Sri Lanka Hiding the Elephant: A Perspective On The Author Professor Ramu Manivannan
It was such an honour to introduce Prof. Ramu Manivannan, the author of the hugely compelling book Sri Lanka: Hiding the Elephant – Documenting Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, at its launch in Toronto Canada on 13, December 2014.
The Credentials He Brings To the Book
You can’t but be in awe of Prof. Ramu Manivannan, Mani as he is affectionately called, a son of a freedom fighter who agitated side by side with Gandhi to free Mother India from colonial occupation; one who knows what oppression is, having a sensitive understanding of liberation movements because it runs in his blood; one who has a deep sense of empathy for the marginalised, the persecuted and the subjugated continuously raising his voice against repression and authoritarianism, a peace activist involving himself with pro- democracy movements in Asia who, “believes in freedom and democracy as important values, but considers that they must be based on social justice to be of relevance to ordinary people” ; a man who wishes to raise a new generation of pupils and educators , one who is, “committed to exploring non- violent alternatives and community participation at grass root level and a strong proponent of referendums as a tool to deciding nations aspiring for independence; an outspoken critic of Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka, 1988 and the Indian Congress led abstention at the UNHRC resolution, March 2014: Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights ; a different kind of academic known for his work as an “organic intellectual”; one who has heavily invested in promoting peace , education, human rights and justice in India and South Asia including Tibet, Burma, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, forgoing several academic and professional opportunities that came his way (he regrets neither he says); and one who is a prolific writer who has authored 5 other books in addition to numerous articles and papers:
Shadows of A Long War: Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka, Delhi, 1988
Social Justice, Democracy and Alternative Politics: An Asian-European Dialogue
Prospect and Retrospect of Alternative Education in the Asia-Pacific Region
Burma: Freedom Behind Bars, Delhi 2004 (also Published in Hindi in 2006 & Gujrati in 2009)
Asian Future: Dialogues for Change (co-edited with Pracha Hutanuwatr)
It’s with these exceptional credentials behind him that he addresses the issues and sets out his thesis in the book, Sri Lanka: Hiding The Elephant.
Author Makes a “solid case” for Genocide
When Tamils cried out agonisingly that the targeted mass killings that took place in Mullivakkal was indeedGenocide and is in fact an intensification of the genocidal acts perpetrated by successive Sri Lankan Sinhala governments that’s still ongoing in the form of ‘structural genocide’, few from the international community were convinced. They were doubting that the perpetrators had a “specific intent while committing the crime,” listening sadly to the false propaganda of the perpetrators, that it was a fight against terror and not an intentional destruction of a national or ethnic group; although if the international community had walked in our shoes, they would have known that it was indeed genocide.
But like a ‘God Send’, a boon, an answer to our prayers comes the book Sri Lanka: Hiding the Elephant,where Prof. Ramu Manivannan, the head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Madras , has meticulously and painstakingly put together a “solid case” as P C Vinoj Kumar elucidates, “to back his argument that what happened in Sri Lanka was indeed Genocide,” in his article, “Chennai Academic Names 18 SL war criminals, indicts one 1 Indian.”  In the book, Vinoj Kumar says, Prof Ramu Manivannan, “has named 18 top Sri Lankan nationals as war criminals including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” (who ironically had walked the corridors of the same prestigious University of Madras doing his Masters, who nevertheless would be brought to justice Prof. Ramu Manivannan hopes) , “former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, Minister of External Affairs, G L Peiris and indicted two UN officials,” (one of them Vijay Nambiar an Indian national), ” for their role during the last stages of the Sri Lankan civil war that concluded with the Mullaithivu Massacre of Tamils in May 2009.”
Doctrine of “Double Effect”
In the book Sri Lanka: Hiding the Elephant, Prof. Ramu Manivannan goes to the root of the problem, in my view, propounding the “doctrine of double effect” to make his case as Vinoj Kumar writes in his article, quoting from the book on Sri Lanka’s twin genocidal strategy:
And I quote:
“In recognition of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Sri Lankan government and its authorities, we need to ask whether there is a unique case or a distinct crime here? The answer is yes. …The genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka has taken place over a period of time involving several steps and strategies, and this includes continuous dismantling and destruction of the essential foundations of human life of the Tamils in Sri Lanka…To be precise, the Sri Lankan government has employed the ‘doctrine of double effect’, the brutal military resolution of the ethnic conflict combined with the long term strategy of ethnic cleansing… This ‘doctrine of double effect’ has been the most unmistakable exhibition of the genocidal intent of the State and its Sinhala nationalism… The genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka has taken place over a period of time involving several premeditated steps and concealed strategies. This includes organized attacks and destruction of essential foundations of human life common to all civilized human societies.. Interestingly, the book reveals that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was a student of the very same University that has now named him as a war criminal,” says Vinoj Kumar highlighting sections of the book.
Who then is Prof. Ramu Manivannan, the author, the head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Madras?
“No Ivory Tower Intellectual”
Prof. Suryanarayan, who reviewed the book , Sri Lanka: Hiding the Elephant, and called it an ‘Invaluable Reference Book’ credits Prof. Manivannan, “since assuming the Chairmanship of the Department of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Madras, among other,
And I quote:
“to revamping and modernizing the syllabus and teaching curriculum in his department. Today the students are taught and scholars do research on issues of human rights, ongoing democratic struggles in South Asia and refugee issues. Ramu is not an ivory tower intellectual; he and his students are actively involved with movements for peace and justice in India and its neighbourhood. This edited volume (It should be pointed out that this is not an, “edited volume”), is a testimony to the commitment of Ramu, his colleagues and students to understand and sensitize the public to the momentous developments taking place in India’s southern neighbourhood.”
Buddha Smiles And The Garden of Peace
But to gain a true insight into this one in a million individual, a humanitarian, a human rights defender, a champion of the underdog and a staunch believer in social justice, social responsibility and social development, one should dig deeper into this humble, modest, down to earth, who is “no ivory tower intellectual” as Prof. Suryanarayan correctly referred to him!
To gain an insight all you need to do is find out more about ‘Buddha Smiles’ – yes ‘Buddha Smiles’ the project close to Ramu Manivannan’s heart, one that he founded more than a decade ago. Believing in what Gandhi believed in – which is, “universal education through the medium of some craft,” Ramu Manivannan has created an awesome real life model of this principle at the Garden of Peace – Amaithi Poonga.
In an article “Professor Creates Gardens of Peace for children” Prashanti Ganesh writes :
And I quote:
” When a zealous 25-year-old answers at a Harvard University interview that his life’s dream is to build a school, the interviewers might not understand the complete implications of it. It is one thing for a young man to shrug off his dream to go ahead and experience the big American dream, but it is another thing to see the vision through and turn it into reality. And that is exactly what Dr Ramu Manivannan did.
What initially began as modest evening schools under trees or in volunteers’ homes at 10 different locations in the Vellore district, has now officially begun providing free education, uniforms, meals, books and transport to over 170 kids, mostly from poverty-stricken families in the district.
The Garden of Peace, or Amaidhi Poonga as the schools are called, cater to the needs of mostly children of quarry workers and weavers. Dr Ramu believes that all of us have an obligation to give back to society. “I come from a very humble family and my interaction with other kids in my hometown who didn’t get the chance to go to school due to various economic and social reasons and the distance factor are what have always made me want to start a school,” says Ramu. “Even when I was a student, I was socially engaged.”
At 40, he decided that he had taken enough from society and it was time to give back. “I have gained so much from the blessings of the world and since I had always felt strongly about education, starting a school was only natural,” he says. “But if I had known the problems that I would face in running a school, I wouldn’t have done it,” he jokes.
In 2003, when he was with the Delhi University, he used his provident fund from the college to buy the land for the school at Kusumbuppalayam, a one-km-stretch village a little further down Vellore. He managed to set up a shack by 2004, starting the school with seven children and one teacher.
Currently working with seven teachers, all of whom certified to teach at the primary level, the school has seen two batches of students graduate. “Currently we have only till Class V, but are expanding till Class XII next year,” informs Ramu.
He is also looking to open a community college within the same campus, where parents can help out in many ways, such as at the kitchen or in carrying out repair work.
Having been able to raise from others around Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 out of the over Rs 95,000 required to run the school, Ramu puts in the rest of the capital from his own pocket. “I am doing it because I understand reality and poverty at a deep level and not as a theoretician,” he says. “It gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”
One gets a notion through Professor Ramu Manivannan’s Face Book post, of the ideals and activities close to his heart, those that he promotes and fosters. Informing the programme schedule for the 8th international workshop on, Education for Life hosted by Buddha Smiles, he writes:
And I quote:
“BUDDHA SMILES will be hosting its eighth international workshop on Education for Life. This five weeks camp will be held from 12th January 2013 to 16th February 2013. The major activity during this period would be construction of a natural pond that will harvest rain-water from the nearby mountain, revive a well and work on renovating natural buildings. The workshop will include five day social-anthropological visit to the Blue Mountains to understand the ecology and social environment of the unique tribes of Tamil Nadu. During the workshop we will have introduction to permaculture, natural building, organic food , alternative health care and traditional theater. There will be Yoga every morning and occasional night walks besides the weekly reflection under WISDOM TREE,”
Exposing The Sri Lankan Government’s Motive To Hide The Elephant In The Room
The man who cleared his provident fund to build his dream school for destitute children and continues to maintain it mainly from his own funds, has once again borne the cost of another one of his undertakings he so deeply believes in – not only writing but paying for the publication of this book that amounted to close to a Million Indian Rupees.
Today we owe it to Prof. Ramu Manivannan for taking on his shoulders this massive undertaking to refute and rebuke Sri Lanka’s false propaganda and expose the Sri Lankan government’s motive to hide the Elephant in the room, when definitive proof was staring in the face.
The book will stand as a testament of a labour of love that is 976 pages long and took four years to complete with a Foreword from Callum Macrae, Director of the documentary, Sri Lanka: The Killing Fields and No Fire Zone – The Movie; it’s a labour of love indeed to bring justice to the victims who perished in the Mullivaikkal Genocide and to document for posterity this grave crime to slowly eliminate a people based on ethnicity – the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka; and now also because of this book we may at long last get closer to hauling before the courts and bringing to justice the perpetrators of this Genocide.