Sunday, 20 March 2011

The EROS & Eastern Muslims – A Reminiscence?

"During the EROS election campaign in December 1989 I met V. Balakumar, the leader of the original EROS at Segu Dawood’s house. Segu Dawood is now the chairman of the SLMC. During our unfriendly yet brief meeting, I confronted Balakumar and Segu Dawood for refusing to accept the Muslims as a distinctive entity by calling them as Eelavar in general. I challenged his definition of Muslims as Eelavar and our conversation wound up with the remark of Basheer that the EROS were consulting Ulamas (Muslim Theologians) to evaluate their definition of Muslims."
__________________________________________
by S.M.M.Bazeer

“I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want” Muhammad Ali (Former World Heavy weight Champion)

( February 13, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the EROS became a relatively popularized Tamil politico-militant organization attracting students, teachers and ordinary youths in the Eastern province. The Muslim boys who studied in Tamil schools were also attracted to the EROS through their political classes. The devastating consequences of the 1983 July riots against the Tamils in the South consolidated their belief in the armed struggle and attracted a few young adventurous Muslim youths, to various Tamil militant organizations. However, the Muslim boys failed to convert their own people into the ethos of EROS in acquiring parity among the Muslim and Tamil communities.

As a result, the Muslim youths who joined the EROS implemented scare tactics and used intimidation and violence on the Muslims to keep the community under their control. The EROS always took a highhanded stance on the day-to-day affairs of the Muslims and appointed their Muslim Members along with the Tamil members to subjugate the community.

During the late 1980’s the presence of the EROS was strongly felt in Eravur under the leadership of Segu Dawood Basheer. Basheer first joined the GUYS when he was a student at Central college, Vantharumoolai in Batticaloa where he became attracted to the preaching’s of Gafoor Master who was a teacher there. Gafoor was not a member of the EROS but he was a Marxist and believed in class struggle and acted as a theoretician to the student organization known as GUYS, (General Union of Eelam Students) which initially functioned as the student wing of the EROS. When the GUYS disbanded the members of the GUYS formed the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF). Mr.Gafoor became an admirer of the late Pathmanaba , the leader of the EPRLF, for his unassuming character and commitment, but he did not become a member of EPRLF. He came from the predominant Muslim town, Kattankudy and fled first to India and then to Italy. He realized that he made a grave mistake by joining an organization that had no distinctive place for Muslims. On return from Italy he lived in Kattankudy and withdrew from politics, submitting to a domestic life until his death. He was a very loving and caring person and those who acquainted him during his time of teaching still remember him as their mentor. I have a special respect for him for his views against racial politics. He ignored any political affiliations and was articulate and knowledgeable in both politics and history. He retrieved from the public eye and became a small entrepreneur during his last days. His memories are green not only in my mind as a friend but also as a mentor in the minds of hundreds of his students. I maintained a good relationship with him for his feelings of hope and prosperity for humanity despite being in disagreement regarding his political views. He was also a strong critic of the SLMC, as the SLMC (Sri Lanka Muslim Congress) was founded on the line of ethnicity and tuned out to serve the elite and wealthy Muslims of Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese & Eelavar

During the EROS election campaign in December 1989 I met V. Balakumar, the leader of the original EROS at Segu Dawood’s house. Segu Dawood is now the chairman of the SLMC. During our unfriendly yet brief meeting, I confronted Balakumar and Segu Dawood for refusing to accept the Muslims as a distinctive entity by calling them as Eelavar in general. I challenged his definition of Muslims as Eelavar and our conversation wound up with the remark of Basheer that the EROS were consulting Ulamas (Muslim Theologians) to evaluate their definition of Muslims.

The EROS was introduced to the Eravur Muslims by Segu Dawood. He led a group of young boys who were clueless about theoretical politics. He trained some boys to be “Eelavar ”, and put them in positions to control over the existing government authority, the elite and the landowners (Podiyars). During this time the former Town Council Commissioner of Eravur, Mr. Ramlan, was also allegedly killed by the members of the EROS as he opposed them. The EROS took the upper hand in all state of affairs, interfered in the administration of Quazi jurisdiction in Eravur. The EROS members forced the Quazis to act in favour of their members, supporters and families, in relation to Muslim matrimonial disputes. A few dared to take their matters to the Board of Quazis in Colombo but their efforts were in vain as the orders became unenforceable in the regions where the EROS and the LTTE were in control. Some of the Muslim boys who criticized the EROS were also taken to EROS “torture chambers” in Eravur and assaulted by the EROS members.

Once again the “Eelavars” are back in Batticaloa after two decades to contest the Local government elections. Sangar Raj’s EROS sided with the Premadasa’s government when the LTTE ended their honeymoon with Premadasa. EROS is revitalized under new leadership of Nesan Raj, son of Sangar Raj. He is known as “EROS Nesan or Shankar Rajee Junior". Unlike his father he is now guided by Arular ( The author of Lanka Rani) who acted as a mediator between the LTTE and the Premdasa Government in 1990. Arular is a Tamil nationlist and advocates that the LTTE is the key player of the Tamil destiny and should be reckoned with, in any solution, ensuring the merger of the North and East.

In the Wikipedia file the EROS claims that “EROS was the first political group which recruited Sri Lankan Muslims as well and was more concerned with the question of the Sri Lankan Muslims than any other group had been. They drew up a four phase programme to co-opt the Tamil-speaking Muslims of the eastern province into the Eelam struggle, by working closely with them, and understanding and espousing their grievances.”

In a recent conference on peace in Sri lanka organised by the Canadian Peace Forum in Ontario Nesan Sangar Raj emphasiesd the stance of the EROS on the North and East issues. In his speech Nesan emphasied that

“What the Muslims do not have but the Tamil people have within the North-East is the historical title to territory and self rule within the Tamil homeland. The Muslims have no recognised territory which they can claim as Muslim territory which was under Muslim rule, peopled by Muslims as all the areas of the North-East were and have always been Tamil territories. Muslims have lived as minorities within Tamil areas. Their gradual spread throughout the North-East dwelling in isolated villages also proves this. Knowing the diverse ethnic composition of the North-East Muslims, EROS still preferred to call, them Tamil Muslims (Eelavar’s). This was an expression of our desire that there shall be no discrimination on religious grounds and they will have the same rights as Tamil Hindus and Tamil Christians within the Tamil homeland. By rejecting this identity, the Muslims have left the only option of a status of minorities within the Tamil homeland. Though there has been no end to Muslim demands, their open connivance with Sinhala chauvinism and international forces will lead to total breakdown of trust between the two communities. However for Tamil people to address the Muslim demands they should first have the political power. Until then Muslims must see they do not lose the goodwill of the Tamil people and end up as “Bihari Muslims of Bangladesh”.

In the conference Nesan Raj also put forward the EROS’s own proposal for peace that consists of two programmes. It seems that Arular puts words in Nesan’s mouth as he is good at inventions but not at discovery.

“The first is an “Agenda for Symmetrical Dismantling of Belligerence (ASDB)” and the second is the “Restructuring of Sri Lanka as Union of Two Nations”, Tamileelam and Sinhala Ratta “ the latter proposal is more or less an assertion of a separate state which is against the the constitution of Sri Lanka, section 157a ( as inserted to Section 3 by the sixth amendment to the Constitution)

Overall it is clear that a severe racist warning is given by Sanger Raj’s son, Nesan that the Muslims of the North East should be on their best behaviour until the Tamil people get political power. The Muslim people have experienced the “military power of the Tamils” ( The author refers to the Tamil militants only) and experienced the “goodwill” of the Tamil militants. He also forewarns the Muslims of attaining a similar disposition to the ” Bihari Muslims of Bangladesh”.

About Bihari Muslims the Wikipedia Encylopedia records that “Bihari Muslims are the Urdu speaking Muslims from the Indian state of Bihar who moved to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) at the time of partition of India in 1947. There are about 300,000 of them presently in Bangladesh, living in refugee camps in Dhaka. They supported the language of Urdu and the official stance of the government of Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War. They face discrimination in Bengali speaking Bangladesh. They wish to move to Pakistan; however Pakistan is unwilling to accept them citing that the Bihari ethnic group does not belong to Pakistan and should be incorporated into the successor state of Bengladesh. “

It seems that Nesan and his men have returned to Sri Lanka from exile of decades after going through a period of amnesia. Did he know who the “Bihari Muslims” were before insinuating such a statement. Did he mean that he and his party or the Tamil people would expel the Muslims out of the North and East as stateless. He appears to be speaking in the same language of the LTTE when it comes to the Muslims and traditional Tamil home land. In essence there is no distiction between the two in their statements. Traditional tamil home land and or “Tamileelam” will not have place for those who “ misbehave”. He cautions that the Muslims would have to dance to their tunes or face dire consequences. This warning reminds the Muslims of the treatement of Muslims in the North and the East by the LTTE. What does he know about Muslims politics? He also speaks of the North East as if the two provinces are still merged whilst the North and East are now two different provinces . It appears that Nesan lives in his father’s epoch and is guided by EROS’s senior advisor, Arular. Not only Arluar but also many of the Tamil politicians or former miltants. The Muslims of the East do not wish to be distiguished by common identies such as Elavar or Tamil speaking people in relation to the question of political identity. Does he also think that the Muslims will support the merger of the East with the North when Sangar raj prefers to call the Muslims as Elavar and allege them to be working with the Sinhales chuvenists? Is he under the impression that the Muslims are complacent with his warnings of ‘good behaviour’ or are even patient enough to wait for the “Tamils” to get political power so that their own demands can be addressed?

Sankhar Raji's EROS & the Eastern Local Govt. Elections 2008

In a recent statement to the media Nesan Sangar Raj remarked that “EROS has wider support amongst the Tamil speaking people of the East and they are very happy that the organisation has decided to re-function there under their EDF (Eelavar Democratic Front) banner.”

A few months ago some former EROS members in Europe contacted all their former members in Sri Lanka and abroad to refresh their allegiance to the EROS when the election commissioner invited application for the registration of new political parties. They even contacted Segu Dawood M.P of SLMC. It is believed that the EROS is trying to bag the LTTE and anti TMVP votes. Former EROS MP Alagu Gunaseelan who is in Swiss, appears to be no longer associated with the EROS, so does Soundaranaygam master (Former EROS M.P) in Batticaloa. The terminology of “Tamil speaking people” encompassing Muslims of the North and East is outdated and politically cynical. It is not denied that the Muslims are Tamil speaking and the majority of the Muslims speak Tamil beyond the boarders of the Northern and eastern provinces. The fact remains that the usage of “Tamil speaking” is mere political conspiracy and overbearing attitude of the Tamil supremacy.

It is also intersting that Wikipedia Encyclopedia records that Sangar Raj feels that the LTTE should continue to function.

“however he feels that the LTTE must continue to function in order to act as a deterrent towards the Sri Lankan army.”

Balakumar’s EROS

Ravi Arunachalam known as Kudumbi Ravi from the UK has re-emerged from reclusion in an effort to revive the Balakumaran EROS in the UK whilst Sangar Raj revives his EROS, both in Sri Lanka and abroad. In essence, the two EROS are identical in their policies. The former puts all its efforts to carry forward the policy of the LTTE conscientiously whilst the other opposes the LTTE in condemnable actions but theortically allighing with the LTTE. Prabha from Switzerland has recently returned to Batticaloa to contest as well as conduct election campaigns for EROS under their new political party, which is registered as EDF (Eelvar Democrtic Front). He was formerly a member of the Batticaloa Municipal Council in the late 1990’s until he had left for Switzereland. He was outspoken and condemned the Muslims as the people who always enjoyed benefits by supporting the Sinhalese government. It seems that EROS treds on the same path as the LTTE and adopts a racist approach against the Muslims of the East, where the people get closer after two decades of hostility. It is ironic that Arluar who referred to HCP Bells, a British Officer who demarcated the boundaries in the Tammankaduwa area in his book “ The Traditional Home land of the Tamils” in 1996, HCP Bells unambiguousley noted in his memmorundum on the Boundaries of Tammankaduwa dated July 28/30 1903 that the Batticaloa Moors were an exclusive community that came under his notice. Yet Arular and his men impose an unidentifiable identity on the Muslims as a pawn in their sinister political chess game.

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2008/02/eros-eastern-muslims-reminiscence.html
February 2008

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