Tamil violence boomeranged on Tamils - Part II | Sunday Observer

Tamil violence boomeranged on Tamils - Part II

1 August, 2021

The Vadukoddai Resolution of May 14, 1976 was a critical turning point in Tamil politics: it was the occasion on which they decided to go to battle with the elected state of Sri Lanka to establish a separate state. The Tamil leaders labelled it as the “sacred fight to freedom”. It is a phrase which says in a colourful way that they were determined to wage a battle against the state to achieve their political goal of a separate state. Irrespective of the attempt to sanctify the nature of the violence in the phraseology, in real terms it amounts to a declaration of battle against the democratically elected state.

The political narrative in the Vadukoddai Resolution, which outlined their past, their present and the imagined future, too was tailored to justify the establishment of a separate state for the Tamil minority, breaking up the internationally recognised state of Sri Lanka.

Knowing that neither the international community, nor the Sri Lankan state would willingly grant a separate state the Tamil leadership decided to wage a battle. In the Vadukoddai Declaration of Battle, they urged the Tamil youth to take up arms against the democratically elected state and never cease until they achieve the state of Eelam.

The Vadukoddai Resolution was a deliberately planned political manoeuvre to overthrow the sovereign rights won by the state in 1948 from the British and to claim, through violence, the power to set up a rival sovereign state for Tamils. In their claim for a separate state, one of the arguments adduced by the Tamils is against the British for handing over power to the Sinhalese instead of handing over the northern territory to the Tamils.

They claim that power was handed over to the Portuguese by the Tamil kings of Jaffna and, consequently, the British, who inherited it from the Dutch successors of the Portuguese, should have handed over Jaffna as separate kingdom to the Tamils instead of handing over a united Sri Lanka to the Sinhalese. It is far-fetched argument which stretches history like a piece of rubber to breaking point.

The final verdict on historical events is judged by the results. Vadukoddai Resolution too should be put to that test. Clearly, it has been a disaster to the Tamils. It led the Tamils down the battle path. It resulted in killing more Tamils than all the other forces put together. It was the Tamils who faced the brunt of the Vadukoddai violence. It asked the youth to take up arms and Vellupillai Prabhakaran came out of it as the “Thalivar” (Leader). The Vadukoddai Resolution laid down the rationale for his violence. The untested and untried Tamil youth were given the licence to take up arms. Their violence was legitimised in the Vadukoddai Resolution and elevated to a sacred duty.

So, when they lost their “sacred fight for freedom” at Nandikadal on May 19, 2009 – 33 years after the declaration of the Vadukoddai Battle -- they lost everything. They lost in the battlefield not only the historical, legal and political arguments with which they hoped to establish their separate state but also the vital military muscle of the Vadukoddai Battle which established the quasi-state that was hanging on the sole figure of Prabhakaran.

When he was killed in the lagoon of Nandikadal they lost the bargaining power and the international status which they had gained militarily and was thrown back to square one. They were reduced to an effete provincial entity without the power to dictate terms to either the Sri Lankan state or the international mediators.

For the Tamils to rise again they will have to recreate another Prabhakaran. Neither the prevailing political terrain in Jaffna nor the overwhelming power of the Security Forces can open up space for the birth and growth of another Prabhakaran in the foreseeable future. The Tamil leaders are left wandering among the ruins of the Vadukoddai Resolution, without acknowledging that they misled the Tamil people into a black hole of Prabhakaran who turned Eelam into Evil-laam.

The tragedy is that the Tamil intellectuals and their political leaders have not sat down to assess their failed past and consider viable and attainable alternatives to the elusive and illusive goals in the Vadukoddai Resolution. Partly due to historical circumstances, the Tamil leaders are stuck in it and no one has the courage to question it. As a political instrument it contains one of the most venomous ideologies: it is based on anti-Sinhala-Buddhist history, politics, culture and future --- the primary sources on which Tamil leaders survive, feeding on hate politics demonising the “other”.


North-South politics would not have taken this disastrous turn if the peninsula politicians had been more realistic and not taken the turn it did in the mid-thirties, abandoning the progressive politics of the Jaffna Youth Movement. Peaceful co-existence is well within the reach of the two communities. It incontrovertibly demonstrated by the Tamil youth in the thirties.

Their history is a record of peaceful coexistence until violence broke out in Navalapiiya in June 1939 when G. G. Ponnambalam made the provocative attack on Sinhala-Buddhist history and culture. The failure of the Vadukoddai Resolution necessitates a revisit to their past and reconsider the pragmatic parameters of the future. They must seriously seek alternatives to the failed past because neither the Tamils nor the nation can live in a permanent state of tension.

It is the ghost of the Vadukoddai Resolution that still haunts Tamil politics. It contains the very essence of all Tamil politics. It is the only manifesto of the Tamils that explicitly laid down its political agenda as a full-blown ideology. Tamil communalism which began as a consolidated political force under G. G. Ponnambalam “(there was no Tamil nationalism prior to the mid-twentieth century)” – p. 5, Devanesan Nesiah Tamil Nationalism, Marga Insitute) did not go as far as the Vadukoddai Resolution in demanding a separate state.

The latter day discovery of Tamil nationalism found its full expression in the Vadukoddai Resolution. It was the collective will of the leading Tamils in the community. It harked back to a version of history written by them to build a case for their separate state. There was more Tamil hubris in it than history. It is a history that attempts to equate Tamil history with that of Sinhala-Buddhist history. At times, it even claims to be superior to that of Sinhala-Buddhist history. In it Tamil hubris constitutes Tamil history to a great extent.

The Vadukoddai Resolution was overloaded with Tamil hubris. It is their misguided hubris that led them to overstate their claims in history. In order to press their claim for a separate state they wrote a history that claimed to be superior to that of the Sinhala-Buddhists. Those who get their past twisted will lose their way and not find the right path to the future.

One of the fatal failings of the Jaffna Tamil has been their unbattleranted sense of superiority. It has been a common trait with them to look down upon the rest of humanity as inferiors. Tamil sense of superiority reached its explosive peak when G. G. Ponnmabalam told a meeting in Navalapitiya in June 1939: “The greatest Sinhalese kings were Tamils. The Tamils had an unparalleled history and an unequalled traditional culture” whereas the Sinhalese were “a nation formed from the hybridisation of a small class of people from North India; they were a nation of hybrids without a history.” (Hindu Organ – June 1, 1939).

Tamil history was incurably coloured by the myths of their imagined past. The exaggerated claims of a mythical past were not corroborated by the extant historical evidence. Besides, their claims were completely out of proportion to realities. With their bloated view of history and their own self-importance they could not arrive at a rational or a realistic view of politics for peaceful co-existence.

Vadukoddai Resolution is the logical end of an extremist ideology. It was an attempt to rewrite history to suit separatist politics. But the history that was written in Nandikadal was different. It put an end to the Vadukoddai violence. Looking back at the failure of the

The Vadukoddai Resolution to achieve its declared goals it is obvious that the architects of the Resolution had not only overstated their case but also overstepped their mark by miles.


There is no doubt that the political passions that inspired them were fiery and uncompromising. But their approach to problems facing them and views were unrealistic. An incident documented by Neville Jayaweera, Government Agent of Jaffna, illustrates the kind of arrogance that drove Jaffna politicians to extremes. It happened when Dr. E. M. V. Naganathan, threatened the GA at a conference held to discuss common issues.

Jayaweera wrote: “Speaking in English I opened the conference by introducing myself. I could not proceed any further before Dr. E. M. V. Naganathan, in lay life a fine gentleman, but as an MP notoriously volatile, stood up and addressing me in Tamil said,

“Mr. GA, you are here as a ruler and as an oppressor. We don’t want you here and you can go back to wherever you came from. If you proceed with this conference any further I shall brain you with this paper weight,” and so saying he actually picked up a glass paperweight from the conference table and raised his hand as if to throw the missile at me….” (p. 88 – Jaffna Exorcising the Past and Holding the Vision, Neville Jayaweera, Government Agent of Jaffna, 1963 – 1966) (Ravaya Publishers).

The Vadukoddai Battle was a larger version of Dr. Naganathan’s bravado. This is typical of Tamil politics. Their unrestrained arrogance knows no limits. But it has taken them nowhere. The Vadukoddai Battle has been an extension of the kind of aggression displayed by Naganathan, full of provocative hot air which leaves them with nothing in the end.

Where have 33-years of the Vadukoddai violence taken the Tamils? They charged like wounded bulls and, in the end, left the Tamil community bleeding. If the Vadukoddai Battle was handled by a more balanced and a far-sighted pragmatic leader – Prabhakaran’s arrogance made him rely on violence alone throwing away all opportunities that came his way to crown him -- the Tamils would have been laughing all the way today. Prabhakaran knew how to make enemies but not how to handle them. India was his nemesis. Taking on India, his best ally confirms the stupidity of Tamil arrogance. It’s Naganathan all over again!

The seasoned Tamil leadership, consisting of the elderly intellectuals of the Tamil community, were fully cognisant of the serious consequences of going to battle with the state of Sri Lanka. They should take full responsibility for the consequences that befell the nation and the Tamil community in particular.

The question that arises in the light of the total failure of the Vadukoddai Battle (aka Eelam battle) at Nandikadal is quite plain: Was the waging of battle necessary? After all, the Tamils had thrown all their might and energies into the Vadukoddai Battle.


The collective forces of Tamils had reached a peak in waging the Vadukoddai Battle. Both national and international forces, particularly the Tamil Diaspora, had come together to strengthen the Vadukoddai forces. At no point in the history of Jaffna has there been such a coming together of Tamil resources, mobilisation of cadres, charismatic leadership and overall commitment to the cause. And yet what did the Tamils achieve with their violence except end in utter humiliation at Nandikadal?

It is the Tamil leadership that must be held responsible for the failure of Tamils to resolve their problems. What is note worthy, is also that all three violent movements – JVP, LTTE and Zaharan’s – have been utter failures.

The decision to go down the battle path in Vadukoddai was a huge gamble. But the Tamils drunk with arrogance were blind to the consequences. They were victims of their own extremism. By the seventies they had come to the end of their political tether. They began in the twenties be demanding an extra seat in the colonial Legislature. In the thirties they escalated it to fifty-fifty. In the forties they turned it into federalism. And then they finally promised Eelam as the panacea to the Tamil problems.

It was the last stage and they had to deliver a separate state, according to their political promise. There was no other alternative. They were hoisted by their own petard. They had survived on hate politics. And by 1976 Tamil hate politics was demanding the fulfillment of its promises. The result was the Vadukoddai Resolution which declared battle.

Resorting to battle was the last card available to the Tamil leadership. They had exhausted all other promises and avenues. They had nowhere else to go. They had hyped hate politics to the point of no return. Eelam was promised as the solution to all Tamil problems. The Sinhala-Buddhists were demonised as the evil that had to be vanquished. With their hate politics they had painted themselves into a corner from which they could not escape. They were expected to deliver Eelam as the answer to the evil Sinhala-Buddhist state.

Though the Tamil leadership had one foot in the democratic stream, posing as non-violent Gandhians open to peaceful negotiations, they had the other foot in the extremist ideology that was committed to a separate state.

It is an ideology that could be pursued only through violence. Separatism and violence are inseparable because no established state would willingly agree to divide a nation on the demands of a single minority. By 1976 S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the so-called non-violent Gandhian, combed through every phrase in the Vadukoddai Resolution, and endorsed the declaration of battle.

Prof. A. J. Wilson, son-in-law of Chelvanayakam, confirms that his father-in-law approved the wording in the Resolution. (p. 128, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism 1947 – 1977, A Political Biography.) Can a Gandhian committed to non-violence also approve of going to battle knowing the horrors that battles unleash on the civilians?

The declaration of battle in 1976 was in stark contrast to the historical conditions of the youth of the twenties and thirties. It was the period when Jaffna showed the path to the most pragmatic and peaceful ideal for multi-ethnic, multi-cultural societies plagued with corrosive divisions and violence. In the mid-twenties the Jaffna Youth, influenced by Gandhi-Nehruvian nationalism and American liberalism (they were mainly products of American missionary schools) became a political force in Jaffna.

They opposed the caste system, communal representation, federalism, and campaigned courageously for a united nation. They even rejected the Donoughmore Reforms and demanded full sbattleaj, saying it was too little too late. They were influenced mainly by the Indian National Congress. They allied themselves with Gandhi and Nehru and not with the Dravidian separatist movement of Tamil Nadu which was gathering momentum, parallel to the Indian nationalist movement.


Led by Handy Perinbanayagam, a dynamic liberal who was far ahead of his time, the Jaffna Youth Congress adhered to nationalism of Gandhi-Nehruvian model. As opposed to this Chelvanayakam and Amirthalingam allied themselves with the Tamil separatists of the Dravidastan.

The Jaffna Youth Congress was a movement that showed the path to the future. It was an inspiring movement that galvanised the political leadership from the south. Its uncompromising anti-imperialism, its commitment to equality and communal harmony, its futuristic ideals for the nation attracted the intellectual and political elite of the time. P de S. Kularatne, Philip Gunabattledena, W. Dahanayake, T. B. Jayah, A. E. Goonasinghe, are some of the leaders who joined hands with the Youth Congress.

For the first time a political party in Jaffna abandoned communalism and daringly followed communal harmony as the way forbattled. It was powerful enough to drive out G. G. Ponnambalam from Jaffna. He was forced to contest a seat in Mannar which he lost. But by mid-thirties Ponnambalam staged a comeback with vengeance. The idealism of the Youth Congress ran out with their miscalculated opposition to the Donoughmore reforms.

They boycotted the first Donoughmore elections. Even Nehru advised against such a boycott. But their commitment to “Poorna swaraj” (full independence) was such that they refused to compromise. It was a political blunder for which they paid heavily by losing the battle to communal forces led by the Tamil Congress. Ponnambalam rode back to power on the back of communalism and the rest, of course, is history.

The swing from non-violent, democratic communal harmony of the Jaffna Youth Congress in the thirties to the Vadukoddai Battle in the seventies has been the most bitter period for national unity and peace. The Jaffna Youth Congress proved that peaceful co-existence is viable, necessary and the only way out for the nation. The alternative tried was Vadukoddian Battle. Was it necessary? There was inevitability in the way the events moved inexorably to its climax. But was it necessary? Weren’t there non-violent alternatives available to avoid Vadukoddai violence?

When Ponnambalam was crying for fifty-fifty he was offered 55-45 but he rejected it. “Ponnambalam overreached himself by remaining inflexible on his formula when groups of Sinhalese State Councillors favoured a compromise in the ration of 50-40 or even 55-45….” Wrote Prof. A. J. Wilson (Ibid p. 13). In other words, the “unarmed Dharmapalas” were going all out to offer 45% to a 12 % minority. Which majority of 75% had ever offered 45% to a 12% minority? Tamil arrogance, as usual, refused to recognise what was good for them, let alone reason.

Prabhakaran did the same. He was offered the Chief Ministership by Rajiv Gandhi. Chandrika Bandaranaike offered him the North and the East for ten years without an election. Ranil Wickremesinghe virtually gave him his Eelam with international guarantees. He shredded every offer of peace with his arrogance.

When will our political scientists recognise Tamil arrogance and intransigence as the prime factors that had ruined peace and peaceful co-existence? When will they concede that it is the Naganathans, the Ponnambalams and Prabhakarans who have been the enemies of the Tamils and destroyed their chances of settling down to a peaceful future?