Colombo, Human Rights, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Shanthi Sachithanandan on July 1983

Prominent Tamil civil society activist Shanthi Sachithanandan shares her experiences of the July 1983 anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka.

For the Sinhala version of the interview, click here and visit the Vikalpa YouTube Channel for more short videos on the events of July 1983.

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For more articles on July 1983, please click here.

  • Ekcol

    Hello Shanthi,
    I am sad to hear of your ordeal in July 1983 and happy to hear your humane approach to search for a solution. You said you were asked whether you are a Tamil. Did you say you were or did you say you were Sinhala? If you had said you were a Tamil then what did the attackers say or do? Apparently you and the other occupants in the ca was spared. If you had said you were Sinhala, thus denying your origin, how did you feel then, later and now. As you were not beaten up and they let you go it will be educational for other innocent civilian Tamils in the future to follow your strategy if it is something they can adopt.

  • In the interview titled Prabakaran’s Role in the Tamil National Struggle Shanthi says that ‘Prabakaran is the single most dedicated leader who gave voice and form to the demands that were put by the leaders of the Tamil political movement in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s’. She also puts him on a pedestal saying that he is single minded in his commitment to the cause…but here in the interview regarding the Black July pogroms she talks about people needing to be ‘civilised in dealing with any differences in a manner that befits human beings’…Its surprising how she can say this without giving much thought to the atrocities that this great leader Prabakaran has been committing in the name of the ’cause’!!!

    Black July is a terrible moment in the history of Sri Lanka but when we speak out in condemnation of the rights and dignity of humans we must be ‘humane’ enough to stand neutral ground and condemn ALL perpetrators and violators…

  • Aruna Kulatunga

    Takes me back along a timeline… My first encounter with Shanthi goes back to the Architecture Faculty of the Moratuwa University where she was an undergraduate and where I was visiting as a young reporter. My second encounter with Shanthi was on this day that she is relating above. Shanthi´s husband, Mano was by then an activist of the EROS, but also working for the government as in the EDB.
    I happened to be in the Colpetty offices of the EDB, having got there via burning streets of Pettah, armed with a few curfew passes, courtesy of being the police reporter for the SUN newspaper, so that my father, who was also working at the EDB, could organize some transport to take some of the staff home. Mano was desperate to locate Shanthi – if I remember correctly, their house was down Maya Avenue, and one car was sent to locate her. I presume she is referring to that car in her narrative. I drove Mano to my parent´s home in Ratmalana and left him there. I could not get back home for almost a week after that, stuck in the SUN offices, getting grazed by a commando bullet on the Black Friday at the Pettah Bo Tree Junction and finally getting back home on August 1. By that time, Shanthi and Mano had been relocated, from my parent´s house to another neighbor who had more room and then elsewhere. I know that since then Mano dedicated himself to the Tamil Cause, but always with the civility that Shanthi referrs to. I had some contact again during the 90´s with Mano, once trying to set up a channel of communication for Late Lalith Athulathmudali t speak with Mano. I remember Mano visited my office which was then at the BMICH, but nothing came out of that and we have lost contact since then.
    One of Shanthi´s batchmates, though not in the same faculty, was another young firebrand, whose politics at that time, strangely coincided with those of Mano and Shanthi. Today he holds somewhat opposite views, being the radical lay head of the JHU, Champika Ranawana