The long history of Tamil hate culture persecuting Muslims

By H.L.D. Mahindapala

The first ever persecution of Muslims in Sri Lanka occurred way back in history. It took place in Jaffna, the birth place of hate politics against the other”, which included even the Tamils of the low-castes. Details of Tamil hate politics need a whole book.  This essay is focused on Tamil persecution of Muslim throughout their history. The historical records relate the bitterness of the Tamils against the Muslim vividly and dramatically. The anti-Muslim politics of Tamils was driven by a relentless and venomous ideology which began with a feudal tyrant, Sankilli, and came right down, through generations, to Velupillai Prabhakaran’s Kattankudy massacre.

The Tamils of Jaffna were also the first to deny the identity of the Muslims. It dates back to feudal times. Quite surprisingly, anti-Muslim hate politics is recorded in the most respected historical text of colonial times : Yalpana Vaipava Malai.(A historical garland of Jaffna). Yalpana Vaipava Malai (YVM) was written by Mayilvakanm at the request of the Dutch Governor Jan Maccara, (1736). Its translator, C. Brito (1879) wrote in his preface: The work is looked upon as one of the great authority among the Tamils of Jaffna, and there are several manuscript copies of it extant in the peninsula.”. YVM is quite forthright in telling the story as it is. Mayilvakanam wrote at a time when history was not politicised to serve political agendas. Unfortunately, the history of Jaffna is wrapped in secrecy to this day for fear of exposing its hate politics against the other”. The other” in the Tamil political culture consists of Muslims, Christians, Sinhalese and even its own Tamil people who were rejected by Tamil Vellala elite  as untouchable outcasts. .

At a time like this when identity politics of Muslims is in the spotlight again it is necessary to trace the critical Muslim relations with the other communities to gain some perspectives on  the inter- ethnic dynamics at play.  As for the origins of the hate politics against the Muslims there isn’t a better place that records the plight of the Muslims than the Yalpana Vaipava Malai. Historian Mayilvakanam records what happened to the Muslims in the following paragraphs which are quoted in full. He says: During the supremacy of the Ulanthesar (Dutch), a colony of Sonakar (Muslims), came from Kayilpaddanam and other places and settle in South-mirisuvil, the name of which they changed into Usan.They were originally Tamils by race but had embraced the Muhammathu-matham by compulsion or persuasion of one Santhach-chaiva. Their chief means of subsistence was trade, which they carried on from fair to fair, in Savukach-cheri, Kodikumam, Eluthu-madduval,and Muhavil. After a time they abandoned Usan, and founded a new settlement in Nallur, on and around the site of Kantha-Suvami Koyil. The Tamil viewed their presence with displeasure as they thought that it might be detrimental to the cause of their religion when the time should come for the restoration of the temple. They tempted the Sonakar to leave the place, with money and entreaties, which when they found unavailing, they had recourse to a plan that proved effectual. They put a quantity of pig’s flesh into the wells of their enemy by night. When the defilement was discovered, the Sonakar were in great distress of mind. They could neither drink the water nor cook their means with it, and they saw themselves driven to the necessity of choosing between starvation on one hand and emigration on the other. They chose the latter and sold the place for whatever money could get from the Tamils and retired to the east of Navanthurai. Before they left, they, however, had made a compact by which they retained to themselves the right of visiting the4 spot, at stated times, for purposes of Muhammathan worship even when a Tamil temple  should happened to be afterwards built upon it.”( p. 55 – Yalpana Vaipava  Malai, translated  by C. Britto, Asian Educational Services, 1999).

Referring to the Malays, Mayilvakanam says: : In the reign of Vijaya Bahu (the usurper) there was a numerous army of Yavakar (Malays) in the king’s pay. Their numbers underwent constant diminution by deadly feuds among themselves and by the oppression of kings. The remnants of them inhabited the villages of Savakach-cheri and Savang-kodu. But Sangkili (who had already driven out the Sinhala-Buddhists) drove them also out of his kingdom.” (p33-34 – Ibid).

These passages reveal the origins of the hate politics of Tamils against the Muslims that ran deep throughout their history. On the contrary, the relationship between the Muslims and the Sinhalese has been, on the whole, cordial from the beginning. The Sinhalese kings not only opened their historic al space to accommodate the Muslims persecuted by the Portuguese and the Dutch but also facilitated their path to peaceful co-existence. There is no record of persecution of Muslims or ethnic cleansing.

The overall harmonious inter-ethnic relations between the Muslims and the Sinhalese has been the common thread shared by both communities, leaving aside the occasional tensions.  Most of all, they were given refuge by the Sinhalese when the colonial masters and the Tamil rulers persecuted them and expelled them forcibly, treating them as untrustworthy enemies. When Prabhakaran gave the Muslims 24 hours notice to quit Jaffna, and  robbed them of their property and treasures, they didn’t go to the Middle East or Malaysia. They were given homes and refuge in the Sinhala South. The latest events of Digana and Aluthgama which figure prominently in the political calculations now because it is fresh in our minds, pales into insignificance compared to the ideological onslaughts denying the Muslim identity, repeated massacres of Muslims, Muslim persecution and forcible expulsion by the Tamils from what they considered to be the Tamil homeland”..

The tragic event of anti-Muslim riots of 1911, under British rule, was another story which has to be dealt with separately. Even considering that as the worst point in Sinhala-Muslim relations the Muslims never faced the horrors of ethnic hatred and persecution as under the Tamil states. Besides, the riots of 1911 were not directed by a Sinhala state. It was an ethno-religious clash caused by estranged community feelings and, therefore, was confined to lower-level ethnic rivalry without hierarchical forces directing violence for political gain.  And like all inter-ethnic clashes with the Sinhalese these sporadic events fizzled out like the soda bottle. These inter-ethnic clashes were neither visceral nor permanent.  As opposed to this the violent acts against the Muslims by the Tamils took place at state levels, based on predetermined political policies officially adopted, like the Nazis eliminating the Jews. Ethnic cleansing and hate politics of the other” has been a part of Tamil political culture ever since Sankilli turned his wrath first against the Tamil Catholics, then against the Sinhala-Buddhist and finally against the Tamil-speaking Muslims.

In fact, Prabhakaran, who inherited the Sankilli culture of hating the other”, was repeating the culture of hate initiated by Sankilli when he consistently and deliberately targeted the Muslims to cleanse his so-called Eelam from the alien and evil Muslims. Like the Tamil kings of the past Prabhakaran was hero-worshipped as the undeclared Tamil king of the Vanni for carving out an ethnically cleansed quasi-state for the Tamils .

The hate culture of peninsular politics surfaced under different reasons and labels at different times. But the underlying force of all Tamil ideologies was hate politics of the other”. Sankilli marched down to Mannar on the eve of Christmas 1544 and massacred 600 Tamil Christians – children, pregnant women and the old and the feeble — because they owed allegiance to the Christian king of Portugal. Sankilli claimed to be the sole representative of the Tamils and he decimated all Tamils who owed allegiance to an alien power. It is the helpless Tamils who paid for his arrogance and hate politics.

The Vellala rulers of Jaffna, who wielded total power during feudal times and as subalterns during colonial periods, justified their fascist caste culture that reduced their own people to subhuman slaves as a religious duty coming down from God. In the divinely ordained Vellala regime the outcast Tamils, the Turumbas, could not even walk during daytime in case they polluted the pure eyes of the Vellalas. They were not allowed to sit on the seats of busses. They were forced to sit on the floor of the bus – a sign of hate politics not found even in the deep south of racist America. The Afro-American were forced to sit in the back of the bus because the front seats were reserved for the whites. They invoked the Hindu Saivite ideology revised by the caste fanatic Arumuka Navalar to rule the Tamil outcasts as an inferior breed of Tamil not fit for the society of the high-caste Vellalas. .

Vellala casteist elitism assumed a sense of superiority, ordained by God, which was not validated by any civilised or moral code. These self-appointed supremacists despised all other Tamil-speaking communities within the peninsula and outside it. The Saivite Jaffna Vellala (SJV) elite were anointed by their new religious guru, Arumuka Navalar, as a superior breed. He elevated them even above the few Brahmins of Jaffna and also to the Batticoloa Tamils, the Indian Tamils and the Tamil-speaking Muslims. Tamil intransigence, arrogance and the false sense of superiority intertwined as a solid force of Tamil hate politics to keep Jaffna as an exclusive domain for the SJV elite.

In Jaffna there was no space for non-SJV politics. Jaffna did no embrace socialism, Marxism, Maoism, liberalism, people-oriented humanism and not even deep-rooted Gandhism which was superficially fashionable for a brief while. There was no  other brand of politics other than SJV-driven hate politics, derived from the San-kill-iculture. As seen in history the San-kill-i culture came with the emphasis on the kill” part of it. The Tamil political culture hit the lowest depths when the Tamil branch of the Catholic Church embraced and promoted openly SJV hate politics which morphed into Prabhakaranism. Under the Vellala suzerainty of colonial times the Church maintain the supremacy of the Vellalas by allocating the front pews for the Vellalas and the back seats for the low-castes. Presumably, they must have thought that Jesus was a Vellala!

It was this brand of hate politics that came down like a devastating juggernaut and destroyed peaceful co-existence among all communities in the post-Independent period. It was this brand of hate politics that was unleashed on the Muslims in full measure. The 20th century horrors of the blood-thirsty Tamil supremacists are recorded in graphic details by Prof. Rajan Hoole, a latter-day Mayilvakanam. He had to run away from Jaffna and seek shelter in the Sinhala South because intrepid intellectuals like him were hated by the Prabhakaranists, the successors to the SJV supremacists. . His reports records in minute detail what happened to the Muslims under the Pol Potist regime of Prabhakaran. In Report No.11 of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (15thApril, 1993), titled Land, Human Rights & The Eastern Predicament, he painstakingly records the unending atrocities faced by the Muslims. The anti-Muslim violence came from the San-kill-i culture of hate revived and enforced ruthlessly by the Tamil Pol Pot. The Tamil hate culture reached its barbaric peak under the iron-fist of Prabhakaran and next to the Tamils (he killed more Tamils than all the other forces put together – S.C. Chandrahasan, son of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam) it is the Muslims who faced the full force of its violence and hate

In the attempt to ethnically cleanse the North and the East the San-kill-i political leadership did not hesitate to drive the Muslims out of Jaffna and it is estimated that 75,000 Muslims had to flee with only their clothes on their backs. Without meaning to excuse or justify any kind of violence, compare that to Digana and Aluthgama. In these instances, leaders of both sides rushed to put out the fires before it could burst into an uncontrollable conflagration. But there was no room for accommodation and flexibility in the hate culture of the Tamils.

The Apocalyptic horrors were recorded Prof. Hoole. In chapter after chapter of his Report 11 he documents the numerous acts of persecution, oppression, hate, expulsion, abduction, racist taxation, discrimination, shooting of Muslim farmers who went to cultivate their fields in the morning and never returned home etc. The worst, of course, was the massacre of the Muslims at the Kattankudy mosque. The following paragraph is representative of the hate politics of the Tamils directed against the Muslims.

Quoting the report of the Federation of Muslim Mosques and Institutions (FMMI) of Kattankudy submitted to the UNCHR he wrote: The report gives details of loss of life and property among Muslims of Kattankudy from 1985 to October 1991 and gives us an insight into their feelings of alienation and anxiety: 1985 – 20 lives lost due to violence, 1986 – 10, 1987/88- 85, 1989 – 10, 1990 –222, Kurukkalmadam massacre – 72, Mosque massacre – 104, 1991 (up to October) – 22,Isolated cases and abduction – 10. Total – 379.” (sic). (p, 49, Ibid).

He added: The 379 killed in Kattankudy (a predominantly Muslim town) were nearly all killed by their Tamil brethren who hope to dominate a political entity in which Muslim have to live. This is a serious complication (pp,.49 -50, Ibid)

When the FMMI presented their report to UNCHR our foreign-funded moralists like Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu did not jump from Western city to city demanding that the LTTE should forthwith stop the killing of Muslims. Nor did any moral panjandrums in USA and UK move any resolutions in the UNCHR to bring the Tamil Pol Potists to book. Oh, no!

Applying morality on a universal scale is expensive, especially if it is promoted by  those who make a living out of  counting the corpses of the victims of their fake theories for peace and human rights.

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