Tamils Protest Discrimination in Sri Lanka (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: In an effort to stem the erosion of language rights for the minority Tamils, the Federal Party in 1961 organized a civil disobedience movement as a way of pressuring the government.
Summary of Event
When the multiethnic island of Sri Lanka gained independence from Great Britain in 1948, it was hoped that the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority would be able to coexist peacefully. Such hopes were, however, dashed. Sinhalese politicians soon revealed little hesitation to use communalism for political mobilization of their constituencies.
The polarization of the two communities worsened over time to the point that in the 1980’s the country was engulfed in open warfare. Many events led to this disaster, with one of the key turning points coming in 1961, when it became clear to the main Tamil political party, the Federal Party, that more serious action had to be taken to stem the erosion of the rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, which made up about 20 percent of the island’s population. In order to understand the significance of the massive 1961 civil disobedience and its impact, it is essential to look at developments preceding it.
The most obvious differences between the Sinhalese and the Tamils were in terms of language and religion, with the former predominantly Sinhala-speaking Buddhists and the latter largely Tamil-speaking Hindus. The Tamil population was...
(The entire section is 2306 words.)
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