Is Tamil Diaspora having hard time to retain its Identity? Find out!

A Tamil Wedding ceremony. Image source:

With India having the largest diaspora spread across the world, Tamilians from India make up to 3.3 million in total. Despite their endless contributions to the modern world, the Tamilian sect of Indian diaspora is having a hard time to retain their identity in South Asian countries like Myanmar, Malaysia, Fiji and Sri Lanka, which was recently discussed in a lecture at Loyola College, Tamil Nadu. The event was organised by Mononmaniam Sundaranar University and Centre for Diaspora Studies, in partnership with Loyola Institute of Social Sciences Training and Research and Madras University.

Students during the lecture at Loyola College. Source: Centre for Diaspora Studies
Students during the lecture at Loyola College. Image Source: Centre for Diaspora Studies

Sunil Amrith, a professor of History and South Asian Studies at Harvard University, addressed this issue at Loyola College. The lecture was called ‘Global TamilScapes’ by the diaspora expert.
According to report, nearly 28 million Indians from South India are reported to have migrated to Southeast Asia, who are living a life of misery. Tamilian dialect and lifestyle have been changing with its encounter with the European, Malay and Chinese communities, but their lives are becoming mundane with the day.

“Tamil migrant labourers played an essential role in the development of global capitalism and their contributions in Southeast Asia is immense. There must be steps to ensure inter-cultural interactions exploiting avenues of globalisation,’’ said Amrith.

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Amrith is the author of ‘Crossing the Bengal’ a book that talks about Tamil migration to South-east Asian countries. He also discussed in the lecture that Tamil diasporic literature and studies provide a concrete ideology for Tamilians and will address their emotional dislocation and dilemma, for instance, their circumstances in Sri Lanka.

Tamil citizens were denied citizenship by the government after the country got independence. Similar to the studies of the Orient in comparison of the Occidental, studies of Tamilian diaspora have also been denied the recognition it deserves. For generations, Tamilians worked at plantations in countries like Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa and Malaysia and they didn’t have any document to prove their citizenship after Sri Lanka’s independence. Only 16% of the total Tamilian immigrants received citizenship which increased the bar of discrimination, mentioned report.

Canadian Sri Lankan Tamilians. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Sri Lankan Tamilians.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tamilians have migrated to every part of the world. Read on for some reasons why and where they have migrated:

  • Due to the Great Famine of 1876-78, Tamil Nadu became economically weak. As a result, the British sent Tamilians to their plantation setups in countries like Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and others.
  •  Since Sri Lanka is nearby Tamil Nadu (merely at a sea-route distance of 2 hours), Tamilians have settled here since ages.
  • Tamil groups like the Chettiyars are traders of money lending. This is how they dominated finance and trade in Burma.
  • Besides all of this, South India has always felt disconnected with the rest of India. Politically, no Prime Minister has been elected from the Tamilian state since more than five decades, and not to forget the anti-Tamil riots in Mumbai. Some Tamilian groups found recluse in outer nations.
  • One of the most important reasons for this shift is their intelligence. Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of engineer graduates in India, who usually emigrate to abroad and especially the Silicon Valley.

– prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna