"How is the conflict a legacy of colonialism? The communalists on both sides claim the conflict is merely the latest manifestation of a 2500-year long race war. The Sinhala are supposedly 'Aryans', like the people of northern India, who conquered the island in ancient times. The Tamils are 'Dravidians', who are darker, and who came later (another population of Tamils was brought by the British to work on tea plantations in colonial times).
This story of ancient ethnic hatreds itself, it turns out, is a legacy of colonial racist scholarship. Although ethno-linguists have classified language 'families' into 'Indo-Aryan' languages (like Sinhala and Hindi) and 'Dravidian' ones (like Tamil and Malayalam), there is no biological, racial component to this division for two reasons. The first is because there is no biological reality to race at all-- biologically speaking the only race is human. The second is because if the 'aryan' conquerors came to India in ancient times, they were totally intermixed with the 'indigenous' population within centuries-- and the same goes for Sri Lanka. In the ancient texts, 'Arya' simply means 'noble'-- it has no racial connotation at all.
The pre-colonial reality, according to non-partisan historians, was one of syncretism. If there were cleavages, they were religious-- Buddhists and Hindus against Muslims and Christians, most of the time. There was plenty of oppression-- but it was indifferent to language and ethnicity. The idea that Tamils and Sinhalese were separate 'races' only came into currency when colonialism made racial theories fashionable."
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