Feature Article

Jaffna University silent to Colombo's pressure, motives behind Fort excavation questioned

[TamilNet, Friday, 06 July 2018, 23:17 GMT]
The Colombo-based Archaeology Department of the unitary state of genocidal Sri Lanka is pushing for the presence of the SL military inside the Jaffna Fort. The move hints a deep-rooted motive of checkmating the native Tamil academics and their institutions from engaging in independent research. Mainly depending on the funds and the academic focus of the UK-based ‘UNESCO Chair on Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage’ of the Durham University, which is flowing through the Colombo-centric unitary mechanism, the academics of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of History, avoid opposition to the Sinhala militarization of the Jaffna Fort, they further commented. In the meantime, the occupying SL military has started to put up foundation structures for a military point, just 100 meters close to the archaeological excavation site, on Friday.

The latest move comes after the SL military, and the colonial Sinhala Governor of the Northern Province have been openly advocating for the relocation of the SL military to the Jaffna Fort from the nearby places in the city. They were projecting the idea as part of releasing the lands back to the people.

Five years ago, during the times of Rajapaksa's rule, the SL military was instructed to move away from the premises of the Jaffna Fort to facilitate the reconstruction of the site as a heritage monument as well as to carry out archaeological research with foreign assistance.

While the Government of The Netherlands was engaged in the heritage reconstruction of the colonial Dutch Fort in Jaffna, the UK-based Durham University's Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage was showing interest in researching pre-colonial heritage of the Jaffna peninsula.

Both the programmes seem to have a geopolitical dimension, and they are managed through Colombo-centric institutions involving Jaffna-based academics.

The narrative brought out by the discourse sophisticatedly suppresses the parity between the Eezham Tamils and the Sinhalese, commented the academic sources at the University of Jaffna questioning the motives of the funding agencies.

The British Academy and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS) have been funding the British research.

The IMEMS has an exclusive interest in conducting researches “with a global range from the Silk Road to the Anglo-Saxon and Viking North”, according to a description in the website of the IMEMS. The critcs pointed this out as a revelation of the sophisticated geopolitical dimension. "[B]y studying its past, we engage with the present and map strategies for its future,” the website of IMEMS programme further states.

The research by the UK-based ‘UNESCO Chair on Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage’ of the Durham University was named as ‘Post-Conflict Archaeology of the Jaffna Peninsula’.

“Recovery of Dusun Jars, early Islamic glazed wares, Rouletted Ware and Black and Red Ware confirm the pre-colonial Indian Ocean significance of the site,” according to a description published at the website of the Durham University.

While the funders represent modern-day geopolitical motives, occupying Colombo's Archaeology Department has an inherent purpose of denying proto-Dravidian, Dravidian and Tamil origins in the North as well as in the South. By twisting the findings of early Tamil Buddhist traces in the North as the origins of Theravada Sinhala-Buddhism in the island, it denies Tamil parity in the human and cultural heritage of the island.

The ‘Conflict Archaeology’ of SL Archaeology Department is far from ‘Post-Conflict’ as the conflict is not resolved in the island. For the UK researchers, post-war seems to be synonymous with post-conflict.

The ‘Conflict Archaeology’ usually projects Eezham Tamils as late-comers from the Chola period and onwards. The motive is denying Tamil sovereignty and their parity with the Sinhalese in the island. Furthermoer, the Tamils are projected as destroyers of the so-called Sinhala-Buddhist civilisation.

The ‘Realpolitik Archaeology’ clad as ‘Post-Conflict Archaeology’ coming from the UK should be viewed by Eezham Tamils with a pinch of salt. It is only a new version of its orientalist predecessor from the colonial times, the critics at the Faculty of Arts further commented.

The latest push to consolidate the presence of the SL military within the Jaffna Fort is not only aimed at check-mating the native Tamil academics, but it is also a pressure tactic passing a message to the ‘Realpolitik Archaeologists’. The foreign institutions should limit their scope of research further to fit the Sinhala interests. Otherwise, they would risk losing their geopolitical and academic investments, is the message coming from the unitary establishment of genocidal Sri Lanka, they further stated.

In the meantime, the SL Army has also started to claim that it was the Department of History that initially requested police protection and the presence of SL Army soldiers to protect the archaeological site of excavation from the harassment of ‘love couples’ often visiting the heritage site. The SL Army soldiers at the Jaffna Fort say they only concentrate on consolidating a hut for the soldiers engaged in the protection of the site.

The History Department academics are yet to reveal their position vice-versa the claims coming from the occupying Sinhala military.



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