Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kuragala Lessons 2 Using PR to obliterate heritage

Published in my column in The Nation on Sunday, 02 June 2013 and in Colombo Telegraph on the same date.

By Darshanie Ratnawalli

I surmise that Dennis McGilvray came into the orbit of the Aboosally family through his researches into the matrilineality of the Tamil and Muslim communities of the east coast of Sri Lanka. M.L.M Aboosally’s wife came from the matrilineal east coast town of Kalmunai. My hypothesis is that on the strength of these connections, this American scholar was hired by the Aboosally family to write a PR article on Dafther Jailany. What confirms this hypothesis is the fact that he wrote a PR article based on the client’s book; Aboosally M.L.M: 2002. Dafther Jailany: A Historical Account of the Dafther Jailani Rock Cave Mosque.

The client brief he received was to negate the fact that there ever was a Buddhist layer in the site. This he executed in 2004 saying “There are Brahmi inscriptions at Jailani dating to the second century aca, but they appear to assert territorial claims by local political chieftains. According to Aboosally (2002: 62-3) there is no evidence that the site was ever dedicated to the Buddhist Sangha.”

McGilvray makes this statement as a footnote to “The Archaeology Department nevertheless erected a permanent trilingual signboard near the Jailani mosque, also visible today, stating that the location, known as Kuragala was the site of a Buddhist monastery dating to the second century BCE.”

In 2013, a journalist called Latheef Farook would execute the same client brief by making a statement strikingly similar; “The 1971 version (of the inch map) depicts the area only as a Buddhist monastery of the 2nd century BC (the only evidence of which is a board placed by the Archaeological Department in 1972.)”. Note however that unlike McGilvray and Aboosally, Farook (either through ignorance or an intention to deceive) keeps the Brahmi inscriptions relentlessly out of the picture.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kuragala Lessons – Fighting with honour for a stake in a layered heritage

Published in my column in The Nation on Sunday, 26 May, 2013 and in Colombo Telegraph on the same date.

By Darshanie Ratnawalli

In Archaeology there is a novel concept called “Public Participatory Interactive multi cultural Museum and Site Presentation” applicable to sites with multiple heritages. This involves being inclusive of all available heritage components in presenting the identity of a site.

Kuragala presents the typical layered heritage pattern. Season 1- It is a pre-historic habitat of Homo sapiens balangodensis. Season 2- In 2/3rd century BC Lanka, adherents of a new religion make it a raging fashion to dedicate caves right and left to the cave dwelling Sangha (inscribing the donor names on the cave wall) and Kuragala does not escape. Season 3- Kuragala becomes an Islamic shrine and a retreat.

Nowadays, Kuragala is a very useful site. Trying to assess how much its presentation in Media measures up to the multiple stakeholders concept is a sure way to identify the less obvious faces of intolerance and chauvinism. (As we already know the obvious face, the BBS, the flavor of the season in villainy).

I am going to highlight two recent journalistic presentations that attempted through misinformation (which even a routine veracity check could have shown up), to obliterate one heritage component of Kuragala and up the stakes of another. These presentations were by Latheef Farook and Dharisha Bastians.

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The BBS that my mother likes

Published in my column in The Nation on May 05, 2013 and in Colombo Telegraph on the same date.

By Darshanie Ratnawalli

I am the legitimate issue of a woman who unabashedly claims to admire the Bodu Bala Sena. This affords me a critical perspective into the issue, without which everyone is floundering like headless chickens. There may be other people, whose mothers etc. harbor soft spots for the BBS. But because they are not me, they would either try to keep these mothers in the closet or, in contradistinction, empathize with these soft spots; whereas I…Well you shall see.

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