Hill country Tamils settled in the North and the East facing various forms of discrimination have called on the relevant Provincial Councils to establish lift irrigation systems and to provide them with title deeds for the entire acreage of their lands including agricultural lands. The Institute of Social Development pointed out that upcountry Tamils had migrated from the plantations from 1958 onwards to the Districts of Mullaitivu, Batticaloa (five percent to seven percent of the population), Mannar, Ampara, Kilinochchi and Vavuniya.
In the case of the latter two Districts, they account for 40% of the population. The Tamil leaders at various times had settled them in border areas near forests and on the upper parts and uppermost sides of dams, tanks and lakes, thereby in the case of the latter, making it impossible to obtain water for agriculture. Their settlements are called purams.
Tamils who were early settlers in the North and East refer to the said group of hill country Tamils derogatorily as Vadakathiyar (Northerners – because for those in the North, Tamil Nadu is to the North of them) and Thottakattan (denoting from plantations – thottam meaning plantations).
While some of the children of these hill country Tamils fought as rebels during the war and have subsequently become doctors, professional teachers, development officers, Samurdhi officers and education officers the majority are agriculture labourers and labourers in Local Government authorities such as municipal councils and urban councils.
Director of the Institute and author of the research paper ‘Migration Towards the North-East and the Emerging Political Leadership of Hill Country Tamils’, P. Muthulingam said that they also faced bureaucratic discrimination in relation to infrastructure and rights.
They have formed the North-East Hill Country Tamils Forum, which is an emerging leadership with a distinct and distinguished identity as they have not been given the due political representation on the basis of the population and ethnic ratio, and therefore to demand such from the Tamil National Alliance at the forthcoming Local Government election, and elsewhere also at the Provincial Council level.
“They face segregation, discrimination and alienation and they are sidelined. Caste wise too they are considered oppressed. It is not possible for them to obtain irrigated land, thus they are dependant on irrigated lands owned by early settlers. The former farmers have now been forced into becoming farm hands and agricultural labourers.
They have requested the construction of lift irrigation systems from the relevant Provincial Councilors and politicians. Elsewhere, with the clearing of forests, they have three to four acres of land, yet the title deeds are given only for half an acre. In the case of hill country Tamils in Kepapilavu, they have no deeds,” he added.