Declining Hindu Population In Buddhist Majority Sri Lanka Should Be Of Concern For India

S Rajesh

May 15, 2024, 06:14 PM | Updated 06:12 PM IST

The EAC-PM report states that the Hindu population in Sri Lanka has fallen by 5 per cent between 1950 and 2015.
The EAC-PM report states that the Hindu population in Sri Lanka has fallen by 5 per cent between 1950 and 2015.
  • India must address the issue of dwindling Hindu population in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka with utmost concern.
  • The recent EAC-PM report on the changes in share of population of religious minorities across countries between 1950 and 2015 states that the population of Hindus in Sri Lanka had declined by 5 per cent while that of the Buddhist majority had risen by 5 per cent.

    While the decline in Hindu population in the country could be attributed to a number of reasons like the wars against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north and the east where a lot of Tamils live (the Hindus in Sri Lanka are mostly Tamils), migration to other countries and the transfer of plantation Tamils to India in the 1960s, the post-war years of relative peace and stability should have ideally been a time when the Hindu population could have thrived.

    After all, Sri Lanka is not a country like Muslim-majority Pakistan or Bangladesh, though its Constitution gives the foremost place to Buddhism.

    But unfortunately, there still remains an ethnic divide, (though not at the same level as during the LTTE years), and Hindus are having to contend with Sinhala Buddhist domination.

    According to a report by The Hindu, a large number of new Buddhist sites and shrines have been coming up in Tamil areas in recent years and access to some temples is being controlled under the name of archaeological research. The report also mentions that there have been incidents of vandalism in Hindu temples.

    Further, even though the war against the LTTE ended more than a decade ago, the Sri Lankan army allegedly continues to remain in possession of a lot of land belonging to Tamils. 

    While it is important for India to maintain cordial relations with the Sri Lankan government, it should also be more assertive and try to find ways to convey to Sri Lanka that we cannot remain quiet if Hindus are facing difficulties in that country. 

    These issues were also pointed out by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tamil Nadu state president K Annamalai during a programme in the UK Parliament organised by British Tamils Forum. He had called the rate of decline in the Hindu population ‘alarming’ and a cause of severe concern.

    A similar consciousness has to be developed at the highest echelons of power. Concerns of Hindus should also be discussed more often. Sessions and writings on Sri Lankan Tamils should not just be confined to the welfare of Tamils in general or the full implementation of the 13th Amendment.

    While it would not be right to lay the blame squarely on the Indian government while absolving the people, it is the government that would invariably have to play the lead role.

    For a very long time, the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils has received attention only in Tamil Nadu. The awareness about the issue in the rest of the country is very limited, if any. If there is a larger backlash against Sri Lankan state's unwillingness to give its Tamil population a fair treatment, the pressure to make changes would be greater.

    Moreover, Indian Hindus, especially Tamil Hindus, should be encouraged by the government to visit Sri Lanka in larger numbers and events like a ‘Jaffna Tamil Sangamam’ could be organised on the lines of Kashi Tamil Sangamam. This way more Hindus would be able to see the reality there.

    At present, Sri Lankan Tamil pilgrims visit Indian temples like the ones in Rameswaram and Sabarimala in good numbers (so much so that there was a protest in that country against the Supreme Court verdict regarding entry of women in the latter), but the reverse, to say the Thirukonamalai Koneswaram Shiva temple in Trincomalee or the Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna is not that high. 

    How many of us Indians even know the names of the famous Hindu temples in Sri Lanka? It is something for us to ponder upon.

    This is true even when India was the largest source of foreign tourists for Sri Lanka. The Indians who go to the island nation mostly visit the tourist hubs located in the west and south of the country and not the north and east where the Hindu communities majorly reside and thus do not get to see what’s happening elsewhere in the country.

    Also Read: The Reasoning Behind Excluding Sri Lankan Tamils From CAA

    EAC-PM's Religious Demography Paper Should Not Be Buried In The Name Of Faux Secularism

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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