When Sinhalese gave equal rights to Tamils in 1957 – The high caste Tamils objected.
Posted on September 18th, 2016

Shenali D Waduge

There is no ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. There is however a problem wherein a handful of high caste/class Tamils find it convenient to flag the Sinhala discrimination banner to hide the real issue. That issue is how these high castes/class wish to reign supreme over their own people in a separate state called their own. They would do anything to achieve this purpose. The lies and fabrications are part and parcel of this long-unfulfilled endeavor which started in 1923 by Sir Ponnambalam Arunchalam with the 50:50 demand when the Tamils against Sinhalese was hardly 70:30 as they were more Indian Tamils living in Sri Lanka than those referred to as Ceylon Tamils after 1911. Can anyone also explain why the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kachchi (Lanka Tamil Kingdom Party) formed in 1949 months after independence was given, had as their objective the demand for a separate Tamil state? The only discrimination suffered under British rule was to the majority Sinhala Buddhists whose rights were all confiscated by false promises since 1815.

How many of those peddling the ‘Tamils are being discriminated’ sing-a-long are aware that Tamils denied Tamils the right to attend school, the right to participate in religious rites in kovils, the right to go inside a kovil and refused to allow low caste Tamil children to study sitting on benches? How many are aware that some of these restrictions prevail still?

It was a Sinhalese who brought legislative changes so that low caste Tamils would not get discriminated by high caste Tamils but high caste Tamil leaders opposed it. That is the truth and nothing but the truth.

Now comes the best part.

The Official Language Act was introduced in 1956 making Sinhala the Only official language yet allowing reasonable use of the Tamil language.

It has become a ruse to use the 1956 Sinhala Only Act as a reason d’etre for the so called ethnic problem. However, when the Act was passed there were no violent acts by Tamils, no satyagrahas, no large demonstrations not even mass protests except for a wafer thin crowd outside parliament.

If the Sinhala Only act was as profound and discriminate as is being projected currently why did all Tamils not oppose it in 1956?

In fact Tamils began learning Sinhalese. What both Tamils and Sinhalese shared post-independence was that apart from a handful of elite Sinhalese & Tamils most of whom had converted to Christianity and had obtained missionary English education and foreign qualifications, the majority of the Sinhalese and majority of the Tamils were not conversant in English. It was impossible to run a country when the majority populace did not know English while the minority populace of elite Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims knew virtually only English! It was practically impossible to administer a country using English spoken/written by only a handful of people.

Today the Tamil politicians boast about ‘looking after our people’ but it was SWRD Bandaranaike who had to pass a Parliamentary Bill to legally afford Tamil equal rights because Tamils were denying their own low caste Tamil people the basic human rights. That Act called the Social Disabilities Act 21 passed on 12 April 1957.

The Act gave Tamil low castes who had been previously denied by their own Tamil high caste leaders, the right to equal status. Though equal rights was now made legal, Tamils continued to deny low caste Tamils equal status.

Therefore all those human rights activists and media personalities carrying on a sham show about Tamil rights being denied by the Sinhalese are reminded that it was a Sinhalese who gave Tamils their rights and not Tamils and it was the Tamils who refused to abide by the Act passed.

The Tamil caste factor is well hidden by Tamils but it holds the key to many of the problems and issues that exist.

The best thing about the two acts was that the 1956 Sinhala Only Act had little opposition by the Tamils but the 1957 Social Disabilities Act saw a very agitated lot of high caste Tamils who feared that the dismantling of the caste system would affect their political careers.

The elite high caste/class Tamils soon labored their educated minds and came up with the solution – lets campaign against the government. The ‘racial discrimination’ card became the opted slogan. Of course they needed to show examples for their false flag so Ministers were mobbed, instructions were given to tar Sinhala letters to incite racial discord and various other stunts commenced.

The racial slogan quickly hid from the low caste Tamils the reality that the 1957 Act was to protect their interests which the high caste Tamils were vehemently opposing.

Now you should wonder why the Tamil leaders did not organize mass protests, demonstrations for the 1956 Sinhala Only Act but did so within 24 hours following the 1957 Social Disabilities Act against caste discrimination implementation. You must probe into this and demand answers.

Where was the racial discrimination in bringing an Act granting the following rights to all especially to low caste Tamils who were being denied these rights by their own people? Chief Minister Wigneswaran please take note.

The Act considered the following as an offence

  • Anyone imposing caste restrictions if found guilty would be imprisoned for a maximum of 3 years or a fine of Rs.3000.
  • No business under a license can impose caste restrictions – if so they would face cancellation of license and may even face denial to recommence operations for 3 years.
  • No person can be prevented because of his/her caste from being admitted to school or employed as a teacher in a school or educational institution.
  • No person can be prevented or denied because of his/her caste from buying any item in a shop, market or fair
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied entering or being served in any public hotel, resthouse, eating house, restaurant or any other place where articles of food and drink are sold to public.
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied obtaining any room for residence in a public hotel, resthouse or lodging-house.
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied from using water from any public well, spring, water-pipe or any other source of supply of water to the public (this immediately calls to mind the racial segregation in US
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied entering or obtaining services at a hairdressing saloon or laundry
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied entering any public cemetery, attending or taking part in any burial or cremation.
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied wearing any kind of clothes, head-covering or foot-covering at any place to which the public have access
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied being carried as a passenger in any public vehicle or vessel
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied entering a temple, devale, kovil, church, mosque or any other place of religious worship
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied to be engaged in any lawful employment or activity
  • No person because of his/her caste can be prevented or denied worshipping at any place of worship
  • No person because of his/her caste as a public officer can deny to perform his duty which he is legally bound to perform to another because of his/her caste.
  • No person because of his/her caste can discriminate workers or employees because of their caste
  • No person because of his/her caste can corrupt or foul water of any public well, spring, tank or reservoir so as to make it less fit or unfit for those of another caste.
  • No person because of his/her caste can be denied from using water as a teacher, student or employee in an educational establishment or any institution.
  • If above violations do occur assistance of the police can be sought who will provide what the person is being denied. The police officer can even arrest the person without warrant and bring him to the police station and released after being produced to a Magistrate’s court.


In 2008 G. D. C. Weerasinghe wrote that the very famous Nallur Kovil did NOT permit non-vellalar to enter and when a low caste using the 1957 social disabilities act right did enter, riots resulted in Jaffna. Mr. C. Sunderalingam an ex-Minister went to the extent of sleeping between gateposts to prevent non-vellalar from entering the Kovil.

In reading each of the clauses of the act, one should immediately be asking ‘Are Tamils denying these rights for their own people?” People should wonder how many such low caste Tamils have not been allowed to drink water inside their place of work, how many children were denied education because of their caste, how many wells used by low castes would have been poisoned, how many kovils still do not permit low caste Tamils to enter, how many restaurants refuse to serve to low castes, how many dead Tamil lowcastes are denied last rites in times of sorrow. People should seriously go through these clauses and realize the extent of which discrimination took place by Tamils on Tamils and this whole Sinhala discrimination thing has been an absolute lie not corrected but allowed to be flogged for people’s own personal agendas.


That the common citizens have been taken for a ride by politicians of all shades and names can be seen in the 1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact, signed without the concurrence of either the Parliament or Cabinet (raising the legal binding of it).

Why is it that no one objected to how a fuss supposed to be over the Sinhala language ended up with a secretly devised pact promising to devolve power? Notice the timing, the demand to devolve powers to regions came immediately as a result of the 1957 Act aiming to give all Tamils equal rights. This equality was objected by the Tamil high class/caste who rallied together claiming they were being discriminated but in reality to hide their caste superiority and the ‘we want to rule our own’ is another term for we, the high caste/class will reign over all low caste/class Tamils.

It was this that promoted low caste/class Prabakaran to be enticed by India and trained with a dual objective of destabalizing Sri Lanka while keeping the Tamil leaders in tow. Inferiority complexes got the better of Prabakaran who ended up drawing his men/women and child soldiers from the low caste while keeping the high caste dead scared of even speaking against him. The high caste Tamils all hated Prabakaran but were using him to win by terror the territoriy they failed to achieve politically.

Examples taken from Dr. S. Rasalingam

  • 1847 – Arumuga Navalar a hero amongst Jaffna Tamils, left teaching at Jaffna Central College because a low caste Tamil student from Nalavar caste was admitted to the school.
  • 1871 – caste riots between Vellala and dhoby & barber castes in Maviththapuram as a result of dhoby caste refusing to wash clothes of barber caste people. Vellala’s were blamed for instigating the riots (1st caste riot between Tamils).
  • 1877 – Arumuga Navalar provided food and medicine to only Jaffna high caste Vellala’s during a famine.
  • 1923 – Sutumalai, Jaffna – Vellala’s attack Paramba caste people for hiring drummers for a funeral alleging that they had no right to employ drummers for funerals as they were low caste (now you know why this clause was included in 1957)
  • 1929 – Caste riots following government directive on ‘equal seating’ enabling low caste students to sit on benches instead of the floor in the classroom. This resulted in many houses of low caste Tamils getting burnt and low caste children were too scared to return to school. The Vellala high castes begged the British government to cancel the directive. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan led 2 delegations to London to plead with the Colonial Office to encode Caste into all legislative enactments of Ceylon. (refer Communal politics under Donoughmore Constitution 1931-1947 by Jane Russell, Tisara publishers)
  • (How do you like that – begging the British not to allow their own Tamil children to sit on a bench to study – now you know why this clause was included again in 1957 – Tamils did not allow low caste Tamil children to sit on benches and Wigneswaran is preaching to the Sinhalese!)
  • 1931 – Canganai, Jaffna, Pallar caste attacked by Vellala’s for hiring drummers for a funeral. Vellala’s claim it was a ‘tradition’ that only Vellala’s could use drummers for funerals.

What is amusing and interesting is that none of the Sinhalese living in the North were discriminated by Tamils (either high caste or low caste) The wrath of the Vellala’s was only against the low caste Tamils primarily because Hindus viewed that ‘high castes’ were God’s chosen people. No wonder Prabakaran resolved to ensure none of his cadres followed Hinduism and made sure all his cadres were buried and not cremated. Until Prabakaran and his killing machine came along the Vellala’s were temple patrons, they provided money for the upkeep of the kovils and the priests who were all employed by the Vellalas. Looks like the Brahmins and Vellala’s had no choice but to even bow and worship low caste Prabakaran! The Vellala’s quickly devised to rally all Tamils under ‘Tamil discrimination’ slogan with LTTE/Eelam calls ensuring the low-castes were kept from questioning that the high castes were the bigger enemy of the low castes than any Sinhalese! A lot of energy is going towards brushing caste factor under the carpet.

The lowcaste Tamils have to be grateful to the Sinhalese for enabling them to study and gain some kind of equality which they would have been denied under Tamil caste Tamils. The objection to university standardization in 1973 was another ruse. Uptil 1973 there was an inequitable distribution of taxpayers money to higher education with students of the main towns/cities from all ethnic groups getting admissions. The 1973 standardization enabled students from less developed districts to also gain admission to university. The Vellala high castes who had been the only children to gain admission to university prior to 1973 soon found out that their allocation had to be divided between low caste Tamils also passing from Jaffna and the high castes were not too happy about that. Now do you understand the reason for the propaganda against standardization? Therefore, anyone claiming standardization is a reason for the ethnic problem have fallen for the Vellala yarns.

Confounding matters further, leaving out the caste issues that divide Tamils is also the status symbols that exist. Jaffna Tamils think themselves superior to Trinco and Batticoloa Tamils and together all Tamils think nothing of the Estate/Plantation Tamils and this segment has never been including into any of the Eelam calls. We really feel for the likes of Mano Ganeshan tagging behind the high castes when even the Tamil low castes don’t have a place for him!

The LTTE had little choice but to appoint a high-caste political party in the TNA who duly bowed to Prabakaran for their dear life but have now taken over the leadership mantle with vigor as can be seen by the arrogance in Wigneswaran and likes.

Glaring facts should stare readers in the face

  1. Discrimination is by Tamils against Tamils and not Sinhalese against Tamils.
  1. There have been more caste riots between Tamils than the handful of ‘riot’ occasions used to claim a separate state.
  1. It is the Sinhalese who gave equal rights to Tamils. It is the Tamil high caste/class who opposed low caste Tamils from enjoying the same rights as high caste Tamils.
  1. Sinhala Only, Racial riots, Standardization are only slogans used to hide the Tamil caste issue and lay blame on the Sinhalese ….the propaganda has succeeded because of political correctness and Sinhalese politicians vying for cheap minority votes without setting the story straight

Until and unless people begin to question the lies promoted over the years we are going to land up creating solutions to issues that are not problems and problems that never existed.

Shenali D Waduge

6 Responses to “When Sinhalese gave equal rights to Tamils in 1957 – The high caste Tamils objected.”

  1. Dilrook Says:


    The funniest thing is the illegal B-C Pact signed in 1958 between Tamil leaders and the Prime Minister to end the so-called ethnic problem. In that, both parties agreed to keep Sinhala Only. If Sinhala Only was the root cause of the problem, how on earth can it be resolved by keeping it?

    Instead Tamil leaders were more interested in devolution of power to them where high caste Tamils can continue to torment low caste Tamils in all human activity. This was how devolution became the “solution” to the “ethnic problem”. Had the B-C Pact gone ahead, Tamil high caste politicians would have once again enslaved low caste Tamils. Sinhalese including Buddhist monks protested and stopped this barbaric caste discrimination reversing the 1957 progress.

    Tamil high caste leaders immediately realised they lost the plot and instigated riots. These riots temporarily brought all Tamils together.

    However, the government in 1973 went even further with the Prevention of Social Disabilities (Special Provisions) Law. This sealed the fate of Hindu caste discrimination. Tamil leaders were astounded and they plotted for war and violence. In 1976 they passed the Vadukodai Resolution to create a nation of their own. Funnily, it fails to mention equal individual rights. All human charters anywhere in the world mention equal individual rights but not this. No wonder it failed in 2009.

    Winning over low caste Tamils helped Sri Lanka win the war. LTTE leaders discriminated against Karuna whose is from a low caste from Batticaloa. He defected. Other low caste leaders like Devananda also fought the LTTE. Tamil Christians are considered low caste by Hindus. LTTE recruited Tamil Christians as suicide bombers and other low level cadres. This rose tensions between the two creeds in the north. Sri Lankan military exploited this by first taking over Tamil Christian areas that were more receptive to the army.

  2. Christie Says:

    Kotalawala-Nehru agreement was about Indian Imperialism and colonialism.

    Banda was following what Indian Empire ordered like Sirisena.

  3. S.Gonsal Says:

    Actually Sinhalese won their equal rights to Tamils in 1957. Before that Tamils has more rights than Sinhala.

    We must stop this “DON’T DIVIDE THE COUNTRY ” fight.

    We should start “NO MORE DEVOLUTION” fight.
    This is URGENT. We should start “NO MORE DEVOLUTION” fight.
    Then there will be no place for politicians to hide.


    The country is already divided since appointment of North LTTE council and Vigneshwaran.

  4. SA Kumar Says:

    The country is already divided since appointment of North LTTE council and Vigneshwaran.- Agreed We-Tamil fought for Thani TE (One) but you gave us Two ( NPC (Saiva TE) & EPC(Muslim TE).

    We said One country is already divided than you you worry about other country ???

    S.Gonsal Machang to whom you are fooling ????

  5. SA Kumar Says:

    Winning over low caste Tamils helped Sri Lanka win the war. LTTE leaders discriminated against Karuna whose is from a low caste from Batticaloa. – FYI Our Thesiya Thalaivar VP is Low caste ( VVT Karaiyar caste ) !!!

    to whom you are fooling ???

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    We thank Shenali for this truthful article.


    More points :

    * The Tamil Caste war in Lanka has ties to Tamil Nadu separatism to form Dravidastan which was stopped by PM Nehru’s Anti-Secessionist Law of 1963.

    * Also, the demand for a Fed State started when Tamil leaders in the Ceylon Legislative Council became less in number during the time of British Colonial Rule in Lanka.

    * Message to Tamil People :
    Your Eelam is in your Hearts.
    Access your Hearts (God/Life Force/Truth), through Meditation.
    Raj Yoga (the highest of the Yogas), is Meditation.

    Do not let Tamil leaders mislead you !

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