Myanmar Tamil NewsBurma Tamil News
Myanmar Tamils want to defend their identities
Now they are trying to revitalize their languages and cultures by opening new schooling. Tamil people from southern India began to migrate to Myanmar - also known as Burma - in the early nineteenth century. They worked instead as farm workers for members of the tradtional trade class of Nagarathar.
There are some who say the first Tamil colonists came in 1824," says Dhanapal, a merchant who lives in the seaport of Mawlamyine. In the early twentieth century, the Tamils settled in Burma's agricultural and trading sectors. Having ensured the country's sovereignty, the Myanmar authorities implemented country reform and took over large parts of the country's watered areas and enterprises as part of nationalization.
The Septuagenarian Nainar Mohamed says that the closure of Tamil education by the Tamil authorities some 50 years ago has done lasting harm. "When I was on a train, I saw a group of young women dressed in a pair of old-fashioned saris," he said. When I tried to talk to them in Tamil, they couldn't hear a thing.
Many Tamils cannot literate, say or even talk Tamil here. "Sumathi, 20, is a fifth-generation Tamil. They live in an area populated by many Tamil people. Wearing typical Myanmar clothes, she wears Thangkah - a yellowy past - on her cheek.
I' m speaking in Burmese at my house. I have Tamil boyfriends who don't mind speaking Burmese. She says in fractured Tamil: "I can hear a little Tamil, but I can't talk. It has no intent to participate in Tamil instruction. There are many others in their neighborhood - which bears Tamil cultural icons on the outside - who find it difficult to talk the local people.
"All our guys and gals don't know Tamil or Sanskrit. Apart from a small number of Muslims and Christians, the majority of Tamils in Burma are Hindus. More than 1,000 hinduistic churches exist in what is now Myanmar. Some of the more popular churches have more than Tamil people. However, while Myanmar's army leaders did not intervene in the administration of the sanctuaries, the closing of Tamil colleges means that the Tamil languages were learned only in sanctuaries - and then only for the purpose of promoting religion teaching and promoting religion, as well as dancing and so on.
As a result of the limitations, Burma's Tamil people have been insulated for many years. A lot of Tamil youth - and their families - have never even seen India. However, with the changes in Myanmar, many new colleges have been created that want to go beyond religion schooling. We' re training the instructors and doing everything to encourage the students," says Fr. Shanmuganathan, a instructor who supervises tens of Tamil colleges in Burma.
The Tamil people in Burma are sparsely populated except in a few towns. "There are some who ask me why we should study the country's lack of employment and work. We' re not going to be able to call ourselves Tamil if we loose our language," says Shanmuganathan.