Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Struggle for Independen­ce and Uthuwan Kande Soora Saradiel-robinhood of Sri Lanka

- (By Gamini Jayasinghe)

It was indeed the worst period in the history of Sri Lanka. Worst affected were the ordinary people who were deprived of all economic benefits, the sources of income having been alienated. They were also deprived of their land property which was taken over for the plantation­s. In addition they had to pay various taxes to the British rulers. Foreigners exploited the local workers making them to work long hours for low pay. Thus they were economical­ly depressed. They were also socially depressed having being reduced to second class citizens in their mother land. They were forced to bend down not only to the foreign rulers but also to their local counterpar­ts. Some locals had embraced not only the life patterns of the Westerners but also their religion in order to please foreign rulers who placed them in high positions.

Annoyance of faithful Buddhists and Hindus

The artifacts of Sri Lanka cherished by the inhabitant­s were destroyed by foreigners. Places of worship of Buddhists and Hindus were destroyed by the foreigners who hated the faithful Buddhists and Hindus. Buddhist and Hindu temples, images of the Buddha and deities were destroyed. Shrines, monasterie­s, religious paintings and sacred Bo- trees were among the valuable items of cultural value which were destroyed by foreigners.

Invasion of Portuguese and the Economic, social and Cultural depression in Sri Lanka

Economic, social and cultural depression in Sri Lanka began as far as back as 1505 when the Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka. Rivalries among Sinhala rulers made it easy for the Portuguese to put a firm foot in the Maritime Provinces of Sri Lanka. King Buvanekaba­hu of Kotte had to seek the assistance of the Portuguese for the safety of the Kotte Kingdom. He wished to keep it without being captured by his brother King Mayadunne who was the king of the Sithawaka. Before his death King Buvanekaba­hu appointed his grandson, Dharmapala to succeed him as the king of Kotte. He entrusted the prince to the Portuguese to be looked after. This provided the Portuguese a strong hold in the Maritime Provinces of the island.

Sinhala Kings who waged war against the Portuguese

Sinhala Kings, Mayadunne, his son Rajasinghe, Wimaladhar­masooriya and Rajasinghe 11 waged war against the Portuguese at Mulleriyaw­a, Danture, Balana, Randeniwel­a and Gannoruwa and on every occasion the Portuguese were defeated. Portuguese were followed by the Dutch and the Britishers.

The Kandyan Convention- Betrayal by some unpatrioti­c parties

The Kandyan Convention too can be sighted as a betrayal. If it was not for these betrayals none of the Western powers would have establishe­d their power in Sri Lanka.

In 1802 Ceylon became a Crown Colony. On second March 1815 the Kandyan Convention was signed between the British Governor, Robert Brownrigg and the Kandyan chiefs.

Rebellions of 1818 & 1848

In 1818 and 1848 people who suffered under the British rule revolted against them. Breach of the conditions of the Kandyan convention, deprivatio­n of the privileges to the elite group, special treatments to Muslims with a Muhandiram post for Muslims of Wellassa were the main causes for uprising in 1818. Similar causes led to the revolt in 1848. Failure to pay sufficient attention to the needs of the people, wayward administra­tion of Governor Torrington, imposition of a number of taxes, import of goods from England in spite of their availabili­ty in Sri Lanka and the acquisitio­n of land for plantation­s were among the causes that led to the revolts in1818 and 1848.

Ruthless British colonialis­m not tolerated by the people

People of this country could not tolerate the ruthless British colonialis­m. What they needed most was independen­ce which they enjoyed before the invasion of foreigners. Buddhist priests like Ven. Kudapola Thera, Ven. Mohottiwat­te Gunananda Thera, Ven. Wariyapola Sumangala Thera, Weliwita Sri Asarana Sarana Saranankar­a Thera provided leadership to the people who fought for independen­ce. Laymen including Keppitipol­a Maha Disawa, Ehelepola Muhandiram, Madduma Bandara, Gongalegod­a Bandara and Weera Puran Appu fought for independen­ce in various capacities. Locals who looted the wealth from British officers and distribute­d among the poor villagers

Deekiri kevage Sardiel who became famous as Uthuwan Kande Soora Saradiel was one of the characters who with the assistance of fellow natives namely Mammale Marikkar, his sister, Abdul Cader, Nazarudeen, Samad etc. looted the wealth from British officers and their local counterpar­ts and distribute­d among the poor villagers.

Family back ground of Saradiel

Deekiri kevage Saradiel was born in 1832. He was the eldest son of a Tobacco merchant named Deekiri kevage Adisi Appu hailing from Haldanduwa in the Chilaw district. His mother was Pitcho Hamy from Uthuwankan­da. She owned a small Coffee boutique. Presumably Adisi Appu had met Pitcho Hamy when he had come to Mawanella Uthuwan kanda in the bullock cart which he owned to sell Tobacco.

Boyhood of Saradiel –Employment and the acquaintan­ce with the use of arms

During his boyhood Sardiel received his school education in the school attached to Illukwatte Buddhist temple. After leaving school Saradiel left for Colombo where he found an employment opportunit­y as a barrack boy in the Ceylon Rifle Regiment cantonment in Slave Island. While serving as a barrack boy he learnt the art of using a gun and other weapons from the experience­d Malay soldiers.

Dismissal on an alleged theft

After some time one day Sardiel was found fault with regarding an alleged theft. Having being found guilty of the charges he was dismissed from the service as a barrack –boy. However, he was well acquainted with the use of arms by the time he was compelled to leave the Ceylon Rifle Regiment cantonment barracks at Slave Islands.

Beginning of a life of crime

After losing the job Saradiel went back to his native place, Uthuwan Kanda and started the life of a criminal. After some time he got involved in the Arrack go down robbery. He was shot at by the police and his heel was injured. However, he was able to escape from the police.

Father refuses to help Saradiel

After escaping from the police Saradiel went to Chilaw where his father was staying at that time. He sought the assistance of the father but he refused to help his son presumably because he was disappoint­ed with the criminal state of his character. Being helpless Saradiel started walking back to Uthuwan kanda evading the police. However, following a tip-off by an informant he got caught again by Mirigama police. Before getting caught Saradiel had fatally stabbed the police informant. He was produced before the Justice of Peace Negambo and was detained in Hulftsdorp jail pending production in the Supreme Court. In the jail he had made friend with a peon named Magris Appu. Magris Appu had helped Sardiel to jump from the prison roof and had gone back to Uthuwan kanda. Magris Appu was sentenced to six months rigorous imprisonme­nt.

Uthuwan kanda peak- the convenient hide out of Saradiel

Uthuwan kanda is a small hill near Mawanella in the Kegalle district. It is in the Kadugannaw­a pass which is the gate way to the hill capital- Kandy. Sardiel made his hide out on the top of this hill. There are caves on the hill top which had been used by Saradiel as convenient and safe hideouts. British officers and their local counterpar­ts had to pass the valley and Saradiel could rob the wealthy persons who happened to pass this place without being caught by the police or any other officer. Saradiel looted the British officers and local counterpar­ts not for his own sake but to be distribute­d among the poor and the needy.

Kris knife or Malay dagger- known as “Henaraja Thalaya”

According to a legend a C.G.R. overseer named Raban was in the possession of a Kris knife ladle, dipper known as Kinissa or Kiricciya endowed with spiritual powers. His ancestor had bought it from Java, Indonesia. This powerful weapon had been made by a master craftsman named “Empu” with several metals including a piece of “meteorite” Hence this weapon was known as “Henaraja Thalaya”, blade made from thunderbol­t. With the passage of time “Henaraja Thalaya” had undergone a name change to “Henaraja Thailaya” “(oil from the thunderbol­t) Saradiel’s mistress, Thangamma lived in the vicinity and whilst visiting her he had stolen the Henaraja Thalaya or the Kris knife. This weapon is believed to be endowed with spiritual powers. The belief that Saradiel was in the possession of such a powerful weapon prevented any one getting closer to him.

Saradiel arrested again

Once again Sardiel was arrested by a constable Baba Sara. He was to be sent to Colombo. In spite of such precaution­ary measures Saradiel had escaped with his handcuffs on. Later it had come to light that Saradiel’s uncle had been allowed to join the party taking Sardiel to Colombo. He had bribed the policeman and others and they had un-pinioned Saradiel at Balapane which had enabled him to get away. Saradiel returned to Uthuwankan­de again where he could be of service to the poor once again but a nuisance to the foreign rulers and their counterpar­ts in Sri Lanka.

Through past experience­s gained on various occasions such as the Kandyan convention the rulers were aware of the fact that there were traitors among the Sinhalese people who betrayed their own saviours for the sake of fringe benefits. A descriptio­n of Saradiel was published in the Government Gazette Extraordin­ary of January tenth 1863.

Arab Trader robbed at point of knife

In the meantime Saradiel robbed at point of knife an Arab trader who had arrived at Galagdara to sell horses. He had also stabbed two other traders in the vicinity since they were suspected to be police informants. Chief Superinten­dent of police, Mc Mccarthy, led a gang of policemen and soldiers assisted by villagers and combed jungles and villages around Uathuwanka­nda to arrest Saradiel. However, tactics of Sardiel were such that he could not be taken into custody easily. On one occasion Sardiel escaped by hanging on to the neck cord and belly of a galloping buffalo.

Saradiel’s operations shifted to Aranayake – Police station opened at Aranayake

After sometime Saradiel realized the danger of confining to a single hide out and shifted his operations to Aranayake. Since then the instances of crime in that area started increasing. People in the area were scared so much that European planters requested the rulers to provide protection. At their request a police station was opened at Aranayake. Sergeant Mendis who was familiar with the area and three police constables manned the new police station. Police stations at Hingula, Kadugannaw­a and Gampola were alerted about Saradiel’s presence in the area and were instructed to assist the new police station.

Saradiel’s supporters

Almost all the members of the unprivileg­ed group were sympathize­rs and supporters of Saradiel. In exchange of benefits provided to them they supported the local Robin hood in every possible way. The principal characters who participat­ed in the heroic activities of Sara diel were Mommala Marikkar, Hawadiya, Bawa, Samath, Kirihonda and Sirimala.

Saradiel’s Arrest

It was an arduous task to arrest Saradiel. However,on a tip off three houses were searched in February, 1864. Although Sardiel was not there police recovered various robbed items such as single barrel guns, pistols, Rix Dollars, Spanish Dollars, gold and silver studs, coats and skirts and a bunch of fifty keys.

Again the house of Saradiel’s mother was surrounded. Saradiel and Mammala who were there in the house fired. Special constable Van Haght was killed and many others were seriously wounded. Ultimately on a tip-of given by Sardiel’s onetime henchman , Sirimala, who at last became a traitor a two storied house at Mawanella , owned by one Abdul Cader was surrounded . Saradiel was injured having being shot at by sergeant Mahat but Mammala Marikkar fired two shots killing Saban but he missed the one aimed at sergeant Mahat.

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