July 23. The date has an awful significance for some, and has been blotted out by time for others. On that date, in 1983, a group of LTTE militants killed 13 Army soldiers. The attack brought simmering tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamils bubbling to the surface. The result: mobs of Sinhalese set upon and brutally attacked hundreds of Tamil civilians, and set fire to their property.

Groundviews has consistently recorded the deep impact that Black July had on Sri Lankans. While the very phrase conjures up images of burning tyres, smoke and fear, there remains a counter-narrative. Stories of everyday heroes, men and women who risked their lives to save their Tamil neighbours, from giving them sanctuary in their own homes to saving their valuables and even standing up to the rampaging mobs.

Building on the ‘Sanctuary‘ series, each of the stories is tied to a specific area; from Wasala road in Kotahena to De Fonseka Place and the flower shops in Dean’s Road. Groundviews revisited these spaces, in order to record what they look like today, juxtaposed with the stories of how residents of the area banded together to help those in fear for their lives. We spoke to those who received help from Sinhalese neighbours, as well as Sinhalese who extended a helping hand.

View the story, compiled using StoryMap here, or below:

  • Real_Peace

    I got to this article when someone showed me this Tweet-
    “how stronger we could be if we are united. What do you think?”

    Let’s all think practically! Didn’t the ‘INTENT’ of division come from the Top?


  • Real_Peace

    Excellent points!

    On one hand we should I never forget Mr. JR’s statement “if I starve the Tamils out…”

    On the other many spiritual Sinhalese people risked their lives to save Tamils!

    And now, 7 years after war, Military meddling into religious affairs in NE??

  • disgustman

    These stories of 1983 & Tamils will never die. Apart from the Colombo
    incidents one must remember the outstations – I and my family were
    effected on 29th July,83 when outsiders raided Deraniyagala town
    where Tamil Merchants were hacked to death – totalling 9 murders.
    The Police did NOTHING as even the rifle of a single patrolman
    stationed in the two was confiscated by the raiders who arrived in a
    van. My son aged 20+ was stabbed and burnt to ashes at Udapolla
    Estate by neighbouring villagers. We 3 Tamil staff walked 22 miles
    that night to reach Parakaduwa where Police reached us on a Tp.
    tip-off to them and were saved from threatening Groups by morning.
    S.Mahendra now a refugee in Europe.