Catalan Today. ITAK Yesterday. A Call to Reflection

Carles Puigdemont Chelva & Amir

Michael Roberts

The demand for independence from a segment of the Catalan Spanish peoples has the potential for a domino effect not only within Spain but also in Europe where the EU already faces the complications arising from the Brexit vote. Apart from the potential inspiration to other provincial dialects within Spain, The French Republic may have to keep a weather eye on their Occitan-speakers in the south –with their well-developed sense of being Occitan  and a claim to the region known as Langue D’Oc.

Any such move could then spark the provinciality of the Breton peoples! That is just one potential instance of what is called “The Domino Effect.” Listen to Joseph Borell at

The potential similarities implied by the juxtaposition of photographs is, of course, overdone. Catalan may be located in the north-eastern quadrant of Spain, but it is also the richest and most prosperous of the Spanish provinces. It does not have the benefit of a Catalan-speaking provincial state next door in France. Thus, the likelihood of France playing the type of role (or roles) adopted by the central government of India in the 1970s and 1980s vis a vis Sri Lanka is out of the question.

In brief, Any charting of similarities and dissimilarities will have to be grounded and meticulously charted. Perhaps the more meaningful lesson is this: democratic structures of government, in all their modern variety, are inherently fissiparous and produce some leaders who are as persuasive as  manipulative.

Arthur Mas speaking

 ITAK Convention at Trincomalee, August 1958


  See Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2014, pp.   for full version of the original manifesto of the ITAK aka “Federal Party” in popular parlance.

 SJV Chelvanayakam addrsssing a crowd in the Jaffna Peninsula (date unknown)

 V. Navaratnam, ITAK firebrand

Satyagraha at Galle fFce Green Colombo,

assaults on satyagrahoa by Sinhala extemists

Bandaranaike Chelvanayakam Pact, 1957 ….


Dayan Jayatilleka: “Reading Sambanthan: the ITAk’s Aggressive  Blueprint,” 29 May 2012,

Gerald Peiris: “The Devolution Debate: Indelible Facts,” 10 April 2017,

Michael Roberts:  “Narrating Tamil Nationalsim: Subjectivities and Issues,” 19 July 2017,

Michael Roberts: “History as Dynamite,” Island Special Millennium Issue (1 Jan. 2000), p.34.

S. Arasaratnam: “Nationalism, Communalism and National Unity in Ceylon,” in P. Mason (ed.) India and Ceylon: Unity and Diversity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967

Robert N. Kearney: Communalism and Language in the Politics Of Ceylon, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 1967

A. Jeyaratnam Wilson: Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism. Its Origins and Development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, London: Hurst and Co., 2000

D. B. S. Jeyaraj: “The Composition, Ideology and International Dimension Of the Tamil Secessionist Movement Of Sri Lanka: An Overview,” in R. Premdas (ed.), The Enigma Of Ethnicity (St. Augustine, Trinidad: School of Continuing Studies, University of West Indies, 1993)

R. Cheran: The Sixth Genre: Memory, History and the Tamil Diaspora Imagination, Colombo: Marga Institute, A History Of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka, Monograph Series, No.7, 2001.

S. Sumathy: Militants, Militarism and the Crisis of (Tamil) Nationalism, Colombo: Marga Institute, A History Of the Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka, Monograph Series, No.22, 2002

Devanesan Nesiah: Tamil Nationalism, Colombo: Marga Insitute, A History Of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka, Monograph Series, No. 6, 2001.

S. J. Tambiah: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling Of Democracy, London: Tauris & Co., 1986

K. Kailasapathy: The Cultural and Linguistic Consciousness of the Tamil Community in Sri Lanka, Colombo: 1982

Gerald Peiris: “An Appraisal Of the Concept Of a Traditional Homeland,” in Ethnic Studies Report, Vol.9 (1991), pp.13–39;

Vidyamali Samarasinghe: “Ethno-Regionalism as a Basis for Geographical Separation in Sri Lanka,” in Ethnic Studies Report, Vol.6 (July 1988), pp.24–51.

Sumathi Ramaswamy: Passions Of the Tongue. Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Michael Roberts: “Stimulants and Ingredients in the Awakening Of Latter-Day Nationalisms,” in M. Roberts (ed.), Collective Identities, Nationalisms and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka (Colombo: Marga Publications, 1979), pp.214–42.

M. R. Narayan Swamy: Tigers of Lanka. From Boys to Guerrillas, Delhi: Konark Publishers, 1994.

Margafret Trawick:  Enemy Lines. Warfare, Childhood and Play in Batticaloa, Uni of California Press.


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One response to “Catalan Today. ITAK Yesterday. A Call to Reflection

  1. chandre Dharmawardana

    Economically in terms of trade, in terms of innovative technological strength, Catalan has been, and is a powerhouse.
    The so-called “exclusive Tamil homeland”, even including the Eastern province has been dependent on money coming in from outside, in the days of the British Raj when many Tamils worked in the colonies, and even in the 1950s, when “government service” was the most coveted profession. The agriculture was significant but total net worth was not significant. There is no adequate water supply to these regions.
    Given global warming, the Jaffna Peninsula and the maritime strip claimed for Tamil Eelam are likely to gradually go under water in another three decades. See the discussion in:

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