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Ceylon A Quarrel of Tongues.pdf

Ceylon A Quarrel of Tongues.pdf

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Published by Veeramani Mani

While the Sinhalese Premier hesitated, the rioters took over. In the Tamil stronghold of northern Ceylon, crowds attacked government-owned buses that were marked with Sinhalese letters.

While the Sinhalese Premier hesitated, the rioters took over. In the Tamil stronghold of northern Ceylon, crowds attacked government-owned buses that were marked with Sinhalese letters.

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Published by: Veeramani Mani on Mar 19, 2013
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07/06/2013

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Monday, Jun. 16, 1958
CEYLON: A Quarrel of Tongues
CEYLON A Quarrel of Tongues In the eastern part of the island of Ceylon, the bodies of three women, threechildren and a man were recovered from a well into which they had jumped in a panic-stricken search forshelter. In the capital city of Colombo (pop. 424,816), dozens died and hundreds were injured when policeand mobs battled through Lipton's Circus, a tree-shaded plaza where seven roads meet. Trains werederailed, buses overturned and burned; terrified passers-by had to submit to a language test at the hands of mobsters and if they failed, were beaten unconscious.Buddha's Tooth. This sort of carnage has for weeks swept Ceylon, an island lying like a teardrop below thesubcontinent of India. Because of its mountain beauty and the diversity, industry and peaceableness of its8,500,000 inhabitants, Ceylon has been called the Switzerland of the East. What had transformed thissunny paradise into an inferno?It was language. Even after independence in 1948, the official language of Ceylon remained English. Intheir homes and at work, the people of Ceylon speak either Sinhalese, the language of some 6,000,000Buddhists on the island, or Tamil, spoken by about 2,000,000 Hindus, the descendants of migrants toCeylon from India over the centuries. The present government of wispy Premier Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, made up of an odd lot of left-wing parties, came to power two years ago, pledged toturn Ceylon neutralist and to make Sinhalese the "national language." When challenged by the Tamilleadership, the Premier conceded that Tamil could be recognized as the language of a "national minority."This roused the fury of the powerful Buddhist monks, who left off praying to the Sacred Tooth of Buddha todemand that the Sinhalese language be reinstated as the sole national tongue.Daylight Hooligans. While the Sinhalese Premier hesitated, the rioters took over. In the Tamil strongholdof northern Ceylon, crowds attacked government-owned buses that were marked with Sinhalese letters. Inresponse, Sinhalese mobs erupted in the streets of Colombo, obliterating all Tamil lettering on store frontsand signboards. Premier Bandaranaike abjectly reversed himself again and came out once more forSinhalese as the national language. Disorders swept the country; railway tracks were torn up, telephoneand telegraph wires cut. Cities and towns became the scene of communal war. In Colombo 10,000 terrifiedTamils were herded into protective camps. In the Tamil country, beleaguered Sinhalese were similarly gathered together and protected by the police and army.Distressed by the rioting he had caused, Premier Bandaranaike appealed to Governor General Sir OliverGoonetilleke, a tough-minded financier, who took firm command of the situation. Martial law and a
Page 1 of 2CEYLON: A Quarrel of Tongues -- Printout -- TIME19/03/2013http://www.time.com/time/subscriber/printout/0,8816,863479,00.html

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