The Real History of Srilanka – Part 2

In my previous post, I had touched upon the origin of Srilankan Tamils. In this serving, I’ll outline some of the reasons behind the simmering ethnic strife. But, first I’d like to lay some lies & disinformation to rest.

Srilankan Presidency and Disinformation

Any armed struggle uses a variety of tools to incite the masses & hi-jack them emotionally. Circulating malicious rumors is their stock in trade to get rabid supporters. Disinformation that denigrates the government would be propagated, to decrease hope & increase paranoia. Recently, this lie was stuffed down the throats of the gullible by LTTE supporters:

According to the constitution of Srilanka, only a Sinhala Buddhist can assume office as the President.

I was appalled by the number of intelligent people that bought this, hook, line & sinker. The best way to slay a rumor is to go directly to the source. I reviewed Chapter VII of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Srilanka, which lays down the laws governing the President of the country. There are NO clauses that mention Buddhism or Sinhala as a prerequisite for assuming office. Neither religion nor ethnicity is mentioned in any of the relevant clauses.

Buddhism is the State Religion of Srilanka & all the presidents thus far have been adherents of that faith. That’s not the same as claiming non-Buddhists cannot aspire to be presidents. I’ll be glad to eat my hat if someone can direct me to an article in the Constitution of Srilanka that contradicts my understanding.

Now, let’s go back to a point in history where all the rancor started.

Divide & Rule Policy

While we must agree that the British did not initiate cruel inquisitions like the Portuguese, they still caused Srilanka irreparable harm with their handiwork – the “Divide & Rule” policy. They created a subaltern elite, comprised of Burghers, Srilankan Tamils and the upper caste Sinhalas. Yes Virginia, there’s a caste system in Srilanka :-)

Burghers are Srilankans with European blood. The British were especially partial to Burghers that professed loyalty to the Anglican Church. The land-owning Sinhala Govigama community & its Tamil equivalent – the Vellalas – were amongst the anointed. The British meted out preferential treatment to these 3 communities. They occupied most of the Civil Service jobs, received an excellent English language education & in general, enjoyed a position of power & privilege.

Divide & Rule is a very useful policy. It promoted people that were willing to kowtow to the British. It ensured that very little power was vested in the locals – and even then, it was concentrated to a handful of “elite”. In the end, it fostered resentment & animosity in the locals towards the chosen few. In any case, it ensured that the Srilankans were fragmented & couldn’t band together against the rulers. Slam Dunk for the British.

Setting the Stage

Srilanka became independent via non-violent means in 1948. For the 1st few years, both Sinhala & Tamil languages were treated equally. But this uneasy peace was short-lived. Tamils were a mere 15% of the population, but they were economically & socially far ahead than most of the Sinhalas. A disproportionate number of Tamils enrolled in medical and engineering schools, practically guaranteeing them lucrative careers.

Consider this. In 1948, Tamils occupied 31% of the university seats. In 1956, 60% of Technical & Professional jobs – Doctors, Engineers and University Professors – were held by Srilankan Tamils. In the same year, they also occupied 30% of the top bureaucratic positions & 50% of clerical jobs in Civil Services.

This caused resentment among the majority Sinhalas & resulted in soaring Sinhala Nationalism. There was a strong feeling that the balance of power & position had to shift in favor of the Sinhalas. Many good English language schools were in the Tamil dominated Jaffna peninsula. English language fluency was seen as a ticket for growth for the Srilankan Tamils & the Sinhala elite – and a stumbling block for progress for the non-English speaking Sinhala majority, most of whom were poor.

Sinhala Only Bill

Unemployment among the Sinhala youth & their hankering for prosperity exerted tremendous political pressure in post-independent Srilanka. As a crowning event, in 1956, the “Sinhala Only” Bill was passed. This made Sinhala, the language spoken by 74% of the population, the National language.

The horrified Tamil community was jolted into action. Tamil leader Chelvanayagam & his Federal Party colleagues staged a Satyagraha protest in the Galle Face Green in Colombo, demanding parity status for Tamil. Their protest was broken up brutally & violently by hooligans. While the peaceful agitators lay bruised, writhing in agony,  the Srilankan government watched, a mute spectator to the deplorable event. This provided the spark that ignited an inferno 2 years later, in 1958, as a gory communal riot between Sinhalas and Tamils, with each side marauding & retaliating. The Black July attack in 1983 was the pinnacle of this pissing contest.

Once Srilanka’s official language became Sinhala, the bottom fell out of the English Language. In one fell swoop, Tamils lost their head-start on Sinhalas. And for the 1st time, they faced stiff competition in the job market. In the meantime, many Sinhala Medium schools were started through-out the country to educate the masses. English was relegated to 2nd language status in schools.

Due to a groundswell of pressure from the still influential Srilankan Tamil community, the “Sinhala Only” Bill was amended in 1958 to “Sinhala Only, Tamil Also”. But, for the next 10 years, most of the government forms and services were only in Sinhala. This made life exceedingly difficult for the Tamils.

Once Sinhala became the defacto official language, Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike ordered the Tamils in Civil Service jobs to prove their proficiency in that language. They better clear the stage-wise test over a period of 3 years, or else! What else – the Damocles sword of dismissal hung over the heads of Srilankan Tamils. Unable to clear the tests, many had their increments suspended. Some were forced to quit their jobs & make way for Sinhalas.

So in reality, the battle for the “Official Language” status was a battle for economic prosperity, for gainful employment. The law’s resounding impact was very visible by the 70s: Most of the Civil Service employees were Sinhalas by then. The Tamils had either quit or were not hired.

The law was repealed in 1987. Now, Chapter IV of the Srilankan Constitution gives parity to both Sinhala and Tamil. Both are official and national languages.

Summing Up

It is inconceivable to me that a minority living in a country half the size of Tamil Nadu will not take the effort to learn the language of the over-whelming majority. With all due respect, it seems parochial & idiotic.

I find the narrow-mindedness of the Srilankan Tamil leaders deplorable. Srilanka was their nation! Why didn’t they take the unemployment problem of the Sinhala youth to their hearts? They did not try to improve the lot of their Sinhala brethren. They could have been the leaders of Srilanka. Instead, they were content to lead a mere 15% of the population, the Tamils.

I’ve realized over the years that we cannot be happier than those around us. Sooner or later, they’ll pull us down.  The Tamils were pleased when they were well placed – granted, through their hard-work; And started whimpering when they were no longer the top dogs, when they were relatively worse off than before. I find their callousness unpardonable. If the Tamils had played their cards right, if they had attempted to help the Sinhalas, if they had been empathetic, things wouldn’t have come to such a sorry pass.

As for the bungling Srilankan government, their objective may be laudable, but their execution stunk. They could not resist playing into the hands of the zealots who painted the program in ugly communal colors. Nor could they control the sordid ethnic clashes that erupted.

Even though English is a 2nd language, English language proficiency is very low in Srilanka – around 10% of its population, mostly the urban elite that enroll in International Schools. Painful awareness that most Srilankans are ill-prepared to compete with India in IT, BPO & KPO sectors, primarily because of their inadequate English skills – is sinking in.

Many Sinhalas are threatened by the mere presence of 60 million Tamils, a spitting distance across the pond in India.  This insecurity will only deepen if our politicians scream for an end to Srilanka’s “unjust” war against LTTE. Indian politicians will do well to remember that.

What are the other fundamental problems that exacerbated the ethnic strife & converted it to a crisis? All that & more in my next post.


  1. Quote

    Another excellent post Priya. You have done a lot of research to dispel some popular misinformation.

    You are right, Tamils should have used their prosperity to think more broadly and worked to uplift the downtrodden. That could have further cemented their leadership position. Instead they chose to take an approach of confrontation.

  2. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment.

    When someone’s a top-dog, its easy to remain a user instead of a leader. If entire communities are unable to come up in life, a civil war is the usual result. The French Revolution, though not too similar to the Srilankan situation, comes to mind.

  3. Quote

    Thanks for the second post in the series. As usual very neutral and articulate position you have.

    But dont you think there is a better way to increase Sinhala majority come into power like affirmative action rather than making a language spoken by 15% populace. (agreed they are in power and enjoying the privilege). IMO, that policy is quite stupid and confronting. Everyone feels personal about one’s language and it is quite natural.

    I dont know Tamil community leaders were able to understand the gravity of the situation when they took that stance of agitation or did not try to learn Sinhalese. Perhaps the community was shocked.
    What you wrote sounds like idealistic (but doable if Tamil minority attempted). I also would like to know if Sinhalese provided a means for learning Sinhalese. Like special language grants for Tamil schools etc. If they did not, it is clearly to screw Tamils.

    Even if they had learnt Sinhalese, what is the guarantee that 1950’s Srilankan Govt will not introduce another law that restricts the Tamils in jobs at less than 10%? I dont know if Srilankan Govt had such a maturity during those days.

    You summarized correct, their execution sucks and they paid such a huge price. And their English language handicap is also evident by lost opportunities.

  4. Quote

    Vamsi – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    Srilanka introduced Affirmative Action & called it “Policy of Standardization”. I thought I’ll handle that topic in a separate post, since that opened its own can of worms.

    I think the Srilankan govt wanted to do something that would take away the competitive advantage of Tamils & the elite quickly (ergo, removal of English). By making Sinhala the national language, they were fast-tracking the growth of the majority. A short-sighted approach & it did give them short-term benefits. What can I say? They were politicians & they played into the hands of the communal forces.

    Tamils could still study in Tamil medium schools. But, they had to know Sinhala to take up certain jobs.

    What I think the Tamil leaders should have done is not really idealistic. Its what is practical. At the very least, the Tamil leaders could have made the right noises about the ailing Sinhala youth. Indian politicians do that very well – Lip Service.

    When we let “Us VS Them” into our hearts, who knows what levels we’ll stoop to? You are right. Left to their own devices, the extremists in Srilanka might have pushed their envelope further to hurt the Tamils.

  5. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 12, 2008, 11:56 pm:

    Great post Priya,

    your post reminds debrahmanisation of the Tamil society carried out by Periyar.Only differnence is that Brahmins did not resist but Tamils in Lanka did.

    But Tamils could have taken a leaf out of the Moors book by trying to intergrate with mainstream Sinhala community by learning Sinhala and Tamil.But the flip side is that now Arawi has become a dead language .

    But my personal opinion is that one should not impose a language on commutity just religion.In this case they had another common language i. e. English.

  6. Quote


    Very well written. Though I could not digest a few conclusions you have made. Yes – A minority population holding 30% of top bureaucratic post could have done some things to uplift the majority of the Sinhalese population. But you are placing too much burden (or asking too much) on a set of folks who wield only so much power. It seems idealistic not practical. Yes, Tamils should have been cognizant about the growing tension and could have taken some steps.

    You could hate me for saying this :), Perhaps it is your affinity to Tamil and Tamilians that is causing you to have such high expectations on them. I do not see you assign the same amount of burden on the majority Sinhalese population. Like it was mentioned in the previous post, majority must take care of the concerns of the minority, sometime even coddle them. This is a tough line to tread, but a country that tramples n the rights of the minority and downtrodden cannot rise up and prosper.

    Regarding, Tamilians forced to learn Sinhalese, here is my take. I believe such things should not be forced. It will happen naturally. U.S is a good example. As much as English is the defacto national language, there is no one official national language. People understand that they have a better chance of prospering if they learn English and do so just for that reason.

    In Sri Lanka, if learning Sinhalese would have led to better prosperity, Tamilians or anyone else would have veered towards learning it (or just enough to get by and prosper). Rather it was forced to correct an imbalance in the system and then it will be perceived as persecution.

    I have certainly learnt a lot from the last 2 posts and I Thank you for that.


  7. Quote

    Excellent and i haven’t come across this much detailed article about Sri Lanka conflict. I wish this could publish at some leading newspaper like Hindu and Tamil version in Dinamani,Daily Thanthi, should eliminate the negative perception of civil war in Sri Lanka from millions of millions our Tamil brother’s and sister’s mind.

    Majority always rules, what is the point of dominating majority and creating disparity within majority population. Take South Africa, there minority used to be dominating majority for a long period, now what happened? minority can’t go outside after dusk because of looting, mugging and murder because most of them living poverty and inferior. It is like Sachin has Ferrari but unable to drive because of Mumbai traffic and road condition so he decided to drive it early morning 4.00 AM.

    As you said, Tamils did a big mistake by not aligning with majority Sinhala. How many of Tamils knows to speak/write Sinhala? How many of Tamils worked side by side with Sinhala people to achieve something for nation? I don’t know the answers.

    But what ever happened is happened, but now very practical approach is to create a self ruling government in north and east. Something like China and Taiwan. For China, Taiwan is part of them but reality, Taiwan is different country.

  8. Quote

    Subba, that would be autonomy right which would become secessionist movement, if LTTE or even other extremists in future become stronger? China would have consumed and merged Taiwan if not for the Western democracies support, IMO ( of had China been as strong as it is now in 1950s). I would not compare it with China-Taiwan relationship for couple of reasons

    1) LTTE seems to be representing Tamils in North and East (Well Karuna, I think will be dumped as soon as LTTE is gone). But LTTE is a FTO and banned in many countries.
    2) Srilanka is all along democratic (?) nation after its independence and enjoys broader diplomatic relationship with almost every country.
    3) China never was threatened by Taiwan as China itself is kind of secessionist when it embraced communism. In this analogy China is like LTTE.
    4) SL being in a stronger position may not agree for any autonomy. It probably wants entire Jaffna to be under direct political control of republic.

    I am making these statements based on my limited understanding of the issue. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  9. Quote

    You are right. LTTE will become stronger and Sri Lanka may not like the full autonomy idea. But we don’t have any other option. Now Sri Lanka army seems to be very strong and recapturing some land from extremists, but this tigers are hiding just to come out forcefully later. The bottleneck for Sri Lanka army is Elephant Pass, a small land connecting north with SL main land, SL army never passed those critical places before, only Indian Peace Keeping Force achieved that. So the point is, we are dealing with a unmovable force(LTTE) now. So some compromise like autonomy will be one option.


  10. Quote

    Karthik – Thanks for your comment.

    You make an excellent point about the Moors in Srilanka. They integrated well with the majority & their language Arwi is dead. Interestingly enough, they haven’t replaced Arwi with Sinhala, but with Tamil. Does assimilation always lead to a partial loss of identity? If yes, can peaceful coexistence & mutual cooperation be the alternative? You’ve set me thinking with your insightful observation about the Moors.

    The parallels with the Brahmins just leaps to the eye, doesn’t it? I plan to cover that in a subsequent post on Affirmative Action.

    The Sinhalas did a very wrong thing in imposing their language. Bigotry never pays. Now, they are struggling to learn English.

  11. Quote

    Ganesh – Thanks for your comment.

    The Tamils couldn’t have single-handedly uplifted the Sinhalas. But, they should have shown their concern for the poorest of the poor Sinhalas. They should have involved themselves more to increase employment for the youth. They were more concerned about safe-guarding the interests of themselves (Tamils) than in the general welfare of the state. And that is plainly wrong.

    This obsession with Tamil goes back to G.G.Ponnambalam’s demand for balanced representation – equal representation in the legislature for Sinhalas & Tamils. Tamils were terrified of the minority status & they even opposed universal franchise.

    I’m not sure if being a Tamil is a strong part of my identity. I was brought up a Tamil, but my mom’s family is from Kerala. My dad’s ancestors are from the no-man’s land in the Andhra border. I see myself as a citizen of the world, Indian, South Asian, South Indian, Southern Brahmin & only then, a Tamil & weakly, Hindu – pretty much in that order. Maybe the DMK isn’t far wrong in hating the Brahmins for being unfeeling Tamils. I’m a case in point.

    I expected Tamils to show some interest for the majority Sinhala culture – a show of respect from 1 old culture to another. Yet, nothing justifies imposing Sinhala. They should have retained English as the link language & used both Sinhala & Tamil. Then, the short term gains may have been small, but in a few decades, the Sinhalas would also have prospered.

    The majority should embrace the minority, but it is very difficult to do that if the majority is submerged in poverty, the minority is wealthier & they just don’t give a damn.

  12. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 13, 2008, 9:01 am:

    Thanks Priya,

    Post 1917: Georgians,Kazakhs,Armenians,Tartars were forced to learn Russian and embrace Russian mother hood,which most of them did .Russia tried tried stamp out the ethnicity ruthlessly and with force.But after 80 years when the Soviet Split we should have had ideally 15 countries who speak Russia with a Russian Identity but that did not happen.Some of these middled age cultures like Armenians resurfaced again with their distinct identity.But in USA people/cultures have lost their identities over a period of time as result of assimilation.So may be only if intermarriages occur will identity be lost?I really dotnt have an answer.But In USA it will be interesting in next 50 years when the demographics have changed.We need to see if the Indians,Chinese and other Asians will assimilate themselves over a period by dissolving their identity?

    As for Moors they were predominantly in the Tamil region till our till our tiger friends chased them out ,So this is a probable reason for adopting Tamil.Now after displacement from the North and Eastern SL, they have now merged with main stream Sinhala community by adopting local langauage.

  13. Quote

    Subba – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    Malini Parthasarathy, a reporter in “The Hindu”, published her views on why we shouldn’t support LTTE. Mobs attacked the newspaper’s office in Coimbatore & burnt several copies of the report. And – what’s new – Brahmins were slammed for being traitorous Aryan Dogs. I think most people are satisfied with sound bites, they get agitated when we expect them to think or change their opinions.

    I agree that at least the smarter segment of the society will get a chance to review their position in the Srilankan issue, if they were presented the hard facts. But, most others may hate the views of your sincerely, another “Aryan Dog”.

    You make a very pragmatic point. There’s no use in fighting the majority. Sooner or later, we’ll be subjugated.

    You are exactly right – I expected the Tamil leaders to work on some Srilankan cause with their Sinhala brethren. I know some Tamil leaders like Lakshman Kadirgamar did that. But, I expected many more Tamils to work for their nation & not jut for their ethnicity.

    I’m terrified of too much autonomy given to Srilanka’s North East. That can’t be a good thing for Srilanka or for South India.

  14. Quote

    Vamsi – You are absolutely right about the North East. The secessionists will use full autonomy as a stepping stone for Tamil Eelam. Will Karuna be dumped? Hmm – strong possibility. I’m also expecting a fall-out between Karuna, the king-maker & Pillayan, the king.

    But, much as I hate China for its human rights violations & territorial aggression, I’m not sure I would equate it to LTTE. Perhaps you can write a post about it in your blog?

    And yes. Srilanka has the support of the international diplomatic community. Whatever horrors they inflicted on the Tamils in the 1983 riots, have been largely discarded from public memory – thanks to the unceasing brutality of LTTE.

  15. Quote

    Subba – I think Srilanka should try to bring democracy to the North East, wean as many Tamils as possible from LTTE’s grasp, reclaim as much as possible of the lost territory & split LTTE. The last is very important. Either create splinter groups, so they’ll be too busy fighting each other. Or, create traitors to “the cause”, so that morale can be lowered. Or, get former LTTE cadres to support the Srilankan govt openly.

    I’m hoping that this would be the end game for LTTE. For the sake of the suffering Srilankans (Tamils among them), let’s hope all goes well for the Lankan army in the Elephant Pass.

    After reading your comment about the Elephant Pass, I’m really worried about the safety of the Lankan army. Most of them are youngsters in their early 20s. Let’s hope they return home safely. That statement doesn’t make me a traitor: Srilankan Tamils are Srilankans, not Indians. In this civil war, I just don’t want a friendly nation’s future – its young men & women – lay down their lives in droves, while fighting terrorists.

  16. Quote

    Karthik – Yes, the erst-while Soviet republics have retained their identity, haven’t they? No amount of Russian oppression could stamp it out.

    Bill Clinton could have told the Russians, “Its the economy, stupid”. In the US, economy is strong. Well not now, it is in one of its cyclical lows, but it will recover.

    Generally, the US doesn’t target people much because of their ethnicity. Blacks have a long & sordid history in the US, but apart from them, other races & people have not suffered long oppression. Sure, there was negativity about the Irish, Jews & Italians, but they were all relatively short-lived animosities.

    Inter-racial marriages are still not very common in the US, so that’s not the reason for the melting pot. In a prosperous nation, people have a lot to be happy about. So, they tend to show their approval by copying local customs. To copy local customs, you’ve got to jettison some of your own.

    Its a complex topic. Perhaps you can write a post about it. Sparks will fly, but in the end, all of us would have benefited from the discussion.

    You are right, Moors learnt Tamil because they moved to the North East. Though they lost their spoken language, they’ve retained their customs & their identity. And though they spoke Arwi or Tamil, they supported the majority. Smart move, I think.

  17. Quote


    I was just being tongue-in-cheek about your affinity to Tamilians. Just my lame attempt at a bringing some levity to the discussion.

    You seeing yourself as a world citizen reminds me of “Think globally, act locally” – effect changes in your areas of influence with a broader mindset.

    As Karthik has mentioned, it will be interesting to see the turn that U.S.A takes by 1950 when the white population is expected to fall below 50% of total population.

    I believe an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Give people an opportunity to follow their dreams and eek out a decent livelihood, they will get past religious, jingoistic, linguistic barrier/bindings to pursue their dreams.

    If Sri Lankan government can pursue policies that will bring economic prosperity in Northern Sri Lanka, there is hope. Obviously easier said then done. It has to start at a small level, perhaps one small tamil community benefiting from the policies and paving way for more. Start with free education (with no forced language) for the kids affected by ongoing strife, then create jobs, perhaps starting with infrastructure related in the war affected areas.

    Of course, LTTE would be a big obstacle to any such efforts, but let the Sri Lankan government concentrate on protecting Tamilians from LTTE than fighting LTTE. If they can show that the government has the true interest of the ALL Sri Lankans, perhaps they can break the stranglehold that LTTE has on Tamilians – forced or otherwise.


  18. Quote

    Ganesh – Ah, I’m losing my sense of humor :-) Ripe time for me to lead a country, I guess 😀 So, I exhibited my Heinz 57 Mutt ancestry for nothing?? 😛 Interestingly enough, our dad’s family uses some Kannada words, muddying my gene pool (cesspool?) some more.

    You are absolutely right. If people are gainfully employed & can make ends meet, most of them won’t care too much about language or religion. At least not enough to start a civil war.

    And I agree that the Srilankan govt has to start mending the fences by helping the Tamils now. They have to earn the trust of the minorities.

    Not fighting LTTE will be dangerous though. Because, LTTE will not stop fighting, bombing nerve centers like Colombo, stealing ammo from ships, targeting foreign tourists etc. Mahinda Rajapakse has offered to extradite Prabhakaran to India, if he’s caught. I would request President Rajapakse not to do anything of that sort. Some ass-hole in Tamil Nadu will let Prabhakaran stage a jail-break.

  19. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 13, 2008, 2:48 pm:

    @ Priya
    No A@@hole is required for a Jail break in TN…All the jails have enough tunnels and surnagapathai’s created by its previous occupents that he just needs to walk out(remember the vellore prison break):)

    BTW i dont want him to go to jail, if he does he will come out in 3 years and act in movies(la Snjay Dutt) or will become a CM (I have lost count of the number of criminal CM’s India) or he will write a book al Charles Sobhraj :) all this is torture for all of us.

  20. Quote

    Karthik – Yeah, as long as someone’s not totally blind, they can simply walk out of a jail 😉

    Remember Phoolan Devi? After she “reformed” her ways, she was interviewed on TV & she talked about how difficult it is to get a maid, how she prepares phulka for her husband & shit along similar lines. I could feel my brain oozing out of my ears.

    You are absolutely right. Let’s beg the Lankans to kill Velupillai Prabhakaran. Pretty please with sugar on top. I can’t even bear the thought of the Media slobbering over him, after he sheds his terrorist identity. If the Lankans refuse, we have to threaten to screen a movie starring Velupillai Prabhakaran, gyrating in a Tamil movie, in typical filmy style. That ought to scare the living daylights out of them.

  21. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 13, 2008, 8:54 pm:

    Actaully Priya I dont want the Lankans to kill him as he will become a martyr for Tamils…We will have statues…Best way is to send to an isolated island… with no one around….and where he lives ripe age and dies old regretting his ways.

  22. Quote

    Karthik – He’ll escape. His wife & kids are in Australia, I think. Plus, there are so many nutters that may even send a submarine to get him out of that island.

    Guantanamo Bay may be a good choice if we do want to lock him up. Send some nice, extreme right wing American soldiers in, tell them he’s a bloody terrorist – and – Ooh, La La! Prabhakaran’s dance card will be full 😛

    BTW, Won’t any LTTE supporting donkey ask the question, why he hasn’t drafted his kids as soldiers? Gawd!!

    Does anyone know if the Lankan army is trying to trace his wife Mathivathani Erambu & their 2 kids?

  23. Quote

    Awesome research.
    Very informative.


    PS:Suggestion, can you post a link to part 2 on part 1.Makes simple for someone who read part-1

  24. Quote

    Nikhil – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    Thanks for your suggestion. I’ve implemented it.

  25. Quote

    Very superficial post on such deep topic.. and i would not claim it to be neutral too..

    The srilankans are the majority and were at the political power.. the tamils, who are supposed to be 30% in government sectors have to just obey what the political leaders say.. the srilankans could have used the skills of tamil civil servants to develop their own community..

    Its really absurd to accuse tamils for sri-lankan’s poverty.. its highly a biased view which is similar to accusing majority hindus for minority poverty.. what to say.. when we are sunk with majority-minority & domination-suppression mindset, we tend to see everything in the same attitude.. NOT the reality..

    Secondly, the tamils had been always hardworking, and whereever they go, they had always prospered.. and in some way, the tamils had faced numerous hardships in most of the places.. In malaysia, the tamils went there as indentured laboureres.. and through their hardwork, they developed most of the plantations.. but see now.. they were marginalised, suppressed .. and through bhumiputra (similar to srilankan nationalism), all tamils (also chinese) are forced to make a malay as one of the partner.. due to this rule, most of the malay partners get their share without any work, investment.. they just carry on tamil’s back..

    And more than 10,000 amman temples of tamil people had been demolished.. and when they protested, they were brutally suppressed by malaysian government..

    Same the case in mauritiaus.. when indians, predominantly tamils got majority in parliament, they were overthrown just because they are indians, tamils..

    Sri-lanka is the only area, there was violent retaliations.. In some way, the lineage of clashes trace backs to history..

  26. Quote

    In terms of language, the sri-lankan tamils were the real protectors of tamil language.. they collected numerous tamil literatures and collected them in yalpanam library. . but the sri-lankan troops destroyed it completely..

    Even today, the sri-lankan tamils were the prominent contributors of tamil in technology.. one of my chennai friend wanted to bring tamil user interface to Ubuntu Linux.. and when he ventured out, most of the support came from sri-lankan tamils, and some sinhalese too..

    Its not just english that developed Jaffna.. Rather it was the tamil people’s hardwork.. but such a rich country where everyone migrated for prosperity was now reduced to nothing..

    This is a loss more to sri-lanka, than the tamils..

  27. Quote

    Senthil – Superficial? Yeah, right. We know how your posts drip with insight & deep understanding. That was me being sarcastic, in case you didn’t get it.

    This post is not about Malaysia, FYI. Your comment shows that you haven’t read the post properly & you are satisfied with your usual load of crap & nonsense. Of course, you won’t post rude comments if you actually have relevant things to say.

    You are the undisputed king of the absurd. I’m not likely to usurp that position from you.

    If you want a civilized response, learn to turn off the hostility in your comments. If you can’t be polite, get a grip & stop whining & whimpering when we beat you up.

    Any further rude comments from you will be moderated out. We prefer to keep the discussion section civilized. So, tone down your attitude.

  28. Quote

    Senthil – English improved the fortunes of the Tamils, just like it improved the lot of the Brahmins in South India. I have clearly mentioned in the post that the hard-work of the Tamils also helped them in improving their fortunes. In fact, they were & still are known for their industriousness.

    Their service to Tamil is commendable. But it has no bearing on the crisis in Srilanka.

  29. Quote

    Subba – Lankans are about to storm into Kilinochi. They will not go thru the Elephant Pass. They are thinking of charting an alternate course. LTTE cadres have been asked to surrender. Or else.

  30. Quote

    Peurto Rico is a territory of USA. USA, as we know is one of the most powerful countries in the world. But, American citizens cannot own any property without majority share being natives. To protect the interests of majority and to prevent social disharmony that originate from the economic disparities, mature nations do take such steps. Or else civil wars, and majority-minority conflicts do arise. Agreed, we cannot apply one rule to every nation and situation. But the underlying point is that nations pass such laws.

    Coming to prosperity of Tamils across the globe, just check history – most immigrant communities do work hard and prosper. Italian and Irish immigrants, Latin American immigrants, Cuban Immigrants(refugees) in Florida, Chinese immigrants (almost slaves for the East-West US rail road projects), nowadays Indian Immigrants (specially Gujaratis). Tamils are no special(with all due respect). Again, you missed the point of sentiment of majority due to British divide-and-rule policy. If that was the feeling of the majority, driven by chauvinists, such things happen.

    Senthil, my sincere request – dont follow just rediff articles. You will be knowing one side of the coin. Internet is a dangerous place. You will get biased articles based on what you use as search term.

    You can be a contrarian by being civil and driving your point with courtesy. That will make everybody read your comments with open mind and respecting your views while differing with them. Again, friendly advice.

  31. Quote

    Yes. You are right they are by-passing Elephant Pass, good for them. This is good time for LTTE to come out and negotiate something with government. But I believe they don’t use negotiation card for now. A) The refugees from North would start pouring into TN, so pressure mount from our usual “tumblers” B) 70-75% of North population’s caste represent 30-40% of total TN population (Vellalar, Mudhaliyar, Goundar), hence more pressure from TN.

    But this time all are different, SL army planning well and they are well equipped. The good news is, Sri Lanka issue may be resolved with in 1-2 years if this war turns out to be a successful one.

  32. Quote

    Vamsi – Thanks.

    You make a very interesting point. Immigrants do work very hard & its their wish to be prosperous that drives them to a foreign land in the 1st place.

  33. Quote

    Subba – I’m hoping that splinter groups will form in LTTE now & in-fighting will start. This will lower their morale still further. Of course, none of this can be good for the civilians trapped there.

    Prabhakaran’s paranoia will only sky-rocket. His assassins killed our leader in our soil. I want to know he’s dead.

    I hope many civilians are alive. I hope the army is able to rescue them after finishing off LTTE “leaders”. I hope no one assassinates Mahinda Rajapakse. I hope the Lankan army doesn’t have many casualties.

    The mood in Srilanka will be jubilant after LTTE is brought to its heels. I hope Rajapakse will lead his country to prosperity using that mood. Without hope, where are we.

  34. Quote

    Priya, I come from a generation that had a lot of Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese coming to study in India and had friends from both the groups.

    I have also visited Sri Lanka for business and have had commercial relations with both groups.

    The points that you make are indeed very valid. There is however one area, where perhaps you have been a tad understated. The Tamils simply wanted Tamil to continue to be one of the official languages along with Sinhalese and English. That was the starting point of the conflict.

    Otherwise, it is a very well written post and the implications of similar things happening in India are now beginning to manifest. Take Maharashtra and Assam to start with. Political ineptitude and vote bank politics has brought this country to the brink of anarchy. If we do not act now to address these issues, I am afraid, your generation will have a very difficult time ahead of you.

  35. Quote

    Rummuser – Thanks for your comment.

    It really helps to have friends from other cultures. It helps us see the human angle of the “other” side when there are wars & conflicts.

    You are indeed lucky to have visited Srilanka, which must be a beautiful country. Perhaps when these conflicts die down, I’ll be able to visit that historic land with my family.

    Maharashtra – as if we didn’t have enough trouble with 1 Thackeray, we have another now. At least they are just rabble rousers that can be controlled if there’s enough political will. Which is always falling short. Karnataka is becoming another such case. Assam is even more deeply distressing, though.

    None of our govts have pumped in enough money to improve the infrastructure or economy of the North Eastern states. We’ll pay even more dearly in the coming years, I’m afraid.

  36. Quote
    Vishnu (subscribed) said November 16, 2008, 9:39 am:


    It’s good to see a voice a reason coming our of India w.r.t. to the Sri Lankan issue. I strongly believe that Tamil Nadu politicians and the film fraternity should shut up for a change, rather than carry on with their weak attempts to gain political mileage. I am not an Indian citizen, but it is still quiet embarrassing.

    I am a 3rd generation Malaysian of Indian Tamil origin. My grandfather was a businessman in Colombo before our so called “Tamil brethren” sent him packing, who then relocated to Malaysia (then Malaya). Here in then Malaya, the Tamils of “Ceylonese” origin never really mixed with the Indian Tamils, who were mostly indentured labourers. Very few were privileged to have had an education, let alone money. Quite often, the classic line used by the “Ceylonese” Tamils to distance themselves fom the Indians was “We are Ceylonese Tamil, and you are Indian Tamil. We are not the same”. Note: Being “Tamil” meant sweet bugger all! Of course, things are different now. But unity among the Tamil-speaking communities, and the overall Indian population has been brought about by socio-political need, which I shall not dwell into here.

    Part 1 of your article stated about how the SL Tamils and Indian Tamils didn’t get along. Mind you, it was not in SL alone that this happened. It happened here in then Malaya as well. Many of the Tamils of Sri Lankan origin (who were fairly educated even during colonial times) looked down on the Indian community, especially those Indians who were working as indentured labourers at rubber plantations. There have also been stories where poor Indian Tamils were hired by Sri Lankan Tamils as domestic help, only to be abused and often not paid their wages. Please note that these are stories of the past, and has not happened in decades.

    I am not against the Eelam struggle, but i am not for it either. On one side, The Sri Lankan Tamil minority is showing the world that minorities can’t be pushed about just because they are a small group. On the other hand, to take up arms, sacrificing innocent women and children all in the name of independence is just appalling.

    I agree with you. Let internal issues be dealt with internally. LTTE is taking the people of Tamil Nadu for a royal ride. In my humble opinion, The people and government of India, and not just TN have more important things to worry about. If they want to talk about the Sri Lankan problem, then they should be a friendly neighbour and concentrate on the humanitarian issues, and stick their noses out of the political issues.

    Keep up the good work.

  37. Quote
    Nivas (subscribed) said November 16, 2008, 12:47 pm:


    Firstly, congrats on a good, succinct summary of the conflict. I am a 20-something Indian Tamil from Chennai who has been to Sri Lanka recently. One of my very best friends is Sinhalese whose marriage I had come to attend. I have to confess that I started loving your country as soon as I stepped out of the airport. I spent nearly a week travelling to different places and was overwhelmed to see the kindness and resourcefulness of most of the people there. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer to the world if she can find ways to end the conflict and I hope for all our sakes the leaders (both Sinhala and Tamil) realise the duty they have towards their country and serve her properly.

    The day there is peace in SL, I would celebrate by downing a bottle of your famous Arrack.


  38. Quote

    Vishnu – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    While I was reading your comment, I was struck by how balanced & articulate it is. Its very interesting to know that Srilankan Tamils, our new-found brothers, ill-treated Indian Tamils in Malaysia as well. Now they turn back & want to stoke the fires of Tamil Nationalism the world over. And they fancy themselves the torch-bearers of such a movement. Fat chance.

    I agree with you that terrorism isn’t an acceptable technique to bring about peace. And yes, the minorities won’t always be push-overs. But, I’m deeply troubled by sedition. So, I’m not in favor of Eelam. For one, I can’t understand why we can’t all live together. For another, I’m terribly bored by sameness & I’m exhilarated by diversity. That’s just a peacenik’s opinion.

    See, you are from Malaysia & you understand how much shit needs to be cleared up here in India. But, Indians are easily distracted. They’ve forgotten all about the rotten roads, inflation, electricity shortage & endemic corruption. Now, all they want is for President Rajapakse to call for a ceasefire. And they are squealing that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu should divert his funds to help the Srilankan Tamils. Divert HIS funds?? I feel like screaming from the rooftops – “You fellow Indian Fools! That’s OUR tax money! We need it for Flood Relief/Street Lights/Traffic Lights/Schools. You want to divert THAT to LTTE?”.

    Very few people understand though.

  39. Quote

    Nivas – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, Srilanka has a lot to offer, if only LTTE can be brought to its heels. Tourism, in all its glory, mainly. And if the English language skills can be improved, a lot of talented, young people that can be employed by the Multi-Nationals.

    BTW, I have a feeling you’ve mistaken me for a Sinhala/Srilankan. Maybe because I empathize with their point of view. I’ll take that as a compliment. But, I’m an Indian living in Chennai, actually. Sinhala noses will turn up in disgust at small names like “Priya Raju”. They’ll be pleased once they elongate it to “Priyantha Rajagamage” though 😀

    But when peace finally comes to Srilanka & you down your arrack, I’ll raise my glass to you & say “Seiradewa” :-)

  40. Quote


    Thanks for your advice. I will definitely take it..

    I came across this detailed article on 1983 riots, that dwells on history of the civil war..
    (pls note that this is not from rediff :) )

    The events of 1983 are as follows..

    1. 12 army personnel were killed by tigers.. (some say, as a revenge to army men raping 3 tamil school girls)
    2. when the bodies arrive at colombo, the riots started, and more than 1 lakh tamils got displaced.. and 1 lakh sinhalese working in tamilian industries lost their jobs..

    3. the tamils started concentrating in east and north, and LTTE gained predominance at this stage, as it received vast funding from those tamils who fled the riots..

    Rest of the things in the above mentioned site..

    Btw, when the post author could not digest even a harsh comment and responds more vigorously, how far are we right in accusing tamils to be magnanimous and empathetic, when they were at the receiving end..

    I again reiterate my stand that the post seems to be superficial, and i could only see an artificial attempt to be neutral.. neutrality is not bashing both sides equally.. but pointing out truths as it is..

  41. Quote

    Senthil – You would not know insight if you tripped over it. You think ranting & raving is insight. You are not even civil enough to avoid branding & labeling.

    You talking about neutrality & truth is laughable. The Devil chanting the Vedas.

    Any further banal, boorish comments from you will be deleted. Keep away if you can’t stop being nasty. Otherwise, I WILL delete your comments. Final warning. I will not put up with nastiness.

  42. Quote

    there are many things that we can understand, if we read the history in more detail..

    1. The marxists were one of the main contender in raising srilankan chauvinism.. for them, there needs to be a oppressor and oppressed, so that they could play politics.. and here, since tamils were influential, they sowed the seeds of hatred among sinhalese people, many of whom were working under industries run by tamilian..

    2. Buddhism, although an offshoot of hinduism, was more or less an intolerant religion.. (will the post author be generous enough to allow this comment).. the buddhist monastery were also another key contended in sinhala nationalism..

  43. Quote

    “Buddhism is an intolerant religion” – you are brilliant man. Anything other than Hinduism is intolerant. Now even offshoots of Hinduism are intolerant. How nice, convenient and simplistic. Vaishnavites and Shaivites were killing each other for centuries. I am reading the history of the North East, and stories of Vaishnavites persecuting people who practiced the native religion are legion. so much so that the native language meitei mayek has been obliterated and replaced by bishnupriya manipuri. I am sure in your reading of history you will find Marxists in Manipur in the 14th/15th centuries AD as well !

    BTW if your comments are civil, it will stand. Branding people with “superficial” etc are not permitted.

  44. Quote

    Sukumar – Yes, I remember your talking about the imposition of Vaishnavism in the North East. Srilanka isn’t the only Buddhist country in the world. Are minorities persecuted in all the countries where it is practiced?

    No religion can be intolerant per se, its a laughable statement. Its the rulers who use it to their advantage. And then, the priestly classes abuse the powers vested on them. Which is why separation of church & state is of paramount importance.

  45. Quote


    I was not branding any one.. i just commented on the post, not on the people..

    Shaivism and vaishnavism clashed with each other.. but soon they reconciled, and thus the unity of “Hari Haran” was preached.. This is an evolutionary stages of religions and perfect example of how conflicting religions can live in peace with each other…. today we could see temples with both shiva and vishnu, and even with statues half-shiva and half-vishnu.. Has any of the conflicting religions be able to emulate this.. even the protestants and catholics who share the same god and most preach love of jesus, could not come together.. and shia-sunni fight dates back to 1400 years..

    This is the strength of Hinduism..

    Buddhism cannot be compared to those semitic relgions because of various reasons.. But its well known that it has its own share of intolerance towards hinduism, right from its inception..

    Secondly, buddhism, like shaivism and vaishnavism mostly relied on state patronage.. thus it has the necessity even now to hold a dominant position over the state rulers.. and that is one of the issue in srilanka, not because they have political influence, but because of Negative influence..

    I did not link marxists and buddhists.. i pointed out that both have a major share in rising sinhala nationalism..

  46. Quote

    You are twisting history to suit your needs. Jainism has been eliminated from Tamilnadu by systematic persecution. I just pointed out that as late as 14/15th century AD vaishnavism was being fored upon people in the North east. Vedic Hinduism which we practice today is dated to 1700BC (3700 years) and if you go by Hindutva historians hinduism dates back to 3202 BC which makes it 5200 years old. By contrast christianity is only 2000 years old and Islam is just 1400 years (shia sunni dispute by definition has to be less than 1400 but since when you needed correct data to support your views). So if you give these religions the same amount of time as Hinduism which means you need to give them both another 1000 years at a minimum then you can have a valid comparison. If you take the Hindutva history view, you need to give them 2500 years before you can gloat about how tolerant Hinduism is. Based on your past comments on indian history, i suspect you hold the view that it started in 3202 BC, which means you need to wait for another 2500 years before we can judge the new religions.

  47. Quote

    Sukumar – I believe this is called “Nethi Adi” in Tamil 😀 Translated, “A Resounding Smack”.

  48. Quote

    What are the plans of the Rajapakshe’s government to deal with displaced Tamilians, eventual power vacuum that is going to result if and when LTTE is annihilated?

    You do not want internal power struggle amongst various splinter groups that ‘takes’ up the cause of Tamilians. Unless the government has plans (social, economic, political and cultural) in place that allows the affected Tamilians to not feel like they are being left in the lurch and start placing their trust in the splinter groups, the strife will continue one way or another.

    Tamilians need to start believing the government and that cannot happen AFTER LTTE is defeated, but should happens right now. A plan has to be in place to right now.

    With that said, do we know what steps this government has taken to start rehabilitating the displaced families? What are the plans after the war? If there is none or if the plan does not sufficiently addres the concerns of Tamlians and give them some hope and trust on the Sri Lankan government, it would be like winning the war but losing the battle

    Can anyone point me to any such post-war plans?


  49. Quote


    I think the points you raised are very valid. It also can bring the war to an end if SL government does a serious propaganda war with such plan. Even if details are not in place, they should project a very credible, if possible, a multi-national non-political expert group (it may be hard to find one) to advice on such situation. For it will build trust, it will also ensure mass defections of second level leadership.

  50. Quote
    Vishnu (subscribed) said November 17, 2008, 7:15 am:

    Firstly, how can anyone consider Buddhism to be “intolerant” is beyond my understanding. Buddhism is probably the best thing to come out of India since rice and tandoori chicken. Bad treatment of Tamils by the Sinhalese does not constitute intolerence on the part of Buddhism. It just goes to show that people (i.e. human beings regardless of race, religion, etc.) have a natural tendency to be evil, so as long there is an oppurtunity and need to do so. Unfortunately, this is the story of mankind.

    It’s funny though. The Thirukural, being a Tamil masterpiece on human conduct, which I believe to be non-alligned in terms of religion, is still only secondary to one’s faith. Then again, the fear of hell, or being reincarnated as a rodent seems to have seeped deep into mankind’s limited mentality to the point where defending one’s religion (at all costs) is seen as being more noble.

    In discussing the SL problems, there must be a clear distinction between “Country”, “Race”, “Religion” and “Politics”. When all these elements are tangled up, and portray themeselves as one single problem, it is difficult to see which is which. Analysing the historical chronology of events, withoud considering socio-political, economical and anthroplogical influences would yield very little. Confusion, fueled by emotions and a defensive stand towards such problems create only more problems. Any solution that comes about without considering these factors would only be temporary, before something even bigger and more horrible erupts.

    If Indian Tamils wanted to do something, they should urge the UN to get involved. Tell your government that you want more schools, cleaner water, better roads and better health care. Tell your governments that you want intelligent people for politicians. Tell your government that you are sick of corruption and the increasing cost of living.
    After all that, tell your government that you want the UN to to go to Sri Lanka, because your neighbour’s instability effects your economy and lifestyle as well. Yes, love thy neighbour. But don’t forget yourselves.

  51. Quote

    There are 6+ tamil political parties are now there for Sri Lanka Tamil’s representation at parliament. There are several local political parties out there to take control of North and East, once SL army took out final LTTE hideouts, but still i’m skeptical about it. Karuna was the key in East. But i think it would take several years(possibly decades) to heal wounds of Tamil people in east and north, because of 25 years of civil war, the road to recovery is long way to go.


  52. Quote

    Ganesh – Well said. This is exactly the problem India should take a stance on – instead, clowns like Karuna Nidhi want to end the war, because continuing the ethnic strife in Srilanka is politically beneficial to him. We should think about tomorrow & the day after.

    And I think Srilanka should not just care for the displaced – It would also redeem itself greatly if it has plans for the many, many Tamils that live in refugee camps in India.

    I think right now, the govt is fighting a civil war with single-minded focus. The Defense Secretary is the President’s brother – so, they are operating in unison.

    And they are trying their best to help the displaced & the trapped civilians. UN was stationed in the North East, but they had to leave because of impending war. Norway, which has cordial relations with Srilanka, has offered to help the displaced – and they’ve been welcomed by President Rajapakse. Here is where I feel India should be doing some more.

    In all fairness to Rajapakse’s govt, they are trying to establish a stable govt in the reclaimed territories. Whether this will provide lasting peace remains to be seen.

  53. Quote

    Vamsi – Sensible suggestion. It may shorten the war & reduce casualties. Especially since many Tamils, including many “Tigers” are tired of the war. They just want to lead a normal life. Srilankan army recently intercepted radio messages from the LTTE top command to it fighters: The morale was flagging & the leaders had to work very hard to keep the fighters motivated.

    So, a propaganda might work. But, the govt & the Tamils have to work very, very hard to re-establish trust. Srilanka has a long & difficult road ahead.

    There may be a feeling that a deadly battle will be a fitting end to this civil war. In a way, it is cathartic. Plus, a decisive win boosts pride in the nation. Not that I fully agree.

  54. Quote

    Vishnu – Yes, it is ridiculous to say Buddhism is evil. People have evil streaks & they’ll use any conduit to express it. Religion is one of them.

    Senthil is a regular visitor of this blog & he’s of the opinion that every religion except Hinduism is evil. He also has quaint notions on the Caste system (he loves it) & blames the British for most ills in India. Since the authors of this blog disagree with him on almost everything, his comments are especially strident. Most of our readers have a similar reaction to his views.

    I have a feeling Thiru Kural is based on Hinduism, but that’s a separate discussion altogether. Its even organized on the Purusharthas of Hinduism – Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. The 4th tenet is missing, probably because the author wants to focus on what can be practiced in this life.

    But all in all, I agree with you that Thiru Kural is neutral enough for people of any religious persuasion.

    I believe that, for the sake of security & peace in the Eastern sea-board, India should play a bigger role in reconstructing Srilanka after the war is over. Not the biggest role, not the starring part, but a bigger role. But apart from that, I’m with you. We should keep our nose where it belongs.

  55. Quote
    Vishnu (subscribed) said November 17, 2008, 8:56 am:

    I believe that Mr. Senthil has his freedom to state his opinion, as do everyone else.

    Looking forward to your article on Affirmative Action. As a Malaysian affected by such a policy, I’m quite eager to see what your opinions are on this.

    For an inspiring view into India, and even Hinduism and Tamil culture, may I suggest that you (and anyone else who is of Indian origin) get a hold of “The Story of India by Michael Wood” on DVD. It’s a recent 6-part BBC documentary tracing Indian history. At the end of it, you will either be very proud to call yourself an Indian, or very ashamed depending on how you digest the facts.

  56. Quote


    Your utter disdain for what Priya writes is obvious. You won’t even address her by name, but would address everyone else. Since you have some deep seated prejudice, why bother commenting in a civil forum. If there’s an ounce of introspection in you, I’d urge you to use that fully to analyze what you say.

  57. Quote

    Vishnu – Thanks for the recommendation. Is this DVD available in stores in Malaysia or Singapore? We’ll be in SGP next month, would love to buy it then, if its available.

    Affirmative Action – Yep, as a Brahmin living in Tamil Nadu, I’ve tasted it aplenty. I’m gearing up to write a post on it.

  58. Quote

    NK – Thanks for your comment.

    I think Senthil is simply filibustering, as always. Works well when you have a set of stock points & some relevant data, but not enough to trounce the opposition in a logical, clear-headed debate.

    What you see isn’t his disdain for me, its sheer bile & blind hatred for what I stand for. And fear at a deep seated level that he won’t be able to defend his position to himself. Which is what is making him uncivil. Introspection may actually force him to change some of his views & he can’t bear that.

    Think Sarah Palin.

  59. Quote


    Interesting post. I got the synopsis of it from the last post and the comment :-) My thought is this – As the Sinhalese considered themselves being oppressed under British rule and not getting the right opportunities, they associated the tamils with the out-going Brits. Yes, like you said the tamils could have done more to mingle better during the British period, but did not. The Sinhalese didn’t do enough to figure out that the language (English) could be useful. Utter idiots on both sides.

    I don’t understand why the same minority dominance doesn’t raise a big issue in the US. Members of Indian origin are a minority, as are many others, yet, they dominate the high paying tech jobs. Why isn’t there intolerance? Is it because of the people, or does the approach by the Government got anything to do with it. I wonder if the politicians could have handled the situation in SL differently.

  60. Quote

    NK – Thanks. Tolerance is easier when there are enough opportunities for everyone. Plus in the US, the majority isn’t wallowing in poverty. Not counting the current down-turn, I mean.

    Many countries chose to go to town with their mother tongue in those days. Japan, China – long list. India couldn’t stuff Hindi down too much, because Hindi speakers aren’t an **over-whelming** majority. Our disunity in diversity helped us save the day & English stayed on as the link language.

    Yes, the politicians could have certainly handled the situation in SL differently. Simply keeping English on indefinitely would have helped them, but it would have made the progress of the majority slower.

  61. Quote
    Vishnu (subscribed) said November 17, 2008, 9:40 am:

    I don’t think you can get it in this corner of the world. I got a friend of mine to buy it from the UK. You can buy it online at, Amazon or HMV UK but I can’t remember if the DVD was region-free or limited to Region 2( i.e. UK/Europe only). Best if you can get one of your friends/relatives to get you a copy. I paid about 15 pounds for it. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. In the meantime, I think you can catch some snippets on YouTube. It’s not much, but it’ll give you an idea on what to expect.

    Yes, Affirmative Action sucks. The sad part is how it has left a negative resonating influence across the region.

  62. Quote

    Vishnu – Thanks for the clarification.

    Hmm – See, I actually think affirmative action isn’t such a bad idea. I can’t say more – Please wait for Part-4, where I plan to outline it.

  63. Quote
    pk.karthik said November 17, 2008, 12:48 pm:


    I dont agree with you on the statement,that Buddhism is intolerant ,some budhists have been intolerant.

    No religion ever takes about killing people or persecuting or punishing people.Over a period of time oppressors have moulded the religions rightly for their convienience.

    Islam /Christianity/Vaishanism/Saivaism/ etc never talk of evil and violence they all talk of love and compassion.

    As Karl Marx said religion is indeed the opium of the masses…so rulers keep using to rule the crowd.

    I would suggest you oppose Priya’s views rather than opposing her,

    But all said and done ..I really appreciate your resiliance…..If you open up a bit you will be able do wonders

  64. Quote

    Karthik – Senthil will tell you that he branded the post, not the author. One can state their opinion without branding the post, the author, alien cultures & religions. That’s what is called being civil.

    I don’t think he’s doing this unintentionally. Since we tend to pooh-pooh his rather extreme views, he’s incensed & he simply vents in his comments.

    The funny thing is, he gets mighty offended if any of us use strong words in our rebuttal. He can only dish out insults, he can’t take the return shot :-)

  65. Quote
    Nivas (subscribed) said November 18, 2008, 12:31 am:

    I am sorry… I was under the impression that you were a Srilankan Tamil… And Vishnu from Malaysia is a close personal friend of mine… The DVD which he had recommended has been downloaded by another friend and I should have it sometime by the end of this month… Please let me know if you wish to have a copy of it…

    Looking fwd to your post on affirmative action…

  66. Quote

    Nivas – No problem. Glad to know that you are Vishnu’s friend.

    Thanks for the offer – that’s very kind of you. I’ve already requested my friend in UK to buy me a copy of the DVD, if its available. She has promised to send it to me soon.

  67. Quote

    Once the end of LTTE came, i revisited this blog, it was informatic & iam glad that most of my doubts are cleared.
    Thanks Priya for you valuable facts & figures.

  68. Quote
    Karthikeyan said June 26, 2009, 4:17 pm:

    I am also a tamil living in Bangalore….Even i was a blind supporter of Srilankan Tamils… I came to know many historic things from the posts…. Thanks for enlightening me Priya…. Keep up the good work….

  69. Quote
    lakshman Dalpadado (subscribed) said December 10, 2009, 8:28 am:

    Priya Raju

    Excellent review of Sri Lankan history and the origins of the Sinhalese. A must read for every Sri Lankan – (which says a lot about about your depth of knowledge and grasp of essentials).

    Simhapura( Singhapura or Sinhapura) kingdom in the upper and lower Indus valley is thought to be the origins of the Sinhala. Hence the Lion emblem shared by Gujaratis and Rajputs and the Sinhalese. Sinhala Kings attire is very similar to Rajputs and Mughals including the turban like head gear and a dagger worn around the waist. This maybe as a result of Rajput domination of northern India including the Indus valley circ 200BC. Sinhala Royal names ending RajaSinghe ( lion King) Lion- Singh in Punjabi and Rajasthani – all hints to a Rajput link. Also Rajput clan names- Arya Vansa, Soma Vansa , Chandra Vansa( lunar clan) Soorya vansa( sun clan)- are common names amongst the Sinhala people.

    Buddhas introduction to Sri Lanka was probably via Gujarat. During Mayura empire Buddism travelled not only towards east but also to the west including Sindh province and Afghanistan( Bamiyan). ThambaPanni – was in reference to the copper coloured beaches in the north-west- Mannar and Puttalam.

    Jaffna and the surrounding areas were some of the most developed in Sri Lanka at the time of independence. Missionaries from all over the world set up missions and schools in the north- east. They found , as a minority’, the Tamils more receptive to christianity than the majority Buddhist. Jaffna had some of the best schools in the island as a result. Most Tamils converted to Christianity- a prerequisite under the Jesuits. Missionary educated Tamils ( and the Sinhalese who converted to Christianity) were much favoured by the British for their religious affinity and proficiency in English.

    Because of the high standard of education in Jaffna illegal immigration from Tamil Nadu became the norm. Which led the SL government to introduce Photo- ID cards in 1972, one of the first countries in the world to use photo ID, to address the problem. This became a hotly contested issue in Jaffna because this interfered with the Human smuggling operation of the gangs- the progenitors of the LTTE.

    All important documents- certificates of birth, marriage, death and other government documents( including stamps) – were in all three languages since independence. All Sinhalese government employees had to learn Tamil if they are get increments – this was strictly adhered to when I was working in the health department.

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