Macaulay Syndrome and Indo-Sri Lankan Relations
by J Jayasundera on 29 Sep 2010 44 Comments

When Lord Macaulay in the early 1800s in his educational Minute said: “We must at present do our best to form a class of person Indian in blood and colour but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect who will be the interpreters between us and the millions we govern”, little did he realise what grave impact it would have in the centuries to come on the masses in the subcontinent.


Although he probably expected this elite to transfer knowledge to the vernacular, colonial education instead created a group that was alien to its own country and populace. These people looked at their own culture and people with contempt and ignored the existence of the poor and dispossessed. This hybrid group had multifaceted personalities with fraternal relations to different groups based on ethnicity, schooling, caste etc; they could never join under one flag when threatened from outside, but against their own poor.


Under the British game of divide and rule, each group was made to feel superior to the other but inferior to the Europeans. Thus the seeds of westernisation were sown. It is said the greatest achievement of British colonialism was the servility of the middle classes. To this day this pervades the thinking of the elite. The schooling system left behind by the British continues to produce these clones.


In Sri Lanka, the top elitist schools imitate Harrow and Eton and most of their products look to the west for guidance. They even get their headmasters from England after 60 years of independence. Christian schools that played the dominant role in education during the Raj play a major role in this programme. The cancer left behind by the British keeps the flag of neo-colonialism flying as all climbing the social ladder want their children to be Macaulayites.


Post Independence


When the British left, the country was left in the hands of the Macaulayites as they were the only ones with the education and finances to do politics. As subjects of the Raj, they were educated to do puja to the white races. They felt allegiance to the poor and the rest of the population would alienate them from the British colonialists. The irony is that they still pay homage to the white races whilst treating their own people with contempt. The ordinary man is treated the way the colonialists treated him. Like the British, the elite gradually erode the rights of ordinary citizens but turn violent when confronted. Unfortunately, this same mentality governs intergovernmental relations in the sub-continent. Arrogance and domination is the vogue, not the common good. They follow the western dictum of Might is Right as against the Tagore/ Gandhi Asian philosophy of moralism and harmony.


Indo Lankan relations and ethnic conflict


Since Independence, Sri Lanka has been simmering with ethnic tension, not because ordinary persons had conflicts, but because Sinhala and Tamil Macaulayites could not establish a vision for the benefit of the country. Christian Chelvanayagam advocated a separate state even before independence. After various threats to achieve their personal aims, the next best was to use India to achieve their aims. The Macaulay Tamils of Sri Lanka until then treated Tamils in Tamil Nadu as inferior. There were no social interactions before the ethnic conflict. The Sinhalese were no different. It took them almost 15 years after independence to appoint a Sinhala Buddhist as Army commander, as Buddhists felt insecure with the thought a Buddhist head of the army. A very British fear.


Under colonialism, the Brits never allowed positions of power to be handed over to anyone from the majority community. It was only after the Christian officers attempted a coup in 1962 that they felt they were wrong in their judgement. In essence, the British divide and rule policy made sure society was divided according to various criteria so it could never unite against the British. If applied to each country, the same division was sown against nations.


Sri Lankans were made to feel superior to Indians and vice versa. It is this mentality and the inability of Maculayites to appreciate the geopolitical policies of the white races. The mindset of these people is warped to believe that westerners are moral and law abiding and fair. But that is a gross misunderstanding of reality the consequences are still felt by the people of south Asia. Essentially the west has only interests which are economic, be it Iraq or Afghanistan, geopolitical interests are based on exploitation and dominance. Yet this obvious truth eludes the thinking of Maculayites.


Pannikar doctrine/J.R. Jayewardene


The Pannikar doctrine that has had a great impact on Indo Sri Lanka ties is that the security of India is closely linked with Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The thought that eludes this great public servant is that the security of Lanka is greatly linked with that of India. It is in our common interests to forge a link for the common good. It is on this principal that India interfered in the affairs of Sri Lanka and continues to do so.


In 1977, when J.R. Jayawardena (Yankee Dickie) became the leader in Colombo, the west got an opportunity to sow the seeds of discontent between the two countries. A corrupt leader whose servility to the west was well known was ideal to destabilise the country. He was told the west would come to his aid if there was an external threat to the pseudo-democracy in the country. During the Vedamaracchi army offensive, India threatened to invade Sri Lanka. JRJ’s appeal to President Reagan fell on deaf ears; he advised JRJ was to discuss the matter with India.


Flirtations with the Americans regarding Trincomalee Harbour and establishment of a Voice of America transmission centre in Sri Lanka, and the extremely pro-western foreign policy was meant to disrupt the cordial relationship with India. Thus started Indian involvement in the Tamil insurrection in Lanka. Little did India realise the aim and the target was India herself!


India trained and armed the Tamils not realising that destabilising Sri Lanka would only cause more instability in the region and destabilise herself. Little did India realise that the Israelis were training the Tamils as well. The narrow Tamil nationalism that the conflict provoked, led by the Catholic Church, goes on to confirm the ultimate aim was to destabilise India. The conflict certainly created a destabilised sub-continent, primed for conversion.


India and the West


Since 1947, the west has used every avenue to militarise India by giving her the distinction of being a regional power or by promoting anti-India states like Pakistan or the insurrection in Kashmir. Malcontent Kashmirs, like the LTTE, have been given refuge in the west to promote terrorism and destabilisation of south Asia. The arming of Pakistan from the early 1950s in the name of CENTO was only meant to create insecurity in India and compel her to militarise.


The latest gimmick is that India is an ‘emerging power’ (sic). No one questions the achievements of the Indian economy, but with a huge populace below poverty line, sustaining herself as a powerful nation is questionable. How long will the marginalised poor tolerate the indifference of the ruling class? Already there are rumblings of dissent.


When Robert Blake, under secretary of state for South Asian affairs, says India and America are in agreement on Sri Lanka, it surprises one. With all the anti-India activity, how can India have a common policy with the USA? The only answer is the servility of the Macaulayites. This is further confirmed by the news report that the USA had asked India for a report on the effect of the recent 18th amendment to the constitution in Sri Lanka.


Effect of Indian interference in Sri Lanka


Indian interference in Lanka has produced a natural hatred of India. Her forced insistence on having consulates in the South and the North has worsened the altitude towards India. It is the product of a western myth that Might is Right, extolled by Maculayites of the Indian Foreign Office. In contrast, China’s soft power has caused a natural affection amongst the general public. The best assessment is the cricket test. Who will Sri Lankans support when Pakistan plays India? In the early 1980s, 80% would support India; today it will be difficult to collect 10% to support India. Governments come and go, but the public perception of hatred and suspicion continue. Future leaders will be born with a suspicion of India and her intentions. The neo-colonial agenda is thus achieved by the Macaulay mindset.


A case for pan Asianism


The security of India and the sub-continent at large depends on a public perception of common interests and common goals. A short-sighted Indian foreign policy that is resented by its neighbours only creates instability, and could cause neighbours to be used to destabilise the resurgence of the Indian economy and hinder the development of the whole of south Asia. Military power will only create death and destruction and impede development, as we saw during the India-instigated Tamil insurrection, which cost India the life of a former Prime Minister.


Death and mayhem in Sri Lanka was morally unacceptable. The impact on her economy was severe. These resources could have been used for the development of our common people. If this is the case with Sri Lanka, it is also the case with Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. It is time to change the Macaulay mindset and extol the virtues of Mother India, or we will all continue to be colonies of the west.


The writer is a Sri Lankan national 

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