MYTHS AND SCHOLARS - PART III
(1999 April 21)
Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy in her article "Tamil and Sinhalese Nationalist writings of the 1980's" published in "The Island" of 6th and 8th March, says that some Sinhala people spend their time constructing international conspiracy theories and creating myths. Among these myths are the concept of a "chosen" people and she is now worried as she thinks that the expatriate Tamil community may follow the Sinhala myth creators. According to the myth she is propagating, Tamil politics that was 'rights' oriented until the seventies turned to an ideology based on Tamil nationalism in the eighties and it is in this transition to Tamil nationalism that the expatriate Tamils 'may' follow the Sinhala myth makers. Let us listen to her.
"It can be said that nationalism in any form has both progressive and regressive aspects as part of its core. Tamil nationalism like its Sinhala counterpart in the 1950's is no exception.............. Tamil political awareness, as reflected in the writings of those committed to a Tamil nationalism of the 1950's the discourse (in the sense used by Ms. Coomaraswamy and not by the French thinkers of post modernism) of Tamil nationalism, ESPECIALLY AS EXPRESSED IN CERTAIN TYPE OF EXPATRIATE LITERATURE, (Ms. Coomaraswamy's emphasis) appears to contain the same communalism, which if unchallenged will lead us further into the modern era of neo-tribalism."
"It may be argued that Tamil intellectuals cannot afford to make the same mistake. Political ideologies which further the cause of social justice, which fight oppression and exploitation must be distinguished from those which find their sustenance only in tribe, race and ethnicity....... The riots of 1983, however, had a major qualitative impact not only in terms of the increasing radicalisation of the Tamil population but also in the type of language and discourse used to present the Tamil cause. Certain Tamil nationalist myths which had been politically latent began to be openly expressed..... Many Tamil social scientists have argued in private that this new phase in Tamil nationalist writing is an attempt by the middle class, expatriate population to capture momentum and give ideological direction to the Tamil nationalist movement for the most part has relied on general concepts of freedom from oppression and the right to self determination. .... The evolution of these nationalist myths can only be understood in the context of Sinhala nationalist ideology to which it is a political response."
In Myths and Scholars - Part II it was shown that Tamil politics was based on Tamil racism long before 1983. Ms. Coomaraswamy and anybody else who is interested in Tamil politics can find out this for themselves from the biography of Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam written by his son in law Prof. A. J. Wilson. Ms. Coomaraswamy would like the others to believe that it is the Tamil middle class expatriate community, which after 1983, is trying to introduce some kind of nationalist myths that are in any case only a response to the myths created by the Sinhala nationalist thinkers.
However this turns out to be another myth created by the so-called scholars. Not only Prof. A. J. Wilson's book but books like "Ancient Jaffna" published by Mr. C. Rasanaygam in 1926, more than fifty years before 1983, and 'respectfully dedicated to His Excellency Sir Hugh Clifford, G. C. M. G., G. B. E., Governor of Ceylon", will explode this myth. Tamil politics from the last century was based on the type of myths propagated by people like Mr. Rasanayagam. It was based on these myths that Tamil racism evolved during the last one hundred and fifty years or so. The contents of books like Yalpana Vaipava Malai written during the Dutch period had "inspired" Tamil "scholars" to create more and more myths in the tradition of the Malai. These myths which cannot be corroborated with any archaeological or historical evidence had been the base of Tamil racist politics. The myths were certainly not created by Tamil expatriates though these "scholars" may have belonged to the middle class, which was a creation of the British through the education imparted to them mainly in the missionary schools.
The British true to their policy of divide and rule made use of this middle class that believed in a mythical history created in the tradition of Yalpana Vaipava Malai to create a Tamil racist movement against the Sinhala people. As I have already mentioned in Part II it was not a case of graduation from grievances to aspirations but a matter of Tamil racism from the middle of the last century. By the time the middle class Mudaliyar Rasanayagam was engaged in research collecting more and more myths for his "Ancient Jaffna, being a research into the history of Jaffna from very early times to the Portugese period" the Tamil politicians had asked for representation in the legislative assembly on communal basis against the Sinhala. It is charitable that Mr. Rasanayagam stopped with the Portuguese period without engaging in research to create more and more myths in order to establish any continuity in the Tamil history from that period to the British period.
Prof. K. Indrapala, the first Professor of History at the University of Jaffna, to whom many a Tamil racist, unable to refute his conclusions could only say "fly a kite", in his thesis submitted to the University of London for his Ph. D. mentions both "Ancient Jaffna" and the "Yalpana Vaipava MalaI". This is what Prof. Indrapala has to say on "Ancient Jaffna". " Unlike the early works, Ancient Jaffna is the result of an attempt to trace the history of the Tamils of Ceylon from the earliest times to the sixteenth century. It has been based on a wider variety of sources and much effort has gone into it. For the first time the Sinhalese sources as well as the South Indian inscriptions were consulted. It marks a leap forward in the research into the history of the Tamils of Ceylon. But despite its distinct merits, Rasanayagam's work suffers from several serious defects. The work has been marred by an earnest attempt to prove the thesis that the Tamils were settled in Ceylon from pre-Christian times and that there was an independent kingdom in northern Ceylon which existed from about the fifteenth century B.C. to the seventeenth century A.D. In his attempt to prove this thesis, Rasanayagam has used methods which are questionable and materials that are totally unrelated to the history of the Tamils in Ceylon. These have been briefly pointed out in our work." (page 10).
On the Malai Prof. Indrapala says: " On the Tamil side the chronicles that are extant are those written nearly three centuries after the foundation of the Tamil kingdom. (The author is here referring to the Arya Chakravarthi kingdom -NdeS.). These are the Kailayamalai, Vaiyapatul, Vaiya, Yalpana vaipava malai, and the Mattakkalappu- manmiyam......With the possible exception of the Yalpana vaipava malai, the other works cannot be dated exactly. But, as we shall see presently, certain references in those works make it clear that these were all written after the fifteenth century........The Yalpana vaipava malai is a prose chronicle of the Jaffna kingdom, as stated in its preface, when the Dutch Commandant Ian Maccara (Mekkarun) was administering Jaffna (A.D. 1736)." (pages 15, 16 &17). It is clear that after the Arya Chakravarti Kingdom was formed Tamil "scholars" of the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries wanted to cook up a history of the Tamils going back to the Vijaya period. Messrs Rasanayagam and the other "scholars" of the twentieth century are only following this tradition of creating myths.
The Malai tradition of history created a "false consciousness" (not in the Marxist sense) among the English educated Tamil middle class in the nineteenth century, that the Tamils were a superior race and that they were the original people to civilise Sri Lanka. However they were not in a position to justify their claim, as there was no evidence in favour of the Malai type history that they believed in. Sponsored and encouraged by the British the Tamil racists who based their politics originally on Malai myths were determined to deny the rightful place to the Sinhala nation, the Sinhala culture, the Sinhala history and the Sinhala language. The politics of Tamil racists in the present century can be explained on this basis. The so-called grievances were created by the Tamil racists. How can a legislature with more Sinhala members be a grievance of the Tamils? Why did the Tamils agitate for a legislature with less than fifty percent of the Sinhala members? A legislature with a majority of Sinhala members was resented by the Tamils because their false consciousness created by the Malai tradition and promoted by the British did not permit them to accept the fact that the Sinhala people constituted the majority. It is not a secret that in the early period the Christian clergy supported the Tamils so that they could be used against the Buddhists. Even today a section of the hierarchy of Christian priests support the Tamil racists in order to weaken the Buddhist culture. The NGO's, which support the Tamil racists, are financed by the western Christian countries and almost all the peace vendors could be found in these organisations. The clash of civilisations which was begun five hundred years ago is still continuing. It can be found everywhere from Serbia to Sri Lanka. The western Christian civilisation will not look back until and unless their cultural hegemony is established over the globe. They will pretend that they have sympathy for the Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, when they want to attack the Serbs, but where was this sympathy in the case of Muslims in Bosnia? In Sri Lanka the western civilisation from Catholic Norway to Anglican Britain support the Tamil racists against the Sinhala people but the moment the Sinhala Buddhist culture is destroyed the very same Tamils whom they support now, will have to face the music. This is not an international conspiracy theory as there is no conspiracy in this. The western civilisation is very transparent in these matters and the policy of the west is there to be seen by those who are not blind to what is happening. The west does not conspire in their broad policy decisions even though they may resort to conspiracies in the implementations of their policies.
I shall discuss in Part IV why Ms. Cooomaraswamy is interested in propagating the myth that she and some "scholars" are against myth making by some other Tamil "scholars".