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The solution

By Nalin de Silva

(June 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Finally what is the solution we offer to the so called ethnic problem? In order to have a solution it is necessary to have a problem. The so called ethnic problem is nothing but a problem due to the unwillingness of the English speaking Jaffna Vellala Tamils to recognise the significance of the Sinhala Buddhist culture, instigated by the British. The Vellalas inspired and instigated by the British wanted to become the leaders of the country by creating a mythical history going back to thousands of years. However, these Vellalas were brought to Sri Lanka by the Dutch for their tobacco cultivations only after 1650 and the Tamils in Sri Lanka do not have a continuous history going back to any time before that year. The Vellalas had been taken by the Dutch to South Africa at about the same time they were brought to Sri Lanka and are referred to as agricultural labourers in that country. In Sri Lanka the Vellalas have achieved a position in society that was not possible for them to realize in South Africa. Sri Lanka and South Africa have inherited Roman Dutch Law and the Vellalas as a result of the Dutch occupation.

Now let us look into the history of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. What is the origin of the present Tamil population in Sri Lanka and in Jaffna in particular? Before the Vellalas were brought by the Dutch who populated the Jaffna peninsula? Before the Dutch the Portuguese ruled this area who conquered it by the name of the Arya Chakravarthins. There is no evidence to show that the Arya Chakravarthins were Tamils as there had not been a Tamil ethnic community in the twelfth, thirteenth centuries in any part of the world. The use of Tamil as a language does not necessarily imply the existence of an ethnic community by that name whether in India or Sri Lanka or any other place. The pundits who take extra care to show that Aryan refers to a language group and not an ethnic community should take this into consideration. In Dambadiva or Bharath there were no ethnic communities as such and kingdoms were identified by the vansa of the kings. From ancient times we know of Sakya, Liccavi, Maurya, Chera, Pandya, Soli, and Pallava kings but not of ethnic communities. Also various languages and dialects have been used to identify groups of people but not their ethnicity. As a result Tamil speaking people have been ruled by Pandya, Soli, Pallava kings and conversely Pallavas and others have ruled over various other communities speaking different languages. The kings were not identified with the community ruled by them and there was no one to one correspondence between the vansa of the kings and their subjects. Even if the language spoken by the Arya Chakravarthins was Tamil there is no evidence to show that the people who lived in the Jaffna peninsula in the thirteenth century spoke Tamil let alone them being identified as a Tamil ethnic community.

In the case of the Sinhalas it had been different from the days of king Pandukabhaya. It was king Pandukabhaya who did away with the vansas of kings and gothras of peoples and established a nation that came to be called the Sinhalas who not only had a common language, a common culture, a common king who spoke the language of the people (unlike the earlier kings of England who spoke French) and a common way of life. There was a one to one correspondence between the king and his people and the large number of inscriptions by the kings found all over the island in Sinhala bear ample testimony to this fact. Perhaps there were only two nation states in whole of the ancient world that being the Sinhalas and the Chinese. How many inscriptions in Tamil can be found in the Jaffna peninsula? The absence of such inscriptions in general implies that either the kings did not speak Tamil or the people did not speak Tamil. In either case it is wrong to say that the kingdom of the Arya Chackravarthins was a Tamil kingdom.

The Sinhala people previously comprised of kings of different vansas and people of different gothras, and we may infer that the kings belonging to the SinhaVansa gave the name Sinhala to the new nation. We may conclude from all these and the story on Pandukabhaya that the king Pandukabhaya belonged to the Sinha Vansa but had the support of the yaksha gothra beside that of the nagas and the devas living in the country at that time. It is not necessary to give Pandukabhaya a yaksha birth as some people try to do in order to explain the origin of the Sinhala nation. It is very unlikely a yaksha king would have given the name Sinhala to the nation he established and those who talk of the yaksha beginnings of the king have had to resort to fancy interpretations to the word Sinhala in the process.

As Prof. Indrapala had noted before he became a "prisoner" of the Tamil terrorists, there were no permanent Tamil settlements in Sri Lanka before the twelfth century meaning of course settlements of people who spoke Tamil as a language and not of an ethnic community as such. Tamils in this period even in India did not constitute an ethnic group but a group of people speaking the Tamil language. The population of the Jaffna peninsula when the Arya Chakravarthins came to Jaffna would have been Sinhala with some Velakkaras who spoke Malayalam. The Arya Chakravarthins would have established a Vassal state under the king of Sinhale that being the kingdom of the Sinhala people and the Sinhala king, and ruled over the Sinhalas and the Velakkaras. It is very likely that the Arya Chakravarthins followed the pattern of the Dambadiva or Bharat kings and established a Vansa kingdom though under the Sinhala king rather than a nation state or even a gothra state. There would not have been any one to one correspondence between the kings and the people and until the Dutch brought the Tamils for their tobacco cultivation there would not have been many Tamil speaking people in the Jaffna peninsula. When Vijaya and other kings of Sinha and other vansas came to Sri Lanka they also would have established their little kingdoms in the same manner most probably following a system that the Aryans began. It was this Bharat or Dambadiva tradition that all these rulers had brought to Sri Lanka at various times without taking into consideration that in Sri Lanka already gothra or national kingdoms (after king Pandukabhaya) had been established. In a gothra kingdom the king or the ruler belonged to the same gothra of the people whom he ruled and it was most probably this tradition that inspired king Pandukabhaya to establish a nation state after defeating some other princes who belonged either to the Sinha or the Sakya vansas. Pandukabhaya did not create a so called feudal kingdom uniting all the gothra kingdoms as some pundits who can look at the world only through the spectacles of the westerners claim, but established what we may call a nation state, though not on the western Christian modernity model, following the model of the gothra kingdoms which were in this part of the world before the Aryans and hence the Dravidians came to what is now known as South Asia.

After the Arya Chakravarthins lost to the Portuguese nothing significant would have happened to the population pattern in the Jaffna peninsula until the Dutch brought the Tamil speaking Vellalas for the tobacco cultivation. There would have been a Sinhala population with Vellakaras and may be a few Tamil speaking people. The Vellalas in Sri Lanka managed to organise themselves as the leading cast among the population as farmers and not as agricultural labourers, sometime after they had permanently settled down in Jaffna. This itself is different from the caste system (Varna) in Bharath where Brahmins are the leading cast. It is clear that the Vellalas have been influenced by the Sinhala society after the Europeans especially the British came to this country in which goigama cast was given preference. Also I am told that the Tamil spoken by the Tamils in Jaffna is not very much different from that spoken in Tamil Nadu and the separation of the two languages does not differ by more than three hundred and fifty years. The Thesavalamai was codified by the Dutch in 1707 to prevent the agricultural labourers going back to India after the harvest and together with Prof. Indrapala’s earlier observation that there were no permanent Tamil (speaking) settlements in Sri Lanka before the twelfth century it is not difficult to argue that the origin of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is very much closer to the twentieth century than many people try to figure out. After the Vellalas settled down permanently, with their majority in Jaffna they would have established a Tamil speaking community with the Sinhalas and the Velakkaras who had been living there becoming different casts of the Tamil speaking community. It may be that they formed into an "ethnic community" of some sort and not only a population speaking Tamil language following the Sinhala people who had by that time lived as a nation for more than two thousand years, during the British period. In any event it was the British who created the Tamil ethnic group by identifying them as a nation. The British first considered the Sinhalas and Tamils as the two majority nations to undermine the Sinhalas but when they realised that it was ridiculous to call the Tamils a majority nation they created the concepts of majority and minority nations and called the Tamils a minority. In any event it was the British who introduced the concept of ethnicity to people other than the Sinhalas, in Sri Lanka as well as in India and the only people who had been conscious of the fact of being a nation before the British introduced this concept in the region were the Sinhalas.

(To be continued)
-Sri Lanka Guardian


Kumaradevan said...

Do you mean to say that tamils does not belongs to Sri Lanka. Sti lanka is a singala only nation. Do you have any history about buddist temple in North and east around 1600.

d1234dl said...

Well said Professor Nalin, I posted this same comment a month ago else where. But it is more relevent here. So I am posting it again.

"Staring from the time of the independence of Sri Lanka form Britain, some people were crying for finding solutions for problems which Tamils have. Time to time there were few uprising both from Tamil and Sinhalese sides. They came and make the way for hundreds (or thousands in the most recent one) of deaths and then ended. But so far no one ever was able to find a solution. I am tempted to think why? Tamils are claiming that they are under represented in the administration of the country. This was the base for all riots in the past. Lets look at this problem closely. Let's analyze the ethnic percentage in Sri Lanka. According to http://countrystudies.us/sri-lanka/38.htm, Sri Lanka has 74% Sinhalese, 18% Tamils and 7% Muslims. Now let’s look at the Sri Lankan main administration body, the parliament. It consist of 165 Sinhalese -73.3%, 34 Tamils – 15.1% and 26 Muslims – 11.5% both in the government and the opposition. Now even a child can see that all ethnic groups are represented very well in the administration and the Tamils and the Muslims are not under-represented. These are bogus claims some Tamils and their supporters (national or international) make to cover up the real reason for all these troubles. The real truth is Tamils do not have any problem and did not have any even in the past, except the ones some Tamil politicians and LTTE created for them. But after the independence, some Tamil politicians were eying for creating a separate country for them, like they divided India into two countries. British did dot gave it to them on the plate at the time of independence. Therefore those politician and their followers brainwashed and agitated the Tamil community for finding a solution which did not exists which every time ended up in a blood bath, just for the eagerness for a separate country for Tamils. The truth is, each and every Tamil in this country enjoy every single right which a Sinhalese have. There is no more or less given to any one race, everybody have everything equally. Therefore the clams are bogus and baseless. Tamils must integrate to the society and learn to live and let live."

ss said...

tamils have more priviledges
they can live in any part of sri lanka
sinhalese are not allowed in the north

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