Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A thousand questions on Tamil-Singhalese relations

The 140 character Twitter mindset of today means that people often do not have the time or the patience or the enthusiasm to ask a thousand questions. Here, I start with a small set of questions on the Tamil-Singhalese relations. Of course, I do not know the answer to them all, nor do I have the time to address what I do know. May be, if and when time allows me (a big fat yawn!). But asking the relevant questions is an important task, and much more important than providing answers. So here they are.

Understanding the Tamil-Singhalese relations today cannot be ignorant or unmindful of history, a bad word for many people with an agenda that is uncorrelated with truth-seeking.

0) The very early immigrants from South India to Sri Lanka - now called the indigenous people (Yakkas/Veddas), even before the Singhalese and Tamilians migrated to the island.

1) Setting the stage -- Tamil migration patterns, Portuguese Inquisitions and the conversion of the Jaffna kingdom, Tamil-Singhalese commingling, formation of the Lankan identity

2) British era -- Impact of the British Rule on Tamil and Singhalese societies, The role of the Donoughmore and Soulbury Constitutions on Lankan identity and future makeup, Reforms in the Tamil Hindu and Singhalese societies, Cross-pollination of ideas between the Then Indhiya Saiva Siddhantha Sanmaarga Sangham and Lankan Tamil society, Flow of ideas from the Theosophical Movement to the Mahabodhi Society and the resurgence of Buddhism, Profile of elites in the Tamil, Singhalese, Burgher and Muslim sections of Lanka

3) Plantation Tamils and their travails in the context of Tamil and Indian migration to such places as Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, Guyana and the Caribbean, Fiji, South Africa, Kenya, and Mauritius. The similarities and differences with respect to hard labor, profile of societies migrating, etc.

4) Why did SL not join the Indian Union in 1948? There are good explanations why Nepal, Burma and Sri Lanka not join India upon independence, not all of which have to do with Nehru bashing. There was a good reason why the Burmans wanted to be out of British India in the late-20s to mid-30s. There was a good reason why the Tamils favored a Union with India after 1948, but the Singhalese did not. There was a good reason why the Kathmandu Valley based elite did not want a Union with India. There was a very good reason why Patel and Nehru did not force these neighbors to join India. There was a very good reason why Indira Gandhi annexed Sikkim. Some of these facts are to be understood in context of the information that India had at that point in history, not based on what we know now. Reshaping history based on future information is not only non-causal, but only ammo for rhetoric warfare with little meanings to reality.

5) Why was Katchhathheevu handed over to Sri Lanka? What was Sri Lanka's role in the 1971 war with Pakistan? How did the Soviets help India on the one hand and hurt India on the other? Who was responsible for the non-war on the West Pakistan side? And in this task how were they similar to the other superpower of that era? What were the commonalities between Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka as virtual carrier fleets in the Indian Ocean? What did the Singhalese do to force the hands of the British and the Americans in taking over Diego Garcia, esp with respect to the Kankesanthurai port and Tirikonamalai air base?

6) G. Ponnambalam and S. V. Chelvanayakam -- their similarities and differences, their travails and their stories, their promises and their hopes for different sections of Tamils, and why these all got dashed by the Singhala Only act of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

7) Rise of YMBA and JVP -- Who was Rohana Wijeweera? Why was he allowed to run riot in Sri Lanka? What was the role of LSSP in the travails that led to the first JVP uprising? What was the Soviet role in this melee, particularly the Stalinists at the Patrice Lumumba University? How did Nehru react? How did SWRD Bandaranaike react? How did the Indian foreign policy change in response to the JVP threat? Why did the TULF constitute itself? What was the reaction in Tamil society at large?

8) Where did the TULF fail? Why did splinter groupings come up? PLOTE, EPDP, EPRLF, TELO, LTTE -- who supported them in TN and India? Why did MGR take a soft spot for the Kandy boys? Why did Indira Gandhi take a soft spot for LTTE initially? Why did the LTTE come up front and decimate everyone else? Who were Amirthalingham, Douglas Devananda, Mahathiya, etc.? What did the Vaddukkodai resolution promise? What was the impact of the Jaffna library burning in 1981 on support to the LTTE? What was the impact of the riots in 1983? Why did India help SL attain respectable cricketing status in 1983? What happened to the MJ Gopalan trophy between TN and Sri Lanka?

9) Why did Indira Gandhi go against the LTTE over time? What did Rajiv Gandhi take away from Indira Gandhi's tenure? How did Rajiv's tenure differ from Indira's? What led to the IPKF pact? What are the commonalities between the accords that Rajiv signed with AGP, Punjab, Mizoram and SL? What role did the air lifting of soldiers to the Maldives coup have on SL? Why was J.N. Dixit unsuccessful? What was the agenda behind IPKF? Why did the IPKF fail badly? Was the Tamil accusation that the IPKF soldiers commited rapes and brutalities right or wrong, fact or fiction? If it was fact, were such acts justified or not? Were the IPKF misunderstood saints or well-meaning soldiers or was the grayness somewhere in between? How did Indians react to stories of rape and brutalities on civilians unconnected with guerrilla warfare? How did the Sri Lankan Tamil society react?

10) How did the LTTE rise as a terrorist group? What were its strong points? What were its weak points in hindsight? What made LTTE what it was -- a fearful, loathsome, powerful outfit bonded by people with a need to free themselves from a fubar Singhalese society? What did India get right in its dealings with the GoSL and the LTTE? What did it get badly wrong? What was the role of Tamil "civil society" in TN on this issue? Who were TNRT and TNLA? What was the connection between Veerappan and VP? Why did Vai Ko rise in the DMK? What about Kolathur Mani and Pazha Nedumaran? What was Ramadoss' role in the SL issue? Where do all the politicians in TN fall in line vis-a-vis Sri Lanka? Where do they differ? What was Sivanthi Adithhanar's Naam Tamizhar Party's role in the SL crisis? What was the role of the erstwhile Raja of Ramnad? What was the role of Velankanni Church? What is the caste profile of the LTTE? Why did LTTE split not once, but twice? What was the role of conversion of a certain segment of Tamils to Christianity? Why did/do the LTTE and the Tamil Hindus share a painful relationship with the Tamil Muslims? Why was the LTTE still a rank-and-file Hindu dominated terrorist entity? How did Anton Balasingham become its advisor-cum-ideologue? Who was Adele?

11) Op. Oyaadha Alaigal -- the meaning of the idea and its ruminations in TN, the key players involved, the attack strategies, the Elephant Pass victory, the Palaly air base bombings, the Sea Tigers, the Air Tigers, Indian Coast Guard's role in coralling LTTE assets and how it failed miserably, military lessons to be learned, what lessons do they have for counterinsurgency operations in the Maoist heartland in India today, in India's extended neighborhood, for COIN against supposedly ethnic/political/azaadi-seeking terrorist outfits as against Leftist or anarchist terrorist outfits 

12) Political lessons for GoI, for GoTN, for SL society, for Tamil society, for Indians, for people at large. How will this issue end? Will it end? What can GoI do today? Why the past is a circle just like what the Buddhism's kaalachakra says about life? How the SL brand of Buddhism and the nonsense taught in Indian textbooks about Buddhism are not the same? Why some of the non-violence preaching societies such as Burma, Tibet, SL, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. are the most violent today, not only against other ethnicities of the same country, but also against neighbors? What lessons do Indians need to take from their surface level understanding of the conflict in SL? And finally, was Ambedkar correct in marshalling the SCs toward Indian Buddhism? What is the way forward for Indian Buddhists if that route was wrong? What would result in closure for everyone involved?

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At June 8, 2013 at 1:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how so may questions arise in your mind! Shows a lot of thought. War Nerd has written quite a few articles, laced with satire and entertaining phrases on the history of conflict in SL. Not all of it may be right, but it does show some pattern. The main problem is the mess of a long history. Similar to Kashmir, or Lebanon.

At October 1, 2013 at 10:25 PM , Blogger AASIS SUBEDI said...

Answers? plz or atleast suggest some books or links that would help young n curious readers like me, to know true facts about past (not 'history' bcuz winner writes the history)
- Ashish


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