In 1826 Packier Pulle Rawothan a resident of Colombo in the British Crown colony of Ceylon applied to the Headmoorman of the district of Colombo to obtain permission that his son be circumcised. This act of a father belonging to the small Muslim community of the island would not in any way have been unusual or exceptional and hence enter the colonial archive if not for the fact that it led to an entire section of the Moor community of Colombo to rise in anger and pre-empt the possibility of Rawothan obtaining the permission he sought. This spawned a war of reports, petitions and complaints one of which went upto the Governor of Ceylon and others to three successive Collectors of Colombo and to a court case filed by Rawothan in the provincial court of Colombo against 8 members of the Moor community The issue was simply that Rawothan was ‘of slave extraction’, castigated as ‘a cooly and the son of a maid slave of Pakkeer Pulle’ and thus not eligible to perform ‘such honorary ceremonies the respectable Moors are only entitled to perform’..
The lengthy correspondence offer a window into the mentalite of the supplicant that needs, however, to be read with caution. Furthermore the lack of an outcome to the plaint of Rawothan shows the gulf between imperial legislation on abolition of slavery and quotidian colonial practice.