Written using the voice of Zehra Hashmi, an ethnographic narrative examines caste in transition in Jaffna, centred around a Vel.l.āl.ar family that lived in the peninsula throughout the duration of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which came to an end in May 2009. Based on field research and interviews conducted between 2011 and 2013, the authors find that interlocutors struggle to make meaning of post-war changes.
After decades of protests, hundreds of Sri Lankan Tamil repatriates, a majority of whom live in colonies in Puttur and Sullia taluks, will be given caste certificates
We would like to share a deeply personal and beautifully written piece on caste identity by Sinthujan Varatharajah.
“What does it then mean to utter these words in public? That you are a Dalit or an inter-caste Dalit? How will it affect my parents if we choose to identify with what we were taught to deny? How will it affect the people around us? How will it affect us?”
“Piece by piece am I learning to process and share, to no more live in fear and silence. To no more deny the validity of our own voices. This is part of an ongoing journey which I share in the knowledge of the vulnerability I produce not just for myself, but also those I love the most. But our pain isn’t just ours, our experiences aren’t exclusively ours, and our stories are neither isolated events. They mirror this society and culture we cherish but hardly critique.
The struggle goes on and so does our our emancipation and liberation. This is part of my own contribution, the coming out I chose for myself.”
Sinthujan Varatharajah is a PhD candidate in Political Geography at the University College London and the Founder of Roots of Diaspora (www.facebook.com/rootsofdiaspora), a narrative project on refugees and migration of Tamils from Sri Lanka. He previously researched questions on caste in migration and diaspora for his master’s thesis at the London School of Economics and Political Science.You can follow him on Twitter @varathas
Caste is observed by the overwhelming majority of Sinhalese and Tamils but the subject remains virtually taboo in public discussions. If it is mentioned in public, it is often either to hurl abuse or to negotiate a marriage. The latter is because for many of us caste is the most important factor in marriage. The former is because caste is yet widely accepted as a measure of social status; the latter because for many caste is the most important factor in marriage, even more important than character. I am not suggesting that the individuals should be identified by caste but I do think that the subject should be freely discussed as is done in India, although caste oppression there is much more severe than in Sri Lanka.
Since 1983, war has dominated the perception of Sri Lanka. This has affected scholarship on the country, such that the subjects of an overwhelming number of research proposals and publications have been on the war and the prospects and prescriptions for peace. This survey paper is an attempt to locate the system of caste in transition in the Jaffna Peninsula by reviewing recent literature written after the commencement of the war. While detailed ethnographies of caste in Jaffna may have temporarily come to a halt, caste practices have not and remain a salient part of everyday life among the Tamils in Sri Lanka. As the war ended in 2009, it is therefore important that social scientists on Sri Lanka revisit the topic of caste, that is an integral part of not just Tamil culture or society, but beingTamil itself. As the study of caste is dominated by research in India, a microanalysis of Jaffna and Sri Lanka, particularly the nuances of this system in transition due to war and militancy, could contribute to the macro-study of caste at a sub-continental perspective.
To read the article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/soc4.12101/full
Reference: Kuganathan P., “Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste”, in Sociology Compass, Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2014, pages 78–88
“The ringing indictment of caste-based discrimination and prejudice contained in a strongly worded resolution that the European Parliament passed last month has put this particular form of human rights abuse firmly on the international agenda. Equally importantly, the resolution has served to drag this pernicious institution out of the shadows of the South Asian migrant experience in Europe where it has long remained hidden and into the public domain of legal and institutional scrutiny.”
Le cessez-le-feu de 2002, entre l’Etat sri lankais et le mouvement séparatiste des Tigres de la Libération du Tamoul Eelam (LTTE), a été l’occasion d’analyser le rôle de la guerre et de l’arrêt des combats comme éventuel processus de transformation de la ségrégation à Jaffna dans le contexte d’immédiat après-guerre. En effet, le conflit armé (1987-2001), avec l’abolition du système de castes par le LTTE et les déplacements répétés des habitants, a constitué une rupture dans le mode de fonctionnement de la société jaffnaise. Le poids du système hiérarchique des castes et celui des communautés religieuses, qui conditionnent partiellement dans la ville d’avant-guerre la répartition de la population, le choix du conjoint, les réseaux sociaux des individus, les valeurs et les interdits de société, ont été remis en cause suite au conflit.
En effet, la ville de l’immédiat après-guerre a un modèle de structuration et de fonctionnalité différente de celle d’avant-guerre. La ségrégation identitaire, liée à l’appartenance à une caste, est ainsi en phase de disparition. Toutefois, la fin du système de caste (discriminations, interdépendance socio-économique) n’empêche pas la persistance de la réalité de castes (endogamie, liens de solidarité par caste). Dans le même temps, l’existence d’une importante diaspora est à l’origine d’un nouveau facteur de segmentation au sein de la société. Leur soutien jouant un rôle moteur dans la reconstruction, dans le développement économique de la ville et dans l’ascension sociale des habitants. Enfin, si les habitants vivent dans la grande majorité dans les quartiers occupés traditionnellement par leur caste, le processus de déségrégation spatiale semble engagé. .
Mots-clefs : Ségrégation urbaine, Caste, religion, Tamoul, Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
Pour lire l’article cliquez sur le lien: http://www.carnetsdegeographes.org/carnets_recherches/rech_02_04_Madavan.php
Pour citer cet article :
MADAVAN D., (2011), «Déségrégation socio-religieuse d’une ville dans l’immédiat après guerre : Jaffna, Sri Lanka» in Carnets de géographes, n°2, mars 2011, Rubrique Carnets de recherches http://www.carnetsdegeographes.org/carnets_recherches/rech_02_04_Madavan.php
Nous publions ci-dessous le second article inédit d’Eric Meyer sur l’histoire de Sri Lanka à la période coloniale. Il s’agit de matériaux pour l’étude micro-historique des bouleversements survenus dans la société villageoise (c’est le sens du mot singhalais ‘gamperaliya’) d’une localité du district de Kägalla, sous l’impact du développement d’une plantation de thé et d’hévéas.
This is the second in a series of unpublished papers by Eric Meyer on the social history of Sri Lanka during the colonial period. It provides material for the micro-level study of village social upheaval (it is the meaning of the word ‘gamperaliya’ in sinhala) in a Kägalla district locality under the impact of the development of a tea and rubber estate.
Gamperaliya in the Kägalla district
Material for the historical study of a Kandyan village in its relations with a plantation
The selection of the H*** village and G*** estate was the result of my previous research (1975 to 1978) into the archives of the Kägalla district, which showed the special interest of three localities in which plantations had developed inside a village area and for which detailed information pertaining to the British and even the Kandyan period was forthcoming: the Rangalla village / Yatideriya estate, near Bulatkohupitiya ; the Dorawaka village / Madeniya estate near Warakapola ; and the H*** village / G*** estate near Kägalla. It appeared that the first two areas were too large and too populated to be studied in depth, and that no estate documents were available. H*** had only 49 houses, and I had access to G*** estate (state-owned since 1975) and its records.
After a careful study of the written documents of the British colonial administration in the Sri Lanka National Archives in Colombo and the kacceri record room in Kägalla, a house to house survey was made, in August 1979, with short interviews, which helped to draw genealogical charts and a village plan (together with documents of the Survey Department including an aerial photograph), to figure out the secular trends of the high and low land market in the village by comparing paddy tax registers (especially 1881) with the cultivation officer’s data (1979), and to check written information regarding land sales by villagers to the estate. Further data was collected in the estate records including an old plan. Interviews with members of two influent families, and in the nearby villages of A*** and T*** with elders, a monk and a head teacher, elicited the local view of the history of the area. Much later, additional precise information was found in a sinhala ola leaf manuscript of the Dissawe Lekammitiya of Hatarakorale kept in the Peradeniya University Library.
The enquiry revealed a case of social revolution in a Kandyan village very similar to what the well known Sri Lankan writer Martin Wickramasinghe had depicted for a southern low-country village in his novel Gamperaliya (Village upheaval). Among the few village monographs on Kägalla district, Tamara Gunasekara’s Hierarchy and Egalitarianism located further east near Aranayake provides a wealth of fascinating material often similar to that of H*** ; some comparison can also be made with Jayantha Perera’s Nuwaragama in the same area, and in the Central Province with monographs by Newton Gunasinghe and Kalinga Tudor Silva. The present paper made up of half-worked material, is provisional and focusses only on social history ; it does not pretend to be a piece of scientifically founded ethno-history. Only the initials of names of localities and village families are given, while those of public officers and professionnals are mentioned in full.
Overview of the village history before 1900:
By the mid-18th century, Mawata pattuwa, where H*** village is located, was crossed by the main path (still locally known as the king’s road, Raja mawata) connecting the Dutch-occupied low-country with the Kandyan kingdom, which ran distinctly south of the present Kandy road built under the British in the 1820s. Between the line of forts at Ruanwella, Menikkadawara, Arandara, and the Leuke – Attapitiya area under the Balane pass leading to Kandy (and the minor Balatgomuwa pass leading to Gampola), it was a rugged and circuitous route crossing rivers on creeper footbridges (edanda), with ascents and descents, blocked with thorny checkpoints (kadawat) – the ideal place for guerilla warfare, which enabled the kingdom to resist the attacks of the successive European powers until 1815. Owing to its strategic importance, many villagers along the path were enlisted as warriors, scouts and spies in time of war by the governor (Dissawe) of Hatarakorale, in the so-called nanayakkara and atapattu services. Such was the case in H*** village, whose Radala caste lord, bearing the honorific Tänannähe, was in 1747 the mohottala, secretary to the Dissawe (the powerful military chief Leuke Dissawe the elder), in charge of the organization of the military service. The Dissawe Maha Lekammitiya, rewritten under the orders of Leuke at the beginning of the reign of Kirti Sri (december 1747), bears testimony to his political will of reinforcing the atapattu organisation of Hatarakorale, the bulwark of the kingdom facing the Dutch territories : it provides an updated list of the families attached to the military service in the different villages of Hatarakorale. Following the usage of the Lekammitiya, we shall apply in this study the term Radala to the families listed as such in 1747, which were clearly distinguished from the families of soldiers of a lower grade, styled Hewayo.
In the same H*** village there were three families of Hewayo, two of Naide or Rate caste (now Goyigama), the K*A* naide and the W*A* naide and one of Padu (now Batgama) caste, N*P* aya. Ralph Pieris (1956 : 302) wrongly states that the title -nayide is reserved to respectable persons of artisan castes : according to the 18th century onomastic the suffix was generally applied to hewayo of ‘good’ caste, while the suffix -pediya or -aya was frequently but not always applied to hewayo of Padu caste, and -dewaya to hewayo of Vahumpura caste. Whatever their caste, surnames of the hevayo generally alluded to their military prowess or duties (in this case : Victorious Chief ; Defender of the City). Three families from the neighbouring village of A*** were also involved in the military service : a Radala nanayakkara, R*, and two hewayo, R*A* naide and W* pediya, while a W* family hailing from a third village, D***, was serving in a special unit of lancers.
After the British accession, the Radala family members (who then sported the full patabändi name of S* M* M* instead of Tännanähe) were spared together with the other Hatarakorale chiefs who followed Molligoda Adigar in his support for the British during the 1817-1818 rebellion. But they lost most of their power with the abolition of the rajakariya system after 1833, the banishment of Molligoda, and the abandonment of the old Raja mawata when the British opened a cart road to Kandy about 5 miles to the north and established their administration in the new town of Kägalla. They however retained substantial headmanships in the 1850s (division officers and paddy tax assessment officers in Mawata pattuwa). They continued to reside in their small manorial house (walauwa), enjoy the product of their paddy fields and chena lands, and exert an authority over some families of the village through the control of land. The paddy tax receipts (wattoru) of the 1860s show that in addition to their paddy fields they possessed rights over chenas cultivated with hill paddy by the N*P* family, but that the former soldier families K*A* and W*A* had their independent properties (paraveni pangu). Other families that do not appear in the 18th century lists are mentioned in 1882 : one (H*R*) was that of a long established high caste Vedarala (medical practicionner) who possessed substantial fields and gardens : his traditional occupation made him independent from the service system and the Radala lord ; another (H*K*) was that of a group of poor oboe players, Berava by caste, from a neighbouring village.
In addition, the S*M*M* retained a measure of control over the neighbouring village of D*** which had been given them as nindagama by the Kandyan kings, and they enjoyed the services of its (mainly Padu) families (18 pangu + 1 high caste paraveni panguwa), which consisted in cultivating the fields of the reserve (muttettuwa) and delivering its produce, but also included personal service such as carrying the baggage of the proprietor on journeys. In the late 1860s ans early 1870s, the colonial policy makers, following the Indian example, decided to foster the interests of the hereditary aristocracy : the administration undertook to register the services due by tenants of so-called feudal villages to their lords. At the enquiry, the S*M*M* could not establish their rights to services in H*** village (the enquiry mentions : « nindagama, sannasa lost, services prescribed ») but they succeeded in having the entirety of the large village of D*** recognized as their nindagama, in spite of the absence of sannas (written grant). The fate of some their caste fellows in the neighbourhood was worse : in the village of A***, the nindagama claim of the survivor of the local R* family was « rejected by reason of long desuetude ». On the contrary, some families belonging to the ordinary soldier class during the 18th century were on the rise : the R*A* who hailed from the same village of A***, had obtained from the colonial administration posts of headmen and paddy tax evaluators (wibadde lekam) in the 1860s, and they were able to register a small nindagama under their name at the Service Tax enquiry early in the 1870s.
However the fortunes of the S*M*M* family were already declining : in February 1873, the head of the family, Kiri Banda, was heavily indebted to a Chettiyar moneylender of Kägalla, Kaliappa Chetty, who obtained the judicial sale of all the family property, advertised in detail in the Ceylon Government Gazette : 11 paddy fields and 3 gardens in H*** , 7 paddy fields in D***, together with « the services or rajakariya due from the tenants of the ninda village D*** as noted in the Service Tenures Commissionner Registry ». It is likely that a part of the land was purchased by a member of the R*A* family, Appuhami, who appears in the Grain tax commutation register of 1882 as proprietor of one of these paddy fields ; but the rest of the lands were still registered under the name of S*M*M* Kiri Banda and his brothers Ukku Banda and Punchi Banda, who together owned a considerable extent of 5 amunam 4 kuruni of paddy fields in H*** . However this property must have been mortgaged to outsiders, and R*A* Punchi Appuhami appears in 1898 as the proprietor of another of these paddy fields purchased at a fiscal sale. As regards the family property in the village of D***, they were acquired by a member of another Radala family of the area, B* Banda, who attempted to have these lands surveyed in 1888.
The reasons for this state of things are not given but allusions in the colonial diaries of the time, and in today’s village talk, regulary mention alcoholism : Kägalla town, the new district capital, was easily accessible from the H*** area. The new Kandy road opened by the British was lined with licensed taverns which sold local arrack and imported whiskies, to the great benefit of low-country renters and the colonial budget. There were also unlicensed gambling dens, which became famous in the early 1860s when a low-country adventurer, Sardiel, known as the Robin Hood of Ceylon, scoured rich travellers and squandered his plunder in these places. Another new activity in the town was linked with the establishment of local courts : proctors, surveyors, notaries, most of them outsiders, swarmed around them, and the Kandyan villagers became an easy prey to their speculative activities. It is likely that the S*M*M* brothers became embroiled in this environment.
The 1880s mark a turning point in the agrarian history of the district. The coffee crisis led the British planters to turn to new products, first tea, and later rubber, which could be planted on former chena lands at mid-elevation. The Assistant Government Agents were instructed to survey highlands and effect ‘chena settlements’ and later ‘forest settlements’, reserving an area for the villagers and declaring the rest Crown eventually for sale to planters (Meyer 1996 : 197 sqq and further publication on chena settlements and forest settlements in Kägalla, on this site). The highlands of the Mawata and Kandupita pattu, south of Kägalla, were never settled, but some of them were surveyed in 1880 and after, under the orders of Government, by private surveyors styled ‘chena surveyors’, as in the case of M*** (the chena plan 300 carefully drawn in December 1880 by young Philip Francis Ondaatje – the grandfather of Michael Ondaatje, shows the detailed location of fields, gardens and chenas). It is likely that the survey attracted the attention of the Kägalla landed interests. But the sale of land to planters started only some 20 years later, when a new local administrator, Bertram Hill, lifted the restrictions put by two successive Assistant Government Agents, F.H. Price and Walter Davidson, who wanted to keep Hatarakorale for Kandyan villagers as « the garden of the East » and to direct the planting interests towards the Kelani Valley in the south of the district. The first isolated sales occurred in 1894, and the movement accelerated in 1898 to pre-empt an attempt at enforcing the new waste lands ordinance promulgated in 1897 to stenghten the hands of the administration against land speculation.
Land sales and estate formation.
By 1900, land speculation was in full swing in Hatarakorale (Meyer 1992, and detailed study fortcoming on this blog). The careful but useless survey and settlement enquiries of the 1880 and early 1890 were a thing of the past, branded by civil servants in Colombo as « chena unsettlement », and successfully challenged in the Courts of law. Chena land was being sold cheaply by villagers, who had no written title against the Crown, to planters, through intermediaries, who pocketed substantial speculative profits, and the planters began to open the land and force the hands of the administration. A new ordinance passed in 1897 to clear the mess and strenghten the rights of the Crown led to the progressive establishment of a Land Settlement administration : but it remained understaffed, was busy in other parts of the country (Matara, Kurunegala), and considered it was too late to intervene in Kägalla. The formula adopted in that district was to issue ‘Certificates of Quiet Possession’ (CQPs) delivered by the Assistant Government Agent after enquiry with the local headman: the Crown withdrew its claim to the land (usually upon payment of a paltry sum by the planter) and left the planter to settle with the villagers and the intermediaries without guaranteeing title against them. Of course deals of that kind entailed a lot of underhand pressure and corruption, a certain amount of uncertainty too, and big firms of Colombo lawyers became experts in the game, which could be very profitable or prove ruinously expensive. When the Government Agents were cooperative, it was all the better for planters : it was the case with successive Agents for Sabaragamuwa, the superiors of the Assistants at Kägalla, especially E.B. Alexander and Thaine.
In the H*** area, two would-be planters, Fellowes and Harper, started to buy village land and build up bit by bit what was later called G*** tea and rubber estate. But it was a long drawn out affair, and in March 1912 when the plantation was opened nothing was settled. By that time, the planters had hired the services of the former surveyor P.F. Ondaatje, now a lawyer, to apply for a CQP. In the words of the Colonial Secretary writing to the Government Agent of the province of Sabaragamuwa, « G** estate is entirely made up of lands purchased from natives. To effect the formation into a Company, a clear title is required (…) As the Surveyor General cannot undertake a survey of the area without very serious detriment to his other work, and as it is not desirable that an application of this nature should be met by Government with a mere expression of its inability to give the required information, the Controller of Revenue suggests that the Assistant Government Agent should make as careful and minute an enquiry as possible without a survey into the respective rights of the Crown and the villagers with a view to arrive at an approximate valuation of the claims of the Crown. When this had been done, it may be possible to arrange with the promoters of the Company for its purchase by them of the Crown rights and thereafter to issue to them a CQP.» The Agent instructed his assistant at Kägalla in February 1913 : « I gather that the Company are anxious to get a Crown title quickly. I should not waste much time over tax receipts »
It was an uphill task described two years later in the diary of the Assistant Government Agent (27-28 October 1914) : « The estates were in a frantic to get a CQP, as a company was in process of formation, and through their representations, my predecessor had to cover the whole ground and make a report as to the probable settlement, in the absence of the Surveyor General’s plan. This he did relying on the estate plan. I have now to go over the whole ground again with a plan issued by the Surveyor General. All this land is now planted up with rubber, and there is nothing to distinguish the land purchased from villagers from the land purchased from the Crown. However with the assistance of the individual who acted as intermediary between the estate and the villagers when the lands were purchased, considerable progress was made. »
During the war years the file was shelved, and then retrieved in 1922. In a letter sent to the Assistant Government Agent, P.F. Ondaatje, who has become a sort of specialist in these muddled land issues, explained that « it is not possible to reconcile or identify the names and extents of the lands appearing on the CQP plan with the names and extents of the chenas purchased by the estate on their several title deeds ». Finally a list of 50 lands were advertised in the Ceylon Government Gazette (20.10.1922), and in March 1923, the CQP was issued, at 20 Rs an acre for the 270 acres for which the purchasers could not prove private title, and free for the 68 acres coverered by tax receipts. E.B. Alexander and his colleagues in Colombo minuted : « this is a piecemeal settlement but better than none at all (…) ; in view of the long possession by the claimants, I consider the price per acre fair ». But this settlement covered only a small part of the estate, which according to the Ferguson planting directory of 1939 finally consisted of 689 acres in tea and 484 acres in rubber, and distributed handsome dividends in the 1920s (10% to 40% yearly)
The various enquiries revealed that S*M*M* Ukkubanda attempted to uphold his feudal rights in D***, while the villagers wanted to sell direct to the estate. A petition received from D*** villagers complained that he « uses to come forward and claim as proprietor or landlord a share of the petitioners’ and other lands. Some months ago, one of the petitioners, R. Setuwa, sold some of his lands : at this instance the said Banda came and took a share of the proceeds of the sale at 10 Rs an acre… ». But Ukkubanda’s business was of a wider magnitude. He was actually employed as a broker by the planters (together with another middleman, a Muslim trader). The collection of G*** estate deeds still kept in the estate office in 1979 show that Ukkubanda was paid a commission on most sales, plus batta (a sort of fixed salary) of 1 to 1.50 Rs a day, or sometimes a measure of rice. The same collection of 37 deeds shows that P.F. Ondaatje supervised all the sales, which span a long period, from 18.09.1894 to 8.10.1919 for the main portion of the estate, but extend until the end of the 1920s for A*** village. The amount paid to villagers was 10 Rs an acre in the beginning but rose to 45 Rs for the last sales. According to the testimony given me in 1979 by Kiri Ukkuwa, an old villager of A*** born around 1900, the first A*** villager to sell was Kattandiye Bandiya in 1915, he himself sold in 1928, Ondaatje acting as legal adviser and one ‘Wanumara Nilame’ (perhaps a nickname for Ukkubanda, meaning something like the forest destroying squire) as middleman, getting 12 Rs and a bushel of rice per month.
But all the villagers did not sell all their lands. In his testimony, the rich son of a Batgama villager from A***, H.S. Jotipala, said that only the poorer and more submissive villagers sold all their highlands : a few families on the contrary resisted the temptation of easy money, transformed their chenas into vegetable and fruit gardens and invested in the purchase of new lands the profits obtained from the sale of these products on the Kägalla market. As a result, the village was not enclaved by the estate. In H*** the situation was quite different : all the chenas of the S*M*M* family were sold, together with those of their dependents, the N*P* family, of another family of low status, the H*K*, and of one of the Goigama families, the K*A*. Two other high caste families, the W*A* and the H*R*, do not seem to have sold their chena lands (maybe they had none), but on the whole the village was practically restricted to its paddy fields and resident gardens, surrounded by tea and rubber lands of the estate, like so many villages in the area (see the annexed map).
For the S*M*M* it was the end of the road. The descendants left the decrepit walauwa and obtained as landless paupers an allotment of land in a dry zone colony in the 1950s. A son, S*M*M* Sadi Banda came back with his sisters two decades later and attempted with little success to revive the family’s pride and to revamp the walauwa. Some of their remaining paddy fields had been acquired by the R*A*, now the biggest landowners in the area, who built a modern house on the outskirts of the village, puchased lands to plant coconut and rubber, started a manufacture to smoke rubber sheets, and opened a boutique cum bakery in the village. But a large part was purchased by the H*S*, a Batgama family from A*** village, who settled in H*** and built for themselves the second largest house in the village. The other families in the village either carried on paddy and garden cultivation on a small scale and attempted to supplement the poor income they had by seeking casual employment outside the village (for example in Kägalla town, or in seasonal employment in the dry zone colonies) ; or they obtained regular employment in government service after independence ; or they took contract work on the estate, and by the mid 20th century many were employed as rubber tappers and timber sawers.
This case may be compared with that described by Tamara Gunasekara of the decline of D* Nilame, who was also the scion of a military Radala family in the nanayakkara service (according to the Lekammitiya) controlling the access to Dolosbage above Aranayake. But there are differences between S*M*M* and D* Nilame which can be inferred from reference to mid-19th century Kägalla diaries unknown to Tamara Gunasekara : D* Nilame’s father was suspected to have harboured Keppitipola, the head of the rebels, in 1818 ; after his release he lost all his authority, was never given a headmanship, nor recognized as ninda lord; with the early opening of coffee plantations in Dolosbage, his chena lands on the top of the hills were engulfed in the estates with the connivence of the local chief headman, a pseudo-Kandyan of low-country origin who had usurpated the name of Molligoda ; at that time (the mid 1850s) the Nilame was described as an upright old gentleman, who attempted to resist the encroachment by the estate on his lands but was helpless for want of support from the colonial authorities. When in the 1870s the British undertook to uphold the rights of the Kandyan aristocrats, it was too late, the ninda status of the Nilame lands were not recognized, and his son had become an alcoholic. The end of the story as told by to Tamara Gunasekara by local villagers is that the ruined walauwa was acquired by a former Batgama servant of the lord, who had obtained employment as an overseer (kangani) in the coffee estates, and that the whole village had become by the mid 20th century controlled by members of that formerly ‘low’ caste.
In the H*** area, the large tea and rubber plantations were opened half a century later than the up-country coffee plantations. But the enterprise of the Batgama villagers was similar to that of their Aranayake brethren : by the end of 1861, S*P* Tikkira of D*** repeatedly petitioned the British administration (he went to Colombo for that), to have his newly asweddumized paddy lands and newly planted coconut and arecanut gardens in A*** recognized as private. The rise of the Batgama entrepreneurs (Gunasinghe 1990 : 63), which is often connected with business opportunities during the Second world war period, has at least in the Kägalla district much older roots, especially among the hewayo families. These local cases confirm the better known example of the family of Nuwarapassa Hewayalage Keerthiratne in the Rambukkana – Kadugannawa area, where they became affluent by developing their own plantations at the beginning of the 20th century. In the words of N.H. Keerthiratne who gave me an interview in March 1978 : « These people were not given any responsible position in the country. Their job was planting. For that there is no objection. So we started planting, coconuts, any other things, vegetables, we began planting and making money (…) Even those caste minded people wanted money, so they had to come to these people who were making money ».
Villagers and the estate:
The relations of the villagers with estate superintendents and workers were definitely bad from the beginnings : in his diaries the Assistant Government Agent wrote that « here also the villagers complained about the shooting of their cattle. It seems that the cattle do not always stray on the estate. They are sometimes driven onto the estates and then they are shot by the watchers and consumed by the Tamil coolies. In connection with this particular estate some time ago there was a suspicion that all the stray cattle of the neighbourhood gravitated there. » (28 october 1914). Ten years later, reporting on a complaint of the G*** superintendent against the T*** village headman, he commented « This superintendent owing to his keeping a fierce and quarrelsome dog and for other reasons appear to have made himself unpopular with the villagers » (8 june 1925). Then a villager complained that the superintendent had put barbed wire on the way of his house and the planter complained « that the villager corrupted his coolies by illicit sale of toddy, gambling dens, receipt of stolen estate produce, and admitted having put up the fence by way of retaliation » (20 june 1929). During these first two decades, very few villagers worked on the estate, many who had sold large extents, according to R*A* testimony, lived on the product of their sales. The feeling of being surrounded by hostile people was as common among planters surrounded by villages as among villagers surrounded by estates ; but actually estate workers became regular customers of villagers who sold them fruits, vegetables, drinks, and sometimes employed them on Sundays ; the relations between them were not so bad, and it is precisely the connexion that made the planters nervous (Meyer 1992b)
The rubber slump of the 1930s and the malaria epidemic of 1934-1935 changed the situation. Many Tamil coolies were dismissed, and the area was badly hit by malaria. A new superintendent (Harvey) opened his dispensary for village patients (while the local headmen had done nothing to relieve them), and employed villagers for relief work to build roads across his estate. But still the relations were tense between villagers and estate, especially regarding cattle trespass and the use of paths across the rubber sections replanted with young trees (Kägalla diary 27 october 1936). With the stoppage of Tamil cooly immigration after 1939, casual employment of villagers for rubber tapping expanded and became regular during and after the war. Together with connected activities, such as timber sawing, the manufacture and smoking of rubber sheets, estate employment was after independence a major resource for them, and the relations with Tamil labourers reduced in numbers but long established were improved, some of them working in the village.
But G*** estate and its Tamil labourers came under threat after 1970. During the April 1971 insurgency, the area was controlled by young revolutionaries who regrouped there before attempting to launch a Long March to the north of the island; in 1977 rowdies from the Kegalla town came down to attack the Tamil workers and murders were reported ; again in 1983 and 1989 violence erupted and led to cases of arson. The estate was taken over by government in 1975, and employment reserved for villagers selected on the basis of recommendations by the local member of Parliament, and after the violence of the 1980s its activity was much reduced. Finally its management was given on lease to an Indian Goverment-controlled investment company.
Unpublished sources :
Satara Korale Lekam Pota, Maha Lekam Mitiya, sk 1669 [= 1747 C.E.].
copies : Colombo Museum Library (ms. J13, 76 folios and AN5, 34 folios) ; Peradeniya, University Library, (ms. 277674 and 277649 [Satara Korale Lekam Mitiya donated by L.B. Kobbäkaduwa Ratemahatmaya to F.H. Price, Assistant Government Agent Kägalla, 18 August 1887]) ; London, Royal Asiatic Society Library. On the lekammiti, see H.A.P. Abhayawardene’s Lekammiti Vimarshanaya, especially chapter 7.
[According to the colophon of ms 277674, the Disawe maha lekam mitiya was written on Unduvap saka 1669 (i.e. at the very beginning of king Kirti Sri’s reign), at the request of Leuke Dissave, upon enquiry by Haloluwe Mohottala (his secretary in charge of military services), to replace a damaged manuscript. It listed the military services rendered to the king’s governor, the Dissawe of Hatara Korale, by the military families of Hatara korale, according to their localities of residence (korale/pattu). I suppose that the document has been kept by Molligoda Adigar, successor to Levuke, after the Bristish take over of the kingdom, and has been perused by John D’Oyly to write his Sketch of the Constitution of the Kandyan Kingdom ; it was later handed over to Loku Banda Kobbekaduwa, chief headman of Galboda/Kinigoda where the manorial houses of Leuke and Molligoda were located. L.B. Kobbekaduwa made copies for the then Assistant Government Agent Price, well known in his time for his close connection with Kandyan aristocrats (he built for himself a walauwa in the town of Kägalla…), and Bell’s report mentions it without giving any details. Olas 11, 26, 27, 29 and 31 cover the area. We acknowledge the help of Ven. H. Dheerananda (presently professor of history, Peradeniya University) for decipherment of the manuscript.]
Service Tenures Register, Kegalle district
Kägalla kacceri record room.
Grain Tax Commutation Registers, Paranakuru Korale, 1881-1892
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (33/7291)
Wattoru [hill paddy tax receipts] (1860 to 1886)
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/ 540)
Ceylon Government Gazette 1.02.1873, p. 147 and 20.10.1922 (7291), p. 1366
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo
Chena plan N° 300 (1880)
Kägalla kacceri record room
Chena Cases (1898)
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/615)
G*** Estate Settlement (1912-1923)
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/540)
Preliminary Plan n° 727
Sri Lanka Survey Department, Colombo
Diaries of the Assistant Government Agent Kägalla (1854 to 1939), especially :
1854-1864 : lists of wibadde lekam candidates
1863 : reports on the election of vel-vidanes
22.10.1861 / 4.10.1862 : petitions of D*** villagers
19.11.1888 : project of a survey of D*** village
27/29.10.1914 : inspection for the G***’s Certificate of Quiet Possession
20.06.1929 : enclosure by G*** estate of village lands
27.10.1936 : estate roads
Sri Lanka National Archives, Colombo (30/2 sqq)
Private records of the G*** Estate (1903-1930)
– estate plan showing extension by purchase of minute lots (circa 1915) [reproduced here]
– accounts showing sums paid to intermediaries for land purchase
– check rolls showing employment of villagers
List of H*** village lands kept by the Cultivation Officer of T*** (1979)
Fieldwork from 4 July to 10 September 1979 in the villages of H***, T*** and A***, with the assistance of Mr. Mallawa ; the late Travis Siriwardena (Malpendeniya) generously extended his help during that period. House to house survey of H*** families with short interviews and drawing of genealogical charts and village plan (paddy fields, houses and gardens), detailed interviews of village elders, of the chief monk of T***, of the headmaster of the school of A***, of senior members of the R*A* and H*S* families, and of the superintendent of G*** estate.
Interview of N.H. Keerthiratne (march 1978, Rambukkana). Excerpts from this document will be quoted in further papers on entrepreneurship and caste; it may be published in full if permission is obtained from the family.
Abhayawardhena (H.A.P.), Lekammiti Vimarshanaya. Colombo, Department of National Archives, 2009 [sinhala]
Bell (H.C.P.), Report on the Kegalle district of the Province of Sabaragamuwa. Colombo, Government Printer, 1892.
D’Oyly (Sir John), A Sketch of the Constitution of the Kandyan Kingdom. Colombo, 1929 ; reprint Tisara press, 1975.
Gunasekara (Tamara), Hierarchy and Egalitarianism. Caste, Class and Power in Sinhalese Peasant Society. London, Athlone Press, 1994.
Gunasinghe (Newton), Changing Socio-economic Relations in the Kandyan Countryside. Colombo, Social Scientists Association, 1990
Meyer (Eric), (1990),« Aspects of the Sinhalese-Tamil Relations in the plantation areas of Sri Lanka under the British Raj ». Indian Economic and Social History Review , 27, 2, p. 165-188. Meyer (Eric) 1992a, « From Landgrabbing to Landhunger : Highland Appropriation in the Plantation Areas of Sri Lanka during the British Period », Modern Asian Studies 26 (2), 1992, p. 321-361. Meyer (Eric) 1992b, « ‘Enclave’ plantations, ‘hemmed-in’ villages and dualistic representations in colonial Ceylon”. Journal of Peasant Studies 19 (3 & 4), pp. 199-228. Meyer (Eric) 1996, « Paddy, garden, chena, plantation. Was there a peasant strategy in the Kandyan Regions of Sri Lanka before 1940 ? » in Robb (Peter) Meanings of Agriculture. Essays in South Asian History and Economics. Delhi, O.U.P.,p. 182-227. Pieris (Ralph), Sinhalese Social Organization, the Kandyan Period. Colombo, Ceylon University Press Board, 1956.
Two remarkable literary works:
Martin Wickramasinghe, Gamperaliya (1944) is a fascinating novel in Sinhala (recently translated in English under the misleading title Uprooted, Colombo, Sarasa, 2009) which depicts the decline of a walauwa family in the South, whose fate is very similar to that of the S*M*M family.
(see also the excellent filmic adaptation of the novel by Lester James Pieris 1964)
Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family (1982) is a fictionalized novel in English drawing from the memories of a family of surveyors and lawyers active in Kägalla at the time of the opening of G*** estate.
We reproduce in the uploadable document the northern half of the G*** estate plan, drawn about 1915, when the estate was already open but still in the process of absorbing additional village land. Estate tea is shown in yellow and estate rubber in light brown.
We have added (for the H*** village only, on the basis of their present situation) the paddy lands in blue, the village gardens with houses in dotted brown. H*** is in the centre of the plan with its walauwa, the houses of the other villagers are scattered in the gardens, to the north for the W*A* family, to the west for the K*A* and H*S* families, to the south-west for the H*R*and N*P* families, to the south-east for the R*A* and H*K* families.
A*** and T*** villages are on each side, M*** and D*** villages further south, themselves surrounding or surrounded by the southern half of the estate.
Notice the extremely irregular and discontinuous limits of the estate made up of small bits of chena lands, the village paths that intersect the estate blocks, the rubber and tea very close to paddy and gardens. 20 years later, the estate had extended and straightened its limits on the east, but the A*** village continued to resist its extension on the west.
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