Sri Lanka is Sinhala to Colombo film industry, media and academics

Responding to the protest waged by the Actor’s Guild of the Tamil Nadu Film industry in Chennai against the genocide of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, a Colombo media Ceylon Today on Thursday came out with a feature written by a “special Correspondent,” titled “A friend turned foe.” The feature detailed the long and two-way connections between the film industries of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. The implied message, against the backdrop of ‘economic embrace’ contemplated in the corporate circles of India, is that ‘business should not be affected.’ Whether India’s economic embrace of the Sinhala State should take place over the annihilation of the nation of Eezham Tamils, and whether the Indian Establishment and corporatism are unable to conceive anything alternative, are the questions righteously raised by the protest coming from the Tamil artists, writes an academic in Jaffna.

Further discussion brought out by the academic in Jaffna follows:

The Ceylon Today feature talking on the friendship of the two film industries said: “It is not as if it has been a one-way street between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, with traffic flowing only in one direction, from Chennai to Colombo. Talent and music have gone from Sri Lanka to Tamil Nadu as well.”

But the Ceylon Today feature’s perception of the two-way traffic and what is ‘Sri Lankan’ was restricted to Bhanumathi singing a Sinhala song in 1958 and Malini Fonseka acting with Sivaji Ganeshan in 1978.

K Thavamani Devi, coming from a Jaffna Tamil family: the first film artist who went from the island of Ceylon to Madras Presidency to act as heroine right in her first film in 1936There is no one to remember that the first woman who went from the island to act in the Madras film industry, as heroin as early as in 1936, was Thavamanidevi who came from the then high society of Jaffna.

Because, to the heritage academics and media of the Sinhalese, an Eezham Tamil cannot be a ‘Sri Lankan.’ And the Eezham Tamils don’t have a State for them to be proud about the achievements of their nation or for inviting the ‘embrace’ of Establishments and corporates.

* * *

What is noticed in writing film history could be seen in every walk of study in the island.

A few years ago, a veteran Sinhala Professor and Editor in Chief of Sinhala Encyclopaedia, KNO Dharmadasa, sponsored by the Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission in Chennai, delivered a lecture on “Religions in Contact: Syncretism of Beliefs, Deities and Rituals in Sri Lanka and Southern India.”

His lecture, published as a booklet, had a map showing the distribution of the cults of folk deities in the island. Surprisingly, the map was almost blank on the North and East of the island.

Whether it meant that Tamils in the island didn’t have any folk religion of theirs worthy of note, or the Eezham Tamil folklore was not Sri Lankan folklore, or the author was ignorant, the book had the label ‘Sri Lankan’ for what was exclusively Sinhala.

Typical of its ‘embrace’ to whatever that is ‘Sri Lankan’, The Hindu group in Chennai jumped at interviewing and highlighting his lecture. But no one asked him why the Eezham Tamil heritage was missing.

In July 2011, Professor Dharmadasa “celebrating multilingualism” in the island didn’t want to acknowledge any early presence of Tamil in the island. Tamil came to be introduced into the island at a later time, especially after the Polonnaruva period (c. 13th century AD), he said.

* * *

Another Sinhala academic, an Emeritus Professor of Geography from the University of Peradeniya, C.M. Madduma Bandara, published a paper in 2009 on “Exploring the link between culture and biodiversity in Sri Lanka.”

The paper appeared in SANSAI, an environmental journal of Kyoto University connections, discussed the cultural outlook for human-biodiversity phenomenon in the island, using terms, names and literary references of fauna, flora and place names that are exclusively Sinhala.

The Eezham Tamil perception of the human-biodiversity phenomenon in their own land, expressed through names, terms and toponyms in their own language Tamil for centuries, has no recognition under ‘Sri Lanka’.

Professor Madduma Bandara was attached to the Geography Department of the Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka for forty years. Still one may excuse him for not knowing Tamil and for not knowing the cultural diversity part of the human-biodiversity expressions in the island. But what is academically un-excusable is the paper presenting an image in an international journal that what is expressed in Sinhala and by Sinhalese alone is the Sri Lankan culture – unless the learned professor concedes that the Tamil-prevailing territories are not Sri Lanka.

* * *

International refereed journals, such as SANSAI connected to the Kyoto University of Japan, should take care of the unjustified use of terminologies, especially when they come from genocidal contexts. Otherwise they contribute to the genocide.

Even today universities, international conferences and refereed journals impose the use of the word Sri Lanka on Eezham Tamils. There was a time when the universities in the West equated Tamil with ‘terrorism,’ frowned at the word and insisted on having ‘conferences’ on ‘Sri Lanka’ even when the subject matter was confined to Eezham Tamils. But these ‘temples of knowledge’ don’t take care when Sri Lanka is exclusively equated to Sinhala, even in academic treatment, because the ‘temples’ are just handmaids of the Establishments and States.

* * *

Genocide begins from the mind-set

The way the Sinhala mind-set has long been established on the idea of nation and State in the island and the way it has been internationally presented and in return internationally groomed, the nation of Eezham Tamils would only face genocide and annihilation if they do not achieve independence.

The paly-paly lure aimed at the influential Tamil Nadu film industry by the corporate interests of both India and Sri Lanka as well as by both the Establishments that have deployed all kinds of forces to diffuse any hindrances to their agenda, is ineffective when the basic mind-set is unjustifiable.

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