Tuesday 18 February 2020


[His work is damning of Tamil officials and intelligentsia for sustaining and perpetuating caste oppression and exclusion. He draws on theorists including Michel Foucault and Antonio Gramsci, to analyse the workings of caste in institutions and the proliferation of caste ideology. Reading Yoharaja one gets a sense of how oppressed caste individuals feel when they walk into government departments or private enterprises; how should they walk in, can they sit down and can they ask a question; all as if their bodies were caged by the micro dynamics of official and class power.] Ahilan Kadirgamar in - Breaking the Silence on Caste

Thunaivi village in Vaddukoddai district where the Vaddukoddai Resolution happened in 1976 and provided the framework for the Rebel Order - is a toddy tapper village which broke away from mainstream Vaddukoddai. I was there on Sunday to ensure that our family temple activities are regulated by the rules structured by our family. To me - everyone who has faith in that temple will be cured of caste based discrimination pain or pleasure largely due to my own feeling of oneness with the folks there. As per my experience - in their area of power we the senior castes would become the oppressed group and this is largely due to the 'freedom' fighters' of that area who now enjoy the pleasures of reverse discrimination - some overtly and others covertly.

One of the rules I had developed was that no cows were to be allowed to graze in the temple compound. Even though we built a cottage for our own accommodation, we no longer stay there after our roof was stoned by the youth against whom I complained to the police. I did this after  long period of forbearance. I believe I got the evidence of Trespass though our security camera which according to the youth was not working after they broke it. To my mind, I got the evidence I needed to discipline them but not to punish them. I believe I had the authority to discipline them due to our common faith in the temple. The Police needed that moral authority to discipline them. But this was lacking in Vaddukoddai which had made the political claim of separation of Rules of Governance.

I believe that it was this belief based insight that gave me the evidence that the gardener was failing to follow my rules about cow-grazing. The cow belonged to the former gardener whose services were 'retired' last year. But when we are no longer there - he takes control and hence the cow was grazing. I spoke to him directly and stated that he was not to do that. He agreed; but after some time he started talking to himself in a loud voice. One complaint was that he was not being treated with respect - even though he had planted the trees in our compound. I ignored him - as he is old and has lost the ability to make logical connections. He is strongly affected by the common sin in that area - that of taking over land that seems to be without owners. To my mind, until these sins are negated - we would lack the moral authority to find fault with others - including the armed forces occupying our lands.

I am highly conscious of these realities which apply in Thunaivi where like Sinhalese Buddhists who used official governance system, the folks have gotten even due to their elevated status in the Tamil community - due to Rebel Governance. Ahilan presents this as follows:

[The broader social changes that began weakening caste relations were eventually silenced after a decade with the rise and eclipse of Tamil nationalism, which mobilised society on the single issue of addressing ethnic discrimination and eventually armed struggle towards a separate state.]

Ahilan presents also the following picture:

[Yoharaja, belonging to the generation that participated in the anti-caste movement in the late-1960s, exiled in Europe during the war years, and present in Jaffna during the post-war years, has been exploring new approaches to addressing caste oppression.
 An important contribution of Yoharaja’s work are his efforts to introduce a new political vocabulary and discourse into anti-caste activism. 
Instead of using terms like upper castes and oppressed castes, he suggests using “backward communities” for upper castes and “marginal communities” for oppressed castes. He believes all those who have a vision of social equality should be called “forward communities”. ]

After Vaddukoddai Resolution 1976, every Vaddukoddai Tamil who did not oppose it and every Tamil who supported the political group that made that declaration has the responsibility to not name those not in her / his apparent group. Mr Yoharaja has the authority to describe himself as per the group he seems to belong to but not both where the terminology does not confirm vertical relationship. In that regard - I call myself Senior and the Thunaivi toddy tapper Junior. Where the outer-form is stronger than the oneness feeling - we tend towards Equality - according to which we cannot speak for the other. Anti-Caste activists thus weakened their vertical relationship and lost their right to name their former juniors.

Discrimination based on strong common value / soul value is positive and results in relationships. Discrimination based on strong physical value without consciousness of Equality - becomes negative and damages relationships. Consciousness of this is essential in postwar development in Northern Province. Whether caste based discrimination is positive or negative is driven by the above principle.

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