Through a succession of key stages since Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) became independent in 1948, its Tamil minority, historically concentrated in the north and east but with an important segment in Colombo, became alienated from the Sinhalese majority and, after peaceful opposition failed to secure its rights, resorted to an armed struggle.
The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) today appear to hold the key to their people's future. While they have suffered setbacks, including the loss of the Tamil capital, Jaffna, they remain a potent guerrilla force, able to strike with impunity at both military and civilian targets. The Tigers' grip on the Tamil population seems secure, as does their overseas support and funding from Tamil exiles in Britain, Canada, and Australia.
This book offers a concise history of the Sri Lankan Tamil nation, its culture, social make-up, and political evolution. In a final chapter, A. J. V. Chandrakanthan gives a first-hand account of life and attitudes inside the embattled Tamil areas today.
A. Jeyaratnam Wilson teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of New Brunswick. He is the author of The Break-Up of Sri Lanka and S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism. A. J. V. Chandrakanthan teaches in the Department of Theology at Concordia University, Montreal.