BY H. L. D. MAHINDAPALA
The Tamil people followed Velupillai Prabhakaran blindly because he promised to deliver Eelam. The gains of the initial military adventures of the LTTE also made him look like the Messiah who could fulfil their dream. But he took them for a ride – the biggest in the history of the Tamils — and gave them Evil-laam. His only achievement was in constructing and honing the most efficient killing machine which targeted and killed mostly Tamils.
His juggernaut had its roots in the violent political culture of Jaffna. He became the iconic image of the Tamil political culture, particularly with his cadre of suicide bombers, because he was an integral part of the traditional fascist culture of Vellala-dominated Jaffna. Nothing represents Jaffna political culture better than Prabhakaran’s fascist one-man regime.
He hit the headlines of the New York Times on May 28, 1995 with James F. Burns branding him as “the Pol Pot of Asia”. The Vellala supremacists dominated the history of Jaffna particularly from the Dutch period. They never loosened their iron-fisted grip on Jaffna and opened their society for democratic liberalism at any stage. In broad outline, Jaffna could be divided into two layers: 1. the Vellala oppressors, the dominant majority and 2. the marginalised low-castes whose lives were determined from the womb to the tomb by fascist casteism. Prabhakaran was the genie that came out of the corked violent Vellala culture.
The only difference was he did not belong to the Vellala caste. He was a karaiyar, the fisher caste, who catalysed and transformed Vellala fascism into his brand of Tamil Pol Potism / Prabhakaranism. Vellala fascism segued into Prabhakaranism naturally like a river that flows into the sea and when the integrated forces emerged as Tamil Pol Potism in the 20th century the Vellalas took to it like duck to water.
They glorified him, financed him, spun theories to legitimise him, internationalised him as key player in S. Asia taking on even India, lobbied for him, provided logistics and expertise to oil his killing machine. Prabhakaran mobilised a broad front of various castes but without the critical and massive support of the Vellalas he could never have gone as far as he went.
In the end, one was hardly distinguishable from the other. They were two sides of the same coin. The change over from Vellalaism to Prabhakaranism was as easy as Stalin taking over oppressive Czarist culture and marketing it as glorious and liberating communism. Prabhakaranist fascism was marketed as glorious Tamil nationalism.
Vellala leaders such as Rajavarothiam Samapanthan and M. A. Sumanthiran fell at his feet and accepted his supremacy. He was elevated by them to the highest position of being ‘the sole representative of the Tamil nation’.
In other words, they acknowledged voluntarily, without any compulsion, that they were the servile factotums willing to obey the commands of the master killer of Tamils. They never once raised the issues of dignity of the Tamils, justice for Tamils, equality for the Tamils and peace for Tamils with their Supreme Leader.
They never went to UNHRC to complain about the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Supreme Commander of the busiest killing machine ever produced by the Tamils.
Ideologically, there was no difficulty for the Vellalas to embrace Prabhakaranism because it was merely a secular version of the Vellala religious dogma spelt out with clarity by the holy guru of the Vellalas, Arumuka Navalar. In one of his commentaries he says: “It is the duty of every Saivite to kill those who steal Sivan’s property or revile him.
If one is not strong enough to kill the blasphemer, one must hire another to do it. If one has nothing to hire with, one must leave the country where the sinner lives. By remaining in the country one becomes a participant in the sin .(p. 80 – The Bible Trembled, the Hindu-Christianity Controversies of Nineteenth-Century Ceylon, by R. F. Young and Bishop S. Jebanesan, Vienna 1995). So, killing is anointed as a religious duty in the Hindu-Vellala culture to retain the supremacy and the purity of the believers. Going step by step to any length in violence to preserve the supremacy of the deities of the day – including anthropomorphic demi-gods like Sankili and Prabhakaran – is the validated norm.
Killing or hiring someone else to kill is the legitimised modus operandi. For instance, the Vellala elders who declared war in the Vadukoddai Resolution were too old to kill. So, they licensed the youth to take up arms and kill anyone who stood in the way of attaining Eelam.
This sealed the affinity between Vellala religiosity and Prabhakaranist secularism. In some Vellala homes abroad they light lamps and place it before Prabhakaran’s image located alongside other Hindu gods on the mantelpiece of the living room.
Tamils who have no remarkable heroes in their history are left with no option but to go down the lowest depths to ferret out heroes from the best killers of Tamils as their demi-gods. Only a warped culture which has lost its humane values would pick the most heinous killer as their hero. So, the Tamils have picked Prabhakaran, the evil genie who had killed more Tamils than others, as their latest hero.
The desperate bid in Tamil politics is to fill the vacuum in their history. Though the Tamils of Jaffna boast of a great Tamil culture they never produced anything worthy of note in the civilisational fields of literature, drama, art, music or architecture.
They were at best third-rate imitators of the great Tamil culture of S. India. So, when they boast about their great Tamil culture they refer to the classical Tamil culture of S. India and not anything innovative or creative that came out of Jaffna. Mediocrities are genetically incapable of producing great cultures.
The perennial oppressive culture of Jaffna has either produced a one-man regime or a fascist ideology like Vellalaism / Prabhakaranism. This oppressive culture had its origin in Sankilli, the forefather of Prabhakaran, who marched down to Mannar in 1544 and massacred 600 Tamil Catholics who refused to recognise him as ‘the sole representative of the Tamils’ – an incurable obsession with Tamil leaders.
As Catholics they had sworn allegiance to the King of Portugal. Because they refused to pay homage to him he massacred them all, babies, pregnant women, old and young without any discrimination. Tamils specialised in eliminating discrimination with either the sword or the gun. Sankili put on record the first mass massacre. Prabhakaran was the last.
Jaffna never had space for liberal, open, tolerant, pluralistic, or an inclusive political culture. After Sankilli came the slave society with the Vellalas rising as a dominant force during the Dutch period.
The Tesawalamai legitimised slavery and the supremacy of the oppressive Vellala culture. It was this culture that dominated and warped Jaffna society. After the Vellalas came Prabhakaran, the first child born out of the Vellala Declaration of War on May 14, 1976 at Vadukoddai.
Ironically, Prabhakaran began by eliminating the Vellala elite who declared war against the Sinhalese in the noted Vaduukoddai Resolution and ended by throwing bombs and shooting the helpless Tamil refugees running away from him into the arms of the Security Forces.
Tamil people running away from their first Tamil state – it was only a quasi-state — was the ultimate insult to Tamil nationalism. It exposed the fake Tamil pride of being superior to all other communities. It is a state that could not give the Tamils food, security or dignity.
It had to depend on the ‘Sinhala state’ to feed their people. Or to wait for parippu to fall from the skies. It also meant that what God has put together cannot be separated by the force of brutal Tamil violence. History that has rejected Tamil invaders, marauders and colonialists repeated itself once gain in 2009 to prove that those who forget history end up in Nandikadal.
The Tamils who hero-worship Prabhakaran fail to realise that he had Eelam in the palm of his hands and he threw it away. He had it when Rajiv Gandhi offered him the Chief Ministership. He had it when Chandrika Bandaranaike offered him the North and the East for ten years without elections.
He had it when Ranil Wickremesinghe gave him the power that was nearest to Eelam, with international guarantees. Every one of these offers was a prospective political base from which he could have launched his political manoeuvres to reach his next political stage on the road to Eelam, if he knew how to get there.
But in his arrogance and total ignorance of alternative methodologies to achieve political goals, he assassinated Rajiv Gandhi – the goose that laid his golden egg. And he shot to pieces CBK’s offer and, most of all, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s deal for which he (Ranil) was expecting to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
By miscalculating and missing the best opportunities that came his way, Prabhakaran too proved to be ‘a congenital idiot’, in the colourful phrase of Prof. Kumar David.
Drunk with his own belief of invincibility he went beyond his limits to take on GOSL, India and even some segments of the international community who were initially sympathetic towards the Tamils. He had only one answer to all his problems: kill, kill and kill. In the end he ran short of killers. He had to forcibly drag children out from school to fight in his futile war. In short, he overreached himself. He went for Eelam or nothing. In the end he got nothing.
Apart from his own arrogance he was misled by the glorification of the Tamil diaspora and the servile Vellala elite, led by the TNA. Like the politically bankrupt Tamils Prabhakaran was a victim of his own egotistic myths.
The inexhaustible capacity of Tamils to believe in their political piety, purity and greatness has been suicidal. At each stage of their political movement, starting from satyagraha on the language issue, they deceived themselves – and the world — with their manufactured myths and, in the process, took the wrong route which finally led them to Nandikadal.
This brief revisit to the past is to question the role of the current Tamil leadership which is whipping up hate politics in the name of minority rights. As in the past they are once again parading as non-violent Gandhians performing satyagraha.
D. B. S. Jeyaraj, (DBSJ), the best-informed Tamil journalist, wrote about the latest protest march of the Tamils in the Daily Mirror (13/2/2021) in dithyrambic ecstasy.
He wrote: “The latest is the “Pottuvil to Poligandy” (P2P) Protest that ended last week was a watershed moment in the political history of Sri Lankan Tamils. The Five day “P2P” began in the East on Wednesday, February 3 and concluded in the North on Sunday, February 7.
Thousands of Tamils marched on foot and proceeded in vehicles from Pottuvil in the Ampara District to Poligandy in the Jaffna District….. What is forgotten, ignored or conveniently overlooked is the fact that for over three decades in post–Independence Sri Lanka, the Tamil political struggle was basically non – violent and adhered to the noble doctrine of ‘Ahimsa’ (avoidance of injury/violence) enunciated by that great apostle of non – violence Mahatma Gandhi.”
Now DBSJ knows, only too well, that the last sentence in particular is a load of bunk. He knows that neither S. J. V. Chelvanayakam nor his followers were ever noble apostles of non-violence in the mould of Mahatma Gandhi. The essence of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence satyagraha movement was to combat high-caste oppression of the low-caste, leaving aside his anti-imperialist campaign.
When did Chelvanyakam ever sit with the low-castes to back their non-violent campaign to open the doors of Maviddipuram Temple – the historic battle waged by the low-castes against the Vellalas? On the contrary, the Chelvanayakam leadership did nothing when the Vellalas cracked the head of the non-violent low-castes staging their protest at the Maviddipuram Temple? He never took a courageous stand and defended the rights of the low-castes to enter the Hindu temples.
Prof. Bryan Pfaffenberger, a leading American authority on the caste system in Jaffna, said that Chelvanayakam and the Federal party “tip-toed out” of the issue. The entire Tamil leadership, from Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, and running through G. G. Ponnambalam and Chelvanayakam never followed Gandhian principles in dealing with the persecuted low-castes of Jaffna.
DBSJ’s article glorifying the “Tamil Satyagraha 0f 1961” (DM –13/2/2021) is typical of the Tamil propaganda to portray the Tamil politicians as highly moral apostles of non-violence who were forced to give up non-violence by “the failure of the non-violent Tamil struggle to remedy prevailing political maladies.” Romanticising of “the doctrine of Ahimsa ”, he gives the Tamil leaders the aura of being non-violent saints who were about to enter Mahatma Gandhi’s nirvana when the frustrated youth took up the gun.
This, of course, is the external façade presented to the world outside Jaffna. While the Tamil leadership was posing apostles of Ahimsa in Colombo and other places outside Jaffna, inside Jaffna they were beating the daylights out of the low-castes who had dared to challenge the fascist might of the Vellala supremacists.
He says, I quote: “What is forgotten, ignored or conveniently overlooked is the fact that for over three decades in post-Independence (sic) Sri Lanka, the Tamil political struggle was basically non-violent and adhered to the noble doctrine of “Ahimasa” (avoidance of injury / violence) enunciated by that great apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi.”
Here he dodges the brutal history of Tamils oppressing, persecuting and murdering Tamils which was an integral part of the Jaffna political culture throughout its history. It ceased only the day after ‘the Sinhala state’ ended the 33-year-old battle against terrorism on May 19, 2009 at Nandikadal.
He says and I quote: “…for over three decades in post-Independence (sic) Sri Lanka, the Tamil political struggle was basically non-violent and adhered to the noble doctrine of “Ahimasa” (avoidance of injury / violence) enunciated by that great apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi.”
There were two political struggles going on in Jaffna: 1. the racist war declared on May 14, 1976 at Vadukoddai by the Vellala supremacists (the holy Ahimasavadins of Jaffna) to retain their feudal and colonial powers and privileges and 2. the low-intensity war of the low-castes against the Vellala supremacists — the perennial oppressors who had denied them their basic human rights.
In 1968 the Vellala supremacists went all out to suppress the Nalavars, Pallas and Parayas, rising as an organised front for the first time against the Vellala oppressors. Prof. Bryan Pfaffenberger, America’s leading authority on Vellala casteism, in his essay on the Temple entry Politics of the Vellalas, revealed that the Vellala Gandhians cracked the heads of the non-violent protesters with bottles filled with sand.
He added that the Vellalas who led the Federal Party “tip-toed out” of the crisis without standing up for the low-castes.
Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, who was then an up-and- coming young man in the Federal Party, was never seen fighting for the ‘dignity, equality, justice and peace’ of the Tamils oppressed by the Tamils.
In a grim snap-shot of the Vellalas Prof. Bryan Pfaffenberger wrote: “Vellarlars had long considered the Jaffna Peninsula a private preserve for their interests……In the fifties, for instance, many minority Tamils (Vellala euphemism for their untouchables / dalits) still lived in Vellala–owned palmyrah groves or wasteland; if they did not submit to Vellala labour demands, they could be threatened with expulsion.
The economic compulsions were paired with informal political controls: Minority Tamils who attempted to raise their position would find their communities victimised by Vellala- organised gangs of thugs, who burned down huts and poisoned wells.” (p. 81 — The Political Construction of Defensive Nationalism: The 1968 Temple-Entry Crisis in Northern Sri Lanka, The Journal of Asia Studies, 49, No. 1, February 1990).
How does this compare with DBSJ’s Jaffna which he thinks is the ideal Nirvana of the apostles of non-violent Gandhians? This questions the veracity of DBSJ’s claim that the Tamil politics in the first three decades of independent Sri Lanka was based on the non-violent doctrine of Gandhi.
In any case, can DBJ cite an instance where Gandhi took the side of the Brahmins as against the harijans? What were the chances of Gandhi walking up and down the entrance to Maviddipuram Temple with a walking stick like Prof. C. Suntheralingam, threatening to beat the hell out of any low-caste daring to enter the holy space of the Vellalas?
Tragically, our age is dominated by lies. We live in an age where 74 million Americans believe that Trump won the election and Biden stole it from him. Isn’t DBSJ acting like another Tamil Trumpian twister of the truth? He knows – if not, he should know – how the imported slaves from Malabar were treated by the Vellala supremacists down the ages in his glorified land of Ahimsa apostles.
He knows what happened at Maviddipuram. The temple entry issue at Maviddipuram in 1968 was the climactic moment when the Jaffna Tamils were asked to choose between evil and violent casteism and humane politics of giving the Tamils – just not the Vellala caste/class – their dignity, equality, justice and peace.
DBSJ should know, with all his deep knowledge of Tamil affairs that the path to Nandikadal began with the first satyagraha staged by the Vellala leadership at the Galle Face Green. It was not for the oppressed Tamil but for the privileged Vellalas.
It was Vellala elite performing satyagraha for Vellala privileges and not for the oppressed Tamils. If he loves his Tamil people and if he desires to prevent the kind of beating he got from the Tamils he must stop writing bunk – at least for the sake of peace and reconciliation.