Colombo Telegraph

Towards Citizenship In Thāmilīlam: The Tamil People Of The North, 1983-2010

By Michael Roberts –

Dr Michael Roberts


As the rift between the majority Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamil minority in Sri Lanka widened from 1956 onwards the spatial centres of Tamil leadership moved by the 1980s from those who combined roots in Colombo and the Jaffna Peninsula to those firmly positioned within the Peninsula. The LTTE became both agency and master of this process. The exigencies of war led to a further shift in nodality from Jaffna town to the Kilinochchi-Mullaitivu complex from 1996 onwards. Population shifts were part of this transformation. The essay outlines the complex paths of Tamil migration and the principal factors generating these changes. War and nationalist sentiments were at the heart of the tale. Despite its own forms of oppressive authoritarianism, the LTTE’s record of resistance to state terror and its effective martyr-propaganda meant that the majority of Tamil people in the northern reaches were subjectively aligned as citizens of Thāmilīlam. To see them, in 2008, as citizens of Sri Lanka is an imposition.

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