One hundred years of hatred

Tamil disappearances protest photo courtesy: Vikalpa Groundviews — Wikimedia Commons

The Sinhalese believe they are the superior race. In spite of the Veddha (the first people of Lanka), the Sinhalese believe they are the original inhabitants of the island for over 2500 years. Unlike the Tamils, they claim they have no other motherland even though they came from Bengal. They believe everyone else is there to exploit the country.

With these beliefs in mind, an anti-Christian movement began in the 1800s. In the 1900s Buddhists blamed Christians for drunkenness, stealing and prostitution as well as introducing opium and alcohol to the country, thus causing riots.

Next an anti-Muslim campaign began with Sinhalese urging people to boycott and attack Muslim businesses. Muslims were stabbed and beaten for having liaisons with Sinhalese women.

Then in the 1940s an anti-Tamil movement began. At that time it was impossible for most people on the island to prove their citizenship for three generations but the Sinhalese were automatically granted citizenship while Tamils became “non-citizens” who were then refused education, health, the vote and social benefits.

By the 1950s goon squads looted Tamil shops and set them on fire. Tamils were attacked and killed, burnt alive, raped and butchered. This continued for four days before the government stepped in and declared a state of emergency. The riots resulted in 12 000 Tamils fleeing their houses and taking shelter in refugee camps before being transported to Jaffna.

What finally set the government on a determined path of anti-Tamil propaganda was the 1971 uprising when Sinhalese youth revolted against the government. The government needed a scapegoat. Who better than the Tamils could they blame for lack of jobs and price rises that the youth complained about? And so the wheels turned even within school text books that demonized Tamils.

Riots, looting and murder continued over the decades and led to the formation of the LTTE when peaceful protests were ignored.

Now we come today and this still continues. The word “disappearances” is paramount on Tamil lips. With thousands being picked up by the military and never seen again and the UN taking little or no action against the genocide, it is already well passed one hundred years of hatred.

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