Feature Article

Indian historian intends well but slips in historiography

[TamilNet, Monday, 16 February 2009, 23:21 GMT]
Indian historian Ramachandra Guha intended well in saying if the defeat of the LTTE at the hands of the Sri Lanka army leads to a consolidation of Sinhala chauvinism it will be impossible to defend that. But the categorical statements he makes such as ‘ the Sinhala almost certainly migrated there (to the island of Sri Lanka) from eastern India, Tamil and other cultures influenced the island in later centuries, the LTTE is a terrorist organization, the civil war in Sri Lanka nears its end’ etc are not in accord with historiographical etiquette, says a Tamil academic based in Colombo.

The academic didn’t want to be named, saying that anonymity has unfortunately become the etiquette of academics and journalists dissenting from the views of the Establishment in the island, since the problem is not merely ethnic chauvinism but totalitarianism of the worst type.

He emailed the following comments on Ramachandra Guha’s article, ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’ appeared in Hindustan Times, Sunday.

In representing the ancient history of the island Ramachandra Guha still dwells in the Mahavamsa myth and interpretations of Sinhala historiography based on it, when he says the Sinhalese almost certainly migrated from eastern India, i.e., Bengal and Orissa, and the Tamils have come in the later centuries.

He is invited in this respect to re-examine the pre and protohistoric material in Sri Lanka and scholarly works of Sinhala and Tamil historians like Sudharshan Seneviratne and K. Indrapala on the origins of Sinhala and Tamil ethnic identities in the island.

Both Tamils and Sinhalese share a common ethnic substratum is the archaeological understanding.

Governments and politicians may label the LTTE as a terrorist organization, but not a historian. A historian shouldn’t be carried away by the parameters of Bush syndrome. Will he dare to ascribe the Indian National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose or the innumerable subaltern movements of pre-independent India with similar terms just because the British called them so?

How sure Guha is that the civil war is near its end. Has he sighted any political solution or end of military oppression in the island? The civil war has to continue until there is political solution and until there is military oppression. Does he want to imply that it is the LTTE and not the deep-rooted Tamil grievances that caused a civil war, and if the LTTE is weakened the war will be over? Politicians can afford to jump at such quick conclusions but it is not reasonable historical understanding of contemporary realities.

His analysis of the Sri Lankan situation suffers from his own obsessions with phenomena such as Hindu, Muslim, Hindutva, RSS, India, Pakistan, etc. The issues in the island may have parallels but they are also uniquely different.

Related Articles:
03.07.08   Knowledge books mistreat Tamil history

External Links:
Hindustan Times: Two wrongs don’t make a right


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