Subversive Historian – 08/12/09

Anti-Tamil Race Riots in Sri Lanka

Back in the day on August 12th, 1977, riots erupted in Sri Lanka aimed at its minority Tamil population. The outburst of violence, which was certainly not the first such occurrence of its kind, followed the aftermath of national elections that brought the right-wing Sinhalese United National Party to power. The vote also made a coalition of Tamil political parties known as the Tamil United Liberation Front the leading minority opposition force. They interpreted the capture of a number of parliamentary seats as a referendum on Tamil succession as the population endured a gradual codification of their unequal minority status in the country. The roots of the riots that followed took place as ethnic Sinhala policemen reportedly opened fire in an altercation at a Tamil carnival in the Northern Province city of Jaffna killing four. The violence that ensued claimed the lives of hundreds more Tamils.

The roots of the tension date to European colonialism when the British consolidated the territory and its inhabitants in the 19th century employing ‘divide-and-conquer’ tactics between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. After leaving in 1948, the rest is history…

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