Up-country origin Tamils most affected among uprooted in Mannaar

[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 January 2018, 15:09 GMT]
166 families, most of them poverty-stricken Tamils of Up-country origin, who lived with self-respect in Vanni until 1996 doing farming after they ended their centuries old plantation life after state-sponsored pogroms against Tamils in the island in 1977 and 1983, are now again transformed into people doing menial work in the local fishing industry in Peasaalai, Mannaar. The families are living at Chi'ruth-thoappu village which is located on Mannaar-Thalaimannaar Road as they had lost their lands and farms in Vanni to occupying SL military. The families displaced to Mannaar in 1996 and were residing in an open refugee camp operated with the support of UNHCR at that time. While majority of the uprooted people had vacated from the camp, 166 families were unable to resettle due to the war and as their original lands in Vanni were being seized by the occupying Sinhala military.

With the facilitating of UNHCR-assisted Sewa Lanka foundation, the families ended their refugee camp life in 2007 as they bought 20 acres of lands and received 20 perches per family with a housing scheme. Their dry rations ended and without a livelihood programme, they were forced to seek daily wage works. Now, many of these families, who were once self-sustained farmers in Vanni, are seen cleaning the boats and nets of fishermen in Peasaalai.

Native charity organisations operating with the support of Tamil Diaspora should concentrate on restoring the self-respect of these families by creating livelihood programs following the legacy of the late Gandhiyam David, grassroots activists in Vanni commented.

The veteran Tamil activist and humanist S.A. David was exiled in Tamil Nadu after he was freed by Tamil militants from Batticaloa jail where he was imprisoned after surviving a genocidal attack at Welikade prison in 1983.

Between 1977 and 1983, Gandhiyam David and his colleagues had launched a native model of development with twelve model farms in Vavuniyaa, Trincomalee and Batticaloa, showing the villagers the simplest, safest and quickest way to economic, social and cultural revival.

During the accelerated 'counterinsurgency' in the 1980’s aiming to crush the Tamil national liberation struggle, Mr. S.A David and 7 other Gandhiyam members were unlawfully arrested and detained at Welikada. He passed away in October 2015 at the age of 91.

The Gandhiyam movement was assisting 5000 Up-country Tamil families from tea estates, affected by State-sponsored ethnic pogroms in the south of the island, to settle down to safe life in the traditional Eezham Tamil villages in Vanni.

The families of Up-country origin in Chi’ruththoappu say they still live as refugees although they own a piece of land in Mannaar.


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