25th commemoration of Black July across the web

Sites that over the week put up content to commemorate the anti-Tamil riots of 1983 in Sri Lanka were many and ranged from a plethora of wire services to an equally diverse range of blogs, each with their own take on the events a quarter century ago in real time, yet just yesterday for some of the victims. 

I started to plan for the content on both Groundviews and Vikalpa from early June. Both sites now feature a tremendous wealth of perspectives on Black July, which I’ve written about earlier. I was particularly touched by one contributor who sent an article in spite of medical orders to rest after eye surgery, noting in the email to me that an invite to contribute to the site was not one that could be refused. Others have told me in person and on email that the collection of articles / videos on the site as the best selection on any one website they have seen commemorating ’83.

There were many others in the Sri Lankan blogosphere who wrote about the events. Four posts in particular I enjoyed reading were:

  • 24 July 1983 on PACT: A very good starting point for research on Black July. Peace and Conflict Timeline (PACT) itself is a great initiative that I have reviewed in detail
  • Black July at 25 on Sepia Mutiny: A great post and great discussion, a rare and happy coincidence.
  • Six days in July on Pass the Roti: A great list of links to other (web) sites with commentary and information on Black July and an interesting post to boot.
  • Weird nostalgia: A bit naive and simplistic but redeemed at the end by the reference to Funny Boy which I think is Shyam’s best work to date. 
Any others that you came across worth reading?

9 thoughts on “25th commemoration of Black July across the web

  1. Despite providing many insights into Black July, it is a bit of a concern that the whole aspect of ‘citizens journalism’ and its exciting element of lending a voice to the peoples is slowly losing its touch. Most of the contributions to the special Remembrance section of groundviews have been from contributors who belong to either the academia, government or what you consider popular figures of the political scenario in SL and frankly we are a bit sick of hearing the same old story by the same old people. What lacks is contributions from the general public, somebody we really have not heard about before but whose story gives a true insight of the situation on ground. There has been a lot of discussion on the blog sphere regarding the slow deterioration of this aspect in terms of groundviews. It will be a pity if this is let to continue.

    A well wisher

  2. Exiled,

    I’m a hostage to the content I get and rely on those such as yourself to use your own networks of influence to animate the content such as that which you point to. You also tend to gloss over the 30+ videos Vikalpa, in addition to nearly 170 others, which have documented the “woman / child / man on the street” perspective. What is more, if you sick and tired of hearing the same old story from the same old people, then I think it’s incumbent upon you to engage with the content in such a manner that brings in alternatives and fresh thinking. Groundviews is after all a blog, and blogs encourage comments, as you well know.

    Finally, the exposes on the situation on the ground, from Switzerland where you currently are may be desperately needed, but come at great risk to those providing it. I have never, and will never, force people I know on the ground to give perspective that they feel uncomfortable giving, much as they would like to.

    On balance, I think Groundviews provides, has always provided and will continue to provide commentary and opinion that may to you be tired voices, but to me and my experience of local media in Sri Lanka refreshing and original. As I have said to many others, I have created a mechanisms of engagement for diverse voices in Groundviews that at the time of its launch and even today do not exist in other online fora dealing with the same issues. It may not be surprising to you, from your Sahasamvada experiment, that there are more who frequent your site than contribute or engage – so this is a shared challenge.

    Reg. Groundviews, there will always be those who will not write in for the obvious reasons (Sanjana the censor / Sanjana the LTTE sympathiser / Sanjana the appeaser / Groundviews as CPA propaganda / Groundviews as NGO, dollar driven, anti-Sinhala Buddhist, national security threat et al) but I know that others can and will.

    I’m hoping that you, as a frequent commentator and visitor to the site, will actually send us the content you wish to see other engage with. Inspiration, after all and without revealing too much to a broader audience, is very close at hand?



  3. Exiled,

    You note that:

    “There has been a lot of discussion on the blog sphere regarding the slow deterioration of this aspect in terms of groundviews.”

    Can you point me to these sites please? And may I ask what your response was to these discussions? I hope you were able to encourage more people to write into Groundviews, or perhaps that’s a niche Sahasamvada wants to and can provide an alternative in?


  4. Sanjana

    Thanks for your response. I guess it would be good to start with the issue of ‘stories from the ground’. I guess anyone who has a sense of the situation in SL is totally aware of the risk involved in anyone coming forward with ‘their story’, I have also understood and been quite frustrated by the lack of direct involvement in discussing these issues way before my involvement with SahaSamvada. My eagerness in seeing groundviews work towards bringing out new voices from the ground is also based on the belief that it has now earned its niche and credibility in being a catalyst towards this much needed change. I believe that what is important are the stories and not so much the identity of the person who is telling them. I think that this is a possibility given the the wide and accepted usage of pseudonyms. Also when I say ‘same old stories’ I am not attempting to undermine the stories but am venting out my frustration of ‘the popular faces/people’ that keep saying this. Sadly most of these stories though unique highlight homogeneity of human pain and suffering .

    Also in terms of your comment on contributing to change I must bring to note a few failed attempts. As submissions from Sahasamvada two posts were emailed to groundviews, the first one on May 11 (The Release of Karuna Amman) and the second one on June 5 (The Pen and the Bomb). I also sent you an article I wrote titled Indo-Sri Lankan Political Dynamics through my personal email account. In terms of the submissions sent by Sahasamvada I sent follow up emails asking whether the submissions did not meet up to the submission guidelines. I am really not sure what happened to all of this.

    Also in terms of the discussions on the blog sphere, I do not remember all the links that I visited but I can mention one specific instance where I commented on Sepia Mutiny on their post ‘The Beginning of the End: Groundviews’. My comment was the very last and unfortunately came in a bit late. It was as follows:

    It is not true about groundviews not entertaining criticism on the LTTE. Personally, I have commented many times on the atrocities of the LTTE in response to published articles and have also pointed out the whole issue of the diaspora phenomenon. I must say I am also a bit worried about the whole censorship allegations I have been reading about groundviews. it is really sad if this is all true and it undermines the effect of groundviews. I have also had people telling me about submitted content not being included. This is a bit sad, because groundviews sometimes publishes articles of very poor quality i.e. CHA. Despite the fact that it does attempt to carry real stories highlighting the ground situ, the quality of these articles are really not up to the mark. So the question arises whether ‘groundviews’ is really ‘citizen journalism’ or a platform for ‘popular personalities/ organisations’ using this as a propaganda tool. Nevertheless, I must say that ‘groundviews’ is truly a superb initiative and must strive to uphold their attempts at ‘citizen journalism’.

    Lastly, SahaSamvada is solely an attempt to stimulate the dialogue between the SL diaspora and concentrate on highlighting the issues faced by the Diaspora and their role in terms of the conflict. I believe that despite there being many cross cutting issues between both these blogs Sahasamvada’s focus is different. Also, it is truly our responsibility to stimulate our contacts in writing to Groundviews because to us the most essential part of all these attempts is engaging positive discussion amongst the public on issues that effect the future of Sri Lankan politics, not so much whether we get the credit or not.

    Let me conclude that given the widespread environment of impunity and indifference in Sri Lanka, Groundviews is a much needed and admirable platform and any comments that are put forward by me would be truly as its well wisher.

  5. Exiled,

    Thanks for the response.

    Let me first say, if it wasn’t clear in my first response, that I absolutely 100% share you desire to see more stories from voices that we (meaning English speaking activists) don’t hear from as often as we would like. It is a tremendous challenge. Coincidentally, allow me to share something I wrote to a first time contributor to the site recently (and before your comment):

    “I have been continuously accused of being unable to expand Groundviews to feature a wider range of voices / authors. My response has always been that those who can and do write, publish elsewhere and that it is tremendously difficult at best to get them to contribute to Groundviews.”

    I did see your post on Sepia Mutiny, where I have in the past engaged with the comments there, particularly one thread earlier this year based on a post by V.V. who I met in New York. Thanks for that.

    Re. the content you sent in, I did not get a SINGLE email from you or anyone else claiming to be from Sahasamvada. Not a single one! Where did you email them to – my CPA / InfoShare or Gmail account? One confession – I am aggressive with spam and as you know, legit emails sometimes get caught to Google Spam Filters. Best way to go about this would be to resend me the articles / content and drop a note through the GV contact form, which comes to my email.

    Groundviews has many many faults. It is nowhere near what you claim it to be – a “superb” initiative – in my mind. It is good. Not great. And it can mature and expand in depth and reach. This is something very close to my heart and in the next 3 years I hope to do just that. As you would have guessed, Groundviews is managed by just me. No one else is there to help. And I have zero funding. Over the next 3 years, I put to put my own money into it for some experiments in content generation and also look for some funding. Hopefully, this will get / attract some of the voices both you are I are deeply desirous of reading in our respective and complementary sites.

    You say:

    “I have also had people telling me about submitted content not being included.”

    Who are these people and where are they from? When do they allege they sent me content to publish?

    “I must say I am also a bit worried about the whole censorship allegations I have been reading about groundviews. ”

    Groundviews rejects content that is out of line with clearly stated guidelines on the site. Ironically, while the pro-Sinhala Buddhist / Mahinda trolls have a field day alleging that I am a stentorian censor for not publishing the drivel they submit, it is the case that much of the comments I got around a year ago was AGAINST the Rajapakse regime. It was however as vituperative as that which was against me and clearly did not get published. Things are better now. I rarely get a comment that’s vituperative and attacks me personally and most of the bile is reserved for comments on other blogs / sites.

    “because groundviews sometimes publishes articles of very poor quality i.e. CHA. Despite the fact that it does attempt to carry real stories highlighting the ground situ, the quality of these articles are really not up to the mark. So the question arises whether ‘groundviews’ is really ‘citizen journalism’ or a platform for ‘popular personalities/ organisations’ using this as a propaganda tool.”

    Groundviews is certainly biased, opinionated, partial and exclusive. Biased towards peace through peaceful means, partial to opinions that articulate this and critique any war for peace strategy of any actor and excludes commentary that is uncivil, degenerate and just plain silly. If that’s what you see as propaganda, then I warmly accept your accusation.

    The qualitative nature of CHA’s content is subjective. Suffice to say that the variance of content on the site is acknowledged and that as my defense, I can only point to the real struggle to get well written articles to the site. I cannot emphasise this point enough – there are very few in Sri Lanka who can communicate. Just writing isn’t communicating.

    Thanks for your well-wishes. They are appreciated. But both our sites need more than our mutual admiration. We can steer a course, but our fuel is content that is elusive, contested and mercurial. Perhaps this will always be the case within a violent context. I am however proud of Groundviews as a site that has inspired others to anger or admiration, both of which have produced a greater awareness of citizen journalism in Sri Lanka today.



  6. Thanks again Sanjana. I have forwarded the emails I/ Sahasamvada sent you previously, to your infoshare account. I guess there was really some technical glitch. I also understand that this is not an easy deal especially since you are running it without funds by yourself. Your response to my comments has definitely given me a clearer perspective. I will take your advice re: future submissions. Unfortunately the previous submissions have already been posted on the Sahasamvada blog.

    Lets hope our attempts at stimulating a positive dialogue work after all.

  7. Exiled,

    I’ve emailed you the explanation for the content never getting to me. I’m glad that we sorted this out and apologise for the impression this must have created on your end that I was rejecting content without any explanation!

    Will also look into why the bloody &%$#@ drop.io account isn’t working.



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