Thursday, May 27, 2004

Tamil Social Formation in Sri Lanka: A Historical Outline - Dr. P.Raghupathy (6)

The Decline of Economic Independence

 The late British period witnessed a gradual decline of economic
independence of the Tamil homeland, especially Jaffna. The economy became more and more dependent on the plantations and on the Colombo-centric economic developments that took place in the Southern Sri Lanka. Traditional subsistence, trading ports and trade routes declined. Missionary and native education brought in white collar jobs. The traditional trade which was cut off from its South Indian contact turned towards the Sinhalese areas in the south creating subsistence competitions. The image of the Tamils as exploitors and the resuoltant ethnic conflict arose in the early decades of this century with the emergence of the powerful force of SinhalaBuddhist nationalism.

The Personality of the Tamil Homeland in Sri Lanka

The Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka is characterized by a contiguous territory of a specific environment. It has a demography of a homogenous linguistic people who have specific subsistence patterns and who are conscious of their ethnic identity formulated over several centuries. The social formation of this territory has its own dimensions distinct from that of T amilnadu and southern Sri Lanka. Though they call themselves as Tamils, they shouldn't be identified with the people of Tamilnadu. Their social and cultural formations should be viewed only as a parallel development to that of Tamil South India.

Tamil Homeland - Its Place in the South Asian Pattern

If one goes for a South Asian framework, the Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka may be looked upon as a regional variation. But, the prevailing political and economic conditions have made it an exerting question of Tamil nationalism, demanding a separate nation. Struggling and achieving a separate political identity; remaining as a regional variation within Sri Lanka; mi:itarily or otherwise establishing the Sinhala -Buddhist nationalism; affiliating with India; these are some of the current options envisaged officially or unofficially in the power circles and among the common people.

It is a historical, fact that the Tamil social formation in Sri Lanka over several centuries played a buffer between the Sinhalese and South Indian social formations. History also points out that it was the subsistence pattern that had determined the place, status and geo-political affinities of this social formation.

The present crisis is essentially one of devising socio-political means which will ensure a subsistence pattern for these people in their own land. A separate nation, autonomous State, unitary system and affiliation with India are mere words in the absence of the incorporation of this fundamental factor.

Select Reading

1. ARASARATNAM, S., "A Historical Foundation of the Ecanomy of the Tamils of North Ceylon", Chelvanayakam Memorial Lecture - 1982, Saturday Review, Jaffna, serialised in eight issues from 17.4.1982.

2. DERANIYAGALA, S.U., "Prehistoric Research in Sri Lanka 1885-1980", P.E.P. Deraniayagala Commemoration Volume, 1980, pp.152-207; "Sri Lanka 28000 B.c.", Ancient Ceylon, No.5, 1984.

3. INDRAPALA, K., "Chapter II - History", Jaffna, ed., Indrapala, K.,
Department of Information, Colombo, 1983, pp.11-21.

4. NAVARATNAM, c.S., "Tamils and Ceylon", Jaffna, 1958; "Vanni and the Vanniyars", Jaffna, 1960.

5. PATHMANATHAN, S., "The Kingdom of Jaffna", Colombo, 1978.

6. PEIRIS, PAUL, E., "Nagadipa and Buddhist Remains in Jaffna", JRAS
(CB ), 1922, pp.11-30; Part II, JRAS (CB ), 1925, pp.40-67.

7. RAGUPATHY, P., "Early Settlements in Jaffna: An Archaeological Survey", Ph.D., Thesis, University of Jaffna, 1983.

8. RASANAYAKAM, S., "Ancient Jaffna", 1926.

9. SITRAMPALAM, S.K., "The Megalithic Culture in Sri Lanka", Ph.D., Thesis, Deccan College, University of Poona, 1980.

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