The Tamil Academic Journal launched its first lecture on “Tamil Resistance in the 21st Century” at Kingston University on July 6.
The conference has hosted a variety of lectures from leading academics on issues ranging from academic freedom; caste discrimination; the colonization of northern and eastern Sri Lanka; Tamil linguistics in Singapore; and Tamil identity across the diaspora and the homeland. There was also a roundtable on “The Opportunities and Challenges of Bringing Truth, Accountability and Justice to the Island of Sri Lanka” as well as another reflection on “Guidelines for a impact-oriented academic research and publication ”.
Thamil Ananathavinyagan, law professor at Griffith College Dublin and author of “Sri Lanka, Human Rights, and the United Nations” opened the conference by situating issues of academic freedom in Sri Lanka within a larger history and vision. He argues that academic freedom is contested across the world by an increasingly brazen far right. He further states:
“After generations of European colonization, the Tamils find themselves colonized inside and submitted to their will.
It is by channeling their struggle through academic resistance to hegemonic narratives that we must establish global consciousness.
We, as Tamils, have learned from the position that has arisen is a position of resistance and must channel it through academic resistance ”
The Anathavinyagan discussion was shortly followed by a panel discussion on “The Opportunities and Challenges of Bringing Truth, Accountability and Justice to the Island of Sri Lanka”. Dharsha Jegatheeswaran, Research Director Adayaalam Center for Policy Research and Ms. Dushyanthy Pillai, PhD student at King’s College London.
Ananathavinyagan began the situation-based discussion of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka in an international context, detailing the stagnation of the UN and the withdrawal of US control since the Trump administration.
Trump’s presidency has seen the United States withdraw from the Human Rights Council. Coupled with China and Russia, a rising power that is committed to shielding Sri Lanka from liability. This caused a loss of speed. “
Dushyanthy Pillai praised the international diaspora, saying it had “been shown to be effective in advancing the human rights agenda”. This sentiment was shared with Dr Madura Rasaratnam who asserted that “Tamil activists have been effective in pushing British political parties to act on the human rights record in Sri Lanka”.
She further argued that:
“The UN is not a tribunal, it is a political institution, a place of political struggle. It is not the only site of resistance and we must explore other avenues ”.
These other avenues include the principle of universal jurisdiction and civil lawsuits such as the ITJP case against Gotabaya.
Read more here: US lawsuits filed against Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Dr Madura Rasaratnam further cautioned against deterministic analysis of geopolitics.
“The world is changing and Sri Lanka is considered central because of its ports. This geopolitical concern has caused great consternation.
But since the panel is titled, there are always opportunities.
Remember that Sri Lanka’s main supporters were the western states and India [not China]
Sri Lanka is not at the center of world politics ”.
The panel was then followed by Malcolm Rodgers’ discussion of his article on “The Winners and the Loot: Militarization and Colonization in Contemporary North and East Sri Lanka”.
Rodger’s lecturer argues for structural similarities between Tamil and Palestinian oppression, as both are cases of occupied military presence and colonization.
Rodger notes that:
“The military makes annual profits of US $ 5 million in the north and east. It is money taken from the pockets of subsistence farmers.
This is an example of the extraction process. It is a punitive act. People are punished for willingly or unwittingly taking part in war.
There is a strong element of retribution if not revenge here ”.
Rodger states that thousands of northern Tamils are being displaced from their land due to the annexation of land which has been sponsored by the government. This is further facilitated by the rediscovery of “Buddhist artifacts and sites” through the archaeological departments; whose aim is to rewrite the history of Sri Lanka.
Davini Laksmi, a recent graduate from the National University of Singapore, presented her work on “The Place of Tamil in the Linguistic Landscape of Singapore’s Little India”.
Here, she noted the unusual situation in which Tamil is promoted and commodified to sell the authenticity of Little India while failing to recognize other Indian languages. His work touches on the complex relationship between the state and national languages.
Dr. Lavanya Sankaran, lecturer at King’s College London, is presented her work on “Identifications of ‘Homeland’ and ‘Host Land’ in the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora”. Here, she identifies how Tamil identity has evolved within the diaspora as well as in the homeland where Tamil communities have been subjected to greater policing. She argues that there is a complex relationship between terms such as “homeland” and “welcoming land” that need to be re-examined.
The last article presented was Dr Thanges Paramsothy on “The Oppressed Castes in Jaffna: Moving from Collective Resistance to Multiple Invisible Forms Against Caste Discrimination”.
Thanges’s work focuses on caste practice in Jaffna by breaking down the period between pre-war, war, and post-war.
He notes, for example, that there was an increase and then a sharp decrease in intercast marriages during and after the war. Interestingly, he notes;
“BR Ambedkar had speculated that the growth of intercast marriages would end the caste system, but Thanges notes that the underlying political, economic and social structures have remained intact, allowing its survival.”
The final roundtable was moderated by Dr Rachel Seoighe, Mr Malcolm Rodgers, Mr Yathavan Thanapalan, S Rajkumar and discussed the future of the academic journal.
Read more here.