“Sri Lanka: The Island of mass graves,” says editorial of Asian Human Rights Commission’s journal for Feb–April 2014. The editorial by Nilantha Ilangamuwa traces the ‘mass grave’ statecraft of ‘Sri Lanka’ since early 1970s. Generalisation of the mass graves and equating them with labels such as JVP and LTTE, is fundamentally misleading, and would not resolve the issue of State in the island, as the former was state terrorism’s response to a political question and the latter was naked genocide to respond to a national question, to which even the JVP was a party. The Tamil graves are largely not LTTE graves, but graves of ordinary members of a nation. If there is anything common that all in the island have to denounce, that is the very ‘Sri Lanka’ state identity, commented Tamil activists for alternative politics.
The identity ‘Sri Lanka’ has no historicity in the island, other than the shameful fact that introduced in 1972, it has become a contemporary history symbol of state terrorism, militarism, mass graves and finally genocide cum on-going genocide, not only in the island perspective, but also in global perspective.
‘Sri Lanka’ State concept and identity was ‘constitutionalised’ on 22 May 1972, following the massacre of thousands of Sinhala JVP activists in April 1971. ‘Sri Lanka’ once again massacred the JVP in late 1980s. Certain outside Establishments indirectly helped the ‘Sri Lankan’ State on both the occasions.
The JVP’s struggle was a Sinhala struggle to change the structure of the State, but on the national question its stand was no different from that of the State.
The Tamils democratically denounced the concept and identity of ‘Sri Lanka’ at its very inception, as evident from the protests of 1972, KKS by-election of 1975 and general elections of 1977.
Disappointed by the State as well as by the rebel movement that came from the Sinhala nation, the Tamil militant struggle to create an alternative State for the Eezham Tamil nation followed later.
The Tamil struggle had to face the gravest genocide in recent human history, and faces on-going genocide, enacted not only by ‘Sri Lanka’ but also by active participation of leading imperialisms of the world.
The Tamil mass graves in the island have an explicit international dimension and generalisation of them in the island is not doing justice.
Generalisation orientates the issue to mere ‘State reform’, which like the idea of ‘regime change’ doesn’t address the question of the concept and identity of a congenitally flawed State.
The ‘State reform’ paradigm now comes from the very international culprits who were grooming and buttressing the State for decades, who continue to impose its identity, and who now want particularly its military that was instrumental to all the mass graves, ultimately to continue the State restructured to suit their new needs.
Generalisation of mass graves subtly aims at ‘blanket amnesty’ to all the regimes as well as detraction of the singularity of the question of genocide and on-going genocide imperialistically experimented on the nation of Eezham Tamils.
If there is anything common about the mass graves to Sinhalese, Tamils and all the other peoples in the island, it is the shame associated with the ‘Sri Lanka’ identity. The symbol, legacy and memories would continue with that identity.
Denouncing the State and geographical identity ‘Sri Lanka’ that came in 1972 in mind and usage is symbolically answering the mass-grave paradigm setters locally and internationally. There are many other alternative ways to refer to the island geographically, or in asserting to one’s identity in every walk of life other than ‘official’ insistences of the Establishments.
Creative writers, artists and progressive media should come forward to consciously denounce the ‘Sri Lanka’ identity, without worrying whether their publications and presentations would find acceptance or the media would get ‘advertisements’. It is like Mahatma Gandhi’s symbolic movement for handmade cloth.