Massacre 1956

The State sponsored genocide against the Eelamtamil nation has a very long history. A startling aspect of this genocide is the large scale massacres of Eelamtamils. Some of them are so horror that they are etched in the Eelamtamil psyche.

The island was under three consecutive colonial rulers the Portuguese, Dutch and the British since the 16th century. Documented history during these three periods reveals that the colonial rulers maintained a separation of the Eelamtamil and Sinhala communities in their administrative systems.

This separation was eventually eroded by the final constitution left by the last colonial ruler, Britain. This constitution was opposed by the Eelamtamils even at that time. The first victims of the Sinhala majoritarianism were the Tamil plantation laborers in the central regions of the island. These Tamils were brought from India by the British colonial rulers to work in the tea plantations that they have started. A million of this working people, contributing to the prosperity of the island for more than a century, were disenfranchised by an infamous law in 1949.

Since the British left the island, Eelamtamil political representatives have negotiated with successive governments to draw up new models of governance that will give some powers to the Eelamtamil homeland to manage their own affairs. However, the two major political parties that dominated the politics of the Sinhala people fed on the anti-Eelamtamil sentiments of the Sinhala people to gain votes among them.

Pattippalai River (later the name changed as Gal Oya), is the river rising in the hill country east of Badulla and flows north and east past Inginiyagala to the Indian Ocean 10 miles (16 km) south of Kalmunai. From 1950 to 1958, about 43 village units were created in what was referred to as the Left Bank, where most of the settlement had thus far taken place. The total number of colonists given allotments of land was 5,859. Of these, about 50 percent came from the board’s “area of authority” in the Eastern Province, consisting of local Muslims and Tamils (Eelam) from the east coast and Sinhalese or Sinhalized Veddahs from the interior jungle villages, who had been displaced by the dam and reservoir.

Pattippalai River is the main source feeding the (Gal Oya) scheme, a government program that dammed this and smaller rivers to create Senanayake Samudra—the largest tank (reservoir) in Sri Lanka, at Bintenne. The project opened up 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) of land to the cultivation of paddy, sugarcane, chilies, potatoes, and other crops. The Gal Oya National Park (founded 1954) has an area of 198 square miles (512 square km) and a wide variety of wildlife, including Bear, Elephant, and Leopard.

Sadly, none of these would inspire the Eelamtamils but Gal Oya would only bring melancholic memories to the Eelamtamils for it is associated with the genocidal massacre of Eelamtamils. The Gal Oya (Pattippalai River) anti-Eelamtamil genocidal pogrom or Gal Oya genocidal massacre were not the first that targeted the Eelamtamils in post independent period.

On June 5, the Eelamtamil leaders, who had been refused entry to Parliament, which had been cordoned off with fences and was guarded by policemen, staged a sit-down demonstration nearby, and this led to their forcible ejection and signaled the riot. Some 200 Eelamtamil protesters, including leading politicians, took part in this rally on Galle Face Green. A crowd of Sinhalese collected, and several Eelamtamil leaders and volunteers participating were physically injured and had to be taken to hospital. Meanwhile, small bands of Sinhalese roamed through the city, looting shops and destroying a few vehicles. The next morning, more serious looting was perpetrated in the Pettah shopping zone. The official estimates of damage done during two days was 87 injuries to persons and 43 lootings of shops. Some 113 people were arrested. (Ilankai Tamil sangam)

In a few days, (June 6 – 10) they had spread to South Tamileelam (Eastern Province in the island), where Eelamtamils and Sinhalese lived intermingled; in Mattkalappu and the GalOya Valley there was such violence that between 20 and 200 Eelamtamils were killed, according to W. Howard Wriggins. “Sinhalese toughs – inspired as always by fantastic rumors – seized government cars, bulldozers and high explosives and for a few days terrorized the (Eelam)Tamils in the (occupied Tamileelam territory) colony,” Manor writes. “Scores of (Eelam)Tamils, certainly well over one hundred, were massacred and hundreds more were driven into hiding. The army was sent to quell disturbances.” In Mattakalappu, a mass demonstration by about ten thousand Eelamtamils was fired on by the police, resulting in at least two deaths.


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