Sri Lanka: Tamils protest on 'independence day'

February 4 protest in Vavuniyaa.

Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka held protests on February 4, the former British colony's independence day.

Sri Lanka was granted independence on February 4, 1948. But the politicians who ruled the newly independent state adopted racist policies, depriving 1 million Tamil plantation workers of citizenship. Then in 1956, they made Sinhalese (used by the Sinhala ethnic majority) the sole official language — making speakers of the Tamil language second-class citizens. They also instigated anti-Tamil pogroms.

This discrimination and violence led some Tamils to begin an armed struggle for an independent Tamil state, which was defeated in 2009. The Sri Lankan government's victory was accompanied by a genocidal massacre.

As a result of this history, most Tamils do not celebrate Sri Lanka's independence. In towns throughout the largely Tamil north and east of the island, Tamils held protests and raised black flags to symbolise mourning. Many participants have relatives who have disappeared after being taken away by the army or police.

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