IN THE HEREDITARY TAMIL REGIONS
OF THE ISLAND OF
This is a brief history of
how the Sri Lankan government and its destructive agents plundered and robbed
50% of the ancestral lands of the Tamils of the Island of
By K. Sachithanandan
Research officer - Colombo Fisheries Corporation.
Lecturer at the University of Jaffna.
Adviser to the United Nations on Food and Agriculture in twenty-three countries.
Lanka - Ceylon is a beautiful island. It lies on the southern side of the
Sub-Continent of India. The island is in the shape of a mango.
island is separated from India by Palk Strait in the North and Mannar Kudah in
island of Rameshwaram, Eramer Dam and Mannar Island separate Palk Strait and the
the south of the island is the Indian Ocean. The southern point is surrounded by
sea and nothing else. The Bay of Bengal is on the eastern side and stretches as
far as Sumatra.
kilometers from the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is Thamilaham (Tamil Nadu).
Central region enjoys high rainfall and has mountains. The land here is fertile.
The island’s Eastern, Northern and North-Western regions are open flat land
with rocks scattered all over.
before man wrote history, this island (Ilankai, as it was known then) was
inhabited by hunters and cowherds. These were stone-age and iron-age people
according to research. There is proof of this on the island.
ancient instruments of this period and those used by people in Thamil Nadu are
similar according to research on Ancient History.
the discovery of ancient scripts and stone carvings have indicated that the
inhabitants of Ilankai and Thamilaham were originally Tamil people.
and Elder Sivan were the kings who ruled the island, which is recorded in the
island’s history. That the Princes of Bengal and Kalingam and their people
came to this island and married Pandian girls is recorded in the island’s
Tamil Nadu and in the island of Ceylon there were originally Tamil people. When
Prince Vijayan came to the island, a dialect emerged. Many people speaking a new
language were flooding into the island. This is the period when history was
reversed, (1000 BC).
the reign of King Asoka, 400 BC, Thamilaham and Ceylon had become lands where
the Buddhist religion was being spread. King Asoka’s son Mahinthan came to
Ilankai and converted the King of the island to Buddhism . This is shown in the
island’s history. Later, King Asoka’s daughter Sangamitta brought a white Bo
branch from Goa and planted it in Anuradhapuram, when she came to Ilankai. These
were historical events. This Bo tree is in Anuradhapura up to this day.
the time of King Asoka, a
new language was being developed in Ceylon by combining, Sanskrit, Pali,
Kalingam and Tamil, and thus a new language was born. This language was
then introduced to Prince Vijayan
became the Sinhalese language.
the time of Karikala Cholan (300 BC), he declared war on Ceylon. Karikalan
wanted to build a dam by blocking the Kaveri River. To achieve this project
Karikalan brought experts and labourers from Ceylon to Thamilaham.
History states that Karikalan built a dam across the Kaveri River. After
the invasion by Karikalan, Chola kings ruled Ceylon. One of the kings that ruled
Ceylon was Ellalan. He ruled the entire island from 161 BC 117 BC.
the South is the sea, to the North are Tamils. How can I stretch and sleep?”
asked the Sinhalese Prince Dutugemunu. From the description of this notorious
prince, it is evident that his name Dutu refering to a thug in
Sinhalese and Tamil.
notorious Sinhalese prince called Ellalan to battle. The elder Ellalan was
unable to defeat the young and strong Dutugemunu. The Sinhalese thug murdered
Ellalan - the Tamil king and captured the Tamil Kingdom. This was the beginning
of the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict. The
Sinhalese captured the Tamil capital Anuradhapuram and made it their capital.
This was the first occurrence where the Sinhalese took possession of Tamil lands
by battle, making it their own. This is worth noting.
Tamils kept the rest of their land and the Sinhalese kept their land. The areas
closer to Tamil Nadu, sea shores and open land, belonged to Tamils. The
mountainous, central parts, far away from Tamil Nadu and the southern parts
belonged to the Sinhalese people.
Aalvaar and Nayanmaars (Saiva saints) started spreading the Saivite and
Vaisnavite (in English - “Hindu”) religions in Thamilaham, amongst the Tamil
people. This happened during AD 550-800. In the island of Ilankai the Saivite
religion was being promoted.
the time of Raja Raja Cholan and Rajendra Cholan 993-1070 AD, the entire island
was brought under Tamil rule.
the re-introduction of Saivaism the Tamils who lived in the island of Ilankai
again became Saivaites. Those who became Buddhists disregarded Tamil and created
the Sinhalese language in order to promote Buddhism.
Polanuruvai the Chola capital was established and Sinhala people moved
southwards. The island’s mountainous region and the south became the homeland
of the Sinhalese. The Eastern, Northern and North-Western regions were inhabited
by Tamils. The Buddhist Sinhalese people occupied the mountainous and southern
areas, while the Saivaite Tamils occupied the East, North and North West
the Sinhalese administration was somewhat strong they were unable to control the
areas occupied by the Tamil people. In 1215 AD the Pandians declared war on the
island. The Sinhalese rulers retreated to the south. Kandy and Kotte became
Sinhala capitals. Polonnaruwa was the Chola capital. After the Pandian invasion
Yaalpanam (Jaffna) became the Chola capital.
there were three kingdoms in the island of Ilankai. The South Western seashore
and Southern seashore were administered by the Kotte Sinhalese Kingdom.
The central mountain area was taken care of by the Kandy Udarata Sinhalese Kingdom. The East, North and North-West
were administered by the Tamil
situation remained during the arrival of the Europeans in 1505 and even after
that. Kotte was the
capital of the Sinhala Kingdom, which later fell to the Portuguese in 1505. Nallur
was the capital of the Tamil Kingdom. This also fell to the Portuguese in
1619. The Kandy Udaratta Kingdom made Kandy
its capital. In AD 1815 this was
taken by the English.
The Northern Province -
Nuvarekalvi. Anuradhpuram, Yaazhpanum, Vavuniya and Mannar remained in the
Northern Province. The capital was Yaazhpanum (Jaffna).
Eastern Province - Thampankadawai,
Vindhanai, Kottiyaru, Palukamam Paanamai. All these included as Tamil zones.
Trincomalee, Muttur, Mattakaluppu, Bintenne, Wekande, Kumana and Yala were
remaind in this province. The
capital was Mattakalupu (Batticaloa).
The Upper Province.
Katpiddi, Puttlam, Chilaw, Neerkozhimpu (Negomobo), Kotte, Panandurai, Kalutara,
spreading as far as Kurunegala. The
capital was Colombo.
The Southern Province.
Galle, Thangalai, Matarai and Ambanthotai, stretching as far as Ratnapura. The
capital was Galle.
The Central Province.
Kandy, Udunuwara and Uva, which
were mountain regions, came under Central Province. Kandy was the capital.
of these five provinces had government officials who were answerable to English
governors in Colombo.
Dutch rule, one Tamil Kingdom and two Sinhalese Kingdoms were functioning as
Tamil administration, seashore Sinhalese administration and Kandian Sinhalese
administration. Later under British rule, these three administrative areas were
converted into five provinces.
1845 the North Western Province came into being. This consisted of Puttalam,
Chilaw and Hotkorala. The
capital was Kurunagala.
the year 1873 the North Central Province was created. Nuwarakalawewa
district in the Northern Province; Thampankadawai district from the
Eastern Province were included in the North Central Province. The Tamil pattu
area from the Northern Province was annexed to the North Western Province. The
capital was Anuradhapura.
1896 the Uva Province was created. The Central Province’s Baddulla Bintenne
were incorporated with Uva. The
capital was Baddulla.
nine provinces were ruled from Colombo which was the capital, bringing all the
provinces under one rule. This went on from 1833 to 1896.
this process of re-adjustment, the English did not take into account the
ancestral heritage and the original homelands of the people of the island. As a
result of this blunder, the ethnic conflict came into being in
though Anuradhapura was a Sinhalese area, this was annexed to Tamil capital
Yaalpanam. Thampankadawai was Tamil area but later it was taken away from the
Eastern Province and added to the North Central Province. The Tamils area was
incorporated into the Northern Western Province. The Eastern Province Bintenne
Vannimai were added to Uva Province.
In these nine Provinces
there were twenty districts.
1827 - Tamil and Sinhala populations in the Eastern province
(Table is shown on a language basis)
Year Speaking Speaking
changes were made to the borders in 1955. When a country gets its independence
it must make its borders more viable for the sake of progress.
which was 10,440 square kms, was reduced to 9,931 square kms. It was reduced by
measured 10,352 sq.km. was increased by adding 356 sq.km. now totalling 10,709
which was 8,160 sq.km. was increased to 8,478 sq.km. by adding another 318 sq.km.
to this province.
this process of chop and change, the district of Chilaw disappeared. Anuradhapura
and Polonnaruwa Districts were newly created.
1959 Moneragala District was introduced. In 1963 the District of Amparai came
into being. In 1978 the districts of Gampaha and Mullaitivu and in 1984
Kilinochchi, totalling five districts were newly created.
only the district borders but also the administrative borders were redemarcated.
This happened many times.
total extent of the island is 65,525 sq.km of this, 71% of the land is Sinhalese
homeland. The Tamils have 29% of the land as their homeland (1901).
island’s coastal area measures a total of 1,770 sq.km.
35% of this area is Sinhalese and 65% belongs to the Tamils (1901).
total population of the island is approximately 180 lakhs, according to the 1995
survey. 74% is Sinhalese, 25% Tamils and 1% who speak other languages (1981).
1981, there were 68.5% Buddhists, 16% Hindus, 7.9% Christians and 7.6% Muslims.
The island’s total population is 18,000,000.
where the rainfall is plentiful and where there are many mountains, rivers and
lakes is land that the Sinhalese claim to be their ancestral homeland. Tea, rubber,
coffee and coconut palms grow very well in these regions.
people in the Tamil homeland have to rely on rain brought by the rare winds to
cultivate their dry land. There are very few rivers and dams there. 65%
of the sea-coast is the ancestral possession of the Tamil people.
Vannimai stretches south of Mannar. It starts at Chilavaththurai as far as
Munnesvaram Temple, and extends to the seashore. The border is a river. In this
area there are small villages which are inhabited by Tamil pearl divers. They
traded and bartered with the Tamils of Thamilaham. The Tamil kings of Yaalpanam
also did pearl diving in these beaches.
the early days Tamil kings camped on these shores and dived for pearls. This is
recorded in the travel memories of the Arab
traveller Ibn Batuta in 1345.
region (Vannimai) of the seven Korale was annexed to North Western Province.
Thus it was added to the ancestral motherland of the Sinhala people.
the year 1833 the Tamil area that was in the Northern Province was taken away in
1873, it was added to the Sinhala land.
1833 the Colebrook-Cameron Committee published a sketch of the Bintenne, Panama.
The plains of Pattipalai River were indicated as part of the Eastern Province.
The Tamil area was Mahaweli, the eastern section of the Mahawali River was shown
as its western border.
in the resettlement and demarcation plan, the Eastern Province lands were
annexed to Uva Province and North Central Province.
Pattipolai River plains were almost touching the borders of the province of
Matale. The annexing of Bintenne to
Uva was a mistake, as was pointed out by the 1976 Provincial Electoral
Independence from the British in 1948, the Colombo government started
implementing new legislation to requisition land and settle the Sinhala
population. The government put into place a scheme plan so as to reduce the land of
the Tamils and increase the land of the Sinhala population.
its plan was the demarcation of borders intended to reclaim Tamil land in order
to benefit the Sinhala people.
Since 1827 - Tamil and
Sinhala populations in Batticaloa district
Table is shown on
(Until 1963 it includes
* Creation of Amparai district
the year 1952 the Pattipolai River was renamed “Gal Oya” which is a
Sinhalese name. A dam was
built across the river. The water pumped from this dam was used by the Sinhalese
who settled there. This was another master plan to stifle the progress of the
saw the creation of a new district known as Amparai (beautiful rock). Later an
area was created for voters to assist the Sinhala people. This new area was
called “Digamadulla” in the Sinhala language.
Tamil and Sinhala
population in Amparai district
Table is shown language
(Amparai district was created in 1963)
who were resettled under the government plan were looked after by the Sri Lankan
government. These Sinhala settlers were the troublemakers and the government did
nothing to control them.
ethnic conflicts the Sinhalese brought armed thugs to chase the Tamils away from
their villages and the Sinhalese came and settled in these Tamil areas.
in the District of Amparai more than 300 Saivaite (in English -
"Hindu") temples were
damaged. The priest of the well-known Murugan Temple was driven out and replaced
by a Buddhist priest. Buddhists also control the nearby Buddhist Temple.
the Eastern Province in 1948 the Sinhala population was only 5% but by 1995 it
had increased to 24%. This is the result of the Sinhala government’s planned
resettlement of Tamil areas by Sinhalese colonists.
to the government Resettlement and Border Demarcation plan, Digamadulla
electorate will be annexed to Uva Province.
Oya was planned. The same plan was used to resettle Sinhalese in Kantalai and
Allai in 1952. Here also the Sinhalese are in the majority. This zone is in the
District of Trincomalee.
and Lankapura are areas that were inhabited by Tamils in the past. When
Thumpankadawa was annexed to the North Central Province, it had been taken from
the East. During the ethnic conflict Tamils were driven out of these areas and
were replaced by Sinhalese. Now the Sinhalese are in the majority.
the Eastern areas of Kandhanai and Allai, the government settled the Sinhala
people, creating a new Kandhanai administration block. Through this resettlement
plan the northern parts; Marvel, Kumaran and Kadavai were given to the Sinhalese.
resettlement plan stretched as far as Seruvillai. A story was fabricated saying
that in Seruvillai there was an ancient Buddhist temple. The government
encouraged the Sinhala people to promote their cultural heritage in this
so-called sacred place.
1827 - Tamil and Sinhala populations in
is in the north of Thumpankadawa in the North Central Province. The government
in its plan settled Sinhalese here also. Trincomalee’s northern area is
Kokilai. In the south of Kokilai lagoon lies Pulmoddai, a sea-shore town where
Tamils lived. There was an abundance of corals in this coastal region. The
government wanted to export this coral and it settled Sinhalese in this area, so
as to enable them profit from the sale of the coral. The Sinhala government by
means of its colonisation policy, settled many Sinhalese here. Padawiya Sripura
administration came into being here.
the borders of the District of Trincomalee, to the south there is Seruwila, to
the west lies Kantalai, Morawewa, Kumpankadavai. To the north is
Padawiya-Sripura became Sinhala settlements.
Trincomalee the Sinhalese government created a Sinhala settlement in the shape
of a horse-shoe.
1976 this horse-shoe shaped settlement became Seruwila a separate constituency
with a Sinhalese majority.
the seventies the Sinhalese government planned to settle Sinhala colonists in
the Northern Province.
the southern Mannar District is Musali. The administration cleared the forests
and resettled Sinhalese people there.
the coasts of Mullaitivu in the Vavuniya District lies Manalaru.
This name is now changed to Weli Oya, a Sinhalese name. The government
cleared the forests and settled Sinhalese prisoners and their families.
Sri Lankan Government encouraged Sinhalese fishing families from the south to
come to the eastern coast and trouble the Tamil families who lived there. In the
areas where the Sinhala people live the sea is deep. There are about 200 such
places. In the Tamil areas the sea deepens step by step. The sea deepens after a
Tamils carry out their cultivation in all of the months except during the month
of October-December. Initially, the Sinhala fishermen worked closely with the
Tamil fishermen. However, the Sinhalese fishermen slowly drove the Tamils away
and took control of Musali, Chilapaththurai, and Thalaimannar in the west and
Nayaru and Kalmunai which is a long stretch of sea coast land in the east.
time went on the Sinhalese fishermen drove the Tamils away and occupied the
following places; Nayaru, Kokilai, Kuchaveli, the town of Trincomalee,
Elakanthai, Verutal Panichan Kerni, Manokerni Punnaikuda Eravur, Batticaloa
Chinna Mugathuvaaram Kumari, Thirukovil. These places were all taken by the
Sinhalese with the help of the government, which wanted to drive away the Tamil
people from the places they had always inhabited.
Sinhala government’s five-point plan to settle the Sinhala population was
implemented as follows:
Along the Pattipalai River, to Amparai and Kumanai.
Allai, Kantalai, Seruwila.
Point was to destroy the Tamil fishermen’s families.
was a step by step plan of encroachment to reduce the Tamil’s land.
1833 the Colebrook-Cameron Commission allocated approximately 26,500 sq.km as
the Tamil People’s Ancestral Motherland.
1901 when the nine provinces came into being, the Tamil administration of the
Northern and Eastern Provinces measured approximately 19,100 sq.km Due to some
of the area being incorporated into the Sinhalese provinces the Tamil area had
been reduced by approximately 7,500 sq.km.
1948 the government’s settlement plan deprived the Tamils of 7,000 sq.km. in
the Eastern Province and 500 sq.km. in the Northern Province. Although the
Tamils protested, the Colombo administration ignored the Tamils and settled
Sinhalese in these regions.
7,500 sq.km of Tamil land was plundered by the Sinhala Government’s
Demarcation and Resettlement Plan when it came into operation. This has been
taking place over the last forty years.
1833, 25% of Tamil speaking people occupied 35% of land, which was in their
administration as Tamil ancestral homeland. In 1901 this area shrunk from 35% to
162 years the Sinhalese government under its crafty Demarcation and Resettlement
Plan has plundered 50% of the Tamil ancestral homeland and is still attempting
to colonise more and more!
(The original text was produced in Tamil by the
Author in 1980s)