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Central & South Asia
Ethnic cleansing of Tamils
After the 1983 riots, the South of the country became almost devoid of Tamils.
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2009 18:02 GMT

Riots caused the death of thousands of Tamils and forced many more to flee to India [GALLO/GETTY]

The targeting of Sri Lankan Tamils by Sinhalese mobs over a number of years was the single biggest precipitating factor of the Sri Lankan civil strife.

These riots caused the death of thousands of Tamils and forced hundreds of thousands to flee to India and led to the loss of millions of rupees worth of property. Here is a short list of some of the more severe riots -

• 1956 saw the first of the anti-Tamil riots when a large Sri Lankan mob broke up a peaceful Tamil protest against the Sinhala Only Act. This was followed by targeted attacks on the Tamils in the rest of the island.

• 1958 saw another wave of anti Tamil riots in which about 200 Tamils were murdered, thousands assaulted and Tamil property looted. This forced over  25,000 Tamil refugees to relocated to the North.

• The elections of 1977 which saw the Tamil United Liberation Front victorious in the Tamil dominated areas was followed by another series of anti-Tamil riots, which later enquiries revealed were organised and pre-planned.

• In the bloody riots of 1983, Sinhalese mobs looted and torched many buildings in Jaffna, the most important of which was the Jaffna Public Library. This was an unforgivable sacrilege in Tamil eyes as many rare documents and numerous culturally important and irreplaceable manuscripts were lost. Hundreds if not thousands were killed in these riots and the refugees who fled to India numbered in their hundreds of thousands.

After the 1983 riots, the South of the country became almost devoid of Tamils. Of those that remained, many "forcibly disappeared" in the next 25 years, giving credence to the claim of ethnic cleansing of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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