Frontline, a publication closely
The Hindu, has been in the
forefront of opposition to the establishment of Tamil Eelam by the aggrieved
Tamils of what is termed
as the present day Sri Lanka.
The recent issue of
the Frontline (May 13-26) has given an exclusive focus to the developments
in the island. Apart from the usual anti-LTTE staff comprising Jeyaraj,
Sambandan and others, one or two new
have been brought in to diversify the nature of opposition against
the LTTE in particular and Tamil Eelam in general.
However, some credit
is due to persons like Jeyaraj who has written some excellent pieces on
Sri Lanka and unlike his earlier diatribes, these recent pieces can
be described as somewhat more objective. While it is difficult to explain
this slight shift from the earlier position, some difference of opinion on
the Eelam issue is certainly brewing within certain establishments in
India and the caste/class fortification as represented by Frontline is
showing some cracks.
However, beyond these
inconsistent “concessions” to the
LTTE in particular, the class/caste establishment behind the Frontline is
still continuing its diabolical crusade against the LTTE.
leader of this
establishment who happens to be the editor
is the most consistent chief
ideologue of this establishment and he of course leaves no stones unturned
to be little and if possible banish the LTTE from the face of this earth.
Much to his shock and
dismay, the LTTE which should have be crushed by the “democratic forces” of
the Sri Lankan state not only continues to exist but growing from strength
to strength by
its phenomenal military victories gained in the battle-fields stretching
from Vanni to Jaffna.
The real question for
editor is how to buttress the Sri Lankan regime from the Indian side or more
specifically how to prevent the ancien regime of Chandrika Kumaratunga from
into oblivion. Editorials, another name for the
pro-Sri Lankan government propaganda, seems to have been unleashed by
the Frontline to shore up the beleaguered regime of Kumaratunga, and
according to this “Backline” magazine, Kumaratunga is the
greatest peace-maker that Sri Lanka has ever known.
Time and again, the
so-called editorials backed up by other articles have shown some tenacity to
provide the moral and intellectual (more exactly pseudo-intellectual)
sustenance to prop up the regime - a regime that seems more and more
hopeless in stopping the juggernaut of the LTTE. The
anti-LTTE crusade mounted by the caste/class associations and establishments
closely linked to major magazines like the Frontline are basically below the
and thousands of Tamils have been
pushed out of the
and destroyed in the name of maintaining the
territorial integrity of an island
that has been never united or integrated in the first place.
The forces opposed to
Eelam are basically driven by the desire to maintain intact and indeed
extend the hegemony of certain caste/class forces not only in India but also
in Sri Lanka.
Democratic and egalitarian social movements having roots in subaltern
and Dravidian philosophies are natural enemies of these conservative and
reactionary forces. For instance,
imaginative and intuitive programmes begun by Dravidian based
organisations have been opposed and defeated in India.
These caste/class forces deriving their
historical myths and visions of society from decadent literature like
Ramayana and Mahabaratha do not envision a
political or an intellectual environment where
Dravidians can provide
the leadership and guidance to ordinary people.
Since Tamils/Dravidians are people who are
“incapable of logical and rational thinking’, these conservative and
reactionary forces have simply ruled out Dravidian conceptions of things.
The historic and contemporary role of “othering” the Dravidians have meant
not only to guide the “backward” Dravidians but also to belittle and dismiss
Dravidian political programmes as these if allowed to develop and mature
might affect the hegemony of the dominant caste/class hegemony.
In this regard, while Eelam is dismissed as
an affront to the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, the real reason must
be found within the ideological/hegemonic realm. The concept of “othering”
is not something peculiar to these forces as Europeans in their earlier
colonising mission were also very much motivated not only to deliver the
natives from their fatalistic path but also guide them along a
responsible/rational/logical path. Thus, anything that is original that
comes from the natives were dismissed if not defeated forcibly.
In India, apart from the historic injustice
committed by the caste/class forces against the subordinated Tamil people,
that was developed to oppose Brahminism/Hindu upper class domination and to
break the centuries old caste system was significant only to a certain
The tireless work performed by Thanthai
Periyar and others made spectacular social and economic gains for Tamil
people, particularly those from the lower caste/socio-economic brackets. But
then the movement and its ideology could not be sustained for long,
opportunists and career politicians using the political front of
Dravidianism did much damage to the movement as a whole.
While the Brahminical divide might have had
its relevance in the Sri Lankan situation insofar as Tamils are concerned,
nonetheless the caste factor that sought to divide Tamils into mutual
exclusive categories of Vellars and non-Vellars contributed to a situation
where ordinary Tamils, especially those who were considered belonging to the
lower castes had to put up with enormous hardship and suffering.
That is why opposition to the LTTE from a
small groups of Tamils located both in Sri Lanka and abroad must be
understood from a caste/class perspective. These Tamils ostensibly belonging
to the higher castes simply cannot stomach the fact that LTTE or the Tamil
national liberation movement has come to be guided by Tamils belonging to
the so called 'low' castes.
I personally know of Tamil professionals
from Jaffna who are now living abroad who have nothing but venom for the
Tigers; individuals who go around bad mouthing them and but on the quiet
buying properties and amassing their wealth in Colombo. These individuals
have great faith in the Sinhala ruling establishment and like
that Tamils should not go for independence. Lately given the LTTE victories,
these individuals are seen to be developing some sympathy with the national
The anti-LTTE forces in India and elsewhere
constituted on the basis of caste/class considerations wield considerable
power through the mechanisms of state agencies. Moreover their control of
the mass media is highly significant. Such forces would have certainly made
much headway in their messianic crusade against the LTTE had not the latter
gained much military prowess and success in the battle-fields. These
anti-forces have close access to the top leadership in India and Sri Lanka.
For instance, the
editor of Frontline or more exactly for our purposes “Backline” is a
close confidant of Kumaratunga. .... She uses him to assess the mood of
governmental establishments in India and even go to the extent of advising
India through his infamous editorials. In other words, the name Frontline
may be after all very apt since it is being used by the Sri Lankan
government as a “Front” to engage in the most obnoxious attack against the
Of course, this “Front” has many
tentacles—it is also being used to develop and consolidate relationship
between individuals and organisations who have only one thing in common—the
destruction of the LTTE and subordinating the Dravidian people not only in
Sri Lanka but in Tamil Nadu. There is an
alarmist fear that the break-up of Sri Lanka would re-invigorate the
Dravidian movement to the detriment of the hegemony of the dominant
caste/class in the region. Thus, from a broad perspective, the need on the
part of certain groups or establishments
both in India and Sri Lanka to forestall the rise of Dravidian
liberation movement with a possible effect on Tamil Nadu (see the latest
excellent piece by Jeyaraj who has basically de-mystified the argument that
Eelam might inspire separatist tendencies in Tamil Nadu).
The recent editorial in Frontline is at
pains to ensure that India would move away from adopting a neutral attitude
and instead undertake military measures to curb the LTTE on behalf of the
Sri Lankan government.
Thus, when it suits the editor, Sri Lanka
ceases to be an independent nation and its problems have to be resolved by
India. Following the withdrawal of the IPKF, why did then the government
maintain that the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka was its internal affair. Did
not the media stooges of the Sri Lankan establishment go along with this
dictum for sometime. Why shift position now?
vehemently opposes India’s hands-off policy towards Sri Lanka saying such a
thing would harm the legitimate interests of the Sri Lankan regime. What
legitimate interests he is talking about is only known to him and his
There is a growing fear, a kind of
paralysis affecting some section of the anti-LTTE forces that rational
thinking and analysis are becoming rare commodities.
For the editor, the only reason why the Sri
Lankan forces are not doing well (never mind the understatement) is simply
due to the fact there is lack of logistical support. He conveniently or
deliberately refrains from admitting the fact that the army is losing the
battles and possibly the war because the troops are totally demoralised, the
training is rather inadequate, the troops have no idea of what they are
fighting for, and most importantly innocent Sinhala youth are used as cannon
fodder to appease the fat-cats in Colombo. Perhaps since he believes in the
old axiom that pen is mightier than sword, what hasn’t he asked a very
simple question. Why aren’t the boys of the ministers fighting the Tigers?
Where are they? Where is Kumaratunga’s son? Why are the Budhist monks
praying rather than taking up arms to fight the Tigers?
for this messainic editor, the Tigers are winning because they are
Really, when one comes to think of the
whole ethnic conflict, it
is rather remarkable how little, the elite, both in India and Sri
Lanka, have understood the war. In a near hysterical tone, the spectre of
the division of Sri Lanka is raised by the editor. For him such a
possibility should be prevented and like Cho Ramaswamy asks what is India is
doing about this. The editor, not be left out intellectually, has his own
solution to the on-going ethnic strife in Sri Lanka.
He dismisses the notion of an independent
state of Tamils because this demand seems to him as an unrealistic option -
something totally incongruent with the demands of the present globalized
world. His dismissal is purely pseudo-scientific as
national liberation movements are on the rise in the world. Peoples like
Kosovars, Timorees, Palestinians and not to speak of Tamils are historically
poised to create their own independent homelands.
The so-called federal plan proposed by the
editor is not a real solution, a mere programme envisaged to provide a
The examples of the United States, Nigeria,
Malaysia and India would easily indicate that a federal plan to devolve
power to states and ethnic groups is basically superficial. In the case of
Sri Lanka, if a federal plan in introduced, it would be highly
retrogressive. It is indeed ironic as to why
Tamils in Sri Lanka should go
for a federal solution when a de facto Tamil nation already exists. Once the
alien forces are expelled from Jaffna and East, there is no stopping the
LTTE from unilaterally declaring the independence of Eelam.
Despite the blatant prejudice coming from
publications like Frontline and others, it is still not too late for these
to provide a more balanced picture of the legitimate rights of Tamils in the
artificial political make-up called Sri Lanka. Even if LTTE is not favoured,
at least some respect
should be shown towards the sufferings of Tamils. It is becoming more
obvious there is
no political solution for Tamils apart from the establishment of an
independent homeland. Too much atrocities have been committed
against Tamils for them to trust the Sinhala ruling regime in Colombo. There
is no fundamental antipathy between the Sinhala and Tamil masses,
only Eelam will be able to heal the wounds of these two great nationalities.