Pernicious caste curse of Tamils living in the dark ages

No amount of militant or political solution can gain Tamils their rights unless this caste menace is eradicated even by enforcement of laws.
by Pearl Thevanayagam

(June 30, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mr Sebastian Rasalingam’ article, Sinhalisation of the North and Tamilisation of the South in yesterday’s Sri Lanka Guardian, is of utmost necessity and urgent issue Tamils need to address if we are to reach closure on our prejudices and shine the torch inwards for permanent integration into Sri Lankan polity and obtain our legitimate rights from the majority Sinhala government.

Tamil leaders have systematically fuelled caste based hierarchy and even abroad they cannot desist from trumpeting their castes while paying obeisance to the LTTE leader for championing their rights. When I wrote on Jaffna’s Caste Curse in mid ‘90s for The Sunday Leader most of my friends ridiculed me and said I was living in cloud cuckoo land.

I am still not sure what my caste is. On the one hand my late father used to say we have a family tree and on the other my mother used to say we have enough mix in our blood that it would be indeed very difficult to define our caste-base.

As a 12 year old I became conscious of how Tamils used the caste system to enslave least 75 percent of the Tamil population by obtaining their services virtually free based on their belonging to the servile class. I wondered about my own family’s hypocrisy when on the one hand they practised Catholicism to the letter treating our servants kindly and generously and on the other never allowing us to mix with those who are perceived to belong to lower castes. They even interrogated my classmates before they could be allowed into the hall.

I still remember the day Rev. Sr. Christobel asked me to accompany her on a visit to Thiddy, an enclave of shanties right behind St Patrick’s College which housed the Parayar community, the most untouchables of castes in Jaffna because they were the lavatory cleaners. Knowing what would be in store for me if my mother knew I kept my visit a secret. I have always wondered why this community had auburn hair and either blue or brown eyes and reddish complexion. We visited a few houses, gave them some food and clothing, bandaged festering wounds, cleaned up a little round the houses and gave them advice on how to maintain hygiene.

For someone who was brought up to believe that some were born to serve us, that particular day was an eye-opener for me. I realised even at that young age that even though we were Christians we were not practising Christ’s message that all are equal in the eyes of God and we were created in his image.

As to the appearance of the Parayar community it suddenly dawned on me they could be descendents of the colonialists and as they departed, those who were left behind had no place in the caste system ergo relegated to do the most menial of jobs.

I was touched and enlightened by this scholar Mr Rasalingam’s honest, erudite and simple explanation on the fate that befell Tamils and why Tamils need to change their attitudes. They are still living in the dark ages carrying with them the burden of ignorance, arrogance and narrow-mindedness.

No amount of militant or political solution can gain Tamils their rights unless this caste menace is eradicated even by enforcement of laws.

Please accept my congratulations on this excellent article Mr Rasalingam.

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