Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Expulsion of Jaffna Muslims; part 1 – The Numbers

by Sachi Sri Kantha

Many Tamils would be wondering what happened to the token Tamil pontificator D.B.S.Jeyaraj, if they bothered to read his contribution entitled ‘Fifteenth anniversary of the Muslim expulsion from Jaffna’ (Sunday Leader, Colombo, Oct.30, 2005). I did. Either Jeyaraj has gone nuts or he has elevated his profile as a slick and slimy agent from the adversaries of Tamils.

Jeyaraj’s role as a writer-agent reminds me of the villainy role of Vaithi, played by ace comedian C.K. Nagesh in that enchanting Tamil movie, Thillana Mohanambal (1968). Agent Vaithi was a slick, slimy schemer who was always with extended hands to fill his pockets. In that movie, Nagesh played this nasty agent role with aplomb – combining his skills for comedy with the needs this character role of a seamy schemer demanded. He would twist truths and carry tales between two parties for his own survival. I should not be nasty on Jeyaraj, but the first two sentences of his above-mentioned commentary made me boil.

This is how Jeyaraj began his piece. “Fifteen years ago this day (Oct 30th) around 28,000 men, women and children were expelled from Jaffna by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organization. They were all Tamil-speaking Muslims living in the Muslim ‘vattaaram’ or zone of Jaffna town.”

28,000 Muslims living in Jaffna town in October1990. Holy cow! The temerity of Jeyaraj to cook up this number is astounding. He probably was not even an eye witness to that event of expulsion. If Jeyaraj’s number of “28,000 Muslims” is to be believed, one of two demographic miracles must have happened in Jaffna between 1980 and 1990. First, there should have been a large scale immigration of Muslim population into Jaffna region between 1980 and 1990. Or second, an unprecedented birth of Muslim babies should have occurred for 10 years due to some kind of divine blessing. Any sane Sri Lankan knows that none of the two miracles happened. Because, in the period from 1984 to 1990, the population flow was in the reverse direction from the Jaffna peninsula to (a) escape from the aerial bombing exercises of a ranting and raving Minister of National Defense, Lalith Athulathmudali (1985-87); and (b) to escape from the atrocities of the Indian army and its local collaborator gangs (1987-90).

Let me refute Jeyaraj’s wild assertion of “28,000 Muslims” promptly. Historian and American missionary Robert Holmes published his Jaffna 1980 book in 1980. Between pages 188 and 191, he gave the numbers for the Muslim population residing in Jaffna region then.

“According to local authorities there are 16,000 Muslims in the region but their number eight years later is estimated to be around 18,000. However, if the 1971 Census is correct in saying the Muslims of Jaffna were only 1.5% of the population in Jaffna, then their numbers must have been nearer to 11,000 than to 16,000.”

Robert Holmes defined the “region” as Jaffna peninsula and the surrounding islands. Thus, in the best guess of Holmes, the Muslims in Jaffna amounted to 11,000 in 1980. How could they have increased to 28,000 ten years later? Jeyaraj has provided a bloated number to splash mud on the LTTE, his usual agenda. It should be mentioned that Holmes lived in Jaffna and worked as a teacher for 12 years from 1948 to 1960 and his observations on the then Jaffna society are sufficiently reliable to withstand scrutiny from other independent sources.

I provide another authentic source to refute Jeyaraj’s baloney on Muslim numbers living in Jaffna electorate in 1990. As per the findings of the 1976 Delimitation Commission, for the 1977 general elections, Muslims accounted for 12.98 percent of Jaffna voter list of 34,865. [Source: A Statistical Survey of Elections to the Legislatures of Sri Lanka 1911-1977, by G.P.S.H.De Silva, Marga Institute, Colombo, 1979 p.186]. Simple calculation reveals that 12.98 percent makes up to 4,525 Muslim voters. Since these are adults over 18 years, this number is in agreement with Holmes’s figure of 11,000 Muslims if one includes the population below 18 years.

Let me provide the number of Muslims residing in the Jaffna district from 1827 to 1981, from a third source; the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka.

1827 – 2,166; 1881 – 2,648; 1891 – 3,049; 1901 – 3,078; 1911 – 3,485; 1921 – 3,748; 1946 – 5,620; 1953 – 7,083; 1963 – 8,600; 1971 – 10,374; 1981 – 13,757.

Please make note that the number of 13,757 Muslims were for the entire Jaffna district, and not for the Jaffna electorate. Then, how could the Muslim population have increased from 13,757 to “28,000 Muslims” in 1990, within a mere 9 years? The only certainty is that the phenomenal 200 percent increase could occur only in the deluded mind of Jeyaraj.

Part 2

Part 3

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Part 4

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