Category Archives: riots and pogroms

Regulating Sabda Pujā: Did British Regulation of “Noise Worship” Trigger the 1915 Riots in Ceylon?’

Shamara Wettimuny, a reprint of an article in the LSE International History Blog, in May 2018, where the title is Regulating Religious Rites: Did British Regulation of “Noise Worship” Trigger the 1915 Riots in Ceylon?’

Violence targeting the Muslim community has recently increased in Sri Lanka. Yet the scale of the violence is relatively small compared to events that took place a hundred years ago. In 1915, a dispute over a Buddhist procession near a mosque led to island-wide communal riots in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). This article revisits this historical event. It explores how the rise of ethno-religious nationalist ideologies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries converged with British regulation of ‘noise worship’ to trigger the most destructive episode of violence between Sinhala-Buddhists and Muslims to date.

Kandy in early 20th century

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Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka and Sinhalese Perspectives: Barriers to Accommodation

Michael Roberts …. reprinting an article drafted in Heidelberg in 1976 and published in the MODERN ASIAN STUDIES in 1978  … with the pessimistic forecast in its concluding paragraphs being informed by seminar discussions in SRi Lanka in the early 1970s, an article by Martin Woolacott in the Guardian Weekly and news items in UK indicating that young Tamils were receiving military training with the PLO.

Bandaranaike stirring a crowd and Mettananda addressing a crowd of Sinhalayo on Galle Face Green pressing for the Sinhala Only Bill

It is widely recognized that the concepts of ‘state’ and ‘nation’ developed largely out of the history of Europe. In Western Europe the process of state-building preceded and assisted the process of nation-formation. In consequence, the concept of the nation that developed from this process focused on the political community as defined by the institutional and territorial framework. In the tradition of Rousseau, Abbé Sieyes could define a nation as ‘a body of associates living under one common law and represented by the same legislature’.[1] In most lands of Western Europe these developments also produced the model of a single nationality nation or nation-state. In Central and Eastern Europe, the process was different: ‘the nation was first defined as a cultural rather than a political entity’ and the underlying theoretical foundation was in the tradition of Herder rather than Rousseau.[2] Nevertheless, once nationhood had been achieved in these regions there was a tendency to approximate to the model associated with Western Europe. This was made all the easier in such states as Italy and Germany because the majority of their citizens were from one ethnic group; they, too, were single nationality nations.[3] Whatever the dualisms and amalgams in Europe, the export model has been that associated with that of Western Europe—for the simple reason that the predominant colonizing powers were from this part of the Continent.

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NEVER AGAIN! Groundviews Recalls Black July 1983 … Towards Meaningful Reflection

Borella Junction Mayhem–Pic bt Chandragupta Amarasinghe

A Forgotten Community: Remembering Black July

Writer S Karunakaran reflects on Black July from the perspective of a marginalised and often forgotten community – the Malaiyagha Tamils – and specifically those who tried to resettle in the North…

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Woollacott’s Insight in 1976: Tamils set for Guerilla War and Secession

In sorting through my papers I came across a news cutting that is historically significant. Here was one occasion where a visiting journalist deciphered a developing scenario correctly. That I retained the clipping in papers relating to an article  I drafted in 1976 is also significant. These circumstances are clarified briefly at the end of Woollacott’s piece. It is fitting that he should hold centre stage ((though, alas, Alamy have put a price on the only photograph I can find of Woollacott)…. Michael Roberts

Tamil satyagrahis being foricbly removed from Galle Face Green by Sinhala enthusiasts in 1956 during the former’s protest vs the Sinhala Only Bill … 1956 or thereabouts (see Victor Ivan: Paradise in Tears … http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2009/12/20/paradise-in-tears-%E2%80%93-new-edition-by-victor-ivan/)

 Ponnadurai Sivakumaran of Urumpirai was a budding resistance fighter who committed suicide by cyanide in 1974 when trapped by police. He is embodied here in high profile with SJV Chelvanayagam of the Federal Party as the embodiment of resistance to oppression. As such, he reflects the strands of Tamil thinking that Martin Woollacott discerned in 1976. Note that the Tamil New Tigers or TNT had been formed in 1972 and metamorphosed into the LTTE in 1976. In the meanwhile the Tamil United Liberation Front under SJV Chelvanyakam adopted the Vaddukoddai Resolution on 14 May 1976 calling for a separate state of Thamililam.

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June 16, 2018 · 4:29 am

KM de Silva’s Short History of Lanka reviewed critically by Charles Sarvan

Charles Sarvan aka Ponnadurai, in Colombo Telegraphreviewing K. M de Silva’s The Island Story: A Short History of Sri Lanka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2017

EPIGRAPH: “Sri Lanka in the first few centuries after the early settlement was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society: a conception which emphasises harmony and a spirit of live and let live” (K. M. de Silva, op. cit., page 13)

It’s said that fools rush in where the wise fear even to walk. I tiptoe hesitantly, conscious that I am no historian (my discipline was Literature) while the author is perhaps the most eminent of Sri Lankan historians writing in English. The hope is that what I write will be taken as a layman’s perspective and contribution to discussion. Continue reading

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The Recent Sinhala-Muslim Violence in Lanka: A Plea for Tolerance

Asoka Bandarage, in Asia Times, 30 March 2018, where the title runs “Avoiding ‘religious’ violence in Sri Lanka”

On the night of February 22, four drunken Muslim youths traveling on a three-wheeler in Sri Lanka’s Kandy district beat up a Sinhala Buddhist truck driver because he had not allowed them to overtake his truck. The police arrested the assailants but released them on bail.

Although intelligence officers had warned that the incident could be used to instigate ethnic tensions in the area, the police did not take immediate action. After the truck driver died and his body was being taten from the hospital on the night of March 2, feeling betrayed by state authorities, villagers burned tires in protest.

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Profound Reflections: Jean Arasanayagam in Response to Smrti Daniel’s Searching Questions

Jean faces Smrti 

Daniel 1: What in your childhood contributed to the kind of writer you are now? What recurring motifs and images from that time find expression in your work?

JEAN1: So many factors. As I delve into my mind those images together with the diverse motifs that were part of each and every experience of my childhood. I was greatly loved and cared for by my parents and had aunts and uncles who played an important part in the lives of my brother and sister (I was the youngest) and showered us with gifts, especially books, from a very early age. My parents too read a great deal and the houses we lived in were full of books – of course the individual tastes of my parents were reflected in their reading choices. My father loved reading on everything under the sun, sport, Big Game, hunters and hunting, colonial history and landmark figures, discovery and exploration, plantations and the lives of planters in Ceylon (many of them were his friends), reminiscences, biographies, autobiographies, explorers, wars, the jungle lore of Ceylon … So much and so much, while my mother read a great deal of romantic fiction. She had a great store of memories too and would relate very adult stories to me (in between it was Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers, fairy tales, family history where she unfolded hidden narratives which penetrated my mind and which I have reconstructed into greater dimensions to trace our lineage and bloodlines – so everything, now that I look on it all, began in my childhood, as being the youngest I was closest to them while my brother was at College, and my sister too spent more time at school (Wesley and Trinity, later the University of Colombo for my brother, and Girls’ High School for my sister). It would take reams and reams to write about just this one aspect of my childhood. There are other aspects too – the freedoms I enjoyed when I was growing up in the provincial township of Kadugannawa, living in that house on the hill. Continue reading

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