My past studies of ethnic pogroms in Sri Lanka and India alerted me to the power of oral communication and emotional voices in sparking retaliation against an ethnic other in neighbourhood or region. In May-June 1915 oral tales of Muslim atrocity (mostly concocted one can assume) were carried along the railway tracks and thus converted a clash at Castle Street Kandy on the night of the 28th May night into a series of violent attacks on Muslims residing in such towns as Kegalle, Rambukkana, Colombo, Panadura on the 29th and 30th May and thence to Galle and Matara and their outlying road networks between the 1st and 4th June.
Witness the scene at Godapitiya in the interior near Akuressa when the British GA from Matara reached the spot on the 4th June 1915:
“On arrival I found a terrible scene of ruin, but no sign of the rioters. . . The village was in flames. The mosque, one of the finest in the district, had evidently been blown up with dynamite, while the surrounding coconut trees had been felled so as to fall on the roof. Parts of it were on fire. There was one dead Moorman in the compound, while 8 others (two of whom died on the way to Hospital) were seriously injured. It was most pitiful and one’s sense of helplessness was overwhelming.”
The point that I am underlining here is that emotional Sinhala voices carrying vehement tales along the rail network, and thence along the roads branching off from the railway-station towns, promoted the attacks at a moment in the island history where the two communities were face-to-face in a symbolic political struggle. The time-chart of attacks therefore marks the channels of gossip and denunciation in histrionic voice that sparked violence.
In recent times my articles on the Eelam War and Sinhala-Tamil relations in Colombo Telegraph have invariably resulted in verbal denigration from readers — a few Tamil by name and others masked by pseudonyms. I have usually avoided engagement because that ‘battle terrain’ presents an unwinnable contest.
In recent years I have advertised some of the Thuppahi items — mine as well as essays by others — in Facebook. A few have occasionally drawn adverse remarks from those I deem to be Sinhala chauvinists. But just yesterday/today, a temperate political essay fashioned by a small group of Sinhalese appealing to their “Tamil brethren” [and thus to my Tamil brethren] promoted fire and brimstone from one Suku Navaratnam, AFTER Rizvi Hasan, a FB reader, placed my FB entry within his own site.
Navaratnam, apparently, is a Tamil medical man domiciled in Scarborough in UK. Rather to my surprise, he turns out to be a product of Trinity College, Kandy. This indicates that political fervour among the well-educated is no less feverish than the zealotry of those in the lower strata of society.
The bile and abuse directed by Navaratnam at Rizvi Hasan and Michael Roberts are not, of course, edifying, The abuse is marked by inanity and imbecility … and have been immediately challenged by others ………….
Those challenges notwithstanding, this set of comments is presented here in order to promote thoughts about the incendiary capacity vested in modern social media. Can it not be said that vituperation in these channels deepens and sharpens extremist thought and hinders compromise?
The seeds of sharpening conflict among Sri Lankans abroad and within the island, in my reading, do not rest only within the hearts and minds of Wahhabi zealots, Sinhala or Tamils chauvinists, or those within extremist groups on the right and left of politics. Numerically small collectives in pursuit of “righteous causes” (in their own estimation) sometimes mount campaigns that are edged with intimidation, abuse and border on violence. Their “truths,” moreover, are sometimes founded upon fallacy and false ‘facts.’.
It is in order to generate reflections about the reverberations generated within social media that I place Suku Navaratnam’s verbal abuse before the public. That he is a medical man and one who was educated at Trinity College, Kandy will no doubt cause surprise – the more so when he turns out to be photogenic and genial in visage. All of us, surely, must be more temperate in our public pronouncements, whether on Twitter, FB, Google, print media, bar, club or roadside.
RESPONSE to FACEBOOK Version of https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/dear-tamil-brethren/?fbclid=IwAR1ckV3-rPaOzB-lJZ8QC5xPIjPUt13WLn-FVY0AoCevQLJw1bdojHLN_fU
Suku Navaratnam: Another clown posing as an academic …… birds of a feather flock together! On what basis does this so-called academic assume that all Tamils want a separate state? On what basis do you assume that all Tamils are LTTE supporters?
Your higher IQ that somehow could not get you into the Colombo and Peradeniya medical schools, only for your father to buy your medical degree from NCMC?
Rizvi Hasan in response: Suku Navaratnam at least my father bought me a honourable degree with his own savings (rather than borrowing from friends & packing off his son for higher studies to UK) on which I built up repute & patriotism in return. What did your parent (with monies borrowed) buy you from UK in return? Was it a rotten ill-gotten mind aligned to the diaspora scums inclined to destroying their country of birth while bum sucking their adopted home land natives for survival. What for talking on patriotism? To be honest, you are an absolute disgrace to your late honourable parents, not forgetting your dad who also practised alongside my respected father in a common chamber while your mom was a v much adored teacher at trinity. Who knows whether they adopted a swine for some reason? Learn to respect your native land you dementic mentally insane scoundrel sulking in frustration. At least now hope for a decent rebirth!
He would have never thought that you would grow up to being a bloody disgrace to Sri Lanka for he was one who nurtured patriotism into my mind. You on your part are an absolute disgrace to the tamil community. I have plenty of friends born to tamil homes of repute & leading v dignified lives in unity with all as proud sri lankans. As a matter of fact we all behaves as brothers from a common parenthood. You would not even get close to being their sewage cleaner or scavenger. I could not find better words to describe you. As regards my academic achievements or how I won them is none of your business. Now go & wash your neighbours toilets as a retired elderly.
Suku Navaratnam: …… “Scumbag, don’t disgrace yourself further. Too bad that your frustration has damaged your character to the point at which greed dominates. Cavorting around with crooks and murderers and making unfounded race based allegations only brings disgrace disrepute and to your honourable family.
Remember, an academic, and a scientific one at that, must cite evidence making assertions. What can you cite to support your allegations? One begins to wonder if the “professorship” is just a cheap reward for your political campaigning! Is it?
Rizvi Hasan: Suku Navaratnam my father must be turning in his grave that he took over & nurtured a swine in you after the hopeless situation you all were in. He would have never thought that you would grow up to being a bloody disgrace to Sri Lanka for he was one who nurtured patriotism into my mind. You on your part are an absolute disgrace to the tamil community. I have plenty of friends born to tamil homes of repute & leading v dignified lives in unity with all as proud sri lankans. As a matter of fact we all behaves as brothers from a common parenthood. You would not even get close to being their sewage cleaner or scavenger. I could not find better words to describe you. As regards my academic achievements or how I won them is none of your business. Now go & wash your neighbours toilets as a retired elderly.
Lakmin Abeygoonesekera: ……….Rashantha De Alwis Seneviratne This Suku Navaratnam, idiot is equally deplorable as a racist economic refugee in Scarborough. The pathetic clown is jealous, that he doesnt have a country.
Suku Navaratnam: ……… Michael Roberts hides his African slave ancestry by covering himself in the Sinhala Buddhist nationalistic narrative. Another fake academic who writes opinion pieces under the cover of academic research. A true scumbag who has sold his soul to the devil.
[Kathiravan] 2012 “An Angry Tamil: Kathiravan confronts Roberts,” 27 February 2012, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/an-angry-tamil-kathiravan-confronts-roberts/
Roberts, Michael 1990 “Noise as cultural struggle: tom-tom beating, the British and communal disturbances in Sri Lanka, 1880s-1930s,” in Veena Das (ed.) Mirrors of violence, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 240-85.
Roberts, Michael 1994a Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers.
Roberts, Michael 1994b “The imperialism of silence under the British raj: arresting the drum,” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers, pp.149-81.
Roberts, Michael 1994c “Mentalities, ideologues, assailants, historians and the pogrom against the Moors in 1915,” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers, pp.149-81.
Roberts, Michael 1994d “The agony and ecstasy of a pogrom: southern Lanka, July 1983,” in Roberts, Exploring confrontation. Sri Lanka: politics, culture and history, Reading:Harwood Academic Publishers, pp. 317-25. …. Reprinted in Nethra, 2003 vol. 6: 199-213.
Roberts, Michael 1996 “Teaching lessons, removing evil: strands of moral puritanism in Sinhala nationalist practice,” South Asia, Special Issue, XIX: 205-20.
Roberts, Michael 2009 “Marakkala Kolahaalaya: Mentalities directing the pogrom of 1915,” in Roberts, confrontations I Sri Lanka, Vijitha Yapa Piblications, 2009, chap 5, pp113-53.
Roberts, Michael 2017 “Kill Any Sikh: The Anti-Sikh Pogrom of 1984 in Delhi in Bhawan Singh’s IMAGES,” 26 March 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/kill-any-sikh-the-anti-sikh-pogrom-of-1984-in-delhi-in-bhawan-singhs-images/
Roberts, Michael 2017 “Anguish as Empowerment …and A Path to Retribution,” 22 March 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/?p=24595&preview=trueWalia
 Apart from my two articles on the 1915 anti-Moor pogrom, see the other articles on the power of histrionic voice in fermenting ethnic violence.
 Diary entry by Browning (AGA, Matara), 4 June 1915, DNA 26/173.
 This aspect was (and is) the more central issue and can be gleaned if readers visit the two articles in Exploring Confrontation 1994 and the reproduction of one of these essays in Roberts, Confrontations,2009.