[WSMDiscuss] The Caste Question in Sri Lanka- Denial versus the Ground Reality

Umakant uk4in at yahoo.co.in
Tue Jun 30 17:41:39 CEST 2020

Dear Friends

Greetings! Caste hasalways been a taboo for public discourse in Sri Lanka. All hell breaks loosethe moment the dreaded word ‘C’ is used or mentioned in any publicforum/discussion. But it is very much practiced privately and also publicly bydifferent dominant caste groups among the Sinhala as well as the minority Tamilcommunity. The lower caste people have borne the brunt of the caste system andhave always been at the receiving end in society, economy and polity.  


On the links given belowyou could watch videos and also read useful research paper and opinion piecesabout the hypocrisy of ruling & political caste/s on the question of castein Sri Lanka. 


Do pass it on toothers in your circle/network. 


Watchthe Video: Caste + Resistance - Sinthujan Varatharajah and Thanges Paramsothy  

People for Equalityand Relief in Lanka (PEARL) Tamil Struggle 101, June 28, 2020





Caste+ Resistance-PEARL Speaks with Sinthujan Vartharajah and Thanges Paramsothy

Tamil Guardian, June28, 2020 



Speaking with People for Equality and Relief in Lanka(PEARL), both Sinthujan Varatharajah, an expert political geographer, andThanges Paramsothy, a renowned anthropologist, gave enlightening discussions onnature and continued presence of caste as well the history of resistance to it.




Housingthe Unhomely: A Study of Srilankan Panchamar Fiction 

Krishnamurthy AlameluGeetha

Interventions, InternationalJournal of Post Colonial Studies, Published Online: June 26, 2020 (https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2020.1784023)



Theemergence of Tamil ethnic nationalism in Sri Lanka in the 1980s has brought aboutsignificant geopolitical and social changes in the island nation. Theethno-nationalist mobilizations by the Sinhalese and Tamils censored the castesystem and considered it as a divisive force. Caste ceased to be a marker ofidentity in official documents. Nevertheless, Tamil society continued to bepivoted on caste norms and conventions. As a paradox, caste was removed fromthe public realm, but continued to dominate the lives of the people at thelocal and personal level. The caste ideologies of purity and pollutiondominated the social fabric, resulting in the exploitation and discriminationof Panchamars, a community which occupied the lowest rungs of the caste order.Between the 1950s and 1980s there were significant voices of dissent againstcaste oppression suffered by the Panchamars. The advent of the Tamil ethnicnationalist movement muted the voices protesting against caste hierarchy.Nevertheless, there were several novels, short stories and poems written inTamil by Panchamars, during the 1970s and 1980s, which contradicts the notionof equality and solidarity among Sri Lankan Tamils. 




Breakingthe Silence on Caste

Ahilan Kadirgamar,Opinion, Daily Mirror, February 17, 2020 



Caste is all presentin Jaffna, but a silence prevails about caste oppression. Such silence andinvisibility were not always the case, where vibrant struggles against casteoppression shook Jaffna some five decades ago. It is this history of casteoppression and ways to struggle against it that are the subject of A. G.Yoharaja’s book in Tamil, ‘Elluvom! Nimirvom! Thiralvom! Samuha samathuvam:Aduththaa katta naharvu kuriththa mun varaivu’ (Let’s Rise! Let’s StandStraight! Let’s Mobilise! Social equality: A first frame for the nextmovement), Chinthan Books, 2020. 




Castein Lankan Politics

Thulasi Muttulingam,The Sunday Morning, September 15, 2019 



Lanka Sama SamajaParty (LSSP) veteran Vasudeva Nanayakkara earlier this week opened a can ofworms by talking about caste’s role in the presidential election to a webinterviewer. Oh, the horror! How dare he? Many of Colombo’s denizens were leftclutching their pearls and sniffing their salts due to this affront to theirdelicate sensibilities. One could almost think they applied a monocle to awatering eye to read the accompanying article that announced the veteranleftist’s views too, because most of them missed out on significant chunks ofexactly what Vasudeva had said and how he had said it. It was enough that heused the dreaded “C” word at all – did he not know that it was not at all derigueur to use that word in polite company? We’ll vote for only aSinhala-Buddhist Govigama president, most of us – but how dare he say that outin the open? How dare he? Oh, it’s not to be borne. Let’s all collectivelyclaim he has lost his marbles.




Watch theVideo: Caste in the Tamil Diaspora - Sinthujan Varatharajah 

Cross Roads "TVI", March 01, 2015 

Caste in the Tamil Diaspora - Sinthujan Varatharajah - Cross Roads "TVI" 

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Caste in the Tamil Diaspora - Sinthujan Varatharajah - Cross Roads "TVI"







With Regards 

Umakant, Ph. D 

New Delhi 


My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality. 
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