Tamil DIASPORA - a Trans State Nation
கடல் கடந்தான் எங்கள் தமிழன் - அங்கும்
கற்பூர தீபம் கண்டான் இறைவன்
உடலுக்குப் பொருள் தேடி உள்ளத்தில் இறை நாடி
தமிழுக்கும் பணி செய்து தன்மானத்துடன் வாழ..
- from a lyric by
தமிழ் உலகம் எங்கும் இன்று தனி நடை போடுது அம்மா..."
Engum Ethilum Thamizhosai Padmashri Isai Mani Dr. Sirkali Govindarajan in London, lyric by
Today, more than 70 million Tamil people live in
many lands across distant seas.
தமிழன் இல்லாத நாடில்லை -
தமிழனுக் கென்று ஓர் நாடில்லை
"Thamilan illatha Nadu illai -
Thamilanuku endru Oru Nadu illai"
"There is no state without a Tamil -
but there is no state for the Tamils".
Given the armed struggle for Tamil Eelam in the island of
Sri Lanka, and the two hundred and fifty thousand (and more) Tamil
asylum seekers and refugees in many countries in the world, including
New Zealand, Canada,
Sweden, and Finland it may be tempting to conclude that the dispersal of
the Tamils is of recent origin. But that would be wrong.
It is true that the genocidal attack on the Tamil people in
1983 in the island of Sri Lanka and the heightened conflict led to the large
numbers of Tamil asylum seekers in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s, for instance, during
the period of the Cold War and Germany's relatively liberal asylum policies, many Tamils
entered Europe via Germany.
However, as far back as the 1950s, the enactment of
the Sinhala Only act in 1956 in Ceylon (as the island of Sri Lanka was then
known), the genocidal attacks on the Tamil people
in 1958, as well as discriminatory employment policies in the state sector led many
Tamil professionals including doctors and engineers, to seek employment in Great Britain,
USA, Australia and New Zealand. Later, in 1972, discrimination
in respect to University admissions in Sri Lanka, saw a second wave of Tamil
professionals leaving the island, to secure not only a future for themselves but also to
provide an adequate education for their children.
But, again, the Tamil disapora is not simply the result of oppressive
Sinhala rule in the island of Sri Lanka. British colonial rule also dispersed Tamils
from their homeland in South India and the North-East of the island of Ceylon (as it was
then known ) to many lands.
The abolition of slavery between 1834 and 1873, was followed by the system of indentured labour. The servant
'agreed' to work for a fixed number of years in exchange for a meager wage, plus room and
board. The British enacted laws in the colonies to render the breach of the
employment 'contract' by the 'servant' a criminal offence punishable with a prison
In the 1840's Tamils went to Trinidad in the
Caribbean, Guyana in South America, and Mauritius off
the coast of Africa; in the 1860's to the British colony of Natal in South Africa; in the 1870's to the Dutch colony of
Surinam; in the 1880's to Fiji. Others migrated to the
French colony of Reunion. Some migrated to Burma now
known as Mynmar (and which until 1937 was a province of
British India) to work on the plantations or to work as clerks and book keepers. Tamils
from Tamil Nadu went to work on the plantations in
central Ceylon and in Malaysia. Tamils who had resided
in the North of the island of Sri Lanka, went to Malaya
and Singapore in search of white collar employment.
The Tamil diaspora is a growing togetherness of more
than 70 million people living in many lands and across distant seas, many thousands as refugees and asylum seekers. It is a togetherness rooted in an ancient heritage, a rich language and
literature, and a vibrant culture. But it is a togetherness
which is not simply a function of the past. It is a growing togetherness consolidated by struggle and suffering and, given purpose and direction by the
aspirations of a people for the future - a future where they and their children and their
children's children may live in equality and
in freedom in an
emerging one world.
Here, the comments of Osten Wahlbeck in
Transnationalism & Diasporas:the
Kurdish Example in 1998, are helpful -
"...The results from the study of Kurdish refugees suggest
that refugees sustain transnational
social networks and have a diasporic consciousness...
relations in the refugee communities mean that theories of ethnic relations
are difficult to apply
to refugee studies. For example, the Kurds did not regard themselves as an
within the context of the country of exile; instead their ethnicity was
defined within social
relations in the country of origin. The label ‘diaspora’ is, perhaps,
especially appropriate in the
case of the Kurdish refugees because of the influence of Kurdish
nationalism, which commits many
Kurdish refugees to the restoration of their homeland.
However, this paper
suggests that the
concept of diaspora can also be a useful analytical tool in the study of
other refugee communities.
This is because the concept can, at the same time, relate to both the
country of settlement and the
country of origin. In this way, it can also describe the transnationalism of
refugee communities in
The dual orientation towards both the country of origin and the country of
resettlement is not
as contradictory and paradoxical as it seems. In the refugees’ own
experiences their country of
origin and their country of exile, as well as the time before and the time
constitute a continuous and coherent lived experience.
between before and after
migration, as well as the separation between the country of origin and
country of exile, is
largely forced on the refugees’ experiences by the outside observer.
concept of diaspora
can help the researcher to rethink these issues and to understand the transnational reality in
which the refugees are forced to live. Thus, the notion of diaspora can
bridge the artificial
duality in which the refugee experience is conceptualised..."
Terence Lyons pointed out in Diasporas and Territorial Conflict
"...Diaspora groups link processes of
globalization to conflicts over identity and territory. Globalization has
increased cross-border migration and decreased communication and travel
costs, thereby making it easier for migrants to build and sustain links
between the original homeland and current place of residence. Those forced
across borders by war commonly have a specific set of traumatic memories and
create specific types of “conflict-generated diasporas” that sustain and
sometimes amplify their strong sense of symbolic attachment to the homeland.
They build new identities that stress their links to the homeland and often
profess an intention to return, once their homeland is “free...”
And Klionsky's remarks in 1998 in
Transnationalism, Diaspora & Exiles emphasise the increasing
significance of transnationalism -
refers to sustained ties of persons, networks, and organizations across
nation-state borders, arising out of international migration patterns and
refugee flows (Faist, 2000). The recent global transformations in economic
relations, ethnic conflicts, and communication technology have led to the
creation of new transnational kinship groups, transnational social circuits,
and transnational communities. By expanding borders across nations and
creating new social ties, the concepts pertaining to cultural spheres,
acculturation, cultural retention, and citizenship are started to change
drastically. People and their ideas are moving more freely back and
forth across global borders than ever before. This ebb and flow, through
easy travel and growing communications technology, may be reshaping the
traditional concept of a nation. In fact, some people with homes in two
countries are showing an amazing capacity to maintain dual identities --
with strong cultural ties and contributions to both places .."
The words of Elise
Boulding in Building Peace in the Middle East, 1994 quoted by Kevin Kusawa
in Finding the Kurds a Way: Kurdistan and the discourse of the nation-state
serve as a pointer to the future.
"..Groups of people are solidifying their
identities outside of the state, and the twenty-first century will see new
configurations of non governmental, inter governmental, and UN structures.."
The digital revolution in which we live is helping to
advance Tamil togetherness. Globalisation and localisation are taking place at the
same time. Tamils living in many lands and across distant seas are communicating with one
another through internet newsgroups and mailing lists. Tamil
web sites continue to multiply. And so do Tamil newspapers, periodicals and radio
broadcasts on the web.
Two decades ago, people moving from home countries to other countries would
not have had the opportunity to remain actively engaged or even adequately
informed of events in their home countries. Policy makers and scholars had a
understanding of diasporic communities and their importance. Today, with the
diminished saliency of the nation-state, the
impact of globalization and the
number of transnational migrants, this has changed. Diasporic groups,
maintaining and investing in social, economic and political networks that
span the globe,
are of increasing relevance and interest to policy makers in home countries
as well as
Circulation & Transnationalism as Agents for Change in the Post Conflict
Zones of Sri Lanka - R.Cheran, University of Toronto, September 2003
When the Soc.Culture.Tamil newsgroup was founded about a decade ago, its Charter declared:
"What would be the role of Tamil language for the next millennium? Tamils around
the world have a strong desire to establish a newsgroup on the Usenet to share their views
on Tamil history, ancient and modern literature, ancient Tamil civilization, Tamil
culture, religion, art, drama, philosophy and related topics. The proposed newsgroup is
intended to serve as a niche for the Tamil language and culture in the electronic
There are today several hundred Tamil discussion
groups (and blogs) in cyber space and this number continues to grow.
Tamil dot Net,
the Forum Hub, Dr. Jayabharathi's Agathiyar
and Dr.N.Kannan's Esuvadi
have grown to become important discussion fora enabling
subscribers to communicate both in Tamil and in English.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen commented in
Nations in Cyberspace
in March 2006 -
"..the Internet is fast becoming a major medium for the
consolidation, strengthening and definition of collective
identities, especially in the absence of a firm territorial and
institutional base. Some of the nationalist groups that
appear to be most active on the Internet are Sri Lankan
Tamils, Kurds, Palestinians...
The most important transnational voice
for Tamil independence may be the websites TamilNet (www.tamilnet.com ) and Tamilnation (www.tamilnation.org
), which are updated frequently..."
Again the impact of the struggle
for Tamil Eelam, and the togetherness reflected in
and Maha Veerar Naal, in nurturing Tamil national consciousness
cannot be under estimated. The words of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Pirabaharan
continue to receive an answering response from Tamils living in many
lands and across distant seas -
"உலகெங்கும் தமிழன் பரந்து வாழ்ந்தாலும்..
தமிழீழத்திலேதான் தனியரசு உருவாகும் வரலாற்றுப்
What is a trans state nation?
A trans state nation is a cultural, economic and political togetherness of a people
living in many lands and across distant seas. It is a togetherness consolidated by
struggle and suffering. It is not an 'idealism' expressed only in word. It is a political
togetherness expressed in tangible deed. It is a togetherness directed to secure
the aspirations of a people for equality and freedom -
finding expression in establishing, nurturing and maintaining governmental or
non governmental networks or institutions necessary for that purpose.
And Montserrat Guibernau was right to point out in
Nations without States: Political Communities in a Global Age
"...The task of intellectuals in nations without states involves the constant actualization
of the nationalist ideology to respond to the community's needs. His or her job is one of
service to society..."
Again, all this, is not to say that a people should not at the same
time, work toward the ideal of a 'one world' where the separate national
identities of the world are transcended by a greater unity.
unity will not come by the suppression of one nation by another. It will
come from truly understanding the timeless force of that which
Poongundran said in the Purananuru, some 2500 years ago -
"To us all towns are one, all men our
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Death's no new thing; nor do our bosoms thrill
When Joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much - praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o'er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho' storms with lightnings' flash from darken'd skies
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise ! -
We marvel not at greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate."
Poongundran in Purananuru,
Poem 192 - written in Tamil 2500 years ago
English Translation by
in Tamil Heroic Poems
ஊரே ; யாவரும் கேளிர் ;
தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா ;
அவற்றோ ரன்ன ;
சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே ; வாழ்தல்
இனிதுஎன மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே;
இன்னா தென்றலும் இலமே; ‘மின்னொடு
வானம் தண்துளி தலைஇ,
கல்பொருது இரங்கும் மல்லற் பேர்யாற்று
நீர்வழிப் படூஉம் புணைபோல,
முறைவழிப் படூஉம்’ என்பது திறவோர்
காட்சியின் தெளிந்தனம் ஆகலின்,
பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே;
சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும்
எட்டுத்தொகை நூல்களில் ஒன்றாகிய