By Satharatilaka Banda Atugoda During the past few months it has been observed that there has been unrest in the Northern peninsula of our motherland. Perhaps the guardians of Lanka both worldly and spiritual have been silent, and observers in the periphery too were afraid to voice their feelings. It is in this background that [...]

Sunday Times 2

The prevailing calm in North should be protected


By Satharatilaka Banda Atugoda

During the past few months it has been observed that there has been unrest in the Northern peninsula of our motherland. Perhaps the guardians of Lanka both worldly and spiritual have been silent, and observers in the periphery too were afraid to voice their feelings. It is in this background that people at the grassroots have to reminisce about them.

There was an objection by the political hierarchy in the North to the placement of a Buddha statue in a city in the North. One is not aware of what the ultimate resolution was. In Buddhist literature Nagadeepa was one of the sacred venues which the blessed one set foot in to settle the dispute between two warring clans over a gem-studded throne. During the reign of King Vasabha 127-171 AC, the vihara was built on this spot, Nagadeepa, according to Vallipuram gold plate. Nagadeepa, in fact, was the name by which this region was historically identified. It was also the region in which the doctrine was accepted even before Arahant Mahinda officially, brought the dhamma during the reign of Devanam Piyatissa. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Nagas who inhabited this region had their places of veneration. The ancient copper plates, found in Vallipuram and Skandavarodai, and many other places, suggest that the doctrine had been imbibed by the inhabitants, of the region.

Recent unrest in Jaffna.

Buddhism in the North
There are Buddha statues found in many villages, including Nagadeepa and the peninsula proper. It is recorded in Southern Indian history that the Pallavas and Cholas built shrines in the Northern region of Sri Lanka when they were rulers of Lanka. They built such shrines in Pallavanesvaram, Nagapattinam, and Kaveripattinam, during the 4th and 5th centuries. These areas have been extensively researched and the existence of Buddhist viharas was established, by Prof. Karthigesu Indrapalan, Mudaliyar Rasanayagam, Walpola Rahula Thera, and Puravidya Chakravarthi Thera, Ellawala Medhananda Thera and many eminent scholars. It is thus a historical injustice to deprive the rightful place to the doctrine of the Buddha, in the Northern peninsula. Sanghamitta Theri arrived in Lanka with the sacred bodhi sapling at Dambakolapatuna. The phenomenon of building images and viharas in the North was only a part of the unrestricted sharing of the doctrine by kings who ruled Lanka.

The more significant factor is that even the kings of India who were Hindus, considered the Buddha one of the ten incarnations of the God Vishnu, reflecting the veneration and respect they had for the blessed one. Politics entered the religious domain later in modern times, that certain segments of society utilised politics to achieve their ends, which is very sad to say the least. Unfortunately some the political leaders in the North today, are engaged in this unpleasant exercise, which has never occurred in the religious history of Lanka.

Tamil culture
Using ‘religion’ they started a movement called, ‘Eluher Thamil’‘Rise Tamils’in September this year. This movement spearheaded by the political leadership in the Northern Provincial Council, has sent letters to Tamil speaking people to rise to protect the Tamil culture. There is no earthly being, striving to destroy the Tamil culture in Sri Lanka. The truth is that in the past Tamil culture was given its rightful place in Sri Lanka and all avenues opened for it to thrive, amidst other cultures. The Tamil language spoken and written in Jaffna is superior to that of Tamil Nadu according to Tamil scholars. It signifies the space provided by successive administrations to develop the Tamil culture, has borne fruit. In Government there exists a separate portfolio for Tamil culture and Hinduism, the religion the majority of the Tamils profess. Hindu kovils exist all over the country and even the Sinhala people venerate in kovils and follow the Hindu Pantheon of Gods. In fact for the majority community, Hinduism has become a unifying factor of the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The extremist Tamil leaders may want a divisive force to emerge between the two communities to achieve their ambitions. The Tamil language enjoys equality of status under the constitution. May be there are deficiencies, in the implementation of the policies. Tamil is being taught in schools to Sinhalese children and Sinhala is taught to Tamil-speaking children. Any improvements of these policies could be undertaken without leading the youth of the north once again on a ruinous path.

Terror groups
On the contrary, what is happening is the emergence of varied terror groups utilising the call for protection of the region, in the name of AAWA, and other splinter groups. It is reported that they are groups of boys who help the political hierarchy. They had wielded their swords at two policemen in Chunnakam, to avenge the deaths of two university students. There have been theories presented on the origin of these groups, for the consumption of lay persons to lull them into a long sound false sleep, on these national issues. It is history repeating itself; in the 1980s when the LTTE was raising its ugly head the political leadership made the ‘common man’ believe that they are a bunch of unemployed youth trying to win their demands. When they started killing their own leaders the political leadership had to admit that they had another agenda; it is history now, what followed.

The guardians

The worldly guardians should tell the truth to the ‘common man’, who they are, what their motives are and what the guardians are going to do, if there are terror groups.
In the 1980s too there were unfortunate incidents involving security forces, and the worst was where 13 dead bodies of soldiers had to be brought to the south for burial or cremation, triggering a carnage that became a turning point in the ethnic history of our motherland. The spiritual guardians should protect this land from a repeat of another unholy period.

The death of two university students in the north where the police is allegedly implicated, is sad and the sorrow of those parents and family should be shared by all peace-loving persons. The worldly guardians of our land should take precautions to see that these kind of incidents do not re-occur in the Northern peninsula.
It is the prime responsibility of the leadership of the North to desist from trying to achieve their political ends by whipping-up emotions of people using religion, language and culture. The duty of the leadership of the South should be to protect the innocent civilians of the North, and make them economically strong, without bringing new contentious issues to separate them from South. That will only preserve the calm in the North.

(The writer was an Ambassador for Sri Lanka.)

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.