Bandaranaik, the Prime Minister of Ceylon, is happy
holidaying at Nuwara Eliya, a hill-station situated
a hundred and twenty miles away from Colombo. None grudges
him this whoopee! But, while he is fiddling, his men
are having a devil-dance around the fire that they have
lit—and what is burning happens to be the hovel of the
Tamilian Leaders are put in jails. Tamilian blood is
being shed! Tamilians are terrorised, hunted out and
harassed. Business is paralysed. The women and children
are in a state of shock and scare. The Movement for
the maintenance of self-respect has been launched and
the elected representatives of the people are sent to
prison. There is tumult in Ceylon and the Tamilians
are in tears.
What has the 'Tamilian Government at Madras done? It
has not even cared to take note of the situation. It
is busy with its campaign of vilification against the
And of course Delhi is concerned with arming Bhakshi
with means and money, mettle and vigour to withstand
the onslaught of Sheik Abdulla. Delhi is so full of
this pet problem, that it considers this Ceylon Problem
to be a matter of minor importance.
The Banda Government is determined to show to its Sinhalese
supporters, that in the matter of ruthlessly putting
down the Tamilians, it would outbeat Kothalawalas. Bandaranaik,
who was hailed as a statesman of rare abilities, as
one who has confidence in the wholesome principle of
sweet reasonableness, is now appearing in true colours.
He who was pleading for concord and amity is today out
His present attitude is attributed to the wave of unrest
that has arisen in his party camp. Some of his supporters,
it is said, did not want him to be so soft—and weak.
They goaded him on, it is said, to this path of fire
Of course, there is a grain of truth in this explanation.
Whichever party attempts to control the Ceylon Government,
must necessarily pander to the tastes of the mass of
Sinhalese who are being tutored by fanatics. So, each
party in Ceylon has to compete with the other, to prove
that it is more Sinhalese than all other parties. In
this race for supremacy, the various political parties
in Ceylon, are led to become more and more antagonistic
to the Tamilian interests and aspirations.
Tamilians in Ceylon have seen many a change in the political
scenery, but find their lot getting worse day by day.
One butcher is as savage as another, for everyone of
them are our for our blood—sighs the Tamilian in Ceylon.
Had there been a more responsive and sympathetic Government
at Madras, it would have gone to any lengths to convince
Delhi, that the problem should not be shirked, as it
involves the lives and future of millions of Tamilians,
who for many generations have enriched Ceylon, by their
sweat and blood.
But, the Congress Ministry at Madras is gloating over
the fact, that it is safely saddled. The one and only
aim dear to this government, is to be in the good books
of the masters at Delhi—and it is not in the least worried
about what happens to the Tamilians in Ceylon. "Why
should this Government worry about distant Ceylon? Are
these Ceylon Tamilians voters? They need not, therefore
be cajoled or cared for! If Banda butchers them, well,
we can't help it. Why not lie low and lick his boots.
They have gone there as coolies! Haven't they? Well
serfs should not aspire for self-respect. If they get
their morsel, they should be tearful. Dare they demand
justice and fairplay—political equality and other precious
luxuries?"—that seems to be the logic behind the
Madras Government's silence, inaction, and indifference.
Harassed by the Banda Regime, neglected by Delhi and
uncared for by Madras, millions of Tamilians, are languishing,
struggling against odds—with no succour, no word of
solace or encouragement from any quarter.
From the cool heights of Nuwara Eliya, Mr. Bandaranaik,
has issued a statement—abrogating the pact with the
Tamilian leaders—which means, to all intents and purposes,
that there is to be a struggle to the bitter ends.
Mr. Banda's pact with the Federal leaders, to ward off
dangerous repercussions due to the Tamilian agitation,
was hailed as a fine piece of statesmanship. None but
one schooled in the art of forging friendship even amidst
tumult and trouble, could have registered such a signal
The 'Pact' was welcomed by one and all—for, by this
stroke of diplomacy, Mr. Bhandaranaik, showed to the
world that he could rise above passions and petty prejudices.
The 'Times' of London paid rich tributes to Mr. Banda's
sagacity and sobriety.
"The statement of the language issue is probably
the greatest achievement in the interest of Ceylon of
any Prime Minister. Mr. Bandaranaik has averted the
greatest crisis that ever threatened his country. For
the first time too, he has faced an important problem
with little thought for the extremists who have hitherto
dogged his steps and made it difficult for him to act
according to his own lights."
What has become of this Statesmanship? Or was it after
all a sort of ruse? The 'Times' along with many, thought
that this 'Pact' would put an end to all the troubles.
"Now that a settlement has been reached, the country
breaths freely again. The atmosphere has been cleared
of suspicions and the danger of violence has disappeared."
The 'Times' thought, as many others were forced to think,
that Mr. Banda would follow this path of piety, nobility
and sound politics, and forge a lasting bond of comradeship
as between the Tamilians and the Sinhalese. But, such
hopes were shattered and many today stand bewildered
at the sight of this sober politician assuming an air
of fury abrogating the very pact for which he was applauded.
At that time, it was Mr. Banda who eulogised the spirit
of compromise and accommodation exhibited by leaders
of the Tamilian community. All that is changed and we
find an autocrat today.
The Tamilians were at that time so much inflamed, so
well prepared for all eventualities, that, the Ceylon
Government was not prepared to face the upsurge. Any
amount of shooting, would not have caused dismay in
the minds of the Tamilians. They were determined to
end their serfdom or their very lives. It was then that
Mr. Bandaranaik, stopped his sabre-ratting and donned
on a smile, and effected a pact.
Now this same pacifist abrogates the pact, which means
he is encouraging those who cry hoarse against the Tamilians.
He expresses his willingness to join the 'killers' —to
join the chorus of 'war-cry' let loose by a section
of the Sinhalese, for whom the very sight of a Tamilian
The Federal leaders having launched, 'Satyagraha', have
themselves made the pact a dead letter—not me!—argues
the astute politician.
But the common man who is not interested in finery of
expression or subtility of argument, asks 'can it be
the reason why, a pact should be abrogated by the head
of a responsible Government?' They know that the leaders
of the Federal party are not a type of men who dash
towards rash deeds. They are a set of men who want restraint,
reason and responsibility. But when they find the extreme
elements in Ceylon, taking law into their own hands,
to terrorise Tamilians, and Mr. Banda himself perched
up on Nuwara Eliya, what else could they do than announce
a Satyagraha to vindicate the honour of the Tamilians?
What prevents Mr. Bandaranaik, from adopting a more
tenable and statesmanship policy of attempting to confer
with these leaders, before launching his offensive?
Mr. Banda complains, through his statement, that the
leaders of the Federal party did not inform him about
the 'Direct Action'. But prior to this 'direct action'
much blood was shed.
Conflict broke out in Ceylon between the Sinhalese and
the Tamils. There was a violent wave and four persons
were shot dead. What did the leaders of the Tamilians
do? Did they exploit the situation for furthering their
ends? No! The prime minister himself praised the Tamilian
leaders for their sense of responsibility.
Should not Mr. Banda pursue this path of responsibility
by convening a conference immediately—to find out ways
and means of forging friendship and concord? Instead,
we find him hopped upon the cool heights holidaying
and from there issuing statements, clouding the entire
issue. He talks about 'sinister moves' for 'wider Tamil
Nad' sponsored by a group! And he himself refutes his
argument when he says, that he is sure no responsible
person is backing such moves.
But the question is, 'was it for achieving that objective,
that the Federal party has launched Satyagraha?' Certainly
not! It is to vindicate a just cause.
The pact, so enthusiastically welcomed by different
sections, has to its credit, more breaches than implementation.
While the 'pact' assured that Tamil would be guaranteed
a reasonable use, in Tamil regions, it was the Sinhalese
section that broke the sanctity of the pact, by exhibiting
Sinhalese 'Sri' on vehicles. The infuriated Tamilians
feared in this, a linguistic onslaught. 'Hence they
erased the 'Sri' with tar! Retaliation was let loose,
resulting in an outbreak of violence.
It was at this critical stage, that the leaders of the
Federal party came out with gestures of good-will and
restraint and won even the praise of the prime minister.
It is against such responsible men, that Mr. Bandaranaik,
has launched his ugly offensive. His present repudiation
of the 'pact' proves only, that Mr. Bandaranaik wants
to play to the galleries! His Sinhalese friends, have
made of him a convert to the cause of fanaticism. And
to screen his own weakness, Mr. Bandaranaik, has issued
a statement accusing the Tamilian leaders. But the cat
is let out of the bag by one of his colleagues.
Mr. Senanayaka, Minister of Transport, on being questioned
by reporters at Madras, is stated to have explained
the situation, this way:-
"While the Ceylon government was earnest in giving
recognition to Tamil, a situation had now been created
by the extremist elements among the Sinhalese which
made the position difficult but with patience and good-will
on both sides he was sure language issue was bound to
be satisfactorily settled"
So, it is the extremist Sinhalese element that is responsible
for the worsening of the situation.
And, as if to add fuel to the flame, Mr. Banda, abrogates
the pact, to placate and actively encourage the extremists!
Is this statesmanship? Or, is it, the Strijdom path?
But, Mr. Banda is not a bit worried. If there is civil
disobedience, he has his jails, and means to build new
one! If there is commotion, he has his police, and his
'extremists' who know the art of hooliganism. Tamilians
have a bleak future before them. They are paving their
path of 'righteousness' by their blood and tears while
we sit here, with sorrow and remorse choking us, almost
into inaction, and our benign government would not budge
an inch, to offer their hand of friendship. And at Delhi,
Pandit Nehru, is busy packing his luggage for his journey,
to the Land of the Lamas.