244 Pages
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Citizenship and Statelessness in Sri Lanka


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244 Pages


Analyses the context of the agreement between the Sri Lankan and Indian government that led to the loss of citizenship of Indian Tamil estate workers in Sri Lanka.

‘Citizenship and Statelessness in Sri Lanka’ analyses the context of the agreement between the Sri Lankan and Indian government that led to the loss of citizenship of Indian Tamil estate workers in Sri Lanka. Kanapathipillai broadens the focus of scholarship in this area by examining the economic, political and ideological issues that had a bearing on policy decisions.

Map of Sri Lanka; Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; Currency equivalents; Preface; Chapter 1: Raising Questions; Chapter 2: Colonialism: The Burden of History; Chapter 3: 1948: Disenfranchisement; Chapter 4: 1954: The Agreement that Failed; Chapter 5: 1964: The Agreement that “Succeeded”;  Chapter 6: 1967: The Start of the Implementation; Chapter 7: 1970-1977: “Sirima Times” – Pressure to Leave; Chapter 8: 1988: The End  of a Saga; Chapter 9: Retrospection; Bibliography; Appendix; Glossary; Index



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Citizenship and Statelessness in Sri Lanka
Citizenship and Statelessness in Sri Lanka
The Case of the Tamil Estate Workers
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2009 by ANTHEM PRESS 7576 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Valli Kanapathipillai 2009
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Kanapathipillai, Valli. Citizenship and statelessness in Sri Lanka: the case of the Tamil estate workers/Valli Kanapathipillai. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN13: 9781843317913 (hbk.: alk. paper) ISBN10: 1843317915 (hbk.: alk. paper) 1. Tamil (Indic people)—Sri Lanka— Social conditions—20th century. 2. Tamil (Indic people)—Legal status, laws, etc.— Sri Lanka—History—20th century. 3. Plantation workers—Sri Lanka—History— 20th century. 4. Repatriation—Sri Lanka—History—20th century. 5. Return migration—Sri Lanka—History—20th century. 6. Citizenship—Sri Lanka— History—20th century. 7. Statelessness—Sri Lanka—History—20th century. 8. Sri Lanka—Relations—India. 9. India—Relations—Sri Lanka. 10. Sri Lanka—Ethnic relations—History—20th century. I. Title. DS489.25.T3K326 2009 305.89481105493—dc22 2009026602
ISBN13: 978 1 84331 791 3 (Hbk) ISBN10: 1 84331 791 5 (Hbk)
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Map of Sri Lanka Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations
Currency Equivalents
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Notes Bibliography Appendix Glossary Index
Raising Questions Colonialism: The Burden of History 1948: Disenfranchisement 1954: The Agreement that Failed 1964: The Agreement that “Succeeded” 1967: The Start of the Implementation 1970–1977: “Sirima Times” – Pressure to Leave 1988: The End of a Saga
vii ix xi xiii xv
1 15 39 71 89 113 125 163 185
201 209 219 221 223
Map of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka ethnic distribution by zones. The estates are situated mainly in zone 3.
There was much weeping and wailing. Some of the women were beating their breasts, knowing that they would never see their homeland again, the place where they were born, the countryside where they toiled, the home where they married, where they gave birth to their children, ate, drank, danced and slept, performed religious ceremonies and buried their dead. Destined to see these familiar places no more, they were being torn apart, severed into two.(Satyodaya Bulletin, quoted in Fries & Bibin 1984, 52)
This work is a reflection of my struggles with my own dualistic perceptions of societal processes as I have experienced them in Sri Lanka. Because of my upbringing and location in a plural society such as Sri Lanka, my responses have comprised concerns and frustrated despair at seeing Sri Lanka sundered by ethnic animosities and intolerance, instead of celebrating the plurality and diversity of culture and language which so richly endow our lives. This book is about the repatriation of Tamils of Indian origin from Sri Lanka to India. Repatriation was the outcome of the decisions that were made by policymakers from two countries. In the end, it turned into a humanitarian crisis, which resulted in thousands of people being uprooted from a country they had legitimately called their home and in the separation of families who had once lived together. Repatriation affected Tamils of Indian origin from all walks of life – the traders, the money lenders, the unskilled laborers in urban areas, as well as those who worked as domestic servants or labored on the estates. The focus of this book, however, is on the estate laborers, because they make up the largest category of Indian Tamils and are the most visible by their concentration in the estates, which are located in the mid and upcountry regions. When carrying out research on the plantation sector, I also had the opportunity to foray into the literature on this sector. However, the existing literature did not prepare me for what I was to experience when I went onto the estates to carry out fieldwork related to the different aspects of my work and research. The estate workers still lived in enclaves, which meant that one had to get prior permission and approval from the estate management to
speak to them. There was the underlying fear that knowledge and self awareness would incite the laborers and disrupt the status quo. The laborers were still living in “lines” – row upon row of tworoomed structures dating from colonial times. These houses were mere symbols of shelter for the workers, against the damp and biting cold of the mountainous regions. During the day the homes of the workers were bereft of both adult men and adult women, as both sexes had been incorporated into the labor force. But it was clear that the women were the bearers of a double burden, as I saw them in the evening hurrying down the misty mountains, slipping and sliding along the muddy roadways, to begin the tasks that awaited them in their homes, while the men went off to bathe and enjoy a tipple. In the course of establishing a dialogue with some of the laborers, I began to ask myself how much of their situation was the result of the structural constraints of the plantation system, which dated from the colonial period, and how much of it was due to concerns of power sharing and political interests. In the course of such discussions with the laborers and with Indian Tamils from other strata of society, it became apparent that the repatriation of a settled labor force was not merely about the economics of labor processes and labor relations, but that a study of this nature would reveal the fundamental contradictions and the inequities in power relations which are symptomatic of the process of building a modern nationstate. The Indian Tamils were clearly the underdogs, looked down upon by the other communities and made worse off by loss of their political rights and their right to representation. Attitudes towards the Indian Tamil community as well as the possibility of understanding more contemporary issues by identifying the forces that resulted in the loss of political rights and the repatriation of the Indian Tamils, made me pursue my interest in analyzing this topic.
Valli Kanapathipillai Colombo, Sri Lanka March 2009