"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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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Mahatma Gandhi & Tamil Eelam

16 April 1998 (from a contribution to the Tamil.net)


Vannakam

After I had written the piece on Mahatma Gandhi and Salman Rushdie, a friend in the Tamil Innayam sent me a query - and on reflection I felt that I may share the question and my response because the matters raised may be of some general interest. My friend wrote:

"Dear Mr. Satyendra,

A personal question, if you do not mind. I do not expect you should answer. But I am inquisitive. After finding your father's way of fighting for the rights - that is of Gandhi's - failing, after the Thimpu talks were spin doctored by Bhandari and RAW/RAS, and while you stand and believe that LTTE is right to fight, are you still convinced that Gandhiam can survive? I'm not an opponent of Gandhiam nor a strong supporter of the armed militancy. But, simply confused."

I responded to my friend:

The question you ask is a personal one - but it is legitimate one. It is legitimate because in the end the search for consistency is a search for integrity. In response to a question about Gandhi and Pirabaharan, I have posted a response to the Tamil.net which may also afford some explanation of the views that I hold.

I have often agonised about whether I should write at all - I have asked to what end do I write? The Tamil short story writer, Sundara Ramasamy  who was in London about four years ago told me that he had asked the same question - and his answer was that as he gave expression in words to that which was buried in him, he himself evolved and changed. My involvement in the Tamil struggle during the past several years has helped to further my understanding both of myself and the people to whom I belong. Every inside has an outside - and every outside has an inside. And the two always go together. However, I can lay no claim to infallibility.

In 1992, I was in Lucerne in Switzerland. I was taken around some excavations of pre ice age rocks by a young Eelam Tamil activist. As we came out, at the exit there was a geological clock which illustrated the reality that on a 24 hour time scale, man's own existence may be counted in seconds. I remarked aloud that it was in our existence in a speck of time, and that too, in a speck of space, that conflict and confrontation seem to assume such great importance.

The young Eelam Tamil activist was quick to respond. He said: ''Annai, what you say is true. But how many of us truly live our lives on the basis of that perception. What we say and what we do are two different things. In the case of Pirabaharan, he has committed his life to what he believes must be done, here and now''.

This young Eelam Tamil activist, who if not for standardisation, may have made his own contribution to further intellectual thought in some university, was making a succinct point: ''No Vethantham please.''

Words which are not related to deeds are not of much value. Gandhi walked his talk. It is when our words match our deeds that we ourselves become integrated and whole - and acquire the capability to truly serve. Each of us have our dharma - our way of harmony. It was Arujna’s dharma to do battle and it was in battle that Arujna found peace - and eventual growth. Any other path would have left him in pain and in conflict. But, the search for harmony is elusive. It was Annie Besant  who remarked once (translating the Gita), that it is better to act in accordance with one's own dharma rather than try 'to act out some one elses dharma better'.

The dividing line between violence and non violence is not always the line of zero thickness of Euclidean geometry. Thileepan and Annai Poopathy gave their lives in the struggle for Tamil Eelam and who can say that they have failed? Again, the Black Tigers willingly give their lives, though at the same time, it is true that they take other lives. Theirs is an act of violence but it is their willingness to suffer, which finds an answering response in the hearts and minds of thousands of Tamils living today in many lands and across distant seas. The same is true of the cyanide capsule in the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - and to say that is not to romanticise the armed struggle.

The struggle for Tamil Eelam is no afternoon tea party. I remember Sathasivam Krishnakumar (Kittu) speaking to me about action in battle - how single minded one needed to be once engaged in battle. There could be no wavering. No question of a Hamlet like 'to be or not to be'. He would pause reflectively and say: "It was almost as if one was transformed in the heat of battle into another being."

At the same time an armed struggle is not a carte blanche to kill and maim and lines will have to drawn however difficult or even seemingly impossible that task may sometimes appear to be.  I believe that means and ends are inseparable.

But what is the way forward? Each one of us will determine that which appears right to him or her - and then match his words with his deeds. It seems to me that the way forward is not to turn a blind eye to the issues that confront the struggle - but at the same time refuse to undermine those who have given so much of themselves so that their brothers and sisters may live in equality and freedom. Additionally, there may be a need to create the fora where such matters may be discussed more openly amongst those who are committed to the Tamil struggle for self determination. But talk is not an end itself.

Yes, I do believe that 'Gandhiam' will survive as more and more people (and that includes myself) acquire more and more courage to openly stand up for that which they know to be the truth and be willing to suffer for that which they believe to be right. In Aurobindo's words:

"Man's highest aspiration - his seeking for perfection, his longing for freedom and mastery, his search after pure truth and unmixed delight - is in flagrant contradiction with his present existence and normal experience. Such contradiction is part of Nature's general method; it is a sign that she is working towards a greater harmony. The reconciliation is achieved by an evolutionary progress."

As for myself, work without faith would be like an attempt to reach the bottom of a bottomless pit and Gandhi's resolution for the day continues to inspire:

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
I shall not fear anyone on earth
I shall fear only God
I shall not bear ill toward anyone
I shall not submit to injustice from anyone
I shall conquer untruth by truth
And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering

 
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