Military Wiki

Following is a List of riots in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island nation situated in South Asia. It has experienced ethnic tensions between its majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils and Moors populations since 1915 from time to time.[1]

1915 riots

The Sinhalese-Muslim Riots (known as the 1915 riots) which began in Kandy [2] soon spread across the island. The British Governor of Ceylon Sir Robert Chalmers, fearing he might lose control of the colony, on advice of Brigadier General Malcolm, came down with a heavy hand on the Sinhalese community, declared martial law on 2 June 1915 and ordered the police and the Army to shoot without a trial anyone who they deemed a rioter. With the escalation of the violence looting broke out within Colombo. Capt. Pedris, responsible for the defence of the city, successfully managed to disband several rioting groups after peaceful discussions.

The vanity and jealousy towards Capt. Pedris and the rich Pedris family of both the British and their sinhalese henchmen, led by Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranike the Maha Mudaliyar (chief native interpreter and adviser to the Ceylon) culminated in false charges being drawn up against Capt. Pedris and which would result him being court martialed. It was alleged Pedris shot at a group of Muslim and had incited people to march to the city of Colombo from Peliyagoda. Based on these accusations, he was swiftly arrested.

Following his arrest the British, fearing open rebellion, imprisoned more than 80 prominent Sinhalese leaders. Among those imprisoned were D. S. Senanayake (the future first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon), D. R. Wijewardena, Edwin Wijeyeratne, Dr. Cassius Pereira, E. T. De Silva, F.R. Dias Bandaranaike, H. Amarasuriya, A.H. Molamure and several others.[3][4][5][6][7]

1953 hartal

Hartal 1953 was a country-wide demonstration, hartal which eventually led to civil unrest.

1956 Gal Oya riots

The first reported ethnic riots that targeted minority Sri Lankan Tamils in Gal Oya a new settlement in the Eastern Province. The total number of deaths is reportedly 150.[8]

1958 riots

1958 ethnic riots popularly known also as the 58 riots was a watershed event in the race relationship of the various ethnic communities of Sri Lanka. The total number of deaths is estimated to be 300, mostly Sri Lankan Tamils.[8]

1977 riots

The anti-Tamil riots, targeting the minority Sri Lankan Tamil people started on the August 12, 1977, less than a month after the United National Party came to power in 1977. Over 300 Tamils were killed during these riots.[9]

1981 Burning of Jaffna Library

This riot involved the destruction of the Jaffna Public Library, with the loss of over 100,000 books, artifacts and palm writings. Many irreplaceable historical documents and artifacts of civilization in Sri Lanka were lost forever. Some police and army members were accused of collusion in the riots. Four Sri Lankan Tamils were killed.[10]

1983 riots

The ethnic riots is better known as Black July Pogrom. Between 400 and 3,000 Sri Lankan Tamil civilians were killed and many more made homeless and refugees and a number of places of business destroyed.[11]

2000 Bandarawela riots

In October 2000, 27 Tamil youths were massacred and 14 others were seriously injured in the attack at Bandarawela detention centre housing. This massacre was carried out by the local Sinhala community with the help of the local Police. Local residents assaulted the inmates with clubs and knives after reports they had taken a security guard hostage. Some victims were said to have been burned alive. According to Asian Centre for Human Rights no one has been prosecuted for these crimes against humanity.[12][13]

2001 Mawanella riots

Also known as Mawanella massacre, shops and property belonging to the Muslim minority were destroyed and a number of Muslims were killed.[14][15][16]

2002 Beruwala riots

In 2002, sectarian clashes sparked between the Wahabbi and the Sunni sects of the Muslim community in Beruwala which left at least 3 dead and over 16 injured during police intervention in the conflict.[17][18]



In mid-2006, a bomb blast killed 16 people, prompting a Sinhalese mob to torch Tamil-owned shops and to hunt down Tamil civilians. According to the main hospital, the blast killed 16 people, eight Tamils, five Sinhalese, two Muslims and a person who could not be identified. The reprisal attacks claimed another five: four Tamils and one Sinhalese, who were burned, stabbed and shot to death. Whether the riots were spontaneous or planned is impossible to know, although the police and the army, deployed in full force around the market, did not manage to stop them. Rohan Abeywardana, the deputy inspector general of police in charge of Trincomalee, said his forces were overpowered. Those arrested were released the next morning.[19][20]


On 17 October 2006 a number of Tamil owned shops were damaged and destroyed in mob violence against Tamil merchants in the port city of Galle following an attack on a Naval base by the LTTE rebel group. No reported casualties.[21][22]

See also


  1. Chattopadhyaya, H. Ethnic Unrest in Modern Sri Lanka: An Account of Tamil-Sinhalese Race Relations, pp. 51-82
  2. when a group of Muslim attacked a Buddhist pageant with stones
  3. Kearney, R.N.: The 1915 riots in Ceylon – a symposium; Introduction. Journal of Asian Studies, Feb.1970, vol.29, no.2, pp.219-222.
  4. Jayewardena, K.: Economic and Political Factors in the 1915 riots. Journal of Asian Studies, Feb.1970, vol.29, no.2, pp.223-233.
  5. Blackton, C.S.: The action phase of the 1915 riots. Journal of Asian Studies, Feb.1970, vol.29, no.2, pp.235-254.
  6. Rutnam, J.T.: The Rev.A.G.Fraser and the riots of 1915. Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies, July–December 1971, vol.1, no.2 (new series), pp.151-196.
  7. Vythilingam, M.: The Life of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, vol.2 (1910-1930), 1977, chapters 10 (Riots-1915, pp.229-250), 11 (Riots-Speeches, pp.251-320) and 12 (Ramanathan’s Mission to England – His Return, pp.321-330).
  8. 8.0 8.1 "An evolving army and its role through time". Sunday Times. 2005-10-16. Retrieved 2008-10-29. "The outbreak of island wide ethnic violence from May 24–27, 1958, saw for the first time the deployment of military personnel under emergency proclamations throughout the entire island, where Colombo and the North and East of the country witnessed the worst violence leading to over 300 deaths." 
  9. Kearney, R.N. (1985). "Ethnic Conflict and the Tamil Separatist Movement in Sri Lanka". pp. 898–917. Digital object identifier:10.1525/as.1985.25.9.01p0303g. JSTOR 2644418. 
  10. Over two decades after the burning down of the Jaffna library in Sri Lanka
  11. Harrison, Frances (23 July 2003). "Twenty years on – riots that led to war". BBC News. Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  12. "Sri Lanka accused on riot report". BBC News. 2005-10-25. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  13. Transitional Justice Forum: Transitional Justice in the News, Oct.31
  15. The Hindu : For a place in the sun
  16. "Curfew lifted in Colombo". BBC News. 2001-05-05. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  19. Sri Lankan city's descent into chaos – International Herald Tribune
  20. Centre for Policy Alternatives
  21. Sri Lanka navy base attacked, sparks anti-Tamil riot » Propeller
  22. News: Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka navy base attacked, sparks anti-Tamil riot

Further reading

  • Vittachi, Tarzie (1958). Emergency '58: The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots. Andre Deutsch. OCLC 2054641. 
  • Seneratne, Jagath P (1998). Political Violence in Sri Lanka, 1977-1990: Riots, Insurrections, Counter-Insurgencies, Foreign Intervention. VU University Press. ISBN 90-5383-524-5. 

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).