A mob consisting of around 30 Sinhala youths launched an attack on a Tamil housing colony of Plantation workers at Alupola estate of Ratnapura district in Sri Lanka’s Sabaragamuwa Province. At least six persons were reportedly injured in the incident when threatened Tamils resisted the aggressors by engaging in counter violence.
Consequent to the attack which occurred at about 2 am in the night on April 17th 2013, much tension prevails in the area with the beleaguered Tamil minority living in the estates fearing retaliation from the Sinhala majority living in surrounding villages. Police are now patrolling the neighbourhood to maintain law and order.
Alupola estate is situated in a picturesque valley between the Adam’s peak wilderness sanctuary and Bambarabutuwe forest reserve.Alupola estate comprises 306 hectares in area and grows high quality low grown tea.Its annual output 1.2 million kilos of fresh green tea leaf.
Alupola is 28 km away from Ratnapura the capital city of Sabaragamuwa province. Ratnapura meaning “City of gems”is 101 km south east of Colombo city.
Most Tamil workers at Alupola estate live in a housing scheme called “Thondamanpura”. It was so named after former Ceylon Workers Congress leader Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman who served as a cabinet minister in the Governments of former Presidents JR Jayewardena,Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga.The veteran trade unionist was regarded as the “plantation patriarch”and was the grandfather of present minister and CWC leader Arumugan Thondaman.
The Alupola attack apparently had its origins in a musical show. There had been a musical show as part of the Sinhala and Tamil new year celebrations at neighbouring Galbode estate.Many from Thondamanpura had gone for it.
When Tamils were returning home after the musical show some Sinhala youths had cast lewd remarks at some of the girls. When Tamil youths protested racist remarks were made.Tamil youths had also responded with similar racist remarks.This led to a large crowd assembling and assaulting the Aluboda Tamil youths. Heavily outnumbered the Aluboda Tamils had fled the scene.
Two Tamils were badly injured in the incident and had to take medical treatment at the Balangoda hospital. A 23 year old youth named Thamilselvan was admitted to hospital for serious injuries while the other youth Vijayakumar received treatment as an out patient.
The matter however did not end there. A mob of about 30 Sinhala youths from Wewalwatte had invaded Alupola estate at about 2 am in the night and attacked the “Thondamanpura” housing sceme. Most of the youths were in an inebriated state.The mob had chanted racist obscene slogans and entered a few dwellings demanding that Tamils leave “Ape Rata” (Our Country) or face death.The mob also started assaulting some people.
Residents of Thondamanpura particularly Tamil youths had then offered resistance and engaged in counter violence. The mob had then retreated tactically and commenced a fresh attack from a distance.
A barrage of stones were thrown on the dwellings in Thondamanpura. The Tamils also retaliated by throwng stones back at the mob. After a while the violent exchange of stones ended and the Sinhala youths went away vowing to return with more persons and burn Thondamanpura.
The Alupola estate Tamils then contacted a number of up Country Tamil politicians,trade union representatives and religious leaders. They in turn contacted the Police at high levels. As a result a Police party went from Wewalwatte Police station to the troubled area and exerted pressure on the hostile Sinhala residents to keep calm thus preventing further escalation of violence.
In a further development four Sinhala youths also obtained medical treatment at the Balangoda hospital for injuries sustained during the fracas at Alupola estate when Tamil residents of Thondamanpura fought back against the aggressors.
Although further violence has been prevented due to the Police presence and an uneasy peace prevails the area remains tense with most Tamils remaining in their homes without venturing out.
What is worrisome in the situation is the fact that the attack on Alupola estate is not an isolated instance in recent times. There has been a pattern in Ratnapura district of several attacks on Tamils living in the estates by Sinhala groups from surrounding Villages.
According to a media statement by Mano Ganesan former Parliamentarian and leader of Democratic Peoples Front(DPF) there had been an incident at Alupola estate a few months ago when a Sinhala mob had attacked a Hindu temple in the area. There was an on going case in this connection and it is felt that the attack on Alupola estate Tamils when returning from the Musical show at Galbode estate was related to the previous enmity.
Apart from the Alupola and Galbode estate incidents Mano Ganesan also said that there had been a violent incident at Dolaswela estate in the Nivithigala division a few days ago. There had also been two more incidents at Lellopitiya and Gonakumbura estates in the Pelmadulla division a week ago. In all such incidents mobs from surrounding Sinhala villages had attacked Tamils living in estates.
DPF leader Mano Ganesan also called upon CWC leader and minister of Livestock and Rural Community Development Arumugan Thondaman to take urgent action and ensure protection for the Tamils living in Kegalle and Ratnapura districts of the Sabaragamuwa province.
He said that special security measures were necessary as the Tamils in estates were a minority entity living amidst an overwhelming Sinhala majority in surrounding villages.
Ganesan also drew attention to the fact that the CWC,DPF and Up Country Peoples Front had fielded a common list under the CWC cockerel symbol at the last Sabaragamuwa Provincial elections. A sizable number of Tamils had voted for the list despite intimidation and got two Tamils elected to the Provincial Council.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com