationalist struggle. Kanaganayakam and Shanaathanan record and chronicle, for the first time, the literary and artistic expressions of Tamil nationalism over the past two decades. Bass offers a critical perspective of an important but uneasy component of Tamil nationalism: the Up-country Tamils (malaiyaka thamilar) of Sri Lanka. Sidharthan’s essay is a welcome addition dealing with the diasporic face of the Tamils. The gestation period of this volume has been rather long. Several major events have occurred in Sri Lanka between the time this volume was conceived and the publication of it. The single most important event was the military defeat of the LTTE by the Government of Sri Lanka in May 2009 and the rise of global Tamil diaspora as a major transnational political force. While the military project of Tamil nationalism has come to a ‘bitter end’, political and transnational projects within the Tamil diaspora will undoubtedly serve as significant motors in shaping the future course of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka as well as in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia, Mauritius and South Africa. Various Tamil diaspora groups have held or are preparing for referenda seeking a mandate for Tamil Eelam, a significant development in this regard. In sum, the essays contained in this volume offer a detailed and nuanced analysis of contemporary Tamil nationalism. This volume is the result of a conference organized by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), Colombo, titled ‘Trans/ formations: A Conference on Sri Lankan Nationalism’, with financial aid from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation x

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(NORAD). This conference was a component of a project titled ‘Sri Lanka Studies Program’ initiated by the former Director of ICES, Radhika Coomaraswamy. At ICES, I would like to acknowledge the contribution and support of the past and present management, Radhika Coomaraswamy for her intellectual contribution and moral support, and P. Thambirajah, S. Varatharajan and Tharanga de Silva and the rest of the staff of ICES for their cooperation in the project. I am also grateful to the staff at SAGE Publications for their valuable assistance in the publication of this book. I would like to acknowledge, in particular, the support and encouragement of late Tejeshwar Singh at SAGE in the early phase of this book project. R. Cheran Toronto, June 2009

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Contents

Pathways of Dissent An Introduction to Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka R. Cheran ™ Naam Eelavar; Nam naadu Eelam; Namathu mozhi Thamil – Eelam Revolutionary Organizations (EROS), 19751 I am a Tamil and I can speak Tamil! – A Tamil rap song2

T

he conventional view of the emergence of Tamil nationalism places it against the background of burgeoning Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism. Tamil nationalism in this sense is a form of ‘defensive nationalism’ as Nithiyanandam correctly suggests: it was nothing more than a reaction to rising Sinhalese nationalism as well as a cry against impending economic annihilation by the majority community (Nithiyanandam 1987: 116). A deeper and more complete understanding of Tamil nationalism has to go beyond this defensive stance. This chapter attempts to provide a nuanced understanding of Tamil nationalism up to the 1990s. The emergence of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism must be linked to colonialism and the cultural, literary and religious competition between xiii

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Jaffna and Tamil Nadu. The Saiva revivalist movement among the Sri Lankan Tamils reached its peak earlier than that of the Sinhalese. Arumuga Navalar (1822–1879), the champion of this revival, was a generation senior to Anagarika Dharmapala, the Sinhala Buddhist revivalist. Navalar began working as an English teacher to the lower grades and as a Tamil teacher for the upper grades of a Wesleyan Methodist School where he had earlier completed his studies. He became an active anti-Christian and committed Saiva revivalist after he left the mission school. As a distinguished scholar and educator from Nallur, Jaffna, he spent 30 years attempting to recover and disseminate the teachings of Saiva Siddhantam (Saivite philosophy) in Jaffna and Tamil Nadu. In a typical presentation, he would explain to his audience that those who follow the Vedas, the sacred texts of Sanskritic Brahmanism, will attain merit, but those who follow the Saiva path will attain salvation (Kailasapillai 1985). He would inveigh against Brahmanic rituals and urge the people not to allow Brahmans to perform ceremonies unless they brought the rituals more into line with Saiva teachings. Saiva Siddhantam is the Tamil school of Saivism, and Saivism in turn is a form of Hinduism distinct from Brahmanic/Sanskritic Hinduism. Brahmanism draws on the Vedas, an ancient collection of hymns, prayers and ritual descriptions, whereas Saivism draws on a different body of ancient literature, the Agamams. Saiva Siddhantam in particular is traceable to the teachings of Meikanda Thevar, a 13th century Saivist. In 1888, N.S. Ponnampalapillai, one of Navalar’s close associates, founded the Saiva Paripalana Sabai (assembly for the management of Saivism). In the same year, the Hindu Organ/Inthu Sathanam—a bilingual Saiva weekly—was also founded in Jaffna. For Navalar, Saivism was a better form of Hinduism. However, he was not against the ‘Aryans’ or Sanskrit. According to him, Tamil and Sanskrit were two eyes of the Saiva tradition. His project was to carve out a niche for Jaffna Vellalas in the high pantheons of Hinduism. Vellalas, according to orthodox Brahmanical Hinduism, are Sudras, the lowest in the caste hierarchy. In the Jaffna social formation, the Vellalas are the dominant force and class and the Brahmins did not enjoy any power. They were mainly the employees of Vellalas and miniscule in their numbers. After 14 years of living and working in the Methodist Christian environment, Navalar understood the missionary strategy and tactics xiv

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for propagating their religion, mainly by using education as a tool. Navalar began to use the same strategy to propagate Saivism—a form of Hinduism practised by the Tamils of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Navalar effectively took the preaching methods of the Christians into the Hindu temples of Jaffna. His lectures on Hinduism, called prasangam, and the need to challenge Christianity took place every Friday in the evening at Vannai Vaitheeswaran temple. His sermon topics were mostly ethical, liturgical and theological. While challenging Christianity in his sermons he also critiqued some of the Hindu practices such as animal sacrifice and the practice of temple dancing. These were some of the issues that the Christian missionaries were targeting in their attacks against Hinduism. Navalar’s other major activity was the establishment of Hindu-Tamil schools in Jaffna. In September 1848, he founded a Veda Agama school and a Saiva Prakasa Vidyasaali (the school of Saiva splendour). He also established a printing press and began publishing pamphlets and tracts against the Christian faith and its missionaries. Navalar’s lecture series and public campaign continued on a regular basis for several years and he created a Hindu revival. After Navalar, his followers Kopay Sapapathy Navalar (1833–1903), Sankara Pandithar, Senthinatha Iyar (1848–1924) and Ponnambalapillai (1830–1902) continued the activities and consolidated the revival. Navalar was not a social reformer but someone who wanted to preserve the dominance of the upper-caste and upper-class Vellalas. Navalar was the pioneer of the problematic coupling Saivamum Thamilum (Saivaism and Tamil as an indivisible category that formed the basis of a centain kind of Tamil identity). The revival was infused with caste bigotry and never reached the oppressed-caste people. The oppressed-caste Tamil people were outside the revival and they were not permitted the practising of the Hindu religious and social customs, rituals and practices in any way. Navalar, and the Hindu revival he pioneered, challenged the hegemonic claims of the Christians from a position of a Hindu Vellala. The school textbooks Navalar published have no references to Tamil or Jaffna history. For him, being a Tamil meant being a Saivaite Vellala and speaking Tamil (HellmannRajanayagam 1989; Sivathamby 1990: 178–79).3 Navalar’s campaign had little or no trace of hostility to the Sinhalese, or to Buddhism or Islam, perhaps because there was neither scriptural foundation nor political cause for such sentiments at that time. In xv

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contrast, the movement led by Dharmapala was blatantly hostile to the Tamils, and to Hinduism and Islam. This is not to suggest that Sri Lankan Tamils society was more liberal; on the contrary, it was in many respects even narrower, but its prejudices in that period were focused inward and based largely on caste and region. Another difference is that whereas the Hindu revival has largely given way to a linguistic nationalism in the 1950s, the movement initiated by Dharmapala has continued in many forms and remains potent. It is difficult to assert that the Hindu revival was a form of Tamil nationalism. Nationalism involves and evolves from a fusion of several elements: language, territory and distinctions from contiguous neighbours in ways which sustain a group’s sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Nationalism as a collective identity is both intersubjective and relational. The concept of a nation, together with the idea of self-determination and popular sovereignty, argue that this collectivity must receive one’s undivided loyalty. Understood thus, it can be said that there was no Tamil nationalism to speak of. However, there was a well-developed sense of Tamil ethnic consciousness sustained by a range of everyday practices as well as by caste-based practices that maintained boundaries of exclusion and inclusion. Caste and other internal fragmentation, such as regional loyalties of the Sri Lankan Tamil population, hindered the development of Tamil nationalism. Until the mid-1930s, the influence of the Youth Congress, Jaffna (JYC) served to delay the emergence of Tamil nationalism as a political force in the Jaffna peninsula.

THE YOUTH CONGRESS, JAFFNA Jaffna, widely identified as a centre of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism all through the 20th century, also produced the earliest and most militant all-island-oriented, inclusive and trans-ethnic ‘Ceylonese’ nationalist movement. The JYC, which peaked in the early 1930s, opposed federalism and demanded quick independence for a united Sri Lanka, and rejected the Donoughmore Reforms as being too little too late (Kadirgamar 1985). Their allies across the Palk Strait were the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and not the Dravidian movement of Tamil Nadu. Their closest partners xvi

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within Sri Lanka were the radical nationalist leaders of the south, including Kannangara, Kularatne and Mettananda and the Marxist leaders, rather than the anglicized ‘moderate’ leaders of the Ceylon National Congress and the United National Party (UNP). The JYC was totally alienated both from Dravidian sectarianism in India and from local Tamil sectarianism sponsored by those, who in the mid-1930s, formed the Tamil Congress. But whereas the JYC was dominant in Jaffna in the environment of the late 1920s and early 1930s, none of its leaders could avoid being marginalized by the Tamil Congress, which dominated the north from the mid-1930s to the late 1940s. The Tamil Congress was formed in 1944 and came up with the proposition of balanced representation in the legislature. The JYC was an extraordinary phenomenon without precedent or parallel. It moved into the space vacated by the elite old guard Tamil leadership with a non-violent, secular, nationalist and anti-imperialist ideology inspired by the Gandhian movement, which was transforming the political scene in the subcontinent. The membership comprised mostly of young men who were mainly schoolteachers in their early twenties and students in their late teens. It was ‘the first attempt made [in Sri Lanka] to co-ordinate the efforts of young people of all religions’.4 The JYC was led by Handy Perinbanayagam, a newly graduated schoolteacher, who was only 25 at the time of the First Annual Sessions (29–31 December 1924). The JYC sought to overcome the limitations of its peninsular base by incorporating or establishing links with those outside that base. National leaders associated with the JYC included D.B. Dhanapala (involved in the founding), P. de S. Kularatne (elected President at the 1925 Annual Session), Swamy Vipulananda (elected President at the 1928 Annual Session), G.K.W. Perera, A.E. Goonasinghe, George E. de Silva, E.W. Perera (elected President at the 1929 Annual Session), Peri Sundaram (leader of the Up-country Tamils and a trade unionist), D.B. Jayatilleke, T.B. Jayah, C.E. Corea, Francis de Zoysa, S.W. Dassanaike, S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake, the leftists N.M. Perera, Philip Gunawardena, Colvin R. de Silva, Leslie Gunawardena, S.A. Wickremasinghe, W. Dahanayake, J.R. Jayawardena, D.S. Senanayake and Selina Perera (who was charged for sedition on account of a speech that she delivered at the 1941 Annual Sessions) (Kadirgamar 1980). xvii

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The JYC also sustained its Gandhian inspiration by reinforcing its network of linkages with Mahatma Gandhi and several of his close associates. Among those who accepted its invitation, visited Jaffna and participated in its activities were Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Sathyamurthy, Kamaladevi Chattopadyaya and Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar. It is indicative of the ideology of the JYC that the invitees did not include any of the leaders of the thenburgeoning Dravidian/separatist movement (led by the Justice Party and the Self-Respect Movement of Periyar E.V. Ramaswami Naicker) of Tamil Nadu. Long before independence, the JYC led the campaign for the use of national languages in education and in governance. The JYC succeeded in getting virtually all the leading schools in Jaffna to teach Tamil and Sinhala as compulsory subjects at the secondary level. As J.E. Jayasuriya has noted, ‘At a time when the Sinhalese were prepared to do without Sinhala, the battle for Sinhala and Tamil was fought by Tamil leaders’ (Nesiah 1981: 152). The Tamil Congress, which displaced and took over the political leadership of the Sri Lankan Tamils from the JYC, did not pick up and carry forward the national language policy of the latter. Like the leadership of the Ceylon National Congress/United National Party, the Tamil Congress was comfortable with the continuation of English as the medium of instruction in major schools and as the language of governance. When radical Sinhala leadership emerged to challenge the UNP, it was on a Sinhala Only platform. Perhaps if the Tamil leadership had retained its former national languages orientation, the challenge could have been overthrown by a radical multi-ethnic coalition on a Sinhala–Tamil bilingual platform. The social, cultural and political transformation that began in the mid-1950s might then have been unifying and not divisive and could have benefited both language groups and not just the Sinhalese speakers at the cost of marginalizing and alienating the Tamil speakers. The idealism of the JYC was not matched by political skills, as evident from the ‘boycott resolution’. The decision to boycott the first national elections based on universal suffrage (which the JYC was wholeheartedly in favour of) on the grounds that the Donoughmore Reforms fell short of ‘Poorana Swaraj [full national independence] for Sri Lanka’ underlines both the lofty idealism and the lack of xviii

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political pragmatism of the JYC. The leadership was divided on this issue since several key personnel were wary of such unilateral action. Their reservations were shared by Nehru (Nesiah 1981: xxii). The national leadership in Colombo was also divided. Several key members (including Francis de Zoysa, E.W. Perera, T.B. Jayah, Philip Gunawardena and C.E. Corea at that time and, much later, Pieter Keuneman) expressed their unqualified appreciation of the boycott, but they could not muster a southern consensus on this issue. In the event, the boycott was confined to Jaffna, and the opportunity for the JYC to secure its political base in Jaffna was lost. While the boycott was effective in the peninsula, those from Jaffna opposed to the JYC (notably G.G. Ponnambalam) moved to Vanni and secured election to the national legislative, thereby gaining a head start in national politics over the JYC. Although the latter survived for another decade, the boycott was a watershed and marked the beginning of the end of this unique youth organization. In due course, other youth organizations (notably the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the LTTE) would make greater impact on national politics, but those would be largely outside the democratic framework. Up to the time of Independence, the Tamil leadership was virtually unanimously and uncompromisingly in favour of a unitary Sri Lankan state. Even the Tamil Congress, which effectively marginalized the JYC and was promoting Tamil nationalism, did not favour federalism. Perhaps they were not far-sighted and only feared that federalism would limit their professional opportunities. The concept of federalism was introduced to the community only after independence and was resoundingly rejected, even in Jaffna, in the 1952 general elections. It was only with the Sinhala Only movement of 1956 that the Sri Lankan Tamil population opted for federalism. In due course, the political factors that united the Sri Lankan Tamil population gradually gained ascendancy (in the political field) over caste and other prejudices that had kept the population divided. Eventually, this nationalism acquired a separatist component, but this component remained peripheral up to the mid-1970s. Every candidate advocating secession was defeated at every election to every parliamentary seat prior to the 1977 parliamentary elections. The changes in ethnic and political composition of members of parliament elected from the northern and eastern provinces from xix

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the 1940s to the 1980s are revealing of underlying political developments. A continuing trend is the gradual increase in the number of Sinhalese members of parliament representing the east. One phase of the political changes was evidenced by defections of elected Members of Parliament (both Tamil and Muslim) from the Federal Party (FP) to the UNP or Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). The current phase is marked by the emergence of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress with a strong base in the east, and the decline of both Tamil and Muslim backing for the UNP and SLFP in the north and east. In an early phase (1950s and 1960s), there was an attempt to develop an overarching Tamil-speaking people’s nationalism incorporating all sections of Sri Lankan Tamils, Up-country Tamils and Muslims. This reflected, in part, the vision of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and some other leaders, especially within the FP, and, in part, an attempt to gain electoral advantages within the north-east. In keeping with this ideology, Trincomalee was conceived as the capital of the north-east region, and a few Eastern Provincial Tamil and Muslim leaders were included to join the Colombo/Jaffna Tamils already entrenched in the FP leadership. Further, the policies were broadened with a view to include the concerns of all sections of the Tamil-speaking people, including the hill-country Tamils. While the FP (later Tamil United Liberation Front or TULF) made some progress towards gradually drawing together different sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil community, it was less successful in erasing the ethnic and/or cultural boundaries that divided the Tamil speaking people into the Sri Lankan Tamils, hill-country Tamils and Muslims. At the electoral level, whereas the candidates put forward by the FP won some of the seats in the eastern province with backing from both Tamil and Muslim voters, the Muslims so elected found themselves doubly disadvantaged in a Jaffna Tamil-dominated opposition party that was itself marginalized at the centre. This situation brought them benefits neither of any access to central patronage (that cooperation with the ruling party would have given) nor of any effective political leadership at the regional level. In fact, this thinking was shared to some extent by the local political leadership of the Tamils of the eastern and Vanni districts, some of whom, together with the Muslim MPs of the east, found it prudent to cross over, soon after securing election on a FP ticket, into the ruling party. xx

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While the political initiative based on forging a Tamil-speaking people’s nationalism did not succeed, it may have helped to heighten political consciousness throughout the north-east by highlighting the political concerns of the Tamil and Muslim populations of the region. A logical development was the emergence of a Muslim political party (the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) with a strong base in the eastern province. Perhaps a strategy based on forging a coalition of one or two of the existing Tamil parties and a Muslim party with a strong base in the east would have been more effective in serving both Tamil and Muslim interests than the failed TSP initiative then attempted. K.M. de Silva’s definition of separatism ‘as a concerted attempt at the creation of a new sovereign political entity out of a larger one’ (1994: 149) is clearly incompatible with his position that Tamil separatism rose in the period 1948–1955. The Sri Lankan Tamil sectarianism/communalism that surfaced with the Tamil Congress in the late 1930s was stridently narrow and ideologically primitive— vide agendas such as the 50–50 proposal—but not separatist. The FP too was Tamil nationalist but not separatist. Despite the progressive defection of the non-Marxist parties, followed by the Marxist parties into Sinhala Only, Tamil separatism received no electoral backing until 1977. As late as 1970, when an ex-FP MP, Navaratnam, voiced his advocacy of separatism (that is, secession), the FP challenged him by nominating K.P. Ratnam to contest him. Navaratnam campaigned vigorously on a secessionist platform, and Ratnam on a federalist platform; Ratnam won handsomely. The earliest advocacy of separatism by any Tamil group of any significance was around the mid-1970s. The Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1976, in favour of separation was passed after many painful and humiliating reversals. Even at that stage it appeared that many who voted for that resolution or refrained from publicly opposing it saw it as a token protest against oppression or a strategic bargaining position rather than an expression of their aspiration. However, they miscalculated the impact of that resolution. On the one hand, the youth at that assembly took it seriously and embarked on a separatist struggle that has now developed into a civil war. On the other, it provided valuable ammunition to those of the Sinhalese leaders who organized the anti-Tamil violence of 1977, 1979 and 1981, and the island-wide pogrom of 1983. xxi

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The effective disenfranchisement of the Tamil people, with the expulsion of their leaders from parliament for failing to make a humiliating declaration renouncing secession in the immediate wake of the 1983 pogrom, led to the end of the democratic process among the Sri Lankan Tamils and the inevitable rise of militant groups that filled the vacuum created by the absence of Tamil MPs. This situation remains unchanged in that the Sri Lankan Tamils of the north-east continue to be effectively disenfranchised, that is, most of them have had no say in electing any sitting MP. Moreover, virtually all Tamils, whether displaced or not, are living under oppression that effectively curtails their political and other rights.

PARTING OF WAYS The important signals of ‘rupture’ between the Sinhalese and Tamil elite, who had been articulating the interests of their communities, came to a head between 1920 and 1930. Both elites could not agree on the communal distribution of seats in the State Council. While the minorities opted for communal ratios, the Sinhalese demanded a territorial representation, which naturally would give them a clear superiority. The result of this dispute was the break up of the Ceylon National Congress, which up to that time was committed to a secular Ceylonese nationalism and consisted of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims and operated on a ‘consociational’ basis. The prominent Tamil leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were in the forefront of the movement to create ‘Ceylonese nationalism’. In that sense, they were not different from their counterparts in the Indian National Congress. Arasaratnam suggests that the Tamil elite who had been pulled between inclusive and all-island ‘Ceylonese’ nationalism and the necessity of safeguarding Tamil interests were ‘[s]elf conscious of their ability to bury linguistic and ethnic loyalties into a secular nationalism of the Indian model’ (Arasaratnam 1998: 502). He also points to the fact that partly because of this initial weakness of the Tamil identity, colonial officials were able to ignore the demand for communal weightiness in the proposed state councils (Arasaratnam 1998: 502). The result was in favour of the Sinhalese and the British gradually yielded power to the Sinhalese. A.J. Wilson holds the view xxii

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that ‘a studied effort of consociationalism between the elite of the two ethnic groups could have prevented the frictions and bitterness that lay ahead’ (Wilson 1988: 16). Although, Arasaratnam is correct in highlighting the ‘initial weakness of the Tamil elite’ (the Sinhalese elite were not ready for consociationalism, in any way), even a successful consociationalism would not have kept both communities together for long, primarily because the central element of this strategy, as Bipan Chandra illustrates in the context of Hindu and Muslim nationalisms in India, was to bring about unity from the top (Chandra 1979: 252–73). The main thrust was to win over middle and upper class leaders. Once these leaders agreed on compromises and power-sharing, they were to bring the masses with them into a secular national stream. The basic weakness here was the failure of organizing a consistent fight and constant vigil against communalism, which was ever present. In addition, the whole strategy would have hardly had any nexus with Tamil or Sinhalese masses that had been kept unaware of the whole process. It was actually the state and its relationship to the elite that determined the trajectory of such politics. The nation was represented and symbolized by the upper class, high caste landowners. For a more meaningful understanding of nationalism, one should not overemphasize the relationship, complicity and contradictions between the state and the elite. The shift in focus from elite politics to mass politics is necessary. The kind of nationalism produced by elite politics is different from the nationalism that emerges out of subaltern politics. Unlike their Indian counterparts, the Sri Lankan elite disagreed and the rift occurred while the nominal unity of the Indian elite had to wait for some time to witness the emergence of nationalist politics from below. This was the phase of communal ratios as far as the evolution of Tamil national consciousness is concerned. According to my schema in Chapter 2, it could be said that the Sri Lankan Tamils had already passed the ethnic category phase. The next couple of decades in the history of Sri Lanka witnessed the demand for balanced representation for the minorities in the assembly. When the reform of the constitution and progress to full independence were being considered (1943–1946), the Tamils formed a political party, the Tamil Congress in 1944 and came up with the xxiii

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proposition of balanced representation in the legislature. Under this scheme, engineered by G.G. Ponnampalam, the leader of the Tamil Congress, the Sinhalese would not hold more than 50 per cent of the seats and the other communities would share the balance 50 per cent. Despite long and arduous sessions of presentation to the Soulbury Commission on constitutional reforms, ‘G.G. Ponnampalam,’ says Arasaratnam, ‘was unable to present a convincing case, on the basis of existing governmental and administrative actions or on the basis of the genuine desire and fear on the part of all minority groups that drastic checks were necessary against Sinhala dominance’ (Arasaratnam 1998: 505). The failure of the demand for a balanced representation can be attributed to the following factors: 1. There had been no serious ethnic riots or violence since the 1915 anti-Muslim riots, and Sinhalese at the mass level had not yet been misused to rouse fears among minorities. 2. Regional and caste divisions were deep in Sinhalese society, with Kandyan Sinhalese and the low-country Sinhalese having diverse and to a certain extent hostile interests. (The homogenization of Kandyan and low-country Sinhalese had yet to take place.) 3. Hence, it was not conceivable for the colonial authorities that there was an ‘ethnic unity’ of the Sinhalese, which could be mobilized against the minorities. Unfortunately, wisdom was not with them. What happened afterwards is a sorry tale. Within a few months after independence in 1948, the new Sinhala-dominated government enacted the Citizenship Act of 1948 and the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act of 1949. The results of the legislation were the disenfranchisement of Upcountry Tamils. This gave 73 per cent of the seats for the Sinhalese in the legislative council in 1952, and later 80 per cent of the seats. The disenfranchisement of the plantation Tamils created a ‘captive stateless labor force’ (Kurian 1988: 84). Another factor is that the Marxist parties had made spectacular gains in the 1947 general elections and appeared to have become well-entrenched among the plantation Tamils. This must have given an additional reason for the new government to strip the plantation workers from their voting rights. xxiv

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It was an irony that the Tamil Congress, which joined the government in 1949, had supported the blatantly racist act of disenfranchisement. That was the result of responsive co-operation and certain members of the Tamil Congress split up and formed a new political party called Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi (Ceylon Tamil State Party), popularly known as the Federal Party, led by S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. This was the beginning of the demand for federalism. Since then, no party of the Sinhalese has been able to gain any significant representation in the Tamil strongholds. Another major step taken by the new government was the dry zone colonization schemes. The policy of dry zone colonization is the opening up of jungle lands for resettlement and irrigable paddy farming. It was intended to ease the land hunger and population pressure in the wet zone. The transfer of the Sinhalese population, often recruited on the basis of political patronage, from the south to the predominantly Tamil dry zones under this scheme increased Tamil fears. Over the past 25 years, overwhelmingly Tamil majority districts such as Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Batticaloa have recorded a drastic increase in the Sinhalese population, enabling the government to create new electorates with Sinhalese representation. There is no doubt that the ulterior motive behind colonizing Tamil areas with Sinhalese peasants was to eventually transform a Tamil majority province into a Sinhala one.5 That this was the aim of D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, was revealed by one of his colleagues, D. Ratnayake (Shanmugathasan n.d.). The emphasis on the peasant colonization scheme was partly due to government unwillingness to interfere with the existing land ownership patterns. If the intention of the government was to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, it could have been achieved by increasing yields to 50 bushels per acre on the 90,000 acres then under cultivation, instead of draining away a huge volume of resources to the dry zone colonization schemes immediately (Ponnampalam 1980). But, there were much more pressing political needs. It is also important to note that industrialization received low priority. In fact, the budget allocation declined from 6 per cent in 1948 to 4.7 per cent in 1953 (Abeysekera and Dunham 1987). The main opposition came from the Marxist parties who pressed for industrialization, and these xxv

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Marxist parties, as already noted, entrenched themselves well in the plantations as well as among the urban workers of Colombo. The formation of The Federal Party in 1948, indicated a significant change in Tamil politics. At the first national convention of the party in 1951, it declared that the ‘Tamil speaking people in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood’. With the further upsurge of the Sinhala Buddhist Movement in the 1950s, and particularly after the Official Language Act of 1956, which made the Sinhalese language the only official language of Sri Lanka. It was a paradox that in the same year, Murray B. Emineau, an eminent linguist, first postulated the existence of a South Asian linguistic area and showed that Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of South Asia seemed in many respects more akin to one another than Indo-Aryan does to the Indo-European languages. The year 1956 marked not only the Official Language Act, but also the rise of Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, whose victory as Prime Minister was in many ways more than significant. The newly elected government led by Bandaranaike initiated two major processes: the desecularization of the state and the statization of the economy. These were the major instruments of a larger project of restructuring an integral system of governance to consolidate an exclusive Sinhala Buddhist national identity as co-terminus with a Sri Lankan identity. In effect, this meant the making of a Sinhala Buddhist state and meeting the social and political needs and aspirations of the Sinhala petty bourgeois. The Sinhala petty bourgeois—an alliance of middleclass officers, small landowners and Sinhala intelligentsia—was the key factor in the success of Bandaranaike. Bandaranaike summed up this cross-class, cross-caste block in his famous slogan of the ‘Five Great Forces’: peasants, workers, Buddhist monks, teachers and indigenous physicians. With the support of rural Buddhist monks, Sinhala schoolteachers and Ayurvedic physicians, the traditional opinion makers and leaders in the countryside, and stirring ethnopopulism, Bandaranaike was able to reach the Sinhala rural masses who had largely remained outside the previous constitutional and elitist politics for a long time. The combination of the Buddhist monk and the schoolteacher was a unique and powerful form of opinion making and influence in Sinhala rural areas. Bandaranaike’s timely xxvi

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and efficient co-optation of them boosted the consolidation of the Sinhala Buddhist nationhood as the only nation-building project. Moreover, the presence of the Viplavakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party (VLSSP), a breakaway faction from the LSSP, led by Philip Gunawardena, regarded as the founding father of the socialist movement of Sri Lanka, in the Bandaranaike-led coalition added a radical image. The failure of the Sri Lankan left to politicize and organize the peasantry turned out to be favourable to Bandaranaike’s populism, which promised to uplift the Sinhalese to the exclusion of other minorities. The power of the Sinhala Only Act lay in the fact that it combined one of the central elements of the Sinhala Buddhist nationalism— the vitality of Sinhalese language and its role in maintaining and defending Buddhism—with an economic appeal that put the blame of the ‘backwardness’ of the Sinhalese on the second-rate status of Sinhala language. Further, the victory of Bandaranaike and his party had cultural and ideological elements as well. The ethnic conflict generated by Bandaranaike’s grand project contributed to the authoritarianism, state terrorism and the consequent civil war in the post-1977 period.

TRAJECTORIES OF TAMIL NATIONALISM It is crucial to examine how Tamil nationalism is fashioned and articulated in the post-separatist (1977) period to show the continuities, discontinuities and contradictions in contemporary Tamil nationalist discourse. The post-1977 period is the most important period in the history of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka since it is the period of Tamil militant separatism and the subsequent escalation of the ethnic conflict into a full-scale civil war.

Tamil Eelam: A Separate State for Tamils Talk of a separate state for Tamils, before its appearance in the 1970s, was not altogether absent from the political arena of Sri Lanka. It had xxvii

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already been suggested in some quarters as an ultimate solution for the problems facing the Tamils. For example, as early as 1958, C. Suntharalingam, a conservative Tamil member of parliament rejected the idea of federal state and advocated a ‘new dominion of Eylom’ (Suntharalingam 1967). In 1958, another Tamil leader, G.G. Ponnampalam, argued that the imposition of the Sinhalese language would drive the Tamils to seek separation (cited in Kearney 1967: 113). Despite these early warnings, it was the promulgation of the 1972 Republican Constitution relegating Tamils to second-class citizenship which served as an immediate spur towards the call for a separate state called Tamil Eelam. The constitution made the Sinhalese language the only official language of Sri Lanka and Buddhism was given the ‘foremost’ status. It was the duty of the state to protect and support the Buddhist faith.6 The Sinhalese Buddhists became the preferred people of the country and citizenship was ethnicized. The earlier demands for a separate state were not articulated in terms of self-determination for the ‘minority nationality’. The first association to conceptualize the Tamils as a nationality was the Ceylon Communist Party (CCP). This took place in October 1944, when the CCP presented a ‘Memorandum on a Federal Constitution’ to the working committee of the Ceylon National Congress. The CCP maintained that both Sinhalese and Tamils were ‘distinct historically evolved nationalities’ (Roberts 1977: 2504–604). The birth of the Tamil United Front (TUF) in May 1972, which later transformed itself into the Tamils United Liberation Front (TULF) articulated the idea of nationality and self-determination. Hence, the change of name from Tamil State Party to Liberation Front is significant. These attempts on the part of the Tamils, while symbolizing the unity forged among them as a minority nationality, also emphasized the serious proportions into which Tamil nationalism has gradually grown over the years. What was originally conceived as political opposition to certain government policies had now blossomed into a demand for a ‘sovereign, separate, socialist state of Tamil Eelam’. In 1972, in the aftermath of the new Sri Lankan Republican Constitution, Tamil political parties came together to form the TUF, consisting of the Federal Party, Tamil Congress and the Ceylon Workers

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Congress (CWC). The TUF issued a six-point plan on 24 May 1972. The plan emphasized the following political demands of the minorities: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Parity of status for both Sinhala and Tamil languages Citizenship rights for the Up-country Tamil plantation workers Making Sri Lanka a secular state Fundamental rights and freedom of expression Abolition of untouchability Participatory democracy

The government did not agree to the plan. The TUF moved two important amendments before the final passing of the constitution: first, that the new republic be a federal union of linguistic states and second, that Sinhala and Tamil be recognized as official languages having parity of status throughout the island. Both amendments were defeated and Sri Lanka, as I have noted in the introductory chapter, became an ‘illiberal’ non-democratic state. The six-point plan was the precursor to later demands of a separate, sovereign nation-state for Tamils. Thirty years of Tamil political moderation and accommodation were supplanted in 1976. The Vaddukoddai Resolution on Tamil self-determination issued on 14 May 1976, most fully expressed the radical trajectory that the Tamil politics was to take after 1977, with its central commitment to the attainment of Tamil political autonomy in a socialist context. In 1976, TUF changed its name into TULF. The political and economic programme of TULF paid lip service to socialism. The TULF manifesto asked the Tamil and Muslim electorates for a ‘mandate to establish an independent, sovereign, socialist state of Tamil Eelam’ (TULF 1977: 1). Furthermore, TULF declared that all members elected would constitute a Tamil Eelam National Assembly while also serving in the Sri Lankan national state assembly. The Tamil Eelam National Assembly was expected to draft a constitution for Tamil Eelam and strive ‘either by direct action or struggle’ to achieve Tamil Eelam. Between 1977 and 1983, the demand for a separate state manifested itself in two ways. One was extra-parliamentary, with an emphasis on militancy and armed struggle; the other was within the existing

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parliamentary process where the TULF emerged as its principal organ of representation. It became the main opposition party in 1977. The parliamentary process ended in 1983 when the government proscribed the advocacy of separation. From then onwards, Tamil militancy in the form of several militant nationalistic groups became ascendant. The impact of economic factors on these developments can be seen from two mutually contradictory developments. The first one is the further deterioration of economic conditions faced by the Tamils as a community. The second one was the enhancement of the economic environment in certain Tamil areas between 1970 and 1977. The economic plight of the Tamils had been deteriorating since the late 1950s. During the decade 1963–1973, the per capita income of Sri Lankan Tamils as a community decreased by 28 per cent while that of the low-country Sinhalese and Kandyan Sinhalese increased by 18 per cent and 24 per cent respectively (Phadnis 1990: 336). But more than this, it was the curtailment of opportunities for education, especially higher education, and the consequent reduction of employment prospects in professional sectors which aroused the resentment of Tamils. They were ‘being systematically squeezed out of higher education’ (Schwarz 175: 12). The process of ‘standardization’ implemented by the government in 1972 was directed specifically against Tamil students. As K.M. de Silva explains: The qualifying mark for admissions to the medical faculty was 250 out of 400 for Tamil students, whereas it was only 229 for the Sinhalese. Worse still, this same pattern of a lower qualifying mark applied even when Sinhalese and Tamil students sat for the examination in English medium. (de Silva 1984: 107)

The restriction on university admissions in the case of Tamils was indeed very drastic. The number of Tamils admitted to university shrank between 1970 and 1975 from 39.8 per cent to 19.0 per cent.7 While total university admissions increased every year and the number of Sinhalese students entering had kept pace, admissions of Tamil students were lagging behind. Such an alarming drop in university admissions wiped out professional employment, the important and last resort of the

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Tamils. Writing on the ethnic representation in the central government employment and Sinhala–Tamil relations, S.W.R. de Samarasinghe emphasized, ‘if the present recruitment patterns which often offer less than ten percent of the places to the Tamils, is continued, it will almost certainly aggravate inter-ethnic tensions’ (Samarasinghe 1984: 182). This was the peak of a rapidly growing unemployment among Tamils. The feeling was already rife that the government was discriminating against the Tamil youth in providing employment. The discontent manifested itself in the formation of the Tamil Students Assembly and other radical youth and students’ movements. These developments had many implications for the Tamil political scene. Important among them was the emergence and later domination of middle-class youth. The Sinhalese majority government implemented the standardization as a form of affirmative action to redress the imbalance in specific professional fields which were once dominated by minority Tamils. The result of the standardization severely effected the middle-class Jaffna Tamil youth. This partly explains the origins and class character of the early Tamil militancy. Further, this trend could be understood as part of a continuing process which had been already evident at an all-island level in the post-1970 period. The emergence of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in southern Sri Lanka clearly expressed the discontent arising from unemployment among educated Sinhalese youth. The direct result of the foregoing developments was the birth of Tamil rebel organizations.

Tamil Militancy: From Nationalism to National Liberation The genesis of the Tamil militant groups was primarily the inability of the Sri Lankan state to address the political demands of the minority Tamils. The initial moderation of the Tamil leadership had to give way to a much stronger and more organized and increasingly effective Tamil youth militancy in the mid-1970s. The growth of Tamil militancy also helped to extend the Tamil struggle from an upper class to a middle-class level. The backbone of the middle class was the educated youth that had no confidence in non-violence and ‘peaceful’

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parliamentary process. It was under the United Front government (1970–1977) that Tamil youths began to form various armed groups. These militant groups differed in their programme, class analysis and the intensity of violence they advocated. However, the common thread that connected them together, at least initially, was the idea of a separate, sovereign nation-state for Tamils. The UF was a coalition of left parties, led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). There are several factors that influenced and facilitated Tamil militancy. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) uprising in 1971, which was an unsuccessful attempt, made mainly by dissatisfied Sinhala rural youth and unemployed educated urban youth, was one of the key moments of inspiration for Tamil youths and students. The creation of Bangladesh in the same year was another event that captured the imagination of the Tamil youth that had already initiated an armed struggle against the Sri Lankan state. The early leaders of the Tamil militant movement came mainly from the Jaffna middle class. All of them were one way or the other affected by the discriminatory state policies. They had been radicalized while in jail on minor charges that arose from organizing hartals, hoisting black flags and burning copies of the new constitution of 1972. They had been tortured and spent more than two years in prisons without being charged. While imprisoned, the early militants came into contact with JVP militants who also had been incarcerated following the failed uprising. The contact inspired the Tamil militants but did not mature into a joint Sinhala–Tamil youth agitation against the state. The Sinhala and Tamil youths were agitating against the same state for different reasons. The JVP uprising did not involve Tamils from the north and east. There were a few Up-country Tamils within the JVP, but the JVP’s ideological position that Tamils are ‘agents of Indian imperialism’ and therefore not to be trusted, and their lack of organizational network in the Tamil areas, prevented Tamils from actively participating in JVP’s political and military programme.8 This is yet another indication as to how, by the 1970s, ethnic segregation became a major feature in Sri Lankan politics and society. It should, however, be emphasized that the spurt enjoyed by Tamil nationalism which manifested in secessionist demands and youth militancy had essentially been middle class in character. It was not until the full-scale civil war in 1984 that these class lines were crossed. From xxxii

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the beginning, Tamil nationalistic feeling had mainly been motivated by problems confronting the upper and middle classes and rarely considered issues confronting the common people. For example, the issue of standardization and district quotas in university admissions, described as ‘an issue which has more than any other factor led to the rise of a militant youth movement in Jaffna’ (Sivathamby 1984: 121–45), generated very little interest in other Tamil areas. It failed to embrace the Tamil masses, especially the peasant class. In the Jaffna district alone, according to the census of 1981, peasants comprised more than half the population. Although in Jaffna, the Vellala caste occupies a dominant position, in terms of intra-political divisions the caste system has played an important role in shaping the nature and development of Tamil nationalism. It has not only blurred class lines but, at various times, has also dampened the enthusiasm of certain sections of Tamil society, especially those belonging to the depressed caste groups. The caste system has always made it difficult to identify the peasantry as a class who, as already pointed out, form the bulk of the Tamil community. The primary occupation of the dominant Vellala caste by definition is farming and members of this caste should, therefore, be considered a part of the peasantry. In practice, however, this is far from the truth. A majority of those belonging to the Vellala caste, by virtue of their superiority, have taken to other professions and cannot in any way be termed peasants; rather, they fall into the category of either bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie. The Tamil peasantry, then, belong to the depressed caste groups. These groups have remained an oppressed class for a long time. Consequently, their participation in mainstream political matters had always been marginal. Part of the onus for the inability of the Tamil nationalist movement to cut across class lines in the 1970s should also lie with the Tamil leadership. The conventional leadership of the Tamils had never been able to play a dynamic role in organizing the oppressed castes. In the first instance, the leadership itself had either been bourgeoisie or middle class and had not been able to generate sufficient incentive to organize the oppressed castes. Even when it did in the name of Tamil solidarity, cultural and linguistic factors were overplayed and economic and social factors were not given any importance. xxxiii

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From the aforementioned, it is clear that Tamil nationalism, in its far-reaching development during the 1970s, had not articulated the notion of a single, uniform community. The project of nationalist hegemony was not completely successful. The plurality of opinions and intracommunity cleavages were still powerful enough for pluralist politics. However, events unfolding in the post-1980 era resulted in dramatic changes in this regard.

Tamil National Liberation Struggle The transformation of Tamil nationalism to a full-scale liberation struggle in the late 1970s is an important turning point. The militants were gradually gaining in popularity among the Tamil population and, very soon, were viewed not as ‘terrorists’ as branded by the government, but as ‘liberation fighters’ and ‘our boys’. The early phase of the militants did not include any women rebels and the nickname ‘our boys’ amply fitted the militants. The multiplication of the militants into several groups is a clear indication of their growing reputation. In 1985, there were 42 groups that were active. Between 1976 and 1987 five major groups dominated the militant politics of Sri Lanka: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the Eelam Revolutionary Organizations (EROS), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). While all these groups spoke of national liberation in their formative period, the LTTE and TELO have totally abandoned their liberation project and became nationalist very quickly. By 1986, the LTTE became hegemonic in becoming the one and only militant group by systematically eliminating all the other groups. Before discussing the internecine warfare of the militant groups, a brief examination at their ideology and political orientation is necessary to identify them as liberationists or nationalists. The following quote is taken from one of the earlier publications of the LTTE: We are neither murderers nor criminals or violent fanatics.... On the contrary, we are revolutionaries committed to revolutionary political xxxiv

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practice. We represent the most powerful extra parliamentary liberation movement…. (LTTE 1979a)

The theoretician and spokesperson of the LTTE, Anton Balasingam, who was involved with the left parties in Sri Lanka until the early 1970s, was instrumental in publishing several theoretical and propaganda articles and books for the LTTE. His effective use of Marxist jargon created an impression that the LTTE was one of the serious liberationist militant groups. For him, Tamil nationalism arose as a historical consequence of Sinhala chauvinistic oppression. As the collective sentiment of the oppressed people, Tamil nationalism constituted progressive and revolutionary elements (Balasingam 1983: 16). Balasingam added that the traditional Tamil parliamentary political parties were dominated by ‘bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie’ and the parties were founded on a conservative ideology (Balasingam 1979). The LTTE proclaimed that it was ‘the armed vanguard of the struggling masses, the freedom fighters of the oppressed’ (ibid.). One of their early manifestos, Towards a Socialist Tamil Eelam, articulated an ideology of national liberation and socialist liberation (LTTE 1979b). However, a political programme did not follow these proclamations. There were two reasons for the use of Marxist and liberationist rhetoric in the earlier LTTE propaganda material. First, the dissatisfied leftist youths who had earlier been supporting the left parties were in a state of limbo and the LTTE wanted to attract them. Second, there was a large group of leftist university students and intellectuals that joined the LTTE in the earlier phase, thinking that a socialist revolution in Sri Lanka was possible only through a national liberation struggle. They argued that the LTTE was in a better position to advance the armed struggle against the state. The assault and weakening of the Sri Lankan state, according to them, was thought to be an essential step and the LTTE was the only organization that was militarily capable of doing that.9 The attempts by this small group of leftists to steer the LTTE towards a programme of national liberation and socialist liberation were very costly. By 1984, most of the leftists were killed. Those who managed to escape had to leave Sri Lanka.10 Although arousing nationalist feelings had been the base for popular support for Tamil militancy, another ideology was gradually xxxv

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becoming prominent among some of the other groups. The EPRLF, EROS, PLOTE and smaller groups like the National Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam (NLFT) and Thamil Makkal Pathukappu Peravai (TMPP) adopted socialist principles and began speaking in terms of the Marxist concepts of political and economic liberation. For these groups, the justification for a separate state came not so much from the ancient greatness of Tamil kings but from Lenin’s thesis on the self-determination of nations. The twin terms of national oppression and national liberation came to characterize the political discourse of these militant groups. National oppression was defined as being ‘when a nationality does not have control over its destiny, does not have the possibility to fulfil its potential then it is oppressed; when a nationality is dominated by another, then it is oppressed’ (EROS 1985, p. 3). National liberation was defined as ‘total liberation’ from all kinds of oppression such as ethnic, caste, class and gender varieties. The motto of the PLOTE was ‘Liberation from all forms of Oppression’. The official publications of these militant groups articulated the same definition with slight variation and emphasis on the order of oppressions. For example, the EPRLF and the EROS prioritized class while the PLOTE prioritized the national oppression. Gender oppression was the major theme for all these groups. Journals dedicated specifically to gender issues were published and widely circulated. Works by Amilcar Cabraal (National Liberation and Culture, The Weapon of Theory), Che Guevara (On Guerilla Warfare), Guiap (Military Writings), Mao (On New Democratic Revolution, Guerilla Warfare), Lenin (On Revolutionary Terrorism, Rights of Nations to Self-Determination) and Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth) were translated, printed and circulated widely among members of the militant groups and the public. In the case of the LTTE, Che and Mao were read primarily as military strategists rather than as revolutionaries. The traditional discourse of Tamil nation and separation based on the historical claims of Tamil nationhood gave way to the discourse of theciya viduthalaip poraattam (National Liberation Struggle). The whole strategy could be summed up as socialist revolution subsisting on nationalist liberation or the struggle for socialism with the energy of nationalism. The General Union of Eelam Students (GUES) was a breakaway group of EROS. One of the reasons for the split was the rift between xxxvi

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the leadership that was based in London and the active members who were based in Sri Lanka. GUES transformed itself into EPRLF as a broad-based liberation organization. The first congress of the EPRLF took place in 1983. After the first congress, 15 members were sent to Lebanon for training with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). There was a strong Maoist tendency and links were established with Marxist–Leninist groups in India too. Through them the EPRLF was informed about the official Chinese government’s position vis-à-vis the Tamil struggle: ‘These groups are petty bourgeois groups and their politics are petty bourgeoisie too. We can only support peasants.’11 EPRLF’s political position defined the national question as acute. For EPRLF, a new democratic revolution in Eelam is necessary as a first step towards a socialist revolution in the whole of Sri Lanka. In a new democratic revolution, small traders, small holders and other petty bourgeois elements should play a big role. On this basis, it was argued that they must be encouraged to work with EPRLF. This position was broadly the position of other major militant groups except the LTTE and TELO.12 However, not everyone in the groups agreed to follow this position. Intense debates and discussions followed until a major congress in 1985. They also stressed the importance of working with Sinhalese progressives and Muslim people. Only a few Muslims joined. As for the Sinhalese, Dayan Jayatilleke, Joe Seneviratne (former ministers in the EPRLF-led North-East Provincial Council), Purnaka de Silva and several others became active members of the movement. The EPRLF was successful in winning the support of a section of the Sinhalese intelligentsia. The radical left Sinhalese intelligentsia that supported the Tamil liberation struggle in the 1980s articulated a position that was totally different from the position of the parliamentary or traditional left. They asserted that both Sinhalese and Tamil people suffer the burden of economic underdevelopment generated by imperialism and accentuated by the global economic crisis. The ruling bourgeoisie of the dominant Sinhalese nation, while transferring the burden of the crisis onto the masses due to the imperatives of electoral politics, had transferred a disproportionate share to the oppressed Tamils. It was argued that ‘the essence of the national movement in the north lies in the struggle waged by all the xxxvii

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oppressed classes, with the educated middle-class youth as the main force, against the bourgeoisie of the dominant Sinhala nation’ (Chintaka 1979, p. 17). It was also suggested that the armed actions of the Tamil militants were not ‘terroristic and alien to Marxism-Leninism but were very much in the authentic tradition of Bolsheviks under Lenin ... [and] typical of an early stage of protracted people’s war of national liberation’ (ibid.). Eelam Muslim Liberation Front (EMLF) was organized by the EPRLF with the help of a group of Muslims in Chavakacheri area. The idea was to expand the base of the national liberation movement to include Muslims. The EMLF failed to take off. However, the formation of Eelam Women’s Liberation Front (EWLF) signalled the realization of the importance of gender in the liberation project. The EPRLF, together with EROS, was one of the first groups to establish working relationships with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the African National Congress (ANC) and the Sandinistas of Nicaragua in the late 1970s. The EPRLF maintained that they did not fight for a ‘race’, or a language, but for oppressed people. ‘In the case of Tamils, the fight is only incidental because they are the suppressed people in Sri Lanka. A victory for Tamils will eventually kindle the revolutionary fires in the Sinhalese areas of Sri Lanka too’ (EPRLF 1984, p. 5). The EPRLF advocated a programme of revolution by the workers and peasants in the Tamil areas. Significantly, the EPRLF included the government servants, teachers and clerks in its revolutionary agenda. The inclusion of Tamil petty bourgeoisie in this programme is a shrewd move since a large number of Tamils are employed in these sectors. However, they did not develop a specific political programme to form a coalition of various forces. Both EPRLF and EROS spoke about Eelam as an inclusive concept. They were against the use of the term Tamil Eelam because it excludes Muslims. For these groups, Eelam was more than the Tamils in Jaffna or even the Tamils in the east. EROS further argued that the concept of Tamil Eelam was not acceptable to the Muslim and depressed caste populations because the name connotes Saivaite Hinduism and upper-caste dominance. For them Eelam was a preferred name because of its secular nature. EROS also advocated a concept called eelavar—people irrespective of their caste, religion and region xxxviii

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of origin as members of the collectivity called Eelam. This collectivity included the Up-country Tamils and the map of Eelam incorporated certain areas of the up-country as traditional homelands of the Up-country Tamils. The Marxist bent of the Tamil militancy and the backing it received from a section of the Sinhalese left leadership, more than anything, helped Tamil nationalism to become more broad-based. The ideals of rights and liberties, which had long been the voice of the Tamil bourgeoisie and middle class, now tended to penetrate to the lower strata of society. There had always been a tug of war between two tendencies—the liberationist and the nationalist—within the militant groups. The liberationists or the Eelam-left steadfastly relied and prioritized the liberationist aspects while the Eelam-right relied on and prioritized the ethnic/nationalist platform. There were other divisive tendencies too. Internecine conflicts, chauvinism, sectarianism and militarism have plagued the Tamil liberation movement. Tamil chauvinism and divisive tactics of the Sri Lankan state have created a serious Tamil–Muslim rift. In the mid-1980s, the Tamil liberation movement underwent significant modifications in response to the state terror unleashed on the Tamil population. The militant groups began to target Sinhalese and Muslim civilians in revenge attacks and their earlier policy of attacking only military targets was conveniently shelved. From the mid-1980s, the main militant groups had failed to articulate the political discourse of national liberation in noncommunalist terms to win the Muslim population. Their alliance with progressive Sinhalese parties and Sinhala left movements suffered heavily because of their massacres of innocent Sinhalese civilians in large numbers in retaliatory attacks. The militant groups were content with calling the Muslims ‘Islamic Tamils’, insisting, against the will of Muslims, that the Muslims were Tamils without breaking away from the narrow Tamil ethnocentrism of the pre-national liberation period. They were not able to do without the traditional Jaffna-centric practice of Tamil nationalist politics either. On the contrary, it became even stronger with the growth and dominance of the LTTE. With time and with the rise of the LTTE as the de facto state in the xxxix

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areas under its control, the national liberation project has turned into an exclusivist, chauvinist and militarist ideology with growing intolerance towards Muslims and Sinhalese. The chronicle of ethnic pogroms committed by the LTTE, from the Anuradhapura massacre in 1985 to the expulsion of northern Muslims in 1991, bear witness to this intolerance. The expulsion of the entire Muslim population from the northern province in 1991 in an ‘ethnic-cleansing’ pogrom is among the serious manifestations of militarist Tamil nationalism. The LTTE came to power by eliminating most of the other militant groups ruthlessly. Some of the militant groups decided to collaborate with the Sri Lankan state in 1990. A decade of Tamil liberation struggle shows that the idea of a united front against the common enemy, in this case, the Sri Lankan state, is totally alien to the LTTE. It has consistently worked against a broader unity of the liberation forces and used all the force it could muster to thwart any move towards unity. The Eelam left or the leftist militant groups that constantly and consistently advocated a united front, internal democracy and collective decisionmaking were small and physically constrained by the militarism of the LTTE. This is the major reason for the success of the nationalist group LTTE over the liberationists.

Gendering Tamil Militancy The Tamil militancy and its avowed ideals of national liberation had a major mobilizing impact on women, and they in turn played a significant part in it both as active fighters in the front and as political officers in strengthening the militant groups.13 However, a closer look at the question of women’s identity and autonomy in the Tamil struggle is necessary to evaluate the claims of the militant groups that they had fundamentally transformed the gender relations in Tamil society. It is also important to look at how gender and gender relations were constructed and articulated in the process of mobilizing women for projects of nationalism and national liberation. All the militant groups had women’s wings. The LTTE’s women’s group was called Suthanthirap Paravaigal (Birds of Freedom), the EPRLF had the Eelam Women’s Liberation Front (EWLF), the PLOTE named its women’s group Thamil Eela Mahalir Peravai (Women’s xl

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Organization of Tamil Eelam) and Eela Mahalir Munnani (Eelam Women’s Front) was the women’s wing of EROS. Not having a women’s wing was considered a drawback in the organization and mobilization of Tamil people for the liberation struggle. In 1985, the EPRLF sent five of their women to Lebanon for training with the PFLP.14 The exact number of women involved in these organizations is difficult to establish. However, the numbers swelled after the 1983 pogrom against the Tamils. Significantly, however, there were no women amongst the central committee members of the LTTE, EPRLF, EROS and PLOTE. The LTTE had a different organizational structure than the other organization as it was preoccupied with developing itself as a powerful and dominant military organization. One of its earlier and preferred quotes was derived from Che Guevara’s foco theory: A successful military attack equals a hundred mass meetings (quoted in the magazine Thalir in 1985). It never encouraged a democratic inner structure and it never had one. The entire organizational structure was very secretive and women were not allowed to participate in the early phases of its formation. While leftist militant groups were trying to balance their mass politics with guerilla warfare, the LTTE simply concentrated on building its armoury and training its cadres. This gave them a head start in military superiority. They were also the latecomers in recruiting women. However, when they did, they immediately began training them militarily. Women form a significant portion of the LTTE’s Sea Tiger squads, Black Tiger squads (suicide warriors) and regular combat forces. The Tiger Women were also part of technical teams that were responsible for the repair and maintenance of ordinances (LTTE 1996). However, there were no women in the decisionmaking bodies of these militant groups.15 The list of central committee members of the EPRLF, EROS and PLOTE did not include any women. The LTTE had a different organizational structure. Right from the beginning, the LTTE was preoccupied with developing itself as a powerful military organization. There is a significant body of work on Tamil women fighters and feminism (Coomaraswamy and Rajasingam-Perera [this volume]; De Mel 2001; Maunaguru 1995; Sivamohan 2001). While Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers, a book by Adele Ann (1993), one of LTTE’s leaders and an Australian married to the LTTE’s long-time political xli

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spokesperson and ideologue, is an often quoted book in the discourse of militancy, feminism and nationalism, a host of other important materials in Tamil language have not been studied adequately. A review of existing materials on the complex relationship between nationalism and feminism in the Tamil context reveals the following strands. 1. Writing on the early phase of Tamil militancy and the role of women, Maunaguru (1995) maintains that whether there was a feminist programme and strong ideological commitment or not, inclusion of women’s question on the agenda opened up new spaces for women within the Tamil militant movements. 2. Women’s liberation cannot be achieved through a nationalist project. Even if there are changes or transformations, they are not sustainable since nationalism over-determines everything (Coomaraswamy and Perera, this volume; Panchali 1996). 3. The emergence of Tamil women as warriors has drastically changed the Tamil society and women’s liberation is attainable through their militancy (Balasingam 1993). 4. De Mel (2001) and Rajasingam-Senanayake argue that women’s agency in the nationalist movement is ambivalent. 5. In her introduction to an anthology of Tamil women’s poetry from Sri Lanka, V. Geetha characterizes the involvement of women in militant movements as ‘contextually necessary but contradictory’ (2007: 198). From the ideal of a conservative, protected and docile ‘femininity’, promoted by Tamil nationalists and colonial missionaries, the Tamil woman is now transformed into a public figure, engaged in warfare. This transformation has attracted not only social and political scientists but numerous poets, film-makers and writers. While the sight of a women LTTE cadre, gun slinging from her shoulders, casually riding her bicycle is not unusual, the literary imagination is in the forefront of depicting this transformation. A collection of poems titled Vaanathiyin Kavithaikal (1991) by one of the LTTE’s fallen fighters, Vanathy (alias Pathmasothy Shanmuganathan). In She is a Tamil Eelam Woman, Vanathy writes: Her forehead shall be adorned not Kunkumam but with red blood. xlii

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All that is seen in her eyes is not the sweetness Of youth but firm declarations of those Who have fallen down…. On her neck will lay no thaali, but a Cyanide capsule….16

In another poem in the same collection, Vanathy invites other Tamil women that are ‘confined in the kitchen by patriarchy and waging a silent war with fire’ to join the struggle for national liberation which she maintains would liberate all women from the clutches of patriarchy. The emphasis in these poems and several others by Kasthuri,17 Ampuli, Malaimakal, Thamilaval and Suthamathy18 is the selective rejection of conventional womanhood. A new group of LTTE women writers such as Thamilkavi emerged in the late 1990s and articulated a complex vision of being a women and a nationalist fighter. On an ideological level, the interviews given by one of the LTTE’s senior women leaders, Thamilini, to newspapers and women’s magazines in Tamil also clearly testify to a new Tamil womanhood that is highly critical of patriarchy and demand equality for women in all spheres while, ironically, hails the leader of the LTTE for founding and encouraging women’s wing and its fighters. The goal of women’s liberation is firmly located in the context of the ‘national’ reality nationalist ideals and within the broader Tiger strategy of armed struggle to achieve Tamil Eelam. In 1985, posters were put up against birth control in Jaffna. The LTTE newspapers and magazines invoked the symbol of the great mother who would rise up to the occasion by giving birth to more sons and daughters (Panchali 1996). In this discourse, thamilthay (Tamil mother), with all her constructed and attributed ‘Tamilian’ qualities sits uncomfortably with the Tiger woman warrior. Yet, the woman warrior is also projected as a ‘virgin’ warrior, reinforcing a patriarchal value of women in traditional Tamil cultural discourse. The campaign to promote Tamil motherhood and encourage Tamil mothers to bear more children is currently underway in the Canadian Tamil diaspora. The editor of Thamilar Thakaval (Thamils’ Information) a monthly journal is offering 5,000 Canadian Dollars to any Tamil family in Canada that will bear three and more children (Twins and triplets are excepted!). 19 xliii

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On the question of women’s rights, the leader of the LTTE, Prabhakaran, made the following statement: ‘[m]y wish is that women have to be able to liberate themselves from all forms of oppression and live with dignity and equality in revolutionary Tamil Eelam, which will emerge soon’ (Nattru 1995: 2). However, the leader’s point of view is directly contradicted in the Tamil Eelam Penal Code (TEPC) (LTTE 1994), implemented in 1994, to regulate LTTE-controlled areas. The TEPC provides a strong example of the gendered nature of the LTTE’s social and political project. The TEPC identifies 439 offences. In addition to legalizing the death penalty (Section 3, Article 45) and restricting freedom of assembly (Section 7, Article 95 deems any assembly illegal where, inter alia, the purpose of the assembly is to ‘prevent’ any legislation from passing), the TEPC includes a series of provisions that reflect a strongly masculinist agenda aimed at the cultural and moral regulation of women. If a pregnant woman is found guilty of a serious crime, the sentence can include ‘rigorous imprisonment’ which is a form of hard labour in slave-like conditions. Abortion is illegal according to the Penal Code and subject only to narrow exceptions: where the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape, but only when permission of a male family member is provided. Even in these cases, no abortion is permitted 90 days after conception. Women who are convicted on illegal abortion charges face the prospect of three years imprisonment—either ‘rigorous’ or ordinary, at the discretion of the judge. If the foetus ‘bounces with life’, the punishment rises to seven years (Article 215). The Penal Code conceptually distinguishes between rape and sexual assault, a distinction that has been eliminated in the criminal codes of many countries, including Canada, in recognition that all crimes involving sexual violence share a commonality of purpose and effect. According to the Penal Code of Tamil Eelam (PCTE), a crime of rape only occurs when the penis has been ‘inserted into vagina’, although rape occurs where insertion is ‘even slightly’. Sexual violence occurs ‘when a man deliberately touches a woman’s sex organs with a view to insult her’. There is no crime of sexual harassment. Complaints of rape have to be made within three months from the day the crime was committed (Article 283–84). The only progressive aspect of the Penal Code’s treatment of rape is the absence of explicit xliv

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linguistic sexism. The TEPC uses a newly-coined Tamil term paaliyal valluravu (forced intercourse), which is significant. The traditional term katpalippu (meaning the destruction of chastity or sacred value) has been discarded. It deserves mention as well that rape is treated as a serious offence, punishable by the death penalty (Article 279 [a]) or 14 years rigorous imprisonment and fines. If the offender is younger than 24 years, lesser punishment is permitted. Attempted rape carries seven years rigorous or ordinary imprisonment and fines. Sexual intercourse with women between the ages of 15–18 is punishable by two years of rigorous or ordinary imprisonment and fines. If it is between husband and wife or the intercourse is sanctioned by the parents/guardians, it is permitted (Article 283, Act 3). While the code does not appear to exempt spouses from being charged with rape or sexual violence, given the cultural context, the Code’s silence in this regard is not likely to result in criminalizing sexual violence committed by one spouse against another. Homosexuality is punishable for men only (Article 287). There is no explicit reference to women. The silence on women’s homosexuality reinforces the notion that women do not exist as social subjects. ‘Anti-natural’ sexual acts are punishable, but there is no clear definition of ‘anti-natural’. Specifically proscribed, however, is sex with animals and homosexuality. A conviction for these offences carries a sentence of 10 years rigorous imprisonment and/or a fine (Article 286) and two years rigorous or ordinary imprisonment and fines (Article 287) respectively. Prostitution (parathaimai) is a crime for women only. The punishment is four years rigorous or ordinary imprisonment with fines (Articles 481, 420). The foregoing review of the Penal Code’s treatment of women as both perpetrators and victims of crime highlights the male-centric values and weltanschauung that permeates the TEPC itself and serves to mirror the wider LTTE nationalist project. The LTTE is a highly centralized organization. The LTTE leader Prabhakaran has consistently maintained that one party rule is his ideal (Prabhakaran 1994). Secondly, in an interview with Eelanatham newspaper in Vanni, Thamilini was asked how the situation for women fighters would be in the future. In her response she said, ‘There will be a continuous struggle for women’s liberation. As long as annai-our leader Prabhakaran lives, it would not be a problem’ (Eelanatham 2002). xlv

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The LTTE’s use of family as political institution in the service of its organizational benefits is another site where gender hierarchies are clearly enshrined. The LTTE’s use of the family card (1990–1995) as a tool for enumeration and surveillance in the areas controlled by them was remarkable, in the sense that with all the difficulties in conducting a war they were able to maintain and manage a de facto state system. The names of all members of the family were inscribed on the card beginning with the male head of the household. It is clear that the project of national liberation that began in the early 1980s could not sustain its liberationist ideals. The logical consequence of that was the strengthening of nationalist ideals and the consolidation of the Tiger version of Tamil nationalism that is not only hegemonic in the Tamil national discourses in Sri Lanka but also increasingly influential in the Tamil national discourses in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia and in the Tamil diaspora.

NOTES 1. This is the motto or rallying cry of EROS, and it first appeared in their pamphlets in 1975: ‘We are Eelavar; our land is Eelam; our language is Tamil.’ 2. From the album Jaffna Boyz (musical recording, Toronto, 1995). 3. See also the next chapter. 4. Ceylon Daily News, 2 December 1924. 5. For a discussion of dry zone colonization, see Manogaran (1994). 6. For a detailed analysis, see Wilson (1979). 7. For a detailed analysis, see de Silva (1978: 105–51). 8. The JVP, led by educated youth, staged armed insurrections in 1971 and 1987. Until the 1980s, the JVP political ideology was based on ideas derived from Lenin, Mao, Trotsky and Che Guevara. After 1983, it adopted a strong Sinhala nationalist position and decided to take up arms against the government and left parties, which supported the Tamil struggle. The JVP was ruthlessly crushed and its entire leadership was eliminated in a government terror campaign in the early 1990s. For an informed discussion of JVP politics, see Chandraprema (1991) and Serasundara (1998). 9. Interview with N. Nithyanandan and A. Ragavan, former LTTE commanders, September 1995. 10. Hellmann-Rajanayagam says: ‘[The] tigers base their claims for an independent Eelam not only on racial and national ancient glory but also on Lenin’s justification of the national struggle and separation in compelling circumstances. However, in a revealing interview in The Hindu in September 1986, the names of the prominent

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11. 12. 13.

14. 15. 16.

17. 18. 19.

Marxists were conspicuously absent from the list of men Prabhakaran [Supreme Leader of the LTTE] considers his national heroes.’ Interview with Cheliyan, central committee member of the EPRLF (1981–1986), on 23 November 1999. See generally, the official positions of PLOTE and TELO in The Saturday Review, November 1985. There are several magazines, books and journals published in Tamil by women fighters of various groups. For example, Senthanal (EPRLF), Suthanthirap Paravaigal (LTTE), Thozhi (PLOTE) and Sakthi (NLFT). One important addition is a hefty volume titled Vizhuthaaki Verumaaki (2003) edited by two LTTE women A. Kantha and Se. Puratchika. This volume chronicles and narrates in detail the battles led by LTTE women from 1987 to 2001. Interview with the former European Coordinator for EPRLF, Toronto, 23 September 2006. In recent times several LTTE women emerged as leaders and spokespersons. It is not clear where they are located in the LTTE hierarchy. Quoted in Neloufer de Mel (2001: 208). For an informed critique of Tamil women and militant nationalism, see her chapter, ‘Agent or Victim? Sri Lankan Women Militant in the Interregnum’ in her book Women and the Nation’s Narrative: Gender and Nationalism in the Twentieth Century Sri Lanka. Kaathodu Sollividu, poems. LTTE Publication, 2001. See Anaiiravu (Elephant Pass), LTTE Velicham Publishers, 2000 for their poems. See issues of Tamils’ Information, January, February 2007. The one page announcement of reward for Tamil families continues to appear.

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Contents

Y One Z

Nationalism, Historiography and Archaeology in Sri Lanka S.K. Sitrampalam1 ™

N

ationalism is a political creed that underlies the cohesion of modern societies and legitimizes their claim to authority. It has influenced the development of self-government in many colonies and brought about their political emancipation. Consequently nationalism has been identified with love for the motherland or patriotism. A territorial base, a shared historical experience, a strong sense of kinship and a common culture are the main components of nationalism. Right of self-determination is also inherent in the concept of nationhood. Since nationalism is a modern concept, it is imperative to delve into the history of state formation in modern Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka even territories that were either administered separately by the Portuguese and the Dutch or administered independently, without acknowledging them, were united under the British for administrative convenience in 1833. From thence onwards, the several constitutional and political reforms, introduced by the British, particularly after the end of the 19th century, were formulated taking into account the form of centralization that has been imposed and bequeathed by them, as a constant factor. 1

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A nascent form of Sri Lankan nationalism was a product of British education. Anti-colonialism and movement for freedom attempted to unite disparate elements of society unsuccessfully. It was basically elitist and narrow numerically. Commenting on Sri Lanka as a nation, B.H. Farmer (1963: 72) was of the following opinion: Perhaps one of Ceylon’s greatest misfortunes given hindsight wisdom, is that its first wave of nationalism, if it can be called such was so exclusively an affair of the Elite, pleasant negotiators though British statesmen found them; and that the second wave of nationalism should have proceeded separately, fighting the Elite and its values instead of being guided and controlled by them. Here Ceylon, possibly, was less fortunate than India, where the alliance symbolized and cemented by the relation between Nehru and Gandhi contrived to subsume in powerful movement both traditional and forward looking nationalism. But if there is a moral here, it is too late for Ceylon to profit from it.

Farmer’s title (Ceylon: A Divided Nation) itself indicates that nation formation did not happen in Sri Lanka because the country was really a community of different peoples with their own habitations, languages and religions. Unlike in India, there was no anti-British militant nationalism that would bring diverse entities together. The latter half of the 19th century saw the emergence of two strands of nationalism in Sri Lanka namely trans-ethnic liberal and secular nationalism of the Western model and the traditional nationalism which had roots in cultural revival. For the greater part of the 19th century and in the first two decades of the 20th century, a Western model of liberalism and secularism was the main theme of the nationalists. Prominent Sinhalese and Tamil leaders were in the forefront of the movement to create a Sri Lankan national consciousness and to use this consciousness to wrest constitutional concessions from the reluctant colonial administration (Arasaratnam 1979). They were so much enamoured by the ability of the members from various regions, ethnic and linguistic groups and religious communities to come together that they felt that this horizontal linkage was what mattered most to the forging of a strong nationalist movement and eventually to nation-building (Arasaratnam 1978). The formation of the Ceylon National Congress in 1918 marked the culmination of this process. 2

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In opposition to the liberal, secular nationalism of the Western model, arose the powerful ideas that sought to base nationalism on the foundations of the society’s traditional past. They saw the modern phase of nationalism, not as a novel, essentially different phenomenon, causing a break with the past, but rather as an extension of their past, a rebirth of the old society, its renaissance in a new form. Eventually, one could see the victory of traditional nationalism over liberal and secular nationalism. Traditional cultural nationalism asserted itself in independent Sri Lanka, which led to an attempted hegemony by one community—the majority Sinhalese. This endeavour to gain hegemony led to stresses and strains within the country and led to conflict and even attempts at dismemberment of the state. However, in situations where more than one cultural tradition and the nationalistic upsurge that feeds on it can co-exist peacefully, without the attempted imposition of one on the other, then a stage of equilibrium may be said to have been reached in that nation-state (Arasaratnam 1978: 9). Unfortunately, the absence of a flexible accommodative trend in Sri Lankan nationalism prevented the growth of Sri Lankan nationalism on the basis of unity in diversity. Sri Lankan traditional nationalism has its roots in the cultural revival of the 19th century. In this revival, the existence of the continuous tradition of Buddhist ‘historiography’ played an important role. Study, translations and publication of ‘Buddhist historiographical writings’ by the colonial antiquarians, the exploration and excavation of sites such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the late 19th century and the early 20th century testified to the glory of Buddhist civilization and confirmed the ideology of the Mahavamsa, and Culavamsa. The absence of ‘historiographical’ writings as old and continuous as that of Buddhist ‘historiographical’ writings as the Mahavamsa among other communities gave a commanding position to Buddhist writings, over the others. The theme of Buddhist writings gave rise to an idea of a unitary model of government governing the whole country from one capital continuously. ‘Unitary model’ became entrenched in the Constitutions of 1972 and 1978 and thereby, the Tamil regions were denied any form of meaningful devolution. In fact the term ‘devolution of power’ became an anathema to the majority community in Sri Lanka since the 1950s.

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Nevertheless Buddhist writings, however, portray only the history of the ruling elite and patrons of Mahavihara and Thevavada Buddhism. Their focus lay on Anuradhapura, and other material featured only if they have relevance to this ideology. The most important aspects of early Sri Lankan history, such as the peopling of the island and the early state formation, are treated in the form of mythohistory. As a result, unfortunately, historians of Sri Lanka have almost exclusively reconstructed its early history on the basis of the Pali Chronicles. Consequently, scholarly research in Sri Lanka has been centred on the study and interpretation of language and frequently other evidence including inscriptional and archaeological was either approached with the bias of literary accounts or ignored altogether (Begley 1981). Sadly, the exclusive emphasis on Anuradhapura eclipsed any study of the early history of the other parts of the country. In the ‘historiographical’ writings, the history of the island and Buddhism are identified solely with the Sinhalese. Thus, the history has bequeathed to the Sinhalese a vision of their role as ‘chosen people’ destined to preserve Buddhism in its pristine purity. This vision is embodied in two sister concepts—the Dhammadipa concept (Island of Dhamma) and the Sihaladipa (Island of the Sihala people [Roberts 1978]) or the promised land of the Sinhalese who are considered the only sons of the soil. Thus this mythohistory conferred legitimacy to the Sinhalese and defined their rights over the land. Sri Lankan history became identified with the history of the Sinhalese and everything else was an intrusion and assault. Tamils, although in the Vijaya legend enter as co-founders of Sri Lankan civilization, are generally depicted as aliens, invaders, mercenaries, traders and as enemies of Buddhism. This is so evident in their oral and literary traditions that contributed substantially to the collective consciousness of the Sinhalese. Referring to the role of the Mahavamsa, in shaping Sinhala historical consciousness, observed by Coningham and Lewer (2000: 709) observed: The questions of ‘who was here first’ assumes prime importance and Mahavamsa has played a crucial role in defining the identity and historical claims made by sections of the major communities in Sri Lanka. Its significance as the inspiration for the Buddhist revival is undisputed, and the manner in which it was used to link state and religion together, 4

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particularly by post-independence politicians and nationalists, has been a major factor in recent events.

Ethnic identities also became highlighted in the historical writings of the colonial masters and the local historians. Prior to independence, strong ethnic identities were created using the Mahavamsa to sort and date Sri Lankan inhabitants. Pulindars became identified with the Veddas (Tennent 1859) and Sinhalese with the Aryans of North India who migrated to Sri Lanka in the 5th century before the South Indian Tamils, who have been identified with the Dravidians. In fact Codrington could argue that the evidence all points to Vijaya having come from the western coast (Codrington 1939) and Sinhalese language came to be identified with the North Indian Aryan group of languages (Geiger 1938). The late 1940s witnessed the publication of the book entitled The Early History of Ceylon by a pioneer historian of Sri Lanka, G.C. Mendis (Mendis 1948). Writing on Sri Lankan history, he assigned third place to the Dravidians after the Stone Age and the Aryan settlements. Conversely, the writings of Mudaliyar Rasanayagam (Rasanayagam 1926) and Fr. Gnanaprakasar (Gnanaprakasar 1937) emphasized the Dravidian factor in the early formation of the Sri Lankan society. History seemed to confer on a community of people certain rights related to a territory, a language and even to self-rule in those areas. In a way, the misuse of the Mahavamsa aided the development of a historical Tamil identity. Unlike the Hindu or Islamic revival, the Buddhist revival developed political overtones by the end of the last century and there were men who saw the possibilities of exploiting Buddhist religious sentiments for political reasons (Silva 1981). Anagarika Dharmapala was an unabashed advocate of Sinhala Buddhist domination of the island and was the model for Sinhala activists. His idea was carried forward by the Sinhala Mahasabha formed in 1935 and later by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Anagarika Dharmapala (Wilson 1988: 60) claimed that ‘Ethnologically the Sinhalese are a unique race. This bright beautiful island was made into paradise by the Aryan Sinhala before its destruction was brought about by the barbaric vandals (Tamils and Europeans)’. While colonial officials began to restore ruined cities, members of the Buddhist revival paralleled their efforts and were responsible for reviving Anuradhapura as a focus of Buddhist 5

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pilgrimage and frequently referred to colonial restorations as irrelevant (Coningham and Nick 2000: 709). Hence, it is even argued that by using the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese enhanced their communal self-esteem in the face of colonial rule; thus the Sinhalese Buddhists envisaged a fulfilment of their ‘historic destiny’ of strengthening ‘the land, the race and the faith’ (Wilson 1988: 60). The existence of continuous Sinhala Buddhist ‘historiography’ made this possible and plausible. As aptly remarked by K.M. de Silva (1981: 512): In Sinhalese the words for a nation, race and people are practically synonymous and a multi racial or multi communal nation or state is incomprehensible to the popular mind. The emphasis on the sense of uniqueness of the Sinhalese past and the focus on Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhalese and the country in which Buddhism stood forth in its purest form, carried an emotional appeal compared with which a multi-racial polity was a meaningless abstraction.

Thus the complete system of political ideology bequeathed to the Sinhalese in the form of mythohistory has been repeated time and again to foster Sinhala Buddhist identity. These myths are expressions of the self-perceived historical role of the Sinhalese as a nation. It is only against this background that one has to analyze the concept of nationalism before independence and thereafter, if ever there was one, which is doubtful. As stated earlier, the formation of the Ceylon National Congress in 1918 is a milestone in attempts to espouse nationalism in Sri Lanka. However, when the newly formed Ceylon National Congress sat down to draw up a scheme of constitutional reform, they could not agree on the proportion of seats to be assigned between Sinhalese and Tamils. Thus, Tamil identity was manifested in the first fissions in the incipient national movement. Consequently, the majority of Tamil political leaders and Kandyan Sinhalese leadership broke away and set up their own organizations. The Ceylon National Congress, henceforth, never developed the following or the prestige as that of the Indian National Congress, although it remained one of the few political organizations until independence (Kearney 1967). It has been claimed that Sri Lankan nationalism in this period was very mild without mass mobilization. Almost at its inception, the independence movement split on communal lines. The integrative forces that had developed in the 6

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preceding years were not strong enough to overcome the communal sense of separate interests and the suspicions created by communal consciousness. This split underlines the triumph of primordial loyalties embodied in the ‘historiography’ of Sinhala Buddhists, the divergence of material interests, and finally, the British model of government which hindered concessions to ethnic claims (Roberts 1978: 357). Thus, in the specific characteristics in the development of nationalism within the island and failures in evolving state structures providing democratic space to accommodate and subsume these developments, lie the roots of the present ethnic crisis. The report of the Secretary of State (Wilson 1988: 7), the scheme of Governor Manning (ibid.), observations of Donoughmore (Kearney 1967: 21) and finally of Lord Soulbury (ibid.: 37) who recommended a new constitution for Sri Lanka clearly vouchsafe the fact that Sri Lankan nationalism is in fact communalistic in nature and not of nationalistic bent. This gradually led to the attempted hegemony of the Sinhalese (on account of their numerical majority) and to the exclusion of other communities. Prospects of universal franchise and unfair territorial representation provided needed opportunities for the pursuit of the goal that history had supposedly assigned to the Sinhalese. The end result was that prominent Sinhalese leaders who were to lead the nation during independence and thereafter became ‘Buddhists’ by changing their earlier religion, namely, Christianity and were popularly known as ‘Donoughmore Buddhists’. The creation of the Pan Sinhala Ministry in 1936 and the introduction of a bill in the State Council for making Sinhala Only (ibid.: 63) as one official language of Sri Lanka on 24 May 1944 are clear indications of the hegemonical nature of Sinhala nationalism in history. The report of the Soulbury Commission was an adoption of the Ministers’ draft of D.S. Senanayake, except for the addition of a second chamber, without proper discussion in the State Council. There was no constitutional assembly even to draft the constitution as in India. There was no unanimity even at the adoption of a lion flag, a lion with a sword symbolizing the eponymous father of the Sinhalese race, as the national flag of the country at the time of independence. Two narrow stripes of yellow and green representing Tamils and Muslims remain outside the main body of the flag. Addition of Bo leaves later emphasized the presumption of Sinhala Buddhist superiority over 7

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others. The national anthem also fails to recognize a plural society and applies only to the Sinhalese, unlike the Indian national anthem, which caters to all the peoples of India. Soulbury himself later realized his folly in recommending a constitution, in the face of the experience of the minorities in the State Council and handing over power to the unfettered control of an entrenched communal majority (Farmer 1963, Foreword). In Sri Lanka, in the mid-1950s Sri Lankan nationalism came to be identified with Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. It was very exclusive, keeping out other communities in the state. The minorities, in particular the indigenous Tamils, refused to endorse the assumption that Sinhalese nationalism was interchangeable with broader Sri Lankan nationalism (Silva 1981: 512–13). The introduction of ‘Sinhala Only’ in 1956 initiated the process of a monolingual state. The ‘historiographical’ writings also further consolidated the concept of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. As stated earlier, although G.C. Mendis (1965) has dismissed the Vijayan myth found in the Pali Chronicles as being of no value for the history of the early Sinhalese settlements in the island, the historians of Sri Lanka have almost exclusively reconstructed its early history of human settlements on the basis of the Pali chronicles, namely the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa. On the basis of possible identification of place names given in the legends, comparative linguistic studies of the Sinhala language and other cultural similarities with North India, they arrived at a conclusion that the progenitors of the Sinhala speakers of the island, with Prince Vijaya as their leader, came from North India and hence described them as Indo-Aryans, although the very term ‘Aryan’ is not found in the Chronicles (Basham 1952; Ellawalla 1969; Paranavitana 1959; Silva 1981, Chapter I). Accordingly, two or more waves of migrations have been postulated as having occupied the river valleys of the dry zone of Sri Lanka by the 5th century BC. Conversely, Tamils, who are also known as Dravidians, have been treated not only as later arrivals than that of the Sinhalese, but also as aliens, usurpers and adventurers (Paranavitana 1959: 82–193). Thus Senerat Paranavitana (1959: 95–96), in his writings at the end of the 1950s remarked: There is no evidence to establish that a people of Dravidian stock who in historic times occupied the neighbouring mainland and on many 8

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occasions fought with the Sinhalese for sovereignty over the Island were present at the time of the first Aryan settlement. Early Tamil literature contains nothing to indicate that Ceylon was a region in which that language was spoken by the considerable proportion of the people.

K.M. de Silva (1981: 9) asserted in 1981 that ‘the evidence available at present would tend strongly to support the conclusion that Aryan settlement and colonization preceded the arrival of Dravidian settlers by a few centuries’. This view is also reaffirmed by A.W.P. Guruge (quoted in Coningham and Nick 2000: 710) in 1989 in the new edition of Mahavamsa. Here he states: Linguistically and culturally, the Dravidian element in the Sri Lankan population had remained sporadic, intermittent and secondary. On the whole, the material evidence for its presence and impact dates from a much later period than the arrival and the entrenchment of Indo–Aryan Sihala population in the entire Island.

The Sihaladipa concept developed out of the Vijaya legend. This legend appears to have been fashioned to explain how the island came to be called Sihala. According to G.C. Mendis (1965: 267) the term ‘Sihala’ appears only once in Dipavamsa (4th century) and twice in Mahavamsa (6th century)—in the Vijaya legend and in the account of Vattagamani Abhaya of the 1st century BC. where this king is referred to as Mahakala Sihala. It was popular only in later Pali and Sinhala writings. He further says that Sihala was originally the name of the island and people got their name from it many centuries later. He further adds, ‘But that the first Aryan settlers gave their name Sinhala (Sihala) to the island does not seem to be in conformity with fact. Had they done so they would have been known by this name from the earliest times. But this is not the case.’ Finally he concludes saying at that time as the language of myth makers was different from Dravidian languages of South India, it was a natural inference that they came from North India and the Buddhist Jataka stories played a vital role in supplying data for the evolution of the Vijayan myth. R.A.L.H. Gunawardana (1979) however asserts that on closer examination it becomes clear that sixth and the seventh chapters of Mahavamsa present a myth which forms a central element in Sinhala 9

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ideology. On the basis of an epigraphical source, namely a Brahmi inscription from Tirupparankunram in Thamilakam, he asserts that the form I la appears as a reference to Sri Lanka. However, Subrahmanya Ayyar suggested an early pre-Christian date for this and Mahadevan assigns it to first–second centuries of the Christian era. According to Gunawardana, literary evidence in classical Tamil also affirms the - - chronological priority of I la/I lam over Sinhala. Assuming that I la/I lam is a derivation from Sihala, he concludes that hypothetically, it is possible to postulate a dynasty, kingdom, people of the kingdom sequence in the development in Sinhala consciousness that did not include all the Sinhalese-speaking people till AD 12th century. According to him, Sihala/Simhala was a dynastic symbol of the early dynasty ruling at Anuradhapura as in the case of South Indian dynasties who had various emblems such as a tiger or a fish as their dynastic symbols. He states that ‘it is very likely that similarly, the lion was the emblem of the ruling house of Sri Lanka and the dynasty got the name from that emblem’. He further says that if we accept this explanation of the origin of I lam, it would imply that the term Sihala was also being used by the 1st or 2nd century of the Christian era to denote a principality and certain types of people of that principality. Unfortunately, the form Sihala has not been found in these early Brahmi inscriptions of Sri Lanka dateable to the pre-Christian era. If one derives I la from Sihala, it should have preceded I la in its appearance in either literary or epigraphical sources. However, its earliest appearance in epigraphical source is the Nagarjunikonda inscription of the AD 3rd century (Gokhale 1980). Similarly, among literary sources it is claimed that the Chinese rendering of Sihaladipa occurs in Chinese literary document dateable to AD 2nd and 3rd centuries (Gunawardana 1979). It also appears as a name for the island in Divyavadana around this time (Mendis 1965: 268). Among the Sri Lankan sources, it is in Dipavamsa of the 4th century AD where it makes its first appearance as the name for the land (Sihala) (ibid.: 266). Thus all available evidence prove that I la preceded the form Sihala by a few centuries. Hence, it is unlikely that I la is a derivation from Sihala and the form Sihala was in vogue during the early centuries of the Christian era. Moreover, in the early stages, like I la, Sihala denoted the island. Hence, his view on Sihala as a dynastic name is unrealistic. 10

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If Sihala is taken to denote a dynastic symbol, there is no evidence for its use in that concept in any literary or epigraphical documents in those very early days in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the association of la with Siha which means lion in the form ‘Sihala’ shows that this form cannot be taken as a dynastic symbol. If so, the original form would have been ‘Siha’ and not Sihala. Hence it is very unlikely that the form ‘Sihala’ which denoted the island was derived from the dynastic or totemistic symbol. Equally untenable is the derivation of this form Sihala from the personal name Sihala appearing in the Kharosthi inscriptions of north-western India dateable to AD 1st/2nd century as opined by Paranavitana (1959: 90). However, K.N.O. Dharmadasa (1989) argues that Sinhala linguistic consciousness has a long history starting from the very beginning of the colonization of Sri Lanka by Vijaya. He further argues that the absence of the term ‘Sihala’ (Simhala) in the Brahmi inscriptions (dateable to 3rd century BC) can be used as an argument to show that only outer groups (Kaboja, Damed- a) were distinguished by specific reference to their group identities and that the identity of the ‘in group’ Sinhala was taken for granted. Finally, he says that Sinhala language was the basis on which this ethnic identity was constituted. According to him, by the 5th century AD. ‘Sinhala’ had emerged as a distinct language. Then obviously, the language would not have formed the basis for an ethnic identity from early times as he has argued. This view is again an untenable supposition. To the claim that the present northern and eastern provinces form the traditional homeland of Tamils by the Federal Party, serious criticism arose from Sinhalese scholars. Tantalizingly, sufficient scholars who have analyzed Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict are divided into two schools—those whose approach comes from a desire for a modern solution to contemporary problems of justice and democracy and those who argue from a vantage point of historical right. The former use modern sources usually from comparative history. The latter draw their inspiration from history and archaeology (Coomaraswamy 1987). It is the second group of scholars with whom we are concerned here. Their criticism in fact is a resurrection of the Sihaladipa concept of the Mahavamsa. Thus referring to the writings of de Silva (1994) and Peiris (1985), Hellmann-Rajanayagam (1990: 87) has made the following comments: 11

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In Peiris’, as in de Silva’s piece, we have the resurgence of an argument that has been used by both sides in the ethnic conflict for decades; that of seniority and therefore legitimacy. Whoever could claim or prove to ‘have been there first’ before another ‘ethnicity’ invaded claimed to have the moral-historical high ground to demand ‘possession’ of the country, even if the invaders had been living in the area for centuries and the original inhabitants had left it long ago. Thus, against the claim of an Ancient Tamil homeland, even serious Sinhalese Scholars try to prove the even greater antiquity of Sinhalese settlements, however long abandoned they might have been.

As aptly observed by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the concept of a traditional homeland differs from the notion of a promised land, a chosen piece of territory for a chosen people. The concept of Sihaladipa is a variant of this type of political discourse. This concept is a political one rather than geographical. Its usage in anthropological literature and political science has been highlighted by her as follows (Coomaraswamy 1987: 96): The term originated in anthropological literature with attempts to describe the life style of tribal groups. In political science, the term traditional homelands has became a part of the arsenal of liberal, democratic discourse and is used in situations where a territorial ethnic minority which does not control state power asserts its rights against the state, especially when the state attempts to dilute the political power of the ethnic group or to alter its social and economic life style. It is in this context that the Tamil claim to traditional homelands can be best understood…. In the Sri Lankan context, the term traditional homelands has been ‘primitivised’ into a primordial debate over territory, history, claims and counter claims....

With differences over the proportion of representation between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, Tamils began to feel relegated to be a minority group around the 1920s (de Silva 1981: 397). Inspired by sectional patriotism, they sought to assert their rights within a unitary system of government, by proposing more weightage in representation for them in the State Council. In setting up their own ethnic political associations and seeking to fight for their interests, the Sri Lankan Tamil elite did not work out a rival theory of nationality, although the Communist Party of Sri Lanka in their Memorandum to the Ceylon National Congress, dated 12

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October–November 1944, acknowledged that the Tamils as a distinct, historically evolved nationality, which has the unqualified right to self-determination, including the right, if ever they so desire, to form their own independent state (Roberts 1977: 2574–604). Agitation by the Tamils appears to have been largely in terms of the rights of the minorities. It was apparently only from 1948 that this self-perception of a nationhood and its concomitant battery of constitutional arguments emerged. On the other hand, virtually from the very outset, Kandyans claimed that they were a separate nation (Roberts 1979: 353–54). A new confederation of Kandyan leaders crystallized into a new political association in December 1925 as the Kandyan National Assembly. In 1929, the Kandyan National Assembly fostered the case for a type of federal system when its membership gave evidence to the Special Commission on the constitution of 1927 (Donoughmore Commission). According to them, the island was to be carved into three self-governing areas: 1. The northern and eastern provinces in which Tamils predominate 2. The Kandyan provinces 3. The southern and western provinces mainly of low-country Sinhalese According to the memorandum, each of these would thus be granted a government of its own. For the welfare of the island those three governments would be united in a federal government, thereby ensuring that no section would be in a position to dominate over others. However, with the rejection of the Kandyan demand by the Soulbury Commissioners in 1945, decitizenization and disenfranchisement of Indian Tamils by legislations in 1948–1949, the Citizenship Act of 1948, the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act No. 3 of 1949 and the Ceylon Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Act No. 48 of 1949, and with a share in the cabinet of independent Sri Lanka, coupled with marriage alliances between the low-country and the Kandyan Sinhalese leaders, the Kandyan demand of a separate nation coalesced with traditional Sinhalese nationalism. Also, the formation of the Pan Sinhala Ministry in 1936, and disenfranchisement of Indian Tamils by the Acts of 1948–1949 intensified differences that arose since 1920 between Sinhalese and Tamils. 13

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To an extent, the communal struggle has taken place within the common institution of parliament. Sectional patriotism of the Tamils was more concerned in fighting for rights by way of adequate representation in parliament rather than getting an institutional set-up outside the unitary form of government. But the leaders of the Sinhala community were more concerned with consolidating their numerical superiority in the legislature rather than accommodating or providing an adequate structural arrangement or any other provision for sharing power with minority communities. The disenfranchisement of Indian Tamils proved an eye-opener for indigenous Tamils. Disenfranchisement coupled with the policy of colonizing by the Sinhalese peasants in the Tamil areas of the north and east was viewed with suspicions. It was seen as the aim of Sinhalese hegemony to overcome the geographical barrier between Tamils and Sinhalese. The loss of identity of Tamils living in the north-central and north-western provinces and the merger and absorption of Tamils by the majority community in Sri Lankan history was an added factor for the apprehension of the Tamils and the need for a homeland to preserve their identity. Colonization as one of the means to consolidate further a political base in a developing parliamentary system was recognized by Sinhalese politicians even before independence. In 1931, an Executive Committee of Agriculture and Lands was created by the State Council to recommend a scheme of ‘Aided Land Colonization’ to afford work for surplus population and increase food production. The committee submitted its report in 1932 and it came up for discussion in the council in 1939 (Mayan Vije 1985). Some members of the State Council strongly criticized the policy of colonizing the dry zone while plenty of land was available in the wet zone. They pointed out that it was possible to bring into cultivation an extent of 10,000 to 15,000 acres of land in the southern and western province at a lesser cost than the proposed new schemes. However, the colonization of the Tamil areas became an obsession of the Sinhalese politicians inspired by the concept of Sihaladipa. This is evident in the biography of D.S. Senanayake entitled Sri Lanka’s First Prime Minister, Don Stephen Senanayake (D.S.) written by H.A.J. Hulugalle (1975). He states how D.S. Senanayake followed the model of Jewish settlements planted in traditional Palestine territory in order to deprive the latter of their homeland. 14

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In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s when the battle raged over communal versus territorial representation, these Tamil demands for communal representation were often discounted with the argument that they would in any case get enough votes to get their seats in Parliament, since the north and east were Tamil majority areas (HellmannRajanayagam 1990: 83, footnote 12). The recommendation of the Soulbury Commission with regard to representation for Tamils in parliament was also aimed with this view. Once the principle of territorial representation was accepted, colonization meant that the Sinhalese would not live there but would vote there, and the Tamil votes would be superseded. Creation of Sinhalese electorates in these areas subsequently confirmed this apprehension as justified. Here one could see the advance from sectional patriotism to sectional nationalism, or more aptly from Tamil rights to an ideology of Tamil nationalism and a traditional homeland. The Sinhalese and Tamils have lived for long periods in different parts of the island and the state should not take measures that could change the ethnic composition of traditional habitations of Tamils. In time the doctrine has grown to include the view that each ethnic group has enjoyed its own distinct history, with its cultural, social and political institutions. This is evident from a resolution of the Federal Party at the First National Convention held in Trincomalee in 1951: In as much as it is the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral stature must degenerate and in as much as the Tamil speaking people in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood, firstly that of a historical past in this Island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese, secondly by the fact of their being a linguistic entity entirely different from that of the Sinhalese, with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language which makes Tamil fully adequate for all present day needs, and finally, by reason of their territorial habitation of definite areas which constitute over one third of this Island, this first national conference of I.T.A.K. (Ilankai Tamil Arasuk Katchi) demands for the Tamil speaking nation in Ceylon their inalienable right to political autonomy and calls for a plebiscite to determine the boundaries of the linguistic states in consonance with the fundamental and unchallengeable principles of self-determination. (Kathiraveluppillai 1974: 7) 15

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This view of nationhood was later reiterated in the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1976 (Ponnampalam 1983), which demanded a separate state for the Tamils. The Thimpu principles adopted by Tamil groups in 1985—nationhood, traditional homeland and right of self-determination—reaffirm the resolution of the Federal Party at its convention in 1951. Consciousness of the Sri Lankan Tamils that they constitute a separate ethnic group deserving political recognition had been developing for several decades in the pre-independence period. In the early 1950s, it was manifested in the demand for a federal political solution to meet their aspirations. In the 1960s and the 1970s, with the dwindling educational and employment opportunities and attempts to suppress peaceful agitations, periodic occurrences of communal riots, more correctly, mob attacks on Tamils, were an answer for airing legitimate grievances. By not honouring pacts on devolution and power-sharing entered into by accredited leaders of both communities, differences between the Sinhalese and the Tamils sharpened and compelled the Vaddukoddai Resolution in 1976. The problem became explosive in the 1970s, with militarization of the state which began in the 1960s. The emergence of Tamil militants demanding a separate state is a reaction to mayhem and murder let loose by the state and Buddhist chauvinism and failure on the part of the Sri Lankan state to approach this political problem politically and democratically. When a nation is on the boil the scum rises as the mob. Conscious of the pitfalls involved in using historical rights to solve a political problem, in a passing reference, a few points may be noted. Inadequate literary sources, unlike the Pali Chronicles, are a main constraint for the reconstruction of the early history of the Tamils. Even in the Pali Chronicles the activities of the Tamils find mention only when these affected the political or religious affairs of the Sinhalese Kingdom. On the Tamil side, the chronicles that are extant are those written nearly three centuries after the foundation of the Jaffna Kingdom in the 13th century. Sections of these works dealing with the period before the 13th century are replete with legendary material as in the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa. Nevertheless, available literary and archaeological sources confirm that Sri Lanka, from the early centuries of recorded history has been a multilingual and multi-ethnic society. A study of early state16

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formation and later history shows the role played by chieftaincies and regional kingdoms. The study of the Brahmi inscriptions dateable to 3rd/2nd century BC shows that there were 269 pre-state chieftaincies throughout the island (Gunawardana 1982). The author of the Mahavamsa says that by killing 32 Damila kings Dutthagamani (in the 2nd century BC) became sovereign ruler of Sri Lanka (Geiger 1950). Chieftaincies were under the leadership of Parumaka (Parumakan) (Seneviratne 1992; Sitrampalam 1986/87), Ve-ls (Sitrampalam 1990) Ay (Sitrampalam 1988) and so on. Linguistically, these titles are of Dravidian origin. Even the form Tamil occurs as Damil-a/Damed-a/ Damel-a both in the chronicles dateable to 3rd/2nd century BC and in Brahmi inscriptions of a similar date. Tantalizingly enough, out of five Brahmi inscriptions where the form Damed-a/Damel-a occurs, four are in the present north-eastern province, two in Vavuniya (Paranavitana 1970), one is in Seruvavila (Seneviratne 1985), Trincomalee district and one in Kuduvil (Paranavitana 1970: 37, No. 480), Amparai district. Damed-a/Damel-a, during this time besides the linguistic identity, denoted a group consciousness as well. In fact Pali Damil-a, Sinhalese Demel-a and Demal-a and Sanskrit Dravida denoted Tamil (Paranavitana 1970: xxix–x). According to linguists Tamil is the original form from which the name Dravida was later derived in the following manner—Tamil > Tamila > Tramila > Dramida > Drapida > Dravida. Hence, Damil-a and Damed-a denoted Tamil. The Tamil identity during this time is also borne out by that some words of the Sangam period are still in common use among the peasantry of Jaffna such as aitu, atar, utu, uvan, vanta-re, although they have fallen into disuse in Thamilakam (Paranavitana 1959: 43–45). A Tamil poet from Sri Lanka is said to have adorned the Tamil Sangam (Academy) of Madurai in Thamilakam. He is Ilattupu-tan Te-vanar. Seven of his poems are included in the Sangam Anthologies such as Akana-nu-ru (Cettiyar 1961), Kuruntogai (Comacuntaranar 1962a) and Nattinai (Comacuntaranar 1962b). He seemed to have lived in the 1st century BC. Gradually, these chieftaincies became regional kingdoms. The Brahmi inscriptions and the coins discovered in northern Sri Lanka recently confirm the regional identity of the north (Sitrampalam 1993). Both local and foreign factors led to the sharpening of the linguistic and religious identities. At this juncture it is relevant to mention observations of K.M. de Silva (1981: 20–21): 17

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With the rise of three Hindu powers in South India—the Pandyas, Pallavas and the Colas—in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. ethnic and religious antagonisms bedeviled relations between them and the Sinhalese Kingdom…. one important consequence flowed from this: the Tamils in Sri Lanka became increasingly conscious of their ethnic identity which they sought to assert in terms of culture and religion/Tamil and Hindu.

Coincidentally, the Vijaya legend in Mahavamsa in a similar tone reflects the Sinhala identity during this time. The legends of Ukkiracinkan–Maruthapuravalli and Yalppadi of northern Sri Lanka and Adakasavuntari–Kulakkoddan of eastern Sri Lanka reflect the mythohistory of the early state formation of this region. Gradually the country came to be compartmentalized into two major linguistic regions. Rule of Cholas in the 11th century which lasted for nearly seven decades played a vital role in giving a Tamil identity to the north-eastern provinces (Pathmanathan 1980; Silva 1981: 73). Referring to areas of Tamil settlements K. Indrapala (1969: 57) observed: The North-Eastern littoral has yielded more Tamil inscriptions and Saiva ruins providing definite evidence of Tamil settlement in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In addition, Tamil chronicles furnish for the first time some information relating to these settlements. The transformation of the present Eastern province into a Tamil area may well be said to have begun in the eleventh century.

Although Pali Chronicles would maintain that the north and the eastern regions of Sri Lanka formed part of Rajaratta and Rohana kingdoms respectively, excepting for occasional references, we do not have substantial evidence of these regions forming parts under the centralized administration of the Anuradhapura Kingdom continuously. Difficulties of communication and absence of a strong bureaucracy were factors which hindered a centralized state. The history of Sri Lanka is really a history of regional kingdoms. Instances are few for control of the whole of Sri Lanka by one ruler, and his management of the whole country was seldom realized except in four instances in 2,500 years of recorded history of Mahavamsa. The Tamil identity of north-eastern Sri Lanka was strengthened by the Magha invasion, the rise of Jaffna Kingdom (Pathmanathan 1978) 18

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and the rule of the Tamil Vanniyars in the north and east (Indrapala 1970; Pathmanathan 1995). The rule of the colonial powers since the 16th century perpetuated this identity, because of the separate rule the Portuguese and the Dutch imposed. This is evident from records of the Portuguese historian (Queyroz 1930), Dutch Predikant (Philippus 1682) and memoirs left by Dutch Governors. The Cleghorn minutes of AD 1797 depicting Tamils and the Sinhalese as separate nations reflect the prevalent ideology of nationhood in Europe (Nadaraja 1960). In fact, the demarcation of the present northeastern provinces confirmed this identity (Pieris Ralph 1954; For further details please see Sitrampalam, 2004a; 2004b). This is further affirmed by census reports under British rule (TULF 1988). In the light of the foregoing discussion, it is appropriate to quote Arasaratnam (1979: 518): The Tamils possess many of the characteristics that contribute to modern nationhood. They have a shared historical experience, a continuous linguistic and cultural tradition, a common way of life, the result of a traditional system of beliefs and values dominated by saivism and, most important of all a defined territory as homeland. Far from breaking down sectional loyalties, recent Ceylonese history has strengthened them and correspondingly weakened the all-Island identity. Sinhala nationalism which seeks to pose as Ceylonese nationalism incorporates nothing of the Tamil tradition and is even seen to be in conflict with it. A graduated scale of nationalism, with concentric circles of loyalties, the larger subsuming the smaller without being in conflict with it, is yet to evolve in Sri Lanka.

Finally, it is pertinent to mention Michel Roberts. He, while endorsing the view of the All Ceylon Tamil Conference put forward in 1937, made the following observations: In short–these political practitioners favoured the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ which has found so much favour in recent decades among the Indian Intelligentia as an answer to centrifugal sub nationalist movements within the Republic of India. It has always been an attractive ideal. For Sri Lanka, it has been, as we know, much more difficult to make this theory work. (Roberts 1979: 356)

This is mainly due to the influence of historiography, archaeology and their manipulation in Sri Lankan nationalism to form an ideology of 19

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exclusivism. Although much work has been done on the pre-historic or historical phase or historical archaeology of Sri Lanka, scholars who have studied emergence of civilization, which is portrayed in Pali Chronicles in the form of mythohistory, have lamented about the inadequacy of research in this area of proto-history (Senaratne 1969). Although the beginning of proto-historic research could be traced back to 1889 (Sitrampalam 1987), it gained momentum only with the excavation of the earliest proto-historical site of Anuradhapura. Since then the spurt of archaeological activities undertaken during the last three decades yielded sufficient cultural data regarding the early or proto-historic settlements in Sri Lanka. Among the proto-historic settlement sites, Anuradhapura, Kantarodai, Mantai and Tissamaharama (Akurugoda) figure prominently. Of these Anuradhapura takes precedence on account of size in comparison to other sites as well as the amount of research done on this site to date. In Anuradhapura, as mentioned earlier during the excavation in 1969, three cultural phases were encountered (Deraniyagala 1972). They are Mesolithic (Late Stone Age), Iron Age and early historic. The stratigraphical evidence suggests that this site was initially occupied by stone-using hunter-gatherers, progenitors of the present day Veddas followed by Iron Age people. However, the artefactual assemblage shows a cultural continuity from the Iron Age to the early historical phase. This sequence has been confirmed by subsequent excavations in recent times in this site (Coningham 1999). In the absence of any evidence for the occupation of Kantarodai by Stone Age people, it has yielded evidence for two cultural phases namely Iron Age and early historic (Begley 1973). Mantai excavations too yielded evidence for its occupation by Mesolithic and Iron Age people (Deraniyagala 1990a; John and Martha 1984). A similar sequence for Tissamaharama, as highlighted by Henry Parker (Parker 1895; Weisshaar et al. 2001) during the close of the last century, has been confirmed by recent excavations here. Similarly, explorations in the east at Kuchaveli, Seruvavila and Illankaiturai (Deraniyagala and Abeyratne 1997) and south-east Panama Moneragala and Ambalantota as well as on seaports on the estuaries of rivers in the western and south-western Sri Lanka have confirmed the evolution of the early historic phase from its preceding proto-historic or Iron Age phase (Osmand 1998). Radiometric dates

20

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for early Iron Age Megalithic culture for Anuradhapura range from 900 to 750 BC. The cist burial site at Ibbankatuwa yielded radiometric dates ranging from 600 to 450 BC. So also radiometric dates from cist burials at Pinwewa-Galsohan Kanatta provided an upper date of 450 BC (Seneviratne 2004). Besides early settlements mentioned previously, burials of this cultural complex encountered so far could be classified as urns, urns in cists, pit burials, extended burials in pits, cairns, stone circles, cist burials and the dolmens. At this juncture it is relevant to take note of the genesis of these types mentioned earlier (Seneviratne 1994, Sitrampalam 1980, 1990a, 1990b). These offer many parallels to the Megalithic burials in Thamilakam, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The excavated materials both from settlements and burials sites not only illustrate a correlation between the two but also confirm that the Sri Lankan Megalithic culture is a part of the Megalithic cultural complex of South India. The foregoing view has been amply demonstrated by Sudharshan Seneviratne (1996: 54, Footnote 17) in the following observations: Archaeological investigations at Proto historic habitations and burial sites indicate that Sri Lanka formed the Southern most sector of the broader Early Iron Age Peninsular Indian techno cultural complex. The ecofact and artifact assemblages from these sites in Sri Lanka have established that rice cultivation, animal domestication, the horse, small scale metallurgical operations involving iron and copper, bead production, village settlements, the ‘Megalithic’ burial ritual, the ceramic industry involving the production of Black and Red ware and Black ware, and post firing graffiti symbols were introduced to Sri Lanka from Peninsular India, or specifically from South India. This chronological context (largely) obtained in the form of radiometric dates, the techno cultural elements and their region of origin, does not in any way agree with the descriptions of the peopling of Sri Lanka narrated in the Middle historic Chronicles of Sri Lanka. …These Early Age habitats continued through the Proto historic and Early historic transition, and well into the Early Historic period. The association of the earliest Brahmi inscription bearing cave shelters in and around Proto Historic burial as well as habitation sites indicated the continuation of the descendants of the Proto historic communities into a new cultural milieu. 21

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Moreover Susantha Goonatilake (1980: 24) observed: The megalithic evidence points to an important fact that the economy and technology of Sri Lanka in the early phase was not different from the South Indian one. This fact is also collaborated by present evidence of the kinship system which is largely of the South-Indian type. The kinship system it should be noted has an intimate association with production system and is conditioned by.

He finally concluded by saying: [T]he existence of a South Indian economy and technological pattern immediately raises the major paradox of early Sri Lankan history namely the presence of an economy and technology common to South India but a language and religion of North Indian origin. In Marxist terminology as if it were a South Indian infrastructure with a North Indian superstructure.

While emphasizing the Dravidian character of the Sinhalese kinship system, Bechert (1963) observed, ‘It is unmistakable that this whole terminological system is only to be understood in relation to the old system of the Sinhalese, which was characterized by mother right and cross cousin marriage.’ This is clearly known from the common base of the Sinhalese and Tamil caste structure where caste is divided into agriculturists and non-agriculturalists with agriculturalists at the top of society (Bechert 1960). Moreover, the earliest Brahmi inscriptions further show no evidence for the presence of North Indian caste structure in early Sri Lankan society (Karunatilaka 1986). Finally, folk religion of the Sinhalese exhibits a close link with the religion of the Sangam period of Thamilakam, thereby indicating that they were originally Hindus before they embraced Buddhism (Bechert 1973). This is confirmed by the study of pre-Christian Brahmi inscriptions as well (Sitrampalam 1990c). The study of the skeletal material from excavations has yielded valuable information regarding the authors of this culture. Commenting on the skeletal remains of South India, Kennedy (1975) observed that the present-day population of South India are the lineal descendants of the Iron Age people of South India. In Sri Lanka too Lukacs and Kennedy (1981) saw a continuity from the Iron Age population to the present. The study of skeletal remains further show 22

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that the Iron Age people of Pomparippu possessed some biological features establishing their probable affinities to the neighbouring populations and there is little evidence to show the occurrence of ‘new and strikingly different anatomical traits in the coastal regions of Sri Lanka. However the dental morphological analysis has established that Pomparippu humans were ancestral to the Sinhalese, vis a vis the Tamils of Northern Sri Lanka’ (Deraniyagala 2004, Note 6). Similarly the study of skeletal material from Mantai showed that this skeleton is similar to the modern South Indian type (Chanmugam and Jeyawardena 1954). The similarity of the burial type of Anaikkoddai to Mantai along with the seal with the Tamil legend ‘Kovetan’, ‘Kovetam’, ‘Koventan’ dateable to 3rd/2nd century BC further reinforces the link with South India (Ragupathy 1987). This is further confirmed by the genetic study of the Sinhalese and Tamil populations by Kirk (1976), Papiha, Mastana and Jayasekara (1996), Roychoudhury (1984) and finally by Sahan (1998). In this regard it is relevant to quote Sahan (1998) who made the following observation: The present and earlier investigations produced no evidence whatsoever that the Sinhalese are genetically nearer to Eastern Indian populations than to the Tamils or to other South Indian populations. Even though there has been some legendary connection of the Sinhalese with East Indian or East Asian populations through trade or social links, there is no evidence to suggest that the present day Sinhalese population is in anyway genetically distinct from the Tamils of Sri Lanka. As far as we can see, the genetic evidence falls short of supporting the legend that the Sinhalese are descendants of Prince Vijaya.

The presence of Brahmi inscriptions which appear around 3rd century BC, is often quoted as a concrete instance of archaeological data along with the linguistic similarity of the Sinhala language to that of North Indian dialects as evidence for the early Sinhalese-Aryan colonization. However, the findspots of the inscriptions lying in close proximity to tanks and Megalithic burials are again a pointer to the close link between these. This link is further reinforced by similarity between the non-Brahmi symbols found on these inscriptions (which, too, mostly disappear at the beginning of the Christian era, like the Dravidian clan names and titles) and the graffiti symbols of the Iron Age pottery. Nevertheless, perusal of the inscriptions which speak of donations of caves by new converts to Buddhism clearly indicates presence of two 23

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layers of Brahmi script itself, besides the authors of these inscriptions being exposed to various cultural waves emanating from India. They are, a pre-Buddhist and a Buddhist layer. The Buddhist layer of scripts is identified as North Indian believed to have been associated with the introduction of Buddhism during the reign of Asoka around the 3rd century BC, although Paranavitana (1970: xxiii) never discounted the possibility of its introduction into Sri Lanka even earlier. P.E. Fernando (1989: 21) while observing close similarity between the script of the inscriptions of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka observed, ‘A school of scribes differing in several respects from those who carved inscriptions of Asoka was existing in South India and Sri Lanka and practicing its art in these regions even before the time of Asoka.’ While Buhler (1904) called this as Southern Brahmi or Dravidi, Nagaswamy (1968) prefers the term ‘Damili’, which is also known as Tamil Brahmi. Typical forms of this script such as ‘a’, ‘i’, ‘ma’, ‘l-a’, and ‘La’, which survived for a few centuries before they got submerged with the Buddhist layer in the pre-Christian Brahmi inscriptions have been identified by Karunaratne (1984) as well. He further adds that the palaeography of the Sri Lankan Brahmi inscriptions has close affinities with the script that Buhler called Dravidi. The excavation at Anuradhapura (Wimalasena 1998) and Akurugoda (Weisshaar et al. 2001) have shown the presence of typical Tamil Brahmi form ‘l-a’, which is not found in North-Indian Brahmi. The form ‘l-a’ is also found in the inscriptions at Bambaragastalava and Periya-Puliyankulam. So also another form ‘n- a’, peculiar to Tamil Brahmi has been found at Akurugoda on coins (Osmand and Rajah 1999). Discovery of coins in Akurugoda dateable to 2nd century BC with Brahmi letters have Tamil Brahmi forms (Fernando 1989). These have been read as Utiran- , Tasapijan- , Kapati Kajapan- , Mahacattan- , Malakatisaha, Cudanakasa, Cudasamanaka, Barata-Tisaha, Guttaha and Catanakaracan- . These are clear evidences for the presence of the Tamil Brahmi form before it went out of vogue with the introduction of northern Brahmi associated with Buddhism, or even earlier. Thus, it is evident that the people of both the regions divided by the Palk Strait were in the same cultural zone so much so that they adopted a common script during the preBuddhist days. The distribution of the Brahmi inscriptions do give a different picture from that of Pali Chronicles, which speak of a unified Sri Lanka 24

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with Anuradhapura as capital for many centuries. However, the findspots of these inscriptions show that there were as much as 269 minor chieftaincies (Gunawardana 1982). Because of resources Anuradhapura would have predominated, as evident from the excavations. Those chieftaincies remind us of similar state-formations in Tamilakam where the chiefs or Kurunilamannars ruled over various parts of Thamilakam. This is also further reinforced by the internal evidence of these inscriptions that mention the role of Parumakans (Seneviratne 1992: 99–31; Sitrampalam 1986/87: 13–25), Ve- ls (Sitrampalam 1990: 89–94), Ays (Sitrampalam 1988), Gamani and Raja as heads of these chiefdoms. This again shows that in ancient Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, the political hierarchy developed along similar lines. These forms remind us about the local chiefs who held sway in southern Tamil Nadu. Similarly, as in Thamilakam, one could notice the presence of various clans such as Baratas (Seneviratne 1985: 49–56), Utiyan, Cholas, Tiyan that occur in these inscriptions as Bata/Barata, Uti/Uttiya, Cuda, Tissa, besides many other Tamil forms as Marumaka, Tiru, Katavai and Panku (Gunawardana 1979; Veluppillai 1980). Tamil presence is also further evident from the study of place names of these inscriptions (Pushparatnam 2002). Although many of the original Tamil forms were either Prakritized or got submerged in the development of the proto-Sinhala language, more than 50 per cent of these place names in Brahmi inscriptions point to their Tamil origin. In the light of our discussion earlier, one has to take cognizance of Siran Deraniyagala’s (2004: 17–18) argument that the presence of a few pottery forms, beads and bone styli of North Indian origin along with Brahmi writing in Prakrit language on pottery dateable to 600–500 BC corroborate the view that Indo-Aryan was predominant from at least as early as 500 BC in Sri Lanka. Important points are the appearance of writing dateable to 600–500 BC, with a name (Anuradh) associated with the minister of Vijaya, which again confirm the Mahavamsa story of early Aryan colonization of the island by 500 BC. Initially, Siran Deraniyagala published a paper in 1990 based on the discovery of five sherds of pottery that bore partial inscriptions in Brahmi script (Deraniyagala 1990b). As the five sherds came from a 10 m deep test pit, Anuradhapura Mahapali (AMP), which measured only 3 m by 3 m, the director of the excavation himself suggested that there was a possibility that certain of the levels 25

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might have been disturbed (Coningham et al. 1996: 77). Coningham et al. (ibid.: 86) have made the following observations regarding the further discovery by Siran Deraniyagala: A further example of this type is suggested by the discovery by Deraniyagala of an inscribed potsherd bearing the inscription (A) bi Anuradh(i) from the adjacent ASWI sondage (Deraniyagala, 1992, 746). A princess of this name described as the daughter of king Naga and wife of king Uttiya (uti) is referred to as donating four caves to the sangha at Periya PuliyanKulam in Vavuniya District. (Paranavitana, S. 1970.27). The script of this inscription is altogether consonant with the second century B.C. date.

With regard to the legend in the potsherd, which is partly broken, it is very likely that it is ‘abi Anuradhi’ and not ‘Anuradh’ as suggested by Siran Deraniyagala. Perusal of the Brahmi inscriptions show that it appears as a personal name singly and at times with ‘Abi’ as indicated earlier. At this juncture it is pertinent to analyze the form ‘Abi’. This has been rendered into English as princess. In fact, this is a derivation from Telugu ‘Avva’, Tulu ‘Abbe’, Kannada ‘Avve’ and Tamil ‘Avvai’, which are modes of address to ladies with love and respect (Annual Report 1929). Like Tamil Avvai this too denoted a mode of address to ladies who played an important role in the administration as that of the Parumakal in ancient Sri Lanka. Under these circumstances, by ignoring the form ‘Abi’ found on the potsherd and arguing for the presence of the form ‘Anuradhi’ as referring to the minister who founded Anuradhapura is far-fetched. However, it should be noted that the form ‘Anuradha’ is a name of an asterism. The weakness of Deraniyagala’s argument is also evident by the analysis of the story of colonization given in the Mahavamsa itself. Referring to the confusion in the Mahavamsa itself, G.C. Mendis (1965: 267) argues that according to one tradition, the foundation of villages is traced to the followers of Vijaya and in another they are traced to the brothers of Bhaddakaccana, the queen of Panduvasadeva. Finally, he concludes that even the conclusion to be drawn from the references to the villages seems to be that their names were anterior to those of the so-called founders (which differ in two legends) and that it is the villages that seem to have given names to the so-called founders. This is more evident in the case of Tambapanni, the ancient name of Sri Lanka and a fanciful explanation given in the Vijaya legend, which 26

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again shows that this form is anterior to that of the Mahavamsa story. This is equally true of the story of settlements given in the Mahavamsa and interpretations given to them by historians who found a ‘kernel of truth’ in them. This story tallies with Megalithic settlements. Just like the villages that seem to have given names to so-called founders, these Megalithic or Early Iron Age settlements have given room for the fabrication of the story of settlements by mythical Vijaya and his followers. Thus, the presence of a number of inscriptions written in Prakrit, however, does not necessarily indicate a large number of writers or presumably speakers of this language. Anuradhapura being an urban centre, the presence of this script could reflect a spread of this language, which was used for trading activities as well. A similar process was at work at Kodumanal and Arikkamedu, urban centres in Thamilakam. However, Wimalasena who studied the palaeographical features of the script on the pottery at Anuradhapura claims that it is not earlier than 3rd century BC. (Wimalasena 1998). Even Prakrit languages, which were popular all over South Asia cannot be tied up with the long distance southward migration of the Indo-Aryan elite only. At this juncture it is relevant to quote Coningham and Lewer (2000: 711): Linguistic changes can occur without recourse to population changes (Coningham et al. 1996: 94). Such changes can occur through a creation of a trade language (Sherratt 1988: 461–62) or over random processes (Robb 1991: 297). This question is intensely complex, as indicated by a presence of a strong Dravidian element in the Sinhala language (Godakumbura. 1946: 827) and genetic evidence linking the Sinhalese more closely to South India than North Indian communities (Roychoudhury 1984).

In order to get a clear perception of this, one has to look into the development of the Sinhalese alphabet (Gunasekera 1962). The earliest Sinhalese grammar, the Sidatsangrawa, written in AD 13th century, mentions two forms of the Sinhala alphabet. They are Elu alphabet and mixed alphabet (Misra). The Elu alphabet is the earliest form and free from mixture of Sanskrit and Pali sounds of the mixed alphabet. At this juncture it may be relevant to note the absence of mixed alphabet in early Sinhalese records, although engravers were conversant with Pali and Sanskrit. This shows the aversion of users towards additional letters in the mixed alphabet, which were evidently foreign to them. 27

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It is now evident that the monastic language Pali Prakrit had gradually spread to the population over centuries assimilating the earlier Elu language; the end product of this is the development of Sinhalese as a distinct language. Thus, Sinhala language gradually got an identity of its own from the period of the 4th century to the 8th century, the era Geiger (1938) calls the ‘Proto-Sinhalese’ era. The change from the early period is so sharp that Geiger names it, ‘a period of radical linguistic revolution’. The proto-Sinhalese inscriptions ‘differ so much from the Brahmi inscriptions that it looks nearly a break’. This is clearly brought out by Susantha Goonatilake (1980a: 24–29) who says that ‘the extant evidence of “Sinhala” language development is of a script closely associated with monks and monastic establishment gradually unfolding into a new identity after a period of several centuries…’ Thus, available epigraphical evidence suggests then not a transfer of populations for Sinhalization but growth of the language associated with institutions connected with the temple and royalty from a language virtually indistinguishable from the Mauryan Prakrit. In short, evidence suggests the linguistic apparatus that was to become the Sinhala language was introduced in association with Buddhism and developed over centuries in the new cultural milieu. By the 5th century, Sinhala identity is virtually completed as indicated not only by the emergence of proto-Sinhala, but also by emergence of the Mahavamsa as an ideological document with a strong ethnic identity. The above explanation suggests strongly that Sinhalization was a culturalization process associated with the spread of Buddhism and its consolidation throughout the land. In short, Sinhalization came after and not before Buddhism. Thereafter, he concluded by saying that ‘Sinhalisation was fundamentally a cultural process associated with Buddhism and that migration even if it did take place, was of a minor kind, so as not to have left a significant trace in the archaeological data or in demographic terms on the population’ (Goonatilake 1980b: 18–19). The Vijayan myth represents the political ideology of the state. Especially after the 7th century, prerequisite conditions matured making it possible to link Sinhala identity with Buddhism and to present Tamils as opponents of Buddhism. To damn Tamils as opponents of Buddhism in a wholesale manner, if one recalls the efflorescence of Buddhism during the prePallava period of South India and the rich contributions of South 28

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Indian Scholars to the writing of commentaries such as by Buddhaghosa and the place accorded to Buddhism in Tamil epics, would be a mistake. The pre-Buddhistic data in the Mahavamsa provides, therefore, mythological legitimization for the post-Buddhistic era and helps associate it with the Gangetic plains and the Buddhist order. Myths have been created to explain the term Sihala/Simhala, which originally denoted the island, and thereby an ethnic identity of the Sinhalese was linked with this form. Kings of Anuradhapura became kinsmen of the Buddha and the island became Dhammadipa with the mythical visits of Lord Buddha, where only a true faith of Theravada Buddhism could flourish. The concept that only Bodhisattvas (future Buddhas) can become kings of the island gained currency in the political terminology (Gunawardana 1976). Similarly, Coningham (Coningham et al. 1996: 94), who has excavated at Anuradhapura recently, summed up the process of Sinhalization as follows: By progressive Sinhalisation they resisted attempts by south Indian states to assimilate the island. In such circumstances the Indo-European Buddhist nature of the island may have been stressed by kings and Buddhist communities in order to preserve sovereignty. This emphasis would have resulted in the gradual spread of a monolingual in place of a bilingual one. Karunatilleke

Siran Deraniyagala (Deraniyagala and Abeyratne 1997: 32), while commenting on the language of the inscriptions found on the pottery, made the following comments: The language of the inscriptions, where discernible, is Indo-Aryan Prakrit (Deraniyagala 1990c: 160–1; 1992: 745–6; Coningham et al 1996: 92). There is no way of ascertaining what language was in use before Prakrit in Sri Lanka, whether Vedda, Dravidian or some other category as evidenced by the occurrence of certain non-Indo-Aryan, non-Dravidian words in the Sinhalese language. It is probable that elite dominance was the prime factor responsible for the super session of the earlier base language of Sri Lanka by Prakrit (Dereniyagala 1992: 748; Coningham et al. 1996: 93–4).

Geiger (1938: VI), an authority on Sinhalese language, states that it is very difficult to fix upon one of the middle Indian dialects as the mother tongue of the Sinhalese or to assign to Sinhalese a definite place among 29

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modern Aryan languages. Dissanayake (1978) has not only accepted the peculiarity of the Sinhalese language among the North Indian Prakrits but has also drawn attention of scholars to the existence of a language or languages in Sri Lanka that may have influenced the course of development of the Sinhalese language. Researches of linguists in recent years have revealed important characteristics of Sinhalese language that are closer to those of Tamil and other Dravidian languages than to middle Indo-Aryan languages. Karunatilleke (1974: 151) for instance has drawn attention to some of the points of similarity. ‘As far as the phonemic systems are concerned,’ he says, ‘a significant point of similarity between Sinhalese and Tamil is the absence of the aspirate stops which puts Sinhalese into sharp contrast with rest of modern Indo-Aryan languages.’ Many scholars who have worked on the origin and development of Sinhalese language have overlooked an important element in the Sinhalese language: its structure. Of the scholars who were able to leave the premise prescribed by the Mahavamsa and attempted an analysis of the Sinhalese language from another angle, during early decades of the last century, Gunawardhana and to some extent Kumaratunga stand out prominently. Gunawardhana stressed, in the manner of modern linguists, the importance of the structure of a language for the identification of its place in any language family. His knowledge of Tamil in fact equipped him, unlike Geiger, to make a genuine comparative study of two languages. To quote his words: Scientifically, therefore, the determining factor of a language is not its vocabulary, but its structure viz. that aspect of it which is concerned with the arrangement and mutual adjustment of words in the expression of thought and in this respect, it must be said that Sinhalese is essentially a Dravidian language. This is not all. Its evolution too seems to have been on a Tamil basis. And so we seem safe in saying that while in regard to its word equipment, Sinhalese is the child of Pali and Sanskrit, it is, with regard to its physical features and physical structure, essentially the daughter of the Tamil language. (Gunawardhana 1918: 13)

A similar view has been expressed by Fr. Swami Gnanaprakasar (1952), who, like Gunawardhana, was also conversant in both Tamil and Sinhalese. Thus Gunawardhana has clearly shown that structurally there is a wide divergence between Sinhalese and middle Indo-Aryan 30

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languages. It is interesting to note that the leading exponents of the theory that the Sinhalese is an Indo-Aryan language, like Geiger and Paranavitana, have conveniently chosen to avoid meeting arguments put forward by Gunawardhana. There are cases when the original character of the language had been changed or displaced through contact or bilingualism when the language is supported by political power and religion. As an example one could quote the Iranian language (Ruhlen 1975). Although this language belongs to the Indo-Iranian group and was considerably developed at the time of the expansion of Islam in the AD 6th/7th century, the impact of Arabic, through Islam, brought a very large amount of Arabic words into the Iranian language. This resulted in modern Iranian vocabulary being 70 per cent Arabic. This has happened to Elu/Proto-Sinhalese as well. Indo-Aryan words in Elu largely borrowed through Pali rather than directly from Sanskrit indicate that it was predominance of Buddhism and Pali that was responsible for presence of a large number of words of Indo-Aryan origin in the Sinhalese language. The loan words do not touch the character of the language. An objective analysis of archaeological, anthropological, sociological and linguistic data confirms that South India and Sri Lanka were in the same cultural zone, namely, the Megalithic cultural zone, around 1000 BC. Civilizations of both regions emerged from this base, which, while in South India paved the way for the development of languages like Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam, in Sri Lanka it did the same for Elu and Tamil. Sri Lanka on account of its strategic position in the trade routes was exposed to various foreign influences. These influences fell into two phases—pre-Buddhist and Buddhist. Of all other proto-historic centres, Anuradhapura alone had the potential to develop as the largest urban centre in the island. This helped it to have links with other similar urban centres in the Gangetic valley in India. The presence of a few North-Indian traits noted in archaeological context as indicated by Siran Deraniyagala could be a reflection of this. Nevertheless, the actual impact of Prakrit and northern Brahmi script on Sri Lanka, although it was possible during the pre-Buddhist phase, could be seen only during the 3rd century BC. Buddhism and Pali paved the way for development of Sinhala and the Sinhala ideology 31

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embodied in the Mahavamsa, where concepts of Sihaladipa and Dhammadipa gained dominance. This had its impact on nationalism in the 20th century too. Since independence, Sri Lankan nationalism came to be identified with Sinhala nationalism alone. The provision subsequently made with hindsight wisdom of Tamil language as a national language proved to be dead and unremembered. Neither in national commissions nor in state departments or in services—Tamils are either totally ignored or grossly under-represented and therefore remain impotent. This provoked an emergence of a reactive Tamil nationalism. Will Sinhala nationalism accommodate Tamil nationalism, or failing that, will Tamil nationalism take its own course? Nationalism among communities will not disappear and has to be accommodated in a liberal structure of government. These are challenges facing the country today.

NOTE 1. The author wishes to thank S. Kumaru and N. Balendran for preparing the draft and Professor B.E.S.J. Bastiampillai and A.J. Canagaratna for going through this draft and making valuable suggestions.

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Contents

Y Two Z

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka Ravi Vaitheespara1 ™

T

here is by now a growing body of literature on Tamil militant nationalism in Sri Lanka and the violence and ‘terrorism’ associated with it. Tamil insurgency, especially after the major anti-Tamil violence of July 1983, has attracted greater scholarly attention. If the earlier scholarship, much of it written in the immediate aftermath of the massive pogromist violence, was generally sympathetic to the Tamil struggle, later scholarship has been much more critical, with a tendency towards a singular focus on the violence and extremism of Tamil militancy. Thus, this growing body of writings has closely reflected, among other things, the changing political and military balance and the dynamics between the various parties to the conflict, and as such, is not only extremely diverse in its views and orientations but has also undergone significant permutations and transformations over the years. Written against the background of changing political and ethical imperatives, and often by the various participants to the conflict, much of these accounts, despite claims to

33

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the contrary, are unmistakably political and partisan.2 These transformations and changes in the narratives of Tamil militancy themselves can be quiet revealing of the changing dynamics of the conflict and it is with this in mind that this chapter seeks to both critically survey and track some of the dominant trends and changes in this scholarship and also utilize this reflexive exercise to comment and advance some of my own perspectives on militant Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka. One of the most striking features of the earlier scholarship on Tamil militancy, particularly in comparison to the more recent initiatives, was not merely its generally more sympathetic perspective, but its attempt to locate Tamil militancy as part and parcel of a larger unity of developments in post-colonial Sri Lanka—developments that led Sri Lanka from its earlier standing as one of Britain’s ‘model colonies’ to political authoritarianism, militarism, ultra-nationalism and militant separatism. Thus, the development of Tamil militancy was often written as a sub-plot within the broader trajectory of developments taking place in post-colonial Sri Lanka—developments which not only included the rise of a virulent form of Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism but also such things as the massive JVP uprising of the early 1970s. Written mostly by left/liberal scholars moved by the ascendancy of an intolerant form of Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism that broke out sporadically into pogromist violence against Tamils from as early as 1958, these earlier scholars focused for the most part on tracing the emergence and consolidation of this virulent form of Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism by the early decades of the 20th century.3 The rise of Tamil youth militancy was seen in these accounts, then, as an inevitable and logical outcome given the repeated failure of the Tamil parliamentary parties to safeguard Tamil interests. The special issue of the UK-based journal, Race & Class: A Journal of Black and Third World Liberation (Vol. XXVI, Summer 1984, No. 1), devoted to the conflict and timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the 1983 ‘holocaust’ is an especially powerful example of this earlier kind of scholarship. It would be instructive to get a sense of the tone of this earlier writing. The brief editorial appearing before the essays is revealing in this regard. It began: Ever since independence successive Sri Lankan governments have done everything in their power, from state sponsored racism to state-sponsored 34

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

pogroms, to render the Tamils a separate people, and inferior—and then cried out against that separatism when the Tamils embraced it to carve out their own dignity and future. (Race & Class 1984, p. i)

This hard-hitting editorial was followed by an article written by A. Sivanandan (1984), a figure associated with the early left in Sri Lanka and later, the anti-racist left movement in London. In the article entitled, ‘Sri Lanka: Racism and the Politics of Underdevelopment’, Sivanandan provides a complex and nuanced account of the steady development of an oppressive Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism that was in collusion with state power from as early as the 1950s. Sivanandan links these developments and the cycle of pogromist violence against the Tamils to the ascendancy of a predominantly merchant class as opposed to industrial Sinhala capitalist class that had emerged as the ruling class under colonial and neo-colonial conditions. Writing of the pogromist violence, he noted: There have been no race riots in Sri Lanka since independence. What there has been is a series of increasingly virulent pogroms against the Tamil people by the Sinhala state—resulting in the degeneracy of Sinhala society and its rapid descent into barbarism. And all this has been achieved in the name of Sinhala and Buddhist enlightenment—within a matter of thirty-five years—by the concerted efforts of politicians, priests and private armies. (Sivanandan 1984: 1)

It is against this background of state repression and the failure of Tamil ‘bourgeois’ parliamentary parties to safeguard Tamil interests that Sivanandan locates the development of Tamil youth militancy. As far as the political and ideological lineage of Tamil youth militancy was concerned, Sivanandan again offers a complex genealogy: The state repression that followed…drove the burgeoning (Tamil youth) movement underground, where it began to ponder the tenets and practices of Marxism. Already, the activities of Sanmugathasan’s CCP in leading the depressed castes’ temple entry movement in Jaffna…were fresh in their minds, and from their teachers they had learnt of the Jaffna Youth League and the once progressive policies of the LSSP and CP. But they were also immersed in the nationalist rhetoric of the FP and TC who, like their Sinhala counterparts, kept harking back to a glorious past when the 35

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Tamils had their own kingdoms…. And this uneasy mating of bourgeois historicism with historical materialism has continued to plague the theory and practice of Tamil revolutionaries even today. (Sivanandan 1984: 32)4

Thus, Sivanandan, despite his sympathies for the Tamil struggle, was nevertheless careful to provide a complex analysis of its nature and genealogy. Another essay in the same volume by the well-known trade union and communist party leader, N. Sanmugathasan, provides a fairly graphic account of the July 1983 holocaust. Combining his ‘insider’ experience of Sri Lankan politics with his personal experience of the 1983 pogrom, Sanmugathasan (1984), in his essay, ‘Sri Lanka: The Story of the Holocaust’ presents clear evidence of state and ministerial-level planning in the gruesome events of July 1983. Situating the systemic violence against Tamils as nothing but the latest efforts by Sri Lanka’s predominantly Sinhala neo-colonial elite to deflect attention away from their bankrupt economic policies, Sanmugathasan was clearly sympathetic to Tamil youth militancy, but it was again just as it was the case with Sivanandan, a sympathy tempered by sound advice: The militant youth of Jaffna took to terrorism because of the repression and the harassment practiced by the predominantly Sinhalese army, sent to the North for this purpose by the government. They were justified. It was their activities, not those of the TULF, that internationalized the problem of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and won the latter a certain amount of respect and support…they must now involve the whole people; and at the same time link up with revolutionary forces in the South. (ibid.: 82)

What then distinguishes such early writings was not merely its generally sympathetic accounts of Tamil militancy but their attempt to locate Tamil militancy as part and parcel of an ongoing series of symptomatic reactions, against the oppressive and neo-colonialist policies of post-colonial Sri Lanka’s ruling elite and political culture. Thus, unlike much of the recent efforts to understand the various instances of extremist and nationalist violence in their specific instances or in isolation, both Sivanandan and Sanmugathasan sought to locate and understand these as a unity under the broad umbrella and trajectory of colonial and post-colonial Sri Lankan history.

36

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

There were also other more polemical accounts of the development of militant Tamil nationalism. Certainly more sympathetic to Tamil militancy, they included works such as Satchi Ponnambalam’s, Sri Lanka: National Conflict and the Tamil Liberation Struggle. These together with Stanley Tambiah’s passionate personal account aptly subtitled Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy (Tambiah 1986), with its nostalgia for Sri Lanka’s disappearing liberal parliamentary culture, represent another more liberal strand that made up the complex matrix of these earlier works and that saw its high point in the special issue devoted to the conflict in the prestigious Asian studies journal, Journal of Asian Studies (Vol. 49, No. 1), in February 1990.5 This initial sympathetic reading of militant Tamil nationalism began to shift by the late 1980s with the internecine wars and killing sprees between the various militant groups and with the ascendancy of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as the dominant militant group among the Tamils. The fighting that broke out after the induction of the Indian Peace Keeping Force between the LTTE and the Indians also aided this shift. Perhaps the most significant sign and catalyst in the shift in scholarly opinion in the English language was the work of a group of scholars—almost all of them trained in applied or professional science fields—attached to Jaffna University and published collectively under the name of University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) UTHR(J). This body of writings had begun in the latter half of the 1980s ostensibly as a catalogue of the gruesome violence taking place in the north and east orchestrated either by the Sri Lankan or Indian army or by the internecine killing sprees between the various Tamil militant groups. They were, however, not limited to chronicling this violence; their work also contained a number of analytical pieces on the origin and evolution of the conflict and the various parties to the conflict. It was first published in the form of a monograph in 1988 with the title The Broken Palmyra: The Tamil Crisis in Sri Lanka—An Inside Account (Hoole et al. 1988). This work then is an unusual combination of brief historically based analytical pieces together with more descriptive accounts of the violence and militancy taking place in the north and east. Its analysis of the ethnic conflict and the Tamil struggle, particularly before the 37

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rise of Tamil youth militancy, breaks new ground in that it complicates the narrative of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism and attempts to locate the rise of Sinhala/Buddhist and Tamil nationalism within the broader canvas of various other struggles, including class/caste and gender struggles. This was no doubt the result of the influence of the left background of two of its authors. However, the strength of this body of writing is rather uneven. The analysis of the political developments that led to the conflict is followed by a detailed account of the chaos, violence and the sheer brutality inflicted in the north and east by the Sri Lankan Army, the Indian Army and the various Tamil militant groups. Bearing witness especially to a period of utter chaos with the collapse of any kind of formal state structures and liberal institutions, and particularly to the brutal gun culture initiated by youth militancy, their writings are powerful and poignant. Though these accounts of the violence and chaos are an important testimony to what was without doubt the most brutal period of modern Sri Lankan Tamil history and reflect the tremendous courage of its authors, one of its most important and perhaps unintended consequences is that it conveyed a vision of Tamil youth militancy as largely aimless and as the work of ill-prepared and misguided youth—whose activities and violence soon spirals out of control and begins to wreak havoc on the very Tamil population they sought to protect and liberate. As Brian Senivaratna, who wrote the foreword to the book, writes, ‘The Broken Palmyra is a very disturbing account of…what are “heroes” in the various militant movements and even non-militant politicians are really like. Not what they pretend to be, but what they really are’ (Hoole et al. 1998: vi). What then gets conveyed from their account of Tamil youth militancy is the sheer aimlessness and hopelessness of the Tamil militant struggle. Although all the various militant groups come in for criticism, the writing is especially critical of the activities and ascendancy of the LTTE. Words like ‘Totalitarianism’, ‘Fascism’, ‘Religious zeal’ are almost exclusively reserved for the Tigers. Passages like, ‘The leadership of the LTTE, which was dominant by the end of 1986, proved that it had a mind of its own—a totalitarian mind’ (ibid.: 77). In another passage they write: Thus after a decade of national liberation struggle and a ruthless striving for leadership that caused enormous loss of life and the denudation of the peoples moral strength, the Tigers seem to be at a dead end. Their pursuance 38

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

of a supremacist struggle at the cost of the very concept of liberation and their molding of the spirit of their cadre on a fanatical dedication to the Leader and the Movement was to be their undoing, as it is within all such narrow nationalist and fascist movements. (Hoole et al. 1988: 414)

Despite the ‘liberationist’ sympathies of their narrative there is little effort to go beyond such sensationalist characterization to analyze the social and political forces behind such an alleged ‘fascist’ takeover of the ‘liberation struggle’ or to even stress the connections between levels of state-sponsored violence and the equally brutal violence of Tamil militancy. Instead, one senses a tendency to appeal to rather conventional liberal sentiments. Thus they write, ‘The new forces were not without ideals. In the case of the LTTE these ideals had the character of religious devotion. But these had little to do with Liberty, Fraternity and Equality’ (ibid.: 33). Even their rather liberal use of such terms as ‘fascist’ seems to be used more as a term of abuse rather than with any reference to the theoretical literature on the subject. Thus The Broken Palmyra is quite uneven in it its scholarly analysis. On the one hand it promises to go beyond the binary narratives of Tamil nationalism, but on the other, it offers a rather simplistic and sensationalist reading of the violence and aimlessness of Tamil militancy. It is this peculiar combination coupled with the unavailability in English of alternative critical ‘insider’ accounts of Tamil militancy that served to both legitimize its analysis and enable it to have a huge impact on subsequent English language scholarship. The ambivalent and ambiguous status of the work, inhabiting a space between a typical political tract and a historical work, together with its institutional affiliation with Jaffna University, gave the work a great deal of discursive power. In a rather revealing passage, the authors themselves express this ambivalence that pervades the entire work, ‘With all our limitations (not one of us amongst this group of writers is an academic historian) and with all of our differences in views, we have in a way tried to do what Thucydides did for the Peloponnesian war 2500 years ago’ (Hoole 1988: 33). Thus, despite this clear admission and disavowal of specialized expertize, the work claims through its narrative strength and institutional affiliation and location, a persuasive power well beyond this modest disclaimer (see, Hoole 2001).6 An academic article that appeared shortly after the publication of The Broken Palmyra in 39

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the journal South Asia Bulletin entitled ‘Thoughts on the Political Situation in Sri Lanka Based on reading of the Broken Palmyra’ testifies to the type of reception it received, especially in south Sri Lanka and abroad (Wijedasa 1989: 4). Not surprisingly, the article begins by underlining both its significance and its academic authority: ‘The Broken Palmyra is one of the most important books to have come out in recent years on the situation in Sri Lanka. Written by four University of Jaffna Professors, one of whom, Rajini Thirinagama, was shot dead…’(Wijedasa 1989: 8). Furthermore, Wijedasa, the author of the article, reiterates through direct quotations from the work, The Broken Palmyra’s vision of the LTTE: . . . a religious cult not too dissimilar to the one associated with the Third Reich. One should not under-rate such a religion which has a resemblance to the official religion of the Third Reich. The power of such a religion to captivate men’s minds, make them forget all norms of civilization and morality and weld them together as a hysterical and destructive force, is enormous. (Wijedasa 1989: 11)

For Wijedasa, the book is commendable not only for such insights on the LTTE but through its ‘simplicity and lack of ideologically charged terminology’ it has the capacity to be distributed to a much broader audience and because the authors ‘have avoided the all too common attitude which stereotypes all Sinhalese as being racists or evilminded and all Tamils as being potential heroes’ (Wijedasa 1989: 8). The reaction to The Broken Palmyra in the Tamil literary and intellectual world was less celebratory and more cautious. This is hardly surprising given that there already were critical works available in Tamil on Tamil youth militancy and the LTTE published by ex-militants from rival militant organizations who had regrouped in exile particularly in Europe and Canada.7 For example, a writer associated with the Marxist-Leninist wing of the Sri Lanka Communist Party in his cautious review of The Broken Palmyra, calls into question not only the Marxist credentials of two of its authors but also the tendency in the work to exclusively focus criticism on the LTTE. He argues that the author’s message would have been more persuasive if the same measure of criticism was extended to the other Tamil militant groups instead of being directed exclusively towards the 40

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

LTTE. There is also a suggestion that such selective and overblown criticism would make it impossible for more serious and substantial criticisms of the LTTE to be taken seriously. Perhaps more useful for present purposes is what is strongly hinted in the review—that the kind of self-righteous liberal indignation and stance adopted by The Broken Palmyra, one that is clearly associated with the old Tamil ruling and professional classes of Jaffna and Colombo, would hardly help us understand the more important task of delineating the social forces or class basis of the various militant groups or their ideologies.8 Despite this more modest and cautious reception in the Tamil literary and intellectual world, the writings by the UTHR(J) appear to have set the standard and tone for subsequent critical academic works in English on Tamil militancy and particularly on the LTTE.9 Thus, we can see a shift from the earlier, generally more sympathetic view of militant Tamil nationalism to writings that tend towards a singular focus on violence and ‘terrorism’. Thus, the more recent work has tended to not highlight the broader political and structural changes taking place in Sri Lanka or within Tamil social formations, but have been generally limited to focusing on the violence and ‘terrorism’ of the Tamil struggle.10 There is little attempt to chart the socio-economic or political changes or military balance that both underlined and accompanied these developments. I will provide two striking examples of such work. One of them is the series of essays published under the title Tigerism and Other Essays by Ram Manikkalingam (Manikkalingam 1995). Here too, the focus is on the violence and fascist nature of Tamil militancy with little analysis of the kind of transformations and social forces that were behind it. Manikkalingam begins much like his predecessors and asserts that the Tamil struggle had started as a benign defensive nationalism, but points out that it had quickly deteriorated into a ruthless and fascist form, ‘not open to reason’ (Manikkalingam 1995: 4) under the leadership of the LTTE. He does not however attempt to explain how this occurred or the kind of social or political changes that were responsible for these developments and blames it on Tamil Tigers’ predisposition towards ‘ethnic essentialism, which while simultaneously drawing upon history also denies history particularly the history of coexistence 41

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with other communities’ (Manikkalingam 1995: 5). He continues in the same vein by asserting, ‘The monolithic unity violently asserted by the Tigers is both the cause and consequence of Tamil essentialism and ultimately culminates in a new political ideology—Tigerism’ (ibid.: 5). Such writings have a tendency to leave one with more questions than answers and wondering why, how and exactly under what conditions this ‘Tamil essentialism’ erupted (ibid.: 9). Another illustrative example would be the writings on the conflict by Qadri Ismail. In his provocative article entitled ‘Boys will be Boys: Gender and National Agency in Frantz Fanon and the LTTE’, Ismail compares the leader of the LTTE, V. Prabhakaran to no less a figure than Frantz Fanon without however explaining why he is comparing an anti-colonial figure from the early 20th century to a leader of an ethno-nationalist movement in the post-colonial era except to utilize this comparison to critique both for their masculinist project and their elision of the agency of women in their respective struggles. As he observes: Frantz Fanon and V. Prabhakaran; one was a committed humanist, the other at best a committed fascist, But what they have in common is striking (which makes Fanon a very problematic figure in these postcolonial times) for both the native with agency is male and violent. If the flaw is tragic in the case of Fanon, then it almost becomes farce with Prabharan. (Ismail 1992: 1678)

Here again, such bold assertions are not matched by detailed analysis of either Fanon or, for that matter, Prabhakaran. The focus here again, as in The Broken Palymyra, is not so much in understanding the broader structural and social changes that accompanied and laid the basis for the rise of the LTTE or Prabhakaran as it is with demonstrating the alleged fascist nature of Tamil militancy.11 Though this scholarship calls attention to important ethical questions regarding Tamil violence and ‘terrorism’, the danger of this growing body of scholarship based as they are on little systematic research or investigation of sources is that they seem to draw easy conclusions and leave one with a feeling that little remains to be mapped out or studied. As was the case with The Broken Palmyra, many of the writings on Tamil militancy that emerged during this period were undertaken by non-specialists from a variety of backgrounds and 42

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

disciplines some with little previous research expertise in this area.12 One of the significant failings of this body of scholarship is that it makes little attempt to link up with the earlier more substantially researched body of scholarship on Sri Lankan Tamils. I am here thinking of the kind of scholarship by scholars such as S. Arasaratnam, K. Kailasapthy and K. Sivathamby who sought to frame their understanding of Sri Lankan Tamil modernity on transformation occurring at the level of more solid structural factors such as economics, politics, class and caste (Arasaratnam 1986; Kailasapathy 1979). It is perhaps due to such an impasse that the question of how we went from a Navalar brand of Tamil/Saivite reformism/revival to LTTE brand of Tamil nationalism still remains largely unanswered. While this tendency to focus on the violence of Tamil militancy has been the dominant trend among recent scholarship both in south Sri Lanka and overseas it has not completely occluded the writings that attempt to trace broader structural changes or emerging social forces within Tamil society. One such piece of scholarship is the work by V. Nithyananthan on the economic basis for the origin and development of Tamil nationalism. Although quite brief, the work attempts to identify the classes responsible and class interests behind Tamil youth militancy (Nithiyanandam 1987). Another brief but promising attempt has been the work by Brian Pffanberger on the relationship between the anti-caste struggles of the 1960s and Tamil nationalism (Pffanberger 1994b). The only monograph-length critical scholarship in English focusing exclusively on Tamil militancy and particularly the LTTE has been the work by Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam (1994a).13 A central theme running throughout Rajanayagam’s work is to explain the rise of Tamil youth militancy and specifically, the ascendancy of what she depicts as a ‘Karaiyar caste’-led movement (LTTE) from what had been a deeply hierarchical Vellalar-dominated society. She attributes LTTE’s success in mobilizing the vast masses behind their struggle to the lower middle-caste/class background of their leadership. She also argues that the LTTE is the least sophisticated in terms of having a clear Marxian or socialist ideology in comparison to the other militant groups. As she observes of the Tiger rhetoric of socialism: Sincerely as it is peddled, it is at best a thin veneer over a profoundly indigenous and nationalist movement. Yet at the same time, aims of social 43

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justice have been realized best by the LTTE who are as mixed by caste and religion as one could wish. (Hellmann-Rajanayagam 1994a: 136)

Although providing a fairly sympathetic reading of the LTTE here, she also takes on board the criticism over its narrow and fanatical nationalism and alleged ‘fascist’ tendencies. These qualities she tends to attribute to its petty bourgeoisie character and leadership. She observes, ‘The appeal of LTTE is rather targeted to a petty bourgeois lower middle class which is susceptible to national arguments on a basis of political and economic survival’ (ibid.: 136). While her assertions are extremely interesting and provocative, the fact that she does not really develop or demonstrate the veracity of these assertions is one major weakness of her works. Instead her work gets bogged down in a mass of conflicting details and perspectives about the LTTE and its activities. What makes her work valuable, however, is its attempt to explain the development of Tamil youth militancy and the ascendancy of LTTE in terms of the longer historical trajectory of Tamil social formations and the internal struggles animating it and its change over time. A work that is similar in approach to Rajanayagam’s, but bringing to bear an ostensibly Leninist reading of Tamil militancy and nationalism is the work by Sumantra Bose, which deals with the relationship between the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil struggle including the Indian intervention (Sumantra 1994). A striking feature of Bose’s work is his attempt to read Tamil militancy as a kind of dialectical process— as a mirror image of the repressive Sinhala state. Equally interesting is the way he underlines the potential for radical social transformation in nationalist movements such as the Tamil militant movement. In this, Bose is clearly attempting to take seriously Lenin’s caution against relegating nationalism to ‘a hazy amorphous cultural sphere’ but as something quite ‘political and dialectical’. As he writes, ‘Those concerned with prospects of radical social transformation and therefore the complex dialectical relationship between national movements and struggles on the one hand and possibilities of far reaching social transformation on the other would do well to heed Lenin’s advice on this issue’ (ibid: 33). It is in this sense that Bose sees the ascendancy of LTTE largely as progressive phenomena given its caste and class background and explains the mistakes and excesses of the 44

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

LTTE as arising from ‘petty bourgeoisie prejudices’. For Bose, ‘not only is the LTTE not an artificial imposition on Tamil society, but is the concentrated expression of Jaffna society, a phenomenon organic to the Tamil social formation’ (Sumantra 1994: 89). Attempting to explain the popularity of the struggle led by the LTTE among the Tamil masses despite the enormous suffering that it had produced he observes, ‘It is only when one addresses this dialectic between the national and the social that one begins to understand the resilience and enduring mass appeal of the struggle for Tamil Eelam’ (ibid.: 92). However, despite these lofty statements, Bose fails to substantiate his views with sufficient empirical data. His rather uncritical treatment of the LTTE had also invited a critical reviewer of the work to observe: ‘It is fair to note that he is both undisturbed by the Tigers own adventure in state dominance and uninterested in the way resistance reproduces the premises and practices it opposes’ (Kemper 1995). However, despite their limitations, what distinguishes both Rajanayagam’s and Bose’s work from many other recent works on Tamil militancy is their attempt to ground their analysis both on earlier scholarship on Tamil society and chart the transformations responsible for its current impasse.14 In attempting to do so they bring to bear not only a historical perspective on Tamil militancy but analyze it within the broader context of state oppression on the one hand and on the other the internal class and caste dialectics within Tamil society.15 Bose’s writings are also reminiscent of the writings of one of the most articulate Marxist-Leninist ideologue in Sri Lanka and leader of the breakaway faction of the Sri Lankan Communist Party (Peking wing) N. Sanmugathasan (1920–1993). Sanmugathasan, as noted earlier, had only begun endorsing the Tamil struggle after personally bearing witness to the infamous 1983 holocaust. It was during his final days that he wrote a number of essays on the ethnic conflict—in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite broadly endorsing the Tamil struggle and Tamil youth militancy, Sanmugathasan was also quite clear about some of the shortcomings of the Tamil groups. This is evident when he wrote: It is true that, for pragmatic reasons they first resorted to armed struggle and thereafter went in search of an ideology that would justify such action. Naturally they found it in Marxism-Leninism. There is nothing wrong in this 45

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except that most of the Tamil militant groups did not seem to have studied Marxism-Leninism sufficiently and deeply…. (Sanmugathasan n.d.: 6)

Defending such a position publicly as early as 1984, he had written: The Marxist-Leninist attitude to individual terrorism is quite clear. We do not support it because it is based fundamentally on romantic and petit-bourgeois ideology which is characterized by a lack of faith in the masses. It places its main reliance on a brand of swash buckling ‘Three Musketeers’ type of bravado… But at the same time, the phenomenon of terrorism must be examined in the context from which it arose. We cannot make a blanket condemnation of terrorism. Otherwise, we would be like the Israelis who condemn the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization. The militant youth of Jaffna took to terrorism because of the repression and the harassment practiced by the predominantly Sinhala army….16

Thus it is clear that despite his reservations about the methods and tactics of Tamil militancy, Sanmugathasan endorsed the Tamil militant struggle. He did not stop with this but went on to add that whatever reservations and criticisms, one may have of the Tamil militants—they should only be expressed while standing on the same side of the barricades as the militants. He made this clear while writing of the struggle between the LTTE and the Indian Peace Keeping Force: The LTTE has made tactical blunders in both policy and practice. But they are fighting the main enemy—the Indian expansionists. Any criticism of the LTTE therefore must be made while standing on the same side of the barricades as the LTTE…. (Sanmugathasan 1995: 287)

It is clear that Sanmugathasan was particularly wary of India using the ethnic conflict towards its own expansionist aims in Sri Lanka. He had observed: ‘…it is now clear that India’s support to the Tamil militants was given with the ulterior motive of using them to destabilize Sri Lanka and help bring about India’s hegemony in Sri Lanka’ (ibid.: 6). It is in this context that he singled out the LTTE for its independence and self-reliance: The LTTE despite its many mistakes, is the only force in the field that is resolutely standing up to fighting the fourth largest army in the world…. 46

Towards Understanding Militant Tamil Nationalism

Of the other militant groups, except PLOTE, all other groups like the EPRLF, TELO, ENDLF etc. have sold themselves into bondage to the Indian expansionists and have become not only their agents but even their informers. This treachery will neither be forgotten or forgiven by the Tamil people. (Sanmugathasan 1995: 286)

It is clear from these statements that his criticisms notwithstanding he was prepared to endorse what he considered the most resolute and independent militant organization among the Tamils.17 Although it is difficult to assess all the factors that went into his endorsement of the LTTE, it is quite likely that he felt that despite its many mistakes and blunders, it was possible to convert the movement from a strictly nationalist organization into a more liberationist organization. This is evident in the following advice he gave to the Tamil militants and particularly in his warning against a reliance on India: From the beginning, the militant groups committed serious tactical errors. In the first place they were not united. Five major groups sprang up and constantly collided with each other. Because of this disunity, the Indian secret service (RAW) was able to influence them and use one group against the other and thus weaken all groups. Secondly they did not learn the lessons taught by Mao about how to conduct people’s war. Nor, did they understand Mao’s teaching about ‘making use of contradictions (among the enemy), win over the many, isolate the few, and defeat your enemy, one by one’. Faced with the temporarily superior might of the Sri Lankan state, it was folly to have played into its hand and isolate themselves from the Sinhalese by wanton and in-excusable killings of innocent Sinhalese. They also refused to arm the people and make them participate in a people’s war. The political maturity of the militants was very low although some of them mouthed Marxist slogans… They reversed Mao’s teaching that the gun must never be allowed to command the party, the party must always command the gun… But perhaps their most serious strategic mistake was to negate all ideas of self reliance and to completely rely on India. (Sanmugathasan, ‘Get the Indian troops out of India! Recognize the right of self determination of the Tamil People’, unpublished essay, pp. 4–6)

It is not surprising that such writings by Sanmugathasan are yet to be published as the dominant trend in the scholarship on Tamil militancy has largely followed the pattern established by The Broken Palmyra and towards a greater theoretical elaboration and focus on violence and 47

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terrorism . This new scholarly focus on the violence and ‘terrorism’ of Tamil militancy, despite its contributions, has mostly served to deflect attention away from the earlier constructive and critical engagement with the rise of a highly repressive and racist state order and the ‘national question’.18 It is against such a background that it would be instructive to compare and contrast a self-styled ‘liberationist’ account of Tamil nationalism and militancy with the extant scholarship on the subject. One such work is the fairly recent and detailed ‘liberationist’ account in Tamil of the origins, evolution and trajectory of Tamil nationalism and militancy, including its current impasse. No doubt reflecting a collective effort, it first appeared in the Tamil ‘theoretical journal’ Uyirppu under the title Eelathamilirakalin Viduthalai Iyakkam: Samuga Sakthikal Patriya Viwathathirkana Munnodi Kurripugal (‘The Liberation Struggle of the Eelam Tamils: Initial and Debatable Notes about its Social Basis’, Uyirppu, 2001, Vol. 7).19 Though its analysis is quite simplistic in places and unmistakably nationalist in others (despite its self-proclaimed liberationist perspective), it affords an interesting contrast and comparison with the extant scholarship in English on the subject. One of the most striking aspects of this work is its almost Fanonian/ Cabralian critique of the impact of colonialism on Sri Lanka particularly in producing and configuring a new class formation, which, according to the authors, was responsible for the current ethnic crisis. Thus, the foundation for the conflict is traced to the Dutch and British periods, which profoundly disturbed earlier patterns of trade and settlement and, most importantly, laid the foundation for the emergence of an almost parasitic, diasporic, ‘comprador’ Tamil elite that, together with the Sinhala elite, constituted the ruling class of Sri Lanka under colonialism and neo-colonialism, at least up until the massive pogromist violence unleashed against the Tamils. These Colombo-based Tamil elites with roots in Jaffna had invested in developing closer ties to the Sinhala upper classes to further their narrow selfish interests and were in no way interested in politicizing or empowering their own Tamil constituencies (Uyirppu 2001, Vol. 7, pp. 19–21). Thus the ‘comprador’ and ‘collaborationist’ Tamil elites were first and foremost pro-British, then pro-Ceylon and only lastly pro-Tamil, and that too only when it was in their self-interest. Thus, 48

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the clear animus against this Colombo-based anglicized Tamil ruling classes is plainly evident in this liberationist narrative. The second significant feature of this liberationist narrative is its portrayal of the movement towards Tamil militancy as a product of the progressive radicalization of Tamil society and the gradual politicization and empowerment of the Tamil subaltern classes. Accompanying this movement of course is the successive ascendancy of political parties and movements that could harness this gradual radicalization and politicization of the subaltern classes. Thus the political ascendancy of successive Tamil political parties, such as the Tamil Congress, the Federal Party, TULF and the various Tamil youth movements is narrated as part and parcel of this progressive radicalization of Tamil society. Alongside these developments is the gradual shifting of Tamil political power from Colombo to the north and east. What is also signalled is the shift in the nature of Tamil political leadership. One can see a shift from the high-status Tamil-Vellalar anglicized leadership practiced in the art of British constitutionalism and legal culture to a leadership that is predominantly vernacular educated, lower middle class and more grounded in the culture of the north and east. Despite the danger of being quite deterministic in its approach, what is underlined in such an argument is the radical transformation in the nature of Tamil leadership, one that shifts from the cosmopolitan ‘comprador’ Tamil elites to one that could harness the needs and grievances of an increasingly politicized and subaltern Tamil public (Uyirppu 2001, Vol. 7, pp. 42–46). The third most significant feature of this ‘liberationist’ narrative is its detailed analysis and critique of the various Tamil militant movements that far exceeds the scholarship available in English in detail and depth. It not only surveys the major Tamil militant movements assessing both their strengths and weakness, but also, more importantly, provides a much deeper, persuasive and potentially more useful critique of the Tigers than that mounted by such works as The Broken Palmyra. After pointing out some of the reasons for the failure of the more left leaning liberationist movements such as the PLOTE, EPRLF, NLFT and Thamil Makkal Pathukkappu Peravai, many of whom advocated radical goals that went far beyond a separate state and included the empowerment of lower classes/castes irrespective of ethnicity, the empowerment of women, and so on, they provide 49

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a detailed and incisive critique of the LTTE. Attributing the LTTE’s success to its narrowly focused and uncomplicated goal of building up an effective and ruthless fighting machine they point out that its authoritarianism and anti-democratic character as obstacles to its quest for a more substantive hegemony over the Tamil masses. They point out for example that though the LTTE had broken the back of the earlier Vellalar-elite leadership it had not broken from the ideological hegemony of this caste/class nor with its intolerant, patriarchal and puritanical value system inherited from the days of Navalar. Thus they charge that though practical considerations had led the LTTE to abandon caste hierarchy among its cadres, this has not been systematically encouraged or propagated among the general Tamil population. Similarly, they note that though the LTTE had earlier rejected the induction of women cadres and then reversed this policy so that women constitute almost half its fighting force, they still had not made any systematic or concerted efforts to eliminate sexism or chauvinism among their forces or among the general population. A similar critique is offered of the leadership cult of the LTTE and its uncritical valourization of a hallowed Tamil past. Thus they conclude that rather than changing Tamil social formation, the LTTE has instead put itself on the top of this existing formation ensuring thereby the continuity of the prevailing oppressive socio-cultural norms and values and the class/caste forces that had propagated them. However, the authors balance these incisive criticisms with the admission that though the LTTE had been among one of the least revolutionary in its social goals and liberationist commitments, it has become over the years—perhaps more out of pragmatic considerations—much more broad based and brought into its fold significant numbers of lower and oppressed caste groups as well as women, and in the process, been an instrument of significant social change with a potential for a truly revolutionary social transformation (Uyirppu 2001, Vol. 7, pp. 76–84). It is such efforts to balance their critique that makes their critique so much more persuasive and potentially much more useful. This brief survey of scholarly perspectives on Tamil militancy clearly reveals that it has shifted from its earlier attempt to locate Tamil militancy as an integral part of Sri Lanka’s descent into state authoritarianism, militarism and state-sponsored racism to one that tends towards a singular focus on the violence and ‘terrorism’ of Tamil 50

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militancy. Thus the language used by writers such as Sivanandan and Sanmugathasan to describe the Sri Lankan state (‘fascist’ or ‘neofascist’) in the early 1980s20 has been through a remarkable process of reversal, increasingly been utilized to describe Tamil militancy. This shift has also been aided and accompanied by an accompanying jettisoning of previously useful analytical categories such as neocolonialism, class and caste in the analysis of the ethnic conflict and Tamil militancy. While this shift may be understandable to some extent in light of the level of violence and extremism of Tamil militancy, what is less understandable is the accompanying tendency to not highlight the relationship between state repression and the violence of Tamil militancy or to completely shift the source and focus of the ‘national problem’ to Tamil militancy or ‘Tamil terrorism’—it is a tendency that has been amplified a great deal in the popular media in the South and abroad. It is hardly surprising that the post-9/11 discourse on terrorism has only helped this tendency. It is in this sense that the analysis of Tamil liberationist programme offered by the Uyirppu essay, despite its narrow nationalism and overdeterminism, powerfully points to factors that have been completely neglected in the more recent accounts of Tamil militancy. By emphasizing and highlighting the impact of colonialism and neocolonialism and the unusual demographic transformations and class formations that resulted, the Uyirppu account serves to underline the fact that the Tamil liberationist project—at least in theory—has an important class and caste dimension to it as well, that is, it is not merely taking aim against the repressive Sinhala state apparatus but also against those collaborative structures and agents—including the ‘comprador’ and ‘collaborationist’ Tamil elites who helped sustain and to a lesser extent still continue to sustain this repressive and racist status quo. Thus it is this essentially Cabrallian (Cabral 1970)21 perspective that helps explain to the authors the hostility shown by segments of the Tamil elites to the liberation struggle. This hostility of a segment of Tamil elites is explained away by the argument that the power and influence wielded by these ‘collaborationist’ elites is directly dependent on their continuing support for the repressive Sinhala state. For them, then, it is this dimension and thrust of the Tamil liberation programme that predictably alienates a significant segment of the Tamil 51

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elite classes from the liberation struggle. While Cabral had called for such classes to be re-oriented or re-educated through identification with the oppressed masses—in a process that he termed ‘class suicide’—there is no similar discussion in the Uyirppu essay. Perhaps it is such thinking and reasoning that lead the authors to be not unduly worried over what appears to be a shortage of these earlier generations of anglicized Tamil elites, well-versed in international diplomacy and human rights law, to represent and engage with the Tamil struggle for Sri Lanka in the international arena.

NOTES 1. I would like to thank the following for their useful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper: Militon Israel, M.S.S. Pandian, S. Anandhi, Rajan Kurai, N. Sivahurunathan and Ravi Subramaniam. Special thanks for the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) staff and associates including R. Cheran, Radhika Coomarasamy, P. Thambirajah and N. Varadarajan for accommodating me at the ICES and offering the excellent facilities there for my research work. I also would like to acknowledge the valuable discussion I had on this subject with professors S. Sivasegaram and K. Sivathamby. 2. Authors of these works have ranged from ‘security and terrorism experts’ to journalists, military officers, former militants, diplomats, anthropologists, political scientists and historians with the former groups far outnumbering the latter, more academically trained specialists. 3. It is in this context that one ought to read such path-breaking writings by scholars such as R.A.L.H. Gunawardane and Kumari Jayawardene. 4. It is evident that despite this complex assessment of Tamil youth militancy, Sivanandan saw them as liberators of the Tamil people. He had, for example, observed in the same article, ‘The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who grew out of the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) were the first group to take up armed struggle. Other groups have sprung up since then but whatever their temporary differences, they are, as far as the Tamil people are concerned, their common liberators. And it is in that generic sense that the term is used here.’ 5. Around two-thirds of the articles in this issue are devoted to the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka, including an introduction by S.J. Tambiah. 6. A more recent work by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), though written with the express purpose of balancing their earlier focus on ‘Tamil violence’, still ends up using much of the same language to describe Tamil militancy and violence. 7. This was due to the fact that there had already been a tradition of critiquing one another by the various Tamil militant organizations in their party organs and other Tamil dissident publications. Examples would include the Eelam Revolutionary

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8. 9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14. 15. 16. 17.

Organisation of Students’ organ Tharkeeham, the NLFT’s Illakku, and the PLOTE’s Puthiya Pathai. Within the Tamil diaspora, Tamil-language papers such as Thoondil (Germany), Manitham (Switzerland), and Thayagam and Thedal (Canada) also carried on this tradition of critiquing the politics and policies of the LTTE (Sivasegaram, personal communication). Sivasegaram couples this criticism with praise for the courage of the authors to speak out in a time of such violence and lawlessness. It is generally well known that aside from this scholarly impact the work of the UTHR(J) continues to be selectively embraced by strident Sinhala/Buddhist nationalists as well as by certain powerful elements of the self-styled left-leaning Indian journalistic community and activists who have been traditionally averse to Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu. This shift has been particularly pronounced in the work of some anthropologists. They have been particularly attracted by the violence and suicide cult of the Tamil militant movements. The trend-setting work in this regard was Valentine Daniel’s work, Charred Lullabies and more recently, there has been a spate of writings on the subject including writings by the prolific historian/anthropologist, Michael Roberts. Manikkalingam then proceeds to catologue LTTE’s violence including its policies towards the Muslims as well as their record of assassinations of political opponents. For an example of a more complex and deeper analysis of Fanon’s perspective on women in the Algerian struggle, see Anne McClintock, ‘No Longer in a Future Heaven’. One also suspects that the term Fascism is being used here more as a term of abuse rather than in its strictly theoretical sense. It has, however, resulted in a significant number of works on Tamil politics and nationalism by figures who had been participants in the struggle as members of Tamil political parties/militant groups, as journalists or in some official capacity as civil or military officials. See, for example, Narayan Swamy (1994); Sivanayagam (2001); Hoole (1987) and Balasingham (2000). Though valuable, much of this work is written either from a clearly partisan perspective or journalistic, or sensationalist vein and is not based on systematic research. The exceptions have been re-interpretations of existing materials or have been political, ethnographic or sociological in focus. See, for example, Daniel (1996); Jeganathan and Ismail (1995); Wilson (2000) and Krishnan (1999). Aside from a few articles on Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, she has written a monograph-length work on the Tamil Tigers. I am exempting here the more sensationalist journalistic efforts such as those by Narayana Swamy. See, for example, the useful but sensationalist account of Tigers and Prabhakaran by Narayana Swamy. Sanmugathasan had written these words on the first anniversary of the 1983 pogrom (See, Sanmugathasan 1984: 81–82). By the late 1980s he is even more forthright when he writes, ‘There is no doubt that the Tamil militants took a correct decision in taking up arms to resist the reactionary and racist Sinhala government. Thereby they saved the self respect of the Tamils and wrote a glowing chapter in the history of the international guerilla struggle.’ See, Political Memoirs, p. 287.

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Ravi Vaitheespara 18. See my earlier work on the trajectory of the historiography of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka (Ravi Vaitheespara, 2006). 19. By the ‘national question’ I mean the structure and organization of the relation between various communities within a nation state. 20. Eelathamilirakalin Viduthalai Iyakkam: Samuga Sakthikal Patriya Viwathathirkana Munnodi Kurripugal’, The Liberation Struggle of the Eelam Tamils: Initial and Debatable Notes about its Social Basis’, Uyirppu, Vol. 7 (January 2001). (The anonymous authors have noted that this issue [Vol. 7] has appeared after a five-year gap from the previous issue.) 21. They use such labels for describing the Sri Lankan state in their articles that appeared in the journal Race & Class in July 1984, released to coincide with the first anniversary of the 1983 holocaust. 22. Amilcar Cabral was a powerful anti-colonial revolutionary theorist from (Portuguese) Guinea in West Africa.

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Contents

Y Three Z

Brides as Bridges? Movements, Actors, Documents and Anticipation in Constructing Tamilness Sidharthan Maunaguru ™ INTRODUCTION

S

cholarly studies on Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka have been few and far between. This may be an unfortunate reflection of the marginalized status of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The studies that have been done tend to be somewhat conventional. The narrative of Tamil nationalism articulated in some such studies emphasizes and analyzes the ‘defensive and reactive’ nature of Tamil nationalism (Pfaffenberger 1990, 1994a; Wilson 2001: 5) and focuses mainly on the victim-hood of Tamils (Gunasingam 1999; Nithyananthan 1987; Wilson 2001). Other scholars have chosen to outline the transformation of Tamil nationalism from victim-hood to heroism and valour, leading to the re-invention of the glory era of the Chola Empire (Daniel 1992; Hellmann-Rajanayagam 1994a). Others still have elaborated on the issue of how Tamil nationalism has excluded Plantation Tamils, eastern Tamils and southern Tamil 55

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women (Cheran 2001; Daniel 2002; Ismail 2001; Thangarajah 2000). In other words, the overall picture that these studies give is that Tamil nationalism simply emerged as a ‘reactive and defensive’ phenomenon to the Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Such a generalizing picture negates the fragments within Tamil nationalism; it also draws a picture of Tamil nationalism as if it is linked with a particular point of time. Pfaffenberger (1990) argues that Tamil nationalism emerged as a defensive movement to unify the caste fragmentation that came with the Temple entry movement by oppressed caste (Dalit) people in Jaffna in 1968. There are alternative debates on Tamil nationalism that revolve around the notions of space, territory, the exclusion and inclusion of women and marginal groups. Thangarajah (2000) and Daniel (2002) argue, however, that Tamil nationalism is linked with the needs and interests of the Saiva Vellala Tamils (that is, the elite Tamil caste) and not with the ‘interest of all Tamils’; and that when issues concerning the Jaffna Saiva Vellala elites crop up, they attempt to overlook or cover up the caste-specific issue under the banner of Tamil nationalism, treating it as a ‘local’ affair. Yuval-Davis (1997: 1) points out that most hegemonic theorizations about nations and nationalism, sometimes even those written by women themselves, ignore women’s issues and gender relations, treating them as irrelevant. Scholars have argued that nationalism produces normative ideas about sexuality and gender, with which it closely intersects. Its discourse also constructs a division of gender that renders the male as the author and subject of the nation, while the female stands for the nation itself, in need of male protection, the reproducer and the nurturer of future generations and the transmitter of cultural values (de Mel 2001; Jayewardena 1986; Wadley 1980; Yuval-Davis and Anthias 1989; Yuval-Davis 1997). In our case, scholars have argued Tamil nationalism configures the figure of the woman in society in this particular way—by suggesting woman cannot regain her purity by any means except by negating her polluted body. The stand, then, of such a nationalist discourse is that the woman— simultaneously ‘pure’ and ‘impure’—is not only to be protected, but also to be disciplined and controlled (de Mel 2001; Maunaguru 1995; Pandey 1993). 56

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Cheran (2001) has linked the notion of Tamil nationalism with the notion of space. He points out that in the case of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, cyber space has emerged as part of Tamil nationalism. Tamils have, according to him, created a hyper-spatial nationalism. In this paper, I attempt to explore two lines of thoughts. First, I use the notions of temporality (Poole 2004)1 and the movement of Tamil people or circulation of people to engage with prevalent concepts of Tamil nationalism. I have based my observations on young women who go as brides to Tamil men in Canada as well as on the constant movement of Tamils across geographical spaces. Second, I raise the question as to whether we are at a point where the notions of nationalism and identity politics are passé, and so, we have to attempt to view this phenomenon from other perspectives. I explore the possibilities of doing so through the notions of anticipation and hope that emerge with the movements of brides and the circulation of people, which in turn is closely linked with the production of documents. I am aware that it could be argued that the circulation of Tamil women through marriages could be studied in the context of identity formation and Tamil nationalism in their adoptive lands. Also, I am aware that the ‘purity’ of the woman has been one of the cornerstones of Tamil cultural and moral regulation (Maunaguru 1995). Taken in conjunction, it could be argued that the process of forming the notion of nation in the adopted land is closely linked with the ‘importing’ of the ‘pure’ woman from the ‘homeland’, and that this intersects with Tamil nationalism and trans-nationalism. However, I choose to ignore this line of argument.

TEMPORALITIES AND NATIONALISM: MOVEMENTS, DOCUMENTS AND ANTICIPATIONS Popular discussions on Tamil nationalism connect themselves to the time when Sinhala Buddhist nationalism emerged, and refer to that as the starting point of Tamil nationalism. When considering the origin of Tamil nationalism, it is possible to locate it at various temporal points, rather than at one specific point. For instance, the emergence of Tamil nationalism could be traced to as far back as the colonial period (that is even before Tamil nationalism became ‘reactive and defensive’ 57

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towards Sinhala Buddhism). It could also be traced back to the time of Navalar (Hellmann-Rajanayagam 1990). Then, as many studies claim, it has emerged as a ‘reactive and defensive’ phenomenon to Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Also Pfaffenberger (1994a) points out how the ‘temple entry’ event in Jaffna, during the post-colonial era, can also be seen as the point of emergence of Tamil nationalism. Currently, with the emergence of the Tamil diaspora, Tamil nationalism has taken the shape of ‘long-distance nationalism’ (Fuglerud 1999) or ‘trans-nationalism’. However, one cannot gain a comprehensive understanding of Tamil nationalism to locate its origin at a particular moment or within a specific timeframe. Tamil nationalism has grown through its multiple points of emergence; as a result, there are multiple voices and narratives of Tamil nationalism. In addition, the subaltern movements, too, have added their own narratives contributing to the constitution of Tamil nationalism (Cheran 2001). The primary focus of this article is to demonstrate that Tamil nationalism has taken a number of turns in its evolution and is linked with temporality as well as with the movement of people. These two phenomena have produced a number of new actors, agents of states and documents involved in the entire process. The emergence of new factors brings into question such fundamentals as ‘Who is a Tamil?’ and ‘What is a Tamil marriage and/or family?’ The circulation of people across space and time has already thrown us into a situation where we hold multiple as well as hybrid identities. In order to describe the phenomenon of circulation experienced by brides through the marriage market, it is necessary to trace the particulars in relation to the fluidity, fragmentation and mobility that have characterized Tamil communities in Sri Lanka and in other spaces. According to the global survey on internally displaced people at the end of 1997, there were 787,877 officially recognized internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka. The majority was from the Jaffna peninsula. Between 1980 and 1999, 256,307 people of Sri Lankan origin applied for asylum in Europe—making them one of the top 10 groups of asylum-seekers during this period. The Tamil diaspora comprises an estimated 700,000 people settled in Canada, Europe, India and Australia (ibid.). In Canada alone, the Tamil diaspora is estimated at 300,000 people (ibid.). The Tamil diaspora is largely made up of 58

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refugees and former-refugees. The project of recreating the ‘homeland’ in their host lands necessitates the reproduction of families and communities. Hence, the Tamil diaspora actively supported the process of chain migration, both legally and illegally, and the numbers swelled. Having achieved formal or informal refugee status, many Tamils began to recreate a ‘homeland’ within these ‘adopted lands’. Indicative of this trend is the fact that there are nearly 300 village organizations and old school boys’ organizations functioning in Canada alone. Of more relevance to this paper is the fact that this process has engendered a significant trend of ‘importing’ Tamil women from Sri Lanka (especially from Jaffna) as brides for these men in the diaspora. When I visited Jaffna between June and July 2005 for my fieldwork, a number of scholars/informants in Jaffna indicated that well before the ethnic conflict started or the mass exodus took place in 1995, most Tamils had migrated to Colombo or other places within the country for employment (Arachchige-Don 1994: 30–31).2 Others had migrated to Malaysia and Singapore for the same reason. Most Tamils (especially those of the ‘upper caste’) invest in education; as a result, the competition for the limited number of government sector positions in Jaffna is intense. Therefore, many people opt to seek employment outside of Jaffna. Fishermen, too, were in the habit of visiting Rameshwaram in India or Negombo, and staying on for a few weeks/months during their fishing trips. One could argue that this movement of people from Jaffna to other spaces was restricted to certain segments of people. However, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the circulation of people is not a new trend among the Jaffna Tamils. On the other hand, in 1983, due to the ethnic riots, Tamils from the south were displaced to Jaffna. A further number of displacements took place in 1986, when the Sri Lankan army tried to take over the Jaffna peninsula. In addition, inter-Tamil militant conflicts have led many Tamils to leave Jaffna since 1985. When the Indian Peace Keeping Force captured Jaffna in 1987, people were displaced to other parts of the country. Furthermore, since 1990, people have been constantly involved in movement. My visit to Jaffna opened my eyes to a new perspective of the place—a place of movements. Continuous displacements and movements have made the Tamil community a ‘mobile community’. 59

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The Tamil diaspora is not a one-way process; rather, it is a process of circulation (Cheran 2006a). Even being away from Sri Lanka, they continue to invest (in terms of property, business, marriage, emotions, and so on) in Sri Lanka, have close family ties in Sri Lanka and visit Sri Lanka. A typical Tamil family has come to take on the characteristics of a ‘mobile family’: an unmarried son living in London, an unmarried daughter living in France, two married daughters living in Canada, the parents living in Sri Lanka, with all the members circulating between these different homes. Cheran (ibid.) calls this the phenomenon of ‘multiple homes’; I term it ‘mobile families’. The bridegroom often travels to other countries to get married to the bride because he does not have proper documents (he is a refugee at the adoptive country) to travel back to Sri Lanka. The locality in which the marriage takes place has changed from the village to other spaces. Most of the marriages of the Tamil diaspora take place either in Colombo, India, Singapore or Canada. What differentiates the post-1983 movements of Tamils from the pre-1983 movements is the production of documents. Even though one could argue that this could be a continuous process of production of documents from the colonial periods to govern the colonized people. Here they are used not only to manipulate the population within the single territory, but also to manipulate who cross over to different spaces. So, documents here are associated with the mobility of the people rather than territory. Documents play a major role in this ‘mobile community’ (Ferme 2004; Jeganathan 2004; Poole 2004).3 They have to produce a range of documents—identity cards, police reports, passports, photographs, telephone bills and personal letters—at several sites and to various officials, to prove that they are married and have families. I will elaborate on this phenomenon later in this chapter. Mariane Ferme (2004) notes how state documents shadow and constrict migrants, travellers and refugees as they move across borders and checkpoints. Ferme’s interviewees feel powerless as they are forced to wait for months and to postpone scholarship, work and travel plans in a desperate attempt to acquire new identity papers and conform to the new and seemingly arbitrary demands of the state. In such cases, the law is experienced as a largely arbitrary imposition whose effects are felt as, according to Ferme, conflicting ‘spacio-temporalities’. 60

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Further Das and Poole (2004) argue that modern state constitutes itself through writing practices. It was recognized that documentary and statistics-gathering practices of the state—are all indented, in some sense, to consolidate state control over subjects, population, territories and lives. But Das and Poole (ibid.: 10) point out, ‘We soon realized that our ethnographies worked against the notion that the state is somehow “about” its legibility. Rather our papers seemed to point instead to the many different spaces, forms and practices through which state is continually both experienced and undone through the illegibility of its own practices, documents and words.’ Based on this view, document that is produced at the embassies by the brides, simultaneously become legibility and illegibility by the practices of the state itself. I will discuss this idea later when I discuss Malaythis’s story. The circulation of Tamils and the production of documents intersect with the notion of anticipation and hope in the everyday life of the Tamils.4 The notion of anticipation refers to the state of being that Tamils have regarding movement, violence, social mobility (economic and status gain) and the production of documents at the margin(s) of the state(s) (Das and Poole 2004) or state-like actors. The circulation of Tamils is not merely due to prolonged violence or the anticipation of violence but other phenomena as well. Each of them is linked to the other on multiple levels. The anticipation of movement due to the anticipation of violence produces forms of tactics (Dellezu 1993) to navigate through margins of states.5 Notion of anticipation here includes the notion of uncertainty. Therefore, the argument that the movement of Tamils is only due to the anticipation of violence, which is tied up with fear and anxiety, may not be adequate to understand the movement of Tamils. I use the notion of anticipation in the Deleuzen sense, that is something like virtual rather than possible. Deleuze says that distinction between the virtual and the actual is not same as the distinction between the possible and the real. There are two differences; first, the possible does not exist, while the virtual does. It is real. ‘The virtual is real so far as it is virtual’ (Deleuze 1994: 208). The possible is what might become real, but as yet has not. The virtual is already real. It does not need to have anything added to in order to become real. The second difference is that ‘possible’ is a mirror of the ‘real’, while the virtual does 61

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not mirror the actual. The possible is structured like the real, missing only its characteristics of really existing. The possibility of my finishing the writing of this chapter today is exactly like my finishing it today, expect that will not happen in reality (May 2005: 48). On the other hand, the virtual is not an image of the actual, or anything else. It is not like an image. It is not actual minus the characteristics of actuality. The past is not like the present. It is structured differently. Therefore, until the virtual actualizes, it is not actual. It can take any form and it is a process that let to actualization (Deleuze 1994; May 2005: 49). In this sense, anticipation of uncertainty works as virtual. That is, it has some element of real (past experience), but it is a process as well. Each time the anticipation comes to actualize, the process will take a number of new forms. Therefore, the anticipation will not lead to copies of tactics again and again. In other words, whether the movement of people is due to violence or socio-economic gain or other factors, cannot be identified or restricted to one phenomenon. In the process, only when it only actualizes, one comes to know the reason of the movement of that particular person. Also, on the other hand for example, one will anticipate that he or she will be stopped at the checkpoint and will be asked to produce documents. But at the same time, he or she may not be stopped or the questions that are asked at checkpoint could be totally new from his or her past experience at the checkpoint. Here also, anticipation of producing documents at the checkpoint works as virtual, but until it actualizes in the present at the checkpoint, there is always an uncertainty associated with it. These categories of movement, anticipation and hope bring into question the notion of Tamil nationalism as it has been defined so far—that is, Tamil nationalism based on territory. It also questions the idea that women are ‘imported’ from the ‘homeland’ in order to create the notion of the nation in the ‘adoptive land’. Further, the notion of identity is brought into question. The fact that the identity of Tamils is now interwoven with the movement of Tamils is too large to be ignored. Thus, Tamil identity is evolving in multiple forms along with the movement of Tamils. For instance, in Jaffna, Tamil identity may circulate around caste, but at the checkpoints in Colombo a person is identified by their ethnicity (that is, Muslim/Sinhalese/Tamil), while at embassies, an individual may be seen as being either Tamil or nonTamil; in Canada, a migrant’s identity may be composed of a mixture 62

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of village, caste, Tamil identity and hybrid identity (Canadian-Tamil). Further the notion of anticipation and hope associated with the movements of Tamils has forced the normative ideas associated with Tamil nationalism and identity to be bent and twisted. In the following section, I explore how the circulation of Tamil women who cross space through the marriage market and the movement of people, have led us to think about these new forms of movement and the production of documents that bring out new temporal-spaces and actors among the Tamil community.

THE WAIT FOR A VISA AND THE PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS The circulation of Tamil women through the marriage market is one of the main links between the Tamil diaspora and Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka. These marriages are arranged through relatives, friendship networks or by placing advertisements in local newspapers. However, the greater number is arranged through local ‘marriage consultants’ (kaliyana thrakar), who run offices in Colombo and Jaffna and are predominantly male. Once the marriage is arranged, the bride travels to Colombo with family members or friends and stays with friends or relatives or in a hotel in order to obtain a visa to travel. Some of the potential husbands do not possess legal status in their adoptive countries, so the brides have to travel ‘illegally’ to marry them. The ‘agents’ involved in people trafficking to foreign countries for large sums of money have wide networks and operate all over the world. Sometimes, the women have to stay in hotels until the agents arrange the illegal documents to effect their ‘migration’. The stay at this transit point may vary from weeks or months to even years. However, the trends are changing. Now, most of the bridegrooms either come to India or Sri Lanka to get married. After the marriage, the bridegroom returns home. Then the wife has to apply for a visa to join him. This process of obtaining a visa can take anything from three months to over two years. These married women have to travel to Colombo to obtain a visa. Sometimes these visits necessitate several visits to many embassies. Due to the difficulties of travelling, the woman sometimes decides to move to Colombo and take up residence there until she gets the visa. 63

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Site one: Colombo One of my friends introduced me to a marriage consultant. He agreed to allow me to conduct an interview with him and to allow me to come and observe his work at his office. I visited the marriage consultant’s office and carried out participatory observations everyday. I also made friends with a few people who visited him. The fact that fascinated me most when I was sitting in the marriage consultant’s office was the way in which he documented the information of the prospective brides and grooms. The categories he used were gender, age and nationality. Each client has a separate file. These files are classified and colour-coded so that he can identify them easily. Each file contains a personal history, the astrological chart of that person, personal details and photographs. Furthermore, the files of the women consist of three photographs: one in saree, another in a ‘modern’ dress and the third, a passport-size photograph. Even though generally it is the family or relatives of the bride who visit the marriage consultant, there are times where prospective brides themselves visit him to choose their future husbands. It was also mentioned that astrology plays a crucial role when arranging marriages. The astrological chart is divided into a number of sub-divisions and minute details are noted on the chart. It was surprising to then hear what the lady with whom I was lodging told me—that in her time astrology was not given priority when deciding on marriage. The important factors at that time were that both parties belonged to the same caste and had a reputation for ‘good behaviour’. This satisfied the parents. Others confirmed that astrology was not an important factor in deciding marriage 20 or 30 years back. I was interested to find out why astrological charts have now become crucial in deciding on marriages. Could it be that when building up relationships (and subsequently, trust) through personal encounters become impossible (due to the phenomena of displacement and migration) and thus the element of trust is transferred to certain documents? The marriage consultation office is a case in point, for it indicates how documents have become an indispensable factor in arranging a marriage and also have come to occupy the central role in Tamil life, as already discussed. 64

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Site Two: Jaffna While I was in Jaffna, I managed to interview eight families with whom I had made contact with the help of my friends. I was interested in recording such details as why they sent their children away, who found the bridegrooms for their daughters and how the daughters travelled to meet their bridegrooms. One of the important issues that came up in most of the interviews was that of having to produce a great number of documents in order to obtain a visa. Now I present three stories of ‘brides’ in order to showcase and analyze the experiences of women who are involved in the phenomenon of ‘movement’ to foreign lands. These case studies also serve to highlight the power wielded by documents in the fashioning of the institutions of Tamil marriage, family and identity.

Case Study 1: Malaythi’s Story Malaythi is 27 years old and is living in Jaffna with her parents. Her marriage took place in India because the bridegroom did not have the required documents to come back to Sri Lanka. Therefore, Malaythi, accompanied by her father and mother, had to travel to India to get married. They had to invite at least two hundred people to the wedding, because she had to produce photographs to the immigration officials at the Canadian embassy in order to prove that the marriage was ‘real’. At the embassy, the immigration officer had asked her details about how many people had attended the wedding. Since she had to show many photographs of her marriage ceremonies in order to convince the visa officer that a real/legal Tamil marriage had taken place, they had contracted the best photographer in Chennai to cover the event. After the marriage, she had to return to Sri Lanka where arrangements had to be made for her to join her husband in Canada. She had to produce clearance reports from the police, photographs of the marriage ceremonies, detailed telephone bills and personal letters (to show that the newly wed couple is in constant contact with each other) along with the marriage certificate and passport at the embassy. However, even after producing all the documents, she was refused a visa. The immigration officer had asked her whether she had given a 65

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dowry and she had indicated that she had not. The immigration officer had then said that in a Tamil marriage the bride has to give a dowry to the bridegroom, and that since she had not given a dowry, there had to be something wrong with the marriage. Based on this, he put her case on hold for a few months and she is still waiting for a reply from the embassy. She added that she would have to ask her husband to write the letter in a more romantic way (that is ‘…put in words such as love, sweetheart…’) the next time, so that the immigration officers would not ask her why the letter sounds so ‘official’ (attutha mura nan avruku sollavenum kaditham elluthka kana, maniya endu pottu kathal kaditham mathri elluthuko). Maunaguru (1995: 164) argues, ‘[Tamil women are] doubly oppressed in the Sri Lankan context—by state racism and by patriarchy. The construction of the protesting positions of the Tamil women first took place within the patriarchy, in received positions that were inflicted by the general context of Tamil nationalism.’ She points out how the figures of mother and wife were evoked through mythical characters (such as Kananki), which tie-in with the notions of what a wife and mother are supposed to be (De Alwis 1993; Maunaguru 1995). She goes on to highlight the characters of the brave mother, social mother and wife, who are evoked through mythical characters within the Tamil nationalistic discourse. In Malaythi’s story, it is interesting how the institutions of Tamil family and/or Tamil marriage (within both of which the figure of the woman is located) are being established not by the Sri Lankan state or the Saiva Vellala caste, or the LTTE, but by another agent of the state—the embassy of Canada. Her socio-cultural identity is decided by the Canadian visa officer. Here, the Tamil marriage or Tamil family is not shaped by the nationalistic discourse, but by the embassy. In addition, the embassy also dictates what love should be like within the Tamil culture—in order to obtain a visa, personal letters have to reveal a satisfactorily ‘romantic’ element to assure the visa officer that the couple is deeply in love—since that is the only reason that the two people should be together. It is fascinating how the new types of documents that are required by the embassy have the power to affect the nature of a Tamil marriage and family. Some such documents are photographs of the wedding, which show the number of people present (that is, social acceptance of the wedding) and the minute ceremonial 66

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details (that is, Brahmin cultural ceremonies that imply that the wedding is ritually acceptable). In other words, if you cannot prove your marriage is socially accepted and that Brahmin rituals were performed at your wedding, you fall outside the identity of a ‘Tamil’. The application for the visa to Canada for sponsorship of a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner or dependent child living outside Canada, requires the following documents to be submitted (the instruction for the application form specifically ask for following items to be produced): If you are sponsored by your spouse, common laws partner or conjugal partner, you must send evidence of the relationship between you and sponsor such as wedding photos or proof that you are partners, letter between you and your sponsor, and telephone bills showing contact between you and your sponsor.... If you are a common law or conjugal partner, provide evidence that your relationship is genuine and continuing and has existed for at least 12 months prior to your application. Also provide details of the history of your relationship and at lest two statutory declarations from individuals with personal knowledge of your relationship supporting your claim that the relationship is genuine and continuing.6

Also, for a Sri Lankan, it says,‘You must provide a police certificate issued by the Inspector General, Control Criminal Registry.’ In other words, if you fail to produce such documents, your marriage and/or family fall outside the legal paradigm. It does not take into consideration that when there is constant displacement and conflict, it is difficult to either carry or collect such documents. It is also interesting to see that clearance has to be obtained from the police to prove that he/she is clear from any criminal activities. It is a paradoxical position of a Tamil, even on your moment outside the land of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan state has to clear that you are not a criminal Tamil (in other words, not LTTE). Here we see the two states converge into each other through documents. Tamils get circulated through these converged, fluid, mobile spaces. Malaythi and her family anticipated that they would have to produce such documents at the embassy. As a result, they hired the best photographer available to capture the details and special moments that would satisfy a visa officer. In other words, the power of ensuring 67

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that Malaythi gets a visa lies in the hands of the photographer. This anticipation may have originated from the point when the marriage was being arranged at the marriage consultant’s office. The anticipation of producing such documents to the state or state-like actors is an integral part of a Tamil person’s life. This anticipation of producing documents emerged with the anticipation of movement. Jaganathan, in his article Check Points, points out how the anticipation of violence and recollection are present at checkpoints: I would say the anticipation of producing documents at different points (from embassies to checkpoints) is present in everyday life. This particular anticipation emerged with the movement of Tamils since 1983. This anticipation of producing such documents at different points makes a Tamil person cultivate an affinity towards documents. Power wielded by documents could place a Tamil person in an immobile position.7

Another observation can be drawn from Malaythi’s case. She was not granted a visa because the Canadian visa office (presumably representing the policy of the embassy) had determined that the giving of a dowry is one of the traditions of Tamils. Accordingly, since a dowry had not been given, Malaythi fell outside the ‘Tamil socio-cultural identity’. Therefore, the marriage was not valid and that union could not be recognized as a nucleus of a Tamil family. However, when I was in Jaffna, those I interviewed told me how different types of marriages were present among the Jaffna Tamils according to caste, class and religious values (sooru kotothal, kumpan vathail). Yet, in the eyes of the visa officer, the Tamil marriage is illegal if at least two hundred people had not witnessed it and if there was no photographic evidence of detailed Brahmin ceremonies. Further, a Tamil family becomes illegal/non-existent if personal love letters and telephone bills (after the marriage) cannot be produced. In other words, one can easily see how these documents demarcate the Tamil identity, and that the source of demarcation comes from outside—either the space of the Sri Lankan state or the LTTE state. Finally, the situation of having to wait indefinitely to join her husband has put Malaythi in a state of temporary movement rather than allowing her to locate herself within a single space of a ‘homeland’ or an ‘adopted land’. This temporary movement (spacio-temporality)— waiting to depart—or anticipation of movement is a constant feature of 68

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the Tamil community. This is where the notion of temporality becomes an important part of Tamils. Even though she lives in the space of Sri Lanka at present, she lives in anticipation of her future home and equally lives in the past of violence and other constraints that have made her leave this place (emigration officer and embassy process). The anticipation works here in two levels; one is her anticipation of leaving the place of Sri Lanka and anticipation of obtaining the visa. On the other hand, the anticipation as I said earlier linked with uncertainty. Until it happens nobody can predict that she will get the visa or what will the visa officer ask to prove that she is legally married. She either obtains the visa or not. Her anticipation here works as a virtual concept, which is something real, until it actualizes in the present. This has become an integral part of the daily life of a Tamil person, and consequently, questions the identity that is linked with territory or space.

Case Study 2: Roja’s Story Roja is 24 years old and lives in Colombo. She was displaced with her mother and her younger brother from Jaffna to Colombo during the 1995 mass exodus. She had visited the marriage consultant herself, since her older brothers are in London and her mother was ill. When I asked her why she wanted to go to Canada, she told me that she wanted to have her own house and land and take her mother with her to Canada and look after her (anaku sotha vedu kani vanu, enda kuttumath nan pakanum amma kutty kontu pogavenum). According to her, the surest and safest way to get to Canada is marriage. She does not want to go to Canada ‘illegally’ through an agent— ‘…you know what will happen if you go with an agent…’ (ukanluku thriyuntha agent ula pona enna nadakuu entu). Then she told me the story of her friend, Rani, a 22-year-old Tamil woman from the north of Sri Lanka, who went to Toronto, Canada, to marry a man she had never met. Her marriage had been arranged for her by her parents as a means of escape from the hardships and uncertainty of her war-ridden homeland. Her future husband, a Sri Lankan Tamil with landed migrant status in Canada, arranged for her travel that involved a long and risky route without proper papers. Entrusted into the care of an ‘agent’, Rani went 69

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through Malaysia, Cyprus and Italy on her way to Canada, sometimes spending up to 3 weeks in small motels in different cities. Throughout the trip, she was totally dependent on the agent for food, company and instructions on what to do next. Whilst in Italy, the agent demanded that she have sex with him. When she tried to reason with him, he left her alone in the room for two days. Afraid of being abandoned in an unknown land, Rani complied with the agent’s demands. When she reached Canada, Rani was afraid that if she confessed to her future husband he would refuse to marry her owing to traditional Tamil notions of virginity and chastity before marriage. I asked Roja what would happen if her future husband did not allow her to buy her own house or send money to her mother. She told me with confidence, ‘I will see then!’ (appa papam). The circulation of brides through the marriages has disciplined and controlled the figure of the Tamil woman; it has also created a trend of ‘importing’ the ‘pure’ woman from the homeland to recreate the notion of nation in the adoptive land. However, it has also opened up new spaces for women. Roja pointed out how woman works within the normative structures surrounding the figure of the Tamil woman in the marriage process. She navigates through the normative overarching nationalistic discourse, which states that once a woman is married, she is first a wife to her husband and then a mother (Maunaguru 1995: 160).8 However, in the case of Roja, her anticipation is tied up with her marriage and it not only has connotations for herself as a wife of a future husband and a part of a new family, but also for her independence, owning of property (that is, a house and a piece of land) and looking after her mother. The notion of anticipation, here, is not tied up with a notion of the victim-hood of women due to the ethnic conflict; rather, it intersects with the anticipation of social mobility and independence. The story of Rani—whether false or a rumour of sorts—is representative of the sorts of stories that circulate within Tamil societies. Irrespective of the truth or falsity of this particular story, it is interesting how even with the prevalence of such stories within Tamil society, parents of young women still choose to entrust their daughters to agents and future husbands agree to accept brides who come with agents. Such stories challenge the nationalistic normative concept of the figure of the woman and the notions of purity and pollution linked with the notion 70

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of karppu (chastity) (Maunaguru 1995). In other words, the normative notion around karppu and the figure of the woman dissolve in the face of anticipation of violence, social mobility and economic gain, which are linked with the movement of brides/people. Does this mean that the anticipation of violence, social mobility and economic gain makes the families, brides and future husbands dismiss such stories, or does it make them bend the normative ideas of karppu and honour and shame of the families that are enriched by the Tamil nationalistic discourse?

Case Study 3: Santhy’s Story Santhy is 24 years old, living in Jaffna town and studying at Jaffna University. She got registered in 2003. Her prospective husband is in Norway and he plans to come at the end of this year to marry her. Her older sister went away to Norway in 2000. In order to send her to Norway, her brother had to arrange a marriage. The bridegroom, however, did not have proper paper work to travel out of Norway. So it was decided to take her to Norway. They had asked their father’s brother’s son, who lives in Norway and is a citizen of Norway, to come and get married to her. He came and married her and went back. By producing the marriage documents she managed to obtain a visa to go to Norway. After a year, she got divorced and married the person her brother had arranged for her to marry. In Santhy’s sister’s case, the Norwegian visa officer accepted her marriage as a ‘proper’ Tamil marriage, which was acceptable as the nucleus of a Tamil family. This is one of the ways in which Tamils navigate through embassies to go to other countries. In this case, Santhy’s sister produced ‘false documents’ which helped her to pass the requirements of the visa officers and the embassies. In effect, in the case of her movement, the documents were really not very significant; although they enabled her to obtain her visa, they could not fix her identity through a Tamil marriage. This case also brings into question the factor of trust—that is, the trust that the whole family invested in the first marriage and the hope that this marriage would help in the processes of obtaining a visa, migration and future marriage. On the other hand, it is interesting to think how Santhy’s sister’s case challenges the normative ideas that have been created by nationalistic discourses about the figure of the woman and that of the wife. 71

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These normative ideas/rules were bent in order that she would be able to go and marry her prospective husband in Norway. How can these kinds of marriages and their acceptance in the Tamil community be understood? Do not these complex forms of movement of brides (women) force us to rethink Tamil nationalism and Tamil identity that up to now have been thought of only within the framework of victim-hood, honour and shame?

FAMILIES AND THE NOTION OF ANTICIPATION In order to see how the Tamil family sees itself in the situation of movements and the new forms of families that have emerged through movement and the anticipation of Tamil community, I present the story of Mankai. The scenarios highlighted here force us to rethink the Tamil family system in Sri Lanka. First, the Tamil family is not bound to a single place or territory anymore. Second, the movement of women in these families point to the new forms of agencies that have been cultivated by women through having to bargain and negotiate everyday of their lives. The norm in the Tamil community is that once a woman is married, she is moved from the family of orientation to the family of procreation. David (1973) says that once the woman is given to the bridegroom’s family, she is cut off from the family of orientation in terms of movement of substance, where ‘marriage do us part’. However, within the phenomenon of circulation of brides through marriages, the families of the bride also move with her and/or move up the ladder of social hierarchy. Mankai, a 54-year-old woman, living in Anaikottai (north of Jaffna town) has seven children. She is from the Paraya (Bank 1957; Pfaffenberger 1994a) caste.9 All of her children are abroad, living in Switzerland, London and Norway. Her first three children are in Switzerland, her fourth child (a daughter) went to Norway to get married, her fifth child (a son) is in London and is unmarried, and her youngest child went in 2001 to Switzerland. So four of her children are in Switzerland, one is in London and two are in Norway. Her elder son went to Switzerland in 1985. Mankai cannot read or write, but she has accompanied her children to Colombo and made arrangements 72

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for them to migrate ‘illegally’. She also found suitable brides for her sons and took them to Colombo to send them off. Mankai, her two younger children and her daughter-in-law (future) were displaced in the 1995 mass exodus from Jaffna to Kilinochi. She underwent great hardship living in Kilinochi. They barely ate one meal a day. Her children sent her money from abroad, but she had to go to Vavuniya to get the money. Going to Vavuniya from Kilinochi took her three to five days, depending on the situation at the border between the LTTE and the army. She always journeyed alone to get the money. Since travelling to Vavuniya to collect money became more difficult, they decided to move to Tamil Nadu. They left for Tamil Nadu in 1996. With her children and her daughter-in-law, she stayed in the camp in Tamil Nadu for six months. They decided to come back in 1997. They then stayed in Colombo. She sent her daughter-in-law to Switzerland and sent her sixth child through an agent. Mankai returned to Jaffna with her youngest child. I asked her why she sent her children abroad. She told me that she sent her elder son because of the war that had been going on in Jaffna since 1983. It was a difficult time so she wanted to send her son out of the conflict zone. During the course of our conversation, she told me that since her youngest daughter went to Switzerland they were able to buy land from ‘across the road’ (kanachi ponapadiyalathna nakal roduku angala kani vakinanakal). To place this statement within context, this means they were able to buy the land of the Vellala (the upper caste) (Pfaffenberger 1982).10 She further said that she and her husband would soon join their daughter in Switzerland since her daughter is pregnant. She also plans to visit her son who is in London and then her other son in Norway. She said that she would not stay in any of those countries, but would return with her husband. Mankai’s story brings out the complex characters of Tamil diaspora movement. Her exile from her place and return to the place and thinking of going back—here her movement is in relation with time. She lives in a temporal space (which is more fluid and constantly changing) rather than in fixed place. Even her return did not let her to settle in one place. For me the Mankai’s family lives in a spaciotemporality rather than in a space. They live in temporality and that connects them. 73

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She pointed out that her eldest child went to Switzerland due to the war—in other words, due to the anticipation of violence. Mankai did not want her son to be caught up in the war, so she let him go to Switzerland; the other children followed their brother. The elder brother was able to arrange enough money to take his siblings. Then she also stated that because her daughter went abroad she was able to buy the land across the road. The movement of her children has made it possible for her to move up the ladder of social hierarchy. She had anticipated her social mobility with the movement of her children. Her life can be read as one that is full of anticipation of movement—she has been displaced within the country; she moved back and forth between Colombo and Jaffna in order to send her children overseas; she moved to Tamil Nadu and stayed there for a few months; she is now anticipating visiting her children and returning; her children have moved to Switzerland, Norway and London. Her life has been interwoven with the anticipation of violence, displacement, social mobility and economic gain. Further, Mankai’s story brings out the interesting constitution of her family—what I have termed as a ‘mobile family’. Family is not located in a particular space or territory or place; it is simultaneously located in multiple spaces and it moves from space to space (spacio-temporality). Malinowski’s notion of family (Moor 1983: 23) is no longer valid here.11 This has led to a further new aspect of understanding how anticipation works within marriage and the movement of people from Sri Lanka. One cannot easily remark that the migration of family or family member is only due to violence or only due to social gain, and so on. Here, anticipation works in a temporal dimension. That is, until it actualizes in the present, you do not know whether the member of the family has gone due to war or social gain. The journey might have started due to violence, but the process of moving to Canada, living in Canada, has made the same person think that since he has migrated, the family has gained socially and economically back home. Tamils live in anticipation of moments that intersect with temporality. In other words they live in temporal spaces and the temporal dimensions that connect each other. Bourdieu believes that the most fundamental questions raised by all societies include, ‘…those of specific logic of strategies which groups, especially families, use to produce and reproduce themselves, 74

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that is, to create and perpetuate their unity and thus their existence as groups, which is almost always, and in all societies, the condition of the perpetuation of their position in the social space’ (1990: 75 in Reynolds 155). He goes on to state, ‘…belonging to a group is something you build up, negotiate and bargain over, and play for’ (ibid.: 75). For him, families participate in sets of strategies within society. This can be seen in the cases of Tamil families and marriages that are born out of negotiation and bargaining at a day-to-day level. Tamil identity, then, is something to be negotiated, bargained and played for. In other words, the Tamil identity that is born out of Tamil marriages and families is constantly changing and moving. Reynolds points out in her article ‘The Ground of All Making’, how this argument does not work in the South African context. She says: [F]amily groups have to be kept going at the cost of a permanent effort of maintenance. When families’ participation in social reproduction is blocked, as has happened to many families in South Africa, then the effort of maintenance is no longer made as a joint enterprise. Instead, some persons (most often women) attempt to shoulder the burden of reproduction (biological and social). That is not meant to be carried by individuals isolated from the momentum of strategic forces of reproduction in society. (Reynolds 2000: 156)

Bozzoli argues that the creation of particular family forms is the outcome of class and domestic struggle, as well as of economic manipulation. Bozzoli claims, ‘In most cases it may be assumed that the household as an entity will adopt a defensive self-protective attitude towards external forces. But that different protagonists in the internal domestic struggle will adopt different individual attitudes’ (Bozzoli 1983: 147). On the other hand, as Reynolds (2000) says, it is not possible to analyze the nature of the family without simultaneously analyzing or at least understanding the role of the state. The state, nowadays, determines where and how families constitute themselves. In this sense, we have to think about who the actors are that participate in the constituting of a Tamil family. The movement of people, the production of documents and the notion of anticipation shape a Tamil family. This leads us to rethink the notion of a Tamil identity, which intersects with the notions of Tamil marriage and family. 75

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Clearly, it is through the production of documents related to the movement of Tamils that the margins of the state penetrate into their families and marriages. However, now the new state-like actors move alongside the state and the LTTE is determining Tamil identity through Tamil marriage and family. These processes take place through the production of documents. The production of documents and the movement of people cultivate anticipation in everyday life. Can we then think about Tamil identity without thinking about Tamil nationalism? Or can these new forms exist under the banner of trans-nationalism? Or do we have to rethink the notion of state and state-like actors and their margins and where the everyday life of ordinary people lies in the production of Tamil identity?

DEPARTURE FROM THE WEB OF TAMIL NATIONALISM AND TAMIL IDENTITY? So far scholars have spoken about Tamil nationalism and its link with the notion of victim-hood of Tamils, its origins as a reaction to Sinhala nationalism, its link with territory claim and how it excludes and includes certain categories of people and how along with the Tamil diaspora it has moved to new spaces, making the notion of nation not only in the adopted land, but also in cyberspace. It has also been pointed out how the figure of the woman has circulated in the nationalistic discourse and how it has been controlled and disciplined by the normative characters of nationalist discourse that circulate within the Tamil community. These are all valid and fascinating arguments. However, I have proposed a different perspective: that one of the main conceptual tools that we have to deal with (that is, the movement of Tamil people in the last two decades) is the notion of temporality. Once we try to locate the origin of Tamil nationalism, it will clearly be seen that it has multiple origins which have taken place at varying times, thus, pointing us already to its temporal dimensions. I have also pointed out, how since 1983, the movement of Tamils (within and outside of Sri Lanka) has become part of their everyday life. It seems to me this character of mobility in the Tamil community is now somewhat permanent. These movements of people have made 76

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the notion of anticipation an integral part of the Tamil community that is for me it seems that Tamils are constantly anticipating of moving from one place to another (anticipation of permanent mobility). They have become a ‘mobile community’. In addition, the circulation of Tamils across spaces has resulted in new forms of marriage and family patterns—‘multiple homes’, ‘mobile families’—within the Tamil community. These movements of people within the Tamil community force us to consider the movements, twists and turns and multiple forms of Tamil identity that have begun to emerge with temporal dynamics (that is, ranging from caste identity in Jaffna to the Canadian-Tamil hybrid identity). So it is not only the anticipation of violence but also the anticipation of social mobility and economic betterment that have made them circulate across spaces. This anticipation is linked with notion of temporality. Further, this movement has opened up spaces for women, so that it is not based on the notion of victim-hood of women, but on more complex processes. Another important factor that marks the movement of people is the production of documents. Documents play a major role in this ‘mobile community’. In addition to being required to produce a range of documents as a part of their daily life, these documents are used to fashion the socio-cultural and political identity of Tamils. The case studies in this chapter clearly identify new sites (for example, embassies) as having emerged as agents of the state(s) in deciding what constitutes a Tamil marriage, family and love: new actors (for example, immigration officers) are taking part in designing the Tamil identity. There are layer of meaning in these document where state(s) intersect with marriage and/or family among the Tamils. Documents in Tamil life are linked with mobility. Therefore, there is an affect towards documents in the every day life of the Tamil. On the other hand, how do Tamils manoeuvre through (especially at army checkpoints, embassies, LTTE checkpoints, the international airport in Canada, and so on) this production of documents and bureaucracy of the state(s)? How does the notion of anticipation function in the production of documents? I am in the process of attempting to understand how the notion of anticipation and hope that is brought about through the production of documents related to the movement of people is linked with the notion of the future (for example, sending 77

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a daughter overseas in marriage and the family’s anticipation that this can lead to them purchasing the land of the Vellala). Thus the three phenomena—the movement of people, production of documents and the notion of anticipation—have yielded new forms of marriages, new figures of women and new forms of families among the Tamil community. How much longer do they have to continue to struggle with the traditional notions of nationalism and identity politics in this constantly changing terrain? The production of documents at the margins of the various states has created new actors and/or agents of state who establish Tamil identity. How does one start to think about Tamil identity and the circulation within the Tamil diaspora in constantly changing terrains? Is it still valid to work within the terms of Tamil (trans)nationalism to understand the Tamil identity? Further, the movements of people have yielded hybrid identities; and the circulation of people has introduced the notion that a Tamil identity means one where change is constantly taking place according to its temporal dimensions. How does one understand the notions of temporality and identity and (trans)nationalism? Or is it time to do away with the notion of (trans)nationalism and start thinking along new lines in order to understand Tamil identity? In conclusion, I refer to the statement made by Mbembe in his article African Modes of Self-writing where he says that attempts to define African identity in relation to nationalism in a neat and tidy way have so far failed. Further attempts are likely to meet the same fate as long as criticism of Africana imaginations of the self and world remain trapped within a conception of identity as geography—in other words, of time as space. He goes on to say: To be sure there is no African identity that could be designated a single term or that could be named by a single word or subsumed under a single category, African identity does not exist as a substance. It is constituted, in varying forms, through a series of practices, notably practices of the self. Neither the forms of this identity nor its idioms are always self-identical. Rather, these forms and idioms are mobile, reversible, and unstable. Give the elements of play; they cannot be reduced to purely biological order based on blood, race, or geography. Nor can they be reduced to custom, to the extent that the latter’s meaning is itself constantly shifting. (Mbembe 2002: 272) 78

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Mbembe’s notion of self-analysis of identity points out a direction for the rethinking of the Tamil identity. The stories that I have presented in this paper take us beyond the remaking notion of the nation in adopted land or normative nationalistic ideas that rest on the notion of women, wife and karppu.

NOTES 1. Poole, (2004), in her article ‘Between Threat and Guarantee’ pointed out that, instead of thinking resolution and location (to understand the notion of state) if we look into movement, temporality and procedure then the focus not on fixed boundaries and territory of a political economic geography, but rather mobile, tangible and embodied space through which the power of the state is felt and understood (see, pp. 37). In same sense if we look at the circulation of Tamils rather than locate them into fixed spaces, then we have to deal with notion of temporality and mobile spaces. 2. According to Neville S. Arachchige-Don (1994), the 1971 statistical data points out that there was a significant long-distance migration flow from Jaffna to Colombo in 1971. Under the long-distance migration category, Jaffna had the highest net migration than any other regions (10.5 per cent). 3. Identity cards, marriage certificates, death certificates, police reports and other such documents show how the state comes to be present in the everyday life of its subject. As such, the subject’s identity can only be fully assumed in the encounter with the state. Das (Das and Poole 2004) says, ‘It is precisely because the bureaucratic-legal processes are not legible even to those responsible for implementing them, that the state can penetrate the life and yet remain elusive.’ These documents bear the dual sign of the state’s distance and its penetration into daily life. 4. Pradeep Jaganathan in his article Check Point (2004) brings out the fascinating idea of anticipation and the recollection of violence. He argues that the city of Colombo can be mapped out as a map of targets, organized specialty, classified through some social logic. ‘Such a map flitters and flickers as implied targets do, for what might be subject to “violence” shifts - and the targets themselves move like shadows across the landscape of the city’ (p. 69). He further says, ‘Targets are marked by “checkpoints”. Colombo is a city of checkpoints’ (p. 69). He locates the notion of ‘anticipation of violence’ in boundaries of checkpoints. The bringing of the three elements together—the checkpoint, the card and the subject—then forms a new space for reflection. ‘The citizen, who carries the card, anticipating that it will be checked, is subjected to the very act’ (p. 70). His interesting formulation of anticipation of violence, which he locates in the checkpoint, is linked with producing documents. I am interested in taking this one step further to explore the notion whether the anticipation of producing documents begins in the family. I remember when I was going to school in Colombo, my mother

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5.

6. 7. 8.

9. 10

11.

used to ask me, ‘Did you take your ID and police report?’ since I had to pass two checkpoints to get to school. Where does this anticipation begin? In other words, if we are to take the production of documents to embassies in the case of married women (for example, the woman who married a bridegroom from Canada), where does their anticipation of producing such documents start to formulate? How is it present in everyday life? Jaganathan in his article on the anticipation of violence, ‘Modernity and Identity in Southern Sri Lanka’, argues, ‘My conclusion is this; a life that is always already to be lived under the shadow of violence-in other words, the very proximity to violence of Tamilness-can itself be objectified, and made available to the repertoire of practices I have called “tactics of anticipation”.’ He further says that “these tactics, I want to stress finally, are made visible not relation to the presence of violence in Southern Sri Lanka, but its possibility”(p. 70). I differ from the idea of possibility of violence that lead to the tactics of violence. That is, one person will repeat the same tactics again and again by anticipating violence. But for me there is an uncertainty associated with the notion of anticipation. Therefore in Deleuzen sense anticipation is something virtual and until it become actualized one will not know how the theses forms of anticipation will take place? For more details on this idea see Dellezu, Difference and Repetitions, 1993. For more details see, http://wwwcicgc.ca/english/pdf/kits/guides/3907e.pdf. Cf. Note 4. Maunaguru’s arguments on the analytical categories of wife and mother within these discourses state that the relationship between the two categories is an interconnected and interesting one. As Malathi de Alwis has argued recently ‘motherhood’ within the contemporary Sri Lankan context can be defined as not only incorporating the act of reproduction…but also the nursing, feeding and looking after of babies, adolescents, the sick, the old and even grown women and men, including one’s husband. It is within these practices of ‘nurturance, then, that the relationship between “wife” and “mother” should be understood’ (De Alwis, 1998: 185–202). The Paraya caste is one of the low castes in the social hierarchy of the Tamil community. Vellala are the agricultural caste that is dominant in the northern Jaffna peninsula. Even though they are ritually inferior to Brahmins, in the secular space they control Brahmins since they control the temples. Interestingly, while the Dravidian movement was intent on reducing the influence of Brahmins, in the north, the tendency was to preserve, even to increase, the Brahmin rituals. Malinowski said that the family is universal, it fulfils a universal human need for the nurturance and care of child. He defined the family as consisting of (i) a bounded social unit which was distinguishable from other similar units, (ii) a physical location (home) where the functions associated with child-rearing were performed and (iii) a specific set of emotional bonds (love) among family members.

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Configuring Spaces and Constructing Nations in Sri Lankan Tamil Literature Chelva Kanaganayakam ™

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ationalism of any kind in contemporary times, whether it appears in Europe, Africa or Asia, raises a number of complex questions, and the situation in Sri Lanka, as it relates to the Tamils, is no exception. It bears a striking resemblance to what goes on elsewhere, but also remains quite distinctive in its social and political manifestations. The focus of this paper is quite narrow and specific in that it relates to the role and function of contemporary Tamil literature in constructing, maintaining and legitimizing nationalist sentiments among Tamils, both within the country and in the diaspora.1 While there is a general agreement about the direct relation between the burgeoning of creative writing during the last three decades and the political struggle for varying degrees of political autonomy, there is less certainty about the ways in which contemporary literature negotiates the complex and often confusing manifestations of nationalism (for detailed discussions, see, Cheran—Introduction to this volume; Fuglerud 1999; Manogaran 1994; Tambiah 1986; Wilson 2000).2 Any taxonomy or classification of the literature that has appeared in the last two decades must recognize at least three important strands— 81

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first, there is the triumphalist, celebratory mode of writing that marks the supposedly successful journey from a nation to a quasi-nation-state, from a group of people united by a sense of common language and heritage to a strong sense of territory that marks their distinctiveness. This literature legitimizes the nation-state through narratives of origin and history, and frames the nascent nation-state by providing a teleology and a tradition. Territory here is not only one that is taken and retained by force, but also one that comes from a primordial sense of entitlement. Second, there is a large corpus that deals with resistance in its multiple forms: resistance against forms of political hegemony, from among the Tamils and Sinhalese, opposition to patriarchy and caste and a refusal to accept conditions of oppression. Third, we have a literature of diaspora that often entails loss, of fragmentation, displacement, exile and void. These three strands make up, for the most part, the corpus of recent Sri Lankan Tamil literature, and all three, in different ways, address notions of belonging and identity. A substantial portion of the literature that began at the time of the anthology Maranathul Vaalvom (1985) has to do with breakdown, trauma and crisis of identity. Each of these is as inevitable as it is necessary, and one needs to be aware of the complexities of each mode and the paradoxes that are evident in each. To make this point is not to gloss over the heterogeneity among Tamils who inhabit different parts of Sri Lanka or to devalue the new thematic concerns that have taken centre stage in the recent past. Women narrating their tales, for example, are not only new but also crucial to the literary scene (for a more detailed discussion, see essays by Avvai and Thevagowry 2005).3 But all these differences in emphases do not obscure the central concern with nationalism, which the majority of writers share. Ultimately, nationalism is about community, and how this is configured is the challenge that literature faces. At least three generations of writers currently produce literary works, and it is important to recognize that what they do and how they structure their works have a direct bearing of how the nation or the nation-state is imagined, configured and sustained. Since literature is central to the project of nationalist recuperation, it is important to go beyond typology and engage with the very notions of language and representation. The relation between nationalism among Tamils and literature written in Tamil is a symbiotic one in that while political events have triggered a resurgence in literature, authors have played a significant role in mapping the 82

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different processes at work in political consolidation. In addition, they have suggested new ways of articulating political resistance and consolidation and thus served as agents of change. The impulse behind this chapter is not to provide a comprehensive reading of contemporary or post-colonial authors, or even provide a detailed frame for conceptualizing what is clearly a large and varied body of writing. A sustained and rigorous reading of individual texts is necessary in order to substantiate general claims, although that would be outside the scope of the present paper. This essay does not revisit literary tradition, although that in itself would be a very fruitful line of inquiry. These are necessary tasks, and any study that seeks to do full justice to the relation between literature and nationalism must necessarily undertake such a classification. The concern here is to speculate on the manner in which contemporary literatures have negotiated their own space within the larger discourse of nationalism, to address broader issues of decolonization or neo-colonialism, of nativism and affirmation. What has become increasingly clear in the last few decades is that nationalism among Tamils, which has shifted its axis from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka, has emerged as a powerful, and often, unifying force. At the same time it remains a deeply ambivalent construct, constantly redefining its contours. How do writers position themselves in relation to this upsurge, and in the process, what kinds of worlds to do they construct? What myths do they create, what worlds, imagined or real, do they offer, and what are the implications of their endeavour? Granted that it is almost impossible to advance a totalizing theory that would contain the multiplicity of literary production, it is necessary to recognize that the stories we tell about ourselves cannot be separated from the larger narratives in which we dwell. The relation between the rise of nationalism and burgeoning of literature, in its broadest sense, hardly needs emphasis. The realization of a modern nation-state is often framed by a body of literature that frames, celebrates, supports and even imagines that into being. If the nation-state is in some senses a construct, and if the configuration has changed in recent years to denote a form of ethnic politics, it is sustained as much by political and economic institutions as by literature. This in itself is nothing new. Even a cursory reading of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983) would demonstrate the process by which multiple forces, including literature, shaped the modern nation. Within the Tamil world, the relation between the two can hardly be 83

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underestimated. Never before in recent history has there been the facility for using literature as a medium for the consolidation or examination of ethnic identity. What distinguishes the present from the decades that preceded the 1980s is the political struggle and the diaspora, and all the possibilities these offered for literary production. One only needs to look at the ubiquitous book launches in the West or the number of journals that seem to proliferate to recognize that literature has become a formidable presence in the expression of a Tamil subjectivity. Political events and cultural activities slide in and out of each other’s domain, creating a need and space for literature to intervene and to shape stances and perspectives. Of course, literature does not work in isolation; many other cultural forms, including film and theatre provide their own input, but literature continues to be germane to the voice of nationalism. If literary criticism or critical practice in a broad sense has lagged behind, it is probably because it has become increasingly difficult to theorize the multiplicity of voices that have emerged in recent years. Terms that we are familiar with, concepts that have been forged from a largely Western tradition that moved from a version of 19th century realism to a number of concepts, such as post-modernism, magic realism, metafiction, often seem inadequate to map the trends that have surfaced in the last two decades. They have provided the tools to talk about genre and about narrative forms, but they do not tell us how we must construct our literary histories. In short, we do not always have a vocabulary to talk about literature and its attempts to configure a new reality. Terms such as political commitment or ideology, formalism and art for art’s sake invoke certain movements that need to be interrogated carefully. The markers that we have often used for literary history are not always adequate to discuss what we have witnessed in the last two decades. One of the important reasons for the indeterminacy that surrounds the relation between nationalism and literature is that both in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, the idea of Tamil nationalism has always been associated with territory. Territory, in the past, did not imply a nation, but it certainly affirmed a collective identity. Territory means much more than boundaries—it implies land, landscape and a particular way of life shaped by the constraints of space. And this has been a distinguishing factor in Tamil literary history from the earliest times when landscape determined how people lived, what values 84

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they held and how they shaped their sense of a collective identity. In short, Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka is probably the reverse of what happened in Africa, where states appeared under colonial rule, and later states became nations, and a form of nationalism grew out of that process. In Sri Lanka, there was a clear sense of nation with implied territory, but no state per se. But land was crucial and landscape was central to a sense of collective identity. One thinks back to the Sangam Age, and even there, the sense of community was deeply entrenched in the landscape. In Sri Lanka, for instance, during the 1950s and the 1960s, when literature did not always share the sense of a distinctive nation, identity had much to do with land, with landscape and with space (for an interesting discussion, see Sivathamby 2000).4 In colonial and post-colonial Sri Lanka, for the Tamils, nationalism implied a particular landscape. Even when national identity was inclusive and transcended ethnicity, there was a deep sense of ethnic identity based on land. Different landscapes and different genealogies made differences inevitable. Thus the writer writing from Jaffna had a very different sense of the landscape from one writing from the hill country. Both were at a remove from the literature of Batticaloa. But there was a sense in which land and territory were central to establishing a symbiotic relation between literature and nationalist aspirations. The binarism of us and them was mediated by an ethnic identity, which in turn was framed by land and territory. There was no consensus about how territory was to be mapped or how that was to merge with political aspirations, but land was important. All aspects of culture—customs, rituals, social relations, and so on—were seen in relation to land and landscape. The current situation, then, has moved in paradoxical ways. The history of the last two decades hardly requires repetition, but suffice it to insist that the present context is unique in its conceptual framework. On the one hand, there is a consolidation of territory very much along the lines of a modern nation-state. Territory is not simply where one lives, but one which is controlled in political terms. What we have seen is the establishment of a de facto nation-state with some measure of autonomy, acknowledged both nationally and internationally. The nation has moved in the direction of the nation-state. On the other, the territorial boundaries that mark this area have a symbolic purchase that is even more significant. Quite literally the territorial limits of nationalism go far beyond the present territory. It is local, national and 85

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global at the same time, and it accommodates a strong sense of territory with an equally strong conviction about transnationality. More significantly, it involves the diaspora as well, whose national affiliations are determined often by a triple affiliation. Thus, for many Tamils who live in the West, citizenship might well be Canadian, origins would be Sri Lankan and identity would be Tamilian. A Tamilian identity would transcend ethnicity and embrace a sense of territorial possession. In short, Tamil nationalism now has a recognizable territory, but the territory is determined as much by political exigencies as tradition. In any event, the symbolic worth of the territory is at least partially determined by forces that lie outside the territory. Thus, the current situation implies a curious conjoining of different impulses. As it is most obvious, there is no easy consensus about what constitutes Tamil nationalism. While there is a general sense of solidarity, the contours are far from clear. Different factions have very different notions of how nationalist aspirations are to be achieved, and the events of 2004, which involved division within the LTTE, demonstrated that even within individual groups, consensus is not always possible to achieve. Since the idea of Tamil nationalism was an outside imposition, its relation to actual conditions remains ambivalent. Territorial markers are both present and absent as nationalism attempts to bring together a remarkable heterogeneity. And the literature that has been produced reflects this heterogeneity. Frederic Jameson’s assertion that all post-colonial literature works within the framework of national allegory, despite all its simplifications, has an element of truth in it.5 Of course, the representation was not without its pitfalls, as is evident in the fact that a number of authors who painstakingly mapped their nations were left disillusioned with what they had done. Within the Tamil literary world, there is a body of writing that grew out of the struggle and whose commitment is unequivocally with the politics of resistance. There is often a celebratory, almost millenarian quality to that writing which is at once empowering and ambivalent. It is a writing driven by conviction and ideology, but it is also a gesture that allows for very little contradiction. It is a mode that lends itself more readily to the idea of a state rather than a nation. States require consolidation, and nations work with affirmation. A poet such as Puthuvai Ratnathurai would fall into the category of one who remains committed to a particular ideology. Even in his early poems there is a sense of nationalist entitlement: 86

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I am a man! I am a Tamil! I have my land, but am a refugee, I own my land and speak my language but remain a refugee – (Ratnathurai, Ninaivazhiya Natkal, p. 151)

Such literature might well be produced directly by structures that wield political power. It is all too easy to be dismissive about such texts on the grounds that since they are sponsored by political organizations, the expectation is that they would be overtly tendentious and given to bias. In reality such works can be deeply expressive of the social and political concerns that lead to political loyalty and the willingness to die for a cause. There is also a substantial body of writing in the diaspora that is driven by a fierce nationalism. The reason for this bias might well be the sense of exile that diaspora often entails; or it might be a heightened nostalgia fostered by time and distance. Regardless of actual causes, this literature is often uncritically adulatory. There is also a body of writing that is more concerned with legitimizing the new configuration, and in the process creates a history and offers a historiography that affirms the new centre of power as the centre of culture. Nationalism in itself may not need a narrative, but a would-be nation-state does. And literature does exactly that by telling a story of glory and dispossession, of defeat and survival, until it reaches the present in a triumphant assertion of unity and power. There is something very reassuring and powerful about this mode as it creates an alternative history that is often subversive and transgressive. There is overwhelming support for the idea of a unitary Tamil identity and an equally clear sense that any form of homogeneity will flounder as other loyalties assert themselves. Regional differences and religious persuasions, for example, account for some of the fractures that one perceives in the voice of Tamil nationalism. This literature realizes that nations must have beginnings, and they must move towards a golden age. The supernatural and the natural merge in this imagined narrative about the past leading to the present. Literature in this form provides a frame for nationalism, giving it an origin and a history. In a curious way, literature in English written in Sri Lanka offers a useful point of comparison. This body of writing ought to have been 87

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the expression of Sri Lanka as a nation-state, culturally, historically and territorially. It ought to have transcended the false binaries of essentialist discourse. And yet even the best of them, despite their good intentions, seem to have significant difficulties doing so. In 2000, Michael Ondaatje wrote his first major Sri Lankan novel, Anil’s Ghost. This was his first attempt to investigate the idea of a Sri Lankan nation in his writing. And while the novel was immensely successful in many ways, its attempt to forge a nation may have been deeply flawed. The hostile criticism from a number of Sri Lankan critics who were displeased with the novel might well have been a result of this failure. Towards the end of the novel, as the central character Anil testifies in front of a group of officials and refers to herself as ‘one of us’, Sarath, the epigraphist, senses the change in the character from outsider to insider. He thinks with some satisfaction that after 15 years abroad, suddenly, Anil is ‘one of us’. But what exactly does ‘us’ mean in this context? The novel does not lead us to believe in an inclusive and multi-ethnic history for the nation. The novel may well be a remarkable creation in some respects, but its sense of a nation remains narrow and circumscribed. While other authors writing in English have adopted different stances, almost all of them have embraced the idea of a unitary nation-state in uncritical terms. And this is precisely the impediment to a particular mode of Tamil writing that fosters a sense of belonging by invoking a history that allows for no ambiguity. Complementing and contradicting this kind of literature is resistance literature, as exemplified in the poetry of, say, R. Cheran, V.I.S. Jeyapalan, M.A. Nuhman, P. Akilan, M. Ponnambalam, S. Sivalingam, Natchathira Sevvinthiyan, in the fiction of K. Ranjakumar, in the plays of Kuzhanthai M. Shanmugalingam, and so forth. This literature is too varied to be encapsulated in any homogeneous category, but they are linked by a deep concern with humanism, in the broad sense of the term. The importance of this corpus cannot be underestimated, for in these works lie a very broad-based commitment to nationalism. The task is not without its challenges, since literature, particularly in the local languages, has a wide readership and can be seen as potentially subversive. Such conditions have also served as a stimulus to writers who found ways to express what a healthy nationalism would entail. Here, for instance, is a stanza from a poem by Cheran about a demon goddess: 88

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A breast wrenched and flung can burn a city. Fearing the worst, breasts of women, in the North and East she explodes and destroys. – (R. Cheran, 2006, Miintum Katalukku, p. 23)

Here when Cheran writes a poem about the gaze of a ghost, his intention is not only to critique the excesses of a political figure, but also to circumvent issues of gender. A poem about a demon goddess automatically signals a host of associations. While the political satire in such a poem is evident to most readers, the format of the poem is an escape from forms of political backlash. The reference to a tyrannical demon goddess is also double-edged in that it refers to possibilities of local people becoming tyrannical as well. A demon goddess is possibly an enemy within and without. It is a way of making the woman leader more than human, and in the process, less human. The supernatural in the poem also has the function of putting to rest any concerns about the important role played by women in the political struggle. At a time when the role of women is being redefined, it is probably risky to project the oppressor as a woman. To portray her as a demon is also to transcend the issues of gender while maintaining a sharp focus. Along similar lines one might draw attention to the play Man Sumantha Meniyar by Shanmugalingam, which, when it was performed in 1985, marked a watershed in contemporary drama. The fact that this play was performed more than 60 times in very different places and that it drew huge crowds is an indication of how literature became a central component in Tamil nationalism. While a detailed analysis of the play is beyond the scope the present chapter, suffice it to mention that this play, by naturalizing its multiple allusions and by defamiliarizing the plot, succeeded in showing what it meant to claim a Tamil identity in the troubled 1980s. As against these two strands is the literature of loss. Starting in the early 1980s, this strand of writing has persisted, embracing the many ways in which the community was displaced and fragmented. The huge body of literature that comes out of the diaspora reveals a deep sense of loss and grief. It is grief that is less interested in pointing fingers or ascribing blame so much as giving expression to its own trauma. On the one hand, the grief is, in its broadest sense, about the loss of hope 89

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and identity. It goes against the grain of nationalism in that it bemoans the hiatus and silence we must live with. On the other, it fosters a strong sense of community. In fact there are poems that transcend ethnic boundaries and share a sense of grief with the ‘other’. Such poems are sometimes introspective to the point of self-blame. Their very nihilism is, paradoxically, both their weakness and their strength. If the literature at times implies that the project of Tamil nationalism has received a serious setback, it is also true that in the sorrow, there is a sense of identification. The literature of loss is also about a community, about the possibility of creating a sense of community. This literature is still quite specific in that it does not subsume its solidarity in some vague universalist sense of loss. It is possible to argue that the literature of loss offers a mapping of local conditions in ways that go against the claims of a celebratory mode of writing. One can hardly chart a sense of loss without demonstrating the multiple ways in which the elements that constitute a nation actually function. Loss involves dispossession of various kinds, including the profound sense of alienation that comes from being uprooted and being force to live among strangers. Even internal diaspora has caused this sense of fragmentation as groups tried to reconcile themselves to a rupture between the landscape in which they felt comfortable and the new space they were forced to inhabit. Dislocation of power is yet another aspect of fragmentation that gets expressed repeatedly in literature. Juxtaposed with a strand of literature that sees no dichotomy between nation and community, the difficulties in assessment become immediately apparent. Of course, a thematic classification along these lines does not fully explain the complexity of literary production. One needs to go beyond motifs and preoccupations to look at voice, mode and genre, all of which are germane to the manner in which literary representation occurs. Years ago, Wilson Harris, the Guyanese author, drew attention to the literature of the Caribbean, which he called the literature of consolidation. By this he meant that the literature, which drew its strength from a 19th century European tradition could only project a vision that it was capable of. Its formal properties made it difficult to express a Caribbean consciousness. His own writing moved away from this mode. For writers in Tamil, writing fiction poses one set of problems, while writing poetry poses another. The novel, and to some extent, the short story, have a symbiotic relation with the 90

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nation. For Tamil authors, the equation is a troubling one, where the idea of a nation-state coexists with the absence of markers that are associated with the nation-state. How then is the writing transformed to accommodate an anomalous situation? Poetry belongs to a long tradition that works with certain notions of landscape and society. With the transformation that has occurred in the last two decades, those markers are not always available. Much of the literature that has appeared in recent times chooses the form of poetry. With poetry the tradition is different and the possibilities inherent in the mode are different. Literary tradition tells us that as political traditions changed, the autochthonous voice asserted itself in different ways. Poetry has been able to sustain itself despite the vicissitudes of political history, working with new forms to express itself in new ways. An exhaustive study of our poetry would reveal that the contemporary scene is no different. Local, national and transnational influences have had a remarkable influence in shaping the voice of contemporary Tamil poetry. The idea of voice implies language and diction, and the creation of an idiom that would enable the creation of significant literature. The specificities of literary language, particularly in Sri Lankan writing, need careful consideration. As the recipient of multiple literary traditions, the language available to Sri Lankan authors is at once empowering and problematic. Given the strong sense of tradition in India and Sri Lanka, the contemporary writers have much to draw from. The particular texture of an original language is a result of tradition and the present. Whenever writers felt the need to engage with contemporary realities through a transformation of language, the result has been the creation of a new idiom capable of representing and refracting contemporary experiences. Where that challenge has not been met, the language becomes solipsistic, incapable of representing anything other than the subjectivities of a different time. The current situation in Sri Lanka, with its quasi-nation-state nature, its fragmentation, its consolidation and its diaspora clearly requires a literary language that is strikingly original. A careful analysis of diction is thus a necessary aspect of determining the role of literature in sustaining the nationalism of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. This chapter has deliberately sacrificed specificity to discuss larger patterns that one needs to be aware of. By way of conclusion, one might consider a central paradox in Tamil writing. On the one hand, 91

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we need to fashion our myths in order to express a new reality. But myths by nature are ideological, and ideology distances contradictions. On the other, the vision of Tamil nationalism, which has gone through a number of manifestations in the last century or more, is now committed to a political programme that requires a sense of community. And the sense of community is asserted by a literature of grief and loss, which, even as it sketches an absence, creates its own presence. Herein lies a central paradox that we need to theorize about, since literature is much more than embellishment. Literature, for us, does not merely mirror the nation; it imagines the transition from nation to nation-state.

NOTES 1. Since the ethnic violence of 1983, more than 500,000 Tamils have left Sri Lanka to seek a new home in Europe, Australia and North America. The highest concentration lives in Canada. 2. Tamil nationalism has been the subject of careful research in the past several decades, and it would be inaccurate to demarcate the 1980s as the originary moment for this phenomenon. In fact, it can be argued that nationalist sentiments among Tamils began during the colonial period and went through multiple changes as political conditions changed. In post-colonial Sri Lanka, the founding of the Federal Party and later the Tamil United Liberation Front can be seen as important moments in nationalist thinking. However, for the purpose of this chapter, the 1980s are seen as a watershed moment, largely because they signalled a militant form of resistance in order to secure a separate homeland for the Tamils. Thus, while the roots of Tamil nationalism go back in time, it can be argued that a paradigm shift occurred in the 1980s. 3. While women writers have produced literature for several decades, it is really in the last three decades that women writers have established a special niche for themselves. Among others, Sivaramani, Urvasi, Avvai, Selvi and Shankary have contributed substantially to the development of this corpus. 4. In the 1950s and 1960s, the idea of Tamil nationalism was quite cosmopolitan in that it embraced everyone who spoke Tamil, regardless of regional or religious differences. This was also the time when left-oriented groups functioned effectively under the banner of a unified state. Despite these conditions, the idea that geography was linked with identity was very much a reality. 5. Jameson’s influential essay appeared in Social Text (1986).

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ulture is not just a reflection of economic and social structure. It is mediated at a variety of levels. It is mediated by the complexity and contradictory nature of the social groups in which it originates, it is mediated by the particular situation of its actual producers, and it is mediated by the nature of operation of aesthetic codes and conventions, through which ideology is transformed and in which it is expressed (Wolff 1981: 71). It seems to me that these brief observation place in context some of the configurations of the post-traditional art practice of Jaffna, I would like to address in this chapter. The emergence of an individual who identifies his/her self as artist and his/her intention as self-expression characterized a shift in the art practice in the post-colonial societies. This was influenced by the immense structural changes in the condition of artistic production. The introduction of alien aesthetic codes and conventions and the institution for dissemination of such conventions through art schools, and the development of modern institutions of artistic mediation such as museums, commercial galleries and publishing houses were the prime factors, which contributed to the shift from 93

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traditional art practices to post-traditional art practices.1 Since these changes were initiated and influenced by the colonial culture, these activities of art-making and conception centred on the colonial urban and more specifically the urban elite space. Therefore, as in the West, the post-traditional art practice became an urban phenomenon, and the urban experience and particularly nostalgia were important in shaping the cultural dynamics of diverse post-traditional movements and trends. So it is very natural that Colombo became the institutionalized centre for post-traditional art practice in Sri Lanka. But what is interesting to me here is that apart from Colombo, and unlike any other regions in Sri Lanka, Jaffna, which is not a fully urban site and is a middle-class-dominated society, has been a place for posttraditional art production. Therefore, the question here is how Jaffna remains a site for such art production even when such conditions are lacking. By addressing the question in this preliminary work, I would like to sketch the emergence of the artist’s self by locating it in the changing socio-political situation and read the intention of the exhibitionary styles of this artist’s works. In the process of reading the complexities of the artist’s self-making in the post-traditional Jaffna society, I argue that in the absence of institutional support, popularity and material benefits, the notion of art practice is associated with the construction/reconstruction of artist’s own self-identity and the ecstasy of caring for that identity; therefore, being an artist became a political decision and political act rather than a professional choice in post-colonial Jaffna.

IDENTITY—ART, ARTIST AND NATION It has long been recognized that the developments of the conception of the artist is a historical and culturally specific phenomenon (Tanner 2003). The notion of the individual artist, which emerged during the Renaissance period and later culminated with the avantgarde in late 19th century Europe, was introduced into our local expressive culture through colonial intervention. This changed the status of the artist and his/her self-perception as an unique individual who was no longer prepared to be bound by social conventions but followed his/her own destiny in the relentless pursuit of an artistic ideal (Mitter 1994: 13). In a way, the emergence of the artist as 94

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enterprising individual is associated with the change in patronage, mode of practice and shifts in the meaning of art. On the other hand, colonialism took art away from the bounds of tradition and its caste hierarchy, and embedded it in the newly emerged middle-class society. Since the whole process of this individualization in art is associated with the comprehensive package that sought to reproduce the cultural values of the West during the colonial Raj, it also directly or indirectly associated with the national consciousness of the locals. As Geeta Kapur (1995b) points out, there is indeed a chronological fix between nationhood and modernity and both may stand in for a quest of self-hood, for Indian or third-world artists, even the tasks of subjectivity are unsolved and require acts of allegorical exegesis often via the nation. Further, Thapati Guha observed that the colonial encounter brought into being a new social entity—the artist—with the heightened self-awareness about individual identity and nationality. She further stated that it also produced a special discursive and institutional space for art in middle-class society. Together, both ‘art’ and artist (in their new privileged status and modernized conception) became important agent in the articulation of national sovereignty and middle-class cultural hegemony (Thakurta 1995). So, in short, the agency of arts in nation-building paved the way for the recognition of this newly emerged self-identity of the artist. Hence, in the larger quest of nationalism, carving of the artist’s self identity cannot be simplified as an individualizing current of modernism or an attempt to, cerebrally, making personal pictorial idiom, but evolves from the recognition of subjectivity that is embedded in new collective consciousness.

TRADITION AND TRANSFORMATION In the caste-hierarchical traditional Jaffna, the production and consumption of art was governed by the caste system. Even though there was no caste that was directly associated with the production of painting, it was seen by the dominant Vellala men as a work done by Panjakammalars, Pandarams and women. Therefore, within the system of caste, the artist was submerged in his community identity and there was no question of individual identity. Hence, the status and the role of particular artist/artisan are governed by his/her caste position rather than his ability or merit.2 95

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The first written evidence on colonial Jaffna paintings appeared in the leaflets of the modern Tamil Saiva revivalist Arumuga Navalar (1822–1879). In that, Navalar followed the steps of Protestant missionaries and called for a total ban on all wall paintings and painted images, which he described as nude and erotic (Kailasapillai 1996: 79). Navalar’s views based on Protestant puritan ideals may have influenced the dominant Saiva Vellalar middle class in the reframing of the idea of painting, and also encouraged them to maintain a psychological distance in production and consumption of it. But this situation slightly changed when art became a school subject and art teaching became a government job through English education and through the widespread Hindu iconic and mythological oleograph prints of South Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma.3 As part of the colonial Raj’s progressive package, art was introduced as a subject in schools, teacher’s training colleges and technical college.4 Art education based on Victorian academic realism replaced the traditional aesthetics and art practice. The new Victorian ideal of representation, the new avenues of learning and the new job opportunities in art teaching opened the way for high-caste middle class’ entry into this field without giving up their caste identity. The high-caste middle class’ entry into the field of art in most cases aimed to gain a government job in teaching with a good pension and job security, which was the middle-class aspiration and anxiety, rather than an ambition of becoming an artist. But undoubtedly, there were a few teachers with the ambition of practicing painting and they were the pioneers in the process of reframing the notion of the artist’s identity. Therefore, English education not only profoundly altered art practice into a secular activity based on the individual talent, but also uprooted the painting from its caste base and replanted it in a new class order. This adoption of painting within the middle class because of anxiety aspirations is an important turn in understanding the dynamics of post-colonial art practice in Jaffna.

WINSOR ART CLUB AND THE FIRST GENERATION OF INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS The cultural activities of 1930s in Jaffna were fashioned by ideals of Indian nationalist movement and Bengal cultural revivalism. Visits of 96

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Mahatma Gandhi in 1928 and Rabindranath Tagore in 1934 to Jaffna had direct impact on the emergence and the activities of modern cultural organizations such as Kalanilayam (1930),Vishvakarma Society (1931), North Ceylon Music Society (1932), and Sangeetha Samajam (1933), that revitalize and popularize the ‘classical’ art tradition among the educated middle class. In the same period the secretary of Kalanilayam, “Kalaipulavar” Navaratnam, followed the lines of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, put the art historical writings in the service the of the nation building project. Kalaipulavar’s writings on Indian/Sri Lankan/Tamilian art heritage in a way encouraged the educated middle class to appropriate their modern identity in their ‘re-invented’ past, and connected the ‘new’ art discourse with national imagination. Appointment of artist, C.F. Winzer as an inspector Art in the Department of Education Ceylon contributed to a paradigm shift in art practice and art education. He established Ceylon Art Club in 1922 in Colombo to challenge the pseudo-academism that the colonial state patronized—Ceylon Society of Art. As a member of the Ceylon Art Club, S.R. Kanagasabai (S.R.K.), an Art Inspector of Education for Northern Sri Lanka, inspired by the Winzer’s approach and ideals, established Winzer Art Club in 1938 in Jaffna. Although, the prime aim of this association was to modernize the art practice, paradoxically since most of its members were art teachers, it concentrated more on art education. Hence, art teachers, like K. Kanagasabapathy and Ambalavanar Rasiah, who trained under S.R.K. in Winzer Art Club, became the first generation of painters. Later, K. Kanagasabapathy got further training in Colombo Technical College in painting. The earlier works of S.R.K, K. Kanagasabapathy, Ambalavanar Rasiah and K. Rajaratnam, include portrait, still life and landscape studies in a realistic style of painting. As an interesting turn in the history, the ‘43 group’ the first most significant artist collective in post-traditional Sri Lanka came into existence in the same period and S.R.K. and K. Kanagasabapathy exhibited their works with this group (Krishnaraja 1997). This may have contributed to the stylistic shift from academic realism to the Parisian modernism in the works of the first generation of Jaffna painters. As Mitter (1994: 10) argues in Indian context, this radical stance against the academic salon, closely identified with colonialism and the European avant-grade, was welcomed in South Asia as being more in sympathy with the oppressed. 97

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HOLIDAY PAINTERS GROUP The Winsor art club came to an end in 1955 with the death of S.R.K. In 1959, the Holiday painters group was founded by a group of artists and art teachers and included A. Mark, M.S. Kandaih, S. Ponnambalam and K. Selvanathan (Krishnaraja 1997: 6). The activities of this group are significant in two ways: 1. It trained the young generation in the fields of painting and sculpture during the school vacation and holidays. Some of the students of this group later followed advanced studies in the Colombo Technical College. 2. It helped to sustain the creative impulse of artists who served as schoolteachers by providing common studio space during holidays and organizing art exhibitions. Initiations of the Holiday painters group provided the stepping stone for the development of art in the 1980s.

ART OF THE 1980S Jaffna became the epicentre for the heightened phase of political and cultural activity after the anti-Tamil riots in 1983 in southern Sri Lanka. State suppression, the rise of Tamil nationalism and the emergence of militant politics let to the armed struggle to safeguard the Tamils aspirations and the Tamil homeland. In 1987, with the occupation of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), the situation became more explosive and complicated. As in politics, youth were in the forefront of cultural production, with cultural and students wings of various militant groups and the University of Jaffna. They participated with intense courage and dedication. The search for the ‘new’ and ‘men of merit’ was the dominant sentiment within the intensity of Tamil consciousness in the political, intellectual and aesthetic activities of this period. This was a time of revivalism in drama and literature. Links created by the rebels movements and cultural activists through the Palk Strait, with Tamil Nadu, brought the flavour of art of Madras modern 98

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movement and modern Indian art, through publications and prints to the Jaffna coast. During the same time, in Madras, an exhibition was organized by Tamil Nadu artists V. Santhanam and Sam Adaikalasamy based on the Welikada massacre and the 1983 riots. Later, a collection of Santhanam’s drawing was also published by one of the Eelam Tamil rebel groups. The developments in politics and the artistic exposure became path-setters to the development of art in Jaffna. The first venture in 1980s in painting came with the exhibition by three young women artists who were trained under A. Mark and Sivapragasam. This was organized by the cultural group of Jaffna University in 1986 and it included the works of Arunthanthi, Suguna and Nirmala. This exhibition exhibited a progressive structural change in the art scene, first, it marked the entry by a group of artists who were not art teachers, second, the entry of women artists bearing the identity of artist and, third, as it generated an overwhelming response and support from the progressives. It created an atmosphere of recognition for artists and painting, which I would say was something equal to rebels and the struggle for freedom during that time. Interestingly, paintings of the Jaffna post-traditional artists were on display at the exhibitions organized by various militant groups in order to display the nation. This also indicates how the realities of war started to deconstruct the ordinary Jaffna middle-class psyche. It evoked enthusiasm among the youths to study art. But unfortunately, the only available institution in Sri Lanka to study art, the Institute of Aesthetic Studies (IAS) in Colombo, had completely changed its medium of instruction into Sinhala in 1976, thus denying the rights of Tamils to study visual art. In this context, the Holiday painters group got momentum and A. Mark was reinvented by the group of young students and little magazines. Mark’s paintings and his activities symbolized a transitional phase in the post-traditional Jaffna painting and the dilemmas of a posttraditional painter. Starting as a realistic painter and a schoolteacher, Mark in the 1980s localized the pictorial styles of modernist, especially of Picasso, George Keyt and the Indian painters like Jamini Roy and Satish Gujral by handling local themes, through which he gained popularity and established the modern pictorial mode and individual artist against the popular academic realism, schoolteachers and sign board painters.5 In a way, Mark’s formalistic approach preoccupied with the idea of portraying the Tamil nation, more specifically the 99

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making of his own identifiable pictorial style, figurated the solidification of new Tamil identity that was not only based on the cruelties of war but also on the past. Through his paintings on history, mythology and literature he reinvented and reconstructed the past to suit the present need. In a way, Mark in his paintings wants to be ‘traditional’ and ‘authentic’ and at the same time ‘modern’ and ‘different’. This is the dilemma shared by the most of post-traditional painters of this region. Unlike any other artist of Jaffna, through his well-articulated talks and free art lessons, Mark managed to influence a good number of young artists and gain popularity among the art lovers. Paintings of the young painters like Arunthathi, Vasuki, Kailasanathan and Nilanthan were sharply divided from their own past and the Colombo art scene in terms of approach and content. These youngsters dismissed the popular idea of painting as beautiful, pleasurable and spiritual entity by handling themes such as disappearance, violence, struggle and freedom. During these years, art became a weapon to attack social injustice and an asylum for individuals who were forced to spend their teenage years in the presence of war. In their paintings, artists expressed their optimism and sympathies towards the Tamil nation and their agitation against state suppression in an instant direct manner. With the artist of the 1980s, the consciousness of the artist as a political individual came to the surface of art production. On the other hand, by the end of the 1980s, the whole notion of art making was preoccupied with the act of style making. Like in the high phase of modernism, style became the indicator of an artist’s individual identity and in the local context it was also associated with the national or ethnic identity. Apart from the Holiday painters group there were some individuals active in art production in the 1980s. M. Kanagasabai (b. 1925) from the first generation of painters, activated by the sea of changes in 1980s, started working on his memory and the nostalgia for the past. In his paintings, Kanagasabai documented the various aspects of cultural life which is in the stage of vanishing due to war and social change. Asai Rasiah (b. 1946), a victim of 1983 Colombo riots, resettled in Jaffna. His approach to painting falls into two categories—his landscape paintings have been approached in a romantic way while his figurative works have a social realistic sentiment in it. His refusal to do his earlier art teacher job and the decision to face the hardship 100

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of being a full-time painter make us realize that his paintings are the images of the artist’s romantic self.

ART OF THE 1990S The situation created by the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, the battle for the Jaffna fort, expansion of military’s high security zones into civilian areas in Palaly and Kankesanthurai and the naval control of the surrounding islands of Jaffna peninsula uprooted the age-old settlements from their soil. This let to an abnormality where most of the local inhabitants became refugees in their own land and people of different regions, histories and memories were forced to share a limited area within the peninsula. This created, what I would say, a collaged community and that was further stretched by the immigrations towards Colombo and Western countries, and later by the mass exodus in 1995 which, according to the Jaffna government agent’s report, displaced 500,000 people from their own land. This history of displacement and refugees alters the way in which one experiences his/her own surroundings and therefore, his/her own self. Members of the same family having different nationalities, people of the same nationalities psychologically living in different geographical sites and even in the case of holding a permanent citizenship in an expatriate country these expatriates identify themselves as Sri Lankan/Eelam Tamils; this seemed normal. Therefore, the categories of identities based on nationality, geographical territory, collective history and memory became unreal and the co-existence of conflicting categories and space became real. In this context, the older consciousness of belonging and recognition that construct the notion of Tamil nation was replaced by the realities of surreal and collage. This feeling of mismatch constitutes common, mundane experience in which the new consciousness of the self is rooted. It seems to me now that in the absence of earlier categories of collective identities, despite of all differences, the agency of making the nation is relocated in the plain of pain, suffering and nostalgia of individual as a victim. As Ernest Renan (1996: 81) explains, ‘What one really understands is despite differences in having suffered together—indeed common suffering is greater than happiness.’ On the other hand, collapse of social structure, and censorship of various kinds of different political and armed groups 101

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forced the artistic imagination to take more a introvert journey. In this context, artist’s personal history and metaphorical narrations gained prominence. Many of the younger generation of artists of the 1980s migrated to Western countries and India for political, economical and educational reasons in the 1990s. These migrations changed the societal socialization of these artists and opened possibilities in art training, and new exposure to the art world which creates new challenges. Self-investigation and the meaning of identity in a war or exile situation became a prime issue in the pluralistic approaches of the 1990s in painting. R. Vaidhehi, who is now living in India, in her works, questions the notion of identity in Sri Lanka’s ethnically polarized society and sees how the Tamil identity is exchanged, valued, devalued and handled by the Sri Lankan state as paper documents, through the collages of various documents, identity cards, police registration, and so on, that are necessary to live as a Tamil in any part of Sri Lanka. She shows how we live in a world of collages of documents and how one’s inner individuality is being erased and denied through the process of proving or defining one’s own physical self and location. The works that she did in India depict the mindscape of a stranger in a jungle of buildings. In most of Vaidehi’s recent works, one can notice that the images become more and more like her self-portrait and have an innate feeling of loneliness and strangeness. Social anomalies configured as personal myths and narratives in Shanaathanan’s surrealistic landscapes. By personalizing history and mythology, he metaphorically plays with the ‘personal’ and the ‘public’. This approach is a sharp contrast to the approach of earlier generation of painters who objectified history and mythology as the identity of nation His paintings and etchings express the pain and suffering of being a suspect and a stranger in his own society in the absence or uncertainty of home. In his paintings too, his own body becomes the site of reference for chaos of the society, as Foucault explains, the body is the ‘site’ in which all forms of repression are ultimately registered (as quoted in Harvey 1990: 45). His recent works explore the relationship between the construction of identity and both physical and psychological location by sometimes recoiling and sometimes juxtaposing the human anatomy and maps of different kinds. To depict the collaged society and the dislocation of the self, he uses collaged and tailored maps. His paintings can be seen as the visible 102

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or invisible presences of the painter’s own self as an eyewitness of the social calamities. Sivaruban’s paintings also express the helpless, victimized, lonely self in a surreal situation. If Shanaathanan brings the surreal nature to his painting by juxtaposing the unreal together, Sivaruban brings that with the play of scale and proportions of different images and their schematic relationship that produces forms as idiosyncratic and undigested. Therefore, in the works of Vaidehi, Shanaathanan and Sivaruban, there is an autobiographical attitude. The following observation on 1990s Sri Lankan art of Jegath Weerasighe comes close to locating the works of these artists. The interesting thing is that what happens here is the alignment of personal pains with those of the society and this, the artist portrays himself/herself as the suffering individual on behalf of others implying a self-inflicted vicarious punishment. Consequently, these are collections of art that shows subtle, but strong signs of autobiographical narratives. These autobiographical narratives usually hold or tell us of a character that is desolate and dismal yet sanguine, or of a character that is struggling with some sort of bondage, a captivity, and a perplexity whose location and position is not yet defined, but is being defined. (Weerasinghe 2004)

Nanda Kandasamy (Canada) and Anusiya (Ireland) reinforce the notion of home as a form of relationship, connections, sharing and for them, home is not the land in which they live now, but the land they lost or were made to lose. Nanda Kandasamy’s one work was made out of collaging the letters that he received from home during the high time of war. Letters were the only mode of communication available during the time of war and that too with lots of constraints and delays. This personal material is made into public, by the process of art making. For Anusiya, the unbroken infinite lines in her minimalist drawing represent her thread of connection with the home that is uprooted, stolen, dislocated and destroyed. Arunthathi’s and Vasuki’s works try to build women’s identity by exploring the role of women in a male-dominated world and art practice. Arunthathi works like a woman folk artist and tries to juxtapose her deep inclination towards traditional designs with the representation of subtle moments of living. Her approaches give a feminine nature to her paintings. Unlike Arunthathi’s effortless free line-based works, Vasuki’s paintings make a political statement. They show us how 103

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Vasuki, as a self-conscious woman, reads her own self and the world. While the formalism of 1980s continues in the works of Kailasanathan, Nilanthan and Karuna (Canada), most of the other artists’ works of the 1990s exhibit a drastic change in approach and the quality of expression. Earlier direct, literal expression gives way to nuance and layers of feeling in which mundane and ordinary became important. In short it moves from the meta-narratives of Sri Lankan and then Tamil nationalism to a layer of experiencing the ordinariness of them. This leads to a situation where the conscious effort of search for personal pictorial style gives way to accepting and realizing the artist’s own self and ways that are being made visible. Here, understanding the process of constructing the self and the identity became the main concern of these artists. Here, the act of art making became more important than the finished product. Therefore, I argue that the medium of collage, which most of artists practiced in the 1990s use metaphoric and symbolic functions as a vehicle of expression and the meaning or in other words, functions both as signifier and signified. At the end of the 1990s, the University of Jaffna started a degree course in art and design with lots of hope and hardship in addition to the art history discipline, which was introduced with the revivalism of the 1980s.

CONCLUSION In their research on artistic careers and the labour markets, social scientists point out that the artistic career is risky and poorly paid (Alexander 2003: 134). In his book on north and east Sri Lankan economy, Nithiyanandam observes that in the failure of establishing the colonial economic structure of northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka on cash crops, as in the case of southern Sri Lanka by the colonial Raj, the introduction of education was linked with the catering to the government employment market in Jaffna, which placed professions like doctors and engineers on the top (Nithiyanandam 2003). The foregoing observations help us to understand the status and the role of the ‘insecure’ artist in the Jaffna middle class. Further, in post-traditional societies individualization of artist is also associated with commercialization and commodification of art work. In postcolonial societies it also directly or indirectly is connected with emerging nationalist sentiments. Even though a few of the artists 104

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whom I have discussed earlier partly operate with the galleries outside Jaffna and manage to sell their works, most of the others are still away from the art mediators. The situation is not much different even in the case of Jaffna painters who live abroad. Since most of them still identify themselves as artists of Jaffna, and each of them lives in isolation in various parts of the world, their activities and art production stay away from the general artistic culture of the country they live in. Therefore, it seems to me that being an artist in the Jaffna community itself is a quite rebellious act. As Suzi Gablik observed that being an artist has always meant maintaining a certain independence of mind and not adapting to competitive performances required for well-being under the established system even at the cost of intense personal sacrifice (Gablik 1984: 70). The foregoing observations well place in context my argument that the intention behind art production in Jaffna is consciously or unconsciously associated with the idea of framing/reframing the identity of artist’s individual, rather than material benefits, fame and hobby. Stuart Hall says that cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made within the discourses of history and culture. Not an essence, but a positioning. Hence, there is always a politics of identity, a political position (Hall 1996: 113). The political position of the Jaffna artist’s self is more closely linked with the political development in Sri Lanka, than with the developments in the field of art. The first generation of artists displaying the dual identity emerged from the conflict of colonialism and nationalism, by deploying the Victorian ideals to portray the local scenes. The second generation positions art in an anti-colonial stand, which they did by reinventing the tradition and other anti-colonial modes of expression. In the early phase of Tamil nationalism, artists tried to imbibe some of the attitudes of Indian and Sri Lankan counterparts by relocating the styles and themes of past for their present need. Interestingly the younger generation of artists from the 1990s pluralistic approach move away from the nationalist romantic imaginative narration of past. The true realities of civil war which this generation was forced to face, made them rethink the earlier notion of identity and the process of making them visible. This made them focus on their present. Paradoxically, the deepening consciousness of identity, in society in general and the artist in particular, coincided with the loss of earlier categories of identity based on collective history, memory, 105

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geographical territory and nationality in Tamil society due to war and displacements. This leads to the situation of identity similar to Harvey’s explanation on the post-modern situation: the co-existence in an impossible space of large number of fragmentary possible worlds or more simply incommensurable spaces that are juxtaposed or superimposed upon each other (Harvey 1990: 48). This location of the artist’s self in a collided, dislocated, collaged space influences the ceaseless metamorphosis of artistic image into surrealistic image.

NOTES 1. John Clark, in his article on Asian Modernisms, argued that modernity invents itself everywhere; it is required for a new relativization of the pasts of any given culture or group of culture. The principal condition is that these cultures need to and are incapable of carrying out this relativization (quoted in Weerasinghe 2000). Hence, to avoid the confusion by using the word ‘modern’, I am here using it as post-traditional. 2. According to Jeremy Tanner the concept status describes the position of an actor within the social structure, in particular insofar as this position is ranked as superior or inferior to other positions. The concept of role describes patterned expectations about and performance of action by groups of actors interacting with each other (Tanner 2003: 107). 3. Raja Ravi Verma (1848–1906) is a prime aspiration in the Indian artists’ passage to the modern; he is at the same time an obvious anachronism of the period. Handling this contradiction with poise, he joins the ranks of the anomalous figures in India’s 19th century cultural renaissance who see their task in the same terms—of materializing through Western techniques, the idea of a golden past and then inducting this into a national project (Kapur 1995a). 4. According to the Exhibition Catalogue (2000) made by IAS. The earliest inception, of course in Drawing and Painting, was at the Maradana Technical College in 1896. In 1949 the art courses were moved to a new house at Horton place known as Haywood. In 1952, the art courses were formally constituted within an institute titled Government College of Arts. It gained its current university status in 1974 under the name of Institute of Aesthetic Studies (IAS). Until recent times, this was the only art institution in Sri Lanka to study visual arts. 5. Modern artists, sign board painters, illustrators, commercial artist, cartoonists and art teachers were all treated same, without considering the different intentions and needs behind them, under the common label ‘artist’ in the early writings on Jaffna painting. It also symbolically presents the popular conception of art and the artist in Jaffna society.

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Being Tamil in a Different Way A Feminist Critique of the Tamil Nation1 Radhika Coomaraswamy and Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham ™ Metaphorically speaking, nationalism promises to take its nationals home, to end homelessness and homesickness, represents itself as the exclusive and ultimate cure for nostalgia. However, this promise is one that cannot be kept; for if that were to happen, if it actually delivered on its promise, nationalism would have exhausted its obligations and would find itself with nothing left to do…. Nationalism cannot and does not keep its promises. – Ismail 2001

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omen and nationalism is a topic that has been the subject of a great deal of analysis in Sri Lanka. On the one hand, nationalism is seen by some as a movement of resistance and change, opening spaces for women’s emancipation and participation. Others argue that nationalism limits and confines women to nationalist projects as boundary keepers and cultural re-producers, denying them their true potential for liberation. This paper will argue that though nationalism, especially in its early phases when mediated by discourses such as socialism and feminism, provides some space for social transformation, it is inherently a limiting discourse 107

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that is often at variance with democracy, pluralism and rights-based approaches. Therefore, even with regard to the women’s question, though it provides some progressive moments, it ultimately restricts women. As a result, feminism will always be in variance with nationalism. In outlining the foregoing argument, we will begin this paper by mapping contingent moments of nationalist thought and its intersections with feminism. We will then look at feminist readings specific to the question of women in the Sri Lankan Tamil nationalist movement. This will be done by recounting a brief analysis of the understandings of women in three phases of Tamil nationalism. Our approach will be to signal crucial moments in Tamil nationalist politics as and when it intersects with issues of gender. Even then, we do not suggest in any way that areas we draw the reader’s attention to are the only understandings of the two, nor that what we present is a ‘history’ of women and Tamil nationalism, but rather point to areas that have been researched and have caught the imagination of Sri Lankan feminist scholars. Hence, our analysis is based more on describing contingent moments rather than writing a history of women and Tamil nationalism. The first phase, between 1947 and 1972, we will call the early stage of nationalism. We would argue that, contrary to parallel movements in India, the construction of the modern Tamil woman at this juncture is heavily influenced by the Hindu revival movement of the 19th century and has little social reform content. The second phase concerns the 1970s to the end of the 1980s, which saw the formation of the TULF and continued until the failure of the Indo-Lanka accord. This second phase would include the proliferation of multiple movements, radical in nature, demanding the ethnic rights of the Tamil people, a separate state, but also demanding caste/class mobility, freedom from rigid state regulations and an insistence on the civil and legal rights of individuals. We will suggest that this phase saw the parallel emergence of radical social agendas and activism in women’s groups. The third phase of Tamil nationalist politics is the era from the end of the 1980s to the present, which saw the hegemony of the LTTE in Tamil nationalist politics. We will further illustrate that at this stage the notion of governmentality becomes the predominant mode in which Tamil nationalist politics is carried forth, replacing any space for a discourse and politics based on the notion of rights. 108

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The shifting conceptualization of the Tamil woman has already been signalled by the work of Sitralega Maunaguru (1995). We will attempt to map these shifts by looking at the different ways in which ‘woman’ is produced at different moments in both Tamil nationalist thought and what we call critical feminist thought.2 How do these structures and ideologies (here nationalist and feminist) produce the category ‘woman’? If feminism remains a subordinate category to nationalist thought, what forms of empowerment can there be? If new kinds of women are produced by the effects of Tamil nationalism, how do these transformations provide space for feminist action and practice? This chapter will tentatively argue that in the context of contemporary Tamil nationalism the transformations are most successful in what may be termed ‘law and order feminism’ that may render space for feminist activity to prevent offences such as violence against women, but that these feminist practices can find no place when it comes to issues of sexuality, democratic politics or pluralism. Furthermore, our final analysis will be that because nationalism by nature is a limiting ideology, feminist projects deeply entwined in it cannot ultimately liberate women.

NATIONALIST THOUGHT IN THE COLONIAL WORLD: FEMINIST THOUGHT IN THIS INTERSECTION Tamil nationalist thought needs to be placed within the context of theorizing about nationalism in general, and in the context of national struggles for self-determination.3 In the classic work by Benedict Anderson, proto-nationalism is understood as having libratory potential, providing the platform for anti-imperialism and enabling modes of self-rule and self-determination where both the needs of materialist modernity and the colonized people’s cultural integrity can be achieved. This formulation fits into Anderson’s term ‘unbound seriality’ (Anderson 1998),4 which ‘affords the opportunity for individuals to imagine themselves as members of larger than face-to-face solidarities, of transcending by an act of political imagination the limits imposed by traditional practices’ (Chatterjee 2004: 34).5 109

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Nationalism in formerly colonized nations, according to Kumari Jayawardena, has ‘three common facets: first, the desire to carry out internal reforms in order to modernize their societies…second, the dismantling of those pre-capitalist structures…and third, the assertion of nationalist identity on the basis of which people could be mobilized against imperialism’ (Jayawardena 1986). Jayawardena distinguishes between nationalism per se and national liberation struggles and sees potential for greater transformation in the latter. Partha Chatterjee in Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World further develops Jayawardena’s argument by suggesting that nationalism was carried out in anti-British, anti-colonial struggles through a process of what he called in Gramscian terms ‘the passive revolution’ based on notions of difference rather than identity. This passive revolution marks the beginnings of nationhood in many formerly colonized nations as: [A] war of position, a kind of political trench warfare waged on a number of different fronts. Its strategy would be to attempt a ‘molecular transformation’ of the state, neutralizing opponents, converting sections of the former ruling classes into allies in a partially reorganizing system of government, undertaking economic reforms on a limited scale so as to appropriate the support of the popular masses but keeping them out of any form of direct participation in the process of governance. (Chatterjee 1986: 45)

For Chatterjee, then, the early stage of nationalism is hardly a radical space, but one where the nation is imagined anew, especially as it formulated space for women. Chatterjee emphasizes, however, that the ideological content of such passive revolutions needs to be studied historically and in context to understand the different forces that operate to bring about a certain kind of nationalism in a given country. Perhaps, within the early phase of nationalist movements in the colonial world, the assertion of difference, especially in terms of the West, is best articulated by Chatterjee’s formulation of the inner and the outer world. To repeat this by-now classic adage: The material is the domain of the ‘outside’, of the economy and of statecraft, of science and technology, a domain where the West had proved its superiority and the East had succumbed. In this domain, then, 110

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Western superiority had to be acknowledged and its accomplishments carefully studied and replicated. The spiritual on the other hand, is an ‘inner’ domain bearing the ‘essential’ marks of cultural identity. The greater one’s success in imitating Western skills in the material domain, therefore, the greater one’s need to preserve the distinctness of one’s spiritual culture. (Chatterjee 1993: 6)

It is during this stage of nationalist thought in the colonial world that women’s place was also assigned quite specifically within the inner domain as carrying the ‘burden of representation’ (Yuval-Davis 1997) of a culture and its signs of progress, purity and status. Women became the cultural custodians and reproducers and the home became the focus of the East’s spiritual domain. Women, culture and spirituality became integrally linked and any attempt to empower and liberate women within the home was only possible on condition that this did not disrupt the stability of the ‘inner world’. The culture of a nation is described by nationalists as eternal, continuous and unbroken across millennia, static and reified, which ignores the fact that culture is instead part of ‘dynamic social processes operating in contested terrains in which different voices become more or less hegemonic in their offered interpretations of the world’ (ibid.: 41). Often, because of the placement of women within the sphere of representation and culture, they are understood within cultural practices such as rituals through which their symbolic role is assigned to them. While, ‘the “new woman” was to be modern’, she also had to ‘display the signs of national tradition and therefore would be essentially different from the “western” woman’ (Chatterjee 1993: 9). Such formulations on the place of women within the newly emerging nation, though different to some degree from the position articulated by Jayawardena, in no way contradict the evidence she offers of gender-based reform and the emergence of the new woman. This period of early nationalism often accompanies moves at social reform and may include issues of trade union activism and working class struggles. For this early time period has meant an excessive focus on education for women and the opening up of public spaces for them albeit in a limited form. It also involved revivalist movements, the reformulation and invention of national culture and especially a period in which debates on the ‘new woman’ have come into being in many countries of the post-colonial world. Hence, nationalism in its earlier 111

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understandings is defined as a move not only for self-determination, but also for the modernizing and liberation of the people of the nation from some of its feudal practices. For women, this signals equality within the legal process; the removal of obviously discriminatory practices such as sati, the ban on widow remarriage, child marriage; and the right to vote, education and property. Jayawardena further recounts how while these limited and selected reforms moved women away from obscurantist feudal realities to enjoying the benefits of being the ‘new’ woman, only a few nationalist movements addressed basic questions of women’s inequality in the actual daily lives of women and pushed forward a radical agenda. According to Jayawardena, most of the early reformers wanted to establish stable, monogamous nuclear families with educated and employable women. Education was a rallying cry for many early nationalists who wanted to educate their daughters to be enlightened mothers and wives. While some women moved onto to develop a nascent feminist consciousness, the majority used the spaces opened up by early nationalism to strengthen the nuclear family and to become cultural reproducers of the new nation. Women and women’s positions also became sites for a ‘clash of civilizations’. With the Western colonial powers such as the British always championing the cause of women, of saving ‘brown women from the tyrannies of brown men’, the nationalist response to this in South Asian colonies, such as in India, was to construct a golden era of the past when women were treated well and to make women’s social ‘uplift’ a part of the nationalist agenda, of a return to that era. Janaki Nair (1996), Ratna Kapur and Brenda Crossman (1996) have described how in India, this involved the eradication of sati, child marriage and female infanticide. Since women were to represent the imagined civilizational ethos, this created space for eradicating brutal practices, but this burden of representation also entrapped women in what Kapur calls ‘familial ideology’, subject to moral and economic regulation (ibid.: 19–151). A general analysis of gender and nationalism makes it crystal clear that for feminists, nationalism has always signified a masculine and patriarchal project. As pointed out by Nira Yuval-Davis and many other feminist scholars, nationalism is always an unequal project where women are given secondary positions within the nation. For example, if nationalism means that ‘only by being born into a certain 112

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collectivity could one be a full member in it’ then ‘control of marriage, procreation and therefore sexuality would thus tend to be high on the nationalist agenda’ (Yuval-Davis 1997: 22). In such instances women would be seen as the biological reproducers of the nation, providing the nation with its future generations, but also with its men to fight for the nation and for the protection of its women and children. The placement of women within the private space or the inner domain has also meant that women are seen as the ‘border guards’, the ‘embodiments of the collective while at the same time being its cultural reproducers’ (ibid.: 23) and are pressured in many ways to maintain the cultural order of an ethnic or national group.

TAMIL NATIONALISM AND ITS EARLY STAGES Descriptions of the first stage of nationalism by Jayawardena and Chatterjee have some bearing on early Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka. There is a great deal of debate as to when Tamil nationalist consciousness began. We argued that Tamil nationalism as it has emerged has its precursor in strands of Tamil consciousness that began in the colonial period. To illustrate this point, we wish to make a short detour to the 19th century Hindu revival movement because much of what constitutes the contemporary acceptable Tamil woman, especially in the middle class and the diaspora, is largely a product of that period. We accept the argument forcefully put forth by Maunaguru that ‘the construction of women in the field of nationalism will not be one but many, as dense points in that field are produced by the historical and social practices of its agents’ (Maunaguru 1995: 158), and add that many of the shifts are tied to the ideas of womanhood formulated in the 19th century. The early part of nationalist thought was essentially a period of cultural revival that accompanied the reinvention and reimposition of tradition, especially based on the mid to end 19th century Hindu revivalist movement led by Arumuga Navalar. In Tamil nationalist politics, Arumuga Navalar, Sankara Pandithar and the later 19th century Hindu revivalists such as C.W. Thamotharampillai played an important role in conceptualizing the place of Tamil society in modern Sri Lanka. One can state that some of Navalar’s main contributions to Hindu society were to meet the challenges of proselytizing 113

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Christianity, to re-establish caste order and the dominance of the Vellala caste within Tamil society, to discredit the more syncretic and organic forms of worship that existed in Hinduism at the time, to reestablish a more Judeo-Hindu religion in Sri Lanka, and perhaps most importantly for this paper, to confine and set limits for what were acceptable spaces for women. As Maunaguru asserts, we repeat her translation of Navalar’s work based on the Laws of Manu: Women should be protected, during their childhood by their fathers, during their youth by their husbands and during old age by their sons. Hence, women are never independent…. A woman who likes to be on her own without father, husband and children will bring ill fame on to the family. (Maunaguru 1995: 159)

Navalar’s main opponents by the mid-19th century were the missionaries who he thought had belittled Hindu culture and had in the form of Protestantism spread a religion that was far inferior to Saiva Siddhanta, a gospel he articulated by innovating practices that have their origins in the very Christianity he belittled. While he may have been critical of missionaries especially in his works, such as The Annihilation of Calumnie and Radiant Wisdom, he also thought that Hinduism needed to not only move away from Christianity, but also needed to reform itself to a purer, more scriptural basis. Navalar often believed that Hindus in the peninsula practiced a form of folk Hinduism that was not really the true and superior form of Saiva Siddhanta. He constantly harangued the Nallur Kandaswamy temple because it had been compromised by [T]he impurity of the unclean (asuaca), toddy-drinking, non-vegetarian, mixed-caste (samkarajati), subordinate functionaries (paricaraka), such as kitchen workers who prepared food offerings for the enshrined deities. Worse still, prostitutes were squatted in the temple, masquerading as sacred dancers (devadasi). Milk donated for the anointment of images (abhisheka) was fed to their illegitimate children. (Arumuga Navalar quoted in Young and Jebanesan 1995: 86)

It becomes clear from his attitude to women that Navalar thought women’s place in society should be carefully monitored. Perhaps the following quotation from his work will illustrate the point clearly: 114

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The men of this country are fully aware that strong temptations to sin and vice assail them when they come in contact with those world-known whores, the dancing girls and similar disreputable characters. Yet we are astonished to see them send their wives and children day after day, night after night, to temples and festivals, the haunts of the vile and the wicked. Do they think that their women, unlike themselves, are impregnable fortresses, yielding to no influences, however tempting or attractive? Or do they think it cruel to deprive them of the pleasure of sightseeing? Or are they utterly incapable of governing their women? (Arumuga Navalar quoted in Young and Jebanesan 1995: 172)

Navalar condoned the strict monitoring of women and their chastity as he considered sexual purity an essential trait for women. Hence, during this time we see the emergence of women as pure on the one hand, with its anti-thesis of woman as a whore on the other. Respectable, uppercaste, middle-class women had to fall within the strictures of sexual purity, while women who dared to contest notions of sexual purity were seen as outcastes, whores, devadasis to be condemned and driven out of society. By the time Tamil nationalism became an organized form of political protest in Sri Lanka, Navalar’s position on women came in many ways to exemplify the role women were expected to play in society. Even while women obtained greater access to the public sphere, their role in society remained close to some of his doctrines. Navalar’s contribution to Tamil consciousness was religious, though there are many who argue to the contrary that Tamil nationalism is essentially secular in its Sri Lankan manifestation. However, for women, the changes brought about by Navalar as part of Tamil consciousness had enormous repercussions for their everyday lives. If Navalar’s attitude to women and religion is contrasted with the views of Periyar, the founder of Tamil nationalism and the Self Respect Movement in Tamil Nadu, we see clearly that unlike Navalar, Periyar pushed forward a radical agenda for women, questioning the very institution of marriage and the values of patriarchy. He stated, for example: The concept of husband wife relationship has been one of master slave relationship. The essential philosophy of marriage has been to insist on women’s slavery…why should human beings alone keep such contracts of one man-one woman relationships…until women are liberated from such marriages and from men, our country cannot attain independence.… (Periyar quoted in Anandhi 2003) 115

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While Navalar reinforced gender and caste hierarchy, Periyar challenged their very foundation. The Dravidian Self Respect Movement in India was full of adi Dravida women such as Anapoorani, who became spokespeople for the movement, speaking and writing against caste oppression, asserting their rights and marrying across caste boundaries (Geetha 2003: 180). Profoundly secular, Periyar rejected the symbols of religion and created the framework for an egalitarian movement that valued the freedom of individual women. Strangely untouched by the work and writings of Periyar, except within a limited circle, the post-independence Tamil political leadership in Sri Lanka that began articulating a Tamil national consciousness was basically unconcerned with women and did not include radical social reforms regarding women in their political agenda. Women’s issues were basically invisible in the politics of the Federal Party and later the TULF. Though women participated in the rallies and the meetings, no woman leader emerged (except perhaps in the role of controversial wives), and women’s rights were not an element of their programmes. The same may be said of caste, which too was an invisible issue and not the subject of radical reform. Though the parties asserted caste equality in certain political agitations, the assertion of Vellala dominance is reflected clearly in early Tamil nationalism that was part of the elite politics of Sri Lanka both in terms of caste and class. Perhaps such elite politics is exemplified in the early stages of independence when G.G. Ponnambalam supported the bill passed by the UNP to deny estate Tamils citizenship rights. Hence, the Tamil Congress Party, and then the Tamil Federal Party continued to support a politics of elites ensuring the welfare of elite constituencies rather than enabling the welfare of Tamils in Sri Lanka, or of offering radical social transformation. Tamil nationalist politics seems more an attempt at power-sharing with the Sinhalese than of asserting democratic rights for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. As noted by A.J. Wilson, the power-sharing between the Tamils and Sinhalese at the time was often seen by the Karava, Salagama and Durawa castes as ‘a Sinhalese Goigama/Ceylon Tamil Vellala compact’ (Wilson 1988). This is perhaps part and parcel of Sri Lankan politics that did not see the colonial powers become replaced by more democratic modes of power-sharing, but rather saw the ‘emerging bourgeoisie successfully negotiating a transfer of political power which left the existing social structure unchanged’ (ibid.: 4). 116

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The early phase of Tamil nationalism regarding gender saw the fruition of some of the developments described by Jayawardena. Though early Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka did not have an overt and radical social reform agenda, akin to that of Periyar in Tamil Nadu, it did bring betterment for some women. Women were educated in large numbers and were encouraged to become professionals. Women doctors, teachers and accountants were commonplace in the three decades of early Tamil nationalism where women’s incomes were necessary to augment the meagre earnings in a failing economy. However, what Chatterjee described for his study of Indian nationalism also found resonance in Sri Lanka for Tamil women became cultural reproducers, were markers of cultural identity, became responsible for the cultural rituals in the home and for keeping alive Tamil culture, music and dance. The inner domain was dominated by the female presence and Tamil culture was epitomized through the Tamil woman. As noted in the studies of Jaffna Tamil women, ‘Jaffna Tamil culture views women as outwardly enslaved and inwardly powerful… These ideological representations call attention to a contrast between expected public behaviour and expected private behaviour’ (David 1980: 51). This points to how although middle-class women had formal and limited legal control of a large share of domestic and extra domestic productive resources through the transmission of property, they, at the same time, had to limit their role to the domestic, inner space. This inner domain on the one hand is a locus of extraordinary power in middle-class Tamil culture, while on the other through Hindu rituals it reaffirmed women’s subordinate status as the maintainers and reproducers of what it meant to be Tamil. Given the silence of the liberal democratic Tamil leadership on the question of women, Navalar’s teaching and worldview as propagated in the rituals of Saiva Siddhanta continued a firm hold on the imagination of the post-colonial Jaffna Tamil society, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Powerful in the home, she ironically reproduced and represented a worldview that re-inscribed the subordination of women. The first phase of the Tamil nationalist movement saw a brief rupture from conventional gender roles primarily during the period of civil disobedience against the imposition of Sinhala nationalist legislation and state coercion. This time period, as already documented by feminists, led to the construction of woman as mother. 117

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By the 1960s, Sinhala nationalism in the south of Sri Lanka with its exclusive ideology that marginalized and disenfranchised minorities had its effects on Tamil political responses. The governments in power had over a period of time ensured the disenfranchisement of Indian-Tamils, and had in 1956 made Sinhala the only official language in Sri Lanka. By 1961, when the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government came into power, the Language Act was fully enforced; this to the Tamil middle classes signalled a closing door on their access into civil and public services. Colonization schemes to areas that Tamils considered their ‘traditional homelands’ had by the 1960s become an issue not only for Tamils, but for Muslims in the eastern province as well. The failure of the Bandaranaike–Chelvanayagam pact, which was meant to devolve power to the north and east and to mitigate the frustrations of Tamils, took its toll on Tamil politics in the 1960s. During this time, the Federal Party in power still invested belief in the possibilities of non-violent resistance. By the 1960s S.J.V. Chelvanayagam’s Tamil Federal Party had gained some precedence over G.G. Ponnambalam’s Tamil Congress. It was as a result of such ventures that the civil disobedience movements of the late 1950s and early 1960s became possible. The civil disobedience movements of this time signal two important transformations in Tamil nationalist politics in Sri Lanka. First, these ventures seem to suggest a transformation in Tamil politics where people of all classes and castes were encouraged to demand their rights as citizens of the state. In other words, it was a space for attempting to enlarge the rights of citizens of Sri Lanka to an equal share of the privileges of the state while simultaneously maintaining the rights of Tamils to be different from the Sinhalese. Second, it was also during the 1960s that the heterogeneous Tamil communities were patiently brought together by the Federal Party to provide some semblance of uniformity, homogeneity much of which was possible and credited to Chelvanayagam’s campaigning in the east and among the estate Tamils. The first such Satyagraha took place in 1956 when the Sinhala Only Act was being debated in parliament. All Tamil parliamentarians took to Galle Face Green and were joined there by numerous supporters. Such Satyagrahas continued not only in the city’s capital but also in areas outside such as in the eastern province. When in 1958, 118

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Prime Minister Bandaranaike ‘abrogated his Pact…with Chelvanayagam on language, regional devolution and colonization, the Federalists launched their third satyagraha campaign’ (Wilson 1988: 109). The anti-sri campaign propagated by the federalists led eventually to the riots of 1958 and is documented in great detail by Tarzie Vittachi (1958) in Emergency ’58. When the SLFP under the leadership of Sirimavo Bandaranaike came into power in 1960 but continued its language policies, again massive civil disobedience and Satyagraha campaigns were launched in the north and east of the country. The year 1964 was the last of these where ‘the Tamil public was exhorted to correspond and transact business with the state only in their language. This would embarrass the government, slow down the bureaucratic machine and force the retention of as many Tamil employees as possible’ (Wilson 1988: 115). The roles of women during these Satyagrahas and civil disobedience movements were very much contained within patriarchal order. However, as emphasized by Maunaguru, large numbers of women did participate in them, giving speeches, joining sit-ins and hunger strikes. However, feminists have illustrated that their role was first as wives and then as mothers. The roles of women as mothers, as nurturers, as those who encouraged their sons to fight against the chauvinist Sinhalese were emphasized at this point (Maunaguru 1995: 162). The importance of motherhood at this juncture, according to the writings of Nanthini Sornarajah, comes from the inspiration that Sri Lankan Tamil politics obtained at the time from the Dravidian movement in South India where through films, songs and poetry, the ideal of Thamil Thai was absorbed into the politics of the Federal Party in the 1960s. Many women came out into the public sphere during this time, spoke out against Sinhala racism and were threatened when police forces broke up Satyagrahas. However, neither social reform in terms of women’s empowerment nor the women’s question became part of this movement. Access and prominence in public spaces were possible, however, as long as women remained within the confines of prescribed womanhood. Women were allowed to participate as long as they understood their place in society. Despite women’s participation in political protests at the time, they did not come forth on their own without the support of their spouses to fight for various rights. There were no Tamil women at the time who formally entered politics 119

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or sought a career in it. Women could operate in the public sphere as long as they knew their place and fulfilled their duties in the inner domain.

THE SECOND PHASE OF TAMIL NATIONALISM The more militant and radical phase of Tamil nationalism can be placed from the 1970s to the mid to end of the 1980s. We would argue that this phase saw the rise of multiple movements demanding the rights of Tamil citizens to their own nation, and the removal of the Sinhalese army from what Tamils consider their traditional homelands. This period is marked by a multiplicity of discourses where numerous agendas such as class, caste, gender and nationalism all competed for space. Hence, while the nationalist aspirations of the time, in part marked by the Vaddukoddai Resolution, marked the exclusionary politics inherent to nationalism, other kinds of protest can be seen as more radical in nature. Two significant understandings of woman came to operate during this time. One was the understanding of woman as mother; the other was that of woman as a rape victim. The 1970 elections and the failure of the previous successive governments to come to an understanding with the Federal Party to devolve power meant in many ways a rise of militant youth movements that supported violence as the only means to power. In the 1972 Constitution, Buddhism was given special support by the state and Tamil students were discriminated against in university entrance. By 1977 the TULF formed to resist the Sinhala state and finally demand a separate state for the Tamil people. The Vaddukoddai Resolution (VR) is a statement of the rights of Tamil-speaking people to self-determination. It is, as Ismail (2000) suggests, a statement which sought to ‘end nostalgia-redeem loss, restore past greatness…. Nation as possessing, or being bound, in and over time, to a particular territory’ (p. 228). Therefore, ‘since Tamils possess the Northeast, those possessing the Northeast are Tamils; others may live in the same land, but they do not and cannot possess it (not being the majority nation)’ (p. 232). While other scholars have commented on the liberal nature of the TULF which sought to mitigate the consequences of Tamil majoritarianism by being inclusive and using the term Tamilspeaking people, it cannot be ignored that the new nation that the 120

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TULF sought would imitate the majority–minority politics of the Sinhala state they were rejecting. While the nation was being asserted as the main aspiration of the Tamil people, it is during this time that Tamil politics came to see a proliferation of radical movements that were able to mitigate the destructive nature of nationalist politics. The 1970s saw the emergence of large numbers of youth entering into militant and other forms of protests. The Vaddukoddai Resolution states: ‘This Convention calls upon the Tamil nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw themselves fully in the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of Tamil Eelam is reached.’6 The 1970s then saw the emergence of militant Tamil youth who opposed the Gandhian non-violent politics of the FP and TULF. At this point the LTTE and the TELO had already started campaigns of assassinating those it considered traitors to the Tamil nation, such as Alfred Duraiappah. Simultaneously, the proliferation of early separatist nationalist movements then saw the rise of caste and class mobilization within the Tamil community. As the multiple Tamil nationalist parties such as TELO, LTTE, EPRLF, EROS needed cadres and youth for its movement, young men from varying classes, castes and backgrounds started joining various groups. Many of them focused their rhetoric not simply on achieving Tamil Eelam, but also on the rights of depressed castes and within a general socialist framework the rights of the masses to organize themselves. One can argue that the agendas of groups like the EPRLF and EROS may have even resisted the term ‘Tamil Eelam’, for the more inclusive and fluid term ‘Eelam’ where different communities, classes and castes could live side by side. Such changes can be seen in the manner in which women’s organized movements too started coming to the forefront in Tamil nationalist politics. It is then within such a framework of nationalist politics that one can place women in militant nationalist movements. From the early 1980s, the military presence in the north of the country increased dramatically, militant youth were being picked up by the army and disappeared during this time. The 1983 ethnic pogrom throughout the country, but mostly concentrated in Colombo, further fuelled the fires of militant violent Tamil resistance. During this time, many of the Tamil resistance groups in the north and east were active in gaining 121

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as large a membership as possible. Women were obviously a resource they wished to tap. While at the early stages women were relegated to more conventional roles, they were brought into the resistance movement subsequently (Maunaguru 1995: 163–64). This time period also saw the proliferation of women’s voices in the north and east of the country. The Mother’s Front is one of the well-known examples which was able to organize women from numerous backgrounds to protest against the summary arrests and disappearances of their children. As Sivamohan has noted: The national liberation struggle was and is a destabilizer of hierarchical structures of class, caste and gender. In some ways gender has been the most dynamically active of these three social forces. Despite the fact that militancy was heavily informed by the middle class thinking of the emancipation of the bourgeois nation and of national social mobility backed by capitalists, a high caste intelligentsia, and a socially mobile expatriate community, the mobilization of people at different levels led to a challenging and exploration of hierarchies, including that of gender. In the first flush of revolt, nationalism created a space for a militant women’s consciousness to emerge. (Sivamohan 2004: 127)

Thus the Mother’s Front mobilized women from many classes and castes to use the image of motherhood to criticize the actions of a draconian state. The images of woman as mother, as procreator, as life-giver and nurturer were used powerfully at this point and was later appropriated by the Mother’s Front in the south during the JVP insurrection in the late 1980s. During the early years of militancy, there were other forms of feminist activity at play. The Women’s Study Circle was one such place of mostly academic women of Jaffna University which since its commencement in 1975 had become a place of debate, discussion and politics. The Study Circle raised important issues of women’s freedom and sought to introduce a feminist component to the nationalist struggle. Debating issues such as violence, caste, tradition and women’s political participation, they became the focus of radical activity, asserting the rights of the Tamil people while challenging patriarchy. Within the confines of the Study Circle and outside of it, woman as raped figure appeared in performances and discussions of feminist and nationalist thought (Sivamohan 2003).7 The Tamil woman as 122

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the rape victim became the symbol of the debased Tamil nation. The actual incidents of rape and the threat of such violence became a preoccupation of the nationalist struggle. The beginnings of such constructions can perhaps be found in the 1983 riots during which the rape of Tamil women came into public discourse (Kanapathipillai 2003).8 In 1986, on International Women’s Day, the issue of the Tamil woman as rape victim was a focus of analysis. In response to forms of gender-based violence, the Poorani Women’s Home opened in the Jaffna peninsula by the late 1980s in support of women who had been victims of violence, especially during the IPKF time. The numbers of women raped and abused during the IPKF years have been documented in the work of The Broken Palmyra and have in many instances been sited as the reason for women joining the LTTE. For example, when Miranda Alison interviewed women cadres in the LTTE, some of them attested to either being raped by the Sri Lankan army or the IPKF or concern regarding their sexual safety as leading them to join the LTTE (Alison 2003). They see their militancy as resistance and protection from gender-based violence. Since then, rape and violence against women has in many ways become an important part of the LTTE’s campaign vis-à-vis women. Ending violence against women, prohibiting sex-work, ending adultery have all come to be important parts of their agenda from the 1990s and continue to use the image of woman as violated figure—the raped nation.

THE THIRD PHASE OF TAMIL NATIONALISM The IPKF had come to Sri Lanka in 1989, following the Indo-Lanka Accord to disarm the militant movements and to ensure the transition of the north and east from war to peace. The Indo-Lanka Accord brought all the Tamil militant groups except the LTTE into the democratic mainstream. The initial marginalization of the LTTE turned into its strength as it began to assert hegemony over Tamil politics. This time period also saw perhaps one of the most heightened periods of internecine warfare, where the LTTE systematically killed members of other resistant groups in an attempt to gain control of the north and the east for itself. Numerous youth of many of the other groups operating at the time were attacked and killed, many had to leave the country, 123

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and the LTTE did not avoid targeting civilians becoming targets if necessary. During this time period, the LTTE effectively mobilized its propaganda campaign to make Tamils believe that the LTTE was the only available option for them. With the withdrawal of the IPKF from the north and east, the LTTE took little time to establish its hegemony in the region. The short period of amicable relations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government during the Premadasa era soon deteriorated, and the new state of LTTE-dominated politics came into being, further propelled no doubt by the gross human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan state at the time. For example, the eastern province of Sri Lanka saw the summary abductions and disappearances of numerous Tamil youths at the hands of the Sri Lankan army and the Special Task Force during the early 1990s. This period saw much of the liberatory ruptures of the earlier political movements, which had managed to mitigate nationalism through attention to issues of class, gender, democracy and pluralism, decline. The LTTE’s hegemony over the nationalist movement would bring new developments with unique features for women. The debates surrounding women and the LTTE’s brand of nationalism usually focus on the analysis of women as armed combatants. To understand the claim that nationalist movements can enable a feminist liberation, one has to look at the writings of Adele Anne Balasingham and Peter Schalk. The work on women in the LTTE has predominantly been written by LTTE’s chief theoretician’s Australian born wife Adele Anne. Let us then look at the manner in which women are produced by Balasingham and Schalk as warriors, but also as still retaining the feminine and utilizing both towards national liberation. According to Balasingham (2001) and Schalk (1992), women in the LTTE have confronted tradition head on, and have transformed Tamil community. In her writings, Balasingham suggests that the incorporation of women into the nationalist struggle as armed combatants had always been their intention from the inception of the group in the late 1970s, but had come to fruition only later because of the lack of amenities for women while the LTTE was being trained in Tamil Nadu. The inclusion of these women, spelt for the Tamil community, according to her, ‘the perennial debate-tradition versus 124

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change’ (Balasingham 2001: 270) where all stereotypes of women as weaker than men, essentially child bearers, confined to the private sphere of the home were challenged. They have as a result of their involvement in the LTTE not only carried a gun to the battlefield where they had become a ‘well organized, highly disciplined and experienced fighting force’ (Ann 1993: iii), but also taken on the ‘responsibility in the managing the finances of the LTTE…. In the important area of media and information, women are opinion makers. An entire section of women collectively choose topics and direct their own films and news programmes. A newspaper is written, edited and produced by the women cadres.’ They are also involved in ‘socio-economic projects’ and are part of ‘the decision making body’ (Balasingham 2001: 295). Involved in administration of LTTEcontrolled areas, they learn valuable new skills in areas of medicine etc. In short, their involvement in the LTTE has meant self-confidence and self-esteem for these women. Hence, while Balasingham acknowledges briefly the role women played in civil disobedience protests in the 1960s, for her women were till then tied to tradition, and it is the LTTE and its militant struggle which has transformed them. In the new conjuncture, women equal men in the LTTE, yet they have not lost their femininity. The LTTE woman remains ‘behind the appearance of … [a] uniformed female fighter, a tender, gentle and passionate young woman with all the qualities attributed to femininity’. Balasingham has seen ‘the positive qualities of nurturance in abundance among LTTE’s married women’ (ibid.: 289). Furthermore, according to her writings, women who become part of the LTTE are tied to one of the highest of humanist qualities: selfsacrifice. By 1992, when Balasingham had written her text Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers, 381 young women had sacrificed their lives for the national cause. Today the numbers have obviously increased as large numbers have joined the list of martyrs for whom the highest sacrifice is that of giving up their lives for the aspirations of national politics. Through this move towards self-sacrifice, these women achieve an honoured place in society as martyrs. Hence, women are described as a ‘bundle of explosives’ (Schalk 1992) waiting to blow themselves up for the cause, to join the long list of dead heroes. According to the writings of Peter Schalk, these women fighters are given cyanide capsules along with the men. Hence, the LTTE’s fear 125

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of the rape of women—the rape of the nation—has prompted them to demand that their female cadres commit suicide rather than be captured by the enemy. The image of woman created by Schalk suggests the equation of woman to chastity, and sexual purity. Drawing from Hindu thought, Schalk argues further that the karppu (chastity) of the armed virgin gives her moral strength and energy for self-sacrifice for the cause. For Schalk, the ‘image of a professional fighter as an armed virgin is promoted by the LTTE’ (Schalk 1992: 103). He suggests further that women in the LTTE exchange the thali for a cyanide capsule. In the works of Sri Lankan feminist scholars, perhaps the first to articulate a substantial criticism of women in armed struggle was Rajini Thiranagama. For her, while women carrying guns and travelling at night was itself an impressive sight to behold, she saw their recruitment as more a result of ‘the loss of men to state terror’ (Thiranagama 1992), especially after the Vadamarachchi operations than to feminist ideologies. Of the women in the LTTE that she spoke to in the ‘Birds of Freedom’ many ‘confessed to much confusion within the movement regarding the women’s question. But they ultimately ended the argument with an expression of faith in their leader’s ability to solve all problems’ (ibid.: 328). She argues, what many have emphasized since, that women in the LTTE see their leader as the unconditional head of the organization and as Neloufer de Mel has argued, the midwife of their agency. Women in the LTTE are not then necessarily produced with a feminist ideology in mind, but more because of national need for manpower, or rather here womanpower. A feminist ideology seems much more a rhetorical ruse to maintain the romantic allure of national ideology than a real commitment to social change for women. Women in the LTTE seem unaware of feminist ideologies within the movement by the late 1980s. The warrior woman emerges in the 1980s but not from the feminist fold. According to Maunaguru (1995: 164), the woman as warrior ‘owed more to its allegiance to militarism than to an ideological allegiance to feminism’. Since this initial criticism of women in predominantly the LTTE, other criticisms have been many and have produced the woman LTTE cadre in different ways. As one of us has commented earlier on the symbolic representation of women in Tamil society, ‘the privileged woman in the early nationalist period is the auspicious married woman’ (Coomaraswamy 1997: 24). Women’s roles were consigned 126

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to being mothers, nurturers, givers of life. At an earlier juncture of Tamil nationalism, as discussed earlier, women ‘positioned themselves as mothers, organized themselves in order to contest human rights abuses’ (Maunaguru 1995: 167) using the powerful symbol of motherhood to protest against state abductions of their children and youth in society. The role of women as life giver, as mother, as auspicious married women have been considered extremely important markers for Tamil women, whatever their caste/class may be. However, for the armed cadre of the LTTE, the line is redrawn from mother, the nurturer of life to armed virgin who is preoccupied with her death ‘which is now synonymous with liberation’ (Sornarajah 2004). Her death is seen as heroic and a manifestation of self-sacrifice, an ultimate act of agency. Death then acquires a magic and symbolism. Glorifying martyrs, celebrating their death, becomes the main substance of LTTE symbolism. This preoccupation with death and the symbolism of death stands in stark contrast to the voluptuous, this worldly sensuality of the Vellala Tamil feminine ideal. Balasingham in her reply to Coomaraswamy argues that this preoccupation with death and martyrdom is the only effective feminist response to ‘genocide’. For her, armed cadres are an army of resistance who, due to the force of circumstance, have taken up arms. Suicide bombers are also according to Balasingham, the stuff of heroic resistance. And yet the final result is the celebration of death over life, drawing strangely on notions of sacrifice that are part of the Hindu worldview. As pointed out in the writings of Neloufer de Mel (2001), in her chapter ‘Agent or Victim? The Sri Lankan Woman Militant in the Interregnum’, ‘the LTTE woman has rejected the conventional role of feminized identities, and embraced a language of death and militancy’ (p. 207). Woman then comes to be seen as embracer of death, of dying not so much for herself as dying for the nation, to join the ever extending list of martyrs who have given up their lives for the national cause. Perhaps the final line of critical analysis we wish to refer to in this section comes from an essay entitled ‘The Rise of Tamil Militant Nationalism, Its Assumptions and the Cultural Production of Tamil Women’ by Sumathy Sivamohan. Here we believe an important distinction is being made between militarism and militancy. While Sivamohan may name the struggles of women in the earlier stage of nationalism which bore fruition in efforts such as the Mother’s Front, the Poorani Women’s Home and the Women’s Study Circle 127

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of Jaffna University at least partly as a subversion of the status quo, she does not see such militancy in women in the LTTE. Rather they are militarized but non-militant. Her reference to and deconstruction of the extraordinary importance of chastity for the movement suggests some of the earlier middle-class, high-caste orientations of nationalism. The role chastity and sexual purity plays in a society where land and dowry are ‘the predominant feature of Jaffna middle class’s means of capital accruement’ (Sivamohan 2004: 134) cannot be forgotten at this juncture. She also comments on how earlier Vellala understandings of good woman as chaste, bad woman as whore are redrawn to signify the LTTE good woman as chaste, and bad woman as the raped woman. The paper claims that there is the lack of ‘a sophisticated critical political consciousness regarding class, gender and even nation’ (ibid.: 129) within the LTTE movement itself and especially among its female cadres.

CONTEMPORARY MANIFESTATIONS In assessing gender developments during the phase of LTTE hegemony there appears to be a consensus among scholars that at an individual level many LTTE women cadres display self-confidence, courage, leadership potential and transgress gender roles. For example, Yasmin Tambiah in her recent research on armed cadres echoes Neloufer de Mel and Darini Rajasingham Senanayake in pointing to an ambivalent agency among LTTE women cadres (Tambiah 2004). Margaret Trawick in her conversations with LTTE women cadres, gives us a portrait of these cadres through a heroic gaze (Trawick 1997 and 1999). This so-called agency is still within the framework of a militarized environment and therefore restricted in its manifestation. However, the assertiveness and leadership of individual women cadres has impressed both women within the movement as well as outsiders. This type of transgressive agency displayed by the LTTE armed cadres is found elsewhere and is present in many women activists of right-wing nationalist movements. Paula Bacchetta in her study Gender in the Hindu Nation describes Kamalabehn, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist as follows: 128

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She lived at home, commuted on her motorcycle and was rarely accountable to her family for her time… She wore trousers (usually blue jeans), an oversized man’s shirt or a khadi kurta, and sneakers or men’s kolhapuris…. (Bacchetta 2004: 68)

Assertively masculine, transgressive in her gender role, she nevertheless pushed forward the agenda of the Hindu nation in which women would have a limited presence. Like the LTTE woman, she saw her own militancy as ‘resistance’ to oppression and military training as an essential component of individual and national self-defence where the female body was always under threat from the ethnic ‘other’. Revenge too was a motivation for her agency (ibid.). As Balasingham herself has commented, the ethnic pogroms in the south of Sri Lanka, the military assault in the north and the east saw the need for a militarized agency that would respond in kind. While armed cadres see their agency in terms of resistance and revenge, outsiders are more sceptical and are left with the question of what the correct framework is through which to analyze women armed cadres who are also perpetrators of violence and ideologues of the use of force. Commentators have pointed to other positive developments with regard to women’s issues in LTTE areas. The LTTE has taken a strong stand with regard to the gender implications of the Thesaawalamai law and has developed a detailed criticism of its provisions. They have also advocated the eradication of the dowry system and other cultural practices that have restricted women in the past, and have to some extent undone the Navalar legacy. They have also taken strong action on issues relating to violence against women, as elaborated by visitors to the area, albeit within the highly restrictive framework of militarized nationalism. Nevertheless, the period of LTTE hegemony raises serious questions with regard to women and their place in a Tamil nationalist future. Though spaces have been opened up, others have closed and the full potential for liberation has been curtailed. We will in this section look at three areas. One is of the elimination of violence against women that has become an important part of the LTTE campaign with regard to the rights of women. The second relates to the organization’s understandings of sexuality. Third, we will look at the absence of an understanding within the movement itself of woman as democratic-rights-bearing citizen. 129

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The LTTE approach to violence against women is an important starting point for this discussion. Though the international movement to prevent violence against women culminated in a framework of human rights discourse and the need to end impunity for crimes against women, in recent years it has been transformed by right-wing nationalists into a law and order feminism with a focus on punishment and draconian regulation. This new positioning of women sees them as eternal victims who need to be ‘saved’, ‘rescued’ and ‘rehabilitated’. The usurpation of the rights agenda by these groups crosses the north–south divide. The Bush administration’s aggressive policy on international trafficking, with its emphasis on the punishment of perpetrators, the ‘rehabilitation’ of sex workers and draconian migration procedures, is an example of this law and order feminism. Ratna Kapur and Paula Bacchetta chronicle a similar development in India, where the RSS and other nationalist forces usurp the discourse on violence against women from their original articulations (Bacchetta 2004; Kapur 2002). While earlier RSS texts spoke of ‘westernization’, since 1989 L. Kelkar and other RSS idealogues have focused on the sexual exploitation of women, male violence and the inability of the state to protect women from such violence, especially the violence of the ‘other’ (Bacchetta 2004: 9). This law and order feminism is fully reliant on the coercive apparatus of the state, acting in partnership with the police and the security forces to eradicate violence against women. It makes the woman into a victim, an object with no voice, and rescues her from her own choices. The LTTE approach to violence against women, as chronicled by those who have interviewed women cadres and visited LTTE areas appears to resemble this ‘law and order’ feminism. The emphasis is on punishment and deterrence. The alternative approach of focusing on narratives of the survivor and empowering them to vindicate their rights in courts of law or community agitation requires a different notion of citizenship and a different conception of the state. Reliance on coercion and the use of force to forward feminist agendas has its pitfalls. As Ratna Kapur writes forcefully, it transforms a movement for liberation into one of repression; it allows women’s issues to strengthen the coercive presence of the state and to lessen the space for the women victim to negotiate the vindication of her rights (Kapur 2002). This approach to violence against women also rests 130

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on a protectionist attitude towards women based on rather conventional and paternalistic understandings of sexuality. The period of LTTE hegemony may also be challenged by feminist critiques of sexuality and the social construction of masculinity and femininity. Let us then begin to look at the manner in which chastity and sexuality are defined by the LTTE and how these understandings remain close to Navalar’s situating of women as chaste, protected and necessarily married. Balasingham herself comments in her book Will to Freedom on an incident that occurred quite early in the LTTE movement that involved Uma Maheswaran and Urmila in Chennai.9 The incident, as retold according to the LTTE, highlights some of the attitudes that the LTTE held and continues to hold regarding women and sexual conduct in the movement. Both Uma and Urmila were part of the TULF and had joined the LTTE later. To quote Balasingham (2001: 51): An apparent cause of the crisis was a sexual affair relating to the violation of the moral code of conduct of the organization. The codes of conduct were viewed as crucial and essential to the discipline and integrity of the organization to which the members had committed and subordinated themselves for the purposes of achieving the noble cause of liberating the oppressed people. Anyone who violated these moral codes were subject to disciplinary action. On this occasion, Uma Maheswaran, an unmarried man, was charged with having a sexual affair with the earliest female LTTE cadre, Urmila, a divorcee. (emphasis added)

In most of the LTTE literature, there is little dispute about the right of the LTTE hierarchy to control the sexual conduct of its members and how these moral codes need to be obeyed at all times. Notice how the identities of both are marked by their status as unmarried and divorced: both apparently unsuitably placed to be engaged in sexual activity. A relationship between two cadres before marriage and perhaps worse, with one being a divorcee, is unacceptable to the LTTE’s rigid moral and sexual codes. Prior to Prabakaran’s own decision to marry, marriage and sexual intercourse were considered taboo by the LTTE as women were considered a source of temptation and evil. Of course, under such circumstances, where Uma and Urmila had been seen ‘in a sexually compromising position and reported…to the leadership’, the sexual relations between two members became the business of the movement itself. As Adele Anne herself states 131

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‘Extra marital or premarital sexual activity was forbidden under the disciplinary rules of the organization’ (p. 51), which saw unbridled sexuality as dangerous and non-conformist and a threat to the movement itself. After an inquiry had been carried out, Uma and Urmila were both asked to marry one another and formalize their relationship, or in other words, make licit and acceptable that which was seen as illicit and promiscuous. Despite the fact that both Uma and Urmila denied the affair and refused to marry one another, the leadership could not accept this decision. The scandal of pre-marital sex was so serious that ‘the Central Committee decided that Maheswaran should give up his position and resign from the organization’ (p. 52). Control of sexuality by the LTTE in very middle-class ways is an accepted norm of the organization. This is often justified in terms of military discipline but carries with it a certain moral puritanism that cuts through much of the discourse. Uma and Urmila were not part of the armed resistance, so the exigencies of military duty did not apply. Elsewhere, there is an emphasis on the number of weddings where cadres married one another, had children and accepted motherhood, but it becomes clear that nowhere in the LTTE ideology is sexual expression outside consigned spaces possible. Women must and are controlled by the LTTE to be armed virgins before marriage and allowed sexual relations only once they have accepted the institutions of marriage. Needless to say, divorce, single motherhood, sex work and sexual minorities are unacceptable within such logic. This approach to sexuality informs much of their work in relation to violence against women. According to the field research carried out by Sophia Elek for the Centre for the Study of Human Rights: [A]ccording to the majority of women we spoke to within the Vanni, there are very few women who continue to suffer from violence within the home. LTTE cadres have taken a pro-active stance against incidences of violence and abuse of alcohol within the home…. LTTE cadres are reported to have a representative, part of a ‘good-conduct unit’ in each village, who reports on matters such as illegal alcohol sale and production, child abuse and violence against women. (Elek 2003: 43)

If women are adulterous, then they too are given a punishment and asked to mend their ways. She also notes that the ‘IDPs reported a dramatic drop in prostitutes with the arrival of the LTTE. “When the 132

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SLA were here [Karaithuvu Island], then there were some problems. The LTTE stopped this and sent the prostitutes to prison” ’ (ibid.: 45). Often the LTTE sends out notices demanding that the accused appear at the LTTE courts on a following day. Whether the Tamil community lived in an LTTE-controlled or government-controlled area, they must turn up for the hearing. Within a few hours, sentence is passed and they have few options but to comply with the decisions made by the courts. Though many appreciate the swiftness of LTTE justice, the victim has no place or voice with regard to sexual transgressions. Many feminist scholars, as stated earlier, have challenged the practices of the LTTE. However, LTTE ideologues have often dismissed these feminist critiques of LTTE practices in the Tamil papers as the folly of Westernized women. Strangely, it is in fact Tamil nationalism in the form of Periyar’s Self Respect Movement that has given one of the most powerful critiques of this type of moral puritanism and the control of female sexuality. Periyar has argued that ‘the imposition of “patrivratha” (chastity) on women has destroyed their independence and free thinking and made them unquestioning slaves to men who are supposed to demonstrate undue faith over chastity.’ Periyar even suggested polyandry and divorce as solutions for women’s oppression. He also pointed out in disgust that the Tamil language did not have words for the male counterpart of adulteress and widow. He located women’s oppression and the demand for chastity in the institution of private property and the need to control women’s sexuality to ensure chastity, to make sure that the correct sons inherit wealth. Periyar was no Western feminist. Rooted in the reality of Tamil Nadu and deeply committed to the Tamil people, he gave Tamils, including women, selfrespect. He showed us how to be Tamils in a different way (Anandhi 2003: 143–45).

FEMINIST PRAXIS AS DEMOCRATIC PRACTICE In their writings and discussions over the years, feminists have resisted moves towards homogeneity. In the context of politics and everyday life they have spoken about difference, diversity and local-level resistance. This practice of seeing feminism as a form of critique is an integral part of feminism that enables great reflexivity within the 133

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feminist movement. They have also been self-reflective, critiquing earlier feminist writings that formulated the category ‘woman’ as stable, universal and the same across cultures. They have seen that ‘oneness’ or homogeneity always constructs a negative ‘other’ which is demonized and hated, whether the other be an internal or an external enemy (Bacchetta 2004: 17). Such demonization often has negative consequences for women as they are used as the biological and cultural boundaries of the nation. As Kamla Bhasin and Ritu Menon have pointed out in their study of Partition, women’s bodies become the site where the male self confronts the ‘other’ (Bhasin and Menon 1998). Women’s bodies separate the ‘one’ nation from its enemies. The more homogenous the ideology, the more women’s bodies are policed by the guardians of the nation-state. It will be our argument that it is not simply because of LTTEdominated politics that the ugly side of nationalism has raised its unwieldy head, rather we suggest that LTTE politics is but an inevitable circumstance of nationalism, which though at brief moments may offer golden opportunities and enable the existence of progressive movements, in general can only become a destructive force built on the dichotomy of one versus the other, us versus them. The recent killings in the north and the east as well as past history since the 1980s point to the fact that Tamil nationalism in the LTTEdominated phase is in constant need of purifying itself, of asserting that oneness and eliminating and demonizing its opponents. Nationalist struggles, especially of a violent and insurrectionary nature as that of Tamil nationalism, can only operate upon the principles of one people, one nation, one aim. As Chatterjee suggests, it can operate in empty homogenous time that rejects the reality of dense heterogeneous time where ‘politics here does not mean the same thing to all people’ (Chatterjee 2004: 7). In his essay entitled ‘Populations and Political Society’, Chatterjee expounds again the well-known idea of the modern nation-state and its universal legitimacy in today’s politics. The liberal nation-state is meant to be the most legitimate form of government that offers ‘equality and freedom to all citizens irrespective of biological and cultural difference’ (ibid.). While the nation-state is invested with these ideals, it is also a reality of nationalism that it is indeed an imagined community that is often forged violently resulting in the subsequent erasure of heterogeneity and the very norms of democracy and dissent that the nation-state is meant to value so 134

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dearly. As theorists of nationalism have often repeated, ‘the unity of the people, their permanent identification with the nation, had to be continually signified, repeated and performed’ (ibid.: 7) to make the illusion of the united nation real; for otherwise, the inner fissures and splits within the nation would soon become evident. Nationalism is then at variance with pluralism, and in its extreme form, it negates difference and diversity, forging an identity and a politics that will brook no dissent. The nationalist project, if it were to follow its natural trajectory, unrestrained by the politics of democracy or Marxism or feminism, must end in the pursuit of homogeneity for the sake of homogeneity. The natural trajectory of nationalism leads us to an authoritarian enterprise, where the elusive oneness continues to throw up enemies both internally and externally. The nationalist politics of the LTTE can be seen in this light. While it claims to uphold the rights of the Tamil people, it must for its existence and warfare, insist that the people in the north and east are one, and that the LTTE and it alone can represent them all. Hence, other groups such as the EPRLF, EPDP, PLOTE are only a threat to its hegemony, to its assertion of the unity of the people. It is the homogenizing principles of nationalist thought that have led for over two decades to the killings of Tamil dissidents. Notice how the notion of ‘traitor’ dominates the political thoughts of Tamil nationalist politics. Tamils, be they those that live within the imagined nation-state of Eelam, or in the south of the country, or perhaps even in the diaspora, must not contest the ideology of Tamil nationalism, or more so, the expounded ideals of the LTTE. If they do, they are traitors to the cause, to be terminated quickly. Indeed, a consequence of nationalist thought is that the imagined nation must always be the foremost and perhaps the only aim of the Tamil people. Again, nationalism’s capacity to homogenize issues, to make the nation the only priority becomes clear. Hence, not only must the nation of Eelam be the only objective of the people, but also its people must die and be martyred as having given up their lives rather than live for the nation. Those who wish to choose otherwise are forcibly stopped. The post-IPKF era saw the ‘the imposition of a pass system to arrest the tide of Tamil youth traveling to Colombo enroute to western countries seeking asylum…to stem the exodus of people out of the country preventing a breakdown of the fabric of society’ (Balasingham 2001: 274). This is but a euphemism of how the 135

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national subjects must be forced to fight and, if necessary, die for the nation, even if they do not wish to. The option of multiple identities, cosmopolitanism, choice and a different way of being Tamil is not open to them. This perhaps brings us to our last point regarding nationalism. The nation, though often clothed in the rhetoric of citizenship and rights, is in reality about populations, duties and macro top–down approaches. Perhaps a small part of the people, namely, Gramscian forms of civil society, are citizens who have access to the state, however, as suggested by the work of Foucault and Chatterjee, a majority are populations that are ‘a wholly descriptive and empirical’ category outside the framework of political elites and organized civil society. According to Chatterjee (2004: 43), [These] populations are identifiable, classifiable, and describable by empirical or behavioural criteria and are amenable to statistical techniques such as censuses and sample surveys. Unlike the concept of citizen, which carries the ethical connotation of participation in the sovereignty of the state, the concept of population makes available to government functionaries a set of rationally manipulable instruments for reaching large sections of the inhabitants of a country as the target of their ‘policies’-economic policy, administrative policy, law and even political mobilization.

This is, in other words, the notion of governmentality. On the one hand, it is coercive, on the other, it is paternalistic and protects people’s own interest as defined by those who are in positions of power. The struggle for a Tamil nation has resulted in an excess of governmentality and has become the main means through which politics in the Tamil nation is carried out today. The LTTE has surely come to operate in this mode. The future then lies, even in feminist politics, in claiming our rights as citizens, our right to dissent. If in the 20th century we have seen the unstable and changing scales where the rights of citizens are often replaced by the notions of populations to be governed by the elite, then future political praxis must attempt to rebalance the scales of democracy so that larger numbers of people have greater access to determine decisions made by the state. It must also ensure that citizenship is valued and that political participation by greater numbers of people, especially those living on the margins, is assured. This 136

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may be at times through communities organizing themselves as described by Chatterjee; while at other times it may be in spontaneous movements of coming together as spaces are created at certain historical junctures. The ceasefire, despite its many pitfalls, saw moments of resistance and attempts to assert citizenship. Malathi de Alwis (2004) in her article ‘A Rising in the East’ documents the resistance of mothers in the eastern province to child recruitment in April 2004. They come from poor, Tamil, rural, war-torn communities with very little access to influence the power politics in their region. This resistance was aimed at not only the LTTE Vanni but also the breakaway group. Despite terrible odds and the fear of repercussions, they resisted and challenged those who threatened the security of their families. This harkens back to the 1980s when women of all classes and political affiliations mobilized to protect their children from the summary arrests of the Sinhala state. These events exemplify the resilience of marginalized societies and the need to strengthen the environment for their re-emergence as important actors in society. Paralleling De Alwis’ thoughts, Sumanasiri Liyanage (2004), in his article ‘Resumption of Talks: Is it so Crucial?’ argues: [T]hese developments and trends are positive and constructive in the process of peace-building [he too refers to the resistance of mothers in the East], although civil society and the international community have miserably failed to understand their importance. So these non-head table paths of peace building have been under emphasized in the peace discourses… Peace is opening space for these subaltern interventions and the mobilization of political society…’

These interventions may then move Tamil societies beyond the narrow confines of nationalism, where populations are controlled for national needs, to become societies in which the rights of citizens within a plural democracy are cherished and strengthened.

NOTES 1. We wish to thank all those who commented on our paper at the Tamil nationalism conference held in Colombo. We have tried to take into consideration many of their comments and suggestions in the revised draft. We also wish to thank those

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2.

3.

4. 5.

6. 7.

8.

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who read our paper such as Kumari Jayawardena, Sumanasiri Liyanange, Ramani Muttetuwagama for their generous comments. We would like to thank Michael Hardy for proofreading this chapter. It would be impossible to deny the fact that a certain kind of feminist consciousness has accompanied nationalist politics. However, to differentiate this form of feminist politics from more radical ones, we use the term critical feminist thought, which we suggest is the deployment of feminism as critique. Here we refer to Isaac Balbus’ use of Foucault’s understanding of the ‘multiplicity of the sources of resistance…. [where] the possibility that these resistances might eventually combine to create a new (nondisciplinary) form of power and thus a “new politics of truth” needs to be kept in mind’. What we suggest is that critical feminist practice needs to constantly be aware of the rationality it operates upon and of how power and domination are part of its own practices. The role of the feminist is then the role of the critic, and it is in this role of constant vigilance that any kind of liberation or the minimum use of domination can be found. There has been an enormous amount of literature, for over two decades, that has criticized Sinhala nationalist thought. The work of the Social Scientists’ Association (SSA) and scholars associated to it play an important role in this. The two works produced by the SSA, Ethnicity and Social Change and Facets of Ethnicity, are very important in this regard. Other works by Gananath Obeyesekere, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Reggie Siriwardena and Newton Gunesinghe have contributed substantial understanding and critique of the destructive and homogenizing nature of Sinhala nationalism. This paper will not delve into this work as it is primarily involved in understanding Tamil nationalism and gender, but acknowledges the importance of this critical tradition in the south of Sri Lanka. Anderson’s understandings of bound and unbound seriality are to be found in this work. Here we use Chatterjee’s reference to Anderson’s term ‘unbound seriality’ taken from The Politics of the Governed: Reflections of Popular Politics in Most of the World. (2004: 5, New Delhi: Permanent Black). These lines of VR are cited in Qadri Ismail’s work Constituting Nation, Contesting Nationalism, p. 243. For a snapshot glimpse of the Women’s Study Circle, and also on feminist performance in Jaffna in the late 1980s, see ‘Introduction: Thin Veils, Performing Land and Woman’. The author provides an analysis of Tamil women in the south as survivors of violence in the post-1983 era and their renegotiation of space in the aftermath of the riots. There have been different explanations for this incident; however, we stick to the version offered by Balasingham to illustrate how she and the LTTE understand issues of sexuality.

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Making Sense of the Census in Sri Lanka Up-country Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism Daniel Bass ™

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thnicity in Sri Lanka is often portrayed, especially in relation to ethnic nationalism, as a simple, binary division between Sinhalas and Tamils.1 This dominant ‘bi-polar ethnic imagination’, as Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake (1999: 101) has termed it, ‘constructs Sinhalas and Tamils as mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive of the island’s diverse and hybrid communities’, rendering all other groups ‘culturally invisible and politically inconsequential’ to the national imagination. However, the lived experiences of ethnicity on the island are far more complex, presenting internal differentiations, hybridity and multiple and shifting identifications. My aim is to question hegemonic views of ethnicity in Sri Lanka and show how Up-country Tamils are neither invisible nor inconsequential to understanding Tamil nationalism in contemporary Sri Lanka. While a single Sinhala ethnic identity started solidifying in the 1930s, with the rise of democratic politics and anti-Indian sentiments, Tamil ethnicity in Sri Lanka remains plural and multifaceted, despite 139

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dominant portrayals of a united Sri Lankan Tamil identity. Cultural and linguistic variations once politically split Low-country Sinhalas from Up-country Sinhalas and they were counted separately in the census through 1971. Although these differences have abated over time, similar divisions among Tamils in Sri Lanka, possibly because of their minority status, have continued to be socially and politically salient. For example, many East coast Tamils resent the hegemony of northern Jaffna Tamils. Despite these internal differences, the Sri Lankan government has consistently lumped together East coast and Jaffna Tamils under the category of ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ since the late 19th century. However, the government has always considered Up-country Tamils to be a distinct group, although they were not counted separately in the census until 1911. Sri Lankan Tamils formed 12.7 per cent of the island’s population in the last reliable, island-wide census in 1981, and Up-country Tamils were 5.5 per cent, though these statistics are not entirely accurate, as I explain later. The major difference between Up-country and Sri Lankan Tamils is their history and origin, though they share a common Tamil cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as a history of discrimination and harassment by Sinhalas. The ancestors of Sri Lankan Tamils have been on the island for centuries, while Up-country Tamils are descendents of South Indians who migrated to work on coffee, tea and rubber plantations from the 1830s to the 1930s. This is reflected in some common, alternative names for Up-country Tamils, such as Indian Tamils, Indian Origin Tamils and Indo-Lankans. These ‘Indian’ Tamils have since developed their own ethnic identification as Up-country Tamils. Although they have been on the island for generations, they were deprived of their citizenship soon after Sri Lanka’s independence, and most did not regain it until the 1970s and 1980s. This denial of Sri Lankan citizenship to Up-country Tamils set a dangerous precedent, which I consider the first significant step towards the island’s ethnic conflict in the post-colonial era. Although Up-country Tamils never turned to violence in significant numbers to regain their citizenship, rights and respect, the political forces behind their becoming stateless were foundational for later conflicts between Sinhalas and Jaffna Tamils. Ethnic nationalism seems to almost require a process of viewing other ethnic groups as inassimilable ‘others’, 140

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as Rabindranath Tagore noted nearly a century ago (see Hensman 2002: 1802), and Up-country Tamils were the original others of Sinhala nationalism. By depriving one community of Sri Lankan residents equal status as citizens, the first post-independence government established political precedents for later communal violence. The government may have started by disenfranchising some of the poorest and most vulnerable of the country’s citizens, but this put all other minority groups on the defensive. With the Citizenship Acts of 1948 and 1949, the government for the first time codified in law that one group of Sri Lankans was not sufficiently Sri Lankan to continue to be considered citizens. This set a precedent for calling into question the legitimacy of a person’s belonging and allegiance to Sri Lanka. The Citizenship Acts basically denied that equal protection under the law could ever become a fundamental part of Sri Lankan society and politics. While the recent ethnic conflict has been primarily among Sinhalas and Sri Lankan Tamils, the conditions for this massive violence were set decades before by the institutional violence of denying citizenship to Up-country Tamils. Much early Sri Lankan Tamil separatist rhetoric was motivated by the idea that Sinhala governments had already deprived Indian Tamils of their rights, and so it would not be long before Sri Lankan Tamils became second-class citizens as well. As S.J.V. Chelvanayagam proclaimed, when he left the Tamil Congress in protest in 1949, ‘Today it is the Indian Tamils. Tomorrow, it will be the Ceylon Tamils who will be axed’ (quoted in Nadesan 1993: 176). However, in the first two decades after independence, his Federal Party seemed less committed to granting citizenship to stateless Indian Tamils than using their plight for political purposes as an example of the government’s anti-Tamil stance—a position taken by numerous Sri Lankan Tamil parties ever since. Sri Lankan Tamils have often employed political rhetoric of panTamil unity to get Up-country Tamils behind their views and present a united front against Sinhala nationalist politicians. However, this talk of Tamil solidarity was often mere lip service. Only once was Tamil political unity actually achieved—during the short-lived Tamil United Front (TUF), from 1972 to 1977.2 Despite this brief moment of political cooperation between Sri Lankan Tamils and Up-country 141

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Tamils, ‘on most issues their interests were still divergent’ (Krishna 1999: 77). Ironically, the dominant Sinhala view of all Tamils as the same facilitated the development of their very fear, bringing together Tamils of the north and east with Up-country Tamils. However, this brief, pan-Tamil alliance collapsed in 1977 after the TUF adopted a separatist platform, transforming itself into the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). Since then, all major Sri Lankan Tamil political parties and militant groups have supported, in one way or another, an independent, or at least autonomous, Tamil Eelam. This supposed Tamil homeland obviously does not include the central highlands where the vast majority of Up-country Tamils live.3 This sheer fact has severely limited Up-country Tamil support for Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups, despite a paranoid Sinhala assumption of a pan-Tamil united front. While most Up-country Tamils support Sri Lankan Tamil nationalists’ fight for Tamil rights, very few support any form of separatism. As the president of an Up-country Tamil trade union told me, whatever affects Sri Lankan Tamils affects them as a community as well, but his wife then interjected into the conversation, pointing out that ‘even if they get Eelam, we will not get anything’. Although Sri Lankan Tamils’ current relations with Sinhalas appears to be at an all-time low, many Up-country Tamils, especially those who have spent time in Jaffna, believe that Sri Lankan Tamils hold an even stronger dislike of Up-country Tamils. Even those who never left the up-country felt the disdain of Sri Lankan Tamils, who often served as civil servants, teachers in estate schools and estate staff before the nationalization of the estates in the 1970s. Although E. Valentine Daniel (1996: 18) rightly argues that ‘the contempt shown toward these hill-country Tamils by the Jaffna Tamils and the incorrigible distrust that the former have for the latter is too well known among both groups to even require mention’, it is not necessarily obvious to outsiders, including Sinhalas and non-Sri Lankans. While the differences between Sri Lankan Tamils and Up-country Tamils are seemingly clear today, this has not always been the case. Many Up-country Tamils claimed to be ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ after they became Sri Lankan citizens, thus portraying the difference between Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils to be one of citizenship, not 142

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ethnicity or ancestry. My analysis of census data indicates that hundreds of thousands of formerly Indian Tamils declared themselves to be Sri Lankan Tamils, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. This points the central problem with the appellation ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’. The name implicitly denies a certain ‘Sri Lankan-ness’ to Up-country Tamils. The term ‘Sri Lankan’ Tamil is therefore a misnomer, since all Tamils resident in Sri Lanka are really Sri Lankan Tamils, whether they are living in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Badulla or Colombo. By looking at census categories, I trace the development of a distinct Up-country Tamil ethnicity through varying understandings of nationality, race and ethnicity over the course of 130 years.4 The first modern census of Ceylon occurred in 1871, the same year as the first census of British India and coincident with a census in Britain. As Bernard Cohn (1987: 230) has shown, in reference to the census in India, the colonial census provided an arena for colonized groups to ask questions about themselves at the same time as it objectified and reified social categories. Just as the census changed how caste operated in Indian society, the census in Ceylon helped facilitate an understanding of society based on ethnicity. This ethnocentric view of Sri Lankan society developed out of the ‘systematic simplification of the diversity of the island’s people and cultures by scholars and British colonial administrators’ (Rajasingham-Senanayake 2003: 89). Though the census provides us with the most methodical and complete record of social categories in the colonial era, some scholars have attributed too much power and causality to the colonial census. Nicholas Dirks (2001: 49), for example, claims that the census ‘played the most important institutional role, not only in providing the “facts”, but also in installing caste as the fundamental unit of India’s social structure’. However, the census was just one part of a much larger colonial project of collecting information about Indian society and economy (Cohn 1987: 231). In the following qualitative and quantitative analysis of census categories, I therefore not only show how ethnicity in Sri Lanka was constructed during British rule, but also highlight how Sri Lankans interpreted and manipulated these colonial categories. The 1911 census of Ceylon solidified ‘Indian Tamil’ as the official category for those in Sri Lanka who had recently migrated from India. This appellation provided strong contrast with ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’, 143

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marking Indian Tamils as a different sort of Tamil. The difference lies in their perceived continued links with India, despite having Sri Lankan citizenship and having lived on the island for generations. Though this way of distinguishing among Tamils in Sri Lanka refers to their country of ancestral origin, it also implies the location of their current national sentiments. It was almost as if Sri Lankan Tamils in the north and east had a prior claim to being Sri Lankan, and could not allow another group of Tamils to also lay claim to the island. In contrast, in other countries to which Tamils migrated to work on colonial-era plantations, such as Malaysia, Mauritius and Fiji, they were seen simply as Tamils, since a different Tamil community from whom they must be seen as separate was not already present. However, the census has never clearly stated how Indian Tamils were distinct from Sri Lankan Tamils. In 1881, the critical difference was birthplace, but this caused significant confusion, since many ‘Indian Tamils’ who were born on the island called themselves ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ (Peebles 2001: 9–10). Lionel Lee, the director of the 1891 census, recognized this problem, noting that, ‘although it was expressly desired that is should be stated whether the Tamil population was India-born or not, this point was, in numerous instances, disregarded’ (Arunachalam 1902: 157). Interestingly, the 1891 census did not refer to Indian Tamils as immigrants, since ‘a large number of them have never left Ceylon, and may almost be regarded as natives of this country’ (quoted in Peebles 2001: 51). These problems recurred in censuses throughout the 20th century, seriously undermining government attempts to neatly classify the island’s population. For example, the Director of the 1911 Census, E.B. Denham, claimed that ‘the races in Ceylon are clearly differentiated’ (1912: 194), but also admitted that ‘it was not always easy for an enumerator to say whether a Tamil born in South India but settled in Jaffna was to be entered as a Ceylon or Indian Tamil’ (1912: 219). Unlike previous years, census officials in 1946 actually tried to define the racial categories they employed, stating: Ceylon Tamils were those who traced their origin to a Tamil District in Ceylon; Indian Tamils were those who did not. Enumerators were instructed that stock and not birthplace determined race and that Tamils who admitted that they or their recent progenitors were comparatively 144

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new arrivals in the Island from ‘the coast’ in India were to be counted as Indian Tamils. (Ranasinha 1951: iv, italics in original)

However, this definition is somewhat contradictory since Ceylon Tamils were defined by birthplace, yet census officials were told to stress biology, and ‘Indian Tamils’ were only defined negatively. But at what point does an Up-country Tamil family that has settled in the Northern or Eastern province become a Sri Lankan Tamil family? Furthermore, the 1946 census seemed to assume that ‘a Tamil District in Ceylon’ referred only to the predominately Sri Lankan Tamil areas of the north and east, and not the predominantly Indian Tamil areas in the central highlands. These confusions, which are built into the linking of biological descent, ancestral origins and language in concepts of ethnicity and race, rendered the differentiation between types of Tamils in 1946 as arbitrary as the attempts of every other census conducted on the island. When I met A.G.W. Nanayakkara, the Director of the Department of Census and Statistics, in October 2000, I asked him whether the census now had an official way to distinguish between Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils. In a word, the answer was ‘No’. He acknowledged that many Up-country Tamils state that they are Sri Lankan Tamils for the census, and that census-takers must depend on what people say. ‘There’s no way to argue with them,’ Nanayakkara said. There are no official definitions for authenticity, and he was even told by the census department’s lawyers that rigid guidelines or designations were ‘not allowed’. So, ‘for our purposes, whatever they say’ they are, they are. The census is thus a two-step affair, entailing both the questions asked by the enumerator and how these are interpreted by the respondents (Cohn 1987: 243). Therefore, the census is not just an objective statistical representation of Sri Lanka’s population, but also a repository of various interpretations and identifications. For example, as Figure 7.1 shows, the total Tamil population of Sri Lanka increased steadily with every census from 1881 to 1981 in spite of the massive reduction in the Indian Tamil population recorded in 1971 and 1981. Approximately 460,000 Indian Tamils, nearly 40 per cent of the community, repatriated to India between 1967 and 1983, but their departure alone cannot account for the decline in the Indian Tamil population despite an increase 145

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in the total Tamil population. A significant portion of Indian Tamils must have identified themselves to census-takers as Sri Lankan Tamils in the 1971 and 1981 censuses, since they had acquired Sri Lankan citizenship. However, being a Tamil in Sri Lanka is not the same as being a ‘Sri Lankan’ Tamil. This indicates not only how fluid and malleable ethnic identification is in Sri Lanka, but also how situational identity is for Up-country Tamils. When answering a government census official, many Up-country Tamils chose an identity based on their legal status as Sri Lankan citizens, even if they may not choose that same identity, as Sri Lankan Tamil, in terms of ethnic, cultural or political affiliation. It is therefore very difficult to accurately determine the size of the Up-country Tamil population on the island today. Despite their long-term residence on the island, the name ‘Indian Tamil’ perpetuates the shame and fear of being seen as more Indian than Sri Lankan. Starting in the 1970s, a new ethnic identity emerged out of identification with the hill-country where most Indian Tamils had lived for over a century. A new generation began to assert that Indian Tamils should not be forced to deny their Indian past in order to recognize their Sri Lankan present. By the 1990s, Malaiyaka Tamil came to be the most common term for the community in Tamil, translated as either ‘Up-country’ or ‘Hill-country’ Tamil.5 While the latter is more literal and ‘Malaiyaka Tamil’ can be used without translation into English (Bass 2000, 2001), Up-country has been used in Sri Lankan English for a long time. Additionally, ‘Hill-country’ is often considered derogatory, like ‘hillbilly’ in American English. For Up-country Tamils no longer resident in the Up-country, such as those who migrated to the north for safety and security in the 1970s or to Colombo for employment opportunities in the 1980s and 1990s, the Up-country connotes their ur, a Tamil sense of belonging to a place (Daniel 1984). This new identity as Up-country Tamils puts their connections to India behind them and stresses their desire for a permanent home in Sri Lanka (Bastian 1992: 23–24). Although not all Up-country Tamils live in the Up-country, it remains their place of cultural identity. The name thus refers to their attachment to the area, even if one is no longer resident there. Similarly, ‘Jaffna Tamil’ is commonly used for Tamils from the northern peninsula, even if they have lived in Colombo or Toronto for generations. 146

Source: A.G.W. Nanayakkara (2003).

FIGURE 7.1

Tamil Population of Sri Lanka, 1881–1981

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This new identity as Up-country Tamils, and the corresponding sense of the Up-country as malaiyakam, a place of their own, arose in the 1970s as part of a greater cultural and political renaissance in the Up-country.6 As Rex Joseph emphatically stated to me, ‘Only a free people have the right to name themselves.’ Therefore, it is only in recent decades, as all Up-country Tamils have regained Sri Lankan citizenship, decided to stay on the island, experienced greater socioeconomic development, and achieved substantial freedom that this process and debate over naming has begun. With the end of repatriation in 1983 after the ferry service between India and Sri Lanka stopped, Up-country Tamils who opted for Sri Lankan citizenship were able to publicly assert their belonging and allegiance to the island of their birth. Despite this large exodus, the majority of Up-country Tamils chose to stay in Sri Lanka, marking their residence in Sri Lanka as permanent. Ever since Tamils came from South India in the 1830s to work on coffee, tea and rubber plantations, they have been accused of being a transient Indian population and therefore not Sri Lankan. The end of repatriation and the subsequent extension of citizenship to all remaining stateless Up-country Tamils meant that such allegations no longer held water. This coincided with the development of a distinct up-country Tamil ethnic identity that publicly asserted their belonging and allegiance to the island of their birth. This was bolstered by a growth in education in estate areas (Little 1999), and an increase in their political power, as various Sinhala-dominated governments accommodated Up-country Tamil demands as a wedge against Tamil nationalists. The new identification with the Up-country arose partly in reaction to growing Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism and separatism. Though their attachments to the Up-country are not territorial in nature, many Sinhalas and Sri Lankan Tamils see Upcountry Tamils’ call for recognition and self-determination as a desire for their own homeland. Although this is a somewhat understandable response in the current political climate (Hensman 2002: 1803), as B. A. Kader once remarked to me, ‘A separate identity is different from a separate state.’ Up-country Tamil ethnic identity has been forged in the social and political contexts of ethnic violence, which has compelled them to 148

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confront their uncertain status as Tamils in an increasingly Sinhaladominated Sri Lanka. This has forced Up-country Tamils to express their identification with Sri Lanka in opposition to Sinhala nationalists’ equating being Sri Lankan with being Sinhala. At the same time, Up-country Tamils deny Tamil nationalists’ view that being Tamil is mutually exclusive with being Sri Lankan. Up-country Tamils, who are often on the receiving end of anti-Tamil violence, discrimination and harassment, sympathize with the LTTE’s desire for freedom and justice for Tamils, but they tend not to support its separatist goals, even while many Sinhalas see every Tamil as a Tiger.7 The rise of a distinct Up-country Tamil ethnic identity has thus undermined the supposedly pan-Tamil appeal of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, while providing a counterpoint to dominant discourses of Tamil identity. At the same time, as many Sri Lankan Tamils asserted separateness from the Sri Lankan nation due to their being Tamil, Up-country Tamils have declared their belonging to the Sri Lankan nation, regardless of their being Tamil. Since the late 1970s, Up-country Tamils have become increasingly adept at using their precarious position to their political advantage. Their identification as Sri Lankans was generally well received by Sinhala politicians in need of coalition partners, especially from minority communities. However, their political power and the resultant government favours peaked in the 1980s. Over the past 30 years, Up-country Tamils have generally come to agree that their future is within a multi-ethnic Sri Lanka, not with a Tamil Eelam that excludes the central highlands where most Up-country Tamils still live. Paradoxically, Up-country Tamils have been increasingly identifying themselves as Tamil Sri Lankans, but this did not entail further links and connections with Sri Lankan Tamils. Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism has been more concerned with stressing differences among the island’s ethnic communities, rather than transforming Sri Lankan Tamil identity to include Upcountry Tamils. Although they are no longer aliens in their adopted homeland, Up-country Tamils are still being alienated from mainstream Sri Lanka. The ethnic conflict looms large in contemporary politics and political discourse in Sri Lanka, but it is not the only deterrent faced by Up-country Tamils. Poverty, poor education and political divisiveness are all additional factors limiting opportunities in the Up-country. 149

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The recent cease-fire and peace talks have alleviated some of the institutional violence faced by all Tamils in Sri Lanka, especially in terms of freedom of movement. However, the possible reincorporation of LTTE-held areas into the Sri Lankan state does not necessarily bode well for the Up-country, since government and international funds would likely be diverted to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the north and east.8 Up-country Tamils are all too aware that the problems and concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils receive a disproportionate amount of media attention, even in the Tamil press. This exacerbates the sense of frustration, alienation and anger that no one else is paying attention to their problems. The possibility of peace on the island may become yet another example of how Up-country Tamils are regularly thrust to the sidelines of political discourse and economic development in Sri Lanka in favour of other ethnic groups. War has brought horrific violence and discrimination to Sri Lanka, but peace may bring further neglect to the Up-country.

NOTES 1. This chapter is based on research in Sri Lanka and India in 1999 and 2000, funded by the J. William Fulbright Programme, the Council of American Overseas Centers, Department of Anthropology, Center for South Asian Studies and Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. I wish to thank E. Valentine Daniel, Jennifer Robertson, R. Cheran, Rohini Hensman and Anna Lawrence for their comments and advice on this chapter. 2. The TUF consisted of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), the premier up-country Tamil trade union/party, and two Sri Lankan Tamil parties—the Federal Party and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress. 3. One exception was the Eelam Revolutionary Order of Students (EROS), which did include the Up-country in its conceptualization of an independent Eelam. EROS therefore achieved some success in recruiting Up-country Tamils, especially those living in the north and east, to their cause. 4. In the initial colonial censuses, groups were mainly differentiated as nationalities, though this was often understood racially. Race formally became the primary mode of classification with the 1911 census, paralleling the fusion of caste and race in the Indian census that same year under H.H. Risley. With the 1963 census, ethnicity became the dominant categorical rubric of group difference. 5. When visiting Sri Lanka in 1994, E. Valentine Daniel (1996: 214, n. 11) ‘detected a slight preference, at least in formal and official discourse, for “Hill-Country Tamils”,’

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Making Sense of the Census in Sri Lanka augmenting S. Nadesan’s (1993: ix) observation in August 1992 that Indian Tamil ‘leaders and intellectuals are increasingly using the nomenclature – Up-country Tamils’. 6. This new concept of malaiyakam is often credited to the late R. Sivalingam as leader of the Up-Country Youth Front in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one of the first locally based NGOs to operate in the Up-country (Sivarajah 1991: 32). Sivalingam later became the Principal of Highlands College in Hatton, one of the premier Tamil secondary schools in the Up-country. He then repatriated to India and was instrumental in the formation of two prominent repatriate NGOs in the Nilgiris, the ISLAND Trust and the Malaiyaka Makkal Maruvazhvu Manram (Up-country People’s Progress Association), before he died in September 1999. 7. A.J.V. Chnadrakanthan (quoted in Wilson 2000: 169) claims that the ‘arrests and detention of many Tamils from the hill country confirms’ that ‘the surge of Tamil nationalism in the north and east has made ripples in the hill country in recent times’, neglecting the possibility that an increasingly authoritarian Sri Lankan state may be more to blame for these arrests than actual pro-Eelam sentiments and activities. 8. These concerns are also applicable to the influx of development dollars after the tsunami of 26 December 2004, which has further marginalized Up-country Tamil needs and concerns.

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The Economics of Tamil Nationalism Evolution and Challenges V. Nithiyanandam ™ INTRODUCTION

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n the study of Tamil nationalism, while the political dimension has constantly been the focus of attention, an economic approach has generally been overlooked or has received only partial treatment. The historical contribution of economic factors has, in particular, been altogether neglected. The objective of this paper is to analyze the economic history of Tamil nationalism. The historical management of Tamilian physical and human resources forms the core of the study. Once state patronage was lost to the Tamils, they were left to manage their own resources for procuring their subsistence needs and the fiscal demands of governing powers. It resulted in individualistic competition among people bound by the existing socio-cultural norms. When an optimum was reached in the utilization of readily available resources, Tamils had to look for alternate means outside their homelands. But, when these were threatened by Sinhalese majority power, they had been compelled to demarcate the production possibility boundary enabling a holistic management with the required sovereign power: 152

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The economist is concerned with the future as well as with the past; but it is from the past that he has to begin. It is the past that provides him with his facts, the facts that he uses to make generalisations; he then uses these generalisations as bases for predictions and for advice. (Hicks 1979: 4)

The foregoing quotation from Hicks emphasizes the role of economic history in any economic analysis and becomes, in the context of this paper too, highly relevant. But it cannot also be denied that it has equal significance when the focus is on political issues too. Yet, political science has, as a discipline, rarely treated the study of nationalism from a purely economic history dimension. It has, if not largely ignored the role of economic history, pretended that the influence of economics is minimal and laid emphasis primarily on politics and to a lesser degree on institutional factors like religion and culture. But a closer scrutiny of the evolution of most nationalisms, would ascertain that the economic history of a particular nation has often played a key role. The nature of utilization of the available resources and the status of economic opportunities thereby created, acted as a determinant, in many instances, for the underlying progress of a nationalistic movement. Although their contribution may, perhaps, be masked in the short run, an examination of the causative factors in the long run clearly indicates their significance. Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka has become the focus of attention as a sequel to the gradual but steady decline in the relationship between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, beginning almost within a decade, the island gained its independence from British rule in 1948. It is now recorded history that the ethnic confrontation between the two communities soon escalated into an internal armed conflict with destruction of people and property in huge proportions, which had economic growth implications for the entire country (National Peace Council 1998). Much of the literature on Tamil nationalism is entwined with the growth of the conflict itself, and attempt to explain its origin and development as an outcome of a threat to the existence of the community, in the face of increasing Sinhalese aggression as well as domination. A recent contribution on the ethnic conflict, for example, talks about Tamil nationalism in the following terms: 153

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In the 1950s, Tamil nationalism was almost non-existent. In fact Tamil nationalism did not begin to appear in Sri Lanka until the late 1970s, as the violence in the country began to increase. (Oberst 2004: 168)

Even Jeyaratnam Wilson, the eminent political scientist on Sri Lankan political affairs, contends that Tamil nationalism was ‘born of defensiveness and reaction to events’ (Wilson 2000), implying that Sinhalese opposition and oppression as responsible factors. Such reason and judgement are, however, subject to two major constraints. First and foremost, the historical existence of an independent state structure for the Tamils within the island, namely the Jaffna Kingdom, has altogether been overlooked. Nations and states are, in the words of Gellner, ‘destined for each other’ (Gellner 1983). Thus, the Jaffna Kingdom provides, not only the evidence for an early existence of Tamil nationalism (de Silva and Pathmanathan 1995; Pathmanathan 1978),1 but also the characteristic representation of its compatible state structure. The genre of recent interpretations, like the ones mentioned earlier can, therefore, be only construed as depicting its resurgence and not the actual origins of Tamil nationalism. Second, these readings have also failed to consider whether economic elements, especially the economic history of Tamils, could have, in any way, contributed towards shaping and strengthening the evolution of their nationalism. Except for some sporadic marginal references, economic factors never found a place in any of the major works on Tamil nationalism.2 Notwithstanding the general neglect mentioned at the beginning, the lapse is hardly surprising, vis-à-vis the limited progress of economic historiography in Sri Lanka. When it comes to Tamils, the limitation is still worse and has certainly constrained the probing of any issue on Eelam Tamils, leave alone their nationalism. The objective of this paper is to ponder over the second aspect and strive to examine the evolution of nationalism among Tamils, through their economic history. The task has, however, been made unduly difficult by, as mentioned earlier, a virtual absence of any study dealing directly with the economic history of Eelam Tamils or the north and east of Sri Lanka. Such paucity could be rather astonishing considering the relative superiority in educational activities generally associated with the Tamils. But, it would emerge from the paper that even this deficiency is a phenomenon deeply ingrained in their socio-economic history and cannot thus be easily avoided. 154

The Economics of Tamil Nationalism

Given the constraints, it becomes necessary for this paper to—while dealing with Tamil nationalism—trace simultaneously the economic history of Eelam Tamils. Yet, it is not the intention of the essay to serve, in any sense, as a true record of economic events surrounding them. Any semblance of an economic history present in the paper is not more than a bare outline touching its fringes dictated by the need of the hour to explore the build-up of Tamilian nationalism culminating in the current crisis.

ECONOMY UNDER THE JAFFNA KINGDOM A convenient point of departure in analyzing the role of economic factors, could, perhaps, be the downfall of the Jaffna Kingdom to the Portuguese in 1619. The conquest severed the critical link the Tamil nation hitherto had with a sovereign state and made their nationalism relatively vulnerable. In fact, the susceptibility extended historically to almost a brink of disaster, where the existence of a nationalism for Tamils itself came under some scrutiny. It is, however, a historical truism that Tamil nationalism once possessed a state-nexus, but after its initial loss, the status, to this day, has not yet been regained. Although this continuing saga of deprivation is an unfortunate outcome of a bundle of political decisions, emanating especially from Western colonial subjugation, it has also been highly characterized by the various socio-economic challenges that the Tamils faced vis-à-vis the economic strategies pursued by ruling governments. What colonial rulers did in this respect had further been exacerbated since 1948, by policy level measures of indigenous governments of Sri Lanka. For a clear exposition of this phenomenon, one needs to start from the economy under the Jaffna Kingdom itself. When a holistic pedagogical treatment of the Jaffna Kingdom itself has not still crossed its infancy, it is futile to expect a factual account of any historical merit on its economy. Yet, a recent study, done in Tamil, by Pathmanathan on the national traditions and social customs of Sri Lankan Tamils, makes amends to this disappointing background to a certain extent and provides some useful information on the economy of the Jaffna Kingdom too. This section of the paper understandably draws heavily on his account. What is most striking is the 155

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cogent and sound manner in which the economy had been organized in the period under scrutiny. The kingdom consisted of the northern segment separated from the rest of the island by an imaginary line running from Trincomalee in the east coast to Kalpitiya in the west coast. The area within the kingdom had been a repository of not only the land resources, but also the maritime wealth along its coastal stretch. Production within these twin frontiers could again be sub-divided into two categories. On the one hand, they provided food commodities—chiefly for direct consumption—but any residue remaining catered to internal as well as external trade too. Agriculture and fisheries were in this respect the prime movers of the economy. But, on the other hand, the land and the sea were also home to several primary products. While the sea (especially the Mannar Bay) provided the kingdom with pearl harvests, the jungle—stretches of the land area—were the main supplier of timber and elephants. These commodities served as articles of external trade in particular, facilitated further by the long coastal belt, which was dotted with ports and opening-up busy sea routes. Despite such relatively vast potential, unless the resource utilization is properly managed with suitable economic strategies, the resources would not yield much advantage to the state nor its people. It is in this context that macroeconomic management with clear policy guidelines becomes an important criterion for any government action. The core of a scrupulous macroeconomic strategy in any given country is to devise an appropriate fiscal and monetary policy regime, which would enhance gross domestic product (GDP), concurrently shared by the people for improving their standard of living and the state for its governance purposes. Yet, if policies were narrowly designed with the sole objective of generating state income, it is unlikely that they would impart the vital incentive to produce and could, in the long run, even endanger the original revenue intent of governments. There needs to be, therefore, a delicate balance between producer and government incomes. It would, however, be wrong to expect a truthful display of all these characteristics (which are, by and large, an inherent component of any modern-day economic management), in the Jaffna Kingdom existing primarily in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nevertheless, it should, at least, be able to demonstrate that such notions were not 156

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altogether unfamiliar to the ruling monarchs and their elite officials. In fact, it is to the credit of the kingdom that it could boast of a satisfactory system of overall management with some relatively well-defined policy guidelines promoting the various activities in the economy. A principal feature of the Jaffna economy is its sectoral division with clear demarcation of three major areas: agriculture, trade and industry. Agriculture formed the backbone of the economy in several respects. While it provided the basic food for people, consumption alone was not its objective. At the beginning, though agriculture was for only subsistence, concentrating mainly on paddy. Very soon, production was not only diversified, but had also become highly commercialized. By the end of the 15th century, profit orientation was deeply entrenched paving the way for traders from the kingdom to freely roam the trading arena of the Indian Ocean (Arasaratnam 1994). The concept of opportunity cost was well comprehended and the Tamil peasantry did not hesitate to give up on the major food commodity, rice to experiment with cash crops instead. Tobacco cultivation formed the key to this development, ably supported by other subsidiary and horticultural crops. The traditional palmyrah palm too continued to supply its usual quota of products, which were increasingly entering the export markets. Revenue earned through the range of these exports could easily buy the necessary rice imports. Thus, the role of agriculture extended from simple consumption needs to a flourishing intra- as well as international trade. Yet, a third aspect of agriculture had been that it occupied the top revenue-earning spot for the government, clearly projecting its pervasive nature. Unlike the trade sector, peasant agriculture was free from state intervention and the only interaction the state had was through taxation. All landowners were subjected to a land tax assessed on the fertility of their possessions. In addition to this, one-tenth of the output from any land holding also had to be surrendered as the king’s share. The next sector in order of importance had been trade. The physical location of the kingdom itself had, as indicated earlier, been conducive to promoting trade. Places like Kayts, Kankesanturai, Colomboturai and Point Pedro quickly became prominent through harbour facilities they could offer thereby helping to open up trading links both within and outside the island (Arasaratnam 1994: 45). Such market 157

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expansion enlarged the trade-base through increased export demand for several commodities. There has been mention about private-sector commerce in agricultural commodities. Private-sector participation, compared to that of the government, had, nevertheless, been very minimal. The state had always been the key player in trading activities. Any article with a potential for profits was immediately made a government monopoly. Elephants and pearls headed the list, closely followed by cinnamon. In fact, the inclusion of cinnamon is a clear indication of the capacity of the Jaffna state to judge the profitability of commodities and bring them under its control. For, cinnamon was soon to become a major economic attraction for Western colonial powers, ultimately determining the course of the island’s history. It brought about eventually the downfall of states within the island, including the Jaffna Kingdom. The import side of the trade was mainly determined by the export destinations. Articles that could be easily procured and were considered profitable in the home market formed the cargo for the return journey of ships. Pottery, textiles, gold, silverware and copperware could be cited as important examples. An exception to this category of imports had been rice. Although, the kingdom had been self-sufficient in other food commodities, rice—the staple—had to be imported from outside. Another striking factor had been that most imports like rice, pepper, ginger, areca nut and other spices came from other kingdoms—the Kandyan and Kotte kingdoms—within the island. All imports were subjected to import duties and served to enhance revenue for the government coffers. Industries formed the third sector of the Jaffna Kingdom’s economic framework. Industrial growth had, compared to the other two, been very limited. This is not surprising when one realizes that our focus is actually on an era long before the dawn of the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Any progress in industries occurred in the shadows of the Indian subcontinent. There were some noteworthy developments in the cotton textiles and its close associate, the dyeing industry (Arasaratnam 1994: 72–73). The profitability of the latter seems to be greater, because the production of dye-roots, the raw material needed for the industry, was retained as a state monopoly. Yet, the actual potential of both these industries (even under the given conditions) was achieved only after the demise of the Jaffna Kingdom, 158

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especially when the area came under the control of the Dutch. During the Dutch regime, despite a sales tax of 30 per cent imposed by the colonial government, cotton goods produced in Jaffna had found export markets in Java and Europe (ibid: 32). Manufactures within the traditional handicrafts sector absorbed, on the other hand, a good proportion of the population and always remained a viable component of the industrial sector. Industries like pottery, carpentry, ironworks, jewelling and weaving were good examples. The foregoing overview renders adequate testimony that the economy under the Jaffna Kingdom had been candidly structured making it a workable entity. When the other two kingdoms (Kotte and Kandy) within the island were still very feudalistic, the Jaffna Kingdom was sufficiently monetized, thanks to its far-stretched overseas commerce, to allow for relative modernity and refinement. The economic framework had been adeptly supported by the social system. Although some social facets could, in a modern context, be considered infra dig and deplorable, it is beyond anyone’s scepticism that they made the economy truly functional. Above all, the state always played a pivotal role in determining the resource utilization. The government had a thorough knowledge of the economy and monitored the revenue and expenditure patterns, coming relatively close to a modern budget. This was revealed when the Portuguese after their capture of the kingdom, in their bid to make a rough assessment of the revenues that could be generated from the place, sought information from the mudaliyars of respective regions within the former kingdom on the annual incomes collected within their territories. The gathered particulars manifestly showed regular account entries of income and expenditure. These would have, no doubt, provided the government a suitable base for making its fiscal decisions. A macroeconomic management in its remote form can thus be identified. There is sufficient evidence to show that policies pursued the conventional growth objective with the welfare of people in mind (Arasaratnam 1994: 65). Before closing this account on the Tamilian economy under the Jaffna Kingdom, a harsh truth about its factor endowment, which had far-reaching implications not only towards future economic growth, but also for Tamilian nationalistic aspirations, needs to be mentioned. The physical resources within the north and east, in particular; the north, compared to the rest of the island, have been more primary or 159

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very basic in nature. Consequently, they could not be economically converted with relatively minimal human effort. The littoral water resources, sandy beaches, limestone deposits, jungle tracks, bush and marshy lands, etc. contained vast potential for development. But before any benefit could be extracted out of them, they demanded extensive investments in the form of infrastructural facilities. Capacity utilization had to be, then, carefully appraised and adequately planned. Initial investments were therefore substantially high and always remained beyond the scope and capability of private individuals. At a time when modern forms of business had not yet developed, state involvement was, thus, an absolute essential. Likewise, the conversion of existing output (fish, pearls, palmyrah, forestry, etc.) into marketable commodities with external markets in mind, government initiative in the domains of research and technology was paramount. Yet, a continuing constraint of the economic history of the Tamils has been a paucity in government backing. Even during the time of the Jaffna Kingdom, there is little evidence to show that the state was overtly conscious of this prerequisite and mapped its strategies accordingly. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the required minimum was discharged so that private sector participation could at least commence and, then be sustained. But, with the demise of the Jaffna Kingdom, even this minimum suddenly evaporated leaving a large vacuum, which remains unfilled to this day. Silva and Pathmanathan neatly capture the plight when they describe the fall of the Jaffna Kingdom and its long-run implications in the following terms: For the people of Jaffna, …it was the beginning of a dark period which saw the destruction of Hindu temples and increased taxes and dues. (de Silva and Pathmanathan 1995: 121)

The ‘dark period’ that engulfed the Tamils did not stop with a cultural onslaught and an economic exploitation as they imply. The loss of political power that the Tamils suffered meant a deprivation of the vital state patronage in the form of either direct infrastructure investments or a correct policy-mix to encourage private sector initiative towards utilizing the physical as well as human resources within the north and east. 160

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Notwithstanding the character of the state neglect, its length is also an important factor. It had not been something, which could literally end with one colonial power. Nor had it been a matter confined to Western colonialism alone. It started with the Portuguese, continued under the Dutch, and, then, persisted under the British, bringing with them, what Arasaratnam describes as, ‘avalanche of changes’ (Arasaratnam 1994: 33). The native Sinhalese rule heralding the ‘independence’ of the island had not been any relief to the Tamils. The neglect prolonged with added momentum and manifested in a series of predatory measures with a further characteristic of ethnic discrimination. In fact, the entire economic history of the north and east could be described as a battle against this continuing tide of state apathy and how its inhabitants have struggled to keep their heads above water levels, mainly through their own efforts and initiative. When interaction with the state became necessary, it was inevitable that ripples of their economic struggle would also be felt in politics. Economics determined the choice of political strategy and highly influenced Tamilian nationalism.

IMPLICATIONS OF COLONIAL POLICY In 1619, when the Jaffna Kingdom was overrun by the Portuguese, it opened the floodgates for a continued colonial domination with widening and deepening repercussions on the entire socio-economic complexion of Eelam Tamils. But a more alarming outcome of this long history of colonialism had been the gradual undermining of their nationalistic aspirations and the compulsion they suffered in seeking an identity, that too within alien state structures. However, before we take up the interaction of the Tamils with each of the dominating powers, a common trait underpinning the full gamut of the colonial policy needs to be exposed. This is because, it offered and continues to offer a strong justification for the emasculation of Tamil nationalism with damaging socio-economic as well as socio-political effects, not only for Tamils, but also for other ethnic communities living within the island. It has now long been established that the historical role of colonialism had basically been economic exploitation. The nature of 161

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exploitation had, however, been typically determined by the kind of resources required by the colonizing power to support a given stage of its development. Nevertheless, the overall progress had firmly been towards the growth of capitalism. It is, in this respect, that a link is mentioned between the ongoing globalization and colonialism of yester years. Maitra writes in his study of economic transition in New Zealand as follows: …it may be that ‘globalisation’ is a relatively recent phenomenon, this is not the case. The term refers to the penetration – via the trade of goods and commodity capital, finance capital, and production – of Western capitalism into the rest of the world, originating with the Industrial Revolution in Britain during the nineteenth century. Its impact…was first felt with British colonisation in the latter half of the nineteenth century. (Maitra 1997: 22)

But Western colonialism was born much earlier than Maitra contends and Asia as a whole had been experiencing it from the 16th century with the same penetrative vigour. It established the capitalistic means of penetration, whereas globalization is now engaged in strengthening it after capitalism has taken firm roots. But functional outcome of both is the same: the accumulation of necessary resources for the efficient operation of a given system of economic organization. The major difference between colonialism and globalization has, however, been that, unlike the latter, the former required politicomilitary power to fulfil its chosen objective. Thus, colonialism added a further political dimension to its economic agenda. Once it was ascertained that political power was a cardinal precondition, then, colonialism proceeded with a total disdain for almost all other considerations. Socio-cultural values articulated by a community of people within a demarcated territory never came into the colonial equation. Neither was respect shown towards any indigenous governance structures binding such territories or people. Military as well as administrative cost-economy had been the overriding factor giving rise to several single grandeur (colonial) state formations, camouflaging all the existing differences of an inherent nature. British India and the Netherlands East Indies serve as two clear illustrations of this historical episode. The thinking never failed to find its full expression in Sri Lanka too. 162

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When Western colonialism entered Sri Lanka, besides the Jaffna Kingdom, there were two other kingdoms, Kotte and Kandy, existing within the confines of the island. Though both belonged primarily to the Sinhalese, it cannot totally be denied that each represented a different set of socio-cultural values. Yet, the colonial powers viewed neither the Jaffna Kingdom nor the other two as separate entities. Every colonial power interacting with the island had, without exception, been eager to create a single administrative authority covering the entire island overlooking the distinctive identities of people already existing. The only inhibiting factor in this pursuit had been the resistance, armed or otherwise, emanating from the respective kingdoms. The Portuguese and the Dutch had only partial success in their amalgamation efforts due to their inability to conquer the Kandyan Kingdom. The task was ultimately left to the British to accomplish in 1815. Once this artificial unification was completed, the natural boundaries of the ‘island’ had forcibly been imposed over the different societies creating a single political structure as the unit of governance. Apart from the geographical contiguity, the relatively smaller size of the island also made it reasonably ideal. When the British succeeded in their final act, things were already looking bad. But they went a step ahead and made it worse by transplanting the South Indian Tamils in the midst of Kandyan Sinhalese. The historical error of colonialism could have easily been rectified had meaningful steps been taken at the time when Western colonial domination came to an end in 1948. There was, ironically, no clamour to re-establish the pre-colonial milieu of separate state structures. The unique absence of reclaim had been from the Tamils, who had an inherent right to do so due to their altogether separate socio-cultural identity—duly endorsed politically—through the existence of the Jaffna Kingdom. Yet, since the death of Ponnambalam Ramanathan in 1930, ‘the Tamil political movement’, according to Wilson, ‘had no direction’ (Wilson 1994). The Tamil political leadership itself, by this time, had passed into the hands of the elite, who had already given up the ‘nation’ status of Tamils. G.G. Ponnambalam, who emerged as the new leader, for example, talked not about a ‘Tamil nation’ but on ‘minorities and constitutional reform’ (ibid.: 6)3 and sought, on the eve of independence, a ‘balanced representation’ (including other 163

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minorities) with the Sinhalese. On the issue of a Tamil nation and the reclaim of its lost sovereign state structure, except for one or two lone voices,4 there was total silence. The fundamental reason for this had, however, been economic. It was a clear reflection of the long-term socio-economic degeneration that the Tamils had suffered. However, if more than one sovereign state within the island had for some reason grown into a taboo, some form of political decentralization could have been the other alternative. This would have, no doubt, brought the national identity of the Tamils with the new nationstate to a much closer plane. But even that did not happen. The only solace came in the form of Section 29 (b) of the Soulbury Constitution, whose ineffectiveness was immediately proved when the Citizenship Acts were enacted. Total disregard of this nature had mainly been an outcome of a combination of a number of developments taking place both prior to and soon after Sri Lanka’s independence. The Tamil lethargy apart, at least, two such developments could be pinpointed. First, the colonial rulers, especially the British, had nurtured the concept of one nation-state for the entire island for a long time with paraphernalia of constitutional and administrative changes that there had been a calcification of the idea and a wrong notion that it would succeed. Foremost among those who believed in the one nation ideology had been the newly created elite on both the Tamil and Sinhalese sides. They could, with the necessary input of English education, easily join hands and be in the forefront of almost all political reforms during the British period. The elitist politics with a unified stand (barring a few sporadic ruptures), could, at the turn of independence, raise itself into a unitary government for the whole island without much difficulty. Yet, the unification did not trickle down to the common masses, which stood completely divorced from most changes taking place at the elitist cum colonial levels. The implied emphasis here is that the concept of a unified state did not stem from below but had been a thrust from above. The second development made things even worse. Once a unitary state had been in place, under the imposed Westminster system, the arithmetic reality between the Sinhalese and other communities in the island quickly manifested and clearly exposed the majority strength enjoyed by the Sinhalese vis-à-vis the other communities. The trend was exacerbated when, on the heels of independence, the 164

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estate Indian Tamil population was disenfranchised. The Sinhalese politicians, elite or otherwise, did not waste much time in translating their newly-acquired favourable position into the politics of superiority and shunned the politics of understanding. Clearly, when the superior majority strength of the Sinhalese could spread their sovereign power over the entirety of the island and the use of its resources, they were naturally not keen on any division or decentralization of powers based on pure socio-cultural considerations. Instead, the Sinhala majority governments were plotting to steamroll over these differences with a heavy hand. There were deliberate attempts to superimpose the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony over the other cultures. The Tamilian reaction to such attempts could not, in the absence of any demand to reclaim their lost state structure, be anything but accommodative. The Tamil political leadership had been deliberating, subject to internal contradictions, on strategies to share power with the Sinhalese majority. In the process, they had, on their own, devalued the Tamilian status from that of a ‘nation’ to one of ‘minority’. It is the contention of this paper that economic exigencies—more than anything—contributed to this process of devaluation.

COMMERCIAL CAPITALISM OF THE PORTUGUESE AND THE DUTCH Although, the Portuguese period (1619–1650) and the Dutch era (1650–1796) remain, in terms of the north-east socio-political history, different entities, when writing its economic history both could be taken together. Notwithstanding the relatively short time-gap of three decades separating the two, they hailed from the same economic setting guided by a common ideology, referred to as mercantalism, which is a transitional period between capitalism and feudalism. The major thrust of mercantilism had been trade without a penchant for production. The Portuguese and the Dutch were, therefore, interested in accumulating profits selling articles, which never came through any formal processes of production. Thus, colonial interest under the mercantilistic trait centred, on resources per se that a region or country could provide rather than output, which could be procured utilizing these resources. The strategy 165

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had an important implication for colonial subjects under their areas of control. Unless people themselves were viewed as a resource (for example, catering to the slave trade), the colonizing power was least concerned about people or their economic pursuits. In other words, people were economically left alone as long as they fulfilled the tax expectations. For the Jaffna Kingdom, the attraction was, however, its strategic location closer to the Indian subcontinent, more than its repository of resources. Once Jaffna was captured, it could also form part of a continuous Portuguese territory within the island. Yet, it was not going to be a natural union, because the Tamils, inhabitants of the former Jaffna Kingdom, were entirely a different ethnic stock with their own language, religion, culture and social values. It turned out to be, however, a more permanent merger with implications for Tamilian nationalism. It was poised for a transformation (Nithiyanandam 2002) primarily guided by the changing economic prospects the Tamils had to endure. Despite the negligible importance of resources, the north and east could, compared to the south, still offer trading profits or opportunities to extract more tax revenue. The Portuguese could directly inherit the pearl harvests and elephant supplies of the former Jaffna Kingdom to add to their commercial wealth. During Dutch times, these had dwindled in significance and the Dutch attention fell almost entirely on cinnamon, an alien commodity to the Tamilian regions. But both the Portuguese and the Dutch sustained their interest on tax revenue and were searching for ways to maximize it. The Dutch, for example, took steps to improve land ownership records through title registration or tombo, which ensured land dues. Mercantile manifestation of this nature had two major implications for the Tamilian economy. First, it had, as mentioned earlier, little outward impact on the daily lives of Tamils and as Arasaratnam observed, ‘colonial rule was imposed on the Tamil people without drastic changes in the social structure or the traditional power hierarchy’ (Arasaratnam 1994: 35). The interaction through taxation was a trait people were already accustomed to. The unruffled tranquility had, however, been purely an external feature. A subtle yet critical difference was slowly creeping in that the invisible macroeconomic link between fiscal measures and economic activities was gradually becoming 166

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remote. It is not our contention that the former Jaffna Kingdom had in place a set of very refined macroeconomic or microeconomic policies enveloping every action of its subjects. Yet, it had, as already discussed, at least the rudiments of such policies. The rulers were, with their roots in the society, always conscious of the linkage between their own revenue objectives and those of the people. Two examples of fiscal measures and their comparative handling by the Jaffna monarchy and the colonial rulers would serve to highlight the point. The first example is the land tax imposed by the Jaffna rulers amounting to the equivalent of about 120,000 panam (cash). When the Portuguese decided to double the tax, people still came forward to endure it without much opposition demonstrating their economic strength. It is clear that the rulers of the former kingdom were more liberal in their allowance for people’s incentives and deliberately settled for a smaller amount. They were not obviously ambitious to ‘kill the goose that laid the golden egg’. The second example involves the collection of taxes in kind rather than money. While the Jaffna monarchy was flexible enough to obtain the tax on oil-bearing trees like margosa (vembu) and illupai in the form of oil extracted from them, the colonial rulers insisted on cash payments, little realizing that a cash tax substitute could discourage having these trees in one’s home surroundings. Again the macroeconomic acumen of the Jaffna rulers was on display vis-à-vis their colonial counterparts. It is, therefore, clear that with the advent of foreign rule, while the external relationship still remained the same, the state–people link had become unduly strained, if not completely severed. The state now perceived the people more as a source of revenue than its subjects needing economic support and protection. The second implication is that even when the government chose to remain aloof from the economic affairs of people, they had to, nevertheless, continue with their production efforts to ensure their own subsistence and meet the tax requirements of the state. But, progress without policy direction amounted to not only confusion but also retardation. At this stage, the economic history of Tamils had entered an obvious watershed yielding a two-fold conceptual explanation. But the ultimate outcome of both turned out to be the same. On the one hand, resource utilization in the economy came to rest entirely with the people. Once economic behaviour was not subjected to any policy 167

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constraints, it tilted naturally, in the given socio-economic context, towards resources favourably placed. This was clearly visible both in terms of natural and human resources. If the most fertile soil in the north and east came under immediate occupation, it was the Vellalar, the upper caste among Sri Lankan Tamils, who were leading this quest. On the other hand, the state–people divorce created an inevitable socio-economic void. When superior social forces stepped in to fill the void, they could quickly take control of any further development. Again, the result was the same: best land resources absorbed by the cream of the society. The Tamilian socio-economic response to this dual onslaught during the Portuguese, and especially the Dutch, times is well documented by Arasaratnam (1982). It is possible to deduce from his account how this socio-economic mix affected the economic fortunes of Tamils, casting a long shadow over their nationalistic aspirations. Yet, it was the caste-dominant social structure, more than any other, which remained at the centre of these developments. The caste-based social system did not, however, operate in a vacuum. The new self-management mode had gradually been conceding to a lopsided growth pattern highly influenced by an individualism seeking optimum benefit to single or extended families. The economy was fast becoming a bundle of discrete efforts without leaning towards any form of organized ideological stance. It is on such asymmetrical terrain that the existing caste structure was beginning to react and produce negative results. Looking at agriculture first, the fecund tracts of land, which already had a restricted and an uneven supply, when subjected to a social control by the Vellalar caste, it resulted in a near-monopoly possession by this caste. When lands were locked in this fashion, it prevented optimum utility in terms of an equal distribution and blocked the growth of a free land market. Lands always changed hands within this group, though not necessarily for agricultural purposes. Non-Vellalars with sufficient capital and a penchant for farming could not easily enter the fray. Lands for non-farming use, mainly centred on catering to the housing needs. Major contributory factors towards this had been the general increase in Tamilian population (Arasaratnam 1994: 36)5 and the dowry system with the widespread formula of ‘one house for each daughter’. A severely constrained man–land ratio could change the 168

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entire farming pattern leading, perhaps, to smallholder agriculture, especially in the thickly populated peninsular Jaffna. The option was, of course, always there for marginal lands within the peninsular or new lands in the mainland, including the east, absorbing the excessive population and sustaining traditional agriculture. Although some population moved into these areas, they could not readily convert the less-fertile resources into economic gains, again for the want of state support. Viable agriculture was, for example, possible only with government initiative in large-scale land reclamation and irrigation facilities. Those who opted for agriculture could not, therefore, hope to surge ahead of subsistence level or thereabouts. The upper caste influence of Vellalars did not confine to agriculture alone. They could easily become leaders in almost any field of their choice. Ironically, their avarice could sometimes, especially when profits were enticingly high, even cross caste barriers. The control over fishing rights offers a good example. Fields with foreign initiative too could not function without a modicum of support from the Vellalar community leaders. Sea-borne commerce, for example, which was exclusively operated by expatriate communities such as Hindu Chetties, Malayalees and Muslims of South Indian origin, had to rely on the Vellalars for provision of the necessary local infrastructure. It was they, who brokered, in particular, the lucrative elephant and tobacco trade. In addition, whenever an opportunity arose for a new entrepreneurial activity, it could not escape the Vellalars’ notice. Farming of taxes under the Portuguese and Dutch rule could be cited as a useful example. Arasaratnam talks of the overall power and influence of the Vellalar in the following manner: Vellalar syndicates emerged as revenue farmers, buying up tax collection rights to land taxes, transit dues, market dues, fishing rights and a variety of other taxes. Evidence from the end of the 18th century shows that a large number of vellalars, who had access to capital to invest on a variety of enterprises, emerged as speculators. They worked in partnership with local chetty merchants and Muslims, both domiciled and of south Indian origin. (Arasaratnam 1994: 38)

From the foregoing, it is clear that when the existing social structure interacted upon the newly created colonial economic milieu of selfmanagement, it resulted in an acute competition among individuals, 169

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but was always covered under the institutional garb of caste, also simultaneously spiced by the Hindu religion. Private competition is in itself, always helped those with means. But, when it was unrestrained and without any policy guidance, things could be worse and it could rapidly develop into relative poverty. While relative poverty in the entire Tamil community was widespread, it was more protruding among the non-Vellalar caste groups. The only exception was, perhaps, the people of the Kariayar caste, who were controlling the maritime resources. A major economic impact had been that an involution could envelope the entire development process. When each individual worked towards optimum profits devoid of any policy influence subjected to increasing relative poverty, the market quickly became severely restricted. The economic horizon had to be obviously extended. Again, the Vellalars were the first to react to this necessity embarking initially, as already mentioned, on several ventures in a simultaneous fashion. But when this proved insufficient, they also began to gaze outside their own areas for investment opportunities, giving an outward-looking character to their economic activities. Searching for external markets had not, however, been an altogether new phenomenon for the Tamilian economy. During the days of the Jaffna Kingdom itself, external trade formed an inherent component of its economic affairs. But, if it operated, then, it was more as a bonus adding extra benefits to the domestic economy, now, it had become an absolute necessity to sustain reasonable means of survival. Those who were engaged in cash crop cultivation, especially tobacco, had to seek markets outside. It was equally true for those in other minor commercial ventures. There occurred, thus, a gradual but steady drift of economic interests beyond the demarcated territories of the former Jaffna Kingdom. Under the newly emerged colonial condition of conjoint political authority under one ruler, unlike in the pre-colonial days, the rest of Sri Lanka (except the Kandyan Kingdom) proved to be the nearest as well as the easiest market destination. The major impediment, had however, been the transport. The jungle frontier that separated the Tamilian regions from the rest of the island had still not been pierced making land transport difficult, if not impossible. Although the frontier had helped to effectively seal off Sinhalese influence from reaching the 170

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Tamil areas and maintain their socio-cultural purity, now, at a time when additional marketing outlets were rendered indispensable, it worked against the Tamils. Whatever internal transport existed during the Portuguese–Dutch era, had mainly been inherited from the Jaffna Kingdom and was largely confined to the northern peninsular region alone. Access to even other Tamilian areas—the mainland, Vanni and the east—remained highly curtailed. Under these circumstances, sea-borne routes still served as the only viable alternative. Tamils came forward to make full use of these and, in due course, a major part of the internal coastal trade of the island had, in fact, come under their control. It is interesting to note in this context that the term dhoni, which refers to the small sailing craft with one mast, widely used in such trade, is a pure Tamil term. It signifies, thus, the dominance of Tamils over the internal coastal trade routes. Jayawardena, who studied the rise of the bourgeoisie in colonial Sri Lanka, while discussing the contribution of the internal trade, explains the phenomenon in the following terms: Where adequate road facilities did not exist, as in the remoter Northern and Eastern provinces, transport by sea seems to have been the quickest and easiest method of conveying goods. Dhonies were used to transport all goods to and from Trincomalee and Batticaloa on the East coast and there was regular traffic in commodities such as tobacco between the ports of the Jaffna Peninsula and other areas. In the North, the port of Kayts was a centre of boat building…. In the Northern and Eastern provinces there were Tamil and Muslim shippers…. (Jayawardena 2000b)

In the meantime, people occupying the coastal regions, the karaiyar community in particular, found themselves inundated with littoral resources, which again could not be put to any grand use without the government input. With proper planning and investment, they offered a rich potential for not only fishing on a commercial scale, but also facilities for trading, which could link the entire Southeast Asia and the Far East. In the absence of any such support forthcoming, the resources promoted, based on individual or group efforts, a rather distorted use leading to minor trade, especially in contraband items. One of the reasons for such restricted and disparaging activity had been the insufficient flow of goods for normal trade under, now, a 171

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highly curtailed economy. Although some commodities, like tobacco (which found a ready market in Travancore), were still coming, they proved trivial compared to the existing facilities. Consequently, some of the coastal villages of the Jaffna Peninsula like Valvettiturai, Myliddy and Kankesanturai gradually grew into reputed centres for illegal or black market trade, quite distinct from the usual occupation of fishing and legal trade. These activities too, notwithstanding their qualitative difference, had to depend on markets outside. When the leading sections of the Tamils, who also formed the majority, began to look beyond their shoulders in search of markets as a means of survival, the political vision too, along with the economic, was poised for a change. There was a slow but steady broadening in their outlook. Although its full growth and fruition had to await further developments during British colonialism, the inevitable shift had already begun. Before we turn to consider events during the British regime, mention must be made of an additional factor, which hastened the political transformation coupled with a broader outlook. It was the induction of the Christian faith among the Tamils in both its forms. If the early colonial rulers ever cultivated a healthy interaction with the Tamil population, it was in the area of religion, where they attempted to thrust their own beliefs. In particular, the enthusiasm of the Portuguese in this respect had commenced even before they overwhelmed the Jaffna Kingdom and continued unabated during their rule. A major apparatus they used was to grant economic privileges to those who adopted their faith. A notable example had been how the Karaiyar community, among whom the Portuguese were active from the beginning, thrived after converting to Catholicism. It could enjoy extensive fishing rights, exemption from taxes, freedom to travel by sea to South India and even naval protection (Arasaratnam 1994: 37). The indirect effects of religion were even more important. Incipient measures introduced by the Portuguese, especially in the health and education spheres saw further development during the Dutch era. Although the religious fervor of the Dutch could not match that of the Portuguese, their Christianity was, nevertheless, more instrumental in promoting utilitarian services, which, in the long run, benefited the Tamils. A remarkable achievement of the Dutch had been the introduction of the printing press. It enhanced the spread of 172

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literacy along with religion, which was poised to make a much bigger contribution to the socio-economic development of Tamils during the subsequent British period. The changes spawned by religion had an exacerbating effect on the ongoing outward-looking character of the Tamils implanted by economic exigencies. The exposure to modern Western ways of life and traditions interacted with conventional as well as conservative Hindu values and pushed the Tamilian society to new heights, where some selfevaluation about their own religion became inevitable. Its ultimate outcome was a harmonious merger between the two, each maintaining its own cultural identity. Such relatively non-confrontational progress of Christianity brought about a silent revolution within the Tamilian society and paved the way for the manifestation of some of its effects on the political economy of Tamils. A major impact had been the spirit of accommodation. While the spread of Christianity sharpened the internal competition for economic survival through the provision of education, an additional armoury for rivalry, the reconciliation in the religious and cultural spheres could easily extend into the political arena making it more receptive to an accommodative stance. It reverberated on Tamil nationalism in the form of its preparedness to give up its own identity and to seek salvage within a larger entity called ‘Ceylonese nationalism’. When the wider outlook neatly fitted their enforced economic agenda, the whole character of Tamilian political economy underwent a change during the British period.

BRITISH CAPITALISM When the British inherited the former Jaffna Kingdom along with the rest of the maritime regions of the island in 1796, they were fully aware that the people within the island form two separate nations. Hugh Cleghorn, Colonial Secretary of Ceylon in 1798, writing as early as 1799, in his famous minute stated as follows: Two different nations, from the very ancient period, have divided between them in possession of island. First the Cinhalese, inhabiting the interior of the country in its southern end and western part from Wallouve to

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that of Chilow, and secondly the Malabars, who possess the northern and eastern districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manner. (Pieris 1953, emphases added)

But despite their consciousness, they were not prepared to compromise on this with their inclination to treat the entire island as a single nation. Once again, colonial economic viability proved to be more deterministic than any other internal social considerations. In the Sri Lankan context, the Tamils were, eventually, the prime losers. The unification bid of the British went a step further when they accomplished what the other two preceding colonial powers could not achieve, the annexation of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815. When the Kandyan rebellion of 1817 was successfully crushed, it signified, in hindsight, two opposing developments for the Sinhalese and Tamil nations within the island. For the latter, it confirmed the already existing reality of the end of a state-based nationalism. The Tamil Kingdom once existed had been buried further deep. But for the Sinhalese, on the other hand, the event helped to iron internal differences and allowed for a smooth transition towards a single nation. It is, however, ironic that when the Colebrooke Commissioners arrived in the island in 1833, to complete the unification course, the Tamils posed no problems, whereas, the Kandyans were behaving as ‘a community by themselves’ and the continued ‘maintenance of their separate identity was impolitic from the point of view of British power’ (Samaraweera 1973). Yet, the proposals placed by the commission only served to further strengthen the conflicting pendulum-swing in prospects for the two nations. Colebrooke recommended, among many others, a homogenous system of administration under five provincial centres: Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Trincomalee and Kandy. The act, though still maintained the exclusivity of the Kandyan Sinhalese, had an entirely opposite effect on the Tamils. Up to then, the British, along with both the Portuguese and the Dutch, sustained, with minor modifications, the existing administrative system of the former Jaffna Kingdom. Under the Colebrooke proposals not only had this little distinctiveness been dismantled, but it was also made worse by dividing the Tamils into two separate provinces, the north and the east. The Tamilian plight was further threatened when the original proposals annexed certain Sinhalese districts to the two newly created Tamil 174

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provinces. This was, however, restored in 1873, with the carving of an additional province called the north-central province. Historically, what is more alarming here is the total Tamilian silence over these changes. They were very serious, compared to the political economy integrity displayed by the Jaffna Kingdom and the separate socio-cultural identity of Tamils.6 Yet, there is no record of any protests from Tamilian quarters. It looks that, by then, they had resigned into accepting the island icon as a suitable and convenient framework to propel their image and identity. While it is easy to blame the Tamils for this lapse on their part, it is also a reflection of the rapidity with which Tamilian socio-economic conditions had changed. A major factor here has been the continuously widening time gap. At the time of the Colebrooke Reforms, more than two centuries had already passed since the Tamils first lost their exclusive nation-state identity. It thrust upon them a ‘paradox’, which manifested gradually as a political defeat, but a simultaneous economic gain. The latter reflected, as we have already discussed, in the total absence of any colonial policy package incorporating resources lying within the north and east. When people were, thus, compelled to harness resources according to their means, they veered in different directions subject to prevailing socio-cultural norms and conditions. The ‘freedom’ did not, however, offer them any relief from the burden of taxation, which was increasing with every passing colonial power. Pre-Colebrooke British rule, in this respect, was not any different from its Portuguese and Dutch predecessors. It ensured its fiscal revenue, not only with the continuation of the farming system of tax collection but also with the imposition of new taxes. The tax on coconut trees had been a notable example. The British also altogether abolished the payment of taxes in kind and introduced a streamline system of cash payments (Samaraweera 1973). Enhanced tax demands without compatible policies to raise the growth levels could only intensify the involution process already set-in within the Tamilian economy. When the Colebrooke Commission arrived in the island, several generations of Tamils had, by now, gone through the compulsory ‘self-management’ and ‘adjustment’ routine, inherent in the involution mode. They had learnt to accept these as conditions of ‘normalcy’. In a macroeconomic idiom, the ‘short-run’ had already taken the characteristic of a ‘long run’. In more realistic terms, however, the entire 175

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Tamilian society came to be one of individually motivated humanities offering a perfect blueprint for the widespread relative poverty already mentioned. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to nurture a political opinion or a common ideology and politics which inevitably took a back seat. Economic survival had been the predominant objective. It would not, therefore, be an exaggeration to say that the Tamils had gradually developed a mindset highly immune to political changes, leave alone the centre, but even in their own homeland. It is, therefore, not very surprising that the Tamils turned a blind eye to the Colebrooke proposals, epitomizing the prolonged colonial neglect. However, the proposals soon turned to implicate the Tamils in such a way that the recommendations not only offered the community with new economic opportunity never known before, but also made them politically more responsive. Although the political economy unveiled by the Colebrooke Reforms could not altogether remove the economic neglect and its individualistic appendage Tamils inherited from colonial rule, the reforms were, at least, helpful in projecting the Tamils as a coherent political community providing, in addition, some room for economic articulation. Thus, when a new form of political recognition was conferred on the Tamils (along with the Sinhalese), supplemented by fresh avenues to earn wealth, neither their socio-economic status nor their political behaviour could remain the same. Colebrooke Reforms had, in this sense, been a ‘watershed’ not for Sri Lanka alone, but for the Tamilian political economy too. The fall of Kandy, according to Dawood, fulfilled, notwithstanding its political nuance, an essential pre-requisite for the capitalistic penetration of the island by the British (Dawood 1980). It made land resources necessary for the task—which also needed to be easily accessible—and again underlined the importance of politico-military power for milking any kind of economic benefit in a colonial context. Nevertheless, once this initial mission was accomplished, it was left to the Colebrooke Commissioners to provide a suitable mechanism for economic exploitation. Even though Colebrooke did not specify anything direct in the economic sphere, when he recommended that ‘the colonial government should withdraw from economic activities in which it was engaged and that the economic field should be laid bare 176

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for private enterprise’ (Samaraweera 1973: 85–86), the economic future of the colony had clearly been demarcated. Colebrooke had, no doubt, been swayed by the liberal ideology, hatched in Britain during his time. The economic transformation in the form of plantation agriculture, which swept through Sri Lanka from the mid-19th century had, in fact, been highly characterized by this laissez-faire policy. Yet, it was a policy aiding the British investors to translate their surplus capital into useful investments for themselves and their mother country with little or no direct benefit to the colony itself. But from the point of view of the Tamilian economic history, the economic liberalism enunciated by Colebrooke and the growth of plantations, proved to be one of the worst ironies. At the time of the Colebrooke recommendations, the Tamils were already operating under conditions very similar to those of laissez-faire. They were, as we have repeatedly mentioned, ‘free-wheeling’ in their economic pursuits with little interference from the colonial governments. The Tamils were, thus, ideally placed, at least in conceptual terms, to benefit from the Colebrooke proposals and contribute simultaneously to colonial economic needs. They could not, however, do so for want of sufficient capital and a supporting infrastructure. Had the British Imperial Government come to their rescue and provided capital aid, the Tamils would have, perhaps, taken the leading role in subsequent developments of the island colony. But the colonial government decided, instead, to open-up the colony for direct investments from British capitalists. It amounted to a Tamilian opportunity foregone. The Tamilian loss becomes more emphatic in the context of the ‘plantation revolution’ witnessed in the central districts of the island. The Tamil regions were, in fact, more favourably placed with a rich potential for growing some of the leading crops, which came under the plantation system. While tobacco had already demonstrated its viability, the indigenous palmyrah palm could yield a number of products both for the home and international markets. Banana and horticulture provided another option. With the soil and climatic conditions of the north and east, not very different from the sugarproducing colonies of Fiji and Mauritius, sugarcane too was a strong possibility, especially in the east. But none of these crops actually entered into the plantation equation of the British. Like the south of 177

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the island, coconut was the only native crop of the Tamil homeland, which later came to be partially cultivated under the plantation system and, that too, by local investors. Consequently, the familiar economic isolation of the Portuguese and the Dutch eras, despite some new blood emanating from the Colebrooke Reforms, was poised to continue in the north and east. But a Colebrooke recommendation in another sphere suddenly openedup opportunities for the Tamils in an altogether unexpected area and widened their economic horizon. When Colebrooke recommended that the native population of the island should be allowed entry into the colonial administrative services, assisted further by his compatible proposals in the field of education, the Tamils were, compared to others, more favourably placed. Their strength originated mainly from two reasons. They were, on the one hand, searching for additional economic prospects to improve their living standards and were always ready to make use of any newly added source. On the other hand, a major section of the Tamil population was also relatively well equipped with the key instrument needed to succeed in their new experiment. It was in the area of English proficiency, a necessary pre-condition for a job in the public service. Missionary activities in education, with a natural emphasis on the English language were well established in the island. Peninsular Jaffna remained, however, outstanding in this respect. Jebanesan, who studied the spread of missionary education in Jaffna, records that in 1830, just prior to the Colebrooke Reforms, there functioned 79 schools belonging to the American Mission alone. When the contribution made by the other Protestant and Catholic missionaries, along with the Hindus, the number ballooned to a total of 169 schools with about 7,500 students on role (Jebanesan 1983: 28). The statistics cover roughly 75 per cent of the entire student population in the island concentrated in only about 10 per cent of the total area of the island. The Tamils could, with such a formidable weapon in their hands, easily turn the Colebrooke proposals to their advantage. The Tamil dominance in the Sri Lankan public service, both during and after British rule, is well documented and needs no elaboration (Nithiyanandam 1987: 118–20). Yet, certain facets relevant to the economic history of the Tamils along with its inherent impact on the evolution of Tamil nationalism need mention. Foremost of these 178

The Economics of Tamil Nationalism

had been the manner in which it strengthened the Tamil drift from their homeland into the rest of the island. Because most public service positions were located in the capital city Colombo and other provincial towns, Tamils had no option but to disperse into these areas. The colonial government, soon realizing that the Tamils were easy fodder to fill in, especially the multitude of middle grade positions, had little hesitation in facilitating the progress. A major example in this direction had been the efforts made to extend transport services, both road and rail, as far as the northern tip of the island as well as to the eastern towns of Batticaloa and Trincomalee. While the internal transport network, which could assist socio-economic growth through a more intensive resource use within the north and east, was still very curtailed, facilities had now been expanded to boost an outward movement of human resources. But government employees were not alone among the beneficiaries of cheap transport. Retail trade provided yet another illustration of not only the growing external dependence of the Tamilian economy but also as one receiving help from the newly constructed transport system piercing the major towns of the island. Both the public service predominance and retail trade expansion enjoyed by the Tamils, while imparting an outward-looking character, also underlined the service trait of the economy. But service sector development, without compatible growth in production to supplement the process, could always prove vulnerable. The Tamilian economy had to—except for the now much restricted tobacco output and some production in subsidiary food crops—entirely rely on outside development for its service sector sustenance. In the meantime, continued state apathy had stymied internal production levels and hastened the process of involution. It would thus, not be an exaggeration to say that, from a Tamilian point of view, it was the rest of Sri Lanka more than their own places of origin, which formed the focal point of their economic activity. Once this dependent growth pattern became, in due course, well entrenched, its influence was soon felt in the Tamilian political outlook too. The Tamils gave up gradually on their earlier esteemed stateoriented nationalism and decidedly settled almost entirely within the island identity of Sri Lanka. The motivating factor for this new role, during a time when the Tamils had already gone into a deep political slumber, again came from the Colebrooke recommendations. 179

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But before we take up the Tamilian political behaviour in the postColebrooke era, it would be useful to indulge in removing a few misconceptions associated with Tamils and their close relationship to education and state sector employment. Public service predominance of Tamils had, in the final analysis, been an outcome of three different, yet, closely connected factors: religion, education and economic exigency. The conventional intimacy between religion and education had, in the case of the Tamils, been heavily biased towards education in English. It grew to a point that no religious activity could, notwithstanding the religion per se, succeed among the Tamils without the correct weightage alluded to English education. Even Hinduism, the native religion of Tamils, could not rise above this expectation. This had clearly been borne by Arumuga Navalar’s attempts towards its revival. Before he could count on any measure of success, he had to first match the zeal exhibited by Western missionaries in the provision of a sound education in English. For, after the Colebrooke Reforms, sufficient knowledge in English proved to be the livewire of, not so much the Tamilian economic survival, but their prosperity beyond. It is this close proximity between economic upliftment and education with an emphasis on English, which had given rise to a misconception that Tamils form a society with a penchant for education, that too with an inclination for English. A corollary to this had been the belief that they were more industrious and hardworking, always maximizing their efforts to the extent of an incisive search for opportunities in destinations far from their home environs. Such conviction had also been nurtured by the Tamils themselves inviting some self-praise and ‘pat on the back’ within the Tamil community itself. But a closer scrutiny of the economic history of Tamils, would reveal that these are plain misconceptions conceived not simply because of false beliefs alone, but also as an outcome of a lack of proper training and understanding in social sciences. When education had come to be sought not due to any of its natural instincts but only for the material prospects it could offer, it quickly reflected on the choice of education further down the line. Fields that did not lend to profitable employment were discarded and the preference was always for courses, which yield easy access to wealth and stability. Social sciences, therefore, took a back seat within a hierarchical pattern of educational choice. With further slow but steady 180

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deterioration of the Tamilian socio-economic plight, the tendency had grown to a point, where untold damage had been done resulting in an acute shortage of indigenous social scientists. Whenever there was an urgent need to probe issues relating to the Tamilian society, it had and continues to have a telling effect on them. The lacuna created has allowed more foreign scholars to step in and analyze ethnic issues affecting Tamils.7 It had resulted in a plethora of studies without a proper insight and understanding of the Tamilian society and its economic history, bringing disastrous consequences. The Tamilian response to education can only be described as one of a spontaneous reaction akin to, perhaps, any social group living under such ‘pressurekettle’ conditions. Another misconception has been to equate the Tamil presence in public service with the entire Tamilian society. This too is far from the truth. On the one hand, it was primarily confined to the Jaffna Peninsula, with only marginal interest emanating from other Tamilian regions, including the east. Remote villages in these areas, where access to English education was difficult, could not benefit from opportunities arising in the public service. It is also true that production possibilities in proportion to the population here were still within optimum limits and offered reasonable living standards. Thus, the urgency for any alternate source of employment was, compared to peninsular Jaffna, much less here. On the other hand, even within the peninsular Jaffna, it was subject to not only location but also caste influences. The superiority of Vellalar as discussed earlier extended to employment in the government sector too (Sivathamby 2000: 13). Although others were not denied opportunities, it is a truism that Vellalar had a more marked representation in public sector employment, mainly due to their ideal status for fulfilling the necessary preconditions. The absence of the social dimension was further demonstrated by the fact that the Tamilian search for public sector positions did not result in any large-scale migration of the community resembling, perhaps, the South Indian exodus towards the plantations. The transfer was restricted to individuals and that too was, in many instances, confined to the (male) breadwinner devoid of the rest of the family. The non-social phenomenon is equally applicable to, in fact, the entire spectrum of Tamilian economic activity outside their regions of 181

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domicile. The Tamilian interest in their workplaces did not, therefore, cross the boundary dictated by the minimum economic need. It did not enter the realms of societal interaction, both within the members of their own society and outside it. Their own social infrastructure had been left behind in the north and east. Whatever interrelationship they had remained only at highly personal levels. The absence of such social cohesion proved to be a key factor later on, when ethnic politics became the order of the day. During times of crisis, culminating frequently in ethnic violence (like the 1983 pogrom), the Tamils were left exposed and vulnerable. They could neither rely on their own social strength nor seek salvage from the surrounding community. Whatever protection they received was personal and individualistic. Socio-economic detachment of this nature did not fail to concede its own political implications. While Tamil nationalism was willing to accommodate itself within the island framework of Sri Lanka, it did not confess a total surrender. It was prepared to approve of a ‘Sri Lankan nationalism’ to the extent that Tamilian exclusivity and singularity would be preserved. The Tamils, despite their general aversion to politics mentioned earlier, when they were suddenly drawn into it, never concealed this implicit expectation. It had a clear underpinning for its subsequent developments. When the Tamils were, beginning with the Colebrooke Reforms, assigned a political role along with other communities in the island,8 there emerged gradually a triangular contest with two other distinct forces: the Sinhalese counterparts and the British colonial masters. The latter had, of course, been the overriding factor attempting to interweave a common ‘Ceylonese nationalism’ merging two separate nations in their own right. But despite the British resolve, from the outset, the natural identity of the two individual nations was beginning to be underlined in no uncertain terms. Wilson, while commenting on the performance of the Tamil and Sinhalese representatives in the first Legislative Council formulated under the Colebrooke proposals, made the following observation: Neither community sought to assimilate the other, or displayed any eagerness to submerge all the island inhabitants into a new homogenous Ceylonese community. On the contrary, there was evidence of each community’s desire to retain its distinct culture, religion and language. 182

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This was reinforced by the fact that most people in each group lived in isolation in their own territories. Thus there developed a sense of national awareness, the consciousness of being Sinhalese or Tamil, given weight by the perception that each of them were the island’s ‘founding races’, the major communities… (Wilson 2000: 42)

Given the sovereign-state ancestry of both nations, their behaviour was least surprising. When colonial compulsion made them sit together, they could hardly give-up on their own ‘national’ identity. It would, in fact, be unjust to view this intrinsic desire as ‘racial’ or ‘communal’ with ethnic overtones. Yet, when the island structure was imposed, between the two, the Sinhalese nation was at an obvious advantage. They had little to lose, because, with the addition of the Kandyan regions, they now constituted more than 70 per cent of the island’s population. This majority status in an island configuration bestowed substantial gains on the Sinhalese by extending, in political terms, the entire land area within the island at their disposal. Although it equally applied to the Tamils, they could not, with a miniscule total in relative terms, translate it into a political advantage. The majority vis-à-vis minority reality of both the nations became increasingly emphatic when post-Colebrooke constitutional reforms under the British colonial rule were fast approaching the Westminster pattern. Ironically, however, it was the Tamils, who used the entire expanse of the island in economic terms for reasons already discussed. With the Tamilian economic stakes—now deeply ingrained outside their homelands, primarily in the Sinhalese provinces of Sri Lanka—they could not reject outright the enforced island design and demanded separate political sovereignty they once enjoyed. For, in the Tamilian calculation, political power without compatible economic viability would have been meaningless. Moreover, the political mindset under a still lengthening colonial subjugation in an all-island context had also worked to their disadvantage. Another factor that helped this accommodative phase had been the make-up of the evolving Tamil leadership. Due to the Tamilian disinclination towards politics, a political leadership could not emerge from the grassroots level. When the Colebrooke Reforms made it imperative for a Tamil representative to sit in the Legislative Council, the British rulers had to, like among 183

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the Sinhalese, look up to the Tamil elite. The trend continued with every reform package and ultimately the leadership ended up firmly in the hands of the elite. The Tamil elite, during this time had largely been made up of a group, which had economically established itself in Colombo, either through their chosen professions or by virtue of holding some of the key government positions under colonial rule. Thus, when they entered politics, their acceptance of Sri Lanka as the functional framework had been a foregone conclusion. They had, in fact, been a step ahead of their Sinhalese counterparts in promoting an all-island ‘Ceylonese nationalism’. ‘The emerging Tamil bourgeoisie’, according to Jayawardena, ‘often proved to be more liberal and more outspoken in their criticism of colonial policies than the Sinhala bourgeoisie of landowning Mudaliyars, merchants and renters’ (Jayawardena 2000b: 216). But they were resolutely within the Sri Lankan framework. British colonialism, by decisively locking the Tamils both politically and economically within the Sri Lankan structure, had been instrumental in transforming their nationalism beyond its original recognition. But, it was not immediately realized that the British had also made Tamil nationalism far more intricate and complex by adding a further dimension to it. The new facet came in the form of hill-country Tamils, who had been injected into the central plantation districts, with colossal influence and implications on the future evolution of Tamil nationalism. The assimilation of the new arrivals into the Tamil nationalistic equation, despite their common ethnic stock, proved to be a very slow, arduous and reluctant process. This had been due to not only the physical distance that separated them (without a Jinnah’s corridor) from the other Tamils living in the traditional homelands of the north and east, but also their altogether different socio-economic as well as socio-cultural disposition. Although the opening of the plantations in itself created, to a certain extent, additional economic opportunities for the indigenous Tamils in the form of middle grade positions in the administration of plantations and teaching positions in estate schools, this was not enough to bring about a permanent binding between the races. In fact, at the beginning, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam was the only one even among the Tamil leadership, who correctly assessed the importance of the hillcountry Tamils and articulated their inclusion into the Tamil political 184

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mainstream. As early as 1949, he declared that ‘there could be no division into Indian Tamils and Ceylon Tamils; all Tamils settled in Ceylon formed one nation’ (Wilson 1994: 33). In the same year, at the inaugural address of the Federal Party, he asserted his contention and introduced for the first time the term ‘hill-country Tamils’ into the Tamilian political vocabulary (ibid: 71). Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the hill-country Tamil factor had remained an irritating phenomenon to this day, confusing Tamil nationalism and complicating further developments. It would not be incorrect to say that Tamil nationalism has still not come to terms with it. A major contributory element in this ongoing saga has been the contrasting strategies adopted by indigenous Sri Lankan governments to weaken the Tamil nationalistic aspirations vis-à-vis the hill-country Tamils. Once, the plan was to exorcise the hill-country community into political oblivion. The Citizenship Acts coming on the heels of the termination of British rule in the island had this clear agenda. But today there have been, at the other end of the scale, definitive attempts to tailor their support into the Sinhalese political fabric. The ultimate objective in the two extremes has, however, been the same: undoing the united strength of Tamilian nationalism, which posed, in the Sinhalese contention, a threat to their nationalism. The post-(Western) colonial economic history of the Tamils had, in fact, entirely been overwhelmed by this Sinhala perception, ultimately leading to another dimension of colonial proportions. The internal colonialism of the Sinhalese turned out to be eventually far more predatory than its Western counterpart by its direct confrontation with the very economic avenues, where the Tamils earlier had almost free access. The state under Western colonialism though did not help the Tamils, at least, kept its distance and allowed them to self-manage their resources within their given capabilities. But suddenly, the Tamils encountered a state, which not only acidly retained its unhelpful character, but also went a step further and denied or attempted to divert the meagre range of their activities of survival, towards a people it represented. The Tamilian socioeconomic transformation under this new state outlook had been so very abrupt and swift that its impact was to soon engulf the politics of Tamils, bringing with it yet another phase in their nationalistic consciousness. 185

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THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF SINHALA DOMINATION The use of the foregoing terminology does not simply convey the Tamilian socio-economic plight uncovered during the post-1948 era. But it also serves, perhaps, as an apt description of the Sri Lankan economic progress during this period. Ideologically, it was a mixed bag with every plausible strategy in economic policymaking—capitalism, socialism and mixed-economy—finding some relevance at one stage or the other. Yet, the omnipresent undercurrent had always been the urge to nurture a political economy with Sinhala domination, with an emphatic extension to the socio-cultural realms. This proved to be, in terms of the economic progress of the entire island, the major reason for its undoing too (Nithiyanandam 2000b: 283–311). The political foundation of this socio-economic agenda had, of course, been the numerical strength the Sinhalese derived under a unitary state structure bestowed under the Soulbury Constitution of 1947, which, in 1948, also granted independence to the island from British rule. The unitary system of government, despite its questionable application in a multi-ethnic context, received the support of the British too, perhaps, due to their own strategic objectives. They were fully aware that whatever interests remained in the island were well entrenched in the Sinhalese areas and their sustained protection would very much depend on the support and cooperation that Britain received from Sinhala-dominated governments. The majority strength was further advanced by the two new constitutions introduced respectively in 1972 and 1978. On both these occasions Tamils were not a party to the efforts. The brunt of the Sinhala socio-economic programme fell, however, on the Tamils, who became its first hand victims. Starting with the decitizenization of the up-country Tamils, it quickly spread to every conceivable area of Tamilian socio-economic significance. Their lands, jobs, education, language and culture were all affected. The Sinhalese strategy worked, by and large, in two directions. On the one hand, Tamilian rights were directly usurped depriving them the wherewithal for progress. On the other, when Sinhalese interests were promoted through institutional patronization, Tamil rights and welfare indirectly went into a natural decay. But in most instances, it is the combination of both, which had a lethal effect on the Tamils. When 186

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Sinhalese was made the official language, for example, by the same token, the Tamils had been deprived of their means of livelihood in the public service. Moreover, certain indirect measures adopted had progressively become direct assaults on Tamilian rights and resources. Land and education can, in this context, be cited as major examples. Land colonization schemes, which initially settled the Sinhalese in unoccupied lands within Tamil regions, did not, when the need arose subsequently, hesitate to directly appropriate lands belonging to the Tamils. In the field of education, when the help and support given to Sinhalese education could not bring in the desired result in the targeted areas, Tamilian opportunities in the professional fields were directly seized and diverted to the Sinhalese through the system of ‘standardizing’ university entrance examination marks. The entire gamut of Sinhala-prop/anti-Tamil activity undertaken by successive governments had, certainly, the inherent colonial character. It could even be described as more alarming than the usual colonialism, because the required sovereign power over the given people and territory was already existing in the garb of a ‘nation-state’. It provided an easy passage for any form of colonial exploitation. In the meantime, it had also enabled the use of majority power and justified colonial action as nothing but ‘democratic’. It was still easier when incumbent governments were, as frequently happening, able to veer a few Tamilian or Muslim members towards them and obtain quisling support. Under these optimistic conditions, oppressing and exploitive tendencies could, though subtle, reach profound depths. While the subtlety and intensity were present in almost all areas of Sinhala government action, the one, which has continued from inception to this day with a clear manifestation, is land colonization. The dictum that there is no colonialism without land desires has again been proved correct in this context. Nithiyanandam and Gounder, who did a comparative study on land property rights and ethnicity in Fiji and Sri Lanka, concluded that it was colonialism of the worse kind and made the following observation: The Dry Zone colonization…amounted to no less than a ‘land conquest’ experienced under western colonialism and, in fact, its worse kind…. Conquest was taking place inconspicuously through the settlement of people identified with the conqueror, but alien to the indigenous…. The 187

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European interest in Sri Lanka belonged to the ‘non-settler’ category, in contrast to ‘settler’ objectives like those present in countries like Canada, Australia, South Africa or former Rhodesia. None of the western powers transferred its allegiance to the island on a full scale or acquired a personal stake by bringing in its own people. Their interests were primarily based on business…. But Sinhalese activity on the traditional Tamil homelands within the Dry Zone came, on the other hand, very close to western colonialism in the ‘settler’ colonies. It had a clear settlement agenda and the settlers sought to engage in socio-economic development entirely repudiating the indigenous interests. It would be pertinent to emphasize here that literature on colonial activity tends to identify the term ‘colony’ more with captured territories inhabited by a population of the conquering power. (Nithiyanandam and Gounder 2004: 221)

It is clear that land has, besides other issues, always been the major driving force pushing the political economy of Sinhala domination to colonial dimensions (for the actual manner of operation of the land policy with political connotations and its implications on the Tamils, see Manogaran 1994). The initial Tamilian reaction to the colonialist exercise of the Sinhalese governments with increased venom could be discerned in two ways. First, there were attempts of accommodation through a readjustment process, which often had even a socio-cultural trade-off. Widespread efforts to learn the Sinhala language to retain Tamilian stakes in the public service in the aftermath of the ‘Sinhala only’ legislation in 1956 could be cited as a clear example.9 Another major accommodative attempt occurred in the field of education. Here, after the curtailment of government sector positions of a general nature, the Tamils slowly but steadily moved towards education in the professional fields, which could, in the face of ascending Sinhalese competition, still ensure some profitable employment. But this too was done at tremendous social costs. Education among Tamils became internally more competitive making an already singularly motivated society to further develop into one of highly individualistic in outlook. The competition grew very acute as education progressed into the phase of tertiary level qualifications. It led to the devaluation of the conventional secondary school system and resulted in the adjunct growth of the socalled tutory system. Although the latter created, in an employmentstarved society, additional opportunities for some, it had not been an 188

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outcome of any growth in economic terms. Neither did it contribute to an additional increase in production except, perhaps, recycling knowledge already imparted. It had merely been superimposed on an existing service and made the latter more complicated, if not discredited it. There is, therefore, a positive economic cost, which has been aggravated by the social cost element creeping in as repercussions on the society, the youth in particular. But a far more serious cost implication came in the form of the neglect suffered by social science education among Tamils with more preference given to other forms of professional courses, a phenomenon we have already discussed. During this phase of the Tamilian economic history, social science excellence among them had gone into almost a total oblivion, which very few, in fact, realized. At a time when intellectuals had to provide the politicians, who were taking up the Tamilian cause, with the necessary knowledge and insight surrounding the crisis and the conceptual means to carry on, social science itself among the Tamils was facing a crisis with increasing reluctance to attract the best of talents. It had, through a continuous process of decay, become the dumping ground for ‘rejects’ from the rest of the courses of study, hardly an ideal situation for a society awaiting clear answers for some newly added intricate socio-economic as well as socio-political issues. The Tamilian society was using education simply as another means to further individual prosperity without any contribution towards a social upliftment, especially at a time when the society in which those individuals live was moving fast towards facing up to an acute crisis. The irony here is that the existing educational machinery in its entirety had been moulded in such a way that it was decisively drifting away from its urgent social objective with the full approval of the Tamilian society. Non-social science excellence among students was tartly promoted and hailed at the expense of social science studies and solely with immediate material considerations. The human capital thus created constituted, without any form of compatible economic growth in the surrounding society to absorb it, a ‘surplus’ and had no option but to seek opportunities elsewhere. This led to, obviously, another process of Tamilian adjustment with its inborn social cost in the shape of outward migration and the ‘brain drain’ associated with it. Here, the cost needs to be computed not simply in terms of (human) capital leaving the unified territory of Sri Lanka, but also in terms of its contribution denied to society in the Tamilian 189

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homelands. It is true that economic rewards of outward migration reached the society much later in a different form, giving financial support for a political struggle of a diverse character and providing economic as well as political refuge to those who had been displaced from families. This is, however, not only a belated response, coming again from a much personal and individualistic perspective, but also something accruing to the society after the ‘horse has bolted’ creating so much misery and destruction. Consequently, notwithstanding its positive contribution, it cannot be denied that it had further complicated issues. Second, the Tamil political leadership registered its protest against Sinhalese measures confining itself to parliamentary and/or peaceful means and, in addition, put forward a federal solution seeking a regional recognition for Tamil nationhood. Yet, both the chosen strategy and the proposed answer had its own limitations. On the one hand, the opponents against whom the protests were directed did not have the required mindset either to appreciate or view them positively. Instead, the Tamilian technique and package were ridiculed. On the other, when the Federal Party was spearheading this campaign, the Tamil political leadership itself was, if not deeply, reasonably divided and entertained some scepticism over the approach and the solution advocated.10 While leftist politics lured a section of the leadership, even nationalistic forces were not all within one camp. The division, nevertheless, was sufficient for Sinhala-majority governments to turn a blind eye to Tamilian opposition or, more importantly, to renege on agreements they reached in compulsive situations with the Tamil leadership. It was becoming increasingly clear that Tamilian reaction of this nature was acutely inadequate to eliminate or even reduce the ethnic politics of the Sinhalese with clear colonial economic ambitions. The Tamils were, thus, poised to encounter a series of political failures.11 But more than the gradual build-up of political failures, it was the upsurge of economic failures and the deteriorating Tamilian economic plight, which pushed Tamil nationalism from its accommodative stance on to its confrontational stage. When adjustment measures did not in themselves make up a proper key to Sinhalese economic oppression, Sinhala counter-action, on the other hand, made them ineffective almost instantaneously. Tamil efforts to move towards professional 190

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careers were, for example, sabotaged when ‘standardization’ was introduced (for an analysis of the ethnic implications of the Scheme see, de Silva 1974, 1978). Similarly, acquiring knowledge in the Sinhalese language to preserve state sector employment was defeated by several devious means like locating newly-created state-industries in Sinhalamajority areas and even direct political interference.12 In the meantime, the small range of production efforts Tamils engaged through the cultivation of subsidiary food-crops in the early and mid-1970s was thwarted by the open economic policies adopted in 1977. It is also a truism that the endeavours never received the required dose of support and encouragement from incumbent governments, either to increase production or add more value. There were no attempts, for example, to supply additional lands, provide facilities for further processing or offer better marketing services to ensure sustainable incomes. Instead, they were silently damaged by policy level action like the Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme, land colonization and free trade. It is, therefore, clear that the alternate paths Tamils pursued quickly reached their optimum. On the other hand, they were also giving rise to certain additional socio-economic costs. Two developments in this context need mention. Both had a divisive effect on the Tamilian society. First, the adjustment approach was not something, which had a society-wide application. It could be adopted only by those who had the necessary means to do so. Outward migration, for example, involved not only heavy expenditure, but also the right kind of links to make it work. Likewise, moving into professional fields entailed, apart from apt educational skills and acumen, disposable material resources. Consequently, such quests were confined, at least at the beginning, to a few in the upper layers of the society. But, when conditions deteriorated, it is true that others too entered the fray with the inevitable high costs. Although the development helped to give a social dimension to the phenomenon, the financial and psychological trauma middle and lower-middle-class Tamilian families suffered in the process remain a dark chapter in the economic history of Eelam Tamils. It is, to this day, an untold story too. Yet, what is more pertinent here is that the ‘competitive’ element already lingering in the society, though disguised, had suddenly come to the open with some undesirable outcomes. Rivalry among those seeking to break out and 191

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experiment with something different, increased in numbers, became more acute. It also led to, on the other hand, a shadow growth of certain services taking advantage of the situation with dubious records. Mention had already been made of the tutory syndrome. To this, now, another could be added, which is best identified by the colloquially known term ‘agencies’, comprising mainly of individuals, who took upon themselves the task of finding suitable forms of abode for those aspiring to go abroad, in search of alternate means of existence. These ad hoc services thrived in an economically insecure environment without any net gain to the society. They have, in fact, become sores of a sick economy continuing to this day without proper cure. Second, a far more important outcome had, however, been the origin and steady growth of a ‘residual’ group within the Tamilian society. It had been born out of the naked individualism we mentioned earlier, characterizing the entire spectrum of Tamilian counter-conduct against Sinhala discriminatory measures. It could not be concealed that Tamilian behaviour was not subject to any form of socio-economic organization guided by, in the absence of a macroeconomic policy cover, perhaps, the existing Tamil leadership. Fortunes were, therefore, highly fluctuating and inconsistent within the society, a condition rife for breeding relative poverty. The ‘residual’ group, which was left out of all the surrounding counter-developments, had, in fact, been a slowly growing by-product of this relative poverty phenomenon. The bulk of this category comprised mainly of the youth, which was fast running out of options for its economic survival. Those who came within this rank had, neither the required capacity nor the material means to succeed in the ongoing internal competition. Yet, they possessed the vigour and vitality of youthful exuberance. The incumbent Tamil leadership was also not fully equipped to take up their cause, leaving a marked void in leadership obligations, especially in terms of socio-economic needs. The disgruntled youth decided, therefore, to engage themselves in a dual role: while searching for economic survival, also put on the leadership garb. It did not take time for them to realize that a correct approach to the latter would eventually open the means to resolve the former. Once, this section of the Tamil youth resolved itself to take on the leadership role, its initial task was to give up on the accommodative 192

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strategy developed during Western colonialism and revive the concept of Tamil nationhood. Although the existing Tamil leadership had already taken a unified stand on the issue through the Vaddukoddai Resolution of May 1976, the leaders were, however, rather irresolute and even confused as to how this accepted resolution would be articulated. Even Chelvanayakam, who again assumed the leadership of the newly formed Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), could only state that ‘we would make such a nuisance of ourselves that they [the Sinhalese] would throw us out’ (Wilson 1994). It implied that the TULF did not have a concrete agenda and would, in all probability, continue with the same ploy of non-violence. In a milieu, where peaceful protests mixed with non-violence had summarily failed, if the youth were to make a ‘real nuisance’, they had to come up with a different mode of execution. Thus, they went, perhaps, with a sense of some anxiety and trepidation, to the other extreme and chose force coupled with violence as their chief modus operandi. The surprise element had, however, been the momentum the conversion gathered and the tempo with which it grew with a history of its own. The militant movements, which mushroomed during the initial stages, swiftly became not only a viable vent for all the accumulated frustration of the past, but also an additional socio-economic source providing ready employment and a somewhat new social status and prestige with a sense of purpose. In this context, it is pertinent to argue that, notwithstanding Sinhalese politics, internal socioeconomic contradictions inherent within the Tamilian society too had been instrumental in the rise of Tamil militancy (Nithiyanandam 2003). A further factor adding to militant youth ranks had, of course, been the shortsighted counter measures adopted by Sinhalese governments, without any effort to understand the roots of the problem. When the counter-strategy was idiotically extended directly into the economic realms, in the form of an economic embargo against Tamilian regions, it did lead to the unfolding of another gloomy chapter in the economic history of Tamils. It turned the entire Tamilian socio-economic life-style into one of basic day-to-day survival, a condition without, much parallel in the historical experience of nation-building, leave alone the Tamils. To sum up, it pushed the economic history of Tamils several decades, if not centuries behind. Despite the overall economic 193

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weakness the strategy had created, its major contribution had been the unconstrained strength it added to the revival of Tamil nationalism with its state-based antecedent.

CONCLUSION The study of Tamil nationalism in its socio-economic perspective abundantly reveals that the contemporary Tamilian nationalistic progress is deeply imbedded in their economic history. In sum, it has been a history of several ironies, in which the Tamils lost the political grip over their resources, but could still sustain a measure of economic control over them. However, economic hegemony devoid of (macroeconomic) policy cover, further aggravated by the absence of much private or public capital backing, proved to be highly ineffectual. Consequently, Tamils soon found themselves wandering on alien territory, seeking means of survival, which would ensure both economic subsistence and their conventional life-style. The plight became still worse, when, as a part of the survival game, at least a section of the Tamilian population had transformed itself into a pool of human capital with relatively a solid foundation in education. It had to be, therefore, something more than a transfer of unskilled labour through, perhaps, a process of migration. The colonial control of the entire island structure, which was shared by another nation, naturally intensified the Tamilian search for economic opportunities to the south of the island. In the meantime, when British colonial manoeuvres dragged the Tamils out of their political wilderness, the economic agenda gradually translated itself into one of political compromise, giving rise to ‘accommodative’ politics. But when it was challenged by Sinhalese ‘majority’ power, especially after the end of Western colonial rule, it could not continue to yield the expected economic rewards. Politically too, this had degenerated them from the status of a ‘nation’ to that of a ‘minority (ethnic) group’. The Tamils suddenly found that they were, in political economy terms, a trapped nation. Politically, they had been overwhelmed by the concept of a unitary state. Economically, they were confronted by a bigger colonial monster, which threatened to destroy the minimal economic stakes they had nurtured without much capital or state support. 194

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It took the Tamils to the next phase of their economic history, where they indulged in a series of economic adjustments, while politically still trying to make the accommodative stance work. But adjustments are, by their own nature, always short-term measures, without the offer of any long-run solutions. In macroeconomic dictum, the shortrun fluctuation in the Tamilian economy had to be converted into long-run equilibrium. The lifespan of the short run ran into further crisis, when Sinhala governments counter-attacked it with deliberate acts of destabilization. Moreover, aggressive government action, with its colonial ferocity, targeted the potential Tamilian land and water resources lying hitherto unutilized/underutilized for want of proper infra-structural facilities. The emerging reality for the Tamils had been that any form of economic viability could only be sustained with compatible political sovereignty. The urgent economic need for them is to reverse the present outward flow of human capital and channelize it into their own resource base. Such absorption leading to production and growth cannot take place unless the existing resources are converted into suitable forms of physical capital, facilitating a marriage with the human capital, using modern technology. Large-scale investment is, therefore, necessary with clear macroeconomic policy guidelines. The Tamilian economy has reached a stage, where political power not only to formulate, but also to properly execute development plans, needs to be urgently acquired. Piecemeal efforts with short-term objectives or adjustments would not be sufficient to salvage the economy. It is with this in mind, that the latest Tamilian proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) has been drafted.13 The proposals should, in fact, be read with this proclivity for Tamilian economic history in mind. The crux of the proposals lies between clauses 11 and 21, which implicitly expose the shortcomings suffered by the Tamilian economy and underline the need for rectification through an acquisition of political sovereignty. If a lesson is to be learnt from the economic history of the Tamils (especially in the current context of a political stalemate), it is that for any settlement to be lasting it should firmly bind the Tamils within a political structure of their own, taking care of the entire spectrum of their socio-economic conduct. 195

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NOTES 1. The Jaffna Kingdom had, by the 14th century, been a vibrant reality. Ibn Batuta observes, for example, that during his visit to the island in 1344, it was a major trading kingdom with extensive overseas contacts. For particulars of the Jaffna Kingdom, please see Pathmanathan (1978). 2. One of the reasons could, perhaps, be that an important component of contributions on the ethnic conflict, including the growth of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka, have actually come from foreign scholars. For them, the political turmoil animated by recent or ongoing events provided a rich field to test their acumen in political science. Yet, they paid very little or no attention at all on the socioeconomic milieu, which conditioned the proceedings. 3. While referring to this speech, Wilson mentioned it as ‘a statement of his (Ponnambalm’s) defence of minority rights in the context of self-aggrandizing Sinhala communalism’ (emphases added) (Wilson 1994: 6). 4. In 1936, for example, S. Ponniah, a major in the Ceylon Defence Force, and a notary of Vadamaradchi named Vallipuranathan sent petitions to Britain requesting a separate state for the Tamils (Wilson 1994). 5. Despite the turbulent state of the economy after the dawn of colonialism, a peaceful civilian administration was functioning with the preservation of law and order. It had, therefore, a favourable effect on population growth during the 17th and 18th centuries. Natural growth had occasionally been augmented by migration from politically unsettled districts of South India. Thus, there was (with some traditional villages of Valikamam and Vadamarachchi recording populations of over 5,000) immense pressure on land. 6. One cannot resist the temptation to mention here that, Tamilian protests apart, even the Sinhalese could have come forward to resist against the blanket provisions of the Colebrooke–Cameron Reforms. Had they done so and directed, on hindsight, a part of the zeal and enthusiasm shown in later years towards the preservation and promotion of a Sinhala Buddhist identity, they would have served Sinhala Buddhism better. It would have, no doubt, made the political and economic histories of both the nations too different and separate. 7. Although a proper count has not so far been done, it is my contention that more foreign scholars have written on Tamil issues than the contributions made by those of indigenous origin. All these have, by and large, the common inherent weakness. 8. Along with a Ceylon Tamil representative, others from the Sinhalese, Burgher and local European communities were appointed to the Legislative Council set up under the Colebrooke Reforms. The Ceylon Tamil member had, until 1889, the additional responsibility of serving the Muslim community interests too. 9. It is interesting to note that these efforts in themselves led to an economic spin-off and created, especially among the Tamils themselves, a new profession in teaching Sinhalese as a second language. 10. It would be pertinent to mention here that, on hindsight, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam proved to be an outstanding leader who had a proper insight and vision of the

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Nationalism in the Era of Neo-liberalism The Changing Global Parameters of Self-determination and Statehood Rajesh Venugopal ™ INTRODUCTION

T

he period following the cease-fire of February 2002 has placed Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism at its most important historical juncture since the 1987–1990 period. The December 2002 ‘Oslo Declaration’, and the October 2003 ISGA proposals represent formulations that have finally superseded the four-point Thimpu demands of July 1985 and represent a significant evolution in the politics of Tamil nationalism. Indeed, nationalism, national identity and even nations, despite their own attempts to argue the contrary, are not fixed, immutable or ancient entities, but are creatures of relatively modern history that are constantly being transformed in relation to the changing material and ideological circumstances in which they dwell. Yet, this paper argues the contrary, suggesting that Tamil nationalism remains deeply influenced by its ‘historical crib’, that is, by the specific socio-cultural, economic and ideo-political milieu in which it came into being. 198

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Despite the far-reaching changes that have since transpired both internally and externally, Tamil nationalism carries to the present day, the imprint of the period of its gestation and birth from the mid1950s to the late-1970s in certain important ways. In contrast, the external context to the conflict has been the subject of a much more rapid pace of change. While Sri Lanka was embroiled in civil war, the cold war came to an end, the USSR was dissolved, and neo-liberal economic reforms took hold across a world that was drawn inexorably into the juggernaut of economic and cultural globalization. In effect, the impact of these changes has shifted the ground beneath its feet, and changed the context in which Tamil nationalism and its politicomilitary protagonists have operated. This paper briefly explores how changing global circumstances have affected the nature of statehood and self-determination, and suggests how it implicitly affects Tamil nationalism. Students of nationalism often take for granted the fact that their subject matter pertains essentially to the sphere of culture, politics and history. Certainly, these are very important factors, but to rely on them alone would be to fall into the trap of trying to understand nationalism through the discursive categories it generates itself. In the realm of political economy, Tom Nairn has written that the origins of nationalism are to be found in uneven capitalist development (Nairn 1977). The elite instrumentalist interpretation, evident for example in the work of Paul Brass, stresses the role of domestic elites in creating and manipulating nationalist, religious or sectarian identities for their own sectional aims (Brass 1985). With respect to Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, Amita Shastri looks at how the separatist demand was advanced in the 1970s only when it appeared that the north and east had developed into a viable stand-alone economy (Shastri 1990). V. Nithiyanandan traces the economic origins of nationalist sentiment, and discusses the class basis of Tamil nationalism (Nithiyanandam 1987). This paper instead briefly explores what may be termed the global political economy of nationalism, relating to neo-liberalism, globalization and the post-cold war period. It does not arrive at any definitive conclusions, but simply raises a question about what appears to be an emerging contradiction between the global and the local. Nationalism, as a category of political ideology, can of course 199

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be understood only in relation to politics, political power and the state. As Ernest Gellner describes, ‘Nationalism is primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and the national should be congruent’ (Gellner 1983). It serves as the ideological scaffolding for a specific state-building or state-transforming project, and many states have been distinctly constituted and shaped through the ideopolitical orientation and socio-economic character of the nationalist movements that give rise to them.

STATEHOOD, INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL Statehood implies an internally constitutive political relationship with definite socio-cultural, economic and political functions. It serves to secure the rights of, and demand obligations from its citizens, regulate economic activity and provide a framework of law and order that is upheld through controlling the means for social domination. It has been viewed as either an instrument of class domination reflecting underlying social relations of production, or as an independent agency that stands above society to adjudicate between rival interest groups. But outside of these largely internal relationships and functions, statehood also has an external dimension. States are legal entities that operate in the international state system, drawing material sustenance and juridical validity as much from international acceptance and recognition as from internal support, legitimacy or territorial control. They stand between the formal sectors of the global and the domestic economies to control trade, and regulate the flow and operation of labour and capital. States are structurally constrained by global political and economic institutions that substantially determine the discretionary bounds of what statehood will practically mean, and what the acceptable and advisable bounds of state intervention into society are. Finally, states are morally and behaviourally constrained by global normative criteria for membership in the state system. One strand of the recent literature that has explored the global construction of statehood has applied sociological institutionalism to international relations theory (Meyer et al. 1997) and has demonstrated for example, that many otherwise anomalous features of contemporary statehood can be understood as a result of their origins in global cultural forces rather than through domestic endogenous evolution. The coding of social and political rights within national 200

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constitutions, for example, that of womens’ suffrage, has been found to relate less to domestic social realities or the strength of the women’s movement in individual countries, but more to the spread of universal suffrage as a norm within global political culture (Boli 1987). A large number of present-day sovereign states were socialized within international society, the global economy and international normative standards for membership in the state system through the experience of colonialism or the system of trusteeship under the League, and later, the United Nations. In the vast majority of formal decolonizations, starting with India in 1947, what passed for selfdetermination involved remarkably little institutional change and large numbers of accelerated induction of trained natives to higher levels of the colonial government, civil administration, judiciary and military. Indeed, the global construction of statehood has taken on an entirely literal meaning in the post-cold war period when the collapse or failure of state institutions in a number of countries has resulted in the physical redesign and reconstruction of entire state entities by international organizations. In sum then, a substantial part of the state-constructing project, inherent in the nationalist imagination, is pre-defined and structurally delimited by factors far outside its control. The crux of the problematic posed in this paper follows thus: Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism as a state-building project contains an implicit and enduring conception of a state that is grounded in the period of its formation in the 1970s. But developments at a global level have significantly altered the nature of statehood in the period since then. Its power has been reconfigured and transformed under the influence of neo-liberal political economy and the expanding institutions of global liberal governance. Effectively, the nationalist normative conception of a ‘moral state’ is at odds with the available space and scope of statehood permitted by the outside world.

NATIONALISM AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF A ‘MORAL STATE’ Tamil nationalism arose in the period of the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, within the context of a massive expansion of the social democratic state. It came into being in a context in which substantial state intervention and regulation of the economy was widely viewed as both an economic necessity and a moral imperative. Indeed, despite 201

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the fact that the TULF’s leadership in the mid to late-1970s was economically conservative and broadly in agreement with the promarket reforms of the UNP government, the language and rhetoric of popular Tamil nationalism that they created and propagated was nevertheless outspokenly anti-market and socialist in content. Tamil nationalism casts as its primary ‘other’ neither the Sinhalese people nor its counterpart in Sinhala Buddhist nationalism as such, but rather the Sri Lankan state. This is very apparent in the TULF’s famous 1977 election manifesto, which can reasonably be assumed to be a representative and authoritative expression of Tamil nationalism at that stage. The manifesto is noteworthy for its heavy reference to (a) the constitution; (b) the question of sovereignty going back to Portuguese times; (c) citizenship laws and statelessness; (d) stateorganized colonization schemes in the dry zone; (e) official linguistic discrimination; (f) the religious discrimination inherent in the constitution; (g) state-sponsored discrimination in education; (h) statesponsored discrimination in employment; (i) state discrimination in regional economic development; and (j) state-sponsored violence. In every one of these fields, the ‘other’—the primary source of hostile agency identified in the manifesto is clearly the state, or more precisely, the Sinhala-dominated social-democratic state, as it evolved in the post-colonial period. Yet, given the milieu in which Tamil nationalism arose, the alternative that it posed was not for a minimalist neo-liberal Sri Lankan state. Rather, it was for an equally maximalist, but Tamil-dominated social-democratic state, that would not only protect Tamil linguistic and cultural rights and provide physical security for Tamils, but would also bring about state-sponsored employment for Tamil youth and state-sponsored industrialization to develop the Tamil areas, economically. This and more is evident for the economic side of that manifesto, whose article 7 reads: 7. In Tamil Eelam which shall be a scientific socialist State (i) Exploitation of man by man will be prevented by law. (ii) Dignity of labour will be protected. (iii) While the private sector will be permitted within limits imposed by law, means of production and distribution will be state owned or subject to state control. (iv) Full protection will be afforded to tenant cultivators and residents on privately owned lands. 202

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(v)

Economic development of the Tamil state of Eelam will be on the basis of Socialist planning. (vi) A ceiling will be fixed on the wealth an individual or a family could accumulate. (TULF 1977)

The purpose of this lengthy quotation is not, as is sometimes done, intended to embarrass the contemporary protagonists of Tamil nationalism by recalling the fact that their original electoral mandate was arguably as much for socialism as separatism. But it is instead to highlight the kind of moral conceptualization of sate that it gained at a critical point in its formation, which remains important to this day. This enduring connection that nationalist ideologies and nationalist politics have to their formative period is not some peculiarity of Tamil nationalism but can similarly be found in Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. As Mick Moore (1983: 166) remarks: [T]he political-organisational role of the Buddhist institutions was to remain much as it had been in the late colonial period: a permanent opposition never satisfied with concessions won, with the potential to intensify the strength of popular hostility to the government of the day.

For Tamil nationalism, the vivid and expansive conceptualization of the state that it bears, both as the source of its problems and of its solutions, creates a potentially serious source of tension in the present neo-liberal era. The neo-liberal political economy visualizes the state in essence as an unproductive and extractive creature that distorts economic incentives and signals, stifling productive economic activity and promoting unproductive ‘rent-seeking’ such as corruption. As is well known, the transformations to the global economy engendered under the inspiration of neo-liberal economic reforms have led to an expanding cross-border globalized economy that is changing the meaning and relevance of the nation-state. In mainstream thinking, the economic functions of a state have changed from that of sheltering and insulating the national economy from the global economy to that of facilitating the orderly and advantageous integration of the former into the latter. Economic nationalism was once referred to as the protection of domestic markets and producers from rapacious outsiders. Now if anything, it refers more to competition between different countries vying to capture global markets and foreign investments. 203

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THE CHANGING GLOBAL NATURE OF THE STATE The Japanese business strategist, Kenichi Ohmae, describes how global economic changes since the late-1970s have brought about the ‘end of the nation state’, rendering it superfluous and even counter-productive. He writes, ‘the uncomfortable truth is that, in terms of the global economy, nation states have become little more than bit actors.’ They are, he declares, ‘increasingly a nostalgic fiction’ (Ohmae 1995: 8). Similarly, the economist and Clinton-era cabinet minister Robert Reich argues that as the world moves into a borderless economy, the notion of national products, national technologies and national corporations will become increasingly meaningless. The only thing that will remain rooted within national borders are the people who make up a nation. This shift has enormous political implications, according to Reich. It means that the traditional idea of national solidarity and purpose can no longer be defined. It also leads to fragmentation, Reich argues, as ‘those citizens best positioned to thrive in the world market are tempted to slip the bonds of national allegiance, and by so doing disengage themselves from their less favoured fellows’ (Reich 1992: 3). But many of these kinds of state transformations are arguably more relevant for more developed, high-income countries with mature social democratic states, where footloose multinational corporations and enmeshed global financial markets play an important role in greater global incorporation. In developing countries, and particularly those viewed as being in conflict situations, the most important global factor of contemporary relevance, shaping and re-shaping the state, is not directly or even primarily global capital, but the encroaching mechanisms of global governance—which may arguably be viewed as surrogates, or an advance guard of global capital. Nira Wickremasinghe’s work on civil society has described how the shift in aid donor emphasis towards governance, participatory methods and NGOs is in effect a way in which these forces are insinuating themselves as agents of socio-political change. She describes how ‘the timid and sometimes servile civil society of Sri Lanka is being used by transnational forces as a way of transforming more efficiently domestic politics and society’ (Wickramasinghe 2001: 170). Mark Duffield analyzes this same phenomenon on an international scale, and describes it as the extension of global liberal governance 204

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across the world, through the merge of development and security. He describes the transformation and expansion of the international development industry from a relatively narrow agenda, to support economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s, to an expansive and radical agenda to transform and rebuild entire societies in the 1990s, and to incorporate them tightly within a network of global governance institutions. One of the central repercussions of this trend has been the internationalization of public policy. Matters such as poverty, health, education or economic growth are, in terms of data analysis, goal-setting, evaluation, monitoring and even implementation, not just heavily donor-funded, but are being removed from the purview of the state to a centralized and internationally coordinated set of bodies (Duffield 2001: 34). Within these emerging complexes of global governance in developing countries, there is a special dispensation and strong crosscountry practitioner expertise that has been built up for conflict-ridden countries, particularly those where the authority of the state or the functioning of state institutions has been seriously compromised. International intervention into such cases is administered in the form of a calibrated infusion of military force, humanitarian aid, development assistance and post-conflict institution building by a diverse group of supra-state, state-level and sub-state level international forces. One of the most complete examples of such intervention in recent times was East Timor, which remained under UN control for almost three years (1999–2002) after the traumatic Indonesian withdrawal. During this period, the process of globalized post-conflict reconstruction reached its most comprehensive manifestation, going beyond peace-building and peace-making into a detailed programme of state-building. A grand ensemble of different UN agencies worked closely with the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank, bilateral donors and an army of foreign NGOs to take complete charge of the top-down construction of a brand new state and to also resurrect a brand new civil society. As a result, the new Republic of East Timor unveiled by Secretary General Kofi Annan on 20 May 2002 represented the very latest in state design, incorporating good governance, poverty-reduction, gender sensitivity, fiscal policy, macroeconomic management and participatory methods of development. East Timor has a state-ofthe-art state that plugs in seamlessly with existing structures of global 205

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governance, aid delivery mechanisms and external reporting with transparency requirements. To come back to the topic of nationalism, this level of international intervention was not unrelated to the politics and the ideo-political orientation and linkages that the East Timor independence movement came to adopt, particularly in the 1990s. For the most part, the innovation, expansion and sophistication of global governance institutions has occurred in response to the rising incidence of state collapse, state failure, civil conflict and what has come to be known as ‘complex political emergencies’ in the 1990s. As Duffield notes: The current concern of global governance is to establish a liberal peace on its troubled borders: to resolve conflicts, reconstruct societies and to establish functioning market economies as a way to avoid future wars. (Duffield 2001: 50)

Herein lies the heart of the problem. The liberal market economies that global governance seeks to establish have not necessarily proven to be conducive to social stability. In the case of Sri Lanka, there is the additional aggravation that the ideology of economic neo-liberalism is dissonant with the founding ideals of Tamil nationalism, and may well be irrelevant or counter-productive given the fragile socioeconomic realities of the north-east. Additionally, unlike other postconflict situations where the state has either collapsed or become severely weakened, the very opposite has happened in the war-torn regions of Sri Lanka, in a process reminiscent of Charles Tilly’s description of early modern Europe—that is, that state-making was a corollary of war-making (Tilly 1985). The LTTE’s prosecution of war and territorial control has made it an enthusiastic state-maker that has built up a vast, multi-faceted, bureaucratically layered and centrally controlled apparatus that is almost definitely the largest single employer in the areas of its control.

THE GLOBAL LOCAL DIALECTIC This paper has sought to make two observations: (a) that Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism carries an implicit conception of the state that draws heavily on the period of its gestation and birth in the 1950s–1970s; 206

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(b) that global circumstances have radically changed the nature of statehood to one that is not just market friendly in its orientation, but that shares power with a constellation of other bodies, foreign and domestic, and have usurped many common functions of statehood. For historical reasons, Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism has been very state-focused, having arisen in response to a heavily state-centred form of discrimination and violence. But under the new aegis of global governance institutions, that have gained a variety of entry points to insinuate and assert their presence and power, the nature of statehood is being reconstructed worldwide. Neo-liberal economic reforms have limited the form and scope of the state, largely in terms of economic policy. But global governance institutions (that are broadly consonant with neo-liberalism) are redefining the structural limits of what statehood will mean in a variety of other dimensions. The dissonance between these two different versions of statehood has not yet been fully played out and is still in the early stages of its interaction. But it already forms a substantial part of the subtext behind the ongoing relationship between the LTTE and its counterparts, both domestic and international. The heavy intermediation of foreign peace monitors, international aid agencies and international NGOs, in the peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction process has already effectively brought global governance institutions into position at the doorstep of Tamil nationalism. Mindful of this, the LTTE has been extremely careful in its dealings with foreign NGOs and aid agencies and has sought—where possible— to limit and carefully control their activity. At the same time, the LTTE has also launched an intense international campaign to repair its outside image, and one of its most important political objectives since the 2002 cease-fire has been to gain greater recognition and acceptance from foreign governments. Clearly there is a trade-off between the two objectives, as greater international acceptance will necessarily invite greater international intrusion of one kind or another, particularly if it involves the disbursement of aid.

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Appendix Jaffna Youth Radicalism The 1920s and 1930s Santasilan Kadirgamar

ORIGINS The first stirrings of youth radicalism in Jaffna occurred in the 1920s and 1930s. The youth were responding to the Indian struggle for independence, which under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi had a profound impact on several Asian countries. The Students’ Congress, Jaffna, later renamed the Jaffna Youth Congress came into existence in this period. This was to have a lasting impact on Jaffna society for decades. This movement led to a tradition in Tamil politics which I consider the other vital dimension in Tamil politics. In 1922, some young men, teachers and students in the matriculation classes at Jaffna College formed themselves into the Servants of Lanka Society. Among the members were Handy Perinbanayagam, Sabapathy Kulandran, S.R. Kanaganayagam, C. Subramaniam, A.M. Brodie, K.E. Mathiaparanam, S. Durai Raja Singam and Bonney Kanagathungam. It was more of a study group in which papers were read and discussions followed, on the country’s problems and the remedies for its ills. It was an attempt to give thought to the problems and aspirations that were becoming articulate amongst the youth in Ceylon. From Jaffna College and its debating societies and the Servants of Lanka Society, Handy went to the University College in Colombo and took up 208

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residence in the Union Hostel. ‘While we were at the Union Hostel,’ he later reminisced, ‘our Warden Mr. C. Suntheralingam’s dictum was that within the four walls of the hostel we could talk the most rabid treason with impunity. But outside we shall be called upon to pay the penalty of the law. Something similar was the atmosphere at Jaffna College also in the Bicknell days’ (Kadirgamar, 1980). C. Suntheralingam was later to become guide, friend and philosopher to the Congress, behind the scenes. During holidays and weekends, Handy would meet like-minded friends. These included in addition to the names noted earlier, S. Nadesan, S.U. Somasegaram, Swami Vipulananda, M. Balasundaram, P. Nagalingam, A.E. Tamber, S. Subramaniam, V. Thillainathan, S. Rajanayagam, K. Navaratnam, V. Muthucumaru, J.C. Amerasingham, S.S. Sivapragasam, J.W.A. Kadirgamar, A.M.K. Cumaraswamy, V.K. Nathan, S.J. Gunasegaram, K. Nesiah, Sam Sabapathy, S.C. Chithamparanathan and several others. Some of them were senior students in the colleges in Jaffna. The climate seemed to be conducive for the inauguration of a movement primarily of young people. An exploratory meeting was held at the then Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Jaffna on 1 November 1924. About 30 young people were present. Among them were teachers, lawyers and students in the upper levels of colleges in Jaffna. These included several aforementioned names. Balasundram, university scholar in mathematics, due shortly to leave for Cambridge, and S. Durai Raja Singam were elected joint secretaries. After a preliminary exchange of views it was unanimously resolved to inaugurate an organization to be called Students’ Congress, Jaffna. Handy later emphasized that they decided to call it Students’ Congress, Jaffna rather than Jaffna Students’ Congress, because they did not wish to give the new organization a parochial flavour. In 1931, though the name was changed to the Youth Congress, Jaffna, it was better known as the Jaffna Youth Congress. Both names, Students’ Congress and Jaffna Youth Congress are used in the following.

THE IMPACT OF GANDHIAN NATIONALISM Nationalism in Asia in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century was primarily anti-imperialist. In fact this phase stretched into the second half of the 20th century, as seen in the Vietnamese struggle for independence and unification. Even the Peoples’ Republic of China had to wait until the early 1970s to gain international legitimacy and take its rightful place in the UN. In Africa, it was only in 1990 with the release of Nelson Mandela 209

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and the end of apartheid, that the anti-imperial phase came to an end. In the Middle-East the struggle continues. The word militant is often associated with armed struggles. The key word is struggle and militancy need not necessarily be associated with the use of arms. There is a certain spirituality associated with struggle. Gandhi demonstrated that militancy could be non-violent. The Maoist dictum that ‘power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ without doubt has influenced several militant struggles in the second half of the 20th century. With all its mighty arsenals of nuclear weapons and high-tech air and sea-borne weapons the United States of America is finding it extremely difficult to impose its will on the rest of the world. Much of the opposition to attempts at world hegemony by the USA is expressed in worldwide non-violent demonstrations and the growing anti-war movement in the USA and UK itself. The Jaffna Youth Congress was committed to non-violent militancy. This was aptly demonstrated in the successful boycott of the 1931 election in Jaffna. This was due to the tremendous impact the Gandhian movement had on these youth. Gandhi had arrived in India from South Africa where he had evolved the concept of Satyagraha and non-violence in 1915. The Montague–Chelmsford reforms (1918) had held forth the prospects of a gradual progress towards self-government. But in reality, imperialism revealed its iron hand in promulgating the Rowlatt Acts, followed by the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, in Amritsar—which in turn strengthened the forces of Indian nationalism. The masses were drawn into politics and the Indian struggle for freedom entered its militant phase. Students in India began to play an important role in the struggle. In considering Tamil or Sinhalese nationalism (both fed the chauvinism/ extremism among their antagonists) we must not forget the global dimensions of nationalism and the struggle for self-determination vis-à-vis the one time colonizing powers. The primary contradiction continues. It is between the countries of the third world and the G8 countries, the USA, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia—all, with the exception of Canada and Russia, were colonizing powers. Russia through the Communist Party had exercised control over its neighbours. The other colonial powers were Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium. The UK, the classic imperial power of the 19th century, has not yet fully resolved its relations with a segment of the Irish people that it dominated for centuries in Northern Island. The Indian nationalist movement itself had been influenced by other events in Asia and Europe. In the Russo-Japanese War of 1903–1904, for the first time after 400 years of European aggression and expansion an Asian power defeated a European power. Other noteworthy events that had a global and regional impact were the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and selfdetermination that came to the forefront with the end of the First World 210

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War, which the distinguished Indian historian K.M. Panikkar labelled the European Civil War. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire opened the doors for a wave of nationalist aspirations in the Balkans. All these had a great impact on the Indian nationalist movement. Parallel to the stirrings in India and also influenced by the rapid growth of nationalism in India was the rise of the Kuo Min Tang founded by Sun Yat Sen in China, carried forward and further radicalized by MarxismLeninism and the rise of the Communist Party under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai. The leaders that emerged in Asia in the second quarter of the 20th century included Aung San in Burma, Sukarno in Indonesia and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. The nationalism of the Jaffna Youth of the 1920s to the 1930s has to be seen in this global context. The men of that generation in the evening of their lives took pride in the stand that they had taken. To them in the words of the poet ‘bliss it was in that dawn to be alive’. The turbulent happenings in India filtered into Jaffna through the leading English language newspapers from India. The educated Jaffna youth of that day read, discussed and were deeply influenced by what was happening in India. The very proximity to India and ties of language, religion and culture between the people of Jaffna and India, especially South India, make the bonds between the two peoples strong, and travel across the Palk Strait for variety of reasons—pilgrimage, education, employment and conferences (such as that of the Student Christian Movement and Young Mens’ Christian Association)—exposed Jaffna youth to the rapidly growing Indian nationalist movement and the freedom struggle. The members of the Jaffna Youth Congress were not elitist, certainly not in economic and class terms. There were no large landholdings worthy of mention in Jaffna. The peninsula’s economy has been referred to as a postal or money order economy depending on remittances from Colombo, Malaya (Malaysia) and Singapore. Education in Jaffna was not confined to the economically advantaged. Those who went up the educational ladder came from families that thrived on these remittances, or the fruits of their vegetable gardens and or small plots of paddy fields often leading a hand-tomouth existence. In the first two decades of the 20th century boys went to school in verti, without a shirt and barefoot. They walked all the way from Chavakachcheri, Manipay or Karainagar to Jaffna town or Vaddukoddai. They wore a coat without a shirt when they reached the higher forms. As late as the 1940s and 1950s, several students were attending school barefooted in verti and shirt—some of them later in life becoming top professionals in medicine, engineering and education and reaching the position of high dignitaries in the church. The bullock cart was a popular means of transportation for the girls while the boys walked or cycled to school. Some, who later became wealthy professionals, had to get up at 4.30 in the morning, irrigate their vegetable 211

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gardens drawing water from the wells using the time-honoured ‘thula’ (thula mithithal) that dotted the familiar landscape of Jaffna in the pre-kerosene and electric pump age. Education was the very ethos of life in Jaffna. Some have referred to it as Jaffna’s main industry. The school on par with temple and church was the centre and heart of the social life of the community. Therefore, it was not surprising that the origins of the Students’ Congress took place in the leading colleges of Jaffna, especially at Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai. The content of the education received in the 1920s especially in the humanities was far superior to what we have had in the last four decades. The quality and breadth of education together with the liberal tradition that prevailed at Jaffna College under Principal John Bicknell (1910–1935) was significant. The products of Jaffna schools, even those who had come under strong missionary influence and converted to Christianity, were not culturally divorced from the people of the peninsula, in contrast to the English-educated elite that emerged in the western province, and in Colombo in particular. The very ‘Indianness’ of the Gandhian movement struck responsive chords amongst the English educated in Jaffna both young and old and made it possible for the youth of Jaffna to respond to the Gandhian movement in the way that they did.

PROGRAMME AND PARTICIPANTS The JYC from its inception was motivated by the desire of youth to make an impact on society. Politics, social life, education and cultural activities had been dominated by the older generation. Well read in English and Tamil, these youth were convinced that they had a contribution to make. Jaffna had had a long history in education. The developments in India over a century had an impact on Jaffna. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, subsequent movements, and in particular the Ramakrishna Mission and its eloquent representative Swami Vivekananda had established a revivalist tradition. Politically Tilak and Gokhale paved the way for the freedom movement. By the 1920s, the leadership had passed on to Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to name just three of the most prominent among a galaxy of leaders both men and women that the Indian national movement threw to the forefront. In fact the Indian National Congress itself, when it was founded in 1885, was perceived primarily as a cultural and social reform movement. But the objective conditions that were developing in relation to British imperialism and the slow pace at which political reforms were being introduced expedited the growth of a nationalist movement that became radical. 212

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In Ceylon a microscopic minority consisting of the English-educated class dominated politics in the whole country. When Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was elected the first Ceylonese member of the Legislative Council in 1910, the electorate consisted of just about 4,000 voters island-wide. They had to be English educated. This class resisted the widening of the franchise as demonstrated by the evidence led before the Donoughmore Commission. The youth of Jaffna, though not in a state of rebellion or confrontation against these elders, were projecting a position in which they were to identify the more progressive members of this class. The youth were not trying to lead. But they were trying to work together with those who struck a responsive chord among them in the task of bringing about social and cultural reforms. It was a matter of time when the ensuing situation pushed them to adopt a radical position in politics. The first session of the Students’ Congress was held at the Ridgeway Hall, Jaffna (situated where the later Town Hall stood) on 29–31 December 1924. Several well-known educationists participated. Handy Perinbanayagam was the chief organizer. Several young men among who were M. Balasundram and S. Durai Raja Singam assisted him. A large number of students estimated at about 300 together with recent graduates and undergraduates attended the inaugural sessions. Seating was in ‘national’ style, on carpets, and all present were in ‘national costume’. The Students’ Congress from its very inception broke new ground in the political and public life of Jaffna and for that matter in the whole of Ceylon by giving the national language a place of honour. It became the first organization in Jaffna and perhaps the whole of Ceylon where the Englisheducated classes used one of the national languages together with the English language to conduct the proceedings of the organization. The resolution forming the Students’ Congress was moved by M. Balasundram and was seconded by S. Nadesan of the University College and was passed unanimously. It read as follows: ‘The students assembled in this hall do hereby resolve that a Congress be formed for the purpose of quickening national impulse and for directing the energy of the youth of this country in the path of sincere, selfless national service and that it shall be named the “Students’ Congress”.’ One of the young men present made a stirring speech in which he referred to the great national awakening that was taking place. He called upon those present to alleviate the sufferings of the starving people, the unemployed and oppressed women. The remedy for their present deplorable state, he stressed, lay not in their sending of deputations to England to plead for reforms or fighting for reserved seats in the Legislative Council but that it depended upon their sincere desire to serve their motherland. J.V. Chelliah deplored the existence of communal jealousy between different communities in the island and appealed to them to make national unity 213

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one of their main planks of activity. He referred to the curse of untouchability and the evil effects of the dowry system and called on the youth to translate these ideals into practical action. He emphasized the role of the youth in eradicating the social evils prevalent in the country. On the third day, V. Muthucumaru and S.J. Gunasegaram led a discussion on ‘Mass Education’. V. Muthucumaru in his address emphasized personal contact with the people and called on the youth to ‘go among the people and converse with them freely on subjects of social and national interest. Go in the dress of the people lest they fail to recognize you as one of their own. Speak with them in their own language, otherwise they will not listen to you’. The primary task he set before the youth was to teach the people to rise above their feeling of inferiority and helplessness. ‘Why is Mahatma Gandhi so successful in his work? It is mainly because he lives like them, and talks to them in their own speech’ and he added that ‘if the educated have any influence at all on the people it is the baneful one of making them admire foreign dress, customs and manners’. He drew attention to how the newspapers had an undesirable effect in the manner in which they advertised foreign goods and medicines. ‘So long as you use foreign articles, we can neither become self-reliant, nor make the people forget that brooding sense of inferiority with which they are obsessed.’ In espousing Gandhian values of self-reliance and rejection of foreign goods he had sensed the mood of the youth responsible for the inauguration of the Students’ Congress. Many of them had already donned the national dress. Some of them had discarded the trousers for good and never again went back to the use of Western attire in their lifetime. Muthucumaru’s speech therefore struck a responsive chord among the youth present. In his address he did make references without elaborating on them, to the forces of capitalism and the enslavement and exploitation of the working classes, the barriers of social conventions and the oppressive nature of political power. He underlined the need to educate the masses on questions concerning the welfare of the people such as old-age pensions, the housing problem, national insurance and unemployment. He stressed the need to destroy caste prejudices against particular industries and forms of manual work. He appealed to the youth in these words, ‘It rests with you young men, to take up the great work of educating the people. Carry the light of knowledge to every door. Let the difference between you and the masses be one of character and culture rather than that of dress or speech or habit.’ Other speakers included T.N. Subbiah and Navaneetha Krishna Bharathi. In the final session of the congress, a series of resolutions moved by Handy Perinbanayagam were passed: That this Congress recognizing that it is possible for people of all religions to work for the welfare of the motherland and promote its interests with equal sincerity and earnestness resolves that as far as 214

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the Congress is concerned that no distinction be made between or preference shown to anyone of the various religious bodies in the country and that no sectarian issue be ever raised in any general or committee meetings held by the Congress or any propaganda carried by it, and that a clause to this effect be invested in the Constitution That a committee be appointed to organize sub-organisations affiliated to the Congress, wherever a number of students can be made to form themselves into such sub-organisations. That this Congress is of opinion that the caste differences existing at present in the country are an obstacle to the progress of the nation and resolves that the members of the Congress strive as far as possible to remove the curse of untouchability from our midst. That the members of the Congress bind themselves by a pledge to devote at least three hours in the week to the study of and cultivation of the national literature. That a prize, medal or some other form of inducement be offered by the Congress to anyone who does some original work for the revival of national literature, art or music. That a committee of five members be appointed by the executive committee to devise ways and means to develop the national literature in the following branches: (a) Science (b) Fiction (c) Social history and biography. That the Congress take early steps to see that the teaching of Tamil in schools in South Ceylon and Sinhala in schools in North Ceylon be introduced. That the executive committee of this Congress be asked to take such steps as to make the sessions of the Congress to be held in April 1925 representative of all races (principally Sinhalese and Tamils) creeds and interests. That a publication committee of three be formed to print and publish leaflets in order to explain to the masses the objects of the Congress movement and to educate them in habits of temperance and cooperation. That the Congress resolves that the members as far as possible patronize local trade and industries, and in particular that they should eschew foreign soap, scents, toilet powder, liquor and cigarettes. It is evident from the foregoing resolution that the Students’ Congress from its very inception adopted a radical line on social reforms and set before its members a programme for national resurgence. It is worthy of note that nowhere in these resolutions is there any indication that they were concerned with a purely Tamil revival. One the contrary, the word ‘national’ is repeatedly 215

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used keeping in mind an all-island perspective. The hope was that the Students’ Congress would grow into an All-Ceylon Students Congress. It happened that the Students’ Congress being active in Jaffna among the Tamil people, the resolutions translated into practice amounted to a revival of the Tamil language and literature. The resolution that Sinhala be taught to Tamil students and that Tamil be taught to Sinhalese students indicates again their commitment to national unity. In the context of the communalism, mutual suspicion and animosity that was creating a widening gulf and gradually tearing apart the Sinhalese and Tamil political leaders of the time, the Students’ Congress set before itself the ideal of unity of all races and creeds. The first resolution excludes religious sectarianism. The 1920s marked the emergence of a period of Hindu–Christian rivalry in Jaffna that lasted for nearly nearly two decades. The columns of the Hindu Organ and the Morning Star testify to a growing spirit of animosity and rivalry especially over the opening of new schools and the patronage exercised over existing schools. The young men of Jaffna were determined not to succumb to the sectarianism of either the Hindus or the Christians. The Students’ Congress was acutely conscious of the divisive forces at work, and gave high priority to this problem. The Students’ Congress originated and derived its inspiration from the environs of Jaffna College, a leading Christian institution. Hence the Congress was at times labelled as under Christian influence. J.V. Chelliah, Vice-Principal of Jaffna College and a leading layman of the Jaffna Council of the South India United Church, had been elected president of the Congress. The leaders of the Congress were therefore anxious to dispel any doubts about the secular nature of the organization. Several well-known Hindu leaders did participate in the programme of the Congress. The resolutions at the first congress tend to give the impression that politics had been relegated to the background. There was indeed no resolution on self-government. This was to be expected. In India, the struggle for full self-government was beginning to take shape only in the 1920s. In Ceylon there was hardly any demand or voices raised in favour of self-government. At this time political thinking did not go beyond patchwork changes in the prevailing political structure like throwing open the upper echelons of the public service to Ceylonese, setting up of a university and increased representation in the Legislative Council. Even the suffrage was limited to the English-educated middle class. The aspirations and aims of these young men were profoundly influenced by the situation in India. But in India itself the Indian National Congress resolved in favour of full independence only in 1930.

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While there was a vague aspiration for self-government not clearly articulated at this time but which was to mature into the demand for full selfgovernment at the 1931 sessions of the Students’ Congress, the inaugural sessions concerned itself with the immediately realizable practical tasks of social reform and revival of the national languages. The radicalism of the Students’ Congress at this time lay in its attitude to caste. The very fact that students and youth of Jaffna had organized themselves into a Congress was itself a radical venture in those times. In conservative Jaffna, obedience and respect for elders was one of those unwritten laws that were strictly adhered to. In this rigid caste-oriented feudalistic society, the Students’ Congress was able to commit its members to the removal of ‘the curse of untouchability’. This indicated the radical course that the Congress had set before itself. It also bore evidence to the extent to which Gandhism had captivated the minds of the youth of Jaffna. The second annual sessions were held at the Vaithilingam Madam at Keerimalai from 27 April to 29 April 1925. P. de S. Kularatne delivered the presidential address. Other participants included T.P. Masilamany, A.M.K. Cumaraswamy and Swami Vipulananda who led the discussion in Tamil. It was reported that Kularatne kept the youth spellbound with his speech for more than an hour. He underlined the three aims of the Congress: (i) to revive national art, literature and music; (ii) to make Ceylon economically independent; and (iii) to train the young for national service in particular and to work for the realization of the ideal of a United Ceylonese Nation. These three aims had virtually become the creed of the Congress and the participants at these sessions had to subscribe to these aims. Kularatne was at this time held in high regard by the people of Jaffna because of his commitment to allisland nationalism. As the Hindu Organ puts it, he was welcome as the first England-returned Ceylonese to defy public opinion and prove in the teeth of opposition that it is not clothes that make the man but man that makes the clothes. In retrospect, the participation of Kularatne appears significant. In the post-independence period he became an ardent advocate of Sinhala Only. This was by no means a phenomenon confined to the Sinhalese. The same happened to some notable Tamils. It is worth remembering how onetime idealists succumbed to the forces of Sinhalese and Tamil nationalism/ communalism/chauvinism. The third annual sessions were held in Keerimalai at the Vaithilingam Madam, under the presidentship of Dr Isaac Thambiah in December 1926. S. Kulandran, later Bishop delivered the welcome address. Other participants included M.S. Eliathamby who spoke on ‘Ceylon a United Nation’. At the

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Tamil sessions on the second day Pundit K.C. Nathan presided. S. Natesapillai spoke on ‘New ways to Literature’. The fourth sessions of the Students’ Congress was held at the Vaithilingam Madam, Keerimalai in April 1928. Swami Vipulananda known for his religious zeal, scholarship and commitment to the cause of nationalism and educational development presided. He was a pioneer in the teaching and writing about the sciences in Tamil. Speakers included Sri S. Satyamurthy, Deputy Leader of the Swarajist Party in Madras, and noted Sinhalese personalities such as G.K.W. Perera who had been principal of the Nalanda Vidyalaya, and A.E. Goonesinha the labour leader. In additon, lectures were delivered by R. Sri Pathmanathan and A. Canagaratnam. As Chairman of the Reception Committee, S. Nadesan then a law student set the tone for the radical stance adopted at this congress session. George E. de Silva M.M.C. Kandy who had been invited to address the congress on ‘Ceylon’s Political Future’ was not able to be present but had sent a message, which was read out in which he had urged the creation of facilities for free and compulsory education all over the country and the elimination of religious and caste prejudices. The fifth annual sessions of the Students’ Congress assembled at Kankesanturai with a special pandal erected for the purpose in April 1929. The sessions were presided over by V. Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar, a pioneer of Tamil journalism in South India. In the early decades of the century E.V. Ramasamy Naikkar (Periyar), Dr Varadarajulu and Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar had made a major contribution towards the evolution of the language as an effective vehicle of modern political and social ideas. Among them Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar was known as ‘Tamil Thenral’ the gentle breeze that brought vigour to Tamil prose and influenced generations of Tamil writers. His two newspapers the Desapakthan (Patriot) and Nava Sakthi (New Strength) had a profound influence on the political education of the average citizen and made the Tamil language a powerful instrument for the dissemination of the Gandhian concept of Satyagraha and Ahimsa. Other participants included Revd Francis (Alagasunderam) Kingsbury, Tamil scholar and first lecturer in Tamil at the Ceylon University College. He addressed the gathering on ‘Some Social Problems in Jaffna’. T.B. Jayah had been invited to speak at the sessions but was not able to attend the congress. Peri Sundaram who spoke on ‘Youth and Politics’ took his place. E.W. Perera presided at this session. The sixth annual sessions of the Students’ Congress met at the Thirunelvely Hindu Training Institute in April 1930. The president-elect for the year was Mr S. Shivapathasundaram, Principal, Victoria College, the highly respected orthodox Hindu savant later known as Saiva Periyar. Among some influential but conservative Hindus there was a growing feeling that the Students’ Congress was primarily under Christian influence. Shivapathasundaram’s acceptance of the invitation and the support he gave to the JYC, had a great 218

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impact in strengthening the integrity of the JYC as a movement that rose above religious or linguistic sectarianism.

GANDHI’S VISIT The initial invitation to Gandhi to visit the country went from the Jaffna Youth Congress. When he finally arrived in November 1927, the functions in Colombo and the rest of the country, with the exception of Jaffna, were in the hands of several prominent persons in the public life of the country including members of the Legislative Council. Gandhi reserved Jaffna for his final days in Ceylon and arrived on the 26 November. ‘The Jaffna Station’, reported the Ceylon Independent ‘was the scene of a seething mass of humanity’. In his farewell speech in Colombo Gandhi had said, ‘Somehow or other I feel that I am going to a different place in going to Jaffna.’ And at his very first meeting in Jaffna he again said, ‘Having come to Jaffna I do not feel that I am in Ceylon, but I feel that I am in a bit of India. Neither your faces nor your language is foreign to me.’ In the peninsula, the Jaffna Youth Congress took charge of his programme, which in Desai’s words were ‘mercilessly heavy’. The organization that went into making the visit a spectacular success had enhanced the prestige of the JYC among the people. The public meeting on the esplanade was followed by an address to the Youth Congress. He later addressed the Indian community in Jaffna. He had meetings with the Hindus, the missionaries and Christians, and members of the Saiva Mangayar Kalagam. Most significant were his visits to the leading colleges in Jaffna. These included Jaffna Hindu College, Parameswara College, Manipay Hindu College, Victoria College, Ramanathan College, Jaffna Central College, St. John’s College, Uduvil Girls’ College, the Tellipallai Weaving School and Jaffna College. In addition to the places where these colleges were situated he made brief stops at Puttur, Atchuvely, Valvettiturai, Point Pedro, Chavakachcheri, Chunnakam, Moolai and Karainagar. The major speeches he made have been published in Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s comprehensive and valuable book titled Gandhi and Sri Lanka 1905-1947. In these speeches he touched on the issues relevant to the times such as caste, prohibition, revival of ancient culture, Buddhism and Hinduism, Hindu–Christian relations, the place of Jesus among the great teachers of the world, communalism, problems of aping the West and nationalism. Two themes received special attention, religious controversies and the starving millions in India. Differences had risen in Jaffna between Hindu and Christian leaders as a result of the ownership and management of schools. The patronage that went with teacher appointments and the influence that 219

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schools wielded in society, more than the quality of education or the needs of the poor, were beneath the growing animosities. Gandhi called ‘for the broadest toleration’ and added, ‘I do not expect the India of my dreams to develop one religion, that is, to be wholly Hindu, or wholly Christian or wholly Mussulman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.’ A largely attended meeting took place in the Vaideeswara Vidyalayam. Gandhi noted that the meeting had been confined to Hindus, which ‘I take to mean that I should speak to you as a Hindu.’ Claiming to be an orthodox Hindu he defined what it meant to be one and explained: ‘Orthodox Hinduism can mean an unceasing search after what Hinduism can possibly be…an incessant striving to live Hinduism up to the best of one’s lights.’ Reminding them of their duty in Jaffna and Ceylon and in particular to the predominant population that was Buddhist he said, ‘they are your co-religionists. They will, if they choose repudiate your claim, for they will say that Buddhism is not Hinduism and they will be partly right. Many Hindus,’ he said, ‘repudiate the claim of Buddhism to be part and parcel of Hinduism. On the contrary they delight in saying that they successfully drove Buddhism out of India. I tell you that they did nothing of the kind. Buddha himself was a Hindu and he endeavoured to reform Hinduism. He succeeded in his attempt to a very large extent. What Hinduism did at that time was to assimilate and absorb all that was good and best in the teaching of the Buddha. On that account I ventured to say that Hinduism became broadened,’ and he called upon them to live this broadened Hinduism. At Central College he said, ‘I have regarded Jesus of Nazareth as one amongst the mighty teachers that the world has had, and I say this in all humility,’ and added, ‘I do not regard any of the great religions of the world as false…A liberal education to all should include a reverent study of other faiths…culture of the mind must be subservient to the culture of the heart.’ At Uduvil Girls’ College he said, ‘Your parents do not send you to school to become dolls; on the contrary, you are expected to become Sisters of Mercy.’ He complimented the school saying, ‘that it is such a nice thing that here there is no distinction between high class and low class, touchable and untouchables.’ At Ramanathan College he appealed to the girls, ‘that if you could but establish a living link between those famishing millions and yourselves, there is some hope for you, for them and the world.’ He went on to say that it is good and elevating to begin the day with worship, ‘but it may easily amount to a beautiful ceremony and nothing else if worship is not translated day after day into some practical work.’ At Jaffna College concluding his tour of schools he spoke of khadi, truth and love and said that it had given him great pleasure to visit so many educational institutions in the peninsula and expressing thanks for the purse given to him by the students of Jaffna 220

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said, ‘your money comes with the stamp of innocence upon it, and goes to millions or some of the millions of men and women who are innocent, and deliberately perhaps, because they cannot be otherwise.’ In all his speeches he never failed to remind the youth of Jaffna about the plight of the starving millions in India under British imperial domination and on whose behalf he had called for financial donations, most of which came in small sums from the students and youth of Jaffna. In his farewell message to the Joint Secretaries of the Reception Committee in Jaffna he wrote, ‘The message that I can leave for Jaffna as for the whole of Ceylon is: “let it not be out of sight, ought of mind”. Let the descriptions I have given you of the starving millions haunt you and keep you in touch with them.’

COMMUNALISM The impact that Gandhi’s visit had was significant. It emboldened the youth to take on some of the controversial issues of the time. One of these was ‘Communalism’. From that time, right into the 1970s, the discourse on Sinhalese–Tamil relations was taken up under the title communalism. It certainly had a negative connotation. Apparently borrowed from the debate in India, to be a communalist was to go against all that nationalism stood for. A communalist was reactionary, creating disunity and was regarded as tacitly assisting the imperialists to prolong their rule in the country. Terms such as the ‘national question’ and subsequently ‘ethnic’ became common usage only in the late 1970s and 1980s. Communalism figured prominently in the fourth annual sessions of the Students’ Congress held at Keerimalai in April 1928. Over a thousand young people attended this session from both within and outside the peninsula. This was evidence of the popularity of the Congress among the youth. It had now become an organization that had to be taken into account in the public life of Jaffna. The Congress was beginning to play an important part in moulding public opinion and had to be taken seriously by the men of the older generation. An organization that had with such spectacular success brought Gandhi to Ceylon, and whose programme in Jaffna was practically in its hands could not but command respect. S. Nadesan, then a law student, set the tone for the radical stance adopted at this Congress session. He delivered the welcome speech. The greater part of his speech dealt with the evidence led before the Donoughmore Commission whose members had arrived in November 1927. The report of the Donoughmore Commission for constitutional reform was presented to the British Parliament in July 1928. The Students’ Congress later rejected the main recommendations of the commission. At this time, 221

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in April 1928, when the fourth annual sessions were being held Nadesan commented on the nature of the evidence that had been led before the commission. He characterized it as a sordid period in the history of this country when the sleeping dogs of reaction were being awakened from their slumber. He referred to how communities, creeds and castes were up in arms against one another and were proclaiming to the world not only their own selfish and parochial aims and desires but also the alleged unfitness of the country for selfgovernment. He said that every patriot must be ashamed of what happened. Respectable public men went before the Special Commission and said that their respective castes, creeds and communities would perish if their rights were not safeguarded by special representation in the Legislative Council. Nadesan ventured to make a scathing criticism of the older men whom he characterized as self-seekers who created a vicious atmosphere with ill-digested and ignorant schemes of reform. Councillors and would-be councillors in Nadesan’s view grew frantically religious and proclaimed that a few more seats in the council would help them to strengthen and propagate their respective religions. He asserted that, if age produced such irresponsibility, the sooner such leaders left the stage, the better and if such men of great intellect would not free themselves from the slave mentality brought about by such long subjection, the greater was the need to work for and achieve Home Rule. He referred to communal representation as a quack’s remedy, an evil that ought not to be recognized. He said that contrary to bringing the various communities any closer communal antipathy was growing and that there were now more divisions than ever before. In this respect the welcome address appeared to have anticipated the now well-known comments that the Donoughmore Report made in rejecting communal representation in this country: In surveying the situation in Ceylon we have come unhesitatingly to the conclusion that communal representation is, as it were, a canker on the body politic, eating deeper and deeper into the vital energies of the people, breeding self-interest, suspicion and animosity, poisoning the new growth of political consciousness and effectively preventing the development of a national or corporate spirit… There can be no hope of binding together the diverse elements of the population in a realization of their common kinship and an acknowledgement of common obligations to the country of which they are all citizens so long as the system of communal representation with all its disintegrating influences, remains a distinctive feature of the constitution. In the context of what he had said, Nadesan recalled the tour of Gandhiji and referred to it as having given a tremendous impetus to the aims and ideals 222

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for which the Congress stood and stressed that if there was any time when the country needed to hear such a man it was the present time. At such a time, said the speaker, the catholic message of Mahatma Gandhi was most opportune. Gandhiji’s words, full of authority and power, went far towards preventing a more shameful exhibition of narrow mindedness and lack of political insight. In attempting to meet the argument that the Sinhalese majority is likely to dominate and further their own position at the expense of the other races under conditions of self-government, Nadesan said that after long years of subjugation to foreign rule, the chances were that the majority community at the beginning of self-government would use power for narrow and selfish ends; but some years of experience in self-government would teach them that the strength of the nation requires that every community in the country needed to be developed to maximum efficiency for the state as a whole to have maximum power. He ventured to express the hope that then parochialism would cease and that people would think of the nation first. Self-government he said was the only remedy for their ills. The welcome address was followed by the presidential address by Swami Vipulananda. In a comprehensive speech, he stressed the all-important role of the Students’ Congress in moulding intelligent public opinion. He referred to the significance of Mahatma Gandhi’s visit and said that the saintly Indian leader had by his life shown the way of translating right thought into right action. He stressed Gandhiji’s message calling on all communities, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists who though professing different religions could join hands and work for a common cause. Swami Vipulananda gave first and foremost importance to education. Welcoming the plans for the setting up of a University of Ceylon, he said that the establishment of such a university would quicken national life. He expressed the hope that the oriental section of the future University of Ceylon should recognize the importance of Tamil studies. He advocated the inclusion of Indian history in the school curriculum. He looked forward to the university performing a vital role in training the future citizens of Ceylon in civic and political responsibility. The radicalism of the Swami found expression in his call for economic independence. Responsible government without economic progress, he said, would only be the shadow without the substance. The banking and commerce of the country was completely in the hands of outsiders. A large part of the country’s wealth was in the hands of outsiders, who had no permanent interest in the welfare of the country. The European exploiter, he described, was more often than not a bird of passage. He deplored the widely prevalent habit of waiting for the government to do ‘nation-building’ work and attributed this to the slave mentality resulting from age-long subjection to foreign rule. 223

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He called upon the youth to work for a change in outlook and said that the people should work out their own salvation. He drew attention to the appalling poverty and shocking illiteracy prevailing in the country. He indicated that 50 per cent of the school-going population was not attending school and that the facilities required were inadequate. Most of the taxes in the country were indirect taxes. Swami Vipulananda made pointed reference to the fact that food stuffs most of which had to be imported were taxed and the super rich and the abjectly poor were all compelled to pay the same tax. Both Nadesan and Swami Vipulananda had occasion to comment on the prevailing bitterness between Hindus and Christians over the management of schools. Nadesan said that the Hindus by virtue of their greater needs should get more grant-in-aid from the government than the Christians. He said it was the duty of the Christians to assist the Hindus to realize their legitimate aspirations and that the Hindu leaders should avoid scrupulously all suspicion of religious animosity. He had also deplored the manner in which the children of minority Tamils were discriminated against especially in Hindu schools. Swami Vipulananda questioned why there should be a duplication of schools in certain areas while there were immense areas in the country without any educational facilities and where Hindu or Christian enterprise could and should give its attention. He pointed out that in Colombo alone 10,000 students did not have educational facilities. He said that the Ceylon Tamil could do a large amount of useful educational work in the districts where the children of Tamil labourers were growing up in ignorance and were being trained to a life of serfdom and slave labour of their fathers. He stressed the role of the American and European missionaries in the sphere of positive knowledge. The wealthy nations of the West he said could send to the East missionaries who would devote their lives to the advancement of science. Their motto should be, ‘Education for education’s sake’ and they should forswear all endeavour at proselytizing. Their self-sacrificing labours would then find a readier appreciation and the present bitterness would cease. Swami Vipulananda appealed to the Hindus to be tolerant and said that even if the Christians persisted in propagating their religion by their stereotyped methods it was still open to the Hindus to be tolerant and patient and do what work they needed to do with less noise and greater friendliness to all. The Daily News in an editorial comment underlined this message of youth. It said, ‘any body who has followed the evidence given before the Special Commission will at once admit that if the future of the country is left at the mercy of its old men then Ceylon may as well sink into the ocean. Ceylonese of sixty years or so enter on their second childhood and commit acts of reckless irresponsibility.’ The attitude of the older men was characterized 224

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as ‘pitch-dark pessimism’ infused with an inability to trust themselves or their fellows and a reluctance to surrender positions they were unfit to hold. In such a situation the Daily News said the youth might look upon it as a challenge to fight for its proper place. Commending the Students’ Congress for attempting to do this it said that no place was better fitted for this grand demonstration of the spirit of youth than the north which has been particularly afflicted by the incubus of old age, where two or three superannuated ‘leaders’ issue their fiat and the rest bow in mute obedience to it. The Daily News pointed out that in the north there is a stronger tendency than in the rest of the island to look to India. Their study of the Indian problem shows the youth of Jaffna the deplorable consequences of distrust and jealousy between one community and another. And the young men of Jaffna have sufficient imagination to apply the moral to this country.’ Expressing total agreement with the stand taken by the Students’ Congress on self-government, the Daily News said, ‘it was a Tamil organization which put forward one of the most consistent cases for self-government before the Special Commission.’ Sri Satyamurthy who was the guest speaker from India spoke on ‘Communalism our great danger’. He was well known for his eloquence and his political acumen. Addressing the sessions on the second day, he dealt at length on nationalism, internationalism and communalism. He accused the Englishmen of growing frantically philosophic when other peoples’ affairs were concerned, pointing to the narrowness of nationalism and holding aloft internationalism to the Indians and Ceylonese. In the speaker’s view, internationalism was no doubt ideal. But one needed to be strong oneself in order to more effectively help others. Nationalism and the will to be masters in their own country, he said was an essential first step to internationalism. The danger of communalism, he said, was like poison to an individual. Communalism is narrow and utterly selfish and circumscribed and in its very nature was the contradiction of nationalism. The speaker categorized those who advocated the path of communalism both in India and Ceylon as people who were either the shameless tools of the people in power or belonged to the species who always looked eagerly for the approving nod from high places whence sprang honours and decorations. Speaking with deep conviction from his Indian experience, Sri Satyamurthy called on the youth of Jaffna to reject the path of communalism with its poisoning effect on politics and to learn from the experience of India. He traced in detail the slow introduction of communal representation into the Legislative Council of India by the British masters and remarked that they had succeeded in great measure in their game of dividing the people of India. In making a spirited plea for unity, he said with reference to Ceylon that whatever fear existed among the minority communities in Ceylon regarding 225

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domination by the majority, was misplaced. There was nothing in the history of this ancient land, said the speaker, to justify such fears. He posed the question quite relevant at that time as to why people should be ready to be ruled by an alien race and be afraid of rule by their brothers who were children of the same country. Satyamurthy emphasized in his address the long and intimate connection between India and Ceylon. He touched on the conditions of Indian labourers in Ceylon and said that the much despised Indian labourers had done one great thing and that was to remind Ceylonese, who were almost forgetful, of their age-long connection with Bharatha Matha the land of their origin where was their treasured religious heritage. Basking in this glory and success of Mahatma Gandhi’s visit and imbued with a spirit of self-confidence the fourth annual sessions of the Students’ Congress had ventured into the hitherto forbidden territory of attack on the existing political leadership without mentioning them by name, yet making the objects of their criticism quite clear. The Congress, was in effect, formulating a programme for self-government, patterned on that of the Indian national movement. The Congress was not yet action oriented. The emphasis was still on lectures, discussions and moulding of public opinion. The Ceylon Patriot and the Hindu Organ commended the youth. The latter commenting on the Congress sessions said, ‘Unity is the first condition of success in any movement. Sinhalese-Tamil unity which has been emphasised by more than one speaker in the Students’ Congress is the basic foundation of self-government in Ceylon.’ The paper chose to comment on an editorial in the London Times dated 22 March 1927 which characterized the Ceylon National Congress as an organization of extremists whose demand for full responsible government was opposed by all the minorities including the Tamils. The Hindu Organ affirmed that the London Times’ statement had no foundation whatsoever and that the Tamil community never lagged behind the Sinhalese in pressing for the grant of responsible government. It said that the All-Ceylon Tamil Conference, the Jaffna Association and the Jaffna Saiva Paripalana Sabai had unitedly put forward this demand. The Hindu Organ conceded that there were a few Tamils ‘who in season and out of season trot out the bogey of Sinhalese domination’. The Hindu Organ backed the Students’ Congress fully and expressed the hope that destined to live together in this common homeland in peace, goodwill and harmony the coming constitutional struggle afforded the Sinhalese and Tamils an excellent occasion to gather their forces together and put forward their demand for responsible government from a common platform. When the report of the Donoughmore Commission was published later in the year the Executive Committee met and passed the following resolutions: 226

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The Report of the Donoughmore Commission is not acceptable to the Congress as it (the Congress) has always held Ceylon fit for responsible government. The Congress welcomes the abolition of communal representation and the extension of franchise but disapproves. (a) The retention of communalism in the shape of nominated members and (b) the non-extension of the franchise to women between the ages of twenty-one and thirty. The Congress views with alarm the extension of the Governor’s reserve powers and the limitation of the control so far exercised by the legislature over the public service.

CASTE The sixth annual sessions of the Students’ Congress met at the Thirunelvely Hindu Training Institute in April 1930. Gandhi in practically all his speeches in Jaffna had given importance to the inequalities, the shameful and cruel oppression associated with the caste system. At this time in Jaffna, equal seating in schools had become a major issue. Eminent Hindus like Mr S. Shivapathasundram, the president-elect for the year, and others were deeply worried about the unrest and arson that was taking place because of attempts to introduce equal seating in schools. The lead that the Students’ Congress gave appealed to the more liberal minded of the Hindu leaders. On the other hand, the more conservative and reactionary elements seized the opportunity presented by the Thirunelvely sessions to show open hostility to the Students’ Congress. The adherents of the Veda Agama Sangam organized opposition to the Congress. They objected to the holding of the congress in the premises of the Saiva Training Institute, managed by the Hindu Board of Education. The opponents of equal seating had conducted a campaign in the village of Thirunelvely that if the Students’ Congress were allowed to continue the practice of admitting the minority Tamils to equal treatment as regards seating and dining, this would gradually affect the whole social order in Jaffna. Passions were roused and all roads leading to the venue of the congress sessions were picketed and blocked, all means of drawing water from the neighbouring wells was removed and the well belonging to the Training Institute was polluted. The president’s car itself was obstructed and stoned. The sessions however began after some delay with the singing of Gandhian songs. The chairman of the Reception Committee C. Subramaniam then delivered his welcome address. At this stage the crowd that had been organized 227

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to disrupt the sessions became restive. Hooting and howling gave way to incidents of stone throwing and acts of rowdyism. The members of the Congress kept cool and did not retaliate, but moved out of the hall. When some semblance of order had been restored the welcome address and the President’s address were gone through. It was then decided to conduct the rest of the proceedings at the Ridgeway Hall, Jaffna. This decision was taken to avoid any further damage to the buildings, which were the property of the Hindu Board. But in spite of the sessions being held elsewhere, attempts were made to set the school hall on fire on the night of April 23. The President Mr Shivapathasundram was unperturbed by these incidents. He reminded the members of the Students’ Congress of the baptismal fire they had gone through at an earlier session and said it was no wonder brimstone had followed. C. Subramaniam in his welcome address dealt with three major issues. They were cultural renaissance, untouchability and its related problem of equal seating in schools, and youth and politics. He called on the Congress to make every effort to give the mother tongue a prominent place in the school curriculum and for the use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. ‘Speaking as a teacher to fellow teachers’, the chairman of the reception committee said, ‘I would say that we are guilty of a heinous crime in willingly assisting a system that is day by day sapping the lifeblood of our students and stunting their intellectual growth and rendering them more and more effeminate by putting a severe strain on their nervous energy. If there is a tendency in our students to look down upon everything Eastern, the fault lies not in them but in the education we are giving them.’ A practical suggestion he made was that the mother tongue be made compulsory for all public examinations, and that the standard of question papers set for these examinations be raised appreciably high. The speaker dwelt at length on the issue of caste and Varnashrama Dharma and rejected the efforts made by some of the conservative Hindus to give a religious sanction to the caste system. As far as the Congress was concerned, the speaker claimed that the question was first and foremost one of social justice. He stressed that the removal of the disabilities suffered by the oppressed classes was an essential condition for political unity. The existing state of affairs made it necessary for one part of the nation to seek the protection of an alien bureaucracy against the oppressor while the alien bureaucracy kept the whole nation in bondage. Unless efforts were made to eradicate caste oppression, all talk about renaissance, freedom, spiritual rebirth and national heritage were futile. On behalf of the Students’ Congress, C. Subramaniam welcomed the steps taken by the government to enforce in public institutions equality of treatment irrespective of caste, creed or race. 228

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He added: If by politics is meant the game of adjustments and compromises, the play upon passions and prejudices, the art of having one eye upon the next elections and the other on the good graces of the government, then the Students’ Congress disdains to have anything to do with it. We are not at all interested in the number of seats the North gets in the New State Council; for in an assembly of over sixty members, it does not matter whether the North gets three seats or six seats. Mutual trust and goodwill alone will lead to national unity and this cannot be realised while we are scrambling for seats. The fight is a common fight against the bureaucracy that holds us in economic, cultural and political bondage and this fight cannot be sustained as long as one section of the country is coquetting with the government for its own ends. The caste issue occupied the central place in the 1930 sessions. The Students’ Congress had at its sessions held in April supported fully the measures taken to ensure equal seating and had rejected the view disseminated by older men that the forming of public opinion and creation of a suitable climate for the implementation of such social reforms must precede their legal enforcement. The Hindu Board yielded to pressure from conservative quarters and adopted a resolution similar to that adopted by managers of schools at a meeting held at Ramanathan College and presided over by Sir P. Ramanathan. The Hindu Board resolution was as follows: ‘ …that the managers’ liability under the code regulations that no differentiated treatment was received by any pupil in aided schools ceased on accommodation being found in the shape of seats for children of the depressed classes and that no manger should be penalised by loss of grant or otherwise should children of the depressed classes decline to occupy the seats provided for them.’ Together with an amendment this resolution was unanimously passed. The amendment read: ‘Unless the government guaranteed to make good the damage that may be caused to school property by incendiarism or by other means the Hindu Board should not enforce equal seating.’ It is clear from these resolutions that those responsible for education among whom were some of the leading citizens of Jaffna were hesitant if not reluctant to commit themselves fully to equal seating in schools. Sir P. Ramanathan had led a deputation to the Governor on the problem that had cropped up regarding inter-dining at the Kopay Training Institute, where again there was considerable opposition to teacher trainees from the minority Tamil communities sitting together with persons of other castes. At this 229

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meeting, the question of equal seating in schools was taken up for discussion. The Colonial Secretary finally ruled that equal seating had always been interpreted by the Director of Education to mean that seats of the same kind and height should be provided for all children but that it does not require that children of ‘depressed classes’ and other children should sit on the same bench. In the light of the above-mentioned facts regarding the situation existing in Jaffna in 1930 on the caste problem the stand taken by the Students’ Congress was very progressive. In spite of the opposition and attempts made to disrupt the annual sessions in 1930 the Congress passed among others the following resolutions: 1. This Congress re-affirms its emphatic protest against the social disabilities based on birth, occupation or wealth, existing in our country, and resolves to secure equal opportunities to all and to co-operate with other agencies engaged in the same work. 2. Further, this Congress appreciated the equitable rule introduced by the Department of Education requiring equal seating in all schools and makes an appeal to all our countrymen to do away with all such iniquitous distinctions obtaining in our schools. 3. This Congress holds that no nation can rise to the fullest measure of its destiny as long as women do not take an active part in the civic life of the country and appeals to the women of our land to come forward and share with men the responsibilities in the building up of the nation. 4. This Congress is of the opinion that the system of education obtaining in our schools is unsuited to the genius of our race and hold that the imparting of instruction through a foreign medium kills all originality in the pupil and imposes the double burden of mastering an alien tongue and the subject matter of study at one and the same time and resolves to work towards the introduction of the mother-tongue as the medium of instruction. Developments in India continued to have their impact on the students in Jaffna. It was the practice every year to celebrate the king’s birthday. In Jaffna the main event was an inter-school sports meet. The students of Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai, made a sudden decision not to participate in the sports meet and celebrations in June 1930. There must have been some official arm-twisting behind the scenes and Mr Bicknell, who, left to himself would not have punished those responsible for such an escapade, serious though it was, was finally compelled to take action. A.S. Kanagaratnam was transferred to a school at Atchuvelly and Bonney Kanagathungam when he went on study leave was not taken back. Both were livewires of the Students’ Congress and continued to be so. 230

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The Ceylon Patriot for all practical purposes became the organ of the Students’ Congress and continued to be so until it ceased publication in 1933. Many of the stalwarts of the Congress helped in editing the paper and contributed to the columns of this weekly. The year 1930 also saw the publication of the influential Tamil weekly the Eelakersari, which from its inception was a staunch supporter of the Students’ Congress. Eelakesaari Ponniah as the proprietor of this newspaper and the Thirumakal Press was popularly known in Jaffna, and was a close friend of Handy Perinbanayagam and other active members of the Students’ Congress. A staunch nationalist and patriot he chose as his model V. Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar’s ‘Nava Sakthi’. The Eelakesari gave wide publicity to the proceedings and policies of the Congress in the 1930s, and contributed towards the national awakening. The printing of Congress pamphlets, presidential addresses and later the publication entitled ‘Communalism or Nationalism’ were all undertaken by the Thirumakal Press. The Eelakesari gave wide publicity to the developments in India and became the primary medium through which the Tamil-reading public were able to follow the events in India. The Thirumakal Press publications became popular in the country. At a time when the poems and songs of freedom by the nationalist poet Subramania Bharathi were little known in India itself and less known in Ceylon ‘Eelakesari’ Ponniah in 1930, made available the entire works of Bharathi to the Tamil-reading public in Ceylon. In the 1940s, when the English weekly the ‘Kesari’ came into existence it was once again Mr Ponniah who undertook to publish the paper for Handy Perinbanayagam and others associated with its publications.

THE BOYCOTT 1931 was the year of the boycott. The Youth Congress has been best remembered and most misrepresented for its role in the boycott of elections to the First State Council. At the annual sessions in 1931, the name of the movement was changed from Students’ Congress, Jaffna, to Youth Congress, Jaffna. While drawing its support largely from students its leaders had long since ceased to be students at school or university. In September 1930, the executive committee of the Congress had adopted a resolution calling upon its members not to participate in the elections to the State Council. To the Youth Congress, 1931 provided an opportunity for action that was feasible. Several members of the Congress were of opinion that Jaffna should give the lead in rejecting the reforms. They counted on support from radical and progressive elements in the south. The Legislative Council that came into existence in 1924 was dissolved on 17 April 1931. Nominations for the general elections to the new State 231

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Council were fixed for May 4th. The seventh annual sessions of the Youth Congress were held on the 23rd, 24th and 25th April which fell right between the date of dissolution and nomination day. Universal adult franchise was being introduced for the first time, which meant potential candidates had to take into account their standing with the masses. The youth of Jaffna were an important factor to be reckoned with, the Youth Congress having become the one single organization that had any degree of mass appeal. The seventh annual sessions were held on the Jaffna esplanade. Srimathi Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya was the president-elect for the 1931 sessions. The JYC had broken new ground in inviting a woman to preside. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya was the sister-in-law of Sarojini Naidu and was in her own right prominent in the freedom struggle in India. K. Nesiah delivering the welcome address said that Srimathi Kamaladevi was welcome as one who had earned for Indian women a name for patriotism and courage as a social reformer and an authority on women’s education and follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Nesiah claimed that this was the first time a woman had been called upon to preside at a gathering of that nature in Ceylon. He said that her presence there was a challenge to the women of Ceylon to serve their country in the manner in which their Indian sisters were doing. He recalled the glory that was Lanka, how many races and religions found a common home in the Island. He traced the substantial achievements of the kings, monks and people both in moulding religious ideals and contributing towards economic prosperity. Parakramabahu the Great, he said, was a symbol of Sinhalese–Tamil unity. The speaker referred at length to the economic situation in the country and the nature of exploitation that British rule had led to. There had been some compensating advantages in some aspects of British rule. But there had been none in the economic domination. He noted that two-thirds of our national income went to the credit of persons from abroad and only one-third was earned by Ceylonese—while the non-Ceylonese contributed about two-sevenths of the tax revenue and the Ceylonese the other five-sevenths. Nesiah’s welcome address was an exposure of the nature of British imperialist exploitation without precisely using these words, which were to become common usage and part of the political vocabulary in this country in subsequent decades with the emergence of the left movement. ‘We have no national policy,’ said he, ‘of fostering home industries, no fiscal policy of protective tariffs. We have yet to set up manufactures aided by Ceylonese capital, directed by Ceylonese management and employing Ceylonese labour.’ In words that have equal relevance today as decades ago he said, ‘Those who are making money out of the present system are blind to the fact that their prosperity is being built up on the growing poverty of the people.’ He continued, ‘Economic slavery pinches our stomachs, political slavery wounds our self-respect but the slavery of the mind kills the soul of 232

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the race. And to this last result our system of education has contributed in no small measure.’ He expressed the need for a national system of education and concluded his speech by stressing the aims and objectives of the Youth Congress. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, in a radical but instructive lecture filled with facts, figures and information gathered from the study of the annual general reports, explained the nature of imperialist exploitation that was taking place in Ceylon. Commenting on the paucity of research on matters pertaining to the economy of the country she stressed the need to publish articles, pamphlets and books. ‘To fight a scientific opponent you need a scientific weapon and an economic grievance is unassailable and unchallengeable.’ Kamaladevi indicated the two-fold character of the struggle for freedom. In the political arena, we have the colonies fighting the Imperial rulers, the smaller nations asserting their rights to their own rule, and minorities proclaiming their protest against the tyranny of the majority. In the economic field, the fight is mainly between capital and labour. The two forces, political and economic, said the speaker, were in practice closely interlocked. The Youth Congress in its seven years of existence had not been exposed to this kind of analysis that stressed the economic factor in imperialist exploitation. The Congress was preoccupied with cultural, social and political issues. A socialist movement with an anti-imperialist orientation had yet to emerge in the rest of Ceylon. The 1931 sessions marked a turning point among the radicals in Jaffna who in course of time adopted a socialist anti-imperialist approach to politics. Kamaladevi rejected the old theory that students should not get mixed up with politics. Politics, she said, was a matter of life and death and it was not a matter on which we could preach caution or moderation, faced with British imperialist domination. She said: Under the guise of a beneficial rule the imperial lords loot rich lands for the benefit of their own kinsmen. Many a country is thus being bled to the sweet tune of ‘God Save the King’. The glorious flag of the British Empire is dyed in the scarlet blood of millions… The British nation so highly developed commercially, must find fresh fields for investing its capital and once again our lands come to their help. Thus in the shape of missionaries of modern civilization and the priests of modern culture they step on to our shores and begin their exploits… In the process of the establishment of this imperialistic rule by ‘Law and Order’ and with the consent of the people, these imperial agents ruthlessly destroy all indigenous industries, commerce and institutions, and by setting up their own powerfully organized ones shut out possibilities for starting any national enterprises. This unequal competition, pronouncedly decided in favour of the rulers, 233

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leaves the country and its people helpless and impoverished. This economic enslavement is systematic and crushing… In order to discover the remedy it is necessary to have a clear diagnosis of the disease. In calling upon the youth virtually to revolt against the British she said: [N]o radical or appreciable achievement is possible as long as the Britisher waves his flag over this country. Every one of the ‘benefits’ he confers on you is one more cord by which he binds and enslaves you. His factories and railways and irrigation schemes are so many outlets for his manufactures and so many fabulously paid posts for his kinsmen. And the grant of each new set of reforms with their elaborate machinery and expensive tools is one more gag on your rising spirit. Each with its brilliantly painted exterior is nothing but a hollow toy with which your clever masters charm you into a hypnotic spell. If you will but tear down the coloured garb you will find a soulless image within. The speaker was careful to point out that freedom did not mean the mere hounding out of the white man and a transference of power from one powerful minority to another equally tyrannical. In the just society that was looked forward to, every man will have a fair chance to reach the highest point to which his capacities can carry him and to get for himself and his family what he is actually entitled to by the value of his labour. At the same time, the state will get the highest service from each man. In the pursuance of these aims she stressed the need to organize labour in Ceylon. Labour legislation in Ceylon was far behind times. The grant of adult suffrage, she said, although a great advance on the old system will not be of much practical value until the general economic condition of labour improved. The Presidential Address thus struck a new note in calling for a struggle on behalf of the oppressed and the disinherited and the Youth Congress was challenged to struggle for true freedom for the downtrodden people. The speaker concluded with an appeal for cultural freedom: It is only when you meet the West as an equal and as a partner in the search and appreciation of beauty that the two cultures will blend into each other. But, you have lost your bearings today. The children of the people that created the wonderful works of art at Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura are today feeding their hungry souls on Dunlop tyre advertisements and match labels that adorn the walls of the huts in the villages. The colossal tragedy of this is but little realised… Art is not a luxury or the privilege of the rich few. It is the life-giving force that touches all ordinary things of everyday common use with its vitality transforming them into sublime things of joy. 234

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The boycott resolution became the central issue at the 1931 sessions. It had now become customary for the Congress to pass a resolution on Swaraj (independence) every time the annual sessions took place. It was once again moved, ‘This Congress holds Swaraj to be the inalienable birthright of every people and calls upon the youth of the land to consecrate their lives to the achievements of their country’s freedom.’ An amendment moved gave teeth to the resolution: ‘And whereas the Donoughmore Scheme as embodied in the recent Order-in-Council militates against the attainment of Swaraj this Congress further pledges itself to boycott the scheme and authorizes the executive committee to devise ways and means for enforcing the boycott.’ The resolution as amended was carried unanimously by the youth present, which according to one estimate was close to 2,000 persons. There was little discussion or serious thought given at this time to whether it was the correct strategy to adopt. ‘Purna Swaraj’ (full or total independence) became the rallying cry. Public opinion in Jaffna during the years of the ascendancy of the Youth Congress had been moulded to respond to the struggles that were taking place in India. In the rest of Ceylon some individuals might have been profoundly influenced by the Indian struggle. It was in Jaffna more than anywhere else that a movement had grown totally committed to the programme and policies of the Indian National Congress. Under the Donoughmore Constitution, with the grant of universal adult franchise the electors had increased to about 30,000 for each electorate compared to about 5,000 voters per seat under the previous constitution. Teachers, students and young people were expected to play a decisive role in the 1931 elections. The candidates and the public were aware of the important role they had played in the two bye-elections held in 1929 and 1930. Therefore all the sitting members of the defunct Legislative Council wished to curry favour with the youth. Though they had reservations about the desirability of a boycott they simply fell in line. At no stage, either at this meeting or at preceding meetings, had the abolition of communal representation been mentioned or any claims made for special representation for the Tamils. The Daily News, all long a supporter of the Youth Congress and a strong critic of the Donoughmore Reforms, welcomed the boycott in Jaffna and commented that the ‘one relieving feature in this soporific performance is contained in the news from Jaffna… Public opinion in Jaffna,’ said the editor, ‘is a potent thing. Those who defy it do so at their peril. Ever the home of virile politics, Jaffna is determined to see that the public spirit of her citizens is equal to any crisis.’ Of particular interest in the light of later events is the letter to the press written by Philip Gunawardene from London. He wrote: I longed for the day when the youth of Ceylon would take their place by the side of the young men and women of China, of India, of Indonesia, of 235

Santasilan Kadirgamar Indo-China, of Korea and even of the Philippine Islands in the great struggles of a creative revolution against all the mighty forces of old-age, social reaction and imperialist oppression. During the last few years the Jaffna Students’ Congress was the only organization in Ceylon that has been displaying political intelligence … Jaffna has given the lead. They have forced their leaders to sound the bugle call for the great struggle for freedom – for immediate and complete independence from Imperialist Britain. Will the Sinhalese who always display supreme courage understand and fall in line? A tremendous struggle faces us. Boycott of the elections was only a signal. It is the duty of every Sinhalese now to prepare the masses for the great struggle ahead.

LEGACY In historical perspective we see the JYC as belonging to a radical fringe in a basically conservative and caste-bound feudalistic society. It did have an impact on the political and intellectual life of Jaffna in the 1920s and 1930s. The idealistic and radical impulses generated gave rise to a movement that was nationalist, democratic, anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. The Youth Congress was a movement of liberal radicals. When viewed in the context of the then existing attitudes to politics, caste, education, the national languages and culture, the Youth Congress is seen to be a movement that was radical and in advance of its times. Nationalism in Asia in the first half of the 20th century was primarily a revolt against Western imperialism. In the absence of any movement in Ceylon that was clearly anti-imperialist, the Youth Congress took upon itself the task of bringing an anti-imperialist consciousness to the people of this country. When finally the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (socialist party founded in 1935) emerged as the leading anti-imperialist movement in the country, it drew support from the Youth Congress elements in the north. The roots of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party were as much in the Youth Congress in the north as in the Suriya Mal movement in the south. In the late 1920s and the early 1930s, it was the Youth Congress in Jaffna that was in the forefront of the struggle for national independence. The Congress was committed to an all-island nationalism or ‘Ceylonese Nationalism’. It was unfortunate that this was defeated by the emergence of Sinhalese and Tamil communalism. Communalism was a derogatory word in Ceylon’s political vocabulary. By communalism is meant here those forces that exclude the interests of one community from or places its interests over and above, the larger interests of the peoples of the entire region at a time

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when the struggle was primarily against Western imperialism. Communalism thereby became a divisive force that helped to strengthen and perpetuate imperialist domination. The communalism that emerged in Ceylon in the 1930s was in addition opportunist, in that the communalists sacrificed principles and long-term gains for sectional, personal and short-term advantages. It is necessary to distinguish between the communalism of the 1930s and 1940s with the Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms that emerged in and around 1956. The 1956 upsurge had elements of progressive Sinhala nationalism mixed with strong elements of Sinhala communalism and chauvinism, which was frankly opportunist. Tamil communalism that had seen its opportunist period in the 1930s and 1940s was to give way to the emergence of Tamil nationalism after the Sinhala Only Act in 1956, the anti-Tamil riots of 1958 and the Tamil resistance movements climaxing in the Satyagraha of 1961. The violence against the Tamils taking on the character of calculated ‘pogroms’ like the ones in 1977 and 1983 further expedited the growth of Tamil nationalism. These are issues of deep contemporary concern. In the 1930s, the ideal set before the country by the Youth Congress and nationalists in the south was a free and united Lanka. At this time even after the emergence of the left movement in 1935, inadequate attention was paid to the problem of nationalities. The Youth Congress was fully committed to a Ceylonese nationalism. When 1956 came with its arrogant, uncompromising and strident call for ‘Sinhala Only’ it brought to the men who once belonged to the Youth Congress, more than to anyone else in the country, a sense of defeat and disillusionment. In the early 1970s, Handy Perinbanayagam looking back to the 1920s and the origins of the Youth Congress noted with regret that they had looked forward to ‘a land teeming with goodwill and blessedness’. He added: Language which is the bone of contention today was peacefully settled by both Sinhalese and Tamils. Before long however bloodshed, premeditated murder and migration were the order of the day. People like Suntharalingam who stood for racial unity are today champions of a separate Tamil Nadu. At the inaugural sessions of the All Ceylon Youth Congress in the Plaza, the late M.S. Eliathamby proclaimed that he for one would prefer Sinhalese rule to British rule. All this was the vision of an idealist yesterday. What of tomorrow? A peaceful Sri Lanka no longer dreaming of fantasies but wanting its present travail to end is the urgent need. At the height of the language debate in 1956, when it was becoming fashionable for Sinhalese spokesmen to attack the Tamils as reactionary and as opposed to the national struggle for independence it was Pieter Keuneman who on behalf of the Communist Party of Ceylon put the record straight in parliament. 237

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He said that it was not fair to blame the sins of capitalist and communal leaders on the entire community. He recalled the role that the Jaffna Youth Congress played at the time of the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution and denied the allegation that was made that the boycott took place because the new constitution granted political power to the Sinhalese. ‘On the contrary,’ he said, ‘they took up the position that this constitution should be opposed and the elections should be boycotted because the constitution did not go far enough, because it did not grant freedom to the whole of Ceylon… This position taken up by the Jaffna Youth Congress was completely endorsed by progressive Sinhalese opinion in the South. That was before the left parties were started and the All-Ceylon Youth Congress was the representatives body of radical and progressive opinion at that time.’ Mr Keuneman went on to say ‘that it was the weakness of the movement in the South, its inability to influence the South, and to respond to the boycott of the elections to the first State Council carried out in the North that was responsible to a very great extent for the breakdown of the developing national movement in the North and the sorry period in which communal leaders of the North were able to emerge to prominence.’ Delivering the welcome address at the reception to Jayaprakash Narayan as late as 1969, Handy having apologized for the ‘impertinence’ of linking his name with that of the distinguished visitor said, ‘We dreamt dreams and saw visions. Our dreams and our visions were focused on the freedom of our countries and the rich blessings that it would bring to their peoples.’ On one occasion Handy referred to the ‘utopian phase’ of the Congress. In a sense the men of the Youth Congress were utopians. They were conscious of the unsatisfactory state of affairs, and were deeply concerned with setting matters right. But they did not have a programme of action or the capacity to realize their aims and objectives. But then there is a strong element of utopianism in Gandhian thought. ‘The Swaraj of my dreams is the poor man’s Swaraj…. I shall work for an India, in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony.’ The India of Gandhi’s dreams has not been realized after more than 80 years of the Gandhian movement. Influenced by Gandhian ideals and approach to politics the Youth Congress had its limitations. Handy Perinbanayagam speaking at the Gandhiji’s 25th Death Anniversary Remembrance meeting said, ‘Gandhiji was in politics then; so were we in Ceylon. Today India and Ceylon are steeped in politics. But there is a difference between the politics of those times and of today. The politics of those days were aspirational. Visions and dreams loomed large then. Today’s politics are factional and pragmatic. They are also grosser 238

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and grimmer. The post-independence history of the two countries bears witness to this truth.’ Three decades after he made this comment politics in this country far from being aspirational or pragmatic has become chaotic as normal civilized norms of political behaviour have been discarded and bribery, corruption, intimidation, thuggery and uninhibited violence hold sway. Handy Perinbanayagam and many of his colleagues did not live to see their people in Jaffna and elsewhere reduced to a state where life had become ‘nasty, poor, brutish and short’. The Youth Congress idealists had contempt for the politics of seeking elections to the legislative assembly and state council. In its choice of presidents the Congress took infinite care to exclude the mere politician. The persons invited to deliver the presidential address were persons rich in intellectual achievements and deeply concerned about cultural values. In Jaffna itself they never thought of organizing themselves into a political party. Having accepted the Gandhian message, the Youth Congress had failed to evolve a Gandhian mass movement. In fact the men in the Youth Congress were not cut out for politics in this sense. They were good at holding meetings, engaging in intellectual discussions, holding annual sessions and thereby influencing public opinion. They made a remarkable contribution to Jaffna’s intelligentsia and shaped the thinking of a whole generation of men. The indelible stamp of the Youth Congress was evident in the men of this generation who had come under its influence. The social base on which the Youth Congress was founded and from which it drew its support could go no further than the ‘aspirational politics’ of the time. It drew its support from English-educated youth whose mental horizons were limited by their socio-economic objectives. These were young men who for their survival had to look forward to middle-class white-collar jobs in government service and the professions like law, medicine and teaching. The Youth Congress did not have the capacity to transform itself into a mass movement. Meanwhile, the Youth Congress was being pushed out of the limelight by the demagogic communalism that had emerged under a leadership that was ready to use all the gimmicks and electioneering tactics that success in politics under the Donoughmore Reforms called for. Having failed to enter the political arena in the conventional way and thereby shape the destinies of the country, the Youth Congress was however not without its successes. Its achievements lay in the cultural and educational fields and in the eradication of social disabilities. The elevation of the Tamil language to a place of honour happened in Jaffna as early as in the 1920s. The practice of having lectures and meetings in Tamil, on not merely subjects of literary interest but on secular and political matters as well, began with the 239

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Youth Congress. The young men of Jaffna though English educated restored national customs, festivals and dress to a place of honour in the social life of the community. The uncompromising stand taken on removing the humiliations imposed by caste was one of its major achievements. Above all, out the Youth Congress came a whole generation of eminent teachers, principals, administrators and builders of schools. Their efforts in the mid-decades of this century made it possible for Jaffna to enjoy the preeminent position that it occupied in the sphere of education with schools that could be the pride of any nation. These men steered through the smooth transition from English to Tamil as the medium of instruction in the 1940s and 1950s with minimum damage to standards, this having been one of the major reforms that the Youth Congress had advocated all along. In fact, in these years Sinhalese was taught in Jaffna schools in the hope that it would help national integration. This was brought to an abrupt end in 1956 by the very same educationists who had introduced it, as part of the resistance to the imposition of Sinhala as the only official language of the country. The influence of the Youth Congress persisted most through the Northern Province Teachers Association and the All-Ceylon Union of Teachers. Here the one-time members of the Youth Congress championed the campaign for Free Education, for a National System of Schools and for Swabasha. Formidable opponents of government’s control of teachers, these men did assert that education was the responsibility of the state, though not necessarily a monopoly of the state. They remained committed to the role that education could play in the social advance of the country. They remained a dedicated band of teachers, nationalist to the core. The tradition of dissent and commitment to democratic rights and the values that go with an open society was their lasting gift to Jaffna society. But in the political life of the country they were very much like generals without an army. Men like Handy Perinbanayagam, C. (Orator) Subramaniam, K. Nesiah and S. Nadesan were consulted; their advice sought and listened to with patience and respect on several national issues that cropped up in the decades after independence. They gave a distinct flavour to public life in Jaffna and brought qualities of integrity and sincerity to several public causes to which they gave of their time and talents.

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Pathways of Dissent Sanmugathasan, N. (n.d.) ‘Ethnic Problem of Sri Lanka’, unpublished essay, p. 4. ——— (n.d) ‘Get the Indian Troops Out of India! Recognize the Right of Self determination of the Tamil People’, unpublished essay, pp. 4–6. ——— (n.d.) ‘The Paradise that Was: The Story of the July 1983 Communal Holocaust’, unpublished manuscript. ——— (1989) Political Memoirs of an Unrepentant Communist. Colombo: Lake House. ——— (1984) ‘Sri Lanka: The Story of the Holocaust’, Race and Class: A Journal for Black and Third World Liberation, 26(1): 63–82. Sarvaloganayagam, V. (1973) Trade Unions in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Academy of Administrative Studies. Sathananthan, S. and M. Rajasingam (1996) The Elusive Dove. Colombo: Mandru Publication. Schalk, Peter (1992) Birds of Independence: On the Participation of Tamil Women in Armed Struggle’, Studies in Lankan Culture, 7 (December): 92–96. ——— (1997) ‘Historisation of the Martial Ideology of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)’, South Asia, 20(2): 35–72. Schwarez, Walter (1998) ‘Tamils of Sri Lanka’, London: Minority Rights Group. Seers, Dudley (1983) The Political Economy of Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Senaratne, S.P.F. (1969) Pre-historic Archaeology in Ceylon. Colombo: Department of National Museum of Ceylon. Seneviratne, H.L. (ed.) (1997) Identity, Consciousness and the Past. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Seneviratne, Sudharshan (1985) ‘The Baratas – A Case of Community Integration in Early Historic Sri Lanka’, James Thevathasan Rutnam Festschrift edition, A.R.B. Amerasinghe and Sumanasekera Banda (eds), p. 54, Footnote 17. Ratmalana: Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha ——— (1992) ‘Pre-State Chieftains and Servants of the State–A Case Study of the Parumakas’, The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 15(1 and 2): 99–131. ——— (1994) ‘The Archaeology of the Megalithic Black and Red Ware Complex in Sri Lanka’, Ancient Ceylon, 5: 237–307. ——— (1996) ‘Peripheral Regions and Marginal Communities towards an Alternative Explanation of Early Iron Age Material and Social Formations in Sri Lanka’, in R. Champakalakshmi and S. Gopal (eds) Tradition, Dissent and Ideology—Essays in Honour of Romila Thapar pp. 264–310. Oxford: Oxford University Press ——— (2004) ‘Problems of Ceylon History and The Fear of History’, G.C. Mendis Memorial Lecture–2004, p. 6. Serasundara, Ajit (1998) ‘Youth Politics, Nationalism and Cultural Fundamentalism’, in S.T. Hettige (ed.) Globalization, Social Change and Youth. Colombo: Centre for Anthropological and Sociological Studies. Shapiro, Michael C. and Harold F. Schiffman (1983) Language and Society in South Asia. Holland: Foris. Shastri, A. (1990) ‘The Material Basis for Separatism: The Tamil Eelam Movement in Sri Lanka’, Journal of Asian Studies, 49(7): 56–77.

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Bibliography Tanner, Jeremy (ed.) (2003) The Sociology of Art-A Reader. London: Rutledge. Tennent, J.E. (1859) (Reprinted 1972), Ceylon, p. 316. Dehiwala: Tisara Prakasakayo Ltd. Thakurta, Tapati Guha (1995) ‘Visualizing the Nation’, Journal of Arts and Ideas, 27–28. New Delhi: Tulika Print Communication Service. Thamiliyam (1997) Thamil Theciyam Peruraikal [Lectures on Tamil Nationalism]. Chennai: Nihal. Thangarajah, C.Y. (2000) ‘The Genealogy of Tamil Nationalism in Post-Independent Sri Lanka’, in S.T. Hettige and M. Mayer (eds) Sri Lanka at Cross roads: Dilemmas and Prospects after 50 Years of Independence. Delhi: Macmillan. Thevagowry (1998) ‘Arupathirkupin Izhathu Thamizh Ilakkiyathil Pen Ezhuthalarkalin Pangalippu’, in Izhathu Samakala Thamizh Ilakkiyam, pp. 1–12 [20th Century Tamil Literature]. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka: Vibavi. Thirunavukkarasu, M. (1994) Ilankai Inap Pirachchinaiyin Adippadaikal [The Fundamentals of the Sri Lankan Ethnic Question]. Chennai: Vidiyal. Thiranagama, Rajani (1992) ‘No More Tears Sister: The Experiences of Women’, in Kapur, Rajan Ratna (2002) ‘The Tragedy of Victimisation Rhetoric: Resurrecting the “Native” Subject in International/Post-colonial Feminist Legal Politics’, Human Rights Journal, 15(1). Thompson, E.P. (1963) The Making of the English Working Class. London: Penguin. Tilly, C. (1985) ‘War Making and State Making as Organized Crime’, in Evans, Rueschemeyer and Skocpol (eds) Bringing the State Back In. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trawick, Margaret (1997) ‘Reasons for Violence: A Preliminary Ethnographic Account of the LTTE’, in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 20 (1) Supplement 1: 153–180. ——— (1999) ‘Reasons for Violence: A preliminary Ethnographic Account of the LTTE’, in Siri Gamage and I.B. Watson (eds) Conflict and Community in Contemporary Sri Lanka: Pear of the East or the Island of Tears? New Delhi, India: Sage Publication. Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) (1977) General Election Manifesto. Available online at http://www.sangam.org/FB_HIST_DOCS/TULFManifesto77.htm (accessed on 31 July 2009). University of Madras (1986) Nation-Building. Madras: University of Madras. Uyangoda, Jeyadeva (1987) ‘Review Essay: Reinterpreting Tamil and Sinhala Nationalisms’, South Asia Bulletin, 7(iii): 39–46. Uyirppu (2001) ‘Eelathamilirakalin Viduthalai Iyakkam: Samuga Sakthikal Patriya Viwathathirkana Munnodi Kurripugal’ [‘The Liberation Struggle of the Eelam Tamils: Initial and Debatable Notes about its Social Basis’], 7 (January) 40–54. Vaitheespara, Ravi (2006a) ‘Christianity, Missionary Orientalism and the Origins of Tamil Modernity’, in Andreas Gross, Y. Vincent Kumaradoss, Heike Liebau (eds) Halle and the Beginning of Protestant Christianity in India, Vol. II: Christian Mission in the Indian Context. Halle: Verlag der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle, pp. 973–1017. ——— (2006b) ‘Beyond “Benign” and “Fascist” Nationalisms: Interrogating the Historiography of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 29(3): 435–458.

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Pathways of Dissent Vaitheespara, Ravi (2006) ‘Towards a Tamil Left Perspective on the Ethnic Crisis in Sri Lanka’, in Darshan Ambalavanar et al. (eds) History and Imagination: Tamil Studies in a Global Age. Toronto: TSAR Publications. Vanathi (1991) Vaanathiyin Kavithaikal [Poems of Vanathy]. Jaffna: LTTE. Veluppillai, A. (1980) ‘Tamil Influence in Ancient Sri Lanka with Special Reference to Early Brahmi Inscriptions’, Journal of Tamil Studies, 16 (December 1979): 63–79 and 17: 6–19. Vije, Mayan (1985) Colonisation and Tamil Homelands. London: Published by Tamil Information Centre. Vittachi, Tarzie (1958) Emergency ’58: The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots. London: Andre Deutsch. Wadley, S. (ed) (1980) The Power of Tamil Women. Syracuse University: South Asian series, No.6. Wallerstein, Immanuel (1979) The Capitalist World Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Walzer, Michael (1997) On Toleration. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Watler, Schwarz (1975), Tamils of Sri Lanka. London: Minority Rights Group. Wayland, Sarah L. (1999) ‘Transnational Politics of Croatians and Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto’, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta. Wayland, Sarah L. and D. Winland (1999) Civic Participation and Homeland Ties: A Comparative Study of Croatians and Sri Lankan Tamils in the Greater Toronto Area. Toronto: CERIS. Weerasinghe, Jegath (2000) Made in IAS, exhibition catalogue, Dehiwala, July 2000. ——— (2004) New Approaches of Contemporary Art in Sri Lanka & the Nineties Trends. In Art Lab, Vol. I, Colombo: Theertha Artist Collective. Weisshaar H.J., H. Roth and W. Wijeyapala (eds) (2001) Ancient Ruhana–Sri Lanka– German Archaeological Project in the Southern Province, Vol. 3, pp. 1–496. Mainz AM Rheim: Verlag Philipp von Zabern. Wickramasinghe, N. (2001) Civil Society in Sri Lanka: New Circles of Power. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Wijedasa, K. (1989) ‘Thoughts on the Political Situation in Sri Lanka based on the Reading of The Broken Palmyra’, South Asia Bulletin, 9(2): 8–19. Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam (1979) Politics in Sri Lanka, 1947–1979. London: Macmillan. ——— (1988) The Break-up of Sri Lanka: The Sinhalese-Tamil Conflict. London: C. Hurst. ——— (1994) S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947–1977. London: C. Hurst. ——— (2001) Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Developments in the 19th and 20th Centuries. New Delhi: Penguin Press. Wimalasena, N.A. (1998) ‘A New Chronology for the Letters Appearing on the Pottery Found Near the Place in the Citadel of Anuradhapura’, paper submitted (in Sinhala) for the section E of the Sri Lankan Historical Association on the occation of the Multi-Disciplinary International Conference on the occasion of 50th Anniversary of Independence of Sri Lanka, 23–25 February 1998, p. 27.

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About the Editor and Contributors ™ EDITOR R. Cheran R. Cheran is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Windsor, Canada. His research and teaching interests include transnationalism, forced migration and diasporic identities as well as Tamil Studies. His recent co-edited publication is New Demarcations: Essays in Tamil Studies (2008), Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

CONTRIBUTORS Daniel Bass Daniel Bass received his Master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, USA. His research is on the historical formation of a distinct malaiyaha Tamil community in Sri Lanka. He is currently Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Religious Studies at Lynn University, Florida.

Radhika Coomaraswamy Radhika Coomaraswamy received her BA from Yale University, USA her JD from Columbia University, USA and her LLM from 266

About the Editor and Contributors

Harvard University, USA. She has written widely on issues related to constitutional law, ethnicity and women while she was Director of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colobo, Sri Lanka. She was the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women from 1994 to 2003 and the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission 2003–2006. She is currently the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Santasilan Kadirgamar Santasilan Kadirgamar taught Modern History and International Politics, having served at Jaffna College, and the universities of Colombo and Jaffna in Sri Lanka. He was a Japan Foundation Fellow 1983–1984, and until 2000 lectured at several universities in Tokyo, Japan, based primarily at Meiji Gakuin University. His publications include the Jaffna Youth Congress 1924–34 and Ethnicity: Identity, Conflict and Crisis, co-edited with Kumar David. Notable articles written by him include the ‘Peace Movement in Japan’ and the ‘Left Tradition in Lankan Tamil Politics’. Drawn into the struggle for human rights he was the first president of the Jaffna Branch of the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality (1979) and a founding member of the first Jaffna Citizens Committee in 1981.

Chelva Kanaganayakam Chelva Kanaganayakam’s research interests are in Southeast Asian literature, contemporary Indian and Sri Lankan writing, literature of exile and post-colonial theory. His major publications include Moveable Margins: The Shifting Spaces of Canadian Literature (2005); Counter Realism and Indo Anglian Fiction (2002); Lutesong and Lament: Tamil Writing from Sri Lanka (2001); Dark Antonyms and Paradise: The Poetry of Rienzi Crusz (1997); Configurations of Exile: South Asian Writers and Their World (1995) and Structures of Negation: The Writings of Zulfikar Ghose (1993).

Sidharthan Maunaguru Sidharthan Maunaguru is a doctoral candidate who has conducted research on internal displacement and ethnic identity, a case study of Jaffna migrants to Colombo since 1990 and submitted it as dissertation for 267

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the BA (Hons) Degree in 2000. His publications include ‘Negotiating Tamilness’ in Building Local Capacities for Peace: Rethinking Conflict and Development in Sri Lanka (2003), edited by M. Mayer, Y. Thangaraja and D. Rajasingham.

V. Nithiyanandam V. Nithiyanandam is Professor of Economics in the Department of Commerce at Massey University, New Zealand. Currently, he is a Visiting Professor in the Department of South Asian Studies, Cornell University, USA.

Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham worked at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies as a researcher and activist. She also taught at the Department of English at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Her publications include Feminist Engagements with Violence: Contingent Moments from Sri Lanka and Constellations of Violence: Feminist Interventions in South Asia. She is presently pursuing her PhD at the Department of English, Rutgers University, USA.

T. Shanaathanan T. Shanaathanan is one of the leading young artists from Sri Lanka. His major publications include ‘Making the Impermanent Permanent: The Configurations of Mugamandhapa Architecture of Jaffna Temple’ in Cintanai, 15:1 (2005); ‘Interaction Between Visual Art and Tamil Literature in 20th Century’ in Tamilini (2000) and ‘Contemporary Temple Painting of Jaffna’ in Cintanai, 12:2 (2000). In 2004, he curated one of the most momentous art exhibitions in modern Sri Lanka, ‘Aham Puram’, a work that brought together Sinhala and Tamil artists.

S.K. Sitrampalam S.K. Sitrampalam is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He has nearly four decades of teaching experience in the 268

About the Editor and Contributors

universities of Sri Lanka. He has participated in seminars both locally and inter-nationally and presented papers on History, Religion, Archaeology and Peace Building. He has many research papers and books to his credit. Presently he is a member of the University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka.

Ravi Vaitheespara Ravi Vaitheespara is Associate Professor of History at the University of Manitoba, Canada. His recent publications include Theorizing the National Crisis: Sanmugathasan, the Left and the Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka (2007), ‘Christianity, Missionary Orientalism and the Origins of Tamil Modernity’ in Andreas Gross, Y. Vincent Kumaradoss and Heike Liebau (eds), Halle and the Beginning of Protestant Christianity in India. Vol. II: Christian Mission in the Indian Context (2006), ‘Beyond “Benign” and “Fascist” Nationalisms: Interrogating Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism and Militancy’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 29: 3 (2006).

Rajesh Venugopal Rajesh Venugopal is a research associate at the Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, UK. He is completing a doctorate on the political economy of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, exploring the relationship between market reforms and nationalism in the context of the peace process.

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Index ™ Arasaratnam, S., xxii, xxiii, xxiv, 2, 3, 19, 43, 157, 158, 159, 161, 166, 168, 169, 172 archaeology, in Sri Lanka, 1 art/artistic, in Jaffna, 93–96, 98–104 artists and nation, 94–95 classical, 97 Indian, from Madras 98–99 notion of, 100 as weapon to attack social injustice, 100 artist(s), caste and position, 95 Holiday painters, 98, 100 self-location, relocation and metamorphosis, 93–106 Arunachalam, P., 144 Arunthanthi, paintings of, 99, 100, 103 Aryan colonization, 25 Asia, nationalism in, 209, 236 Asoka, reign of, 24 asylum-seekers, into Europe, 58 Aung San, of Burma 211 Austro-Hungarian Empire, collapse of, 211 Avvai, 82 Ayyar, Subrahmanya, 10

Abeyratne, M., 20, 29 Abeysekera, Charles, xxv Abhaya, Vattagamani, 9 Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme, 191 Adaikalasamy, Sam, 99 Adakasavuntari-Kulakkodan, legend of, 18 African National Congress (ANC), xxxviii Africana imagination, criticism of 78 Agamas, xiv Akana-nu- ra, 17 Akilan, P. 88 Akurugoda, excavations at, 24 Alexander, Victoria D., 104 Alison, Miranda, 115, 123 All Ceylon Tamil Conference, 19, 226 All Ceylon Union of Teachers, 240 Anandhi, S., 115, 133 Anderson, Benedict, 83, 109 Anil’s Ghost, 88 Annan, Kofi, 205 Anthias, Floya 56 anti-colonialism, 2 anti-Tamil riots/violence, xxi, 33, 43, 98, 149, 187, 237 Anuradhapura, 4, 20, 27, 31 as Buddhist pilgrimage centre, 5–6 excavations at, 3, 24, 25, 29 kingdom of 18 Anusiya, paintings of, 103 Arachchige-Don, S. Neville, 59

Bacchetta, Paula, 128, 129, 130, 134 Balasingam, Anton, xxxv, xlii, Balasingham, Adele Anne, xliii, 124, 125, 127, 129, 131, 135

270

Index Buddhist ‘historiography’, 3 Buddhist writings, 3, 4 Buhler, J.C., 24 Bush administration, 130

Bandaranaike, Solomon Dias, xxvi, xxvii Bandaranaike, Sirimovo, 118, 119 Bandaranayake, S.W.R.D., xvii Banderanaike-Chelvanayagam pact, failure of, 118, 119 Bangladesh, creation of xxxii Banks, Michael, 72, Basham, A.L., 8 Bass, Daniel, 139, 146 Bastian, Sunil, 146 Bechert, H. 22, Begley, V., 4, 20, Bengal cultural revivalism, 96 Bhasin, Kamla, 134 Bicknell, John, 212 Black Tiger Squad, xli Bodhisattva, 29 Boli, J., 201 Bose, Subhas Chandra, 212 Bose, Sumantra, 44, 45 Bolshevik Revolution, 1917, 210 Bourdies, P., 74 Bozzoli, B., 75 Brahmanism, Sanskritic xiv and Vedas, xiv Brahmi inscriptions, 11, 17, 23, 24 Brass, Paul 199 British administration, in Sri Lanka, 1, 212, 232 control of Jaffna Kingdom, 163, 173 political transformation during, 172 British capitalism, 173–185 British colonialism, 184, 212 Brodie, A.M., 208 Broken Palmyra, 49 reaction to, 39–41 Buddhaghosa, 29 Buddhism, 24, 31, 220 in Constitution of Sri Lanka, 120 preservation of, 4 revival of, 5 Sinhala identity and, 28 status of, xxviii Buddhist civilization, 3

Cabral, Amilcar, xxxvi, 51 Caribbean, literature of 90 caste, equality, 116 hierarchy in Jaffna, 95 issues in Students’ Congress, 227–231 status of Sinhalese and Tamil, 22 Catholicism, conversion to, 172 Census, in Sri Lanka, 139 of 1911, 143 of, 1946, 145 Ceylon see Sri Lanka Ceylon Art Club, 97 Ceylon Communist Party (CCP), xxviii Ceylon National Congress, xvii, xviii, xxviii, 12 breakup of, xxii formation of, 2, 6 Ceylon Society of Art, 97 Ceylon Tamils 144–145 ‘Ceylonese nationalism’, xxii, 19, 173, 182, 184, 234 ‘Ceylonese’ nationalist movement, xvi Chandra, Bipan, xxiii Chanmugam, P.K., 23 chastity, women and, 115, 128, 131, 133 Chatterjee, Partha, 109, 110, 111, 113, 117, 134, 136, 137 Chattopadhyaya, Kamaladevi, xviii, 232, 233 Chelliah, J.V., 213, 216 Chelvanayakam, S.J.V., xx, xxv, 118, 119, 141, 193, 197n11, 184 Cheran, Rudramoorthy, xiii, 56, 57, 58, 60, 88 poems of, 89 Chintaka, xxxviii ‘chit system’, 197n13 Cholan Empire, 55 Chou En Lai, 211 Christianity, 114

271

Pathways of Dissent Dahanayake, W., xvii Dameda/Damela, 17 Daniel, Valentine E., 55, 56, 142, 146 Das, Veena, 61 Dassanaike, S.W., xvii David, K., 72, Dawood, Nawaz, 176 De Alwis, Malathi, 66, 137 De Mel, Neloufer, xli–xlii, 56, 126, 127, 128 De Silva, C.R., 154, 160, 191 De Silva, Colvin, xvii De Silva, George E., xvii De Silva, K.M., xxi, xxx, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 17 De Silva, Purnaka, xxxvii decolonization, 83, 201 Deleuzu, Gilles, 61, 62, Denham, E.B., 144 Deraniyagala, Siran, 25, 26, 29, 31 Deraniyagala, S.U., 20, 23 Dhammadipa concept, 4, 32 Dhanapala, D.B., xvii Dharmadasa, K.N.O., 11 Dharmapala, Anagarika, xiii, xvi, 5 diaspora, literature of, 82, 89 Dipavamsa, 8 disenfranchisement, of Indian Tamils, 13, 14 Dissanyake, J.B., 30 Donoughmore, 7 ‘Donoughmore Buddhists’, 7 Donoughmore Commission, 13, 213, 221 Report of, 222, 226–227 Donoughmore Constitution, 235, 238 Donoughmore Reform, xvi, xviii Donoughmore Scheme, 235 dowry giving, among Tamils, 67, 68, 168 Dravidian languages, 30 Dravidian movement, of Tamil Nadu, xiv, xvi, xviii Dravidian Self Respect Movement, xviii, 116 Dravidians, 8 Dry Zone colonization, 187–188 Duffield, Mark, 204, 205, 206

and missionaries, xv Portuguese induction of, 172 spread of, 173 cinnamon, trade in, 166 citizenship, denial of, to Up-country Tamils, 140 value for 136 Citizenship Act(s), 185 of 1948, xxiv, 13, 141 civil disobedience movement, 118 role of women in, 125 civil war xxvii, xxxii, 199 Cleghorn, Hugh, 173 Cleghorn minutes, 19 Codrington, H.W., 5 Cohn, Bernard S., 145 Colas, rise of, 18 Colebrooke, 174, 177 Colebrooke Commissioners, 174, 175, 176 Colebrooke proposals, 176, 178–179, 182 Colebrooke Reforms, 176, 178, 180, 182, 183 Colebrooke-Cameron Reforms, 196n7 colonial encounter, art and 94–95 colonial policy, implications of, 161–165 on peasants, xxv colonialism, historical role of, 161–162 impact of, on Sri Lanka, 48 commercial capitalism, of Portuguese and Dutch rule 165–173 communalism xxiii, 221–227, 236–237 Communist Party, of Russia, 210 Communist Party of Sri Lanka, 12, 237 Coningham, Robin 4, 6, 9, 20, 26, 27, 29 Constitution of Sri Lanka, 7 ‘unitary model’ of, 3 Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., 97 Coomaraswamy, Radhika, xli, xlii, 11, 12, 107, 126, 127 Corea, C.F., xvii, xix Crossman, Brenda, 112 Culavamsa, ideology of, 3 culture(al), of a nation, 93, 111 revival 113

272

Index English education, 96, 164, 180, 240 and art practice, 96 equality, women and, 11 ‘ethnic essentialism’, 41, 42 ethnic identity, 5, 11, 84, 85 ethnic nationalism, 139, 140 ethnic pogrom 121, 129 ethnicity, 108, 139, 187 European aggression, 210 European Civil War, 211 Executive Committee of Agriculture and Lands, 14

Dunham, David, xxv Duraiappah, Alfred, 121 Dutch administered territories, 1 Dutch control, of Jaffna Kingdom, 159, 161 commercial capitalism of, 165–173 East Timor, intervention in, 205 independence movement in, 206 economic embargo, against Tamilian regions, 193 economic history, of Tamils, 180 economic liberalism, 177 economic nationalism, 203 economic reforms, 207 education, among Tamilians, 187–189, 191–192, 233, 240 Students’ Congress on, 230 of women, 111 see also English education Eelam, 135 Eela Mahalir Munnani, of EROS, xli, 121 Eelam Muslim Liberation Front (EMLF), xxxviii Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), 135 Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF), xxxiv, xxx, xxxvi, xl, xli, 47, 49, 121, 135 first Congress of, xxxvii on Eelam, viii political position of, xxxvii Eelam Revolutionary Organisation (EROS), xxxiv, xxxvi, xli on Eelam, xxxviii Eelam Tamils, economic history of, 154–155 Eelam Women’s Liberation Front (EWLF), of EPRLF, xxxviii, xl eelavar, concept of, xxxviii elections, of 1970, 120 Elek, Sophie, 132 Ellewalla, H., 8 Elu alphabet, 27 Emineau, Murray B., xxvi

Fano, Frantz, 42 Farmer, B.H., 2 Federal Party (FP), xx, xxv, 11, 15, 16, 49, 116, 118, 141, 190 formation of, xxvi, 92n female infanticide, eradication of, in India, 112 feminism/feminist, xlii, 107 critique of Tamil nation, 107–137 movement, 133 praxis, as democratic practice, 133–137 see also gender, women Ferme, C. Mariane, 60 Fernando, P.E., 24 fiction writing, in Tamil, 90 First National Commission, 15 fishing rights, control over, 169 Foucault, 136 Fuglerud, Oivind, 58, 81 Gablik, Suzi, 105 Galle Face Green, 118 Gandhi, Gopalkrishna, 219 Gandhi, Mahatma, xvi, xviii, 2, 208, 214, 232 arrival in India from South Africa, 210 on caste system, 227 message of, 223 visit to Jaffna, 96–97, 219–221, 226 Gandhian movement, xvii, 238, 239 Gandhian nationalism, 209–212

273

Pathways of Dissent Geetha, V., xlii, 116 Geiger, W.A, 5, 17, 28, 29, 31 Gellner, Ernest, 154, 200 gender, and caste hierarchy, 115 development during LTTE hegemony and nationalism, 112 general elections, of, 1947, xxiv General Union of Eelam Students (GUES), xxxvii globalization 199, 162 Gnanaprakasar, Fr. Swami, 5, 30 Godakumbura, 27 Gokhale, Gopal Krishna, 212 Gokhale, Sobhana, 10 Goonasinghe, A.E., xvii Goonatilake, Susantha, 22, 28 Gounder, Rukmani, 187, 188 grasangam, xv Guevara, Che, xxxvi, xli Guha, Thapati, 95 Gujral, Satish, 99 Gunasekera, A., 27 Gunasingam, M., 55 Gunawardana, R.A.L.H., 9, 10, 17, 25, 29, 30 Gunawardena, Leslie, xvii Gunawardena, Philip, xvii, xix, xxvii, 235 Guruge, A.W.P., 9

Hindu-Tamil schools, establishment of, in Jaffna, xv historiography, 1, 87 Ho Chin Minh, of Vietnam, 211 ‘holocaust’, 34, 36 Hoole, Rajan 39 homeland, concept of a traditional, 12 Hulugalle, H.A.J., 14 Ilam/Ila, origin of, 10 Imagined Communities 83, 134 Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchi (Ceylon Tamil State Party) see Federal Party India, impact of development in, on Sri Lanka, 230 nationalist movement in, 96, 210 struggle for independence, 208 support to Tamil militants, 46 Indian Army, 38 see also Indian Peace Keeping Force Indian National Congress, xxii, 6, 212, 217, 235 Indian and Pakistani Residents’ (Citizenship) Act of, 1949, xxiv, 13 Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), in Sri Lanka, 98, 123, capture of Jaffna by, 59, fight between LTTE and, 37, 46, withdrawal of, 101, 124 ‘Indian Tamils’, 140, 143–144, 146 disenfranchisement of, 118 repatriation of, 145, 148 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, 123 failure of, 108 Indrapala, K., 18 Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA), 195, 197n, 198 International Women’s Day, 123 Iron Age Megalithic culture, of Anuradhapura, 21 Iron Age population, of Pomparippu, 22–23 ‘Islamic Tamils’, xxxix Ismail, Quadri, 42, 56, 107, 120 Iyar, Senthinatha, xv

Hall, Stuart, 105 Harvey, David, 102 Harris, Wilson, 90, 106 Hellmann-Rajanayagam, D., xv, 15, 43, 55, 58 Hensman, Rohini, 141, 148 Hicks, J., 153 ‘hill-country’ Tamils, 185 Hindu Board, on caste issue, 29 Hindu iconic and mythological oleograph, 96 Hindu religion/Hinduism 170, 180, 220 Hindu revivalist movement xiii, xiv, 113

274

Index Jaffna, as centre of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, xvi competition with Tamil Nadu, xiii marriages of Tamil women from, and visa wait, 65 militant youth movement in, xxxiii paintings from, 94, 96, 99–100, 105 Tamils of, 117, 140, 146 Jaffna Association, 226 Jaffna Kingdom, 16, 154, 167 agriculture in, 157, 168–169 capture of, 166 economy of, 155–161 fall of, 160 industry in, 157, 158 rise of, 18 trade in, 157–158, 170–172 Jaffna Saiva Paripalana Sabhai, 226 Jaffna University, art course in, 104 cultural group of, 99 Jaffna Youth Congress, 210 nationalism of, 211 programme and participation of, 212–219 radicalism, 208–240 Jaffna Youth League, 35 Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, 210 Jameson, Frederic, 86 Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), xix, xxxi, 122 uprising by, xxxii Jayah, T.B., xvii, xix Jeyapalan, V.I.S., 88 Jayasuriya, J.E., xviii Jayatilleke, D.B., xvii Jayatilleke, Dayan, xxxvii Jayasekara, R., 23 Jayawardena, J.R., xvii Jayawardena, Kumari V., 23, 56, 110, 112, 113, 117, 171, 184 Jebanesan, S., 178 Jeganathan, Pradeep, 60 Joseph, Rex, 148 Justice Party, xviii

JYC, ‘boycott resolution’ of, xviii marginalisation of, xix Kader, B.A., 148 Kadirgamar, Santasilan, xvi, xvii Kailasanthan, paintings of, 100, 104 Kailasapathy, K., 43 Kailaspillai, T., 96 Kalainilayam, 97 Kalaipulavar, on art heritage, 97 Kamalabehn, of RSS, 128–129 Kanaganayakam, Chelva, 81 Kanaganayagam, S.R., 208 Kanagasabai, M., 100 Kanagasbai, S.R., 97 Kanagasabapathy, K., 97 Kanagathungam, Bonney, 208 Kanapathipillai, Valli, 98 Kandasamy, Nanda, paintings of, 103 Kandy, Kingdom of, 159, 163 British annexation of, 174 fall of, 176 rebellion of 1917, 174 Kandyan National Assembly, 13 Kandyan Sinhalese leadership, 6 Kannangara, xvii Kantarodai, 20 Kapur, Geetha, 95 Kapur, Ratna, 112, 130 Karaiyar caste, 170, 171, 172 Karuna, paintings of, 104 Karunaratne, Saddhamangala, 24 Karunatilaka, P.V.B., 22 Karunatilleke, W.S., 30 Kasthuri, xliii Kathiraveluppilai, S., 15 Kearney, Robert N., xxviii, 6, 7 Kelkar, L., 130 Kemper, Steven, 45 Kennedy, K.A.R., 22 Kenneth, 117 Keuneman, Pieter, xix, 237, 238 Keyt, George, 99 Kharosthi inscriptions, 11 Kirk, R.L., 23

275

Pathways of Dissent liberationist narratives, 48–49 literature, Sri Lankan, with commitment to nationalism, 88 in English, 88 of loss, 90 spaces and construction of nations in, 81–92 Little, Angela, 148 Liyanage, Sumanasiri, 137 Lukacs, R.J., 22

Kotte Kingdom, 159, 163 ‘Kovetan’ legend, 23 Krishnaraja, S., 97, 98 Kulandran, Sabapathy, 208 Kularatne, P. de S., xvii, 217 Kuo Min Tang, 211 Krishna, Sankaran, 142 Kurian, R., xxiv Kuruntokai, 17 Kurunilamannars, rule over Thamilakam, 24

Mahavamsa, 5, 8, 9, 26, 27, 32 ideology of, 3 role of, 4 Sihaladipa concept of, 11 Mahavihara Buddhism, 4, Maheswaran, Uma, 131, 132 Maitra, Pritosh, 162 Malaimakal, xliii ‘Malaiyaka Tamils’, 146 Malaiyakam 148, 151n Malinowski, notion of family, 74 Malaythi, story of, 65–69 Man Sumantha Meniyar (play), 89 Mandela, Nelson, 209 Manikkalingam, Ram, 41, 42 Mankai, story of, 72–74 Manning, Governor, 7 Manogaran, Chelvadurai, 81, 188 Mantai, 20 Mao Tse Tung, xxxvi, xxxvii, 47, 211 Maranathul Vaalvom, 82 Mark, A. paintings of, 98–100 marriages, circulation of brides through 70 among Tamil women and, 63–72 and movement of people, 74–76 see also Tamil brides Martha, 20 martyrs, glorification of, 127 Marxism-Leninism, 211 Marxist concept, of political economic liberalization, xxxvi Marxist-Leninist, groups, xxxvii ideologues in Sri Lanka, 45–46

land, colonization schemes, 187, 191, market in Jaffna Kingdom 168–169 landscape, for Tamils, 85 Language Act, 118 Lanka Sama Samaj Party, 236 leftists, killing of, xxxv legacy, 236–240 Legislative Council, first, 182 communal representation in, 225 elections to, 231 Tamil representation in, 183 Lenin, I.V., xxxvi, 44 Lewer, Nick, 4, 6, 9, 27 ‘liberation struggle’, 39 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), xix, xxxiv, xxxvi, xl, xli, 39, 40, 41, 47, 52n, 108, 121, 206 approach to violence against women, 129–230 ascendancy/rise of, xxxix-xi, 37, 42 division within, 86 and foreign NGOs, 207 leadership of, 38 -led movement/struggle, 43–45 marginalization of, 123 politics, 134–136 publications of, xxxv Sea Tiger squads of, xli On sexuality, 131–132 and Sri Lankan government, 124 struggle with IPKF, 46 transgressive agency by, 128–129 women’s group of, xl, xli, 50, 123–128

276

Index Nairn, Tom, 199 Nallur Kandaswamy temple, 114 Nanayakkara, A.G.W., 145 Narayan, Jayaprakash, 238 Narrinai, 17 ‘nation’, 136, 194 -state, 82–83, 85–86, 134, 164, 187 national anthem, 8 national liberation, xl definition of, xxxvi political discourse of, xxxix National Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam (NLFT), xxxvi, 49 National oppression, definition of, xxxvi nationalism, 1, 107, 135, 199–200 as collective identity, xvi and construction of ‘moral state’, 201–203 and liberation, 84 and literature in Tamil, 82 and national liberation struggle, 110 during neo-liberalism, 198–207 proto-, 109 temporality and, 57–63 as unifying force, 83 Navalar, Arumugha, xiii, xiv, 96, 113–115, 117, 180 Navalar, Kopay Sapathy, xv Navaratnam, V., xxi Nehru, Jawaharlal, xvi, xviii, xix, 2, 212 neo-colonialism, 48 Nesiah, K., 232, 240 Nilanthan, paintings of, 100, 104 Nirmala, 99 Nithiyanandam, V. xiii, 43, 55, 104, 152, 166, 178, 186, 187, 188, 193, 199 North Ceylon Music Society, 97 Northern Province Teachers Association, 240 Nuhman, M.A., 88

Marxist parties, xxv Mastana, S.S., 23 Mathiaparanam, K.E., 208 Maunaguru, S., xlii, 55, 56, 57, 66, 70, 71, 109, 113, 114, 119, 122, 126, 127 May, Todd, 62 Mayan Vije, 14 Mbembe, Achille, 78, 79 Megalithic burials, 23 Megalithic cultural zone, 31 Megalithic settlements, 27 members of parliament, ethnic and political composition of, xix-xx Mendis, G.C., 5, 8, 9, 10, 26 Menon, Ritu, 134 mercantilism, 165, 166 Mettananda xvii Meyer, 200 migration, by Tamils, 58–59, 101–102, 191 and ‘brain drain’, 189–90 militancy, 121, 210 see also Tamil militancy missionary activities, in education, 178 Mitter, Partha, 94, 97 ‘mobile community’, Tamils as, 60, 77 and role of documents for, 63–72, 77, 78 Montague–Chelmsford reform (1918), 210 Moore, Mick, 203 moral Puritanism, 133 Mother’s Front, 122, 127 Mudaliyar, V. Kalyanasundara, xviii, 218 Mudaliyars, 184 Muslim political party, emergence of, xxi Muthucumaru, 214 Nadaraja, T., 19 Nadesan, S., 141, 221, 222, 223, 224, 240 Nagaswamy, R., 24 Naicker, Periyar E.V. Ramaswami, xviii, 115, 116, 133 Self Respect Movement of, 115, 133 Nair, Janaki, 112

Oberst, Robert C., 154 Official Language Act of 1956, xxvi Ondaatje, Michael, 88 Ohmae, Kenchi, 204

277

Pathways of Dissent political power, 38, 116, 183 political struggle, and creative writing, 81 Polonnaruwa, excavations at, 3 Ponnambalam, G.G., 116 Ponnambalam, M., 88 Ponnambalam, S., 98 Ponnambalapillai, S.S., xiv, xv Ponnambalam, S., 37 Ponnamapalam, G.G., xix, xxviii, xxiv, xxv, 118 Ponnampalam, S., 16 Ponniah, Elekesaari, 231 Poole, 57, 60, 61 Poorani Women’s home, in Jaffna, 123, 127 Poorna Swaraj, xviii Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), xxxvii Portuguese, administered territories, 1 capture of Jaffna Kingdom, 155, 159, 161 commercial capitalism under, 165–173 fiscal measures, 167 poverty, among Tamil community, 170, 192 Prabhakaran, V., 42, 131 printing press, introduction by Dutch, 172 property rights, 187 Protestantism, spread of, 114 Proto historic communities, 21 ‘Proto-Sinhalese’ era, 28 public service, Tamilians in, 179–182 Pulindars, and Veddas, 5 ‘Purna Swaraj’, 235 Pushparatnam, P., 25

Osmand, Bopearachchi, 20, 24 Ottoman Empire, 211 Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), xxxviii, 46 Pali Chronicles, 4, 16, 18, 20 Pallavas, rise of, 18 Panchali, xlii Pandey, Gyanendra, 56 Panidithar, Sankara, xv, 113 Pandyas, rise of, 18 Pannikar, K.M., 211 Papiha, S.S., 23 Paranavitana, S., 8, 17, 26, 31 Parker, Henry, 20 Parumaka, leadership of, 17 role of, 24 Pathmanathan, S., 18, 19, 154, 155, 160 patronage, xx peasant colonization scheme, xxv Peebles, Patrick, 144 Peiris, G.H., 11 Pennambalam, G.G., 163 People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), xxxiv, xxxvi, xl, xli, 49, 135 Perera, E.W., xix Perera, G.K.W. xvii Perera, N.M., xvii Perara-Rajasingham, Nimanthi, 107 Perera, Selina, xvii Perinbanayagam, Handy, xvii, 208, 237, 238, 239, 240 Pffanberger, Brian, 43, 55, 56, 58, 72, 73 Phadnis, Urmila, xxx Philippus, Baldaeus, 19 Picasso, 99 Pieris, Ralph, 174 plantations, 177, 184 Tamil migration to, 144 ‘revolution’, 177 poetry, by women, xlii writing, 91 political leadership, among Tamils, 190 political parties, 142

Queyroz, Fernaoe de, 19 Raghupathy, P., 23 Rajah, Wickremesinghe, 24 Rajanayakam, 43, 44, 45 Rajagopalachari, C., xviii

278

Index Sangam Age, 85 Sangeeta Samajam, 97 Sanmugathasan, N., 35, 36, 45, 46, 47, 51 Sanskritic Brahmanism, xiv Santhanam, V., 99 Santhy’s story, Marriage and, 71–72 sati, eradication of, in India, 112 Satyagraha, 118–119 and non-violence, 210 role of women in, 119 Satyamurthy, xviii Schalk, Peter, 124, 125, 126 sea-borne commerce, 169, 171 sectional nationalism, 15 secular nationalism, 3 self-determination, and statehood, 198–207 Selvanathan, K., 98 Senanayake, D.S., xvii, xxv, 7, 14 Senaratne, S.P.F., 20 Seneviratne, Joe, xxxvii Seneviratne, Sudarshan, 17, 21, Senivartna, Brian, 38 Servants of Lanka Society, 208 service sector, development of, 179 Sevvinthiyan, Natchathira, 88 sexual purity, role of, 128 sexuality, 131, 133 Shanaathanan, T. 93 panintings of, 102–103 Shanmugalingam, Kuzhanthai M., 88, 89 Shastri, Amita, 199 Sherratt, 27 Shivapathasundram, S., 218, 227, 228 Sidatsangrawa (Sinhalese grammar), 27 ‘sihala’, 9–10 Sihaladipa, concept of, 4, 9, 12, 14, 32 Sinhala Buddhist ‘historiography’, 6–7 Sinhala Buddhist movement of 1050s, xxvi Sinhala Buddhist nationhood, xxvii Sinhala Buddist national identity, xxvi Sinhala/Buddhist nationalism, xiii, xxvii, 8, 32, 33, 35, 56–58, 202, 203

Rajaratnam, K., 97 Rajasingam-Senanayake, Darini, 128, 139 Ralph, Pieris, 19 Ramakrishna Mission, 212 Ramanathan, Ponnambalam, 163, 213, 229 Ranjakumar, K, 88 Rasanayagam, Mudaliyar, 5 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), 129, 130 Rasai, Ambalavanar, 97 Rasiah, Asai, 100 Ratnam, K.P., xxi Ratnathurai, Puthuvai, 87 Ratnayake, D., xxv refugees, history of displacement of, 101 Reich, Robert, 204 Renaissance, 94 Renan, Ernest, 101 Republican Constitution of 1972, xxviii resistance literature, 88 Reynolds, Pamela, 75 right of self-determination, 1 riots, of, 1958, 119 of 1983, 123 Roberts, M., 4, 7, 13, 19 Roja, marriage and story of, 69–71 Rowlatt Acts, 210 Roy, Jamini, 99 Roy, Raja Ram Mohan, 212 Roychoudhury, A.K., 23 Russo-Japanese War of 1903–1904, 210 Sahan, N., 23 Saiva Prakasa Vidyasaali, xv Siava Siddhantam xiv, 114 Saiva Vellala Tamils, 56 Saiva Vellar middle class, on paintings, 96 Saivamum Thamilum, xv Saivism, xiv, xv Salyamutthy, 225, 226 Samarasnighe, S.W.R de, xxxi Samaraweerra, Vijaya, 174, 175, 177 Sandinstas, of Nicaragua, xxxviii

279

Pathways of Dissent Soulbury, Lord, 7, 8 Soulbury Commission, xxiv, 13 recommendations of, 15 report of, 7 Soulbury Constitution, 164, 186 South Indian Tamils, and Dravidians, 5 spacio-temporality, notion of, 68–69 Special Commission, 13, 222, 224 Sri Lanka, independence of, 164 repression by, 35 state formation in, 1 and Tamil struggle, 44 unitary system of government in, 164, 186 and Up-country Tamils, 140, 142 Sri Lankan Army, 38 Sri Lankan civilization, 4 Sri Lankan Communist Party, 40, 45 Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP), xx, xxxii, 5 Sri Lankan Megalithic culture, 21 Sri Lankan Muslim Congress, emergence of, xx ‘Sri Lankan nationalism’, 1, 2, 8, 19, 32, 179, 182 Sri Lankan Republican Constitution, xxix Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, 38 State Council, xxii minorities in, 8 statehood, global, construction of, 200, 204–206 internal and external, 200–201 self-determination and 198–207 Students’ Congress, 213, 216, 217 annual sessions of, 217–218 on self-government, 224–226 Subramanian, C., 2–8, 227, 228, 240 Sudras, xiv Suguna, 99 Sukarno, of Indonesia, 211 Sumantra, Bose, 45 Sumathy, S., xlii, 122 Sun Yet Sen, 211 Sundaram, Peri, xvii

Sinhala Buddhists, preference to, xxviii Sinhala, community, differences with Tamils, 16 hegemony, 3 history of, 4 leaders of, xviii, 14 petty bourgeois, xxvi and Tamil relations, xxii, 221 Sinhala consciousness, 10 Sinhala domination, political economy of, 186–194 Sinhala ethnic identity, 139 Sinhala governments, 164, 186 Tamilian reaction to, 188 Sinhala identity, 28 Sinhala ideology, 31 Sinhala kinship system, Dravidian character of, 22 Sinhala(ese) language, 5, 27, 29, 191 development of, 30 as official language, xxvi, xxviii, 7 in schools, xviii Sinhala Mahasabha, 5 Sinhala nation, xxxvii, 183 Sinhala nationalism, 13, 118, 138n, 237 Sinhala Only Act, xxvii, 118, 188, 237 Sinhala Only Movement, of 1956, xix Sinhala racism, 119 Sinhalese-Aryan colonization, 5, 23 Sinhalisation, 28–29 Sitrampalam, S.K., 1, 20, 21, 22, 25 Sivalingam, R., 151n Sivalingam, S., 88 Sivamohan, Sumathy, 122, 127, 128 Sivanandan, A., 35, 36, 51 Sivapragasam, 99 Sivaruban, paintings of, 103 Sivasegaram, S., 40 Sivathamby, K., xv, 43, 85, 181 social reform, 117 social transformation, 44 socialism, 107 socio-economic development, of Tamils, 173, 175, 186 Sornarajah, Nanthini, 119, 127

280

Index and landscape for Tamils, 85 and militancy, 33–52 phase(s), second of, 120–123 third phase of, 123–128 Tamils and, 139–150 and territory, 84–85 Tamil New Tigers (TNT), 52n Tamil politics, xxvi, 108, 118, 121 Tamil separatism, rise of, xxi, 141 Tamil society, conceptualization of, 113 radicalization of, 49 ‘residual’ group within, 192 ‘Tamil socio-cultural identity’ 68 Tamil Students Assembly, xxxi Tamil United Front (TUF), xxviii, xxix, 141, 142, 150n six-point plan of, xxix see also Tamil United Liberation Front Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), xxviii, xxix, xxx, 49, 92n, 108, 116, 142, 193 demand for separatist state, 120–121 election, manifesto of 202–203, leadership of, 202 Tamil Vanniyars, rule of, 18 Tamil-Vellala leadership, 49 Tamilness, construction of, 55–79 Tamils, Sri Lankan, anticipation, notion among, 61–63, 72–78 differences with Sinhalese, xxii, 16, 142 disenfranchisement of, xxii, xxiv of east coast and Jaffna, 140 and economy, 179, 189, 190, 195 education among, 180–181 empowerment of, 49 families, notion of, 72–76 economic plight of, xxx and ethnic conflicts, 59 leadership of, xix, xxxiii, 163, 190, 192 legal status of, 146 as minorities, 12–13 nationalism and, 139–150 as oppressed caste, xv

Suntharalingam, C., xxxviii, 209, 237 Suriya Mal movement, 236 Suthanthirap Parivaigal (Birds of Freedom), of LTTE, xl, Swaraj, 235 Tagore, Rabindranath, visit to Jaffna, 97 Tambapanni (Sri Lanka), 26 Tambiah, Stanley, 37 Tambiah, Yasmin, 81, 128 Tamil authors, 900–901 Tamil brides/marriages 61, 65–66 Tamil community see Tamils Tamil Congress, xviii, xix, xxiii–xxv, xxvii, 49, 118 split in, xxv Tamil consciousness, 155 Tamil culture, 117 Tamil diaspora, 58–60, 63, 73, 76 Tamil Eelam, xxviii-xxxi, 121 concept of, xxxviii, struggle for, 45 Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), xxxiv, 47, 121 Tamil Eelam National Assembly, xxix Tamil elites, 48–49 Tamil ethnicity, xvi, 143 Tamil identity, xv, xxii, 5, 6, 62, 76–79, 86, 102 Tamil language, in schools, xviii place of honour to, 239 Tamil liberation movement, xxxix, 51 Tamil militants/militancy, xxvii, xxxi–iv, xxxix, 16 gendering, xl–xlvi violence and extremism of, 51 Tamil nation/nationhood, xxiii, 101, 190, 193 feminist critique of, 107–137, Tamil nationalism, xiii, xvi, xxvii, xxviii, xxx, xxxii, xxxiii, xxxiv–xl, 15, 41, 43, 55, 56, 62, 76–79, 87, 92n, 105, 109, 113, 133, 152–195, 198, 237 concept of, 57 early stages of 108, 113–120

281

Pathways of Dissent political mainstream, 184–185 in public service, 178, 180 restrictions on admission to universities, xxx rights of, demand for, 116, 120, 142, 186, 187 184 as second-class citizens, 141 socio-economic conditions of, 175, 181, 185 from South India, 148 unemployment among, xxxi up-country, 140, 142 victim-hood of, 76, women in marriage market, 57, 63–72, 74–76 youth, leaders, 192 and militancy, 44, 193 Tanner, Jeremy, 94 taxation, 166, 167, 169, 175 Tcvanar, Ilattuputan, 17 temple entry, movement in Jaffna, 56 temporality, and identity, notion of, 57, 78 and nationalism, 57–63 Tennent, J.E., 5 ‘terrorism’, of Tamil struggle, 33, 41–43 Thambiah, Isaac, 217 Thakurta, Tapati Guha, 95 Thamil Eela Mahalir Paravai, of PLOTE, xli Thamil Makkal Pathukkappu Peravai, xxxvi, 49 Thamil Thai, ideal of, 119 Thamotharampillai, C.W., 113 Thangarajah, C.Y., 56 Theravada Buddhism, 4, 29 Thevar, Meikanda, xiv Thevagowry, 82 Thimp principles, adoption of, by Tamils, 16 Thiranagama, Rajini, 40, 126 Tigerism, 42 Tilak, B.G., 212 Tilly, Charles, 206 Tissamaharama, 20

tradition(al), cultural nationalism, 3 and transformation, 95–96 ‘traitor’, notion of, 135 trans-ethnic liberal and secular nationalism, 2 Trawick, Margaret, 128 Trincomalee district, xx, xxv tutory system, of education, 188, 192 Ukkiracinkan-Maruthapuravalli, legend of, 18 United Front government, xxxii United National Party (UNP), government of, xvii, xviii, xx, 202 University of Ceylon, 223 University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna (UTHR-J), 41, 53n Up-country Tamils, 139–150 Urmila, 131, 132 Uyirppu, essay, 51–52 Vadamarachchi operations, 126 Vaddukoddai Resolution 1976, xxi, xxix, 16, 120, 121, 193 Vaidhehi, R., paintings of, 102, 103 Vaitheespara, Ravi, 33, 36, 48 Vanathy, xlii, xliii Varma, Raja Ravi, 96, 106n Varnashrama Dharma, 228 Vasuki, paintings of, 100, 103–104 Veda Agama school/Sangam, xv, 227 Vedas, xiv Vellalar caste, xiv, xv, xxxiii, 80n, 168–169 dominance of, 95, 114, 116, 181 -elite leadership, 50 Jaffna Vellals as Sudras, xiv syndicate, 169 Velupillai, A., 25 Vennai Vaitheeswaran temple, xv Venu Gopal, Rajesh, 198 Victorian ideal, of representation, 96 Vijaya, King (Prince), 8, 23, 26 Vijaya legend, 9, 18, 26 Vijayan myth, 8, 28

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Index betterment of, 117 constitution as a mother, 117 culture and spirituality, 111 groups, xl-xli identity and autonomy in Tamil struggle, xl liberation of, xlii in LTTE, 124–127 mobilization of, xl and nationalism, 107–108 and notion of ‘pure’ and ‘impure’, 56, 71 role of, 89 status/position of, 112, 117 violence against 129–130 Women’s Study Circle, of Jaffna University, 122, 127–128 World War, First, 210–211

violence, of Tamil struggle, 36, 41–43, 51, 77n, 80n, 193 Vipalavakari Lanka Sama Samaj Party (VLSSP), xxvii Vipulananda, Swamy, xvii, 218, 223, 224 Vishvakarma, society, 97 Vittachi, Tarzie, 119 Vivekananda, Swami, 212 Wadley, S., 56 Weerasinghe, Jegath, 103 Weisshaar, H.J., 20, 24 western colonialism, 162, 163, 185 Wichremasinghe, Nira, 204 Wickremasinghe, S.A., xvii Wijedasa, K., 40 Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam, xxii, xxiii, 6, 7, 55, 81, 116, 119, 154, 163, 182, 183, 185, 193 Wimalasena, N.A., 24, 27 Winsor Art Club, 96–97 end of, 98 Winzer, C.F., 97 women, artists, 99, 103

Yalppadi, legend of, 18 Youth Congress, of Jaffna (JYC), xvi–xxii, 231–236 Yuval-Davis, N., 56, 111, 112, 113

Zoysa, Fancis de, xvii, xix.

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