Quiet Genocide

   11 March 2009, early morning

In the MetaFilter thread about the Armenian Genocide someone mentioned The White Genocide, a term I had not heard before. The White Genocide is what Armenians use to describe what happened to those Armenians who were forced to leave Turkey who ended up being absorbed into the countries they moved to. It’s an interesting idea, and a common fear of many ethnic groups I suspect. You can kill off a peoples by literally going out and killing them, or in this more subtle way. In Canada you have Québécois who are very passionate about language laws and the like, I suspect because if these protections did not exist you’d have an English speaking province within a few generations. In Tibet the Chinese government ships Han (ethnic Chinese) people into the region and represses religion in an attempt to erase the Tibetan identity. In Sri Lanka you have blow back from the 1950s language laws that leads to a full scale war 30 years later. The tragedy here is that support for an armed struggle in Sri Lanka has caused far more displacement of Tamils than anything the Sinhalese government could have managed. Obviously Tamil people living in the West can’t disappear into the population, but the identity of Tamils born and raised abroad is certainly complex. I don’t know anyone in my generation who can actually cook Tamil food. (Really, does anyone still make pittu or idiyappam besides Babu?) The number of people I know who speak Tamil is small. I can call myself Tamil, but clearly my identity is far more complicated than if I had been born and raised in Sri Lanka. How many in the Tamil diaspora would leave for a newly liberated Tamil Eelam when they live pleasant middle class lives abroad. I certainly wouldn’t. My home is Canada, the best country in the world.



  1. Check this book out if you can. There’s a lot in it about the tactics governments use to put down insurgencies (with a focus on Sri Lanka). The SL govt has been moving Sinhalese settlers to the east for over a generation in an effort to weaken the Tamil ‘hold’ on it. They’ve been pretty successful.

    Viewing all of the actions and outcomes (military, political, economic etc) from a distance, it all seems much more like a calculated, coordinated strategy with a pretty obvious aim.

    The book’s also a fascinating look at the conflict from an individual’s perspective.

  2. Sivaram was the former editor of TamilNet? Or am I mixing people up? I’ll have to grab the book. I’ve actually seen it before, but wasn’t sure whether it was worth reading or not.

    As for Sinhalese settlement, I don’t think trying to maintain a Tamil hold on the East is the way to go. What would a Tamil Eelam look like? Would they punt all the Muslims and Sinhalese out of the country? Would they be treated as second class citizens within the country? There is some irony here.

  3. Same dude. The book has a lot on the formation of/initial motive behind tamilnet as well.

    I said ‘hold’ because I couldn’t think of a better term, not to argue that it belongs to Tamils. In the same way the Chinese govt uses new Han settlements to increase their control of the land and diminish the ‘hold’ (or political power, or legitimacy or something) of Tibetans, the SL govt has brought in ethnic sinhalese to dilute the political power of Tamils and delegitimize claims based on ethnicity. That isn’t to say that people shouldn’t be able to live where they wish, but that the demographic changes in the east aren’t part of a natural progression, they’re part of a greater government initiative and directly related to the conflict.

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