Sri Lanka: How British colonial footprint, LTTE-led attacks tormented the island nation

Updated: Apr 23, 2019, 11:58 AM(IST)

The civil war in the island-nation ended a decade ago when the separatist group LTTE was defeated.

A fragile peace has largely prevailed since then, but the latest blasts -- the deadliest since the civil war ended -- have aroused fears of violence riving the island nation once again.


Root of the conflict goes back to colonial times

The beginning of the conflict in Sri Lanka can be traced back to British colonial rule.

The Tamil minority comprising just 11.9 per cent of the population were handed over most of the political power as the colonial rule ended.

This was not to go down well with the Sinhala Buddhists majority, which formed 74.9 per cent of Sri Lanka's population.

The Sinhalese felt their identity was threatened with Tamils at the helm of the state.


Why was LTTE created?

Sinhala became the national language in 1956, leading to systematic exclusion of non-Sinhala speakers who were being excluded from public service.

Hundreds of thousands of Tamils lost their jobs. The community was left seething with lack of opportunities.

The growing sense of disillusionment among Tamils prepared the ground for the separatist Tamil group, the LTTE, to emerge.

The group soon became the strongest of all rebel groups, based on its unswerving demand for a separate Tamil homeland.

Tensions ran high between the government and the rebel group in July 1983, leading to a full-blown civil war.

In a massive anti-Tamil pogrom that followed, Tamils were hunted and slaughtered.

Some reports claimed that thousands of Tamils were killed.

Thus began the spate of attacks by the LTTE. The group carried out a slew of brutal suicide attacks in the 90s.


LTTE gunned down nuns, monks in 1985

In May 1985, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) gunned down at least one-hundred and forty six nuns, monks and civilians in Anuradhapura.

In one of the deadliest attacks, the Tamil guerrillas drove into the Sinhalese heartland targeting a line of people waiting for a bus.


1987: Blasts shock the nation

Two years later, i.e. in 1987, 127 Sinhalese civilians were massacred by LTTE cadres.

The massacre is considered one of the most notorious and devastating attacks during the civil war.

Also, along with this, a grenade attack in the Sri Lankan legislature shook the nation.

A lawmaker and a ministry secretary were killed during the explosions.

The attack was believed to have targeted President Jayawardene for his signing of the India-Sri Lanka accord a few weeks earlier. 

In the same year, a car bomb exploded in the heart of Colombo, killing at least 113 people.

The bombing targeted central bus terminal of Colombo, with the impact of the bomb leaving a 10-foot crater in the ground.


1990: Massacre in Kattankudy

In 1990, LTTE targeted a mosque and killed at least 147 Muslims in Kattankudy.

Thirty armed persons raided four mosques in the town of Kattankudy, where over three-hundred people were prostrating in day's last prayer.

The LTTE held the Sri Lankan government responsible, whereas the Sri Lankan government accused the LTTE of committing the crime. 


1992 to 1996: LTTE violence grows

In 1992, LTTE killed an estimated 285 people - mostly Sinhalese - in Palluya-Godella village.

In 1996, at least 91 people were killed after LTTE rammed a bomb-laden truck through the main gate of Colombo central bank.

As gunmen traded fire with security guards, the suicide bomber in the lorry detonated the bomb, which tore through the bank and damaged eight other buildings nearby.


LTTE leaves an ugly mark

In 2006, LTTE rammed a bomb-laden truck against a convoy of 15 military buses, killing at least 127 sailors.

Sri Lanka has come a long way since the decimation of the Tamil liberation group, but the latest attack establishes one thing -  while the civil war may have been over, the conditions that plunged Sri Lanka into years of fighting are yet to be dealt with.


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