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Since their ancestors' arrival on the island in the nineteenth century, Up-country Tamils have lived at the margins of Sri Lankan society and politics, while being an integral part of the country's import-export economy. This book focuses on the ways in which Up-country Tamils continue to be marginalised, how far they have entered the mainstream, and the difficulties that they have faced along the way. The present moment provides an opportune time for considering the role of the Up-country Tamils, and the interactions between majority and minority, and between margin and mainstream in contemporary Sri Lanka. For ten years after the end of the war in May 2009, most political and academic debate and discussion about ethnic reconciliation have centred on a simplistic Sinhala-Tamil binary, ignoring other ethnic groups and the multiplicity of Tamil identities on the island.
The end of the war brought some relief concerning the most pressing issues the country faced in the past three decades in ending the brutal violence that caused the deaths, debilitation and displacement of thousands of Sri Lankans. Yet, it has not resolved many issues relating to majority-minority relations and power sharing in the post-colonial Sri Lankan state. Despite numerous political proclamations and a major change in government, limited progress has been made in regard to post-war ethnic reconciliation in the country.
This book addresses the many problems that Up-country Tamils face in contemporary Sri Lanka, politically, economically and socially, as well as the historical origins and structural determinants of their current predicament. The individual chapter authors pay particular attention to the changes that have taken place for Up-country Tamils since 2009, and their implications for the future of the community. After the April 2019 Easter attacks, reconciliation seems like an ever more distant dream. Yet, the analyses in this book, focused on Up-country Tamils' precarious position in twenty-first century Sri Lanka, are still salient as Sri Lankans come to terms with a new social and political reality.