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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1
1956: A Jaffna-Colombo train journey & A taste of “Sinhala Only”.


Chapter 2
1930: Jaffna, Bernard Shaw and the days of the Empire

Chapter 3
Jaffna College: Getting educated outside the classroom!

Chapter 4
Lake House, Sir John and his inauspicious Jaffna visit

Chapter 5
1956: Bandaranaike sows the seeds of Tamil separatism

Chapter 6
1957-1959: Broken Pledge, Riots and Assassination.

Chapter 7
1960-1961: A woman Prime Minister and Tamil Satyagraha

Chapter 8
1962-1963: Ill-fated Coup. India helps Mrs.B at Tamil expense

Chapter 9
1964-1968: The Left capitulates: Sinhala racism triumphs again!

Chapter 10
1968-1969: Tamil disillusionment. “Sinhala Only Act” challenged.

Chapter 11
1970: Mrs. B again. Austerity and a gallop in the historical process

Chapter 12
1971: Sinhala Insurgency, Terrorism and State Authoritarianism.

Chapter 13
1972-1976: Stormy years of nascent Tamil Nationalism

Chapter 14
1977-1979: Jayewardene at 71 grabs power and breeds more violence.

Chapter 15
1981: Jayawardene inaugurates a dark phase in the island’s history.

Chapter 16
1982-83: Adventure in Journalism. The Saturday Review, Jaffna

Chapter 17
1983: The pogrom as the outside world saw it : “Quotes”

Chapter 18
September 1983 : Escape from Jaffna and a midnight passage to India

Chapter 19
1983-1984: Eelam activity in Madras, state of war in Sri Lanka

Chapter 20
1985: Rajiv Gandhi, Indian embroilment and failure at Thimpu.

Chapter 21
1986: Sri Lanka sinks deeper into the mire of war

Chapter 22
1987: Indian Army walks into Northeast Sri Lanka: Near-fatal attack on Rajiv Gandhi

Chapter 23
1988: Peacemakers at war; Sinhala South rebels; Jayawardene’s exit.

Chapter 24
1989: LTTE-Premadasa talks and Assassinations

Chapter 25
1990: Indian troops depart but the Sri Lankan war resumes, Fall of Mankulam

Chapter 26
1991-1997: The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination & a “Judicial Assassination”.

Chapter 27
1990-1993: Adventure in Journalism II : The Tamil Nation and Jail life!

Chapter 28
1991–1993 : More Assassinations and fall of Army Camps. Death of Kittu.

Chapter 29
1994–1995 : Chandrika in power; Peace Talks end in War

Chapter 30
1996: Central Bank bombed: In the north, Tigers overrun army camp.

Chapter 31
1977: Operation land route to Jaffna fails as planes drop from the sky

Chapter 32
1998 : Kilinochchi falls to the Tigers. Operation Jaya Sikurui called off.

Chapter 33
1999 : Vanni heartland in LTTE hands: Chandrika voted back to power

Chapter 34
2000: Elephant Pass falls. Fall of Jaffna averted with foreign help

Chapter 35
2001 – 2002: A Summary of Major Events

Chapter 36
A Memoir 1993 – 2004: That unseen hand that dictates one’s life!

 

Book Notes & Reviews

  • Sri Lanka: Witness to History - A Journalist's Memoirs, 1930-2004
    by Subramaniam Sivanayagam  ISBN 0-9549647-0-5 : hard cover, 700 pages
    - published, 2005,  by Sivayogam, 180-186, Upper Tooting Road,
    London, SW17 7EJ
    - UKú20, USA $40, Canada $50, Australia $50, Europe - euro 30
    - for contact and book inquiries: info@orupaper.com
    - you may buy this book online at: http://www.orupaper.com/witness/

Distributors:  UK and Europe: Jasmine Studio Ltd, 45B Crusoe Road, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 3LJ, phonel: +44 208 286 9327  - USA & Canada: World NT, 36 Carisbrooke Square, Toronto, ON, M1B4M4, Canada phone: 416 899 1202

About the Author
From the Cover
From the Foreword by Adrian Wijemanne
From the Pre Launch Notice at Sangam.org
From the last chapter of Witness to History
Review by Ana Pararajasingham, Australia
Review by Dr. Brian Senewiratne, Australia
Charles Pathirana in Lacnet
Review by Sachi Sri Kantha
பராசக்தி சுந்தரலிங்கம் (அவுஸ்திரேலியா)

About the Author:

Subramaniam Sivanayagam, born in Jaffna, Ceylon in 1930  during British colonial rule in Jaffna had his secondary education at Kokuvil Hindu College and Jaffna College, Vaddukoddai. In Colombo, he had worked on the editorial staff of the Ceylon Daily News and the Ceylon Daily Mirror. He also worked as English language Copy Writer at J.Walter Thompsons and alter as Editor (Publications) at the Ceylon Tourist Board. He was founder editor of the Jaffna based Saturday Review, which was banned by the Sri Lanka government on 1 July 1983. Fleeing to India as a refugee, he soon headed the Madras branch of the Tamil Information Centre, London. While in India he edited the fortnightly Tamil Nation. Previously he had written for the Tamil Times, London and later for the Tamil Voice International under the pen name Kurushetran. Incarcerated in India for a one year jail term under the National Security Act, and further detained under police guard at the Madras hospital for six months - for no other reason than the fact that his views were found unpalatable to the establishment - he left India under duress in January 1993. Having spent the next one and half years in Singapore, Hongkong, and several African countries, he sought political asylum in France in June 1994. While in Paris he edited the newly launched monthly journal, Hot Spring which later shifted base to London. Mr. Sivanayagam is the author of the book - The Pen and the Gun, a compilation of his political writings over a period of twenty years. The book was launched in London in January 2000.

From the Cover:

"As a country, Sri Lanka never managed to get the world’s attention until 35 years after it achieved independence. Even when it did – in the wake of the State-aided pogrom against the minority Tamils in 1983 – it was an unflattering image it presented to the world. The 20-year Tamil war of independence that followed and the internal strife that had rocked the country since then show no signs of receding despite a cease-fire between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam held tenuously through the tireless efforts of Norway’s peace negotiators.

In this book, veteran Sri Lankan journalist and editor S.Sivanayagam traces the roots of the ethnic problem, and records in chronological detail the troubled island’s post-independence history up to contemporary times. As a witness and a victim himself of the historical process, his account takes on the form of a first person narrative as well, while foreign correspondents and Sri Lankan journalists are themselves quoted extensively in recording the events of the war years.

Apart from being the first-ever comprehensive documentation on Sri Lanka covering a period of 47 years, Sivanayagam’s own insights and his memoirs lend additional unique charm to the book."

From the Foreword by Adrian Wijemanne:

"...Ethnic nationalism is the single pervading feature of 20th century history... Tamil nationalism is but another instance of it and perhaps one of the most formidable. The state adversary it faces is bit a weak and fumbling foe dependent on outside help and so vulnerable to international pressures of many kinds... Mr.Sivanayagam's experiences and this book in which they are so eloquently recorded have the great advantage of personal acquaintance with events whereof he writes and also of alignment with one of the great transforming movements of the contemporary world. It is a combination which makes for a riveting read and one which will reward an audience even wider than that which adheres to the Tamil national cause... Mr.Sivanayagam's splendid book is a melding of history and autobiography.. One must hope that Mr.Sivanayagam will not lay down his pen and will continue to dazzle us with his brilliant exposition of the great cause to which he is committed..."

From the Pre Launch Notice at Sangam.org

"...Sri Lanka: Witness to History, A Journalist’s Memoirs 1930 – 2004 is being launched on February 12 in London. In this book, veteran Sri Lankan journalist and editor Subramaniam Sivanayagam traces the roots of the ethnic problem and records in chronological detail the troubled island’s post-independence history up to contemporary times. As a witness and victim himself of the historical process, his account takes the form of a first person narrative, while foreign correspondents and Sri Lankan journalists are also quoted extensively in recording the events of the war years and the several battles that led to a de facto Tamil state within the island.Apart from being the first-ever comprehensive documentation on Sri Lanka covering a period of 47 years, Sivanayagam’s own insights and his memoirs lend additional unique charm to the book. In 2001 Sivanayagam authored his earlier book – Sri Lanka: The Pen and the Gun - which was an anthology of his political writings over a period of 20 years.."

From the last chapter of Witness to History:

“..It was late autumn 2004 when my friend "G" who went through the manuscript of my book pointed out something that I had failed to realize myself. "Look", he said, "you have sub-titled your book - A Journalist's Memoirs. Won't your readers wonder as to what happened to you from 1993 till now?". An unexplained gap of 11 years! As it often happens in life, it was a case of missing the obvious. 2004 was to me a year that was full of anxieties. I was 74 and had fallen victim to Myeloma as well; cancer of the bone marrow, the doctors said. Cancer is a word that has an unpleasant connotation to many ears, so I took comfort in the fact that it was a musical sounding affliction anyway. Besides, I seemed to have developed, among other ailments, what is known as Writer's Cramp. Having to live with constant deadlines could be agonising, but living without them, rust could settle on the mind. Life was getting torn between conflicts. There was the need to see this book in print but there were also immigration laws and visa problems to worry about. Above all, there was a compelling yearning to escape from the synthetic life of the West and its unfriendly winters. Get back to the land of your birth, said my inner self, however sordid the state of the land is. A man's life, after all, should end where it began.

The theme of a book that I had read during my young years began to haunt me in my thoughts. It was American author Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea . The old man had at last landed a big fish. A really big one. A fishing triumph. Exultation! The problem was, he did not have the strength to bring the fish ashore, so big was his catch. With the help of a small boy, he laboured to drag it ashore. But all his feeling of triumph became short lived as sharks began attacking the fish all the way. When journey was reached, all what was left of the fish were mere bones. That story kept recurring in my consciousness in my waking hours. As to why, I could not fathom.

The last time I took a conscious decision and took control of my life was in end 1981. That meant saying Goodbye to Colombo where I had worked for 30 years to move to Jaffna and launch the Saturday Review in January 1982. I cannot remember any single occasion during the following twenty three years, unbelievable it would seem, when anything happened according to my wishes or plans. An unseen hand - divine or diabolical? - had taken me by the scruff of my neck and led me to places I never wanted to go and to experiences that I never bargained for. Forced to leave Jaffna by a midnight country boat on an illegal crossing to the Indian coast in 1983, spending an year in two jails in Tamil Nadu, virtually forced out of India on a Air India flight to Singapore in January 1993, were the bad patches. But there were good times as well. It was like playing the children's game of Snakes and Ladders. With one throw of the dice the ladder takes you to the top of the board, but the next throw sees you slipping down the snake to the very bottom…


A Review by Ana Pararajasingham


Trying to consign "Sri Lanka: A Witness to History" to a particular genre is not easy. It is a historical account, a memoir and an autobiography rolled into one. Whereas Balasingam's "War and Peace" is an insider's account of the Tamil national struggle, Sivanayagam's book is what one may call a ringside account of the same struggle. Told in his inimitable style where the most intense situations are described dramatically but at the same time punctuated with an impish humor, the book is an easy read. It is impossible not to discern the stamp of the journalist in the way the book is written, sometimes in the first person and at other times through the eyes of other witnesses.

"A Witness to History" begins with the account of the close brush with death that the author experienced when he just escaped being thrown out of a train by Sinhalese hoodlums during the anti-Tamil rioting of 1956. It was the rioting that had begun in response to the Tamil parliamentarians' peaceful protest against the Sinhala Only bill being passed on the previous day in parliament.

The anti Tamil bloodletting in the aftermath of that bill was a significant experience not only in the life of S Sivanayagam but also in the lives of other Tamils who were faced for the first time with state condoned violence that was to become their lot in the coming years. In the words of the man himself, "It was the kind of experience that changed my outlook in life for ever. It set me thinking. The only reason for their intended act of murder was that I happened to be born a Tamil, and identified as one"

In that brush with death, Sivanayagam had also come to identify another factor that had directed his life thereafter- the hand of providence. Later in his book he explicitly identifies this as the 'Unseen hand that dictates one's life". Elaborating on this he writes" The last time I took a conscious decision and took control of my life was in the end of 1981.That meant saying good bye to Colombo where I had worked for 30 years and move to Jaffna and launch the 'Saturday Review" in January 1982. I cannot remember any single occasion during the following twenty three years, unbelievable it would seem, when anything happened according to my wishes or plans. An unseen hand, divine or diabolical? Had taken me by the scruff of my neck and led me to places I never wanted to go and to experiences that I never bargained for. Forced to leave Jaffna by midnight country boat on an illegal crossing to the Indian coast in 1983, spending an year in two jails in Tamil Nadu, virtually forced out of India on a Air India flight to Singapore in January 1993 were the bad patches.. There were good times as well"

The last conscious decision that Sivanayagam took in 1981 was to provide him with a vantage point that ensured that for the next twenty odd years, he would report on that struggle and become one of the powerful voices to emerge from the Diaspora to counter the misinformation campaigns of those determined to undermine it. He was to carry this out in a number of ways, firstly as the head of the Tamil Information Centre in Madras, then as a columnist (Kurushetran) with the 'Tamil Voice International' thereafter as the Editor of the Tamil Nation and then as the editor of the Hot Spring which he edited from France and the UK.

There were two open letters that he wrote which to day have to be regarded as master pieces. The first was the one titled "Dear Sri Lanka Ambassador your slip is showing" countering the propaganda brochure authored by Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US, Ernest Corea. The 24 page booklet by Sivanayagam had not only demolished Corea's arguments but it had also silenced Mr Corea indefinitely for nothing was heard from this gentleman thereafter. The other open letter was of more recent vintage and was in response to a speech made by the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr Ashley Willis.

The book is replete with many stories and anecdotes which bring out a number of personalities into life. These include the national leader Velupillai Pirapaharan, Shankar, Lawrence Thilagar, Kittu, Dixit, Premadasa, Jayewardene, Kumaratunga and many others who played and continue to play a role in our struggle for liberation. I found Sivanayagam's portrayal of Jayawardene to be most telling.

"The spirit of violence during the Jayawardene period was sustained, as could be seen, not merely by deed but by word and thought. The President did not only intensify and perpetuate violence, but he also institutionalized it"

The book itself can be likened to journey- a journey that began with that train journey to Colombo where he had his close encounter with death and progressed into a life of a dissident journalist, an advocate for the Tamil cause and thereafter that of a nomad in search of sanctuary and refuge. Throughout this journey the underpinning theme was that of a man ready to pay the price for the cause that he passionately believed in.

The book also provides interesting and human qualities of the man. I was amused by the fact that not only did Sivanayagam like to read books but loved the smell of it-a trait that many an avid reader will no doubt share with him. Then there was the childhood and that marvellous description of Kokuvil, the village that he hailed from-

"Kokuvil was happily placed village. Because of its proximity to the Jaffna town, the residents had the best of both worlds; a bit of the urban and quite some of the rural. While the meandering labyrinth of lanes and by-lanes (and little side lanes that ended up in a few house) along the village temple gave then that intimate rural community life, the Jaffna town with its hustle and bustle and noise was not far away either; a mere pedalling distance by bicycle or a quick journey by bus."

This was a passage that reminded me so much of R K Narayanan's description of Maalkudy-the mythical town somewhere in South India central to all of R K Narayanan's novels.

Then there is that passage where Sivanayagam confesses to that acute sense of the ridiculous that he had often employed with such devastating effect to cut down people to size. "A personal confession is required at this stage. I had always suffered from a sense of the ridiculous. There was nothing sacred, so I believed, that could not do with a little sacrilege, nothing pompous that could look better than when slipping on a banana peel; and no tragedy that could be seen in better perspective except with a little infusion of the comic"

Having heard of Sivanayagam during his Saturday Review days, I had the privilege of associating with him since 1990 when the London Tamil Forum appointed me to the Editorial Advisory Board of the Tamil Nation of which Sivanayagam was the editor. I was able to meet him in person, however, only in 1997 when I attended a seminar in the UK organized by Amnesty International. Over the years I have kept in touch with him on the phone and in person whenever I visited the UK. It was therefore with much sadness that I learnt of his illness about which he writes in that typical non sentimental, humorous and off handish way. It touched me deeply and reads as follows:

"I was 74 and had fallen victim to Myeloma as well; cancer of the bone marrow, the doctors said. Cancer is a word that has unpleasant connotation to many ears, so I took comfort in the fact that it was a musical sounding affliction any way"

In my view this short paragraph perhaps serves to demonstrate the measure of the man Sivanayagam is.

What makes this particular book special in my eyes is that it was written by a man who lived out his convictions. - A man whose bold and courageous stand took him far beyond his call as a journalist and led him to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who were prepared to pay the ultimate price for our nation's liberation. The price that he paid in displaying the courage of his convictions was of course enormous- separated from the land of his birth, his family, incarcerated by the Indian Government and forced to pursue the life of a nomad.

"Sri Lanka: A Witness to History" must adorn the book shelves of all those who seek an understanding of the events that drove a passive but proud people to liberate themselves from tyranny and oppression that began with the departure of the British in 1948 and continues unabated 55 years later. It is appropriate that this account should come to be written by a man like Sivanayagam-unassuming and yet passionately committed to the liberation of his people.


Review by Dr. Brian Senewiratne, Australia, 18 February 2005

Sivanayagam,”Siva”, needs no introduction. He is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous journalists who has written more than anyone else on the problems facing Sri Lanka in general, the Tamil people in particular. As I wrote in the Foreword to his earlier book “The Pen and the Gun” (published in 2001), “Siva is an expert with the pen and has used this God-given gift with courage, determination and at tremendous cost to himself and his family for nearly two decades.” It should have read “five decades” since it was in 1953 that he started his career in journalism.

I am not a fast reader nor a consistent one. With mind cluttered with my medicine, human rights, the state of our public hospitals, the horrors in Africa etc, I cannot read a book from cover to cover. Siva’s “Witness to History” was the exception. I got it on Thursday, I read it all day and for most of the night till Sunday, covering the 683 pages, reading even the Index! So will you if you are fortunate enough to get this book. It is compulsory and addictive reading.

It is difficult to describe this book, let alone review it. It is not just memoirs (as Siva claims), it is not a narrative, it is not a history book. Remarkably, it is all of these. I can best describe it as “A historical narrative by someone who was in the thick of it and deeply involved.”

You will find in it details of events that have not been published in any other book - not one that has come my way. It will now be my reference book. When I am asked (as I often am) about some event that occurred in, say 1940 or 1957 or 2004, my response will be “Let’s see what Siva has in his book”. This remarkable book takes you through ‘History’, the way History should be presented. The oft-quoted dictum of the legendary editor C.P.Scott “Comment is free, facts are sacred” has been strictly adhered to. You will find facts, masses of it, recorded accurately and untwisted, and ‘comment’ which is not only free but fair and unbiased. Siva’s book, like all his writings, displays journalistic integrity at its best.

Priced at much less that the cost of a restaurant dinner (UK$40, Canada $50, Australia $50 and Euro 30), it is, if anything underpriced. A Tamil friend of mine says that it is ‘expensive’. Excuse me while I laugh. All I can say is that I will rather skip a dinner and buy this book. My friend went on “The Tamils are not great readers”. If that is true, I know not since I am a Sinhalese (!), this ‘deficiency’ will be corrected if they read the writings of this outstanding journalist and author.

Siva will not make a fortune on this book, nor was this his intention. He says that the book is his way of saying ‘farewell’ to his many friends in Britain as her returns to Sri Lanka. We can only hope and pray that his bone-marrow cancer (myeloma) will be properly treated there so that the wish of that truely great Sinhalese, Adrian Wijemanne, who wrote the Foreword, can be fulfilled: -

“One must hope that Mr Sivanayagam will not lay down his pen and will continue to dazzle us with this brilliant exposition of the great cause to which he is committed.”

The book is published by Sivayogam, 180-186 Upper Tooting Road, London SW 17 7EJ, and distributed in UK and Europe by Jasmine Studio, 45B Crusoe Rd, Mitcham,Surrey,CR4 3LJ, and in the USA and Canada by World NT, 36 Carisbrooke Sq, Toronto, ON M1B4M4, Canada, and in Sri Lanka by Vijitha Yapa Bookshop 130, S de Jayasinghe Mawatha, Nugegoda. Amazingly, there is no distributor (yet) in Australia but I guess if you contact me  (briansen@bigpond.net.au ) I will get you a copy. It is the least I can do for the man and his mission. Internet shoppers can buy it on-line at http://www.orupaper.com/witness/

Charles Pathirana in Colombo, April 8, 2005 in Lacnet

Sivanayagam’s second effort is vast

Former Saturday Review Editor S. Sivanayagam’s Tamil nationalist rendition of the Sri Lankan conflict has hit the bookstores in Colombo. “Witness to History’’, launched recently in London, is Sivanayagam’s 2nd effort, the first being “Pen and the Gun.’’ In the book (Full title: Sri Lanka: Witness to History, A Journalist’s Memoirs 1930 – 2004) was launched on February 12 in London. The author traces the roots of the ethnic problem and records in chronological detail the troubled island’s post-independence history in what is a voluminous tome for a journalist’s memoir.

Sivanayagam, who edited the 'Saturday Review' in Jaffna from January 1982 to July 1983 when it was banned, has since been the Editor of various publications in India and Britain (“Hot Springs’’ is one.). He was forced into exile in India, Singapore, Honk Kong and several African countries before obtaining political asylum in France and later Britain. He spent a year under Police guard in a hospital in Madras during Premier Rajiv Gandhi’s time.

In vitriolic, and sometimes acerbic prose, Sivanayagam wrote in his earlier book “even if you looked after hens in Jaffna it should be for a Government department for there was a respectable salary and pension attached to it!” No reviews of “Witness to History’’ have appeared yet in Sri Lanka. The hard cover Edition with over 700 pages is priced at 15 sterling pounds.

பராசக்தி சுந்தரலிங்கம் (அவுஸ்திரேலியா)/ தமிழ்நாதம்

'சிறிலங்கா - வரலாற்றின் சாட்சி" என்ற ஆங்கில நூலைப் பார்த்தபோது பல எண்ணங்கள் மனதிலே வந்தன.

எழுபதுகளிலே, யாழ்ப்பாணத்திலிருந்து வெளிவந்த ஆங்கில வார இதழான Saturday Review என்னும் பத்திரிகையின் ஆசிரியராகப் பணிபுரிந்து வாசகர்களின் மனங்களில் நீங்காத இடத்தைப் பெற்ற " Saturday Review சிவநாயகம்" என்று அன்போடு அழைக்கப்பட்ட முதுபெரும் பத்திரிகையாளர் ஒருவரால் இது எழுதப்பட்டுள்ளது.

எமது இனப்பிரச்சனை உருவாகிய ஆரம்ப காலங்களிலே வெளிநாடுகளுக்கு வேலை தேடிச் சென்றவர்களும், உள்ளுரிலே வாழ்ந்த தமிழ் மக்களும், வாரம்தோறும் வெளிவந்த "Saturday Review" பார்த்துக்கொண்டிருந்த காலம் அது. அழகிய ஆங்கிலத்தில் உண்மையைச் சுவையாக எழுதும் ஆற்றல் படைத்தவர் சிவநாயகம். அவருடைய பேனா, அரசியலின் ஆழங்களை அநாயாசமாக, அழகிய சொற்சித்திரங்களாக வடித்துத் தந்தது. தமிழர்கள் மத்தியில் மட்டுமல்லாது, சிங்களப் பத்திரிகையாளர்கள், பிறநாட்டு பத்திரிகையாளர்களின் மதிப்பையும் பெற்று உயர்ந்தவர். Saturday Review என்னும் பத்திரிகைச் செயலகத்தை தேடி யாழ்ப்பாணத்திற்கு அமெரிக்கத் தூதுவர் முதல் பிறநாட்டு, உள்நாட்டுப் பத்திரிகையாளரும் ஒரு காலத்தில் செல்வதற்கான நிலையை உண்டாக்கியவர் திரு சிவநாயகம்.

அவர் இன்று தமது எழுபத்தி ஐந்தாவது வயதிலும் எழுதிக் கொண்டிருக்கிறார். இந்த வருட ஆரம்பத்தில் அவர் எழுதி வெளியிட்டிருக்கும் நூல் தான் 'சிறிலங்கா - வரலாற்றின் சாட்சி". கிட்டத்தட்ட 57 வருடகால ஈழத்தமிழினத்தின் வரலாற்றை (இலங்கை சுதந்திரம் பெற்ற காலம் முதல்) அவர் மிகவும் துல்லியமாக இந்நூலில் பதிய வைக்கிறார்.

இருபதாம் நூற்றாண்டின் ஆரம்பத்தில் இனவிடுதலைக்கான போராட்டங்கள் ஆரம்பிப்பதைச் சரித்திர வாயிலாகப் பார்க்கலாம். நோர்வே, சுவீடன், ஐயர்லாந்து போன்றவை தமது தனித்துவத்தைப் பாதுகாக்கும் முயற்சியில் தனியாக பிரிந்து போயின. இந்த வரிசையிலேயே தமிழினத்தின் விடுதலையையும் திரு சிவநாயகம் இந்நூலில் ஆராய்கிறார்.

வரலாற்றாசிரியர் ஒருவர் தேதி வாரியாக, செய்திகளைப் பதியும்பொழுது, அவற்றின் தொகுதி, அவை கூறும் பாதிப்பு, காரணமாக வாசிப்பவர்களின் மனதிலே பாரத்தையும், அழுத்தத்தையும் ஏற்படுத்தும் தன்மை ஒன்று உள்ளது. ஆனாலும் வரலாற்றையும் சுவையாகக் கூறமுடியும் என்பதற்கு திரு சிவநாயகம் அவர்களின் எழுத்து சிறந்ததோர் எடுத்துக்காட்டு.

83 ஆம் ஆண்டுமுதல் தமது பத்திரிகையில் சிங்கள அரசைத் தாக்கி எழுதிய காரணத்தால் இரவோடிரவாக நாட்டை விட்டுக் கடல் வழியே இந்தியாவுக்குச் சென்று தஞ்சம் புகுந்தவர், அங்கேயிருந்த அரசின் ஆதரவுடன் Tamil Nation என்னும் பத்திரிகையை ஆரம்பித்து எமது விடுதலைப் போராட்டத்தை உலகறியச் செய்தார். ஆனால் அரசியல் பழிவாங்கல் காரணமாக வேலூர்ச் சிறையில் மூன்று வருட காலம் அல்லல்பட்டு இந்திய அரசால் நாடு கடத்தப்பட்டு பிரான்சில் தஞ்சம் புகுந்து அகதியாகப் பல இன்னல்களைச் சந்தித்தார். எனினும் மேல்நாட்டு நூல் நிலைய வசதிகளின் பயனாக, அரசியல் ஆவணங்களைப் பெற்று உண்மையான சரித்திரச் சான்றுகள் நிறைந்த இந்நூலை அவரால் எழுத முடிந்துள்ளது. புற்று நோயாளியான இவர், தமது முதுமைக் காலத்தை பிறந்த மண்ணிலே கழிப்பதற்காக இன்று நாடு திரும்பியிருக்கிறார்.

'சிறிலங்கா - வரலாற்றின் சாட்சி" என்னும் இந்நூலில் தானே ஒரு சாட்சியாக நின்று எழுதுவது போல எழுதுகிறார் - அரசியலும் இவர் வாழ்வும் ஒன்றோடொன்று பின்னிப் பிணைந்திருப்பதால், இந்நூல் சுயசரிதை போலவும் சரித்திர நூல் போலவும் விளங்குவது தவிர்க்க முடியாதது.

1956 ஆம் ஆண்டு, யாழ்ப்பாணத்திலிருந்து தொடரூந்து மூலம் கொழும்பு நோக்கி வரும் இவர் நடுவழியிலே சிங்களக் கும்பல் ஒன்றினால் தாக்கப்பட்டு, தொடரூந்திலிருந்து வெளியே தள்ளி விடப்பட்ட கதையோடு நூலை ஆரம்பிக்கிறார். இவர் மாத்திரமல்ல வேறு பல தமிழர்களும் தன்னோடு அடி வாங்கியதையும் பார்த்தபோதுதான், தனது பிறந்த மண்ணிலே வாழமுடியாத காரணம், தான் தமிழனாகப் பிறந்த குற்றம் ஒன்றே என்பதை உணர்ந்ததாகவும் எழுதுகிறார். அன்று அவர் ஓர் இளைஞன். அப்பொழுது ஏற்பட்ட இந்த வடு அவரை ஒரு தார்மீக எழுத்தாளனாக உருவாக்கியது என்பதை இந்நூல் மூலம் அறிகிறோம். டெய்லி நியூஸ், டெய்லி மிரர் பத்திரிகைகளிலே அவர் தொடர்ந்து செயலாற்றிய போதும், Saturday Review இன் பின்னரே இன விடுதலையைப் பற்றி எழுதும் வலுமிக்க எழுத்தாளராக மாறுகிறார்.

இந்தப் பதிவைப் பார்த்தபோது மகாத்மா காந்தியை இந்தியர் என்ற ஒரே காரணத்துக்காக தென்னாபிரிக்க வெள்ளையர் ரயிலிலிருந்து வெளியே இழுத்துத் தள்ளிய நிகழ்வும், காந்திஜியின் வாழ்வில் அந்நிகழ்ச்சி ஏற்படுத்திய பாரிய மாற்றமும் நினைவில் வந்தது. இன விடுதலைக்காகச் சிறை சென்ற நெல்சன் மண்டேலா, இனத்துக்காகப் போராடி உயிரிழந்த சேகுவேரா போன்றவர்களின் வரிசையிலே திரு சிவநாயகத்தின் எழுத்துக்களையும் சேர்த்துப் பார்க்க முடிகிறது. இவரின் ஆயுதம் பேனா ஒன்றே. இந்தப் பலம் பொருந்திய ஆயுதத்தை அவர் கையாளும் முறையை இந்நூலிலே பார்த்து அதிசயப்படுகிறோம்.

இந்நூலின் பிரதான அம்சம் எமது இளைஞர்களின் இன விடுதலைக்கான தார்மீகப் போராட்டம் - அவர்களின் தியாகம். புலிப்படை வீரரின் தியாக உணர்வு அவரின் எழுத்தில் புதியதோர் உத்வேகம் பெறுகிறது. ஆழமாக எமது உணர்வைத் தாக்கி, எம்மை மெல்ல மெல்ல உலுக்கி விடுகிறது இவருடைய எழுத்துத் திறன். 'உள்ளத்தில் உண்மையொளி உண்டாயின் வாக்கினில் ஒளி உண்டாம்" என்பதை அவரின் எழுத்தின் சத்தியத்தில் தரிசிக்கிறோம்;. பெரும்பான்மையினரின் தந்திரங்கள், படைபலத்திற்கு முன் எமது மூத்த அரசியல்வாதிகளின் சாத்வீகப் போராட்டங்களின் தோல்வியை, இயலாமையை, உணர்ந்து செயல்பட்ட இளைஞர்களின் எழுச்சியை, நியாயப்படுத்துவதன் மூலம், தேதி வாரியாக, போராட்டத்தின் ஒவ்வொரு கட்டத்தையும் இவர் பதிய வைத்துள்ள முறையில் இது சிறந்ததோர் வரலாற்று ஆவணமாக விளங்குகிறது.

இந்தியாவிலே வாழ்ந்த காலத்திலே, அவருடைய அனுபவப் பதிவுகள், இன்றைய நிலையில் பின்னோக்கிப் பார்க்கும் போது பல செய்திகளை விளக்கி நிற்கிறது. தமிழ் மக்கள் இந்தியாவைத் தாயாகவும் தம்மைச் சேயாகவும் எப்பொழுதும் நினைத்திருந்தமையையும், பின்னர் ஏமாற்றமடைந்ததையும் வேதனையோடு பதிகிறார். தமிழரின் இன்றைய நிலைக்கு இது ஒரு முக்கிய காரணம் என்கிறார். இந்தியாவின் பிரித்தாளும் தந்திரோபாயத்தின் விளைவுகளால் பாதிக்கப்பட்ட தமிழினத்தின் விடுதலைப் போராட்டம், ஒரு இக்கட்டான சூழலில் இன்று இருப்பதையும் வல்லரசுகள் சிறிய இனங்களைப் பகடைக் காய்களாகக் கருதுவதையும் அரசியலாளரான இவரின் எழுத்தில் பார்க்க முடிகிறது.

இந்தியாவிலே தன்னைச் சிறையிலே அடைத்த போது, அங்கே காரணமில்லாமல் பல இலங்கையர் சிறையில் அடைக்கப்பட்டிருந்ததைப் பற்றி இந்த மனிதாபிமானி வேதனையுடன் எழுதுகிறார். சிறைவாசத்தின் போது அவர் அனுபவித்த துன்பம் வாசிப்பவர்களின் மனதை உலுக்கி விடுகிறது. சிறையிலிருந்து தன்னை விடுவிக்கவும், பின்னர் தனக்கு அரசியல் தஞ்சம் பெற்றுத் தரவும், தன்னுடைய எழுத்துப் பணிக்குப் பல வழிகளிலும் உதவி அளித்த புலம்பெயர் தமிழ் மக்களின் ஆதரவை நன்றியுடன் இந்நூலில் நினைவுகூர்கிறார்.

யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் IPKF இனரின் செயல்களைக் கண்டித்து எழுதுகையில், அவர்களின் தளபதிகள் சிலர் புலிப்படைத் தளபதிகள் மீது வைத்திருந்த பெருமதிப்பையும் இந்நூலில் அவர் பதிவு செய்யத் தவறவில்லை. அரசியல் காரணங்களால், இனவிடுதலை எப்படிப் பாதிக்கப்பட்டது என்பதை ஆராயும் வகையில் போராட்ட வரலாற்றை முழுமையாகப் புரிந்துகொள்ள முடியாத பலருக்கும் இவரது விளக்கம்; தெளிவை ஏற்படுத்துகிறது.

யாழ்ப்பாண நூல் நிலையம் எரிந்த கதை பற்றி எழுதும்போது ஒரு இனத்தின் கலாச்சாரத்தை அழித்தால் அந்த இனத்தையே அழித்துவிடலாமென்று மனப்பால் குடித்தவர்களின் அறியாமையை எள்ளி நகையாடும் அவருடைய எழுத்து பல உண்மைகளை உணர்த்துகிறது. நூல் நிலையத்தின் நடு மாடியிலே புராதன ஏட்டுச் சுவடிகளும் அரிய ஆவணங்களுமிருந்தன என்றும் அவற்றிற்கே முதலில் இனவாதிகள் தீயிட்டனர் என்ற செய்தியை எழுதுகையில், ஏனைய நூல்களைக் காப்பாற்ற முடிந்தாலும், இவற்றை அழிக்க வேண்டும் என்பதே துவேச மனப்பான்மை கொண்டவர்களின் நோக்கம் என்ற உண்மையை உணர வைக்கிறார்.

இலங்கையின் அரசியல் வரலாற்றிலே, சிங்களத் தலைவர்களுடன் இணைந்து தமிழர்களான சேர் பொன்னம்பலம் இராமநாதன், சேர் பொன்னம்பலம் அருணாசலம் என்ற தமிழர்கள், இலங்கைக்குச் சுதந்திரம் பெற்றுத் தந்தவர்கள் என்றும், ஆனாலும் அதே சிங்கள மக்களின் துரோகத்தைத் தமிழ் மக்கள் காலம் கடந்து உணர்ந்ததையும் காட்டும் சிவநாயகம் அவர்கள், பிரிட்டிசாரிடம் திரு ஜின்னா பாகிஸ்தானைப் பெற்றது போல தமிழ் மக்களும் சுதந்திரம் பெற்ற பொழுதே தமது உரிமைகளைப் பெற்றிருந்தால் இன்று இந்நிலை வந்திருக்காது என்று வருந்துகிறார். 'நம்பிக் கெட்டவர்கள்" தமிழர் என்ற வருத்தத்தைப் பதிவு செய்கையில், அனிதா பிரதாப் என்னும் இந்தியப் பத்திரிகையாளருக்கு தமிழ்த் தேசியத் தலைவர் வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன் கூறிய வாசகத்தையும் இங்கே பதிவு செய்கிறார்.

'திரு ஜயவர்த்தனா ஒரு நல்ல பௌத்தராக இருந்திருந்தால், நான் இப்படி துப்பாக்கியோடு திரிய வேண்டியதில்லை" என்பதே தலைவரின் வாசகம்.
இவருடைய எழுத்தைப் பெரிதும் மதிக்கும் சிங்கள அறிஞர், திரு ஏட்றியன் விஜயமான (Adrianne Wijeyamanne) இந்த நூலுக்கு சிறந்ததோர் முன்னுரையை வழங்கி, எமது இன விடுதலையின் நியாயப்பாட்டை வலியுறுத்துவது நூலின் மதிப்பை உயர்த்திவிடுகிறது.

அன்றைய யாழ்ப்பாண வாழ்க்கையைச் சுவைபட எழுதும். சிவநாயகம் அவர்கள் தான் பிறந்து வளர்ந்த கொக்குவில் கிராமம் பற்றிய அழகிய சொற் சித்திரம் ஒன்றை இங்கே பதிய வைத்திருப்பது இந்நூலுக்கு மேலும் மெருகூட்டுகிறது.

'கொக்குவில், யாழ்ப்பாண நகர எல்லையில் அமைந்திருக்கிறது. அது கிராமமுமில்லை நகரமுமில்லை. சிறு சிறு ஒழுங்கைகள் ஒவ்வொரு வீட்டிலும் போய் முடியும். சைக்கிளை எடுத்துக்கொண்டு ஒழுங்கைகளுக்குள்ளால் சுற்றலாம். நினைத்தவுடன் யாழ்ப்பாண நகரத்திற்குப் போய் வந்து விடலாம். பின்னர் இந்தக் கிராமப் பண்பாட்டுக்குள் வந்து அமைதியாக இருக்கலாம்" என்று வர்ணிக்கிறார்.

யாழ்ப்பாணத்திலேயுள்ள எந்த ஒரு கிராமத்திற்கும் இவை பொருந்தும் என்றாலும், அவர் எழுதியுள்ள முறையில் அவருடைய கொக்குவிலைப் போன்ற அழகிய கிராமமே இல்லை என்பது அவருடைய ஊர்ப்பற்றையே காட்டுகிறது. இந்தப் பற்றே அவரின் இனப்பற்றாகவும் பின்னர் மலர்கிறது. கொக்குவிலிலே ஒரு பல்லினக் கலாச்சாரம் இருந்தது என்று எம்மை ஆச்சரியத்திலே ஆழ்த்துகிறார். வீடு வீடாகச் சென்று, சீனத்துப் பட்டு விற்ற சீன தேசத்து வியாபாரி, தலையிலே பெட்டியைச் சுமந்தபடி விசுக்கோத்து, சீனிப் பணிஸ், கேக் விற்ற சிங்கள பாண் வியாபாரி, பள்ளிகளிலே கர்நாடக இசை, ஆங்கிலம் கற்பித்த தென்னிந்திய தமிழ், மலையாளப் பட்டதாரிகள், சிங்களம் கற்பித்த பௌத்த பிக்கு என்று பலரைப் பற்றி எழுதுகிறார். இந்தப் பிக்கு தமிழை விரும்பிக் கற்று சிலப்பதிகாரத்தையும் மணிமேகலையையும் பின்னர் சிங்களத்தில் மொழிபெயர்த்து எழுதிய செய்தியையும் அறிகிறோம். தமிழறிஞர் தனிநாயக அடிகளார், இப் பௌத்த அறிஞரரன தம்மரத்ன தேரரை முதலாவது தமிழ் ஆராய்ச்சி மாநாட்டுக்கு அழைத்துக் கௌரவித்த போது அவர் 'சிங்கள எழுத்துக்களில் தமிழ் மொழியின் பாதிப்பு" என்னும் பொருள் பற்றி உரையாற்றியவர் என்று அறிய வியப்பாக இருந்தது.

கொக்குவிலை ஒர் உலகக் கிராமம் Global Village போல உருவாக்கி விடுவது அவரின் எழுத்தின் சிறப்பு. பல்லினக் கலாச்சாரம் என்ற கருத்து இந்நாட்களில் ஏதோவொரு புதிய கருத்துப் போலத் தோன்றினாலும், அன்றே எம்மவர் இவற்றை இயல்பாக ஏற்று பண்புடன் வாழ்ந்ததை பெருமையோடு குறிப்பிடும் வகையில் அவரது இனப்பற்று தெரிகிறது. மேலும் இவருடைய முன்னோரான முதலியார் இராசநாயகம் அவர்கள் ஈழத் தமிழரின் பெருமையை விளக்கும் "பண்டைய யாழ்ப்பாணம்"Ancient Jaffna என்னும் நூலைத் தமிழிலும் ஆங்கிலத்திலும் எழுபது ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்னரே எழுதியுள்ளார் என்பதையும் இந்நூல் மூலம் அறிய மகிழ்ச்சியாக இருக்கிறது.

இவ்விடத்தில், சிவநாயகம் அவர்கள் இந்நூலில் குறிப்பிடும் ஒரு கதையைப் பற்றிக் கூறி இவ்விமர்சனத்தை நிறைவு செய்ய விரும்புகிறேன்.
அமெரிக்க எழுத்தாளரான ஏர்னெஸ்ட் ஹெமிங்வே என்பவர் The Old Man and the Sea (கிழவனும் கடலும்) என்ற ஒரு நாவலை எழுதியுள்ளார்.

ஒரு கிழவனுக்கு கடலிலே மீன் பிடிக்கும்பொழுது தூண்டிலிலே பெரிய மீன் ஒன்று சிக்கியது. அவனுக்கு அதனைக் கரைக்குக் இழுத்துவரும் சக்தி இருக்காததால், அதனை ஒரு சிறுவனின் உதவியோடு கரை சேர்க்கிறான். ஆனால் கரைக்கு வந்தபின் பார்த்தால், மீனைக், காணவில்லை - அங்கே மீனின் எலும்புக்கூடு மாத்திரமே இருந்தது. வலிய சுறா மீன்கள் மீனின் சதையை உண்டுவிட்டன. இந்த நூலை எழுதும்போதெல்லாம் இந்தக் கதை தனது மனதில் மீண்டும் மீண்டும் வந்தபடியே இருந்ததாக சிவநாயகம் அவர்கள் எழுதுவதை வாசிக்க வேதனையாக இருந்தாலும், கதையில் வந்த முதியவரைப் போலல்லாமல், அவர், தனது முதுமையிலும், நோய் வாய்ப்பட்ட நிலையிலும், மனவலிமை ஒன்றையே ஆயுதமாகக் கொண்டு, ஒரு சிறந்த பொக்கிசத்தைத் தமிழ் மக்களுக்கு, உலக வரலாற்றுக்கே தந்துவிட்டார் என்று நாம் பெருமைப்படலாம். அவருடைய ஆங்கில சொற்பிரயோகத்தின் வன்மை, அதனூடு இழையோடும் நகைச்சுவை, அரசியல் உண்மைகளை மனதில் பதியவைக்கும் திறமை ஆகியன இவ்வரலாற்று நூலை ஏனைய வரலாற்று நூல்களிலிருந்தும் வேறுபடுத்திக் காட்டுவதால் இன்றைய எமது இளம் தமிழ்ச் சந்ததியினருக்கு இந்நூல் ஒரு சிறந்த கொடை என்பதில் சந்தேகமில்லை.

"Que Sera Sera
Whatever will be,will be,
நடப்பதுதான் நடக்கும்"

என்னும் பாடல் வரிகளோடு நூலை நிறைவு செய்யும் சிவநாயகம் அவர்கள் - தனது வாழ்வு 'பாம்பும் ஏணிப்படியும்" (Snake & The Ladder) போன்றது என்றும், ஏதோ கண்ணுக்குத் தெரியாத சக்தி ஒன்று தன்னை வழிநடத்தியது என்றுதான் சொல்லலாம் என தனது கதையை முடிக்கும்போது

'எழுதிச் செல்லும் விதியின் கைகள் எழுதி எழுதிச் மேற் செல்லுமே"

என்ற உமர் கய்யாமின் பாடல் வரிகள் நினைவுக்கு வருகின்றன.

 

Sri Lanka: Witness to History - Chapter 1 - 1956: A Jaffna-Colombo train journey & A taste of “Sinhala Only”..

In the history of Sri Lanka - or Ceylon as it was known then - the year 1956 was a watershed. It marked a turning point in the relations between the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples in the post-independence period. What happened that year was grandiloquently referred to as a “social revolution”, an ushering in of the age of the common man. It was in part that, but what it effectively did was to separate the “Sinhalese sheep” from the “Tamil goats”, and make both conscious of their separate identities. The author of that social revolution was an Oxford-educated pompous orator called Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD) Bandaranaike. He was the son of a Sinhala “Maha Mudaliyar” - a title he earned by paying obeisance to the colonial British governors of the day, and naming his son after two of them.

June 5 that year was an important milestone. That was the day the Official Language Bill making Sinhalese the sole official language of the country was introduced in parliament. While making Tamils virtually illiterate overnight in the transaction of public business, the bill proved to be a millstone round the neck of the country as well, dragging it into ultimate tragedy and ruination.

One does not know how to explain it, why events in the country used to impinge on my own life - a mere spectator as I was - in some way or another. That day was the beginning. I was taking train to Colombo, 250 miles away, from my home village in the north. I got into the night mail train at Kokuvi1, complete with pillow and reading material, and got into a comer seat of a 3rd class compartment. I was a law student then, having resigned my editorial staff job in the Ceylon Daily News to satisfy a parental wish. Securing a comer seat was the ambition of every “Gandhi class” passenger. The minor risk of your neighbour falling asleep on your shoulder notwithstanding, a comer seat makes a big difference to the II-hour night journey in a packed compartment. The next station was Jaffna, and hordes of people wait there ready to rush in. As the train pulled into the station I witnessed a strange sight. The platform was full of passengers and belongings, but no one, not one, was making any attempt to get in. It was like being shown a still shot in a movie when you are expecting fast action. I peeped out and asked the nearest person what had happened. He merely mumbled “some trouble in Colombo”. The train showed no signs of moving nor did the passengers show any inclination to get in. The station master, the guard and the engine driver were in a huddle, while the people waited anxiously. Finally, when the train began moving after a long delay, none of the passengers got in. There I was, virtually alone in the compartment, master of all I surveyed, relishing the prospect of stretching my five foot frame on the seat, undisturbed until I reached Colombo. Any so-called “some trouble in Colombo” did not seem to me, in my youthful bravado, daunting enough to put me off my journey.

It was eight in the morning when I blinked my eyes and looked out ofthe window. The train which should have reached journey’s end at Colombo Fort station around five odd in the early hours of the morning was yet at Ragama station several miles away. And then came a rush of passengers. They were all office workers going to Colombo. My sole occupancy of the compartment was no longer there. It was then I heard some commotion. As I looked out, my neighbour, an elderly type in shabby black coat and sarong, possibly a railway worker, motioned to me and said something in Sinhala. I realised he was trying to caution me to sit still. He was obviously warning me against some danger. That danger came soon enough.

A gang of thugs stormed into my compartment making threatening noises against all Tamils, and there I was, the only Tamil around, an obvious sitting target. They came for me. The ruffian in front barged in, swept my glasses off my face, and began dragging me. My determined resistance apart, the thugs faced another disadvantage. The 3rd class carriages were Rumanian imports that did not provide much leg space between passengers on opposite sides. To the thugs it meant knocking against the knees of other Sinhala passengers before pulling me out from my comer seat. Except my blackcoated neighbour who was trying to reason out with my attackers not to harm me (who was immediately silenced with a blow on his face) the others merely watched, the women with sullen disapproval, but all of them fearing to come to my defence. The intention of the ruffians was very clear; they had a brilliant thought in their heads, to push me out of the moving train! Despite my desperate struggle, they managed to drag me near the open door. For a moment, Death stared me in the face. But some hand of Providence that looks after people in such situations, interceded at that point. The second thug who was helping the first who had his hands on me, stumbled and fell over the latter making him lose his grip on me. That was my rugby scramble chance. I crawled my way out and fled towards the guard’s compartment in the rear; which could not have helped much except gain a little time. But the moment of reckoning had passed. There was no sign of pursuers. The train was slowing down and Maradana station loomed into view. I ran back to my compartment, some of my fellow passengers helped me with my things, some good Samaritan found my glasses for me, and seeing police officers on the platform I quickly descended. Colombo Fort was my intended station, not Maradana, but that was a negligible consideration.

The police inspector to whom I complained looked a harassed man, but he asked me to stay around anyway. I was then put into a police van surrounded by armed policemen, and the vehicle finally made its way towards Khan clock tower at Pettah. A small mob was there, and no sooner they detected my presence in the van, they got into action. A hail of stones hit the wire mesh on one side of the van, and the inspector ordered the driver to make a quick getaway. I then realised why the poor police inspector was looking harassed. Hours later, after a long wait at the Fort police station where I was given a welcome cup of tea, I was deposited home at Wellawatte safely. That was the monring after June 5, and I was beginning to get a taste of the mood in Colombo. Looking back at my train experience that morning, it dawned on me, at the 25th year of my life that bitter truth - I was a Tamil! What I had failed to realise for myslef, those thugs taughts me. It was the kind of experience that changed my outlook in life forever. It set me thinking. I tried to re-live that experience; the humiliation at the hands of fellow humanbeings to whom I had done no harm. that near-brush with Death. Why did they want to kill em? they did not know me, who I was. I was no one in particular as far as they were concerned. Tge only, and the only reason for their intended act of murder was that I happened to be born a Tamil, and identified as one.

But the enormity of the humilation heaped on the Tamil people and the Tamil leaders on that day - June 5 - was something I was to learn leater. Eight years after independence, that was the first of many subsequent mob attacks on Tamils. In attacking the Tamil leaders who sat in silent protest over the introduction of the “Sinhala Only” bill in parliament that day, the pro-government mobs made two things clear: that Tamils cannot claim language rights, but what was worse, they did not have even the right to protest!

The Tamil Federal Party under the leadership of that gently christian, Samuel James Velipillai (SJV) Chelvanayakam believed in the philosophy of non-violent action as a way of protest against injustice. Tamils had tradionly come under the influence of the Indian Chandhian movement for independence from the time of the Jaffna Youth Congress of the 1920s and 30s. The value of the concept of Satyagraha was, unlike in the case of the Sinhalese, ingrained in the Tamil mind. It is this that led them to organize what they believed was a peaceful Satyagraha at the parliament end of the GAlle FAce Green (but disallowed) on that momentous day. IT was like the silent sit-ins that were part of the anti-nuclear campaign in England headed b British philosopher Bertrand Russell. When about 200 Federal Party volunteers led by Mr.Chelvanayakam and other M.P.s gathered for the protest, a violent mob gathered round and set upon them mercilessly. Mr.v.Navaratnam, an important functionary of the party and then M.P. for Kayts, recounting the incidents of the day wrote in his book - THE FALL AND RISE OF THE TAMIL NATION (1995) - excerpts:

The moment the volunteers and leaders reassembled at the (Galle Face) hotel end, a waiting mob of more than a thousand Sinhalese toughs fell on them like a pack of wolves in a most inhuman and cowardly attack. They (the satyagrahis) were thrashed and felled prostrate on the ground, Their placards were seized and the wooden poles used as clubs. Some were trampled upon, kicked, beaten and spat upon.

Not a single satyagrahi raised his hand in retaliation, except Dr. Naganathan. Five ruffians singled him out and chased him to the end of the promenade. He turned and met them alone with his fists and legs.. …satyagraha or not. Naganathan by nature was one who would never brook an insult to his manhood.

The police arrived on the scene and sent mobs off the Green to the Galle Face Centre Road. The beleagured-and exhausted satyagrahis regrouped and marched towards Parliament House under a hail of stones, hoots, and filthy abuse. To add to their misery, the clouds burst and a heavy downpour of rain soaked them to their bones.

As the day advanced, and the Colombo harbour workers were let out, the mobs swelled until about mid-day and an estimated 10,000 crowded the entire length ofthe Galle Face Centre Road and around Parliament building, Tamils spotted on the road were beaten up and thrashed. Chelvanayakam’s two sons, Manoharan and Vaseeharan were caught and roughly tossed in the air repeatedly, Many prominent Tamil professionals and others were caught, stripped and thrashed. The violence spread throughout the city of Colombo, to the roads, public transport, shops, business houses; wherever Tamils were seen, they were attacked.

The police stopped the satyagrahis at the northern end of the Galle Face Green and blocked their way to the precincts of Parliament House. The volunteers sat down peacefully where they were stopped, and remained there for the rest of the day. A prominent Sinhalese lawyer of Colombo, Mr.Paranavitane of the law firm of De Silva and Mendis, and a Roman Catholic priest, Father Xavier Thani Nayagam, the famous Tamil Scholar, emerged out of the crowds and sat down with the satyagrahis. The gesture did not pass unnoticed by the Press.

Shortly before Parliament sitting was due to commence at 2 p.m., the Prime Minister appeared on the steps of Parliament House and addressed the crowds. He looked up at the skies and remarked that the rains were going to come down again and the demonstrators would cool off. He asked the people to go home peacefully.

Mr.Amirthalingam, M.P. for Vaddukoddai was struck on the head by one of the stones thrown by the mob. At 2 p.m. Mr.c.Suntharalingam, M.P. for Vavuniya took him with his bleeding head and entered the chamber of the House of Representatives where the Official Language Bill was being introduced. They were greeted with derisive laughter and cries of ‘wounds of War’ The satyagraha was called off at 5 0′ clock in the evening. About 18 injured volunteers and Mr.Y.N.Navaratnam, M.P. for Chavakachcheri were warded at Dr.Rutnam’s Private Hospital at Union Place, Slave Island.

Elsewhere, in the Eastern Province, in the Gal Oya valley where the first planned Sinhala colonisation took place, there were ten days of sporadic rioting in which an estimated 150 people died. (B.H.Farmer, A Divided Nation, London Institute of Race Relations, Oxford University Press, 1963). In Batticaloa, also in the East, a hotel was burned down and two Tamils were shot dead.

On June 15, 1956, the “Sinhala Only” Bill was passed by 66 votes to 29. The Left M.P.s from the Lanka Sarna Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party, all Sinhalese with the sole exception of Mr.P.Kandiah, (CP), M.P. for Point Pedro, voted against the Bill, along with Tamil M.P.s of other parties. But even these parties of the traditional Left were to capitulate in later years in the face of an assertive Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism.

Two divergent views expressed during the language debate by two notable Left politicians of that time are worth recalling. Dr.S.A.Wickremasinghe, leader of the Communist Party pointed out that parity of status was accorded to all languages in China, and also in the Soviet Union, where there were sixteen official languages. He appealed to the Government to encourage the minorities by giving them the right to use their own language. In reply to that argument, Mr. Philip Gunawardene, Minister of Agriculture and Food, observed that in Wisconsin in the U.S.A. 80 percent of the inhabitants were of German origin and spoke German in their homes, while in New York there were more Jews than in Israel, yet there was no demand in the U.S.A. for official status for the German or Hebrew languages. (Keesings’s Contemporary Archives, July 28 - August 4, 1956, p.15012). There was no comparison in both situations as cited by Mr.Gunawardene, but then he was a freakish kind of politician. Once acclaimed in his home country as the “Father of Marxism”, he went to Wisconsin University in the U.S. to do a degree in Agricultural Science. On his return he had not only outgrown his Marxism, but also developed a taste for Sinhala chauvinism.

As far as the Tamils were concerned, it was not simply a question of language rights, or the fear of a loss of job opportunities. Their identiy as Ceylonese was being questioned. In beginning to lose their sense of belonging to the country in which they were born and bred for centuries, a feeling of alienation had to set in. As for me, used to english as the spoken common language - a middle class advantage no doubt - and having studied and owrked with Sinhalese without any feeing or seperateness it was hard reconciling oneself to a new unpleasant reality. One way of escapism was to clutch at old memories.

 
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