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SRI LANKANS & THE TAMIL PROBLEM

The decision of the Government of India to boycott the recent CHOGM meeting in Sri Lanka, for its violation of Human Rights against the Tamil minority, was welcomed by all. Yet not many know the intricate pattern of the Sri Lanka imbroglio.

There seems to be little doubt that once upon a time, not so long ago, India and Sri Lanka were linked by a small strip of land, which can still be seen today from the air: Adam’s Bridge. Or Rama Setu, a 48km lo,g stretch of underwater causeway, spoken about in the Ramanayama. And this is how the first Tamils, those who settled in the North, came to Sri Lanka (are they the first inhabitants of Sri Lanka and not the Sinhalese? This is another question!). There is also no doubt -and the Sinhalese recognise it- that they are originally Indians, although some say that they came from Gujurat, others from Bengal. Thus it can be established beyond doubt that Sri Lanka and India are one ethnically, although they differ in religion (but the same can be said within India). And throughout the ages, under one form or the other, Ceylon was under the influence of India. That is why, when the British conquered it in the late 18th century, they chose to attach it to their Indian empire. But when they left in 47, in their desire to see that India never dominates too heavily the subcontinent, they facilitated the creation of Pakistan and handed to Sri Lanka its freedom. And India and Sri Lanka seemed to part way for ever, as Tamils and Sinhalese were left to war with each other, until Rajiv sent the IKPF in 1988.

One has to go back a long time to understand what decisive factors shaped the psyche of the island’s two communities. And this decisive factor bears the names of two of the world greatest religions: Buddhism and Hinduism. The first one, Buddhism, is a gentle, peaceful creed, that teaches non-violence and brotherhood, even to enemies. Unfortunately, Ceylon, often called the “isle of beauty”, has always been too tempting a prey for sea-faring invaders. And indeed, successive colonisers, from Arabs to Africans, from Portuguese to Dutch and finally, British, preyed on the tiny, defenceless island. In the name of Buddhism and because, the Sinhalese are by nature a fun-loving, gentle people, not only did they hardly resist these invasions, but often, many of their women, mingled freely with the foreign intruders. The result can clearly be seen today on the faces of many Sinhalese women folk, with their African-curled hair, Arabic features and fair skinned faces. As a result, the Sinhalese slowly lost their sense of identity, their feeling of being a collective being, to the point that when the British came, they collaborated wholehearted with them and had to be handed back their independence on a platter, for want of a real freedom movement. Today, democracy and western institutions are just a flimsy cloak that the Sinhalese wear. Lurking underneath the pleasant, sometimes servile attitude towards Westerners, is a sense of hopelessness and a terrible violence. And in reality, since independence, Sinhalese politicians must have been some of the least farsighted of the entire subcontinent: nothing is made in Sri Lanka, everything has to be imported and only tea, tourism and Western grants help the country survive.

On the other hand, Hinduism with its strict caste hierarchy, which forbids much contact with outsiders, particularly sexual contact with foreigners, protected Sri Lankan Tamils from mingling with their invaders. Thus they preserved their identity, their racial purity and their culture. Sinhalese live an easier life in the South, which was always more fertile than the arid North. As a result, Tamils have often been better at studies and more hard- working, (although one should not generalise). This was quickly noticed by the British, who often gave Tamils preference for jobs and university grants, thus angering the Sinhalese, who after all were the majority community.

It is this deep-rooted resentment of the Sinhalese towards the Tamil community which is the cause of most of the troubles. When the British left, the Sinhalese quickly moved in to correct what they saw as an unbalance: they set on depriving the Tamils of most of the rights they had acquired under the British and proceeded to establish a Sinhalese-dominated Ceylon. And every time a Sinhalese politician tried to give the Tamils their just share of power, he quickly had to backtrack under Sinhalese resentment. For years, the Tamils bore the brunt of Sinhalese persecution. But one day, too much became too much and Tamil armed groups started springing up to defend their people. To cut short a long story, the LTTE finally emerged as the most ruthless and sole militant organisation. For those who remember the Tamil Tigers in their early years: young, bright, soft spoken university students, there was no doubt that they had started with a genuine aspiration to secure their just rights. But violence breeds its own violence and soon the Tigers lost all sense of measure and restraint, eliminating ruthlessly all what they think stands in the way of their freedom. Killing Rajiv Gandhi was one of their biggest & most tragic mistakes and they finally paid that karma by being themselves ruthlessly wiped out by the Sinhalese, & Prabhakaran murdered in cold blood.

But the elimination of the LTTE does not solve the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, as they continue to face discrimination & violence there. Only India has the power and the muscle to impose to Sri Lanka a just solution, which will give the Tamil minority an autonomy which will stop short of total independence. But is the will there? Manmohan Singh did not go to the CHOGM meet, not out of genuine concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils, but just to placate his DMK ally,who in turn has often used the Sri Lankan issue to whip up frenzied violence for purely political reasons.

India should pause and act

François Gautier

Source: Expressbuzz
First Published : 30 Jan 2009 02:01:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 30 Jan 2009 08:45:50 AM IST

How many of us remember the young Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres in the mid-Eighties, when they walked freely in the streets of what was known as Madras: young, nice Tamils, who looked more like students than militants? There is no doubt that over the years the LTTE has become a deadly terrorist outfit, eliminating in cold blood anyone it felt was in the way of its aspirations, including other Sri Lankan Tamil leaders.

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was symbolic of that ruthlessness: he was murdered on the assumption that he would then follow an anti- LTTE policy once back in power after the experience of the IPKF.

Today the Tamils of Sri Lanka are paying a heavy price for the assassination: they are losing the war with the Sri Lankan army, mostly because the Congress of Sonia Gandhi, who has never forgiven them for her husband’s murder, is backing the Sinhalese leadership.

But before the LTTE is wiped out, India would do well to think whether it would serve its geopolitical purposes to have a triumphant Sinhala neighbour. For this, one has to first look at the history of Sri Lanka.

There seems little doubt that a few thousand years ago, India and Sri Lanka were linked by a small strip of land, which can still be seen today from the air: Adam’s Bridge, or Ram Setu. This is how the first Tamils, those who settled in the North, came to Sri Lanka. One has to go back a long time to understand what factors shaped the psyche of the island’s two communities. The decisive factor bears the names of two of the world’s greatest religions: Buddhism and Hinduism.

The first is a gentle, peaceful creed that teaches non-violence and brotherhood, even to enemies. Unfortunately, Ceylon, the “isle of beauty”, has always been a tempting prey for sea-faring invaders.

Successive colonisers, from Arabs to Africans, from Portuguese to Dutch and finally, British, preyed on the tiny, defenceless island.

In the name of Buddhism and because the Sinhalese are by nature a fun-loving people, not only did they hardly resist these invasions, but often their women mingled freely with the invaders. The result can be seen today in the faces of many Sinhalese women folk, with their kinky hair or Arabic features.

As a result, the Sinhalese slowly lost their sense of identity, their feeling of collective being, to the point that when the British came, they collaborated wholeheartedly and had to be handed back their independence on a platter, for want of a real freedom movement.

Today, democracy and western institutions are just a cloak that the Sinhalese wear. Lurking underneath is a sense of hopelessness and a terrible violence. Its politicians have been among the least farsighted of the entire subcontinent: nothing is made in Sri Lanka. Only tea, tourism and Western grants help it survive. On the other hand Hinduism, with its strict caste hierarchy, protected the Tamils from mingling with their invaders. They preserved their identity and culture. The Sinhalese live an easier life in the South, always more fertile than the arid North. As a result, Tamils are often better at studies and more hard working, (although one should not generalise). The British noticed it and often gave Tamils preference for jobs and university grants, angering the Sinhalese, who after all were the majority community.

It is this deep-rooted resentment that is in greater part the cause of the present troubles. When the British left, the Sinhalese quickly moved to correct what they saw as an imbalance, depriving Tamils of most of the rights they had acquired under the British and proceeded to establish a Sinhalese-dominated Ceylon. Every time a Sinhalese politician tried to give the Tamils their just share of power, he was forced to backtrack for fear of Sinhalese resentment.

For years, Tamils bore the brunt of Sinhalese persecution. But one day, too much became too much and Tamil armed groups started springing up to defend their people. To cut short a long story, the LTTE finally emerged as the most ruthless and sole militant organisation.

Yet, in 1988, Rajiv stepped in to mediate between the warring Sinhalese and Tamils. All kinds of insulting epithets have been used to describe the Jayewardene-Rajiv Gandhi peace plan and the IPKF’s role in Sri Lanka, but these are unfair.

The plan was the best that could be done in the circumstances, and the IPKF did not come to conquer, but to help. All the same, India got bogged down in a guerrilla war, with one hand tied behind the back to avoid killing civilians. Ultimately, it had to leave because of pressure at home and Premadasa’s intense dislike of Indians.

Today Tamils are on the verge of being completely overrun. And this raises the question of India’s security.

What will be the consequences of a triumphant Sinhalese majority? Are not Sri Lankan Tamils closer to Indians, culturally, socially and spiritually, than the Sinhalese? Will Sri Lanka, like Bangladesh before it, turn on India once it has achieved, with India’s help, its goals? The Government of India should think twice and remember Rama and Ravana before it allows the Sri Lankan army totally to subdue the north.

fgautier@rediffmail.com

Ramachandra Guha and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Ramachandra Guha represents the typical Indian intellectual: brilliant, totally westernized – and who looks down on anything Hindu – because he has inherited from the British colonization a gigantic inferiority complex about his own culture and spirituality. And like many of his brothers and sisters of India’s intelligentsia, he feels nowhere better than in the West. This can be gathered from his Oslo diary published in the Outlook magazine of 20th October, where he says, and I quote : “…After two weeks in Oslo, my hosts send me off to Svalbard, deep into the Arctic CircleI spend four enchanting days in and around the little town of Longybein, located at 78° N. I have the privilege of sampling the northernmost bar, the northernmost cafe, the northernmost supermarket, and the northernmost souvenir store in the world “… Then he adds – and this shows that this Macaulayan fixation is transmitted since many generations from father to children: “The person most envious of my trip is my daughter, who has read evocative descriptions of Svalbard in the novels of Philip Pullman”. Wow: I am a born Frenchman, brought up in some of the best European schools, I vaguely known of Philipp Pullman (do you?), but have never heard of that he wrote about the archipelago of Svalbard” (have you?). <!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Once he has proved his credentials of a connoisseur of western literature and lover of western atmospheres, Guha, because he is in Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, chooses to attack Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, who has been the most nominated Indian in the last three years: “After my talk, a lady comes up and introduces herself as a doctor, and an advisor to the Peace Institute. The names I had mentioned were all very good, she said, but surely it was time that the peace prize went to an Indian? She mentions the name of a fellow townsman of mine (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), a man who has grown long hair, given himself four fancy initials (HH/SS), and whose name is also that of a very great exponent of the sitar”. And of course, Guha tells her gleefully: “I suggested to the doctor that if not giving Gandhi the prize was a scandal, awarding it to my fellow townsman would be an even bigger scandal”. How typical of these Indian intellectuals, who are always spitting on their own culture, specially if it is Hindu-related.

Yet, there is no doubt that Guruji, as he is known to his followers, qualifies for the NPP – in fact he does tenfold time the work of a Mother Teresa or a R.K Pachauri: he not only performs charity work in many of India’s villages, he also promotes pesticide and fertilizer free farming, takes orphans from Kashmir or the North-East in his ashram, and his volunteers do relief work, both at the physical and psychological level, whether in Bihar during the floods, in Iraq or in the US during the recent cyclone. Sri Sri is also trying to revive single handed, the ancient Vedic tradition by training young priests in a Gurukkul which blends ancient knowledge, with modern thought, while promoting Ayurveda as the medicine of the 21st century. He is attempting as well to mediate in many conflicts, in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, or between the Christians and Hindus. And lastly he has revived and modernized the ancient science of pranayama.

Of course, Guha is an unabashed admirer of the Norwegian Peace Committee: “The Nobel Peace Prize is itself a splendid example of Norwegian internationalism, in keeping with the country’s ethos of generous aid to poorer countries, not to mention its efforts to resolve ethnic conflicts around the world”. But not everybody in Europe would agree with him : Norwegians have sometimes the reputation of being staunch, left-leaning Protestants, who often have a condescending view of Asia. Thus, when they award prizes, they are necessarily influenced by a Christian vision of the world and an idealistic left-leaning sympathy. For, as most Europeans, they have been brought-up in the belief that democracy and philosophy started with Greece and that a Humane civilization, began with Jesus Christ. And of course, they have a covert – or at best unconscious – suspicion, if not of India, at least of Hindus, who for them remain the heathen, the pagans which the missionaries of yesteryears, and unfortunately those of today too, have created in the minds of many westerners.

They can only agree with Mr Guha: how can they then, give their Peace Prize to a Hindu?

François Gautier

Taliban, Hindu Kush and Hindu Genocide

Taliban, Hindu Kush and Hindu Genocide
Author: Mr Francois Gautier
Date: April 16, 2001

The West seems to have suddenly woken-up to Muslim fundamentalism in South Asia when the Taliban broke down the Bamyan statues, in spite of frantic appeals from all over the world. But there is a bit of hypocrisy in the outrage triggered by this destruction.

Firstly, Islam is very clear about statues: didn’t the Prophet Mohamed break down himself the first stone Gods ? Thereafter, it became a holy duty for all good Muslims. Firuz Shah Tughlak (1351-1388) who has an avenue named after him in New Delhi, wrote: “on the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders and practitioners of this abomination; I destroyed their idols and temples to build mosques in their places”.

As Belgium historian Konraad Elst points out, “Muslim fanatics are merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. It is not the Muslims who are guilty, but Islam”. Thus, the Taliban, who want to restore the early purity of Islam, really thought they were performing a righteous act by destroying the “heathen” Buddhist statues.

Secondly, does the West ever protest when Hindu temples are destroyed periodically in Bangladesh and Pakistan? The HRCBM, a Santa Clara-based organisation that investigates and exposes human rights violations in Bangladesh, has recorded a few of the outrages against Hindus in Bangladesh during the year 2000: On March 29, 2000, Malarani Roy of Karagola village was abducted by Muslims. She was brutally beaten up and gang-raped. The local police found her, but refused to register a case.

On June 26, a group of Muslims directed Smriti Rani Saha of Sirajganj town to migrate to India. When she refused, she was abducted, gang-raped and brutally murdered. On May 28, Debasish Saha of Poradaha was fatally shot by a Muslim gang. On June 4, Mayaram Tripura of Balipara was shot dead by local Muslims. On October 6, 2000, Muslim devotees, after offering namaaz at the Gajipur Jama Masjid, strolled across to the Hindu Kali temple, destroyed the puja pandal, smashed the idols, and looted nearby Hindu-owned shops.

Take a look at the figures of the Hindu population of India’s Muslims neighbours: in 1941, there were approximately 25% Hindus in Pakistan and 30% in Bangladesh; in 1948, only 17% in Pakistan and 25% in Bangladesh; in 1991, a bare 1.5% remained in Pakistan and less than 10% in Bangladesh.

==============added by LSK begin==================
__________________________________________________________
| year  ||  % of hindus in Pakistan  ||      % of hindus in Bangladesh    ||
|_____||____________________ ||___________________________||
| 1941 ||             25                     ||                 30                             ||
| 1948 ||            17                      ||                 25                             ||
| 1991 ||            1.5                     ||                 <10                           ||     |________________________________________________________ ||

=============added by LSK end  ===================

Thirdly, the West has not yet realized that for the Muslims of South Asia , Hindus are the Kafirs by excellence: the Buddhists adore only Buddha, the Christians only Jesus, but Hindus worship a million Gods and Goddesses; and that makes them – even today – the number one enemy of Islam. This is why Kashmir is so important: it is not about territory, it is about a Holy war against Hindu India that has been going on for fifteen centuries and it is only the first step of the encirclement of India by hostile Muslim neighbours: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, with soft nations, like Nepal, often lending them a helping hand.

Nothing symbolizes more the absoluteness of Muslim belligerence towards Hindus than the Hindu Kush. Historically, the passes across the Hindu Kush have been of great military significance, providing access to the northern plains of India to foreign invaders, starting from Alexander the Great in 327 BC, to Timur Lane in 1398 AD, and from Mahmud of Ghazni, in 1001 AD, to Nader Shah in 1739 AD. As noted by Srinandan Vyas in the Hindu.net website: ” In Persian, the word ‘Kush’ is derived from the verb Kushtar – to slaughter or carnage, because all Hindus living there were slaughtered.

Encyclopaedia Americana says of Hindu Kush: The name means literally ‘Kills the Hindu’, a reminder of the days when Hindu slaves from Indian subcontinent died in harsh Afghan mountains while being transported to Moslem courts of Central Asia. While Encyclopaedia Britannica mentions “that the name Hindu Kush first appears in 1333 AD in the writings of Ibn Battutah, the medireview Berber traveller, who said the name meant ‘Hindu Killer’, a meaning still given by Afghan mountain dwellers who are traditional enemies of Hindus”.

“Unlike the Jewish holocaust, writes again Vyas, the exact toll of the Hindu genocide suggested by the name Hindu Kush is not available. However the number is easily likely to be in millions”. A few known historical figures can be used to justify this estimate. Encyclopaedia Britannica recalls that in December 1398 AD, Timur Lane ordered the execution of at least 50,000 captives before the battle for Delhi; likewise, the number of captives butchered by Timur Lane’s army was about 100,000 .

Encyclopaedia Britannica again mentions that Mughal emperor Akbar ‘ordered the massacre of about 30,000 captured Rajput Hindus on February 24, 1568 AD, after the battle for Chitod, a number confirmed by Abul Fazl, Akbar’s court historian. Afghan historian Khondamir records that during one of the many repeated invasions on the city of Herat in western Afghanistan, which used to be part of the Hindu Shahiya kingdoms “1,500,000 residents perished”.

Why does not the Government of India tell Indian children about the Hindu Kush genocide? The horrors of the Jewish holocaust are taught not only in schools in Israel and USA, but also in Germany. Because both Germany and Israel consider the Jewish holocaust a ‘dark chapter’ in the history. Yet, in 1982, the National Council of Educational Research and Training issued a directive for the rewriting of school texts.

Among other things it stipulated that: ‘Characterization of the medireview period as a time of conflict between Hindus and Moslems is forbidden’. Thus denial of history, or Negationism, has become India’s official ‘educational’ policy.

It is high time that the West realizes that India is fighting a lonely battle against Muslim fundamentalism in Asia. The French for one, who have a definite problem with Muslim terrorism, should support India more openly.

NOTE: The Indian Express refused to carry this column by Gautier, clearly indicating a policy of censorship being applied by the publication.