Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide

Sri Lanka: The Tamil tragedy

India Today, Cover Story
31 August 1983

The 35-km ride from Katunayake International Airport into Colombo in a slow Mitsubishi coach driven by a nervous Sinhala is enveloped in silence. Almost every Indian visitor is heading for the Lanka Oberoi, or the Gal le Face, or the Ceylon Intercontinental -- hotels that have escaped the attention of mobs in search of hiding Tamils. Suddenly, the colour of a visitor's skin is crucial if it is dark, and he looks nervous, he is liable to be mistaken for a Tamil, and Tamils venturing out of doors in Colombo arc asking to be lynched.

Sri Lanka's capital city for most of last fortnight looked like it had been taken by a conquering army. Street after street lay empty to the gaze, although the dawn-to-dusk curfew had been lifted. Small, watchful groups of Sinhalas dotted the side walks, providing flesh-and-blood counter points to the hundreds of burnt-out shops and factories and homes that lined the once bustling markets and roads.

The arson was professional - charred shells fallen in on themselves, with blackened sign boards announcing Tamil ownership hanging askew, here and there a liquor shop with hundreds of broken bottles littering the floor, or a jewellery mart with showcases battered in and the gold and the gems carefully removed before the torching.

Fifty yards from the Indian High Commission, right next door to the police headquarters, a stone's throw from the presidential palace, stood a huge block, blackened and devastated. "The shops in this block had heavy grill doors," recalled an eyewitness, "so an army truck was used as a battering ram to break through them, and then the soldiers sprang in with Sinhala battle cries to claim the lion's share of the loot"

The Sri Lankan Press was censored, and so was the foreign press corps, and foreign correspondents were granted curfew passes that restricted their movements between their hotels and the office in the Fort area of the Director of Information where Don John Francis Douglas Liyanage, a brisk, balding bureaucrat and secretary to Information Minister Ananda Tissa de Alwis presided over daily press briefings. Liyanage's daily message of increasingly rosy pictures of a "normalising " situation contrasted too sharply with the reality of Colombo, a city like a pressure cooker with the lid on."


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