Propaganda, LTTE, and Now Religion
By V. Thangavelu
“To the credit of LTTE, it does not mix politics with religion, unlike what you witness in the south Sri Lanka. An independent Tamil Eelam will be a secular state leaving religion a private matter of individuals...”
Enterprising journalists both in India, Sri Lanka and abroad miss no chance to vilify the LTTE. This is nothing new; it has been going on for a considerable period of time.
Rohan Gunaratne who is supposed to be an authority on LTTE is now making a living out of yarns he spins about the LTTE for his political masters in the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry. In an effort to discredit the LTTE, he allows his imagination to run riot. One of the canards he spreads is that the LTTE is engaged in drug trafficking to finance procurement of arms. But he has not produced a shred of evidence to prove his charge. In fact, no less than the US State Department has admitted that it has no evidence that LTTE is in the business of drug trafficking.
It is a well-known fact that LTTE abhors drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc. When the LTTE was in control of Jaffna peninsula and Vanni, that was the only area in the whole of the island, which was free of the drug menace. That was also the only place where a woman could walk on the streets, even at night, in complete freedom and safety. Unfortunately persons like Rohan Gunaratna keep on repeating the lies in the hope that gullible readers will believe it.
There were also allegations in Indian newspapers like The Times of India, The Hindu that LTTE provides training and sells arms to the Northeast insurgents, United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M), Peoples War Group (PWG). Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA) and Tamil Nadu Retrieval Force (TNRF) - in short to almost all the militant outfits operating in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Even the blame for the demolition of Babri Masjid mosque was laid at the door of the LTTE. LTTE was alleged to have given training to the saffron-robed demolition squads - a highly ludicrous, if not a hilarious claim by deranged people. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence will admit to the fact that the LTTE simply does not have the logistics to undertake such impossible tasks. In all probability they might not even know about these militant organizations except perhaps what is reported in the newspapers.
One Atul Aneja, an imaginative correspondent who has allowed his fertile mind to work overtime, wrote recently
“The transfer of weapons is not always easy. The LTTE, which has acquired several high speedboats, has become the prime courier for transferring arms, procured from various global destinations, to insurgent strongholds across the Andaman Sea. The LTTE has in fact developed an expertise in accepting arms deliveries, usually in the high seas, and delivering them at the destinations. The LTTE has also been involved in transferring drugs via the Colombo route to Jeddah before they are despatched to destinations in Europe and the United States.”
Walter Jayewardene, who is in the same league as Rohan Gunaratna, Atul Aneja, Nirupama Subramanian, Dr. Subramanian Swamy etc., is an imaginative and an enterprising correspondent who is practicing his profession following rules laid down by Dr. Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister. Like the saying that ‘a dog always lifts its legs regardless of where the stone hit’, Jayawardene ascribes some innocuous comments by someone who wrote about Sai Baba to the LTTE. This is akin to, as they say in Tamil, ‘tying a knot between a knee and a baldhead.’
To the credit of LTTE, it does not mix politics with religion, unlike what you witness in the south Sri Lanka. An independent Tamil Eelam will be a secular state leaving religion a private matter of individuals.
Hinduism with all its faults is a tolerant religion. The concept of issuing a Fatwa on critics or passing death sentences for blasphemy are unheard of in the Hindu religion. Materialism (Ulogopathayam) existed side by side with Hinduism. One can criticize Hindu gods and goddesses like what Periyar and his followers do or did.
The recent outburst against the TamilNet by Arundhati Rajasingham arises out of her ignorance about Tamil history and culture. The Tamil New Year is not April 14. How can April 14th be Tamil New Year when none of the names of the 60-year-cycle is in Tamil? All the names are in Sanskrit[ii]; so call it Hindu New Year if you wish.
Tamils of Tholkappiyam period practised no organized religion. There was ancestral worship (Thenpullaththor), worship of fallen War Heroes (Nadukal Vanakkam) and lesser gods like Mayone, Seyone, Varnan, Venthan etc. Among the numerous Hindu gods only Murugan is considered a Tamil God, which means all other gods, including Siva are Aryan or Vedic gods. Saiva Siddhandis abhor rituals. Like Puliyozhi Pulivizhi they consider rituals as a complete waste. The famous Sidhas have severely condemned all types of rituals and idol worship. For them God resides in your heart not inside temples.
Yet the Siddhas (Thirumoolar being the most famous) are revered by Hindus. Thirumoolar who wrote Thirumanthram (10th book of Panniru Thirumarai) is considered the greatest exponent of Saivaism. Thus Hinduism or Saivaism accommodates all types of believers, the progressives, orthodox, centrists and perhaps non-believers as well.
There is no central authority which says who is or who is not a Hindu. It was Sankarar in the 7th century who brought the different Hindu sects under one umbrella. Yet a Vaishnavite will not accept Siva as the supreme God nor would Saivaites accept Vishnu as the supreme God!
As for ‘Tamil Hindus resisting conversion to Christianity’ (Arundhati Rajasingham; The Island, 23 April 2001), it is nothing new. Tamils have been converted and reconverted from one religion to another. Pandian and Pallava kings were converted from Jainism/Buddhism to Saivaism by Sampanthar and Thirunavukkarasar. Thirunavukkarasar himself was born into a Hindu family, converted into Jainism assuming the name Dharmasenar. He finally got re-converted to Saivaism by his sister Thilakavathiyar.
Right through history, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism competed with each other among Tamils for domination. There was a three cornered contest between these religions from about 3rd century BC to 11th century A.D. Finally Hinduism/Saivaism triumphed and many Tamil Buddhists ran to Ceylon and eventually got assimilated into the Sinhala Buddhist society. In Tamil Nadu there are still some pockets (like Thanjai) where you find Tamils who are followers of Jainism.
In the 1946 population census (Ceylon) a microscopic minority of Tamils declared themselves as Buddhists. Tamils also later got converted to Christianity and Islam from the beginning of 16th century. So all these are foreign or imported religions. Hinduism, especially the various rituals are 90% Aryan origin. So let us not identify Hinduism/Saivaism with Tamils per se, though Hinduism or its sub-division Saivaism had remained the dominant religion of the majority Tamils since the Bhakti movement.
Arundhati Rajasingham need not behave like Don Quixote storming imaginary enemies. Her criticism of Christian Missionaries from Dr. Cladwell down to Fr. Thaninayagam is myopic and in very poor taste. All these scholars rendered yeoman service to the growth and development of Tamil language and grammar. They are too numerous to mention here. Here are just a few.
It was Dr. Caldwell who exploded the myth perpetuated by Brahmins that Sanskrit is the mother of all Indian languages, including Tamil. His masterpiece “The Comparative Grammar of Dravidian Languages” was an eye-opener to the Tamils who have fallen under the influence of Brahminism. G.U.Pope’s contribution to Tamil is legendary. He translated Thirukkural and Thiruvasagam into English. His love for the Tamil language knew no bounds. Arundhati Rajasingham will never be able to put the clock back by writing such harangue in the name of Hinduism. She can never hope to divide the Tamils along religious lines.
Religion after all is a matter of belief. One is a Hindu or Christian mainly because he/she is born into such a family. Arundhati should devote her energies to free the Tamil society from the pernicious and pervasive caste system that is the bane of Hinduism. Caste system despite efforts by such reformers like Bharathi, Vadaloor Ramalinga Swamigal and Periyar is refusing to die down in Tamil Nadu. There are frequent caste clashes which make Tamils to be feel ashamed. There are mass conversion of Dalit Tamils to Islam and Christianity in Tamil Nadu because of the oppressive nature of the Hindu caste system.
Though the Tamil liberation struggle has brought about revolutionary changes in the socio-political structure of the Tamil society in Tamil Eelam the process is not complete yet. The evil influence of caste is still found among the older generations. In addition all Tamils, including Arundhati suffer the indignity of being branded as Sudras by Hindu shastras! Their language Tamil not considered worthy of worship in Hindu/Saivaite Temples. Nor are Tamils considered fit to function as temple priests however pious or learned they may be.
Finally let not LTTE baiters blame that organization for all the ills under the sun. It is a national liberation organization engaged in a struggle to emancipate the Tamils politically, economically and socially by restoring the statehood the Tamil people lost to the colonizers old and new. [Edited]
Courtesy: Tamil Circle; 19 July 2001
Editor's Note: Some articles referred to by links are no longer unavailable on the internet. Some news organizations delete some of their own articles (especially the ones about LTTE) a few days after publication on the web. The references however remain on the search engines for a longer period of time.
[i] “Swamy, has said that the LTTE was ‘specially’ dangerous for India as it has contacts in high places besides ‘intimate working relationship’ with the ISI ...” [The Hindu; 23 May 2000]
[ii] Names of years in the Hindu 60-year-cycle (Yuga): Prabhava, Vibhava, Sukla, Pramodhudha, Prajorpati, Angirasa, Srimukha, Bhava, Yuva, Dhatu, Isvara, Vehudhanya, Pramathi, Vikrama, Vishu, Chitrabanu, Subanu, Tarana, Parthiba, Viya, Sarvajit, Sarvadhari, Virodhi, Viruti, Kara, Nandana, Vijaya, Jaya, Manmatha, Dhunmuki, Hevilambi, Vilambi, Vikari, Sarvari, Plava, Subakrit, Sobakrit, Krodhi, Visuvasuva, Parabhava, Plavanga, Kilaka, Saumya, Sadharana, Virodhikritu, Paridhabi, Pramadhisa, Ananda, Rakshasa, Nala, Pingala, Kalayukti, Siddharthi, Raudri, Dunmati, Dundubhi, Rudhrodhgari, Raktakshi, Krodhana, Akshaya.