The 1956 (?) Language Hotline

Political Cartoon

Political cartoon from the book Rendering Unto Caesar.


The government is opening a hotline (1956) to deal with language issues within state institutions. Which is good. The only thing is the number. 1956 was the year that Sri Lanka passes the Sinhala-Only Act, which many people connect to the eventual civil war in the country. The act said that Sinhala would be the only national language, something which has since been rolled back in the Constitution, but the effect of a largely Sinhala speaking government service had already happened. It was really a sore spot for a lot of people.

It’s not like the hotline is 1983 (the year of the worst riots), but 1956 is still a bit of an odd number to choose.

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19 Comments »

2012-11-28 12:53:01

RT @indica: blog: The 1956 (?) Language Hotline. The number is the year of the Sinhala-Only act http://t.co/C5GXDxZp

 
sack
 
sack
2012-11-28 15:37:29

and yeah. 1956 sinhala only act is put on the spotlight by some people who holds it as the seed that started the tamil separatism.

 
sack
2012-11-28 16:04:31

And xinhua does not say anything Sri Lankan about this.

 
Abu
2012-11-28 17:21:46

Maybe it dials in to a voice message informing the caller “Meke Singhala Ratak” and then cuts off

sach
2012-11-30 09:05:49

isnt it interesting that sinhala hardliners and the eelamists argue in the same line?

 
 
billy
2012-11-28 18:40:22

may b u need to read a bit more about the real history..things like the creation of the fedaral party, 50:50 and other tamil comunal and tribal political incidents …these things happened way before 56…and by the way, in 56 sinhala didnt replaced tamil, it replaced english as the official language with later amendments giving tamil a place that it never had…

 
2012-11-29 09:43:30

Billy, all things were a result of 1956 and happened afterwards.

sack
2012-11-29 10:16:26

“Billy, all things were a result of 1956 and happened afterwards.”
well if you start reading only DBS versions and nothing else, your conclusion would be this.

But separatism in Sri Lanka started much more earlier than 56 or SWRD (ex: 50-50 demand was made in 1940s) and if your look at the Dravidian movement in south india in early 20s to 50s you would understand the real seed.

BTW, the english name of the “Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi” party (formed 1949) is “federal party” but the real meaning of the name is “Lanka Tamil State Party”.

Dravidian movement asked for a separate sovereign tamil speaking entity that encompassed south india (not just tamilnadu. Madras presidency and some other Dravida speaking states) and parts of Sri Lanka known as the “Dravida nadu”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dravida_Nadu

2012-11-29 15:39:26

I stand corrected on 50:50, although what he asked for was 50% for all minorities, not just Tamils:

http://pact.lk/november-1948/

The language act of 1956 however was the watershed event that ripped the social fabric of the country apart.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
sack
2012-11-29 16:11:15

Well he can’t ask for 50% with less than 20 of the votes, can he? Even if you add the muslims to it, it would be 30% max.

In those period they (tamil leaders) tried to increase their portion by adding the muslims to their side under the banner of “tamil speaking people”.
Fortunately or unfortunately, muslims had their own agenda.

The event that ripped the social fabric would be the 1983 violence and the apparent state sponsorship that was given to it. However I am not arguing about that.

My point is that the seeds of separatism were planted mush earlier than some people like to acknowledge and it was inspired by a movement that was foreign to us.

SWRD is named as the main culprit who forced the tamils to become separatists (ideologically) but my point is that it was born due to factors that did not have anything to do with SWRD.

 
 
 
 
2012-11-29 11:18:58

Cool, didn’t know it was there. What I included is literally a photo from Weerakoon’s book

sack
2012-11-29 11:31:01

Since assignment Colombo was published in 1998, i guess Dixits one is the older book. But on the other hand this may be a political cartoon in India during the IPKF period.

Anyway you should read that book, “assignment Colombo”.

 
 
Sanjayan
2012-11-29 19:47:52

sinhala was made the official language in 1956, not the national language. technical, i know, but it makes a serious difference legally.

 
sach
2012-11-30 09:15:37

If seperatism was started earlier, why did tamil leaders and people agree to live in Ceylon as its people at the independance? If they wanted a seperate country they could have achieved it in 1948 easily. Many new countries were formed during this period. There was indian partition as well. Just because they formed a federal party and advocated federalism cannot be considered as seperatism.

True there was dravidian movement in South India, but it was managed properly by the North indian leaders. Also the South indian Tamil leaders at that time were pragmatic. You dont see the same level of wisdom in our leaders who lived at that time (or even today).

2012-11-30 09:45:46

” You dont see the same level of wisdom in our leaders who lived at that time (or even today)”

You are right. There is a polarisation that is taking place within the leadership and the even amongst the people. I put down a few observations some time back

http://jestforkicks.blogspot.com/2009/01/polarisation-ii.html

 
 
sack
2012-12-03 11:06:46

“Many new countries were formed during this period.”

You seem to think it’s very easy create new countries. But if you look at partitioning of countries in that period, it was quite violent. And for you to create a new country, you need to have a considerable population to support it. In Sri Lanka it was hardly the case. And tamil society was less effected by the nationalistic movements at that time. Hence even up-to 80s many were against violent armed conflicts.

And actually the separatism in south india gained its height during the 40s and 50s. And got weakened after 60s. So it wasn’t something happened much earlier.

And sinhala nor tamil people (as common ordinary) people didn’t really asked for the independence, did they? We didn’t had country wide strikes or pretest against the british. So our independence (or the Dominion state) wasn’t really asked by the ordinary people but by our political leaders. And tamil political leaders tried get more power for them (like ponnabalam with his 50:50) but those things failed (even the british would reject those).

And did our political leaders mismanaged it? yeah obviously. We had a 30 yr war.
On the other hand the south indian tamil leaders at that time were MG Ramachandran, Karunanidhi (same one) and the lot. Whether they are good, am not going to comment on that issue.

And Sri Lankan tamil leaders had tamilnadu for their help when facing SL government.
Tamil nadu leaders didn’t had any powerful ally when facing the indian government (on the issues of more power or separatism, etc.). So it was easy to control them. So the demand for a Dravida nadu died that way. But the idea for a separate country (even if it is outside india) for tamils (or dravida) didn’t die.

PS: SWRD wasn’t really a nationalist ( He wasn’t a bad person either). He may have taken advantage of it but his proposal for language policy included both sinhala and tamil. But unfortunately, he was a stick in a mud. His government was a mess (it included right wing nationalists to old school leftists who constantly fought each other). So when the pressure came from the right wings, he bent to their will (he was later shot by them).

 
billy
2012-12-04 16:01:43

only to ignorant tamil racists …i suggest reading about the real history prior to 56(not relying on tamil propaganda)..the creation of creation of fedaral party..etc…specially about tamil tribal politcs from 1920s upto 56..u will be surprised..lol

 
Dipti
2013-01-16 08:52:02

Wasn’t the Snhala Only Act passed in 1959 ?

 
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