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
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,
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
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.
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 Arujnas 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
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
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
"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
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