“When we talk of the 1983 unrest, the word ‘riot’ is used very often,” M Mayuran of the Mass Movement for Social Justice says.

“But that word is quite complicated. A riot is when a group of people in an area fight among themselves, indulge in violence and attack each other. But, the incidents which happened in 1983, or before, or after that were not riots. These were incidents where one group of people attacked another group of people who were the minorities…The politics behind these incidents will fade away when you use the word ‘riot’.”

Mayuran goes on to speak of continuous, sporadic attacks on minority communities in Sri Lanka, and the impact these have had not just on minorities, but also the Sinhala community.

Part of an ongoing series by Maatram on Black July.

To view more content marking 35 years of Black July, click here.