As May turns into June the quiet loneliness of war-torn Jaffna lies before me. For how much longer, years or decades into the future, will I look back into the past? And who will help me reflect on that past?
Some, fifty years ago, the tragedy of Biafra unfolded. I grew up hearing about the legacy of Biafra. During the early years of Tamil militancy, my father and a few other Tamil intellectuals of his generation warned that we may end up like Biafra. That many intellectuals perished in the struggle for Biafra I knew, but what they did I did not know back then.
It is over the last year, that I returned to Biafra, through the powerful novel of Chimamanda Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun. A novel sometimes helps us think about questions we find difficult to ask. Adichie made me think about how long it takes for us to grasp the suffering that comes with a devastating war. Indeed, Adichie writes about Biafra some forty years after. From Adichie, I moved to Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra. What struck me most about Achebe’s memoir, is that almost fifty years later, he is still struggling to come to terms with what Biafra meant to him, shackled by lingering nationalist sentiment. It takes a life time or even more to deal with the past in places like Biafra and Lanka.
Mid-May marked the fifth year since the end of the war in Sri Lanka. Continue reading Waiting on Biafra and Lanka
Previously posted on dbsjeyaraj.com
We the undersigned are aghast and anguished by the recent decision of the government of Tamil Nadu, acting on the Chief Minister’s orders, to send back two sports teams from Sri Lanka that were in Chennai to play matches against local school teams.
Two days after the Chief Minister issued her orders, members of a Tamil nationalist group, Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam protested against a group of pilgrims from Sri Lanka visiting a church near Thanjavur.
There have been similar protests in the past against visiting teams – by members of the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam. Continue reading Protesting the Forced Repatriation of Visiting Sports persons and Others from Sri Lanka
Guest post by AS AJITH KUMAR
YouTube’s search results for the `Kolaveri di ’ song are amazing. It is hard to pick the `original’ from the plethora of `kolaveri di ’ songs -the `reply cover version’, kids version by Naveen Nigam, the damn version, and many more. I was very excited to find this possibility-a song has initiated a dialogue, and that too a musical engagement. This I think are the new possibilities that the new media has brought into the field of music. Here is not the two- way process that we are familiar with, between the music and the listener, but a number of activities in multiple tracks.
The ‘listener’ is more visible now, and has more powers. He/she shares, likes, comments, makes his/her own videos and broadcasts them by herself/himself. I am not trying to jump into a sort of technological determinism, but approaching the shifts in the music field – in the making, listening, broadcasting and sharing of music. I would say that it is within this context that we have to reflect on the popularity of the `kolaveri di ’ song.
Continue reading High theory, Low ‘Kolaveri Di’: Why I am a Fan of this Flop Song: AS Ajith Kumar
Senkodi, a 20 year old woman, part of Makkal Mandram a commune in Kancheepuram immolated herself outside the collector’s office on the 29th of August in Kancheepuram. She left a letter saying that it was in solidarity with the campaign against the death penalty awarded to Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan in the case relating to Rajiv Gandhi’s killing. Growing up in the commune Senkodi was part of the struggles that were around her such as those for land and other rights of marginalised communities. Much has been written about her both maligning her and her comrades as well as hailing her ‘martyrdom’. Below is a piece that brings into question the reasons for her death and the reactions to it. It is translated as accurately as possible in language and tone from it’s original Tamil version. It is a piece written to raise questions within progressive spaces in tamilnadu, but can be easily read into similar contexts.
Guest post by PREMA REVATHI
Translated from the Tamil by Ponni
The human heart is a strange creature. The utter helplessness and pathos I felt after I heard of the death of Senkodi reminded me of lines I had heard ages ago which stuck with me;
Continue reading The fire lit by Senkodi: Prema Revathi
Guest Post by PREMA REVATHI
An English translation, with a background note, is available here.
மனித மனம் விசித்திரமானது. செங்கொடியின் மரணச்செய்தியை கேட்டதும் ஆறாத இயலாமையின் இருள் சூழ்ந்துகொண்டுவிட்ட மனதில் எப்போதொ ஒரு காலத்தில் மனதில் ஆழப்பதிந்துபோன
“ இந்த பூமியின் தேசங்களில்
ஒளி வீசுக செங்கொடியே…”
என்ற பாடல் வரிகள் மீண்டும் மீண்டும் அலையாடியது.
புரட்சிகர போராட்டத்தால் இந்த பூமியையே மாற்றிவிடும் ஒரு பெருங்கனவு இன்று முள்ளாய் உறுத்தும் ஒரு பழங்கனவாய் விடைகள் இல்லாத திசைவழிகள் இல்லாத நம்பிக்கைதரும் தலைமைகள் இல்லாத இத்தனிமையான அரசியல் இரவில் துறுத்திக்கொண்டிருக்கும் வேதனை முகத்தில் அறைகிறது.
ஆயிரமாயிரம் வார்த்தைகள் செங்கொடி பற்றி எழுதப்பட்டுவிட்ட, எழுதப்பட்டுகொண்டிருக்கும் இக்கணத்தில் நெஞ்சுருக்கும் இந்த இன்மையும் புகைப்படத்தில் தீர்க்கமாயொளிர்ந்து கொண்டிருக்கும் அவள் விழிகள் கேட்கும் கேள்விகளும் அலைகழித்துக் கொண்டே இருக்கின்றன.
Continue reading செங்கொடி மூட்டிய தீ
This is a guest post by JOE MS
The recent ‘jest ‘of film star Jayaram against the Tamil as black skinned , buffalo like and therefore less human has been taken as just a joke in the cultural scene of Kerala. Not only has sympathy been expressed for the poor victim that he is, inadvertently cracking an innocent joke and becoming the target of the ire of ‘violent’ Tamils, even solidarity was expressed with the right to crack such jokes by the ’ordinary folks’. The latent ideological and cultural premises hidden behind this whole controversy needs to be enquired into, to understand the reality. The natural outburst of violence against Jayaram for upholding the dignity of the Tamil has been understood by the ‘superior’ Malayali culture as typical of those who are inferior, passionate, emotional, devoid of political education , filmy so on and so forth.
The height of irony was the sigh of relief heaved by Sebastian Paul, the (retired? ) left liberation theologist, in his newspaper article in Madhayamam (dated 12th February), for the end of the controversy as the fight against Jayaram subsided in Tamilnadu. Here he presumes that Jayaram only made a joke, and therefore absolved him of all sins (because of the kinship of the Malayali fraternity), and holds that the Tamils reacted violently and unnecessarily , which is nothing but parochialism. This is no wonder. At the level of mass culture, cracking of jokes and the ‘wit’ mania , epitomised by ‘mimicry’ as a form of entertainment, which basically insultingly ‘mimics’ a range of people from the physically challenged to the people of subaltern cultures, and internalised by the Malayalee to fill the philosophical void in his competitive life, is simply racist. Popular culture as practiced in Kerala, is naked racism, which would have called forth acts of reprimand even from a capitalist state in the west. And all such jokes have however escaped criticism of the left-oriented Kerala.
Continue reading Jayaram and Tamil – Some scattered thoughts on the anti-black mass culture in Kerala: JoeMS
The following is the write up of my talk given at the Centre for Society and Religion on January 11th, 2010. I have articulated some of these concerns in greater depth in my recent article in the January 9th, 2010 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly titled, ‘State Power, State Patronage and Elections in Sri Lanka’.
Presidential Elections, Minorities and Political Space
First, I want to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak here at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR), an institution that embodies a great tradition of conscious political engagement. It is an honour to be given this privilege and I hope this series of discussions at CSR on the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections is the beginning of many discussions and debates on important political issues facing the peoples of our country. Indeed, the space that has opened up in recent weeks in the context of the elections should be expanded by all social institutions and social forums concerned about peace, justice and democracy. I for one believe that the debates, the social pressures and the mobilisations in the lead up to and after elections are at times even more important than the act of electing a President or other political representatives. Continue reading Presidential Elections, Minorities and Political Space
I am posting below a much longer version of an article that is published in Himal Southasian. The Broken Palmyrah is out of print, but the entire book is on the UTHR(J) website.
Remembering Rajani and Re-Reading The Broken Palmyrah
September this year many will remember Rajani Thiranagama, a feminist, an activist, a Marxist, a scholar, a doctor and a teacher assassinated twenty years ago on September 21st, 1989. Among the reasons for her assassinations was the publication of that profoundly grounded work, The Broken Palmyrah, which she co-authored with three other academics from the Jaffna University. While we commemorate the life and work of Rajani at a time when the war has come to an end, in many ways the Palmyrah is still broken. It is in this context that I return to that inspiring work, which has much to teach us, in particular for those of us belonging to the younger generations of activists after Rajani. Inspiring, for despite the worst cruelties of war, it carried a message of hope, an analysis of possible ways forward and faith in the resilience of ordinary people. Continue reading Remembering Rajani and Re-Reading The Broken Palmyrah
guest post by ROHINI HENSMAN
Once a forest fire is raging, putting it out is difficult, and an enormous amount of destruction is inevitable. The same is true of the war in Sri Lanka. Even over the past fifteen years, there were several chances to prevent this tragedy, but only a tiny minority of those who are now grieving over the dead and injured were arguing then that a failure to take these chances would lead to a bloodbath. Continue reading Sri Lanka: A Tragedy Foretold – Rohini Hensman
I am posting below an article that I wrote with Cenan Pirani. The shorter version of this article is in Combat Law. The longer version below delves into the history of left politics in Sri Lanka and attempts at a political solution. Another article by me reflecting some of these concerns and raising questions of solidarity titled ‘The Challenges of Solidarity’ was published in Red Pepper.
The Tragedy of Politics in Sri Lanka
By AHILAN KADIRGAMAR and CENAN PIRANI
In the last few months, the Sri Lankan security forces have managed to ruthlessly push the LTTE into a 40 square km strip of land in the North of the island, and along with the LTTE leadership and its cadres, a sizable civilian population, anywhere from seventy thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand, have also been cordoned off in this area. As the security forces continue their offensives purporting to rid Sri Lanka of the LTTE, they also claim the lives of these civilians daily. Continue reading The Tragedy of Politics in Sri Lanka
I am posting a longer version of an interview with Jayampathy Wickramaratne. The February 2009 issue of Himal Southasian, a special issue on Sri Lanka, has a shorter version of this interview. At a time when there is much concern about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe there have also been increasing voices calling for a political solution. On the history of displacement and humanitarian concerns with the twenty-fire year war in Sri Lanka, I recommend Rajan Hoole’s article in Himal. This interview with Jayampathy Wickramaratne might engage those interested in past attempts at a political solution as well as the problems with the 13th Amendment (which came out of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and is currently being talked about both in Sri Lanka and India).
Ahilan Kadirgamar talked to Jayampathy Wickramaratne, who is President’s Counsel, a constitutional lawyer, a former senior advisor for the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, and a member of the team that drafted the 2000 Constitution Bill. Wickramartane was a member of the panel of experts to assist the All Party Representative Committee and signatory to the “Majority Report” (December 2006) that proposed extensive restructuring of the state, with extensive devolution and power sharing at the centre. Wickramaratne is a politburo member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Continue reading Jayampathy Wickramaratne on Political Solution in Sri Lanka