Wed, 01 Dec 2021 Today's Paper

National Anthem and nationalism

3 April 2015 06:11 pm - 5     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


This subject came on stage when Mr. Mano Ganeshan sought approval from the National Executive Committee to sing the National Anthem in the Tamil language. Approval was granted and immediately thereafter those who objected to it were branded as “Extremists”, “Communalists” and “Chauvinists”.  In addition to that, the learned and moderate Tamil opinion makers make evocative comments such as that by way of being “a most affected minority community” in this country, the Tamils would at least get some molecule of relief by having this request acceded to. But is this the reality?

As a matter of fact, do those who object to the National Anthem being sung in Tamil, really despise and block the progress of the Tamil people? In comparison to the other nationalities, are the Tamils discriminated against in our country? By allowing the National Anthem to be sung in Tamil will all the alleged discrimination disappear? I think it is high time to lay bare the nudity of those who very cunningly try to paint a wrong picture, locally and internationally, about the Sinhalese and Tamils in our country, in order to achieve their vicious objective.


"The most important thing here is that the very act of translation is done in a wrong manner. If it is done in the same manner the English script should have been Sri Lanka “Mother or Mater”!! "

Let us for the moment move away from dealing with the terms such as communalism, nationalism, patriotism, emotions etc. and examine the Constitutional provisions relating to singing of the National Anthem in Tamil. Article 7 of the Constitution stipulates that the National Anthem of Sri Lanka should be “Sri Lanka Matha”. The words and the music should be as spelt out in the Third Schedule. The English transliteration rightly carries the words “Sri Lanka Matha”.  But the Tamil rendering is a translation, not a transliteration. This means that instead of writing the same Sinhala original words in Tamil characters, the Sinhala words of the National Anthem have been “translated” into the Tamil language. The most important thing here is that the very act of translation is done in a wrong manner. If it is done in the same manner the English script should have been Sri Lanka “Mother or Mater”!! It is very clear that the decision/initiative taken to “translate” it into Tamil had been taken with a predetermined mind set with ulterior motives such as to create communal unrest at a later stage.

In view of this “translation”, some argue that singing the National Anthem in Tamil is in conformity with the Constitution. However, the moment the National Anthem is sung in Tamil, Article 7 of the Constitution is violated, because, in it, it is clearly stated that the National Anthem should be Sri Lanka “Matha” and nothing else. This has led to an inconsistency between the two texts and in the event of such an “inconsistency” Article 23.1 clearly says that the text in which the written laws was “enacted” should prevail. In other words the Sinhala text should prevail over the Tamil one. Thus it proves beyond reasonable doubt that the singing  of the National Anthem in Tamil definitely violates the Constitution of the country.      

We know that it is illegal to violate the Constitution of the country for whatever purpose. Avenues are open even to impeach the President of the country, if it can be proved that he has willfully violated the Constitution. In such a context, if a person takes up the position that singing the National Anthem in Tamil is a violation of the Constitution, can anyone brand him a communalist or a racist?

Most people who use the word “Racialism“ or “communalism” do not know the difference between “racialism” and “nationalism”. Racialism is primarily the belief that one’s own race is superior to others and suppress or deny the lawful rights of other communities. Nationalism, on the other hand, is patriotism, is loyalty and devotion to one’s community; to come forward and selflessly protects the interests of the community in the face of any danger. Germany and Japan became powerful nations after the Second World War as there were people with such patriotic mind sets.

It is said that the Tamils should be allowed to sing the National Anthem in their own language for greater national unity and ethnic reconciliation, implying that Tamils are a deprived community compared to the Sinhalese. Is this true? Today one must ask what the Tamil grievances are; one can ask what “injustice “Tamils face because of being a Tamil”. They live in Colombo happily and comfortably, purchase land, build houses, send children to school, engage in businesses, are properly employed, build Kovils/Hindu temples and freely engage in religious activities. Only 48% of Tamils in Sri Lanka live in Jaffna; 52% live in the rest of the country amongst the Sinhalese and other communities. Do the Sinhalese harass Tamils at sight? There are hundreds of shops belonging to Tamils in Hetti Veediya (Sea Street), Kotahena, Wellawatta, Bambalapitiya, Pettah etc. The monopoly of the business of major food items such as sugar, potatoes, dhal etc. are in the hands of Tamil multi-millionaire businessmen.  Have the Sinhalese objected to it? What will happen if all the Sinhalese boycott the Tamil shops and businesses? They do not do that because the Sinhalese strongly believe in living in harmony and in reconciliation. The Sinhalese in general do believe that the Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils are members of the same Sri Lankan family.

While that is the position of the Tamils in Colombo  - for that matter in the entire country, what is the position of the Sinhalese people in the North? Can a Sinhalese purchase a piece of land in Vavuniya, Mullaitive, Kilinochchi, Point Pedro or in Jaffna? Everyone knows it is impossible. Why? Because they are “born” as Sinhalese and that is the tragic truth. What happened to around 25,000 Sinhalese who lived in Jaffna prior to 1983? Who talks about their land and properties? Who stands up for them?

If a separate national anthem is demanded to be sung in the North, within a country which has been united after so much of strife isn’t it reasonable to consider it as a “threat” to the unitary status of the country? Is the demand for a separate National Anthem a prelude to demanding once again, a separate state?

The population in India is about 1.3 billion and the Tamils constitute 65 million. In Sri Lanka the population is 22 million with approx. 2.8% Tamils. In India there are many ethnic groups such as Hindu, Muslim, Marati, Gujarati, Tamil, Bengali, Panjabi, etc but the National Anthem is “ Jana Gana Mana Adinayaka Jayahe Bharatha Baghya Vidhatha” written by Rabindranath Tagore  in a highly Sanskritised form of the Bengali language. Although we do not understand the Bengali language, when we browse the internet and listen to the Indian National Anthem sung by Latha Mangeshkar lying on sprawling sandy shores, we too are inspired and enthralled by its stirring melody and words. Indian cinema artistes, with Sharuk Khan as the main actor, jerk white men and women in England off their seats, make them spring up from their seats in salutation when the Indian National Anthem is played in his film. What would the response of Prime Minister Modi be, if the 65 million Tamils in India ask that they be allowed to salute “their” motherland, which gave them Knowledge, Truth, Strength, and Inner Faith, to be saluted by singing the “ Jana Gana Mana” National Anthem in “Tamil”!

 It is said that the Tamils get the “real national feeling” of the Motherland only if the National Anthem is sung in their own language. To me it is no patriotic statement. In the same token then, for the Veddha community to get the national feeling, the National Anthem should be altered to say “Sri Lanka Ammila Eththo” instead of “Sri Lanka Matha”. As a person who has been in India on several occasions for training I have observed, on very sensitive occasions, the eyes of Indians, be they Marati, Gujarati, Hindu, Tamil or Muslim, filling with tears when they sing the Indian National Anthem. According to those who are of a counter opinion it may be because of conjunctivitis, for, the Maratis, Gujaratis and others do not get this national feeling because they do not understand the Sanskritised Bengali!! In some schools in India, the meaning of the song is taught to students. But when the National Anthem is played, tears well up, not because they all understand each and every word but because it generates patriotic emotions and the feeling that it symbolises the nation - the feeling that this is our country, it is the “honour” and “pride” of our country, we are Indians, not different nations; and whatever enemy forces advance towards us we will protect the nation at any cost. Irrespective of the different ethnic identities they all think as “Indians” and that is the very reason why there is no demand from any one of the communities to sing the National Anthem in their respective languages. As in the case of India, if one argues that in our country the National Anthem should be in the original/single language is’nt it because one thinks of oneself as a “Sri Lankan”?  

Even though we strictly do not follow the dictates of astrology, planetary configurations etc., it is no secret that we generally take them as a guide to important activities. When a child is born he/she is named having consideration for the planetary positions prevailing at the moment of birth. This is because we consider that it has a benevolent effect on the child every time the name is called (pronounced). Even the Anthem is composed on the same principles. When the initial words of the song were changed from ‘Namo Namo Matha’ to ‘Sri Lanka Matha’ the composer of the song Ananda  Samarakoon threatened to commit suicide! People generally believe that the resonance of the ‘gana’ and ‘mathra’ of the song when pronounced correctly, the sound waves that are generated will have a benevolent effect on the nation. Whether or not such belief is  substantiated by logic or reasoning, any demand to sing the National Anthem in different words will be considered a contemptible insult to an age old valued sentiment/belief of our people.  Since I was the Commander of the Northern Naval Area in Jaffna when the so-called peace accord was signed in 2002, I witnessed the hardships the Tamil people had to undergo under the jack boot of the terrorists. Some shop keepers committed suicide as they could not pay the ransom to terrorists. At least 75 % of the catches of fishermen were confiscated by the terrorists daily.  At least 50% of the remittances received from their next of kin living abroad was grabbed by the terrorists. The school principals who did not release students for demonstrations were shot in public. It was a common scene to see weeping and wailing mothers at the security check point at Muhamalai to find whether their children abducted the previous night, were taken into the terrorist controlled area.  On most occasions Sinhala soldiers ventured, despite threat to their lives, to save such affected persons and they were highly respected by individual Tamils.

  Comments - 5

  • peter Monday, 06 April 2015 06:02 PM

    please show me any place in the world where you get two national anthems .

    G. Perera Saturday, 04 April 2015 02:38 PM

    At a time when the majority is learning the language of the other and vice versa it must be the most natural thing to learn the National Anthem once and for all in its original form.There is no country where the national anthem is ofiicially allowed to be sung in differnt languages than in the original.Further as reported there is the possibility of inaccurate translations. This is a sensitive business for the majority. It is good to take things a bit more seriously to avoid future trouble for all concerned.

    Ganesh Saturday, 04 April 2015 04:23 PM

    With due respect to you, please keep in mind that Tamils in Wellawate and Colombo in General buy land with their own money, unlike Sinhalees settled in North ans East by Govt with military protection only to destroy the demograhic ratio.Come on Guys, when will you all think like a Sri Lankan?

    Mason Saturday, 04 April 2015 07:01 PM

    This article is much ado about nothing.If there is an error in the translation of the National Anthem correct it.Do not compare the minorities in India with those in Sri Lanka. In India their rights are not suppressed.

    CITIZEN Monday, 06 April 2015 03:41 PM

    I think this guy doesn/t understand English. Can some one translate this article to him pls.

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment

Focus on Laggala Gem mining big shots bigger than the law

The truth is now being uncovered regarding an illegal mining racket in state

How and why the TNA was formed twenty years ago

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is now twenty years of age. The premier pol

India lays emphasis on culture diplomacy with Sri Lanka

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to inaugurate the Kushinagar Inter

Bittersweet memories of a ‘City that never slept’

At the heart of Eastern Province lies a now abandoned ghost town punctuated w