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‘Enjoy Enjaami’ a welcome begin, say Sri Lanka’s Malaiyaha Tamils

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‘A spark’ that might result in higher consciousness of Tamil neighborhood’s struggles

When ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ fame Arivu from Chennai not too long ago joined a digital dialogue with a gaggle of activists and youth from Sri Lanka’s Malaiyaha or hill nation Tamil neighborhood, there was one individual binding them and their histories — Valliamma, Arivu’s grandmother.

She is known as within the tune that has received over 200 million views since its YouTube launch two months in the past. The viral quantity has intrigued listeners about her story — she was among the many Indian-origin Tamils who laboured in Sri Lanka’s tea estates and was later repatriated again to India, with not a patch of land to name her personal after years of exhausting work. Thousands like her returned, and a number of other hundreds remained in Sri Lanka, plucking tea day-after-day, constructing its export-reliant economic system.

The tune merely names Ms. Valliamma, however may very well be a spark that begins telling the story of the Malaiyaha Tamils, in response to Saumyaa Vilashini Muthulingam, a Kandy-based activist engaged on plantation rights and gender points, who took half within the dialogue. And that’s important, as a result of Tamil Nadu has had little urge for food to study in regards to the struggles of this neighborhood, she recollects.

“I studied in Bengaluru for three years from 2008. The final war was raging [in Sri Lanka] and Tamil people in India were following it closely. At that time and even later, I noticed that whenever I raised the issue of Malaiyaha Tamils, they were not receptive. It was all about ‘Jaffna Tamils,” she says.

In her view, this was simply one other manifestation of the “indifference” to the neighborhood’s issues seen inside Sri Lanka as effectively. “Tamils of the north and east tend to look down upon our people. Even if you look at Malaiyaha Tamils who migrated to the north and east, they face discrimination when it comes to land rights and housing.”

Brought to Sri Lanka by the British to work in tea estates positioned within the nation’s scenic hill nation, the Malaiyaha Tamil neighborhood’s historical past is considered one of braving discrimination and oppression by way of two centuries, until date. They have been disenfranchised, rendered stateless, denied fundamental rights and but, the 1.5-lakh property employees, from the million-strong neighborhood, proceed to toil in estates, combating for truthful wages and first rate dwelling situations.

Different struggles

It was not solely the social hierarchy of various teams of minority Tamils throughout the island nation that relegated the Malaiyaha Tamils’ points to the background, but in addition considered one of politics, Ms. Muthulingam notes. “Whether it is here or in Tamil Nadu, an economic struggle is not considered as heroic a struggle as the one for civil and political rights. I can’t see how having food on your plate can be less important than having self-respect,” she says.

Arivu, in his speak, foregrounded the politics of caste, drawing upon his work in The Casteless Collective band, whereas additionally highlighting how intimately it was linked to his household’s class location. “It is only from a position of privilege that one can say there is no caste today. The soil beneath our feet bears witness to our history of caste-based oppression. It is a question of whether we support hierarchy in our society, or equality,” he stated. Recalling his household’s wrestle as daily-waged labourers and koothu artistes, he stated: “the class we come from, our caste identity — all these are shaped by a host of political factors. We can’t take politics out of our lives.”

Joining the dialogue amongst others was Mylvaganam Thilakarajah, a author and former MP representing Malaiyaha Tamils in Parliament. Compared to different locations the place Tamils stay, corresponding to Tamil Nadu, Malaysia or Jaffna, caste-based violence was comparatively much less within the hill nation, he notes. All the identical, he factors out that these like Ms. Valliamma, who returned to India, have been branded “Ceylon Repatriates”, “virtually like a caste group” though they got here from totally different caste teams. “So your identity can depend on where you are and at what point, you see.”

Pop tradition

Writers and poets in Tamil Nadu corresponding to Okay.A. Gunasekaran, Ra. Vinoth, Tamizhmagan, and Mohammed Yousuf have written on Malaiyaha Tamils and their lives, however common tradition can have a wider attain, as Arivu and Dhee’s tune has proven, Mr. Thilakarajah says. “Enjoy Enjaami has is a massive hit and with the fame it has brought, Arivu has been trying to advance his progressive politics, which is very commendable. The reference to Valliamma is significant, but for the stories of those like her, and of those who stayed back in Sri Lanka to come out in some detail, we need a full-length film on a character like that.”

Telling such a narrative may also supply scope to zoom into how caste performed out inside Sri Lanka and amongst those that returned to India. “The return of some of our people meant that families left the estates in an ad hoc manner, at times inadvertently collapsing caste differences. Also, the fact that estate workers have historically mobilised for land rights, housing and better wages, has meant that they forged a stronger class identity than caste identity. When you tell our people’s stories, you can lay bare all these aspects,” he says, including: “That is why I feel there’s a good film waiting to be made.”

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