Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Shape Of The " Muslim Nation" In The East- A Reminiscence (Part 1)

(April 09, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) “Hakeem is the only Muslim leader who uses the word “Muslim nation “ in reference to autonomous region than any other Muslim politicians of the East. He uses the Tamil word for motherland “Thayagam” in his speeches to arouse the sentiment of the regional hegemony of the Eastern Muslims. Although Ashroff had come from the east he never specially referred or used the word “Thayagam”. Hakeem is originally from Hapukasthalawa, Central Province of Sri Lanka and had lived in Thampala (Polonnaruwa District) for sometime. He later relocated to Colombo.”

by S.M.M.Bazeer

“Don’t take away from me
The blood stained clothes
If you so wish
You may cover them with Ihram pieces"
M.H.M.Ashroff ( "YOU THE I " - Naan Enum Nee)


When Dr. Badiudeen Mahmood , contested in the 1977 General Election in the Batticaloa District under the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) , the Muslim voters in the district were attracted to the magic word “ Kilakistan” which was first coined by Mr. Rasool from Kattankudy in Badiudeen’s election meetings. Mr.Rasool, a teacher by profession adorned all the Campaign meetings from Eravur to Kattankudy and publicly declared that “ If “Kilakistan” was not achieved, it would be “Kaburistan” ( Adainthal Kilakkistan , adaiyavittal Kaburistan ).
( Kilakistan = a nation state for the Muslims in the East and Kabrustan meaning the Grave). It sounded as if he was engaged in a struggle to establish a Muslim nation at the cost of his life and encouraged others to follow suit. Neither Rasool nor the Muslims comprehended the real meaning of nationhood, but the slogan was electrifying at a time where the Muslim community were enjoying enormous benefits in education from the then Education Minister, Dr. Badiudeen Mahmood. Rasool used rhymes “ Kilakistan” and “Kaburistan “ to draw the crowd to Dr.Badiudeen Mahmood who spoke very much about the distinctive Muslim character in every aspect of life including food habits to gain support from the Muslims of the electorate. Meanwhile, there was a political climate where the Muslims of the East in general felt empowered visa vie the Tamil Community of the East. However there were no hostilities between the two communities. The late Rajan Selvanayagam was working closely with Dr. Badiudeen Mahmood when he was both SLFP MP and political authority. Rajan Chelvanayagam personally allocated funds to Zahira College in the Muslim Colony in Batticaloa and former minister Chelliah Rajadurai helped to start a new Tamil Muslim Mixed school at Arasady Pillyar Kovil Road, in the heart of Batticaloa town. Mr. Thiyagarajha , former Mayor of Batticaloa Municipal Council and former principal of Shivanandha Vidyalaya , Batticaloa and Mr. Nadarajha Moorthy, former Principal of Vantharumoolai Central college had been in close contact with Dr. Baduiudden Mahmood. The slogan of “ Kilakistan” did not create any mayhem in the East. The Muslim people of the Batticaloa electorate became regionally-conscious and the people of Eravur chose to vote for their own man whilst the Muslims of kattankudy did not want to vote for a man from Eravur, The Tamil people in and around Eravur voted en masse to Dr. Fareed Meera Lebbe as he was more popular among the Tamil community. The magic word did not have any impact on the Tamil community nor the Sinhalese community.

If we look at the history of Pakistan, it’s interesting as to how the word “Pakistan“ was invented and realized. In 1930 , Iqbal (Known as Sir. Allama Iqbal ) suggested a Muslim state encompassing the Frontier provinces for the Muslims of India before the division of Pakistan. However in 1933 a group of Muslim students at Cambridge, led by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, proposed that the only acceptable solution to Muslim India's internal conflicts and problems would be the birth of a Muslim “fatherland,” to be called Pakistan (Persian: “Land of the Pure”),

He invented the term “Pakistan” from the first letters of the regions, i.e. P for Panjab , A for Afghans (Frontier province) , K for Kashmir , S for Sind .

Dr. Badiudeen never identified himself with the eccentric claims of Rasool or the other chanters and supporters of “ Kilakistan”. He was extremely concerned about the educational development of the Muslims and believed in national harmony as a true Sri Lankan. Unlike the word Pakistan, “Kilakistan” had no history nor did it have an apparent meaning. “Kilaku” means “The East” In English, and refers to the eastern Province where the three major communities live in equal proportion. The East was relatively free from ethnic disharmony until the advent of Tamil separatist movements. The empty slogan “ Kilakistan” was ephemeral and died down with the defeat of Badiudeen.


When the Batticaloa District was carried away with the unrealistic and incomprehensible concept of “ Kilakistan”, Ashroff ( the late leader of the SLMC) and his new party “ Muslim United Front “ entered into an election pact with the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front) and contested in the Ampara District and faced a devastating defeat. This was the time where Ashroff vowed that he would get “Tamil Eelam” even if Brother Amir (former TULF leader, Amirthalingam) failed to achieve it.

Mr. Ashroff disassociated from the TULF along with his colleagues and formed a new Muslim party, Sri Lanka Muslim congress which declared that their main objective was establishing a Muslim Provincial council by linking all the Muslim towns and villages to be administered from the Ampara District.


Although the SLMC argued that the Indo- Lanka Pact did not address the concerns of the Muslims, no demonstrations were staged by the SLMC in opposition. The SLMC decided not to contest in the PC elections as the Indo Pact had not taken into account the concerns of the Muslims of the North and East. However, the SLMC hastily reversed their position and flew in the Indian choppers to the eastern Kacheries to file their nomination papers.

Even then the SLMC made public declarations that their party would make a shout for a Muslim Provincial council when it was elected to NE PCs. During the Northeast PC elections, Ashroff and Segu Iissadeen were actively campaigning for a Muslim Provincial council without having any blueprints handy but lavishly using the race card to secure a stable place for the new Muslim party. Segu Issadeen associated religion with politics to an extent that those who did not vote for the SLMC would have to account for their failure in the Hereafter (Ahira) . The electrifying propaganda campaign of the SLMC convinced the Muslim Public that voting for the SLMC was a religious obligation rather than a political decision. This perception created much apprehension among the Tamil population who were disinterested in the provincial council elections. They realized that if they did not vote for the Tamil parties (EPRLF) the consequences would be politically disastrous and the SLMC may have its Chief Minister. This fear psychosis made more and more Tamils to vote for the EPRLF. The SLMC threw the promise of a Muslim Provincial council without any practical conceptualization. Mere slogans were the orders of the day. The SLMC were seen as the only party that could bring them deliverance from the Tamil Armed militia. The schisms created by the LTTE and other Tamil armed groups made the Muslims to easily rally round the SLMC in the name of their religion and ethnic distinctive identity. The SLMC had one main aim that there should be no other party for Muslims other than the SLMC. The message was clear that the major parties are “Chauvinist Parties” and those who support them were betraying the Muslim community.

Although the SLMC became the opposition party in the Northeast provincial councils they said in their public meetings that they would not take up office unless their demand for the appointment of 3500 Muslim security personnel was met by the Government. However, the SLMC eventually took oaths as members of the NE provincial council on the compulsion of the Indian Government.


When the Tamil parties in the Northeast Provincial Council passed a resolution that the Sri Lankan government was responsible for the atrocities inflicted on the Muslim people of Kinniya, the SLMC supported the motion and thus strengthened the Indo-Lanka pact and adversely let down the Kinniya Muslims. This attitude was maintained in and out of the provincial council whenever there were atrocities committed against the Muslims by the Indian Forces. When the ruling party passed a resolution in the NE PC that the “Indian army should not pull out of the North east”, the SLMC voted for it and reassured their support to the Indo Lanka pact.

In or about 1991, a meeting was convened at Hakeem’s house in Colpitiya to explore how a Muslim Province could be formed when the Muslim pockets were noncontiguous and out stretched far and low in the North and East. Ashroff suggested that a part exchange of villages and towns with Tamil Villages and Towns would make the Ampara District into a Muslim District and by its expansion of land it would be demarcated as a Muslim Province. When he suggested that Karaitivu could be part exchanged for Kattankudy, Hisbulla reacted with scorn and disapproved Ashroff’s suggestion. However the demand for Muslim province was shrunk to a “South eastern Unit” and has been re-evaluated periodically to establish an autonomous Muslim region in the East.

Hakeem claimed to have entered into an election pact with Ranil Wickramasinghe during his Presidential election that the Muslims should be given autonomy in the East and boasted that an autonomous region for Muslims would have been established if Ranil had come to power. The agreement ensuring the Eastern Muslims an autonomous region in the East seemed a mockery when Ranil was reticent about his decision about what he would give to the Tamils.


After all theses years, the concept of nationalism becomes more and more of an unviable proposition, Mr Hakeem and his erstwhile separatist campaigner Segu Dawood Basheer were carried away by the emergence of an Independent state of Kosovo and their recent political perception seemed to have set in the direction of a Muslim nation in the East. When Hakeem attended the 75th Birthday celebration of former Senator Masoor Moulana, he said that there were numerous problems faced by the Eastern Muslims and they ( SLMC) were actively involved in building up a “Muslim nation” as solutions to their problems. Hakeem’s interpretation of “Muslim nation” is derived from the Tamil separatist nationalism but it is ambiguous and unrealistic. However he retracted his position quickly when he felt that the mono ethnic Sinhalese town, Mangalgama elected a SLMC member to the local body during the last local government election.

Hakeem is the only Muslim leader who uses the word “Muslim nation “ in reference to autonomous region than any other Muslim politicians of the East. He uses the Tamil word for motherland “Thayagam” in his speeches to arouse the sentiment of the regional hegemony of the Eastern Muslims. Although Ashroff had come from the east he never specially referred or used the word “Thayagam”. Hakeem is originally from Hapukasthalawa, Central Province of Sri Lanka and had lived in Thampala (Polonnaruwa District) for sometime. He later relocated to Colombo. He has no familial lineage to the East and so he has no valid claim to call the East his motherland nor his fatherland. He appears to have two “ Thayagams”. One appears to be in the south whilst the other is in the North and East. However he is literally entitled to identify himself with the Muslim people of the East, he appears to be using the word “ Thayagam” in line with Tamil nationalists. “Thayagam” means “Motherland” and or “One’s own land “in Tamil (Source: Kiriyavin Tamil –Tamil English Dictionary) and Home land has more comprehensive meanings.

To be continued…………………….
- Sri Lanka Guardian April 2008

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