Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2251

Lalins Column: Dauris and Stalin

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

When the British High Commissioner James Dauris was questioned on Lord Naseby’s carefully researched statement that there were probably only 7,000 deaths in the final battle at Nandikadal (2009) and not 40,000 as avowed by well rewarded Western opinion, he craftily dodged the issue by saying ‘while a single death is a tragedy, a large number of deaths is a statistic’. Many believed Dauris was being quite smart and original too.

However it was Stalin who first said that ‘one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic’. So is Darius, even if he did not attribute what he said to Stalin but who served in the British Embassy in Moscow, of the same mind as Stalin who murdered millions just as Hitler murdered even more on death counts? Has this ‘statistic’ on SL not given rise to ‘a moving body of fictional literature… and flimsy factual history’ that the ever emollient Dauris attempts to perpetuate by quoting Stalin?

Dauris possibly thought all Sri Lankans were ‘asses’ as well as humbugs and rouges like most SL politicians who have among other attributes just as reprehensible, made servility to westerners a self serving trade mark.

Dauris and his ilk hobnob and get their inspiration from them, their supporters in the swanky parts of Colombo and their NGO followers, all to humiliate SL. He therefore made what he must have thought was a very clever, witty repartee when asked for his response to these staggeringly different figures of deaths at Nandikadal. To Dauris, like it was for Stalin, deaths are statistics not tragedies even if their numbers are cooked.

Dauris flattered Neville de Silva (Sunday Times -31 Dec 2017) who was not to know Dauris was quoting Stalin. Neville acidly reminded him of the large number of deaths the British were responsible for when ruling their colonies and in criminal wars as recently as in Iraq. Neville knowing Dauris had served in Peru and Colombia, pointed out that deaths were not considered mere ‘statistics’ in those affected countries. For Dauris the difference between 7,000 and 40,000 deaths is mere statistics and are not a tragedy.

Neville swung smug Dauris around to face Jallanwalla Bagh in Amritsar (India 1919) and Uva Wellassa (1818) in SL. The latter was a determined attempt at genocide by British imperialists exactly 200 years ago.

Neville gave a few other examples including the sinking of the Argentinean naval ship Belgrano where 323 died, most of them naval cadets. The ship was said to be outside the Total Exclusive Zone (TEZ) declared by the British themselves during the Falklands war (1982). The ship was returning to port anyhow. The British however quoted Article 51 of the UN Charter, the right of self defence, to justify the attack. Did the British before they invented their statistics not think this Article also applied to the No Fire Zone (NFZ) declared by SL at Nandikadal where 300,000 Tamil civilians (statistics) were held hostage by the soon to be (tragic) terrorists?

A complete list of Imperial British atrocities Neville said would need a separate article.

At Jallanwalla Bagh,(bagh- garden) in an enclosed scrub land with its 3 narrow exits blocked by Imperial troops, British Brigadier General Dyer on Sunday 13 April 1919 at 5.15 pm ordered his troops to open fire with medium machine guns and rifles on a crowd of unarmed Sikhs estimated at about 5,000 to even ten times more. They were celebrating Baisaakhi day. This was also the first day of harvest celebrated by Hindus and SL Tamils too. There was also a small political meeting going on. Dyer had previously made a proclamation, barely heard, that gatherings would be fired on and that ‘respectable persons should stay in doors’ even though there was no violence going on.

Around 1,650 bullets were fired into men, women and children at Jallanwalla Bagh. The exits were deliberately blocked by the soldiers trapping unarmed civilians in a killing ground as though it was an ambush of an enemy in war. About 120 people drowned and suffocated in their efforts to escape when they jumped into a well where the water soon became thick with blood. The slaughter went on until all the ammunition was spent. Official estimates put the death toll at 379 with 1,200 wounded. Popular estimates went much higher as people were scared to seek assistance from government hospitals. The firing was done by Pathans, Baluchis, Gurkha and Sikh soldiers, the most formidable of Imperial troops. Their firing skills were second to none.

Dyer showed no remorse. He had high caste Indians suspected of agitation rounded up and flogged. Indians were forced to crawl face down in the dirt at a place where a Christian missionary had been dragged off her bicycle. Dauris may have forgotten all this when he made his misconceived statement. To him the Indian dead would be just statistics. To the Indians it was a tragedy.

Sir Rabindranath Tagore immediately resigned his knighthood saying ‘badges of honor make our shame glaring….’ Motilal Nehru’s niece wrote ‘his blood was boiling’ while his daughter wrote that her brother Jawahar’s ‘was like super heated steam’. Dyer however thought ‘he had done a jolly lot of good’.

Would ‘statistics’ besotted Dauris think of it so too? There was no shortage of Britons who agreed with Dyer. Twenty six thousand (26,000) pounds sterling was collected afterwards for him by Britons as his ‘retirement fund’. There were Indians too that supported Dyer-just like those Dauris must know he has in his circle if not pocket in Colombo to cheer him on.

Dyer had considered ‘reducing the city to a heap of ashes’ but took ‘pity and refrained’! It is worth remembering that nearly 30 years later (1948) the then GOC Punjab, Gen O’ Dwyer was murdered in England by a Sikh. Indian tragedy or British statistics?

The genocide by the British at Uva Wellassa (1818) is too well known to repeat in detail here. For SL it is an unforgettable and unforgivable tragedy. The statistics were never given. All Sinhalese males above 18 were killed, leaving only women and children. A world wide practiced Imperial scorched earth policy led to the burning of homes, crops, fruit trees and even stocks of salt. It was followed by the complete destruction of the irrigation system that had made the province the rice bowl of the country. Genocide was the aim. The Americans in Vietnam probably followed the same example in the 1970s. What is it for Dauris, attempted genocide or statistics? SL, fortunately for some, has no Sikhs.

The 1971 insurgency drew many people from the Wellassa to the JVP as the destruction in 1818 had been so terrible that poverty and disease was still wide spread over 150 years later, even after 32 years of freedom.

The British made a half cocked apology for Jallanwalla Bagh nearly 200 years later, knowing how economically powerful India was turning out to be again. They have not apologized for Wellassa. They know that SL counts for very little, if only the Chinese can be diverted. Its politicians are servile, ever willing to sacrifice their war winning troops to international tribunals to please the West and they very nearly cleaned out its Central Bank too. India, they parrot, fought for its independence; as though it was a crime to depose invaders who plundered, killed, raped and committed genocide. SL they boast got its independence ‘peacefully’ when it was actually over the dead bodies of the Indian freedom fighters. Dauris knows and exploits.

Does Dauris know what it felt like for those desperately poor ‘border’ villagers in SL whose loved ones had their throats cut while sleeping in their huts on the fringes of the jungle, bodies slashed with knives or pounded or shot or blown up by mines or killed by suicide bombers all over SL? Or those 300,000 Tamils held hostage by the LTTE and used as a human shields at Nandikadal in 2009 or those 200 among many others who were shot dead by the LTTE when attempting to flee, confirmed by LTTE’s Daya Master? The reality was that 295,000 LTTE hostages were rescued from death by SL’s Army to win the peace. Only the last was a statistic, the others were tragedies including the rape and murder of Jaffna General Hospital staff by the IPKF.

The terrorists were vaporized by 19 May 2009 and peace, whole and complete came to SL. It was with no thanks due to Britain, US, India and those in Colombo that sniff around those who would harm SL. Darius needs to know.

Darius may need to be reminded about how many died in the Bengal famine during WW2. Amarash Misra estimated 10 million Indians died during British rule including the 10 years aftermath of the 1858 revolt. In 1770, 10 million died of starvation and less in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892 and 1897.Finally 3 million died in 1943/4 so that Britons could be fed on a priority basis. Another million or more died during the partition of India in 1947-8.What statistics, were they not terrible tragedies first?

Dauris may still consider he is a bit too clever for SL but much of the world knows of Britain’s perfidious reputation over the centuries. Did he think that a hundred, a thousand or even one million casualties or 30 million deaths, half of them Russian in WW2 are just statistics not tragedies? Stalin thought so. Why does Dauris quote Stalin when faced with disparities in deaths of thousands in SL? Would he have dared when in the West to quote Stalin when referring to Iraq or even ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Belfast?

Had Dauris been around when Sri Lanka’s third Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawela was alive, would Dauris have preferred to be a tragedy or a statistic? What would Stalin have said and not only about Dauris quoting him without acknowledgement?

- Asian Tribune -

 Lalins Column: Dauris and Stalin
Joseph Stain & British High Commissioner James Dauris
diconary view
Share this


.