Feature Article

Veteran Eezham Tamil academic, diaspora leader Theva Rajan passes away

[TamilNet, Thursday, 15 October 2015, 19:08 GMT]
Mr. Arumugam Thevarajan, who was contributing to the language, history, culture, rights, media and social welfare of Eezham Tamils in the island and in the diaspora for nearly six decades, passed away in New Zealand on Wednesday at the age of 81. Joining the Ceylon government clerical service in the 1950s, and posted in the police department at Puththa'lam, Theva Rajan resigned his job protesting the ‘Sinhala Only’ Act of 1956. Since then, he was determined and steadfast in devoting an entire life for the national identity development and sociocultural infrastructure development of the nation of Eezham Tamils. He was silently working behind many of the fundamentally important heritage and political pursuits of Eezham Tamils.

A Thevarajan
Mr. A Thevarajan, New Zealand [Image courtesy: Vanitha Prasad, Western Leader]
Moving to New Zealand in 1997, his achievement in enlightening that country in understanding the real nature of the conflict in his home island was much greater than what the establishment-guided activists in many other parts of the diaspora could achieve.

Soft-spoken, always smiling, selflessly devoted, humanitarian, socially conscious and an understanding personality at heart, Theva Rajan became a silent community leader for Eezham Tamils in New Zealand.

In conviction, honesty and opinion making, he was one of the true leaders of the entire Tamil diaspora and was a role model to diaspora leadership. He belongs to a genre of personalities who never thought of their life in terms of personal materialistic pursuits.

Theva Rajan received the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) at the 2011 New Year’s Awards, in recognition of his services to the Tamil community in New Zealand. This award comes from the British Queen (who is also the Queen of New Zealand) on the recommendation of the government in New Zealand.

New Zealand should be proud of hosting such a cultured Eezham Tamil.

While speaking to media in New Zealand on receiving the award, Theva Rajan was straightforward in telling them, "What's happening in Sri Lanka is not war or even riot – it's genocide.

He never stood behind in telling to the face, whether it was the US President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, UNHCR and other UN organisations, Commonwealth Meet conveners or ‘South Africa’ model deviators that what they did was shielding and facilitating genocide. He deconstructed the myth that Eezham Tamils were favoured under Colonial British.

Born on 05 February 1934 in Puloali West of Vadamaraadchi, Jaffna, in a milieu of Tamil scholarship, Theva Rajan became a self-made academic, to whom even professional university academics paid much respect. He was an old student of Hartley College, Point Pedro.

As a versatile scholar and writer in Tamil and English, a freelance journalist, he was long involved in valuable publications.

Since 1960s Theva Rajan was associated with the organization of a number of societies such as the committee for the installation of the statue of Arumuga Navalar in 1969, society remembering a Tamil scholar Sathaavathaanam Kathiraivet Pillai and Fr. Thaninayagam Foundation.

Many in Tamil Nadu today may not know the background of Kathiraivet Pillai of Puloali West, Jaffna; his student Thiru Vi. Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar, the pioneer of Tamil trade union activism and Dravidian Movement in Tamil Nadu, and his student in turn, Krishnamoorthy, the indelible Tamil novelist who founded 'Kalki'.

After 1997, Theva Rajan founded New Zealand Tamil Studies and Humanitarian Trust, which was in the forefront in helping the Eezham Tamil migrants in many ways, ranging from helping the migrant retirees in getting their entitled pensions to fighting for the rights of the migrants to swear on the religious text of their choice in legal situations. Later, he was the coordinator of the Tamil Action Front, New Zealand (TAFNZ).

Theva Rajan was one of the first to study the Brahmi inscriptions of the island, since their publication by S. Paranvitana in 1970. Theva Rajan brought out the Tamil personal names and the other Dravidian elements in them to the attention of scholars inside and outside.

He was one of the founder members of the Jaffna Archaeological Society that was started in 1971, and has brought to light the presence of megalithic urns in Vallipuram.

He worked closely with many academic doyens of his time.

His research presentations and publications were on wide-ranging topics: Murukan cult among the Sinhalese, Tamil language rights in Sri Lanka, public servants and legal remedies, human rights, children’s literature and many others.

Mr Theva Rajan was ailing for sometime. He spent the last few months at a nursing home in Auckland. He leaves behind his wife and two sons. The funeral is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

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