I picked up Gota’s War, a book by G.A. Chandraprema. I heard that it was less biased than it’s title, but so far it’s not. I’m skipping parts because I don’t want my head to melt, but it gets pretty bad. The author quite directly blames peaceful satyagrahis for the beating of protesting Parliamentarians in 1956 and more indirectly fudges on the shameful riots of 1983. There is a line which say, essentially, that Tamils brought the war upon themselves. While I also think Tamil leaders inflamed tensions, this book goes way too far for me. So, so far I’ve skipped the historical recaps.
There was a view, at that time a minority view (at least in the media), that the war was both winnable and just. I didn’t think it was winnable, so color me bad. For Gota and people like Chandraprema, however, there’s was a hard fought position and they seem to want the historical spoils. My issue is that I think the truth is somewhere between them and their erstwhile opponents. Both are rather overzealous, but the truth is in there somewhere.
But They Hit Me First
For example, this from Chandraprema:
The Satyagraha was a mode of protest introduced to the world by Mahatma Gandhi and the term would loosely mean ‘capturing the truth’. In actual application however this had nothing to do with any quest for truth but was an instrument of protest, opposition, and stubborn defiance while eschewing violence…
In was non-violent only to the extent that actual physical violence was not used by the Satyagrahis. In every other respect, the Satyagraha was an instrument of confrontation. (pg 31)
I mean, this is silly, especially as a justification for the mob violence that followed. If you want responsibility for the war you also have to take some responsibility for the violence and douchebaggery that contributed to it. The Sinhalese can’t be active leaders on one hand and dumb brutes on the other hand, freaking out whenever provoked and expecting to be excused. I used the word Sinhalese here but it doesn’t really describe the complexity. Anyways.
I mean, seriously, this book completely glosses over all the bad shit from the Sinhalese side and posits that if the Tamils had just chilled out and waited everything would have been fine. To a degree, honestly yes, that would’ve been certainly better than the route things went. But to excuse Sinhalese violence when ‘provoked’ and to be shocked at Tamil violence when similarly ‘provoked’ is just logically incoherent.
But it’s an interesting perspective. This is actually a somewhat normal view now, tho during the ceasefire rarely spoken in posh company. Even I take the position that things should’ve been worked out within the democratic system and with patience, and that Tamil Nationalism was not the answer. But there’s a line between that and completely misunderstanding the emotional forces which drove Tamil nationalism. Once you do that and use the same emotion to color your own history, it becomes worthless. So I skipped those parts. There’s still a lot of detail about Eelam War IV I hadn’t heard before. So getting to that.