Tamils and Lhotshampas

The case of "up-country Tamils" of Sri Lanka, highlighted in a recent article in The Hindu by V. Suryanarayan of the University of Madras, suggests some interesting possible parallels with the case of the Lhotshampa Nepali-speaking refugees of Bhutan. Essentially, it is a story of how governments find—or may find—it convenient to sweep a problem away due to larger geopolitical considerations.

Up-country Tamils are quite different from "Sri Lankan Tamils" of the North and East of the country in that they are descendants of Tamil labourers brought to colonial Ceylon to work on coffee, tea, rubber and coconut plantations. At the time of Independence, these up-country Tamils actually numbered more than Sri Lankan Tamils, who make up about 12 percent of the population.

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Himal Southasian