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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Home >   Tamils - a Trans State Nation  > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka > Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide - Preface, Prologue & Index  > Remembering Black July '83 - Anniversaries: 1984 todate


Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide

The Precursor 1983 Black July
 - Esan Satkunarajah writes to Amnesty International

23 July 2006

Amnesty International
Rue d'Arlon 39-41
B-1000, Belgium
July 23rd 2006

The precursor to what was to befall on Tamils on Black July in 1983

July 23rd 1983 was a sad and unforgettable black day for the Tamils. Many people including local and international historians still believe the 13 Sinhalese Solders killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was the main reason for the 1983 July riots and pogrom against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Contrary to this belief, the gap between Sinhalese and Tamils widened well before the July 83 riots due to the unprovoked attack on the Tamil students by the Sinhalese students in Peradeniya University on May 11th, 1983. The May 1983 attack on the Tamils students in the University had a greater damaging effect on the Tamils and their sense of belonging to Sri Lanka.

I was at the University of Peradeniya studying first year science at that time. The ugly face of Majorityism cropped up in a leading educational institution in Sri Lanka for the very first time.

I did not realize that the precursor to the 1983 July pogrom would take place in a leading educational institution like Peradeniya University. I had a feeling of shock and numbness as I witnessed the educated Sinhalese students� violence against their fellow Tamil students first hand. It was doubly shocking and horrifying to witness those Sinhalese students, many of them our own batch-mates, whose hands were soaked with Tamil blood and flushes. Tamil students experienced the brunt of hatred by the Majority Sinhalese students� community for 3 consecutive days. The University authorities, intellectuals, and the country�s ruling authorities did very little to stop the violence against the Tamil Students during those 3 days.

I was living and sharing a room in James Peries Hall in the Peradeniya residences with 3 of my colleagues. The UNP leading student wing of Peradeniya had planned their blood-thirsty attack on the Tamil students meticulously. Weapons like steel rods, cycle chains, wooden rods from broken chairs and tables, knives and ropes were gathered and well hidden in many surrounding places where they could easily be accessed for the attack which was about to take place against their fellow Tamil colleagues.

Tamil students including myself were unaware of what would be the worst night of our lives in the educational institute where we were living and studying with our wonderful dreams and hopes about our futures.

A fist year engineering faculty student Balasooriyan who was a co-editor of a University Tamil Magazine was accused of being �Tiger� just because he prepared a cartoon with a picture of a dove in a cage chained to a large metal ball.

This picture actually was famous in Sri Lanka at that time, as Amnesty International (AI) used this picture and lobbied around the word to free the political prisoners. The Colombo media angrily reacted to the AI stand and accused them as being biased towards to the freedom fighters then. That was enough for Balasooriyan to be accused of being a member of the Tigers.

In sharp contrast to what he was accused of, the magazine Balasooriyan was a co-editor of was critical of the Tigers and their methods of struggle. In spite of this fact, Balasooryan was beaten up by the Sinhalese students and including his own batch-mates. The university authority handed him over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Colombo and he was taken to Colombo for interrogation and he was assaulted severely by the CID for several days before he was released without charge.

As a continuation of this event many Tamil students were attacked and beaten up severely with all kinds of weapons by the fellow Sinhalese batch-mates and other students in the University for three days, some of them even fell from balconies to escape the attacks and broke their legs.

The University administration�s and the authority�s conduct were unprecedented at that time. Tamils students were asked to attend the lecture sessions during these periods even though the Tamil students felt they needed to go away from the University to their homes to reflect on what had happened to them from May 11th to May 13th, 1983. The University authority failed to provide the Tamils students with a safe environment to continue their studies.

The motive of the attacks on the Tamils students was to evict them from the University permanently. The unprecedented behavior of the university administration helped the attackers to reach their aims. Almost 95% of the Tamil students left the University and went back to their home. While the majority of the Tamil students stayed in their home the conduct of the University was unprecedented again as they conducted the lectures and even the yearly exams. The university authority had shown very little if not, no sympathy at all towards the Tamil students at that time of the crises.

1983 July witnessed thousands of Tamils being killed and hundreds of them burnt to death by the Sinhalese mobs, which were well aided by the state forces. Many hundreds of Tamils also lost their hard earned properties and they were made refugees over night in their own country by their fellow citizens and sent back to Jaffna from the Sinhalese area. The Sinhalese government and its law enforcing agencies did very little or nothing to prevent this pogrom against the un-armed and innocent Tamils.

My whole perception of being a proud citizen of Sri Lanka changed forever. I arrived at the stark realty that no matter what if we are not prepared to stand up to the Sinhalese hegemony then we would have many May 11th attacks against us and many riots like July 1983.

I was much more than convinced that our legitimate plights should be brought to the attention of the International Community (IC), the IC should be educated enough to see our sufferings in the hands of the Majority Sinhalese, the IC should be lobbied to stand with us to find a just and fair solution.

We Tamils are united and strong wherever we are living, we Tamils stand up against the second-class treatment we receive in Sri Lanka, we stand up against the Sri Lankan state oppression, we are united in seeking International Community assistance to free us from the chauvinism of the Singhala nation. We want to live with freedom, we want to live with dignity, we want to rule ourselves in our homeland and look after our own affairs like any other people in the world.

Yours truly,

Esan Satkunarajah


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