Voice from the Hills:
The Malaiyaga Tamil Community in Sri Lanka
Unflagging Dedication for Two Centuries…
In the heart of Sri Lanka, nestled within its verdant hills and lush landscapes, exists a community with a remarkable history: The Malayaga Thamilar. As the calendar turns to 2023, it's a significant milestone for the Malaiyaga Tamil people (Hill country Plantation Tamils) in Sri Lanka. After two centuries of existence and unflagging dedication to propelling the nation's economy forward, the Plantation Tamil workers stand at an intriguing juncture in Sri Lanka. Their substantial contribution to the country's income inevitably raises the question of whether they should rightfully share the same rights as their fellow citizens. Paradoxically, despite being an economic backbone, this group finds itself enduring a life of profound oppression across social, political, cultural, and economic dimensions. This calls for a closer look at their journey and the challenges they continue to face on their road to recognition, dignity and equality. Plantation Tamils, hailing from Indian roots, embarked on a transformative journey to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) during the 19th and 20th centuries, assigned to work on the island's flourishing plantations. This community, often referred to as Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka, traces their lineage predominantly to laborers dispatched from caste affected groups, in Tamil Nadu, situated in the southern part of India. Their narrative is one of migration, adaptation, and vital contributions to shaping the history of both lands.
Malayaga tamil people - history - life - struggle
over two centuries - people's declaration
The people of the hill country are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economic, and social development. The year 2023 marks the end of 200 years since they were brought from South India to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) as laborers. At a time when various events have been organized to commemorate the 200 years, we launch this declaration to draw the attention of those, concerned as to the historical background, the condition of the life that these have lived and challenges they faced; and in the meantime to charter a course for the century ahead with constructive action to sustain their human rights and march forward as a community as citizens with equal rights and in the meantime preserving its identity.
The meeting for the purpose of launching this declaration on Loolecandura Estate, Deltota had been jointly organized by the Workers Solidarity Union, Women’s Solidarity Front, Hill Country Women’s Forum, and Civil Organizations and Intellectuals under the patronage of HDO. Loolecandura Estate, had been chosen as the appropriate venue on the grounds of its being the first tea estate to be created by the pioneer planter James Taylor who himself lived there and died. The gathering included the hill country plantation workers of Loolecandura as well as outside women, youths, social activists, civil society organizations, teachers, and government officers.