Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus – II
by B R Haran on 26 May 2009 2 Comments

Sinhala chauvinism may raise its head!
As almost 85% of Sri Lankan Tamils are Hindus, the re-Hinduisation of their Tamil identity must be taken up on war footing as the Dravidian-Christian combo is in doldrums after the defeat of the LTTE, and will take time to recoup.

The west, particularly the missionaries, NGOs, and the UN which is totally influenced by them, will try to portray the Sri Lankan army as a great ‘human right violator’ and to expose its ‘war crimes.’ In times of calamities and wars, western organizations swarm the affected areas through dubious fronts and indulge in evangelism in the name of relief and rehabilitation works. To thwart such attempts, Hindu religious leaders from India should make immediate contacts with the Buddhist leadership for the benefit of both communities, and facilitate the entry of Hindu organizations for the welfare of Lankan Tamil Hindus, who comprise the maximum number of internally displaced persons. 

Addressing his country’s Parliament after the demise of LTTE chief Prabhakaran, President Rajapakse said, “We are a country with a long history where we saw the reign of 182 kings who ruled with pride and honour, for that extended more than 2,500 years. This is a country where kings such as Dutugemunu, Valagamba, Dhatusena and Vijayabahu defeated enemy invasions and ensured our freedom. As much as Mother Lanka fought against invaders such as Datiya, Pitiya, Palayamara, Siva and Elara in the past, we have the experience of having fought the Portuguese, Dutch and British who established empires in the world. As much as the great kings such as Mayadunne, Rajasingha I and Vimaladharmasuriya, it is necessary to also recall the great heroes such as Keppettipola and Puran Appu who fought with such valour against imperialism” (Ref:

President Rajapakse specifically mentioned Buddhist kings (Dutugemunu, Valagamba, Dhatusena and Vijayabahu) who defeated Tamil Kings (Datiya, Pitiya, Palayamara, Siva and Elara). He specifically addressed the Tamil Kings as “invaders.” Even if he had wanted to create a picture of “nationalism,” he need not have mentioned this history as Tamils are part of Sri Lankan nationhood. They are natural citizens of Sri Lanka and must be given equal rights in all spheres of life. Any leader genuinely striving to ensure the freedom and equal rights of the largest minority would not have made such a prejudiced and divisive speech. 

Though President Rajapakse has repeatedly promised to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil community, the conditions prevailing in army-run relief camps belie this. As the Lankan army was singularly focusing on defeating the LTTE, lack of focus on relief camps could be forgiven. But now that the conflict has ended, the army has the prime responsibility to improve facilities in camps and treat the tormented Tamils with dignity. Both government and army should welcome the religious and spiritual organizations and relief materials from India and Tamil Nadu and fulfill the commitment given by their President. 

The behaviour exhibited by the Sinhalese after the defeat of the LTTE was unruly. Happiness over the defeat of LTTE and the death of Prabhakaran is understandable, but they should not cross limits. There are reports that Sinhalese were excessive in celebration dancing and singing, with crackers and fireworks, especially in Tamils dominated areas. If the President erred in touching history by mentioning the defeat of Tamil Kings at the hands of Sinhala kings and calling them invaders, the government blundered declaring last Wednesday an official holiday to mark the victory. 

Neither the government nor the people spared a thought for 300,000 refugees who have gone through a harrowing experience, caught between the army and the LTTE. Sadly, the President’s speech, government’s actions and people’s behaviour only created apprehensions in the minds of the Tamil minority.

However, as a silver lining, a section of Sinhalese has been affectionate and helpful to Tamils. Several organizations from the south have been voluntarily sending food, clothes, etc to the relief camps in the north and many Sinhala doctors and paramedical staff have volunteered to work in the Vavuniya hospital to attend to injured Tamils.

It is the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora that is disgusting. It is well-known that the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, besides western missionaries, has been a good source of funds for the LTTE; a major section of the diaspora is either Christians or converted. This section willingly funded the LTTE, the other section did so out of compulsion. Last year, LTTE banned Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, including the ‘coconut breaking ceremony,’ and asked the Diaspora to send the funds earmarked for the celebration to the Tigers; but the Hindu Diaspora ignored the LTTE and went ahead with the celebration.

In the aftermath of LTTE’s defeat, the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada, US, UK and other European countries has reacted insensitively. For the last one month, it continuously clamoured to somehow save the Tiger leadership, and cannot digest the defeat of LTTE and death of its chief. Protest demonstrations revealed that a major section of the protesters were youngsters who had not visited Sri Lanka even once. Sri Lankan journalist Lalith Gunaratne, in a column “Can we end this cycle of hatred?” said, “Even friends who never looked at race before are now putting their identity as a Tamil or Sinhala before friendship. Sad this happens in a place 10,000 kms away from where the real conflict is taking place. The irony is that in the old country we are already talking about reconciliation and rebuilding relationships” (Ref:  http://www.groundviews.org/2009/05/20/can-we-end-this-cycle-of-hatred/ ). 

Notwithstanding the defeat of LTTE, the Canadian Tamil Congress, which heads the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada, openly said it would be the ‘Tigers’ hereafter and would take revenge and stop only after achieving a separate Tamil nation. A few celebrity poets and singers among the Diaspora are also misleading the youth saying the Sri Lankan government has been waging war not against the LTTE, but against the Tamils, and that Tamil nation is the only solution.

Diaspora hardliners are likely to pressure UN and other western nations to try Sri Lankan Armed Forces for ‘war crimes.’ Sri Lanka has reacted strongly, saying UK and US must be tried first for their ‘war crimes’; President Rajapakse said he was “ready to go to the gallows” for defeating the LTTE. Here too, a silver lining is visible, as a considerable section of the Diaspora really wants to return home and start a new life in a peaceful environment. This section is of the firm opinion that armed struggle would lead nowhere; it prefers a political solution with the help of India.  

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, has been conferred with the highest national honour, “Vishawakeerthi Sri Threesinhaladishwara.” The prelates of Malwathu and Asgiri chapters awarded the title to the President at the national ceremony to mark the reunification of the country and honour and invoke blessings on the President and war heroes for liberating the country and nation from terrorism, held at the historic Magul Maduwa of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy last Saturday.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Air Chief Marshall Donald Perera, Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka, Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, Air Chief Marshall Roshan Goonetilleke, IGP Jayantha Wickremeratne and Civil Defence Chief Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekere were awarded “Sthuthi Sthroththa Pathra” (Scroll of facilitation) in recognition of their contribution towards uniting the nation. The Maha Sanga had conferred the title “Sri Rohana Jana Ranjana” to Rajapakse when he was a cabinet minister. 

Reliable sources say some Buddhist monks have cautioned the President not to make any concessions as “winners do not make concessions” and that the roads in the north (Tamil areas) be renamed after war heroes. If so much hostility is shown, where is the question of a single united nation? In despair, a Lankan expert quoted “verse 201” of “Dhammapada” -“Victory breeds hatred; the defeated live in pain. He is happy who has given up both victory and defeat.” He added, “Naked triumphalism is like salt to a wound.” 

This attempt by some Buddhist monks may be based on their great chronicle, Mahavamsa, which is politically significant. The Mahavamsa covers the complete history of religion in Sri Lanka from the time of Gautama Buddha, along with a brief account of Buddhism in India. It starts from the coming of King Vijaya from Kalinga (Orissa) in 543 BCE to the reign of King Mahasena (334-361).

As the Sinhalese majority often use Mahavamsa as proof of their claim that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation from historical times, ‘Tamil Nationalists’ contest that most Sinhala Kings are actually Tamils. Hence this book, which is also considered a work of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism, laid the foundation for civilian conflicts which became worse after the exit of the British (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahavansa). Indeed, President Rajapakse quoted the historical content of his speech from this book only, which exposes his inner thoughts and chauvinistic mentality.  

Hence it becomes all the more imperative for Hindu religious leaders from Tamil Nadu to establish immediate contact with their Buddhist counterparts in Sri Lanka so that future conflicts are avoided and peace and harmony ensured. This connection between Buddhist and Hindu leaders would go a long way in helping Hindu cultural and service organisations to participate in the rehabilitation of displaced Tamil Hindus in the island.     

(To be concluded…)

The writer is a senior journalist and lives in Chennai 

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