Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"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

Ten Minute Read

20 February 2009

A Visitor from Australia wrote on 20 February 2009 - Vanakkam Mr. Satyendra. I read your articles almost as soon as they appear. They reflect many of the thoughts which come to me (but perhaps not in such a clear substantiated fashion). Your open letter to Senator Kerry is another excellent piece.

Flag.gif (5115 bytes)As I have said many a time over the past several years, the lion pointing the knife to the Tamils and Muslims correctly represents the Sinhala view that we live under their mercy and sword. Even after independence in 1948, they could not make the lion face the other way, symbolically acting as a defender of all the people behind. One other point is the naming of all Sinhala regiments with the names of Sinhala heroes. Now they want to name new villages for Tamils driven from their homes (concentration camps) with names of Tamil collaborators and quislings!

I am in deep pain and I am saddened to see in our demonstrations many are still talking and shouting about 'feed and save' - its the call of 'pichhai vendam nayaipidi' - as if demanding our right to self determination was pichhai. Some have also woken up to what you have been saying. But some who are interested have sadly said that your articles are too long for them and too complicated. What to do? We are all in the age of 3 minute news clips and we do not want to engage our intellectual faculties. May be sometimes a short piece (10 minute read) directed to our English educated youth in the diaspora might help to focus their minds. Sorry for asking this. Thanks.

> Many thanks for your feedback. Yes, I do take on board your point re a �10 minute read�. I am reminded of something that I wrote more than 15 years ago in August 1993 in a piece entitled �Thyagam and the Tamil Expatriate� -

"...The Tamil national struggle is no afternoon tea party. The new balances that are being struck in the emerging multi-polar world are not without relevance to the struggle in Tamil Eelam.

It used to be said that states have permanent interests but do not have permanent friends. This may be even more so in the case of nations struggling to become states.

Sometime ago, the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, sent out a letter seeking new subscribers for one of its publications. The letter read:

"The professional practise of management is as challenging and complex as the practices of medicine and law. Yet we never hear of a 1-minute trial lawyer. One minute is about how long the physician or attorney who tries it will last. The quick fix. The too simple solution. The latest fad. They have no more place in your office than in the operating room or the court room."

That which is true in relation to the office, the operating room and the court is perhaps even more true in relation to a national struggle for freedom. Answers to the deeper issues which confront the Tamil national liberation struggle are unlikely to come from those who devote a few moments of their undoubtedly busy lives to suggest the 'quick fix', which they believe has somehow escaped the attention of those who have taken the struggle forward on the ground during the past several years.

A busy expatriate Tamil professional in Australia once remarked to a Tamil activist: ''You know, the trouble is that the 'boys' have brawn but no brains''. The reply from the Tamil activist was perhaps, overly sharp but it was telling:

''My dear friend, the trouble with you is that you have neither the brawn nor the brains - neither the brawn to go to Tamil Eelam and join the struggle nor the brains to look deeper into the issues that confront the struggle and make a useful contribution from outside. If you had done the latter, you would have hopefully, begun to learn that to a leadership which has gone through the university of the liberation struggle on the ground, much of what you say will seem to come from the kindergarten''.

The 1-minute 'political adviser' is not very different from the 1-minute brain surgeon or the 1- minute trial lawyer. One minute is about how long he will last in the struggle before succumbing to the forces ranged against it.

Every Tamil, wherever he may live, will need to ask himself where he stands in relation to the Tamil struggle in the island of Sri Lanka. He needs to ask whether he supports the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for self determination.

He needs to ask whether the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka were subject to an ever widening and deepening oppression under successive Sinhala dominated governments for several decades and whether an oppressed people have both the moral and the legal right to take to arms to resist that oppression. He needs to ask whether the armed struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is not only just but also lawful.

He may also need to ask himself: ''What does that struggle in Tamil Eelam mean to me ?'' Is it some struggle 'out there' unrelated to his own existence? Or is it a struggle that is inextricably linked with his own natural identity and that of his children and his children's children?

If he does not seek to deny his own past; if, on the contrary, he feels enrichened by his Tamil heritage;

if he shares the pain and suffering of his brothers and sisters in Tamil Eelam because he has known something about the nature of that pain himself;

if he knows that wherever he may live, his environment will continue to remind him, even on those occasions that he may forget, that he is a Tamil;

if he believes that the culture of a people will die without the political power of a state committed to preserve it;

if he recognises that to live with dignity as a Tamil in any land and not as a wandering nomad without a land, Tamil Eelam must take its place amongst the nations of the world -

if he knows all this, then he will know that he has not simply the duty but also the right to involve himself in the struggle for Tamil Eelam and take it forward.

He will know that he has not simply the duty but also the right to support the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom. He will know that he has the duty and the right to support, not blindly, but with eyes open, not only with his heart but also with his mind, reasoning, purifying and strengthening the struggle, at every stage, in its onward lawful progress - but at the same time bowing his head in all humility before the thyagam of those on the ground who have given so much of themselves so that we, as a people, may live in freedom."

And today, 15 years later, given the brutal genocidal onslaught launched on the people of Tamil Eelam by Sinhala Sri Lanka , may I add this -

I have sometimes wondered what Mahatma Gandhi's response may have been if he had been asked in despair in the 1920's: "You frail little man, you are struggling against the most powerful empire that the world has known. I despair. I am at my wits end. When will freedom come?"

I can only conjecture. Gandhi's reply may well have been: "I do not know when freedom will come. But I will continue to struggle for freedom - and I will continue to match my words with my deeds."

Or again Gandhi may have repeated something which he had actually said in 1906 when he was Secretary of the British Indian Association in South Africa at a public meeting calling for mass defiance if impending pass-law legislation became law -

"... It is quite possible that.. some or many of those who pledge themselves might weaken at the very first trial. We might have to go to jail, where we might be insulted. We might have to go hungry and suffer extreme heat or cold. Hard labor might be imposed upon us. We might be flogged by rude warders. We might be fined heavily and our property might be attached and held up to auction if there are only a few resisters left. Opulent today, we might be reduced to abject poverty tomorrow. We might be deported. Suffering from starvation and similar hardships in jail, some of us might fall ill and even die. If someone asks me when and how the struggle may end, I may say that, if the entire community manfully stands the test, the end will be near. If many of us fall back under storm and stress, the struggle will be prolonged. But I can boldly declare, and with certainty, that so long as there is even a handful of men true to their pledge, there can only be one end to the struggle, and that is victory... Mahatma Gandhi's Pledge of Resistance in Transvaal, Africa, 1906

And perhaps he may have even used the words that Sathasivam Krishnakumar of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam used in 1991

"We are building a road, I do not know whether I myself will be alive to see the road being completed. But that does not matter. Others will arise to take the road further.."

In 1987, a Jewish academic on Sabbatical at Cambridge University met with me in my home at Cambridge. It was soon after the signing of the Indo Sri Lanka Accord. He asked me whether I felt that the the 13th Amendment will resolve the conflict. I said no. He laughed and said: "Well, if the Indo Sri Lanka Accord works, it means that the Tamil people did not in fact have a problem before!". His response tempted me to ask him: "Tell me. How did you all succeed? How were you able to create the Jewish state?" He replied: "Do you want a short answer or a long answer?". It was my turn to laugh. I said, give me a short answer. He responded: "The short answer is that we never gave up the idea."

Hopefully, all this was only a ten minute read!

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