The Candid Eye

May 27, 2009

An advice not taken

Babri Masjid Ram Mandir was a national issue of tension some years ago. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar (henceforth Guruji in this article) had suggested some important feasible solutions. Having not taken into consideration, an opportunity for peace was lost.

It is sad that Prabhakar, leader of LTTE, is killed. Is this how we treat our political oppositions? Is there nothing like a peace treaty, an agreement of understanding?

In past there have been wars, for power, religion, territory, wealth – but they had a human corner. An opposition king was not brutally murdered (atleast in many cases). There would be a peace at the end of war.

What is the guarranty that another Prabhakar won’t be born?

Guruji had visited Srilanka 3 years ago. He talked with Prabhakar saying, “you think you are leading a freedom fight, but the world thinks you as a terrorist. All goals are not achieved by war, talk to government and come to a peaceful agreement.” And he told the government, “see, all wars are not won by power alone. There needs to be a dialog. You cannot make peace with a totally defeated enemy, you cannot make friends with them. So having shown the power, come to the talking terms.” Both did not listen. Prabhakar said, Guruji you don’t know politics, you do your teaching of meditation and all that. Government anyways wanted to wipe out LTTE totally.

By disagreeing to simple words of advice of the saint, the two parties have lost the chance, and lives of lakhs of people are devastated. Srilankan Government has lost all faith and concern of Tamils in India.

On the other hand, listening to Sri Sri, Gujjar agitation could be overcome, and peace was brokered between Raje and Gujjar.

There are numerous examples in the history, where prosperity has downed when the Kings ruled the country in consultation with the Guru s. Why so? Simply because one who is Ruler, looks for proper administration, and one who is reformer, looks for proper benefit for all. A Ruler without the guidance of reformers can become selfish, biased, corrupt. A Reformer without aid of Ruler finds it tough to bring a remarkable change in the Society.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had Swami Ramdas as his guiding mentor.

Chanakya was the guiding mentor of Chandragupta Mourya.

Buddha guided King Ashoka. And in much olden days, Krishna guided Pandavas and Vasishtha Rishi trained the King Rama.

Who are all the saints today in India and abroad? Its true that there have been a few frauds under the umbrella of sainthood, and it has been punished time and again. However, majority are good only. Why haven’t we heard of their works, their ideas for building a nation…

Rulers and Reformers in India need to join hands together.

May 23, 2009

The Jaffna Tamils

Filed under: Sri Lanka — thecandideye @ 3:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

This article appeared in SAAG by B.Raman.I have reproduced the same.

As I watched TV visuals of the death of V.Prabakaran, the head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and read and heard accounts of the way his dead body was disfigured and rolled in dirt  by the Sri Lankan Army , my mind went back to the years 1951-55 when I was a student of the Loyola College of Chennai, run by the Society of Jesus. Every class, including mine, had four or five Tamils from the Northern Province of Ceylon as Sri Lanka used to be known before 1972. Even in those days, they never considered themselves part of Ceylon. They would introduce themselves as Jaffna Tamils and not as Ceylonese Tamils.

2. Every middle class family in Jaffna would save whatever money it could and send its offspring to Tamil Nadu for higher education. The most popular colleges among the Jaffna Tamils was the Loyola and the Christian Colleges of Chennai and the St.Joseph’s of Tiruchi. They were intelligent, hard-working and with a keen sense of humour. During off-class hours, they would keep to themselves and did not mix much with other students.

3. Every Jaffna Tamil, like a Tamil from Tamil Nadu, wanted to become a Government servant. The other popular profession was as lawyers. When they went back to Ceylon after completing their college education in India, they would join the Government service in Colombo. In the first few years after Ceylon became independent, the Jaffna Tamils dominated the Ceylonese bureaucracy.

4. They dominated the buraucracy even in the then Malaya and Singapore. The British preferred employing the Jaffna Tamils as bureaucrats in many of their Asian colonies. Apart from their intelligence, command of the English language and capacity for hard work, the Jaffna Tamils also had a good reputation for their integrity and honesty.

5. The Wikipedia writes as follows of the Jaffna Tamil community in Malaya and Singapore: “Ceylonese Tamils made up an overwhelming majority in the civil service of British Malaya and Singapore prior to independence…..Many of the first Asian and non-white doctors and engineers in Malaya and Singapore were of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. The world’s first Asian surgeon was Dr S.S. Thiruchelvam, a Malayan of Ceylonese Tamil origin. Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once said: “In terms of numbers, the Ceylonese, like the Eurasians, are among the smallest of our various communities. Yet in terms of achievements and contributions to the growth and development of the modern Singapore and Malaysia they have done more than warranted by their numbers. In the early days of Malaysia’s and Singapore’s history the civil service and the professions were manned by a good number of Ceylonese. Even today the Ceylonese community continues to play a prominent role in these and other fields of civil life. For example in Singapore, today, the Speaker of Parliament is a Ceylonese. So is our High Commissioner in Great Britain. So is our Foreign Minister. In the Judiciary, in the civil service, in the university, in the medical Service and in the professions they continue to make substantial contributions out of all proportion to their numbers. They are there not because they are members of a minority community but on the basis of merit. The point is that the Ceylonese are holding their own in open competition with communities far larger than them. They have asked for no special favour or consideration as a minority. What they have asked for – and quite rightly – is that they should be judged on their merits and that they be allowed to compete with all other citizens fairly and without discrimination. This, as far as the Singapore Government is concerned, is what is best for all of us. I believe that the future belongs to that society which acknowledges and rewards ability, drive and high performance without regard to race, language or religion.” He used the word Ceylonese, but he was actually talking of Tamils of Jaffna origin working in Singapore.

6. In my younger days, the Jaffna Tamils had a reputation for being meek and mild. We used to make fun of them by saying that if a policeman or a soldier pointed a gun at them they would tie their lungi above the knees and run. It is remarkable how Prabakaran made them shed their meek demeanour and stand up and fight for their rights. They fought ferociously because they felt degraded and humiliated by the Sinhalese majority after the British left Ceylon in 1948.

7. They put up with all the humiliation and indignity heaped upon them for 35 years. Then, they could no longer. They took to terrorism and insurgency to give vent to their anger. Their revolt against the Sinhalese might have been crushed by the Sri Lankan Army, but their anger remains—- in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka itself as well as in the diaspora. Since the LTTE-led revolt broke out in 1983 nearly one million Sri Lankan Tamils are estimated to have fled abroad. You find them all over West Europe, North America and Australia.

8. In response to my articles on the LTTE and Sri Lanka, I get a large number of personal messages from the members of the diaspora. Some are angry, but polite. Some downright abusive and threatening. Some curse India for allegedly letting down the Tamils and pray to God to punish India and the Indians for not helping the Tamils. “Just because Prabakaran killed Rajeev, you are punishing the entire Tamil community,’ complains one message.” Your Prime Minister has not uttered a word of condemnation of the cruelties inflicted on the Tamil civilians by the SL Army. I pray to God that all of you must suffer one day the same way we are suffering.”

9. The Tamil diaspora is yet to come to terms with the consequences of the death of Prabakaran to the future of their struggle for dignity and equality. They are studying how the Jewish diaspora conducted itself in its darkest days in the 1940s. The message that is being tom-tomed across the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora is: “Let us emulate the Jewish diaspora. We will prevail just as the Jewish people prevailed”.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:seventyone2@gmail.com)

May 22, 2009

Origins of the Srilankan Civil War

Filed under: Sri Lanka — thecandideye @ 3:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The agony and suffering of Srilankan Tamils due to war have caused so much agitation and in some places violence in TN.Periyar Dravida Kazhagam even attacked the convoy of Army trucks in Coimbatore some days ago.See the video here. This act of PDK against Indian Army definitely needs to be punished.Whatever be the cause, this cannot be justifiied.Even the election compaigns had seen so many twists and turns from all the parties on the Srilankan Tamils.Jayalalitha, the AIADMK supremo also joined those people who demanded Independent Tamil Eelam in Srilanka.Each party tried to make use of this Sri Lankan Tamil issue to its advantage in the elections.

It is also worth to know about the Srilankan Civil War.Information in Wikipedia says that the government of D.S. Senanayake passed legislation stripping the estate Tamils of their citizenship in 1949, leaving them stateless.

The effect was to tilt the island’s political balance away from the Tamils. In 1948, at independence, the Tamils had 33% of the voting power in Parliament. Upon the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils, however, this proportion dropped to 20%. The Sinhalese could and did obtain more than a 2/3 majority in Parliament, making it impossible for Tamils to exercise an effective opposition to Sinhalese policies affecting them. The main reason for the imbalance was that several multi-member constituencies elected a Tamil member of Parliament in a majority Sinhala electorate. The idea in having multi-member constituencies was to prevent domination of minorities by a future nationalist government.

The SLFP government led by Solomon Bandaranaike was sworn into office on a platform that of helping the growing population of unemployed youth who despite general educational achievement were disenfranchised by the ‘Sinhala Only’ language policy. A majority of civil servants under colonial rule were Tamil whose positions benefited from free English-medium missionary schools in the north and east of the island. When Sinhala became the official state language, many Tamil workers in government employment who were not fluent in Sinhala lost their jobs. The Tamil Federal Party led a group of Tamil volunteers and staged a sit-down satyagraha (peaceful protest). This protest was broken up by alleged hardline Sinhalese nationalist gangs.

Importing Tamil language films, books, magazines, journals, etc. from the cultural hub of Tamil NaduIndia was banned. Sri Lanka also banned groups such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham and the Tamil Youth League. Culturally, Tamil Sri Lankans were cut off from Tamil Nadu. Foreign exchange for the long established practice of Tamil students going to India for university education was stopped. Equally, examinations for external degrees from the University of London were abolished. The government insisted this was a part of a general program of economic self-sufficiency, part of its socialist agenda, however most of the Tamil population did not accept nor believe this.

During the 1970s university admissions were standardized. This initiative took place to rectify disparities created in university enrollment during colonial rule.Under the British, English was the state language and consequently greatly benefited English speakers. However, the majority of the Sri Lankan populace lived outside urban areas and did not belong to the social elite, and therefore did not enjoy the benefits of English-medium education. The issue was compounded further by the fact that in northern and eastern regions of the island, where a largely Tamil speaking populace resided, students had access to English-medium education through missionary schools regardless of their socio-economic status. This created a situation where the large proportion of students enrolled in universities were English speaking Tamils, particularly in professional courses such as medicine and engineering.

The government policy of standardization in essence was an affirmative action scheme to assist geographically disadvantaged students to gain tertiary education. The benefits enjoyed by Sinhalese students also meant a significant fall in the number of Tamil students within the university population.At first, Tamil politicians pushed for a federal system through the Federal Party. This was met with suspicion and resistance from many Sinhalese.

In the 1960s, the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike proceeded to nationalize most missionary schools in the country, secularizing them and changing the language of instruction from English to Sinhala only. After this, it became rare for Sinhalese and Tamil children to attend school together. Unable to speak Sinhalese, it became increasingly difficult for Tamil youth to gain access to civil service jobs or attend univerisities, and unemployment rose.

A mob went on rampage on the nights of May 31 to June 2 burning the market area of Jaffna, the office of the Tamil Newspaper, the home of the member of Parliament for Jaffna, the Jaffna Public Library and killing four people.The destruction of the Jaffna Public Library was the incident which appeared to cause the most distress to the people of Jaffna. The 95,000 volumes of the Public Library destroyed by the fire included numerous culturally important and irreplaceable manuscripts. Witnesses reported the presence of uniformed police officers in the mob and their involvement in the deaths of four individuals.

The concept of a separate nation, Tamil Eelam, was proposed by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in 1976 . TULF was a coalition of parties who went on to campaign in the 1977 elections for an independent state for Tamils in Sri Lanka. They won most of the Tamil seats, but the government later banned them from Parliament for advocating an independent state.

Blog at WordPress.com.