Suthanthire thakam (1989)
«November is an important and reflective time for Eelam Tamils. We observe Maveerar Naal/Tamil Heroes Remembrance Day in late November, which is a sombre and reflective time for the community to remember the sacrifices of those who sought freedom and respect from their oppressors, and the immense sadness and loss we feel in their absence. Maveerar Naal is the time we take to memorialize genocide and to come together as a community to grieve, reflect, and commemorate.» (pearlaction.org, 03.11.2020. Email newsletter)
This article commemorates all the fallen heroes and innocent lives of those who have lost their lives in the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle1. In this November month of 2020, DsporA Tamil Archive presents two magazines for reflection on the modern history of Eelam Tamils. These magazines were published by two contrasting organisations that evolved in the 1980s in Norway. These magazines convey political and social affairs of Eelam Tamils from that time. They provide historical sources to understand the social structure of the past. These historical sources help us to understand the present social structure as a result of the past. By getting an insight and understanding of the past, it will help us to navigate in the future.
«Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past» (George Orwell)2. From an archive repository perspective, a nation is strengthened only when it has the means to preserve and access the documents of all aspects and sides of society. It becomes essential for a society to gain insight by examining the past to plan the future. It also becomes fundamental to examine our present to preserve the past.dspora.no, 16.11.2020
In the 1980s and 1990s, the first generation of migrated Tamils in Norway would have been familiar with these two magazines. As well as the surrounded political context of contradictions and criticisms. On the other hand, the second, third or future generations of Tamils might have challenges to understand the political context of that time. However, these two magazines met at the point of “Tamil language”. Especially “Tamil typing”. The oral history interviews were packed with passion and enthusiasm for Tamil literature, publishing and use of Tamil language in the development of computer technology. These publications have been a platform to test, develop and provide Tamil typesetting for other Tamil publication projects in Norway and abroad. These are now historical documents of the Tamil society and the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle. Hence, the politics of the past is the history of the present. This history forms the basis for identity development, existence and future politics.
Individuals and organisations need to collect and preserve their historical documents for the challenges, questions and opinions that may arise in society. They pave the way for the community to access their history intellectually. In addition, they will be the basis for re-examining society, and at the same time logically defend and preserve their traditional values with historical evidence. The young generation is searching for affiliation for their Tamil nation, identity, native history, indigenous homeland, native tradition. On the other hand, historical documents will pave the way for present and future generations to forge new relationships and reconciliations. They will be capable to reconcile conspiracies woven by traitors and foreign powers3 within the liberation organisations in the 1980s. It will be fundamental to prevent history to repeat itself and fertilise and shield a unanimous Tamil nation with acceptance for diversity. Otherwise, history can be questioned, distorted, obscured, and destroyed if the history of the Tamil diaspora is passed down as oral tradition for many generations. Then history will be at great risk and will be even more challenging to maintain social balance.
«Nature is my friend. Life is my teacher of philosophy. History is my guide»Hon. Veluppillai Prabhakaran4
This article is written based on oral history5 interviews, other communication, Tamil organisational archives and personal archives.
- Tamil migration to Norway
- Tamil organisations in Norway
- Suthathire thakam: Tamil Coordinating Committee
- Suthathire thakam: Newsletter
- Suthathire thakam: Booklet
- Suthathire thakam: Magazine
- Suvaduhal: Tamil-Norwegian Association
- Suvaduhal: Magazine
- Socio-political and Tamil Eelam liberation struggle documents
Tamil migration to Norway
Antony Rajendram was the first Eelam Tamil who migrated to Norway in 1956. Followed by him, Eelam Tamil migration to Norway can be divided into three main pools since the 1960s and onwards:
- Work combined vocational training immigrants
- Student immigrants to folk high schools or universities
Family reunion has happened parallelly with all three pools.
Tamil organisations in Norway
In the 1970s and 1980s, Tamil associations, student organisations and other kinds of organisations started gradually to emerge in Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim, Stavanger and other places in Norway. Nevertheless, the continuing anti-Tamil pogrom in Sri Lanka and other state-oppressive violence on Tamils in the 1980s, lead exile Tamils to put fundamental for the political organisations. The various kinds of organisations mentioned above have published many publications and productions such as leaflets, brochures, posters, booklets, magazines, books, audio/ video publications, websites in their organisational journey of more than 40 years.
Suthanthire thakam: Tamil Coordinating Committee
“சுதந்திரதாகம்” (“Suthanthire thakam”), meaning thirst for freedom, was published by Tamil Coordinating Committee (TCC)6 (Det tamilske samordningsutvalget). This is an international Eelam Tamil political organisation that works to support the political principle of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. That is “homeland, nation and right to autonomy” (தாயகம், தேசியம், தன்னாட்சி உரிமை)7.
The organisation function in many countries across the continents. The aim of the organisation is to mobilize the Tamils in the respective diaspora country towards an insight of political liberation of a Tamil homeland in Eelam (Sri Lanka), to carry out social progressive construction work back home and to guide a diverse group of successful inhabitants in their respective diaspora country (tccnorway.no). TCC Norway has gone through a number of phases in an evolution that started in 1983, and it continues its activities to present day in various dimensions. That includes politics, education, arts, sports, and social development of Tamil society in Norway and back home.
Suthathire thakam: Newsletter
From the end of 1980s till 1990s, the organisations, Tamilar Nalanpuri Mantram in Oslo and Uthayam in Bergen, and later Tamil Coordinating Committee sporadically published newsletters in the name of “சுதந்திரதாகம்” (Suthanthire thakam), meaning thirst for freedom. In contrast to Suthanthire thakam magazine, these were Tamil newsletters. They compiled newspaper articles about Eelam Tamil affairs from back home. The activists cut and pasted newspaper articles and other handwritten text onto A4 pages, which they photocopied and distributed.
Suthathire thakam: Booklet
A booklet version in the name of சுதந்திரதாகம் (Suthanthire thakam) was published by தமிழர் நலன்புரி மன்றம் (Tamil Welfare Organization) in Oslo. The A5 booklet, “சுதந்திரதாகம் சிறப்பு மலர்” (Suthanthire thakam special edition) (06.08.1988), was a handwritten publication with saddle stitch binding with staples. It also includes a typewriter text that is told to be received from Tamil Nadu or Eelam. This booklet was published to coincide with the co-ordinated “சுதந்திரதாகம்” (Suthanthire thakam) stage event. It was organised to create Tamil Eelam Liberation Uprising. It is known that this was the first “சுதந்திரதாகம்” (Suthanthire thakam) stage event in Norway.
Suthathire thakam: Magazine
The first Suthanthire thakam magazine (05.08.1989) by Tamil Coordinating Committee (TCC) was published in Oslo in 1989. It was published with a saddle stitch binding with staples. The magazine was typeset in Tamil in Tamil Nadu and printed as printing press publication in Norway.
The second Suthanthire thakam (07.04.1990) magazine by TCC was published in Bergen in 1990. It was typeset in Tamil on a Macintosh computer in Norway and was printed in the country. Suthanthire thakam magazine was published in conjunction with the annual Suthanthire thakam stage event. Since 1989 to 2015, Suthanthire thakam stage event was organised by TCC. In the beginning, the stage event was organised every August in Oslo and every April in Bergen. Suthanthire thakam magazine is known to be published until the 1990s.
Suthanthire thakam magazine is, like the Suthanthire thakam newsletter and Suthanthire thakam special edition, brought the political activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Tamil identity and patriotism reflections and the situation in the battlefield.
Both magazines and newsletters were sent to various places in Norway as well as other countries based on subscription and for free.
It is noteworthy to mention that few issues of other two magazines by Tamil Coordinating Committee are already preserved at the National Library of Norway. These two magazines are in Norwegian.
Suvaduhal: Tamil-Norwegian Association
Few of the Tamil refugees who started to come to Norway in 1986 were deported back to Eelam. Others were rejected for asylum visa and were at risk to be deported. In such situation in 1987, few refugees seeked church asylum at Tøyen Church (Bymisjonssenteret i Tøyenkirken) in Oslo. Soon, the Tøyen Church became a meeting point for many Tamil refugees. They came together and formed the organisation, Tamilsk-Norsk Forening (Tamil- Norwegian Association)8 in 1987. It aimed to support other Tamil refugees who were rejected with asylum visa and were at risk to be deported. It was also a social meeting platform for many Tamils at that time. It also facilitated Tamil education, art and cultural activities for Tamils in Oslo. Based on the information from former members of the organisation, the number of Tamils seeking the Tamilsk-Norsk Forening (Tamil- Norwegian Association) began to fall with the reduction in the number of Tamils who had become refugees and visa problems somewhat resolved. The organisation is still a registered organisation. But it is told that there is no significant activity right now.
The magazine “சுவடுகள்”(Suvaduhal), meaning traces was started in September 1988 by Tamil-Norwegian Association. In the 1990s, the “Norwegian Tamil Cultural Center” emerged as an independent entity under the Tamil-Norwegian Association. It published Suvaduhal magazine at the time. Later “சுவடுகள் பதிப்பகம்” (Suvaduhal Publishing) was started under this entity. Suvaduhal magazine was published by Suvaduhal Publishing in the late 1990s.
At the beginning, diaspora Tamil organisations did not start and function with a defined purpose, goal and responsibility-sharing. Activities were initiated and implemented on-demand basis. It is therefore challenging to accurately define the administrative structure of the organisations of that time. It is told that there was written a statute for this organisation but it is unavailable for access.
The first issue of the Tamil monthly magazine “Suvaduhal” compiled and published photocopy version of handwritten texts. Although it was a monthly magazine, few editions were published for two months. The team for this magazine cut and pasted handwritten articles and hand-drawn illustrations on paper. They then photocopied and compiled as saddle stitch binding with staples. Later the magazine was also published in other size formats.
It is known that the magazine team received a typewriter in the period around October 1988. One of their friends from Tamil Nadu brought back a typewriter after visiting his native place. They published the second issue of Suvaduhal in October 1988 as a semi handwritten and semi typewritten magazine.
In the 1990s the team started to use a PC to typeset Tamil on the computer and later published as printing press publication of Suvaduhal magazine.
Suvaduhal magazine covered various topics from politics, arts, culture, social issues in the diaspora as well as critics on certain activities of various liberation organisations, said the magazine team. They also said that the magazine functioned as a neutral body that spoke out against all forms of human rights abuses in Eelam.
This magazine has also published children special, artists special, women special. The last Suvaduhal magazine was published in 1997. The magazine was sent to various places in Norway as well as other countries based on subscription and for free.
It is noteworthy to mention that a number of issues of Suvaduhal magazine from the period of 1990 to 1995 are already preserved at the National Library of Norway. In addition, many issues are also preserved at the Noolaham Foundation digital repository.
Socio-political and Tamil Eelam liberation struggle documents
The two magazines, “Suthanthire thakam” and “Suvaduhal”, can be viewed from two perspectives. One is the contradictions in the socio-political context surrounding this work. They took into account the socio-political context of the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle in the 1980s. Therefore, these are now “Tamil Eelam Liberation struggle documents” that reflect different aspects of the history of the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle.
Secondly, these are Tamil social documents. Both magazines were created by different but resourceful magazine teams. They were organised, produced, and published with limited resources. Activists volunteered for editorial and technical work in both magazine teams. They were all men. The majority of them were in their 20s. Only one or two of them may have been married men or the wife and family may have been in the homeland. These are historical documents of their journey with practical challenges to publish a Tamil magazine in the diaspora. Hence, the journey of both teams was similar and significant. It was packed with emotions and experiences of sadness, wounds, joy, achievement and failures. These magazines are also evidentiary to the priority these young people have given to social activities, despite the uncertainty of residence in Norway, the economic challenges, and the insecurity of families living in the homeland. Thereby, these are also the social documents of the Tamil society.
Similar stories of Eelam Tamils in other diaspora countries need to be documented. Source documents of Diaspora Tamils´activities should be collected and preserved as historical documents. Because they are the historical and cultural heritage of the Tamil nation. Such stories have a unique historical value for the contemporary and future generations of Eelam Tamils in the Diaspora as well as in Eelam. So it is necessary to approach these stories with an objective view instead of selective or restrictive mindset. It would be healthy for the community to see these stories from a socio-political ideological viewpoint. Then it will give us the insight to understand the diverse stories in society. But it requires to re-examine those stories to gain clear insight. This does not mean that one agrees with different policies or perspectives. On the contrary, it would be an important social approach to confront the reality of the criticisms and contradictions that exist in society. Because these are also a part of the history of Eelam Tamils.
History will always guide us! But for the history to guide us, it needs to be complete! Thereby, we request Tamil society to document all the perspectives and views in Tamil society. Tamil organisations and individuals are requested to come forward to create a plan to preserve cultural-historical documents in the diaspora and give public access.
Please share with us your ideas, thoughts and suggestions on how to preserve Tamil documents safely in the diaspora.
Due to the lack of or fragmented archives or limited access to archives in Tamil society, it has been challenging to get access to available sources that can support oral history interviews.
In this situation, writing about diaspora Tamil history will be a dynamic process which may change its shape and be updated over time. Thus, we welcome the public to provide feedback with any verifiable sources in the case of need for correction in the factual information in this website.
Oral history interviews and other communication
Former Suthanthire thakam magazine team activists.
Former Suvaduhal magazine team activists.
Priest Stig Utnem
Former Uthayam activists
Former Tamilar Nalanpuri Mantram activists
Former Tamil Coordinating Committee activists and coordinators.
Former Tamil- Norwegian Association activists.
Other Tamil social activists.
1 «Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle». The modern history of Eelam Tamils can be identified as the period from the independence of Sri Lanka in 1948 till now. In this period, Eelam Tamils have been fighting for equal rights, equal opportunity, self-determination, freedom of speech, freedom of information, right to preserve and protect their traditional homeland, language, culture and heritage and sovereignty in Eelam. This struggle has been in form of non-violent-, political-, armed struggle and the continuing resistance to Tamil genocide. In each phase, there have been a number of political organisations and liberation organisations who have aimed for Tamil Eelam. However, “the two central Eelam Tamil nationalist organisations of the past century, the Federal Party and then the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), both incorporated the economic and material development of the Tamil speaking regions as important components of their activities and demands” (Tamil Guardian, 2012). Thus, it is a conscious or unconscious association of the term «Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle» with these two organisations. However, the history of the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle has a wider spectrum. It is a history that has the platforms of Eelam, the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu. As well as the different phases of the struggle from the non-violent-, political- and armed struggle that had a number of political and liberation organisations.
2 «Den som kontrollerer fortiden styrer fremtiden. Den som styrer nåtiden, kontrollerer fortiden.» (Norwegian)
George Orwell. (2017). 1984. Oslo: Gyldendal.
«Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past»
George Orwell. (n.a). 1984: Part 1, Chapter 3. Retrieved from http://george-orwell.org/1984/2.html
3Tamil Niram. (19.11.2020). தலைவர் பிரபாகரன் மனதை மாற்றிய ஆண்டன் பாலசிங்கம் | Jegath Gaspar Revels Untold Secrets. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/30c7_slg6M0
4Peter Schalk undertook an academic work with Professor Alvappillai Veluppillai. This is a work of translating the original Tamil publication of «Reflections of Leader» published by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1995 and 2005. This work includes the original Tamil text as well as the translations in German, English, Swedish and Sinhala.
5Oral history is a process of documenting the oral tradition by storing and transferring the knowledge from one generation to another generation.
6According to the Brønnøysund Register Centre the date of foundation of “Tamil Coordinating Committee» in Norway is registered as 05.07.2014. However, according to the oral history interviews and archival materials, the history of the Tamil Coordinating Committee runs back to 1983 and was registered at the Brønnøysund Register Centre in 2014.
7“தாயகம், தேசியம், தன்னாட்சி உரிமை“, meaning homeland, nationality, right to autonomy.
Tamil Information Center. (n.a.). The Thimbu Talks: 1985 Sinhala-Tamil conflict and the Indian factor. London: Tamil Information Center. Retrieved from https://tharavu.no/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/5-thimpu-1985.pdf
தாயாகம். (10.04.2020). தாயகம் தேசியம் தன்னாட்சி உரிமை என்ற கோட்பாடுகள் முன்வைத்த திம்புப் பேச்சுவார்த்தை.!. Retrieved from https://www.thaarakam.com/news/122314
அரசியல் பிரிவு, தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள். (n.a.). சோசலிசத் தமிழீழம்: விடுதலைப் புலிகளின் அரசியல் வேலைத்திட்டம். தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள். Retreived from http://eelamhouse.com/docs/books/socialist-tamil-eelam.pdf
8According to Brønnøysund Register Centre the date of foundation of “Tamilsk-Norsk Forening” (Tamil- Norwegian Association) is 26.09.1988. But according to the oral history interviews, the history of the organisation run back to 1987 and was registered at the Brønnøysund Register Centre in 1988.
விடுதலைப் புலிகள்: தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகளின் அதிகாரபூர்வமான ஏடு. (1985). தமிழீழ விடுதலை இயக்கங்கள் இணைந்தன. தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள்.
Nimirvu. (19.11.2020). தமிழ் மக்களும் நினைவுகூரல் உரிமையும். Retreived from https://youtu.be/z29QIMDdAI8
Schalk, P. (2007a). talaivarin cintanaikai. Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:173420/FULLTEXT04.pdf
Schalk, P. (2007b). Tamil Source in English Translation: Reflections of the Leader. Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:173420/FULLTEXT06.pdf
Schalk, P. (2007c). Uppsala University Publications. Retrieved from http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?amp;dswid=contents&pid=diva2%3A173420&dswid=5816
Tamil Guardian. (2012). Stamp of defiance and aspiration. Retrieved from https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/stamp-defiance-and-aspiration
TamilNet. (2008). Eezham Thamizh and Tamil Eelam: Understanding the terminologies of identity. Retrieved from https://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=99&artid=27012
TCC Norway. (2015a). OSLO – சுதந்திரதாகம் எழுச்சி நிகழ்வு. Retrieved from http://www.tccnorway.no/events/%E0%AE%9A%E0%AF%81%E0%AE%A4%E0%AE%A8%E0%AF%8D%E0%AE%A4%E0%AE%BF%E0%AE%B0%E0%AE%A4%E0%AE%BE%E0%AE%95%E0%AE%AE%E0%AF%8D/
TCC Norway. (2015b). சுதந்திரதாகம். Retrieved from http://www.tccnorway.no/suthanthirathakam/
Reproduction of this article is allowed when used without any alterations to the contents and the source, DsporA Tamil Archive, is mentioned.