“Collective”- Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya (BJB) reborn!
“I know that my unity with all people cannot be destroyed by national boundaries and government orders.” — Leo Tolstoy
Ghosts from fifty five-years ago
The ghosts of the past, not from very distant one but from an era of exactly fifty five years ago, are invading our confused and troubled psyches that possessed our forlorn childhoods and kept haunting inside our souls. Those ghosts who manifested themselves in the form of nationalism at times
and more often than not, of blind patriotism, have made a significant and decisive move in the twenty first century, the century of the internet and IPhones, of the 20/20 cricket and Lamborghini racing cars and of Super Stars and Mega Stars. While the wheels of modern scientific discoveries are turning and twisting, the society that is being subjected to the changes that these wheels are causing seems to embrace ever so blindly and ever so unquestioningly all the ill-effects and mayhem that this change leaves behind.
Bed to work and work to bed
The actors and actresses in this great drama of life in the twenty first century don’t seem to have any grasp of the ‘inner content’ of the scientific revolution that is taking hold of all aspects of human life, reducing it to a dull and drab routine of ‘bed to work’ and ‘work to bed’. The age-old human values of considerateness and tolerance of another point of view, accommodation of brother human beings as equals and co-partners of one human family, long and arduous struggle that shaped and defined the excellence that was achieved in the respective chosen fields, they have all been drained down the gutters of human folly and crude ambition. The competitiveness that is the mandatory trait of a free society has been used and abused to trample the very friends who once stood by in leaner times.
The forces of the land the race and the faith
It is not due to a conspiracy of circumstances or of historical wrings that these forces of evil are gathering momentum with each passing day; it is the very vileness of man that has taken full possession of his character and molded it into an unmerciful mercenary of the modern world. Ordinary men and women have been transformed into marauding soldiers of fortune and corruption, of nepotism and bribery, of depravity and wickedness. Religion has become their badge of ‘(dis)honor’ and language the one of division and land the badge of ‘(de)fame’. The forces of “the land, the race and the faith” (Desa, Basa, Resa) having taken over the body-politic of Sri Lanka are continuing their unceasing trudge towards their sure destination. The morality of the reasonably-thinking, educated class is being buried under the onslaught of extremism which is dominated by the fringe groups who brandish ‘the land, the race and the faith’ as their defensive armor and offensive arms.
Playing field not leveled
After centuries of neglect and relegation to a second-class citizen treatment, the Sinhalese Buddhist majority have found fresh frontiers; they have discovered their ‘lost pride’ and a self-defeating sense of inferiority to a minority so small in numbers but quite rich in quality and academic achievements. Affirmative action, as it always does without exception, was introduced to reverse and not to right a self-proclaimed wrong and also to ensure reverse discrimination so that the majority sector would get a better and second chance. The playing field is not leveled any more than it was during the times of the British. This sad saga between two communities, Sinhalese and Tamils, in Sri Lanka continues today in its most tragic and heartbreaking fashion.
Overcoming barriers of caste
The continuing division between the two major communities in Sri Lanka is amply illustrated by Dr. G C Mendis in his book, “Ceylon Today and Yesterday”. In the essay titled “The Rise of Sinhalese Communalism”, Dr. Mendis says thus: “The Sinhalese being a majority community had found it difficult to unite. They had no strong opposition except that of the Tamils to make them do so. They had to overcome the barriers of caste and religion. Besides, the English-educated Sinhalese, separated from the rest, had not sufficient sympathy with the Sinhalese educated class to lead them. The result was that the new communalism sprang from the Sinhalese-educated section and those who followed the Buddhist faith…What had to be done was to capture the Government, just as the English-educated middle class had captured it from the British. Their numbers and the aims of the welfare state had made it possible for them to gain control.”
Unleashing the forces of the Sangha
When S W R D Bandaranaike unleashed the forces of the “Sanga, Veda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru”, in 1956, this phenomenon did in fact materialize in the most potent form and its continuance in the political arena seems unending. The dominance of these forces has come to stay and any attempt to dislodge them from the main arena of political power will meet with sure defeat for any party that has the stupidity to challenge.
Yet it does not have to be a mindless march into the valley of death. One is reminded of the powers that gathered themselves in the wake of the 1956 elections and just prior to the signing of the now-famous Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact in 1958. The organization was called the Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya (Buddhist National Movement), led by Reverend Baddegama Wimalawansa, L H Mettananda and F R Jayasuriya, Sinhalese Buddhist stalwarts of that era. When they performed a Satyagraha at the very premises of the Prime Minister’s private residence, Bandaranaike had no option but to abrogate the Pact and the rest is history.
Rendering any demand of the Tamils a frivolity
What the Sinhalese Buddhists, not only the ordinary folks living in the remote corners of the country but also their leaders who stemmed from the Sinhala-educated class, could not understand or fathom was the utter rejection of the ‘Sinhalese Only’ policy by the Tamils and the intensity with which they opposed that policy. But what was achieved by the ‘war-victory’ in 2009 was given a totally strange and distorted interpretation by these fringe elements who now profess that the war-victory has rendered almost every legitimate demand of the Tamil community as frivolous and without any historical legitimacy.
Tamils in Tamil Nadu a frightening prospect
In a really serious sense, the Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya of the forties and fifties have just been replaced by an organization called the ‘Collective”, a more modern sounding name but connoting in every sense the same old division-ridden communal politics, prophesizing dominance over the minority by the majority. The proximity to India and especially to South India where close to a seventy five (75) million Tamils live in the State of Tamil Nadu lends a frightening prospect to the Sinhalese majority living in Sri Lanka, thus paradoxically creating a minority complex among an overwhelming majority within Sri Lanka. The conglomeration of Bodhu Bala Sena, Rawana Balakaya and other fringe groups along with some well-known protagonists of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist cause, has undertaken to derail the Thirteenth Amendment (13A). Whether they will be successful or not would be known within the coming weeks, if not days.
For Tamil leadership, running to India at every turn is not the answer
The President’s continuance with triumphalism and his overly subservient attitude towards the Maha Sangha is only helping the forces of division so born to further divide the country, not literally but in every other way it is possible. On the other hand, the leadership of the Tamils is not all that prudent nor is it pragmatic. Running to India at a very turn when the heat builds up locally will only aggravate even the moderate Sinhalese in such a scenario. The Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) obedience to the Tamil Diaspora is as destructive and suspicious as the Government mollycoddling the fringe groups in the likes of Bodhu Bala Sena, Rawana Balakaya and the Collective. It is not too pessimistic a view to hold that the gap between the Sinhalese and Tamils seems increasingly unbridgeable. It is indeed a sad story to tell your grandchildren.