Five decennaries ago in 1971, Bangladesh with India’s strong-willed back up won a glorious victory over Pakistan due to the brilliant soldiers of Bangladesh-India, full-fledged support of the Bengalis, an unwavering political leadership of India and Bangladesh governments, and strong military and diplomatic support from Moscow. Well known is Russia’s power play that prevented a joint Pakistan-American-Chinese attack on the soil of Bangladesh in 1971.
“I speak to you at a moment of grave peril to our country and our people,” the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said, as she addressed the nation on All India Radio on December 3 evening, 1971.
“Some hours ago, soon after 5.30 pm on December 3, Pakistan launched a full-scale war against us,” Gandhi said, referring to sneak attacks launched by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The PAF targeted Indian Air Force (IAF) bases in Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipur, Utterlai, Jodhpur, Ambala and Agra. These were pre-emptive strikes meant to forestall Indian fighter jets from attacking targets in Pakistan. Emergency has been declared for the whole of India.”
“Today, the war in Bangladesh has become a war on India, and this imposes upon me, my government and the people of India an awesome responsibility,” Gandhi said. She further said, “India and Pakistan were formally at war.”
The war is not going very well for Pakistan, as Indian armour mowed through Bangladesh and the Pakistan Air Force was blown out of the subcontinent’s sky. Meanwhile, the Pakistan’s military in the West is demoralised and on the verge of collapse as the Indian Army, its Air Force attack and freedom fighters of Bangladesh made onslaught on the Pakistan army round the clock.
But still then, Nixon vauntingly expressed desire was to save Pakistan. He concurred with his buddy Kissinger. Nixon ordered to keep US aircraft carriers moving now.
Kissinger responded, “The carriers—everything is moving. Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis; the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five. So, we’re going to keep that moving until there’s a settlement.”
Nixon then asked his crony, “Could you tell the Chinese it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces?” Kissinger replied in the affirmatory. Nixon unwrapped that they have got to threaten or they have got to move, one of the two.
With the fullest support of Bangladesh’s valiant and patriotic freedom fighters and the freedom-loving people in general, the 1971 war is considered to be modern India’s finest hour, in military terms. The clinical professionalism of the Indian army, navy and air force; a charismatic brass led by the legendary Sam Maneckshaw; and ceaseless international lobbying by the political leadership, especially by PM Indiraji worked brilliantly to set up a glorious victory.
After two weeks of vicious land, air and sea battles, nearly 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered before Bangladesh-India’s rampaging joint army command, the largest such capitulation since General Paulus’ surrender at Stalingrad in 1943. However, it could all have come unstuck without help from veto-wielding Moscow, with which New Delhi had the foresight to sign a security treaty with them in 1971.
However, Russia’s entry thwarted a scenario that could have led to multiple pincer movements against India.
On December 10, even as Nixon and Kissinger were frothing at the mouth, Indian intelligence intercepted an American message, indicating that the US Seventh Fleet was steaming into the war zone. The Seventh Fleet, which was then stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin, was led by the 75,000-ton nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. The world’s largest warship, it carried more than 70 fighters and bombers. The Seventh Fleet also included the guided missile cruiser US’s King, guided missile destroyers USS Decatur, Parsons and Tartar Sam, and a large amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli.
Standing between the Indian cities and the American ships was the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet led by the 20,000-ton aircraft carrier, Vikrant, with barely 20 light fighter aircraft. When asked if India’s Eastern Fleet would take on the Seventh Fleet, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, said: “Just give us the orders.” The Indian Air Force, having wiped out the Pakistani Air Force within the first week of the war, was reported to be on alert for any possible intervention by aircraft from the Enterprise.
Meanwhile, Soviet intelligence reported that a British naval group led by the aircraft carrier Eagle had moved closer to India’s territorial waters. This was perhaps one of the most ironic events in modern history where the Western world’s two leading democracies were threatening the world’s largest democracy in order to protect the perpetrators of the largest genocide since the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. However, India did not panic. It quietly sent Moscow a request to activate a secret provision of the Indo-Soviet security treaty, under which Russia was bound to defend India in case of any external aggression.
Russia dispatched a nuclear-armed flotilla from Vladivostok on December 13, 1971 under the overall command of Admiral Vladimir Kruglyakov, the Commander of the 10th Operative Battle Group (Pacific Fleet). Though the Russian fleet comprised a good number of nuclear-armed ships and atomic submarines, their missiles were of limited range (less than 300 km). Hence, to effectively counter the British and American fleets, the Russian commanders had to undertake the risk of encircling them to bring them within their target. This they did with military precision.
Russian Admiral Kruglyakov, who commanded the Pacific Fleet from 1970 to 1975, recalled that Moscow ordered the Russian ships to prevent the Americans and British from getting closer to “Indian military objects”. The genial Kruglyakov added, “The Chief Commander’s order was that our submarines should surface when the Americans appear. It was done to demonstrate to them that we had nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean. So, when our subs surfaced, they recognised us. In the way of the American Navy stood the Soviet cruisers, destroyers and atomic submarines equipped with anti-ship missiles. We encircled them and trained our missiles at the Enterprise. We blocked them and did not allow them to close in on Karachi, Chittagong or Dhaka.”
The Russian manoeuvres clearly helped prevent a direct clash between India and the US-UK combine. The declassified documents reveal that the Indian Prime Minister went ahead with her plan to liberate Bangladesh despite inputs that the Americans had kept three battalions of Marines on standby to deter India, and that the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target the Indian Army, which had broken through the Pakistani Army’s defences and was thundering down the highway to the gates of Lahore, West Pakistan’s second largest city.
Despite Kissinger’s goading and desperate Pakistan’s calls for help, the Chinese did nothing. US diplomatic documents reveal that Indira Gandhi knew the Soviets had factored in the possibility of Chinese intervention. According to a cable referring to an Indian cabinet meeting held on December 10, “If the Chinese were to become directly involved in the conflict, Indira Gandhi said, the Chinese know that the Soviet Union would act in the Sinkiang region. Soviet air support may be made available to India at that time.”
On December 14, General A.A.K. Niazi, Pakistan’s military commander in the-then East Pakistan, told the American consul-general in Dhaka that he was willing to surrender. The message was relayed to Washington.
Interesting glimpses from history that must be still so fresh in memory for all those who lived in the sub-continent in those eventful days of 1971. India, in 1971 succeeded in defeating a mightier military axis (USA-Britain-France, aided further by the tacit support of China for Pakistan) because primarily of India’s ‘moral power’ and, certainly, because it knew it was going to win the war in the very ‘object’ front (the Eastern Front) which was the cause and reason for the 1971 War.
The ‘peoples war’ unleashed by the allied Bangladesh freedom fighters made the victory in the Eastern Front only a matter of time and a ‘writing on the wall’ for those who could see. Needless to add, the war on the Eastern Front happened to be the cause as well as the ‘object’ of the 1971 War from the point of view of both India and Pakistan. Only the fools of the kind of Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger had any different hope about the outcome.
The 1971 war was the finest among all wars fought by India-Bangladesh joint command against Pakistan. Along with Indian army, over half a million Bengali freedom fighters trained by revolted Bengali army, Bengali East Pakistan Rifles (entire EPR force), Bengali police (almost entire East Pakistan police) and Indian army were very formidable and capable to stand against the combined forces of West Pakistan, USA and witty Britain. The USA (fully)and Britain (lesser extent) played dirty tricks in 1971. Despite having hate and love relation, the Indians and the Bengalis will remain together in any eventuality in the subcontinent. They are naturally brothers. The Bengalis are always grateful to their brother India and former Soviet Russia who stood firmly by us for our (Bengalis) right.
Thus Nixon-Kissinger’s gunboat diplomacy was sunk by former Soviet Union. And the obnoxious nexus of America-Pakistan-China was also given a crushing defeat on 16 December, 1971. And Bangladesh was born. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Four National Leaders.
There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people. 47 years have elapsed by this time. I was then a senior student of the University of Dhaka and lodged in Sergeant Zohurul Hoque Hall. After the brutish slaying of Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by some pettifogger military Majors on 15 August 1975, the country entered into the dingiest frat house. It was a terrible shock that shook the whole country.
Despite being apolitical, I cannot forget that jounce wallop as of today. Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed usurped power of Bangladesh walking on the blood of his supreme leader, Bangabandhu and became the self-proclaimed President of the country in connivance with those shyster junior army officers. Since then, despoiling of the core values on which Bangladesh were grounded in 1971 after a huge bloodbath, started by Mushtaq tam-tam which was vociferously espoused by the shyster military dictators – Gen Zia, Gen Ershad, civilian ignoble politician Begum Zia and their mango-twigs showing arrogantly their banal actions.
In absence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was then internment in Pakistan’s jail, when under the Premiership of a great statesman Tajuddin Ahmad of the Provisional Mujibnagar Government was in the process of attaining of Bangladesh, Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed was the Foreign Minister. But he was a deft-schemer since our glorified Liberation War of 1971 who constantly was after Tajuddin Ahmad to do impairment to him to gimpy the fight against the bestial Pakistani military regime to gain ground for establishing Bangladesh. This artful character, in fact, cherished for a confederacy with the Pakistani regime instead of an independent and sovereign country for us for which we had then been fighting do-or-die like revolutionaries.
In less than three months of the country’s Founding Father’s bestial killing, the four national leaders – Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam, Capt. M. Monsur Ali and AHM Kamaruzzaman, the lambent leaders who manoeuvred the Bangladesh Liberation War successfully to attain Bangladesh from the brutal vitellus of Pakistani government were gunned down along with bayonet charges in the wee hour on 3 November 1975. This horrific incident was designedly kept closed book for a long time by the felons, Mushtaq and his bands together.
To change our taste of food, I along with my class-mates and friends – Kajal, Arif, Kashem, Nabendu and Nasir were taking dinner at the Jagannath Hall’s canteen on that November evening time; a one band radio was then tuned on to listen to the BBC news and to our utter shock and outrageousness, we heard that those bright star politicians of our glorious yesteryear history were felled in the safe custody of Dhaka Central Jailhouse. All present in the canteen were dumb-founded momentarily. There continued heated up discourses amongst us. Some said these malefactors must not go unpunished; some pronounced that they must be sent to the gibbet and some enounced aright that the true inspirits that we achieved through our splendiferous Liberation War would now be sent to limbo to bring back the Pakistani political orientation in Bangladesh.
But everybody presents there also expressed their potent fret against the malevolent acts by those ruffians. While returning to my abode in the Sergeant Zohurul Hoque Hall, I was so upset that I was only thinking that Bangladesh had entered into a black society where some ghosts and goblins would rapine it with more ferocity.
These four gentlemen like politicians walked many a path for several decades; brought many bridges along the way until their feet became weary. An emphatic glance into their lackadaisical drowsy eyes, revealed hidden sorrows built up through their last drop of blood. Every wrinkle on their sullen faces seemed to be an emblem of pain. They looked tired, worn down by life and defeated by some hands of savage goons belonging to the netherworld. Life is full of emotions, broken dreams, forgotten promises and bleeding hearts!! Regretful memories, of haunting ghosts, whose spirit voices torment my mind!! We want to call back something nostalgic. Walking away in somewhat of a daze instinctively I remember the lamentable song of losing them all.
They were like great speechifiers, writers, fighters, old-timer word rhymers always thought free verse was asinine. They were the queerest, the dearest and the tear in our hearts. They were archaic, prosaic, euphoric, historic and made pentagrams optically divine for Bangladesh. Montages made their artistry torch shine. They were the spiffiest, geekiest, and uniquely most outré; they were the people’s welfare-oriented statesmen over the line; they were the personas of great abilities; and the poets of politics for their motherland.
With thick love and trust, they bivouacked in our hearts as heroes and shall remain as heroes in our hearts in the days to come. I am a reader, a writer, an eternal life seeker; I am a trier, a crier who is drowning in the tears that they groaned before their painful demise. These old sorrowful songs that I sing are not now just a fading memory of the days when they loved us, but them ole’ tears will start to stream with those beautiful notes and melodies knowing they won’t hear a single word that I say.
They were fighters who stood up with their blood dripping down. The steel of their helmets was holding back their scowl with pleasure they saw their just cause was emerging as victorious. The theme of us has been written about for ages. Love missed us, tragedies shared and shaped us. We did our best to live, to survive, different kinds of battles, but battles nonetheless bloodied, and battered. Life taught us how to survive and we have. Our worlds were so much the same like those of our majuscule fallen leaders, but different. They have always been in our hearts, that’s simple to say. Men can be so transparent. And are we not so different.
So, the gardeners when you plant, up your flowers, sow your lawns and baskets you hang. Remember to also put up a feeding table and put out seeds for the starlings that sing.
The harsh winds bite at my very soul. Alone I sit, waiting for the fight to commence. My heart is racing, sweat pours despite the cold. Caution…not of today only! The warrior reaps the spoils and cowards merely pray. Scars are reminders, painful, but not fatal lessons of a fighter. Forward! We march to claim what is ours. Steel rise above our heads; and our swords of truth transcends time. Seize the day! The moment is now not for past heartaches, nor future vows only. Slay the demons, for they must fall. Thrust our sword deep and only then will we hear Victory’s call.
Our dreams that we earned in 1971 are spoiled by some rogue politicians. Our upright causes are wrecked by the skullduggeries of those nefarious of people. Some hour, perhaps, will come our chance, but that great hour has never struck; our progress has been slow and hard, we have to climb and crawl and swim, fight for ever stubborn yard; but we have kept in fighting trim. We have to fight our doubts away and be on guard against our fears; the feeble croaking of dismay has been familiar through the years; our dearest actions must keep going right, events combine to thwart our will; but fighting keeps our spirit strong, and are we undefeated still! NO, not, at all!
Arise, our soul, arise; shake off our guilty fears; the bleeding sacrifice in our behaves appears: before the throne our surety stands; their chequered names are written on our hands. They ever live above, for us to intercede; their all-redeeming love, their precious blood to plead; their blood atoned for our entire race, and sprinkles now the throne of grace. Their bleeding wounds they bear received on the jailhouse floors; they pour effectual prayers; they strongly speak for us. Their spirit answers to the blood, and tells us we were born for loving of our beloved country – Bangladesh. We can no longer fear: with confidence we now draw nigh, and Dear Leaders, we cry for their absence in the soil of Bangladesh that they once created for us.
We do not want to stand at their graves and weep. They are a thousand winds that blow, they are the diamond glints on snow, they are the sun on ripened grain, and they are the gentle autumn rain. When wake up in the morning’s hush, they are the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. They are the soft stars that shine at night. They are our North, our South, our East and West. They are our working week and our Sunday rest, our noon, our midnight, our talk, our song; and our thick respect for them would last forever.
Each night we shed a silent tear as we speak to them in prayer. To let them know we love them, take our million teardrops, wrap them up in love, and then we ask the wind to carry them to those patriots in heaven above. We remember those golden sons of this soil with all sacrosanct.
Forty-seven years have passed by. The near and dear ones of the four most important national leaders of Bangladesh after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib are yet to receive any justice for the savage killings. Nor has the Nation gotten any redress for the tragic loss of their icons. Jail is supposed to be the safest place in the city. If some citizen’s life is at risk or either the government or he himself feels any deficiency in safety or security, he may be taken into protective custody in a jail or sub-jail. The law and order situation of the country was so poor and vulnerable during the period after 1975 that the safest place was not safe anymore. Some rouge personnel of the Bangladesh army executed one of the most criminal operations in the history of Bangladesh, Indian subcontinent and the whole world.
Similar or even more cruel was the same group’s operation on 15 August of the same year when Bangabandhu and almost his whole family were massacred at his Dhanmondi residence. Even the kid son of the leader, Sheikh Russell was not spared. Our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana escaped as they were on a Europe tour. Bangabandhu being the father of the new Nation loved his people. That was a great quality. But he perhaps loved them too much and believed them too much. He had to pay the price of that belief with his blood and the lives of almost his entire family. He was advised time and again by the Bangladeshi individuals deputed for his security to shift to a properly protected residence which he always ignored showing the reason that he had faith in his people who could do no harm to him. The same happened when some of his friends among world leaders gave him the same advice. Oh, how wrong he was!
We do not need to study rocket science to understand that the few junior army officers in the rank of Major/Captain and their JCO/NCO associates could not plan and execute such a merciless, heinous, bloody coup to annihilate a leader of Bangabandhu’s stature together with his whole family. They must have had influential planners and supporters at home and abroad. Bangabandhu did not realise that with the emergence of Bangladesh, many countries of the then world politics were not happy since they supported Pakistan during our Great War of Liberation. It was a serious blow to their foreign policy. Similarly, a section of Bangladesh’s population and politicians were also having anti-Awami League agenda. That they would be able to strike with such venom was inconceivable. So the saddest day of 15 August came about.
Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad was an arch-rival of Bangabandhu all through his political life. He was cunning and shrewd but nowhere near our great leader in politics of the masses. He was envious of our Father of the Nation and being involved in the coup took over the Presidency of the country immediately. The junior officers executing the coup became all-powerful. They stayed back in Bangabhavan with Mostaq and wielded power. There was no chain of command in the army but the top brass showed visible cowardice and they kept silent. It was reported that they were rather engaged in a power struggle. Most of the political leadership was dumbfounded after the lightning happenings of 15 August and expressed allegiance to Mostaq. Many of them were sworn in as Ministers. Though most of the top Awami League leaders betrayed the blood of Bangabandhu and his family and were busy having their piece of cake in the state power, there were exceptions.
The trusted aides of Bangabandhu were the four national leaders having integrity and unflinching faith in the leader. They were Syed Nazrul Islam,Tajuddin Ahmad,Capt M Monsur Ali and AHM Kamaruzzaman. These four great national leaders together with Col Osmany steered our Freedom struggle to a glorious success. Of course traitor, Mostaq was a part of the cabinet but he always played deterring roles and even planned a confederation with Pakistan. When approached by Mostaq to join his cabinet to run the country, all four of them upheld their dignity and refused. They did not budge even after being threatened with serious consequences. All four ended up in jail soon thereafter.
The killers stationed in Bangabhavan including Mostaq could fathom that they could not sustain very long under the existing disturbing and uneasy circumstances. So, it seems that they were drawing contingency plans. Their plans were all drawn against these great leaders. The thugs and their masters knew that these leaders could lead Awami League to bounce back into mainstream progressive political activities. There was no other leader close to them who could lead Bangladesh.
So, when a counter-coup was staged by Brig(promoted to Maj Gen)Khaled Musharraf to bring back the chain of command in the Armed forces on 3 November 1975, the shameless criminals understood that they were kaput and executed the most heinous crime of jail killings.
In the early hours of the night between the 3rd and 4th of November, five uniformed individuals appeared at the gates of Dhaka central jail in the old quarters of Dhaka. They were led by Risalder Moslemuddin(Moslehuddin). They demanded to be let in which is a grave violation of the jail code by any standards. The jail authorities kept on refusing but finally succumbed to a telephonic order from President Mostaq. These rogues demanded to the jail officials that the four national leaders be assembled in a particular cell. They were in three different cells with other political prisoners. The jail officials did as directed and when the leaders were together in a particular cell, this military personnel having Sten guns and SLRs went there and fired indiscriminately at them. Taking them all as dead, they were leaving the jail premises as they were late and had other agendas. But as some of the leaders were still groaning and asking for water, one of the jail guards ran towards the jail gate to inform same to the killers. They raced back to the cell and bayonetted the four bodies heavily to make sure of their death.
Finally, they left. Awami League leaders like Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Amir Hossain Amu, SP Mahbubuddin were detained in nearby cells. Though they could not see anything being inside the four walls of the cell, they could figure out everything but were undone. An unthinkable crime was perpetrated and no one could be held responsible. Rather, the killers were later appreciated with prize postings at Bangladesh foreign missions.
A case was registered with the Lalbagh police station one day later. Initial procedures started. But not much headway could be made due to the promulgation of the indemnity ordinance. A commission of enquiry was also constituted which too could not work till preparing and submitting a report. The files were destroyed deliberately presumably during the next 21 years of unfavourable governments. No paperwork could be found when the Indemnity ordinance was repealed when in 1996 favourable Government came to power. The investigation had to start anew. Though a very difficult task, the concerned police investigators produced a miracle. The case was heard for years in a regular court of a District and Sessions Judge. In 2004, the court dished out a verdict. 3 of the JCO/NCO gang of Moslemuddin, Marfot Ali Shah and Abul Hashem Mridha were given capital punishment and eight officers of the army were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Strangely enough, the High court division of the apex court commutated the sentences and only one criminal remained with a punishment. All others went scot-free. A real shame indeed! The prosecution, of course, moved the Supreme court division. The Apex judicial body of the country duly considered the appeal and nullified the High court judgement. The judgement of the trial court was withheld. The Court also observed that such a conspiratorial savage killing inside the jail could not have happened without any involvement from high places. A thorough probe of the conspiracy behind such political killings was suggested.
Some of the convicts of jail killings were hanged to death for their complicity in the Bangabandhu killing. The others still remain absconding. They are sheltered by some countries under one context or the other. Bangladesh Government is following up on the issue of their repatriation to face the judgement with all seriousness. We don’t see much development in this regard though.
The patriotic forces of Bangladesh expect that a proper commission of enquiry will be formed soonest to investigate the 15 August and 3 November 1975 criminal activities by a small section of the armed forces leading to the killings of the founding father of the Nation and the four great National leaders. The conspirators behind the scenes should be exposed. The people of Bangladesh also expect that process to bring back the culprits from abroad should be expedited. Our deepest tributes to the four great national leaders and of course to Bangabandhu. They will be remembered by all patriotic Bangladeshis for all time to come.
Views expressed are personal
OPEN FOR DEBATE
A friend of mine sent a copy of the article by Journalist Shenali D Waduge by email. I read same. I think I had met her when I was Chief Minister. It appears to me that she like Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera M.P and others is not aware of a few historical facts recently confirmed by very cogent evidence.
The facts are –
- The Sinhalese language came into existence only in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Before that there were no Sinhalese living anywhere in this world because Sinhalese are those speaking the Sinhala language or those whose forefathers spoke that language. That language is very recent. Only 1400 years old. Its first grammar book is 700 years old. The first Sinhala inscription found is so many years after 7th Century AD.
- There is evidence that Tamil speaking people existed in this Island continuously for over 3000 years. The progeny of these original inhabitants of this Island and those who immigrated from the time of the Pandyans downwards added to the original Tamils. Thus the immigrant Tamils only added to the original Tamil inhabitants. It is wrong to begin calculating the period of Tamil occupation from the time of the Cholas (10th Century AD).
- The Tamil Speaking people have continued to occupy the entire Island for over 3000 years but they preferred to live in the Dry Zone. Gradually they converged on the North and East from elsewhere in the Island. Even 100 years ago there were only Tamil Title Deeds to the Lands in the Negombo – Puttalam areas. They were Tamils both indigenous and the Paravars from South India who emigrated here.
Many Sinhala-speaking people have many misunderstandings about our past due to the influence of the Mahawansa which was a fiction written by a Buddhist Priest to laud Buddhism. They think the Sinhalese are the original inhabitants of this Island, that this Country belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists. and the Tamils are immigrants during the time of the Cholas in 10th Century AD. All these are false and historically incorrect.
The Sinhalese could not have been the original inhabitants of this Island, since the Sinhalese language was born only in the 6th or 7th Century AD. This Country cannot belong to the Sinhala Buddhists since before 6th Century AD, there were no Sinhalese. Only Buddhists existed, and that too Tamil Buddhists. Tamils did come into the Country inter alia during Pandiya, Pallava, Chola and Nayaka times. But they only added to the original inhabitants of this Island who were themselves Tamils.
The Sinhalese Historians refer to Pali and other sources to say they were the forerunners to the Sinhala language. But both are different. One is the grandfather and the other grandchild. The grandchild cannot be identified as the grandfather. Both lived at different times. We must accept that the Sinhala language is very recent and those who speak Sinhala are also recent.
Let me deal with the 5 questions posed by Shenali –
- How can Tamil Eelam homeland lobbyists claim two provinces as their “homeland” making use of two provinces created in 1833 by colonial Britain?
Response: The two Provinces are what is left of the entire Tamil Speaking Sri Lanka. British only confirmed the Tamil speaking areas by identifying Northern and Eastern Provinces which were majority Tamil speaking areas. In these two Provinces the Tamils have been and are the majority still. Tamil Kings or Tamil Petty Kings have ruled these two Provinces apart from other areas outside those Provinces too. Apart from those who ruled, Tamil people have always continuously occupied these areas from 3000 years ago. The two Provinces are the traditional homelands of the Tamils (Vide Indo Sri Lanka Accord of 1987). Identifying Kings as Sinhalese and Tamil is a recent phenomenon. The genealogy of the Kings were more important then, than the language they spoke. In fact many Kings spoke many languages. They were not identified by the language they spoke.
- How can Malabars, rechristened as Ceylon Tamils in 1911, claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka?
Response: Those who came from the Coromandel Coast of India also added in numbers to the existing Tamils in this Island. Ceylon Tamils is a word coined recently due to the bringing in of recent Indian Tamils by the Britishers. The Sri Lankan Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island. But when the Indian Tamils were brought both being Tamils they were called Indian Tamils and the local Tamils as Sri Lankan Tamils.
- The Tamil caste system originates from South India, and thus, if Malabars are from South India, Vellalars and the Thesavalamai Law is too, so how can customary laws applicable to foreigners become mandatory customary law in Sri Lanka?
Response: The Caste System did not originate from South India, to be followed by the Tamils here. Like the guilds in the West there were occupational segregations in ancient times. There were areas of residence for those involved in various occupations. It is possible for example that Shenali belongs to a particular traditional occupational group. The surname “Waduge” connotes that. The Sinhala ‘ge’ names are a pointer to their Caste identification. But nowadays they drop their ‘Vasagamas’ or ‘ge’ names for fear of identification. JR’s ‘ge’ name was Mahamarakalage if I remember right. When the Westerners introduced free education, members of every segregated unit received the same education and the need to continue to segregate into traditional occupational Castes became unnecessary. The Caste System in India had Brahmins at the top. In the Tamil areas here the landowning Vellalas claimed leadership while close to the sea the Fishermen Caste called Karaiyars (Coast people) claimed leadership. Caste Brahmins played a secondary role. Hence the Caste hierarchy in South India and North Eastern Sri Lanka are different. More on this are answered under question 5 here under.
- If the Dravida Nadu term was coined by colonial missionaries, isn’t the Tamil Eelam quest (an offshoot of the Dravida Nadu movement) a similar missionary-infused agenda?
Response: The term Thamil Eelam has nothing to do with Dravida Nadu. This Country was part of the Seventh (Ealu) Country unit in the Kumari Kandam now under sea. From Ealu (Seven) came the words Eelam in Tamil and Hela in Sinhala. Both words connote the same land mass during the time of Kumari Kandam and thereafter. Present Sri Lanka was part of Ealu Nadu in Kumari Kandam. The Tamil Sangam literature refers to the Tamil areas which went under the sea. Parts of Ealu survived. Ealu became Eelam in Tamil and Hela in Sinhala. Westerners refer to a Continent called Lemuria. The relationship between Kumari Kandam and Lemuria are being studied. Eelam was the name then given to this Island. The area occupied by Tamils now is called Tamil Eelam. Actually the area which is majority Sinhala speaking should be referred to as Sinhala Eelam. Identification with Eelam has no connection to the Dravida Movement in South India. In fact politicians like Seeman distinguish between Dravidar and the Tamils.
- If the Eelam area was borrowed from the colonial British map, if Global Church planted the Dravida Nadu movement and Greater Tamil Eelam initiative, if Malabars, Vellalars, and Thesavalamail were imported from South India, is it so difficult to realise that Tamil militancy was also exported from India to Sri Lanka to pass on India’s headache to us?
Response: This whole question arises from a totally muddled mind. In fact an ignorant mind. Eelam was the name of the present Sri Lanka in ancient times. This Island had several names including Serendip, Seilan, Ceylon and so on. The Eelam area was not borrowed from the Colonial British Map. Eelam was a fact even before the British came here. The British confirmed the areas of Tamil residency by creating Provinces which included the resident Tamils within them, who were majority in those Provinces. The Dravida Nadu concept is recent. It was the Dravida Kalagam within the past 150 years which referred to Dravida Nadu. The Church’s part in it is also recent. Eelam existed even before these concepts came into parlance.
The Malabars from the Coromandel Coast came to this Island within the past 1000 years or so. They belonged to the Chera Nadu in South India. Now that area is identified as part of Kerala. They added to the number of existing indigenous Tamils. Since they owned lands and were powerful, the Dutch associated with them and got their advise to codify the laws existing then. The Thesavalamai is what the Chiefs among the Malabar Inhabitants explained to the Dutch. It has a matrilineal approach just like in the Coromandel Coast area. Just like the Roman – Dutch Law that was introduced into this Island by the Dutch, those Malabar inhabitants introduced concepts from the Marumakathiyam Law in the Coromandhal Coast areas and the Dutch codified them and called it the Law of Thesawalamai (the traditions of the Country).
Tamil Militancy in Sri Lanka is indigenous. India had nothing to do with it. Soon after Independence when the vast majority of the North and East of Ceylon was Tamil speaking it was wrong to have made Sinhala as the only official language of the Country overlooking the fact that the Tamil speaking people were the majority in their traditional living areas. Even now the Tamil speaking are the majority in the North and East, despite so much of land grabbing and Sinhala colonization going on in the North and East with Government and Military support. The rights of the Tamils in the North and East were overlooked when “Sinhala Only” was brought as Law. When there was agitation by Tamils objecting to Sinhala being made as the sole State language, Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranayake realized his folly and brought in the Reasonable use of Tamil law. But a few Buddhist Priests went to his house in Rosmead Place and had it torn apart. Finally it was a Buddhist Priest who killed Mr.Bandaranayake!
So agitation against Land grabbing in the East, passing of Sinhala Only in Parliament, forcing Standardisation in Education, using force on the Youth who agitated against these activities by the Sinhala Central Government, all contributed to Tamil Militancy. In fact the Sinhala Government turned to India to put down the Militancy of the Tamil Youths and thus IPKF was brought in. Our Youth militated against Sinhala Chauvinism, Sinhala brutality and their ethnocratic activities. There was nothing to export from India.
The homeland quest of the Tamils is not an imported concept. It synchronizes with the Lands occupied by the Tamils for over 3000 years from ancient times long before the Sinhala language saw sunlight. We Tamils ask for internal self-determination, which we are entitled to in terms of the principles of International Law, within a United Sri Lanka.
OPEN FOR DEBATE
Divide & Rule was key component of colonial rule. Illegally taking over lands and territories, planting fictitious history, and infesting minds with hate and violence is part of a legacy that continues unabated. Sadly, historians have failed to take these false claims and nullify them. They have been silenced by “political correctness”. However, it is time people begin asking questions and demanding answers. How can 2 provinces that were created only by the British in 1833 be claimed ‘original habitats” of Tamil people? How can Indian Malabars claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka? How can a South Indian customary law applicable only to those inhabitants be the customary law in Sri Lanka? How did the Colonial Missionary create the Dravida Nadu movement to become a Tamil Eelam movement & what is their ultimate plan? Let’s have you start asking yourselves these questions too!
Question 1: How can Tamil Eelam Homeland lobbyists claim 2 provinces as their “homeland” making use of the 2 provinces created in 1833 by colonial Britain?
It is very clear that while the first Kingdom of Anuradhapura, 2nd kingdom of Polonnaruwa also included North Sri Lanka, the last kingdom of Kandy too included part of North & explains why the Kandyan king despatched his army to defend his people from the Portuguese. The last battle for the defence of Jaffna before it fell to European powers was fought not by a Tamil army but by Sinhalese men sent by the King of Kandy.
Portuguese historian Father Queroyz says “as long as Rajapure (Anuradhapura) was the capital of Ceylon, the whole island was subject to one kng” If it was so with Anuradhapura, it was so with the rest of the capitals. When the Portuguese arrived in 1505 there were 15 ‘kinglets’ subject to the King of Kotte of which Jaffnapatao kinglet was one of the 15 “kinglets” were independent or separate from the rest.
To quell the lies let us first turn to the maps.
The 1st kingdom was in Anuradhapura. The 2nd kingdom was in Polonnaruwa. The last kingdom was in Kandy. The kings of these kingdoms were the sole ruler of the entire Island.
These 3 maps clearly show there was no separate or independent Tamil Kingdom and the so-called ‘separate’ area being claimed as a “Tamil homeland” was ruled by the Sinhalese kings.
A separate kingdom must provide evidence of food/water supply (agriculture), a system of government, culture, belief & traditions, a written language, structures/monuments – the Kingdoms of Anuradhapura & Polonnaruwa leave us to cherish the world’s first man-made irrigation & water tanks, even animal hospital – these exist even to this day, where are those of a so-called Eelam Kingdom?
There were no separate independent kingdoms in Jaffna or anywhere else
There were no provinces.
Provinces were created by the Colonial British in 1833
Thus, there was nothing called Northern or Eastern province until 5 provinces was created in 1833 by Colonial Britain.
Therefore, how can the Eelam lobby claim to have ruled 2 provinces that did not exist until the colonial British demarcated them in 1833?
This is a key argument to debunk the demarcation of a bogus Tamil Eelam Homeland.
Question 2: How can Indian Malabars rechristen as Ceylon Tamils in 1911 claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka?
There is no record in ancient Sinhalese chronicles, Tamil chronicles or even records of Portuguese, Dutch or British to claim an ethnic group called “Ceylon Tamils” were living before they landed. All of the colonial records refer to both Tamils & Muslims as “Malabars”. Malabars was the term given to people who came from the Malabar coast of South India or Coromandel coast also in South India. Malabars were indigenous to South India. Therefore, anyone termed Malabar were descendants from South India. Thus, the Tamils living in Sri Lanka were referred as Malabars by the Portuguese, the Dutch & the British.
The term “Ceylon Tamils” was coined only in 1911 when Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who was registrar of census, inserted Ceylon Tamils instead of Malabars. The term Ceylon was coined by the British only after the Kandyan Convention in 1815.
Malabars cannot claim any “homeland” in Sri Lanka as they were immigrants from the Southern coast of India. Their homeland is in South India.
The quest for self-determination in India for Tamils started in India.
The same ethnic group cannot claim 2 homelands in 2 sovereign countries (or plan to annex Sri Lanka to create a Greater Dravida Nadu)
Question 3: Tamil caste system originates from South India – If Malabars are from South India, Vellalas & Thesawalamai Law is also – how can customary laws applicable to foreigners become mandatory customary law in Sri Lanka?
We have established Malabars are not indigenous to Sri Lanka but to South India.
The Vellalas are a low caste in South India but became the upper elite caste/class in Sri Lanka, not stopping there, the Vellala’s went on to oppress their own, dictating how other castes should function at kovil, funerals, weddings etc. If Tamils are marginalized or discriminated it is by the Vellala Tamils and not the Sinhalese. The Thesawalamai law encoded by the Dutch in 1706 claiming to be Tamil customary law is actually not applicable to all Tamils but to only Malabar inhabitants from Jaffna. What is the % of Tamils covered by this definition and how many Tamils does this law exclude – if so why should this be referred as a customary law for ALL Tamils when it is not so, more importantly, the Thesawalamai law is applicable to Malabar inhabitatnts in Jaffna only. Malabars are from South India. Vellala’s are a caste originating from South India. How can anyone quote these to claim homeland theories.
It is good for Tamils to realize who is discriminating them instead of falling prey to propaganda. How far has the caste system marginalized Tamils against each other, is a question Tamils themselves need to honestly answer. When Tamils are not welcome into Tamil homes, when even cutlery & crockery are differentiated, when even kovils disallow their own, when people are reluctant to share a toilet with their own – is this not discrimination?
Question 4: If the Dravida Nadu term was coined by colonial Missionaries, isn’t the Tamil Eelam quest (an offshoot of the Dravida Nadu movement) a similar Missionary infused agenda?
There was no term called Dravidian until it was coined by the Church.
The Church missionaries after creating the term Dravida went to great lengths to promote a fictitious history.
The Dravidian theory was an artificial theory implanted by the Church & it is possible the same was done to create a Tamil Eelam notion to separate both Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka along ethno-linguistic lines.
Bishop Caldwell plugged the South Indian languages of Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada as Dravidian languages.
If the Dravidian movement was led & controlled by the Global Church, is it a surprise that the Tamil Eelam lobby has the blessings of the Church apparatus as well? It is the Tamil Christians/Catholics who are mainly operating this quest.
1939 commenced the “Dravida Nadu for Dravidians” a quest for a separate sovereign & federal state.
1940 Dravida Nadu map was released. 1947 Britain rejected appeals for a separate Tamil state which led to Dravida Nadu Secession Day being passed on 13 July 1947 demanding an independent Dravida Nadu. 2 years later in Sri Lanka, ITAK was created seeking a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.
1960 Dravida Nadu Separation Day which led to the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army while the Tamil Eelam movement in Sri Lanka resulted in Tamil militancy with LTTE taking leadership.
Dravida Nadu was replaced with “Tamil Nadu for Tamils” then “We Tamil Movement” which led to demand for an independent Tamil Nadu which Government of India stopped by legislative enactments in 1963.
The demands for Dravida Nadu were identical to demands by LTTE during Thimpu talks in 1985.
If Dravida Nadu movement & map was created by the Global Church; was the map of Tamil Eelam also their creation?
This implies that both movements (South India & Sri Lanka) did not originate from the people but from one external source – the Church.
Question 5: If the “Eelam” area was borrowed from colonial British map, if Global Church planted the Dravida Nadu movement & Greater Tamil Eelam initiative, if Malabars, Vellalars, Thesawalamail all are imported from South India is it so difficult to realize that Tamil Militancy was also exported from India to Sri Lanka to pass on India’s headache to us?
The Jain-Commission interim report following LTTE’s assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, memoirs by the IPKF former commanders and even former Indian High Commission to Sri Lanka J N Dixit prove a RAW hand in Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka from training to supplying of weapons to even logistics support & funding.
These lies are what lays the foundation for a bogus homeland quest which is kept alive because of the benefits to key players promoting it. The geopolitical & conversion motives are clear. Unfortunately, so-called academics and historians have been party to the lies or felt shy to negate these with historical facts & arguments.
So let us bring these to the open & demand facts, not propaganda.
How should we remember Queen Elizabeth II and her 70 years on the British throne? It’s perhaps better to consider after the media parade about her funeral is in the rearview mirror.
A number of people have reacted to the glorification of her rule, pointing out the British Royals’ direct connection to the slave trade, Britain’s colonial massacres, mass famines and its loot from the colonies. Britain’s wealth—$45 trillion at current prices from India alone—was built on the blood and sweat of people who lost their land and homes and are today poor countries. Lest we forget, the slave trade was a monopoly of the British throne: first, as the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa in 1660, later converted to the Royal African Company of England. The battle over “free trade” fought by British merchant capital was against this highly lucrative Royal monopoly so that they could participate in it as well: enslaving people in Africa and selling them to plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean.
According to western legends of the European Age of Discovery, co-terminus with Enlightenment, was what started it all in the 16th century. Explorers such as Vasco de Gama, Columbus, and Magellan went across the world, discovering new lands. The Enlightenment led to the development of reason and science, the basis of the industrial revolution in England. The Industrial Revolution then reached Europe and the United States, creating the difference between the wealthy West and the poverty-stricken rest. Slavery, genocide, land expropriation from “natives” and colonial loot do not enter this sanitized picture of the development of capitalism. Or, if mentioned, only as marginal to the larger story of the rise of the west.
Actual history is quite different. Chronologically, the Industrial Revolution takes place in the second half of the 18th century. The 16th-17th centuries is when a small handful of western countries reached the Americas, followed by the genocide of its indigenous population and enslaving of the rest. The 16th-17th centuries also see the rise of the slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas. It destroys African society and its economy, what Walter Rodney calls How Europe Undeveloped Africa. The plantation economy—based on slavery in the Caribbean and Continental America—created large-scale commodity production and global markets.
While sugar, the product of the plantations, was the first global commodity, it was followed by tobacco, coffee and coca, and later cotton. While the plantation economy provided commodities for the world market, let us not forget that slaves were still the most important “commodity”. The slave trade was the major source of European—British, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese—capital. Gerald Horne writes, “The enslaved, a peculiar form of capital encased in labor, represented simultaneously the barbarism of the emerging capitalism, along with its productive force” (The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, Monthly Review, April 1, 2018).
Marx characterized it as so-called Primitive Accumulation and as “expropriation,” not accumulation. Capital from the beginning was based on expropriation—robbery, plunder and enslaving of people by the use of force; there was no accumulation in this process. As Marx writes, capital was born “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”
The British Royals played a key role in this history of slavery and the so-called primitive accumulation. Britain was a second-class power at the beginning of the 17th century. Britain’s transformation was initially based on the slave trade and, later, the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Its ships and traders emerged as the major power in the slave trade and, by the 1680s, held three-fourths of this “market” in human beings. Out of this, the Royal African Company, owned by the British Crown, held a 90% share: the charge for Britain’s domination of the slave trade was led by the British Royals.
Interestingly, the slogan of “free trade,” under which slogan the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created, was the British merchant capital wanting the abolition of the Royal Monopoly over slave trade. It was, in other words, the freedom of capital to enslave human beings and trade in them, free of the royal monopoly. It is this capital, created out of slave trade and outright piracy and loot, that funded the industrial revolution.
While slavery was finally abolished, in Britain it was not the slaves but the slave owners that were paid compensation for losing their “property.” The amount paid in 1833 was 40% of its national budget, and since it was paid by borrowings, the UK citizens paid off this “loan” only in 2015. For the people of India, there is another part to the story. As the ex-slaves refused to work on the plantations they had served as slaves, they were replaced by indentured labor from India.
To go back to the British Royalty. The Crown’s property and portfolio investments are currently worth 28 billion pounds, making King Charles III one of the richest persons in the UK. Charles III personal property itself is more than a billion pounds. Even by today’s standards of obscene personal wealth, these are big numbers, particularly as its income is virtually tax-free. The royals are also exempt from death duties.
In the three hundred years of the history of British colonialism, brutal wars, genocide, slavery, and expropriation were carried out in its name and under its leadership. After the industrial revolution, Britain wanted only raw materials from its colonies and not any industrial products: the slogan was “not even a nail from the colonies.” All trade from the colonies to other countries had to pass through Britain and pay taxes there before being re-exported. The complement of the industrial revolution in Britain was de-industrializing its colonies, confining them to be a producer of raw materials and agricultural products.
Why are we talking about Britain’s colonial past on the occasion of the death of Queen Elizabeth II? After all, she only saw the last 70 years when the British colonial empire was liquidated. This is not simply about the past, but that neither the British Crown nor its rulers have ever expressed any guilt over the brutality of its empire, and its foundation based on slavery and genocide. No apology for the empire’s gory history: not even for the massacres and mass incarcerations that took place. In Jallianawala Bagh, which Elizabeth II visited in 1997, she called the massacre a “distressing episode” and a “difficult episode”; not even a simple “We are sorry.” Prince Phillip even questioned the number of martyrs.
How do we reconcile the anger that people who suffered from Britain’s colonial empire feel about their leaders making a bee-line to pay homage to the Queen? Does it not shame the memory of those who laid down their lives in the freedom struggle against the British Crown that India lowered the national flag to half-mast to honor the Queen?
One can argue that this happened long before Elizabeth II took over the Crown, and we cannot hold her personally responsible for Britain’s colonial history. We should: she as Queen represented the British state: it is not Elizabeth, the person that people want an apology from, but the titular head of the British state. That is why Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the son of Kenya’s world-renowned writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o said, “If the queen had apologized for slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism and urged the crown to offer reparations for the millions of lives taken in her/their names, then perhaps I would do the human thing and feel bad,” he wrote. “As a Kenyan, I feel nothing. This theater is absurd.”
Mukoma Ngugi was referring to the Mau Mau revolt for land and freedom in which thousands of Kenyans were massacred, and 1.5 million were held in brutal concentration camps.
This was 1952-1960; Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, very much in her lifetime!
This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the first President of the Soviet Union and the last Soviet leader. He was the best of the younger generation of Communist Party members who understood, like US President Ronald Reagan, the futility of the Cold War and the needless threat of nuclear Armageddon. Gorbachev also understood that the repressions and hardships of the Soviet years were unnecessary, and he with advisors, some of whom I met and engaged in discussion, attempted to reform the Soviet system. There is no question that he was a great man and a sincere leader of the Soviet peoples.
President Reagan realized Gorbachev’s greatness. Reagan also realized that Gorbachev was limited in his ability to end the Cold War by distrustful elements in the Politburo. President Reagan’s plan, in which I was a participant, was to rescue the US economy from “stagflation” and then to put pressure of a threatened arms race–Star Wars– on the Soviet Union in order to enhance Gorbachev’s position in favor of ending the Cold War than to subject the struggling Soviet economy to an arms race with a revitalized US economy.
Reagan, despite the CIA’s opposition and that of the US military/security complex, carried out his plan not in order to win the cold war but as Reagan repeatedly stressed to all of us involved to end the Cold War. None of us, Reagan included, had any idea of Soviet collapse. Our purpose was to halt a gratuitous conflict that threatened humanity with nuclear Armageddon.
What we did not realize was that hardline elements of the Soviet Communist Party thought that Gorbachev was making too many concessions to the West too soon without sufficient reciprocal concessions and guarantees. Apparently, Gorbachev himself did not realize it.
Reagan proceeded with care. He invited Gorbachev to the White House. Reagan convinced the distinguished American pianist, Van Cliburn, to come out of retirement and perform for Gorbachev in the White House. Van Cliburn had won, with Khrushchev’s approval, the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. In addition to classics of Russian composers, Van Cliburn regaled Gorbachev with Russian folk songs. President Reagan absolutely forbade any derogatory reference to the Soviet Union. Nothing, not even the CIA, was to prevent the end of the Cold War.
After Reagan’s second term ended, I had less connection with his successor, his former vice president, George H. W. Bush, but I know for an absolute fact that Secretary of State James Baker gave assurances to Gorbachev that if Gorbachev permitted the unification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch to the East. There is no doubt about this, despite the denials by American neoconservatives and Clinton regime officials.
The Soviet Union collapsed, not because of Reagan, but because the hardline Communists, disturbed, as is understandable, by Gorbachev’s trust in Washington’s word, attempted a coup and placed Gorbachev under house arrest. It was this miscalculation that brought about the collapse of the Soviet government and the rise of Yeltsin, who, intentionally or not, essentially was under Washington’s control.
Gorbachev, believing as did Reagan, in the futility of the Cold War, trusted that the conflict was over. Gorbachev’s mistake was that he did not understand Washington. An American President can make an agreement that can be rescinded by a successor. This is the case even if there are signed documents, but in the absence of signed documents, the corrupt Clinton regime was able to claim no such agreement as NATO not moving to Russia’s borders ever existed.
In view of the Democrat Clinton regime’s overthrowing the Reagan-Gorbachev ending of the Cold War with a New Cold War, now greatly expanded under the Democrat Biden, the Kremlin’s toleration of the West’s declared aggressive intentions against Russia is puzzling. How can anyone in the Kremlin ever again believe a word that Washington says?
In Russia Gorbachev is not seen as the great leader that he was. In America, ignorant flag-waving patriots mistakenly base their pride on Reagan winning the Cold War.
As far as I, a participant, can tell, neither side understands what has happened.
One thing the Marxist-Leninist movement has never done is address how eurocentric, racist actually, they are. Why do I say this? Because nowhere in any Marxist-Leninist writings can you find any mention of African Genius, the best examples of which being the wonders of the Nile Valley, known by its Greek name as Egypt, though its inhabitants called their civilization Kemet, “Land of the Blacks”.
I doubt it was just plain ignorance, for what educated person going back hundreds of years has never heard of the Great Pyramids or the Sphinx or the Temple of Luxor, so spectacular that the word “luxury” sprang from it.
Maybe the Marxist-Leninists going back to Karl Marx, the father of their movement, thought those living in Kemet were actually white, something widely taught amongst historians up until today.
If not ignorance why is it there is a complete dearth of recognition never mind acknowledgement of the role Africa has played in influencing world civilizations amongst Marxist-Leninists?
Didn’t the Marxist-Leninists ever read the father of US History, the great Race Man W.E.B. Dubois, who in his 1949 masterpiece “The World and Africa” speculated that Kemet may have seen an early form of socialism being practiced. If the Marxist-Leninists didn’t read W.E.B Dubois aren’t they guilty of what Mao Tse Tung declared “no investigation, no right to speak”?
I have been fascinated by how such a powerful, revolutionary movement going back over 150 years could have completely missed African genius. I spent my early years as a revolutionary, part of the Maoist movement in the USA as a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA from 1975-1980 and never heard a single mention of African genius, or high civilization.
It wasn’t until 1990 that I began my own systematic study of Africa that I had my eyes opened, at last, thanks to DuBois, Ivan Van Sertima, Runoko Rashidi, Basil Davidson, Asa Hilliard and many, many others. I went on to create and co-teach with Runoko Rashidi, co-Editor of Ivan Van Sertima’s Journal of African Civilization a course entitled “Africa’s Contributions to World Civilization” in 1993 so I pretty much grounded myself in African History.
I first started to wonder about the eurocentric, racist, really, nature of Marxism-Leninism when I read about Constantine Volney, whose work “Ruins of Empires” was a fundamental work of history that for the first time established Kemet as a high civilization created by black Africans. “Ruins of Empires” was so widely regarded that it went through multiple editions and translations. It was so popular that it was installed in the public section of the British Museums Library where Karl Marx spent many hours studying society as a part of writing his classic works.
I had to wonder, Volney published “Ruins of Empires” in the late 18th Century, and by the time Marx started his studies, it was a must-read for any respectable historian of Marx’s day. So I couldn’t help but wonder how Marx missed Volney and the early African Centered historical movement.
To make matters more perplexing Karl Marx’s nickname was “the Moor”, moor meaning black, due to his swarthy appearance resulting from his Sephardic (Moorish) Jewish family. How could Marx be known as a black man yet never mention Africa in anything he wrote?
Today, I have just about given up trying to debate the Marxist-Leninist movement about this, something you would think they would be eager to do since being called racists is pretty damning. But how could I not call them racist after they have spent a century and a half ignoring or ignorant of African Genius? I guess they would have to start to question to many sacred cows if they honestly took up my challenge on this question. It seems keeping their heads in the sand and ignoring their essentially eurocentric racist ideology is required if they are going to hold onto their hard-won beliefs. You could say in their case “Ignorance is Bliss”? Hell, black folk, especially Africans simply had no history, right?
Views are personal
As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on,
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishment will also live on.” – Annada Shankar Ray
No mercy or clemency to the killers of Father of the Bengali Nation – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
This column is well worth a visit. Because it is not a simple murder only by the anti-Bangladesh malefactors and their ill-chums – the obnoxious nexus of America’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISI. It was a murder of a sky-touching figure like Bangabandhu Mujib and most of his family members. It has changed the entire political landscape of Bangladesh. The core spirit that we attained through our glorious Liberation war of 1971 to establish Bangladesh was tattered for an indefinite time.
The carnage shook the whole world in the wee hours on 15 August 1975.
If the crimes were ever a topic of discussion around, it was only people of all classes expressing their strong resentment (the media was then fully controlled by those arrant killers) with a national loss that seemed intent on forever branding our beloved Dhaka’s Road No. 32 Dhanmondi as a murder moorage.
Our glorious Liberation war of 1971 to found Bangladesh is our plume. Our national flag is our preen. Our national anthem is our prideful-ness. We achieved Bangladesh at the blood-bath of 3 million of our people by the lunatic Pakistani military regime and their local brutish cohorts, majorly the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) sub-humans. To attain Bangladesh, three hundred thousand of our mothers and sisters lost their chastity at the hands of those malefactors. We saw their baleful everlasting annihilation of the freedom-loving people of all classes and of all religions in the country.
These perps forced out ten million of our people from their homes with unspeakable sufferings, made them shelter-less and forced them to take refuge inside India. All these men-made disasters were played out throughout a 9-month war in 1971. We finally gave them a crushing defeat on 16 December 1971 and our beloved Bangladesh came into being as an independent and sovereign state in the world map. We are proud of the secular spirit that we earned through our glorious Liberation War in 1971.
But the bacilli of the defeated forces could not be destroyed after Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s brutal killing intentionally and with premeditation on 15 August in 1975 by Khondokar Mushtaqu Ahmed and his camarilla and because of skullduggeries of depraved military rulers – Gen. Zia, Gen. Ershad and their compadre – Begum Zia for two decades or so. Unfortunately, they have infected, among many other people in the country.
From our side, the war was fought on the philosophies of establishing of Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism, and Secularism in the country. The true spirits and values of our glorious Liberation War of 1971 can best be described by a song sings by famed singer Rathindra Nath Roy, “For the youngsters; for the adults; for the poor; for the riches; for all; for the have-nots; for the beggars-our country is for all people; for all people where there is no difference between punters and blacksmiths; where there is no difference amongst Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians; one mother; and one country, but belong to all (Chotoder boroder, shokoler, ……..ek mata, ek desh shokoler).”
This is what Bangladesh we wanted in 1971 and we established that glorious Bangladesh in 1971.
Idealism got jumped in the alleyway of realpolitik when the governments of military dictators usurped the throne of Bangladesh and ruled the country. In truth today, today’s Bangladesh is not our Bangladesh. It is not a Bangladesh which we achieved in 1971 at a very high price. Depraved military dictators, Zia and Ershad usurped power and ruled the country for 16 years. The spirits and values of our glorious Liberation War were battered according to their whims; the anti-liberation forces on the run for their grave misdeeds in 1971, were arrogantly rehabilitated everywhere in the country to serve their petty political interests.
One of them was made Prime Minister, some ministers and placed others in key positions of the country. The bright constitution of 1972 was ravaged like anything. The immortal slogan “Joy Bangla” was sent into oblivion. The so-called ‘Zindabad’ slogan with the Pakistani spirit soiled with dirt or soot was restored in its glorious place. The name of our glorious Liberation War, the name our country’s Founding Father…. were made naught.
The two-nation theory which was buried by our glorious Liberation War, was brought back to designedly assault our heroic and patriotic war of 1971. The Satanic lust and twists polluted the hearts of two evil military dictators, and also one civilian dictator and their mango-twigs who ruled the country…
A large number of war criminals who were in jails were set free and garlanded to further rape the country with more ferociousness using the name of our holy religion, Islam. Communalism was patronised to push out of the way of secularism which had great beauty and splendor and which was achieved through our national liberation characterised by grandeur.
The valour, patriotism, the supreme sacrifices of our millions of people, our deep love for the country – everything were laid down by these shenanigan politicians. It is as if these morally reprehensible people raped everything and the beautiful country; its bright sun; and its bright moon and what not. The bare truth is that all these evil schemes were not needed to have done under any circumstances. Communalism now-a-days has risen its ugly head more vigorously. The golden days which we have passed through are all really gone!
And this is not what Bangladesh we wanted for in 1971.
Bangladesh has to be made Bangladesh in its original form. Keep moving on the ideals of 1971 war which need to be revived in full spirit.
Fuyumi Soryo has rightfully reminded, “If a castle gets destroyed, you just build a new one. If you wanted me to, I’d build them over and over. Let’s build them together.” Let us build together what precious treasures we have lost in Bangladesh. Moving towards the people’s desire for the restoration of glorious, creative past is a vital work for the state and its people and should be read by all who want to … The lost glory will truly be a remarkable work which is not just for the leaders, but a message for every people of the country.
Changing a little bit of the words of Teddy Roosevelt, we wish to say, “This is a nation — not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in the country for any 50-50 Bengali, nor can there be but one loyalty — to the Green and Red coloured Flag.” The lost glory of Bangladesh that ideal for which many have fought and died for, has to be restored in full. The departure from the very Bangladesh for our nation has to be restored in full. The remnants of Pakistani ghosts and goblins and the Bangla speaking Pakistanis must be reduced to ashes.
Our principle in this matter should be absolutely simple. We should insist that if everyone lives here does in good faith become a Bengali and assimilates himself to us, he or she shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man or woman because of caste, creed or religion. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact a Bengali and nothing, but a Bengali.
We have room for but one flag, Bangladesh’s flag, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Bangladesh’s, and its nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul sic loyalty, and that is loyalty to Bangladesh’s people. But this is predicated upon the man’s and woman’s becoming in very fact a Bengali and nothing but a Bengali.
We do not want to be any other nation or any other persuasion, but with a government that has not given up the very foundations that we were founded upon. The political arms in PM’s Secretariate and Bangabhaban have to thwart any ill-motivated move the very constitution that we have had in 1972. The evil and communal forces that want to bring the world of Bangladesh down have succeeded to do so because of the military rulers who ascended the throne of Bangladesh forcefully. It is as if we do not live in Bangladesh, per-se; we live in another country.
But that not be; we will not recant, change, or move away from the true spirits and values of our 1971 war. The new struggle is to our Bangladesh’s ideals; to what my forebears, forefathers of this nation, and to our own blood who preceded us. The anti-liberation forces have garnered supporters because of their unity. For decades our politicians have been slowly diluting the very foundations of Bangladesh with people. Our one sole is now loyalty and that is loyalty to Bangladesh’s people.
So, we have, but room for one allegiance that is to Bangladesh. The patriot Bengalis are those who form the battle line to protect freedoms so that all of us can live under the true banner of freedom without hate to people of other religions. We want keep to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh which we attained in 1971. This is what Bangladesh in the truest sense of the term.
There is strange comfort in knowing that no matter what happened yesterdays, the Sun will rise again tomorrow. The struggles we endure today will be the good old days.
Bangabandhu’s high road of grace will get us somewhere a whole lot faster than the freeway of spite. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu.
In July, the world celebrated 200 years since the birth of Gregor Mendel, who is widely accepted as the “father of modern genetics” for his discovery of the laws of inheritance. His experiments with peas, published in 1866 under the title “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” identified dominant and recessive traits and how recessive traits would reappear in future generations and in what proportion. His work would largely remain unacknowledged and ignored until three other biologists replicated his work in 1900.
While Mendel’s work is central to modern genetics, and his use of experimental methods and observation is a model for science, it also set off the dark side with which genetics has been inextricably linked: eugenics and racism. But eugenics was much more than race “science.” It was also used to argue the superiority of the elite and dominant races, and in countries like India, it was used as a “scientific” justification for the caste system as well.
People who believe that eugenics was a temporary aberration in science and that it died with Nazi Germany would be shocked to find out that even the major institutions and journals that included the word eugenics as part of their names have continued to operate by just changing their titles. The Annals of Eugenics became the Annals of Human Genetics; the Eugenics Review changed its name to the Journal of Biosocial Science; Eugenics Quarterly changed to Biodemography and Social Biology; and the Eugenics Society was renamed the Galton Institute. Several departments in major universities, which were earlier called the department of eugenics, either became the department of human genetics or the department of social biology.
All of them have apparently shed their eugenics past, but the reoccurrence of the race and IQ debate, sociobiology, the white replacement theory and the rise of white nationalism are all markers that theories of eugenics are very much alive. In India, the race theory takes the form of the belief that Aryans are “superior” and fair skin is seen as a marker of Aryan ancestry.
While Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers and Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews and Roma communities have made it difficult to talk about the racial superiority of certain races, scientific racism persists within science. It is a part of the justification that the elite seek, justifying their superior position based on their genes, and not on the fact that they inherited or stole this wealth. It is a way to airbrush the history of the loot, slavery and genocide that accompanied the colonization of the world by a handful of countries in Western Europe.
Why is it that when we talk about genetics and history, the only story that is repeated is that about biologist Trofim Lysenko and how the Soviet Communist Party placed ideology above science? Why is it that the mention of eugenics in popular literature is only with respect to Nazi Germany and not about how Germany’s eugenic laws were inspired directly by the U.S.? Or how eugenics in Germany and the U.S. were deeply intertwined? Or how Mendel’s legacy of genetics become a tool in the hands of racist states, which included the U.S. and Great Britain? Why is it that genetics is used repeatedly to support theories of superiority of the white race?
Mendel showed that there were traits that were inherited, and therefore we had genes that carried certain markers that could be measured, such as the color of the flower and the height of the plant. Biology then had no idea of how many genes we had, which traits could be inherited, how genetically mixed the human population is, etc. Mendel himself had no idea about genes as carriers of inheritance, and this knowledge became known much later.
From genetics to society, the application of these principles was a huge leap that was not supported by any empirical scientific evidence. All attempts to show the superiority of certain races started with a priori assuming that certain races were superior and then trying to find what evidence to choose from that would help support this thesis. Much of the IQ debate and sociobiology came from this approach to science. In his review of The Bell Curve, Bob Herbert wrote that the authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, had written a piece of “racial pornography,” “…to drape the cloak of respectability over the obscene and long-discredited views of the world’s most rabid racists.”
A little bit of the history of science is important here. Eugenics was very much mainstream in the early 20th century and had the support of major parties and political figures in the UK and the U.S. Not surprisingly, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a noted supporter of race science, although eugenics had some supporters among progressives as well.
The founder of eugenics in Great Britain was Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton pioneered statistical methods like regression and normal distribution, as did his close collaborators and successors in the Eugenics Society, Karl Pearson and R.A. Fisher. On the connection of race and science, Aubrey Clayton, in an essay in Nautilus, writes, “What we now understand as statistics comes largely from the work of Galton, Pearson, and Fisher, whose names appear in bread-and-butter terms like ‘Pearson correlation coefficient’ and ‘Fisher information.’ In particular, the beleaguered concept of ‘statistical significance,’ for decades the measure of whether empirical research is publication-worthy, can be traced directly to the trio.”
It was Galton who, based supposedly on scientific evidence, argued for the superiority of the British over Africans and other natives, and that superior races should replace inferior races by way of selective breeding. Pearson gave his justification for genocide: “History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race.”
The eugenics program had two sides: one was that the state should try to encourage selective breeding to improve the stock of the population. The other was for the state should take active steps to “weed out” undesirable populations. The sterilization of “undesirables” was as much a part of the eugenics societies as encouraging people toward selective breeding.
In the U.S., eugenics was centered on Cold Spring Harbor’s Eugenics Record Office. While Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and its research publications still hold an important place in contemporary life sciences, its original significance came from the Eugenics Record Office, which operated as the intellectual center of eugenics and race science. It was supported by philanthropic money from the Rockefeller family, the Carnegie Institution and many others. Charles Davenport, a Harvard biologist, and his associate Harry Laughlin became the key figures in passing a set of state laws in the U.S. that led to forced sterilization of the “unfit” population. They also actively contributed to the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for races. The Nordic races had priority, while East Europeans (Slavic races), East Asians, Arabs, Africans and Jews were virtually barred from entering the country.
Sterilization laws in the U.S. at the time were controlled by the states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the doyen of liberal jurisprudence in the U.S., gave his infamous judgment in Virginia on justifying compulsory sterilization, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he ruled in Buck v. Bell. Carrie Buck and her daughter were not imbeciles; they paid for their “sins” of being poor and perceived as threats to society (a society that failed them in turn). Again, Eugenics Research Office and Laughlin played an important role in providing “scientific evidence” for the sterilization of the “unfit.”
While Nazi Germany’s race laws are widely condemned as being the basis for Hitler’s gas chambers, Hitler himself stated that his inspiration for Germany’s race laws was the U.S. laws on sterilization and immigration. The close links between the U.S. eugenicists and Nazi Germany are widely known and recorded. Edwin Black’s book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race described how “Adolf Hitler’s race hatred was underpinned by the work of American eugenicists,” according to an article in the Guardian in 2004. The University of Heidelberg, meanwhile, gave Laughlin an honorary degree for his work in the “science of racial cleansing.”
With the fall of Nazi Germany, eugenics became discredited. This resulted in institutions, departments and journals that had any affiliation to eugenics by name being renamed, but they continued to do the same work. Human genetics and social biology became the new names for eugenics. The Bell Curve was published in the 1990s justifying racism, and a recent bestseller by Nicholas Wade, a former science correspondent of the New York Times, also trot out theories that have long been scientifically discarded. Fifty years back, Richard Lewontin had shown that only about 6 to 7 percent of human genetic variation exists between so-called racial groups. At that time, genetics was still at a nascent stage. Later, data has only strengthened Lewontin’s research.
Why is it that while criticizing the Soviet Union’s scientific research and the sins of Lysenko 80 years back, we forget about race science and its use of genetics?
The answer is simple: Attacking the scientific principles and theories developed by the Soviet Union as an example of ideology trumping science is easy. It makes Lysenko the norm for Soviet science of ideology trumping pure science. But why is eugenics, with its destructive past and its continuing presence in Europe and the U.S., not recognized as an ideology—one that has persisted for more than 100 years and that continues to thrive under the modern garb of an IQ debate or sociobiology?
The reason is that it allows racism a place within science: changing the name from eugenics to sociobiology makes it appear as a respectable science. The power of ideology is not in the ideas but in the structure of our society, where the rich and the powerful need justification for their position. That is why race science as an ideology is a natural corollary of capitalism and groups like the G7, the club of the rich countries who want to create a “rule-based international order.” Race science as sociobiology is a more genteel justification than eugenics for the rule of capital at home and ex-colonial and settler-colonial states abroad. The fight for science in genetics has to be fought both within and outside science as the two are closely connected.
This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.