21 August 2019
DIVERSITY v UNIFORMITY
A Sri Lankan Tamil asked me here in Jaffna a s to why I had written the book ‘Jaffna is my Heritage and not my Dowry’. My immediate response was– ‘so others would not get cheated by relatives.’ I thought about it more later. I then realized that it was to preserve Jaffna’s Diversity. The importance attributed to higher education by the Jaffna People of my generation is confirmed by that intellectual analysis in support of Thesawalamai Law which also confirms diversity of Jaffna Tamils. It is by going through painful experience that I learnt to appreciate that Thesawalamai Law upholds gender based Equal Opportunity. As per my experience, once we experience freedom from discrimination on the basis of physical differences we are free of such ignorance through all forms of unjust discrimination – including in Sri Lanka’s case – race and religion based discrimination.
Diversity also separates. At first glance Diversity and unjust discrimination may seem the same. But diversity is rooted in tradition. In his Ceylon Today article headed ‘From Kovils to Devales’ Mr P K Balachandran presents as follows:
[However, empirically, the Kovil-Devale dichotomy is not clear-cut, whether one looks at it from a contemporary perspective or from a historical perspective argues Sujatha Arundathi Meegama in her thesis submitted to the University of Berkley in 2011 titled From Kovils to Devales; patronage and influence at Buddhist and Hindu temples in Sri Lanka’]
As per my experience – the suppressed tend to invest more deeply in tradition as their savior. They cannot afford multiculturalism. The deeper the pain of discrimination the greater the tendency to withdraw into ‘specialty’. To go deep, one has to continue within the structures and laws that one has been supported to that stage. That is when one becomes that system and identifies with its strengths as well as weaknesses. The weaknesses that resulted in our pain would give us pain but when we become the system we also identify with the strengths in that system that would cure the weaknesses.
Genuine Pain due to true weaknesses is like meditation. Other pain is temporary and is easily discarded by a genuine seeker. Genuine pain takes us to the depth where root cause is. Yesterday, at Nallur temple, they sang the songs of Saint Nanthanar who was born into Pariah caste and yearned to ‘see’ Lord . His employer of high caste ends up taking lower relative to Nanthanar – who experienced the Grace of the Lord by seeking the Lord from outside the temple as per the caste based structure of that time. I melted when I listened and had the experience of the pain of ‘outcast’ most strongly at the University of NSW. Then singer Sriram Gangatharan who visited Australia from India – sang Nanthanar songs. I was in deep pain of alienation and hence identified with Nanthanar’s feelings. Even now when someone seems to alienate me I experience a bit of that pain but with sadness and no anxiety. That sadness is positive and cures the place.
Jaffna’s diversity is its protection from assimilation which results in losing connection with the roots. The Sunday Observer article headed ‘Provincial Councils, nothing more than another unwanted layer in politics!’ presents the following:
[Apart from the North and East, Provincial Councils have functioned in the rest of the country for over thirty years. If they had a real impact, these regions should have fared spectacularly better than the North and East which were also beset by war. That hasn’t happened either. So, the evidence appears to be mounting to the effect that Provincial Councils are nothing more than another unwanted layer in politics which allows politicians to throw their weight around at a different level at a cost of billions of rupees.]
In North & East – Councils in leading temples and Churches have strongly influenced self-governance. The Provincial Councils that came after – confirm and symbolize this Diverse Development. In Sri Lanka most of us govern through our belief in religion. So long as we pay our respects to the dominant religion in that region including by staying out of their areas where we have disagreement – we would enjoy natural harmony.
The Kovil-Devale dichotomy is not clear cut to Buddhist leaders who assimilate politics with religion because they do not believe in either.