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The Census Department’s contribution to Sri Lanka’s political arithmetic

The Department of Census and Statistics has introduced two new categories in the 2001 census, which demographers believe will dilute the numbers of those who appear under the statistical head of the ‘Sri Lankan Tamils,’ and ‘Indian Tamils’ thereby reducing the numerical strength of those communities on paper.

The questionnaire for the census circulated in the 2001 included the categories of ‘Chetties’ and ‘Bharathas’ that were not included in the questionnaire in former censuses. What is more, they have been categorised as ‘ethnic groups’ whereas in Sri Lanka, the Chetties are known as a homogenous caste group. There is Chetties are an influential caste group in Jaffna and among the Mukkuvas of Batticaloa too there is a matri-clan known as Chetty Kudi.

The Bharathas have also been introduced as an ethnic group in the questionnaire in the 2001 census. There are two important Bharatha groups in Sri Lanka. One is the group of sea-faring families residing from around Chilaw down to Colombo. Besides these indigenised littoral connected Bharathas, there were also a handful of Bharathas in the Colombo Municipality who settled during the British rule, especially to work in the Colombo harbour.

In the questionnaire given to the enumerators for taking the count of the people, gives the following breakdown for the ethnic groupings in the country: Sinhalese, Sri Lanka Tamil, Indian Tamil, Sri Lanka Moor, Burgher, Malay, Sri Lankan Chetty, Bharatha and other.

“This appears to be a subtle way whereby the various benefits that accrues to the Tamil community by virtue of its numerical strength will be gradually reduced,” said a retired demographer, speaking on condition of anonymity.Tamil sources meanwhile said the matter would have to be raised in parliament as a matter of urgency because such underhand methods of brining about permanent political disabilities to the Tamil people could result in tensions appearing even in the peace process.

Courtesy: Northeastern Herald

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