Emergency '58 – The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots

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The Fifth Horseman
The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse rode into Ceylon in May 1958, without fuss or warning. No one recognized the hoof beats on the dusty, provincial roads, where they were first heard. People knew about War, Pestilence, Famine and Flood —these were disasters which they accepted as part of their human heritage, although they had never suffered seriously from war or pestilence or famine. They had only just come through a devastating flood but, within weeks, the Black Christmas which had brought these waters down had been all but forgotten except by those who had lost a son, daughter or parent. The bounty of nature and of willing friends abroad had swiftly brought the green flush back to the paddy country in the North Central Province.
War they had experienced, too, but it had never been a blight for Ceylon. Very few of our people had ever heard a shot fired in fear or anger. War had brought prosperity to Ceylon, boom prices for tea, rubber, coconut, full employ­ment or as near full employment as we had ever come across before, and a steady bank balance in London so that while we set about building up the agrarian economy we could afford to buy our food with crisp pound notes.
Of pestilence we had had some cruel knowledge. The rav­ages of malaria and ugly tropical fevers had been experienced by the older people. But with new drugs and new methods of prevention people had begun to take their immunity for granted and to regard their neighbours in perpetually pox-ridden Bombay and Calcutta with lofty sympathy.
Only the greybeards had ever spoken of famine, many, many years ago. But these stories hardly earned a whimper of interest because everyone knows that for a Ceylonese one meal of rice missed is a catastrophe of major magnitude.

Slight though our acquaintance with these disasters was, it was still acquaintance. But for most of our people in 1958 the Fifth Horseman—Race-Hate—was hardly even that. We had heard about the attempts of the Australian settlers to deci­mate the Aborigines or herd them into Tasmania; we had read of the process by which the Red Indians had been corralled into reservations; we had read of the Nazi gas chambers, Buchenwald and Belsen; and the tribulations of the Jews who exist on their patch of desert in Israel are horribly tender and raw in our memories. We had read the lurid account of how the waters of the Indus and the Ganges had turned red with the rivulets of blood that flowed into them from the Hindu— Muslim massacres which accompanied the partition of India.

The Gal Oya race-killings of 1956, in Ceylon, and the ugly episode of Little Rock in 1957 should have warned us that the Fifth Horseman took no notice of time, place, literacy or standard of living.
But these episodes did not wake us up in time. It could not possibly happen here. Of course we had heard our parents talk of the Riots of 1915 and the brutalizing of the Muslim popu­lation by the Sinhalese, but all those stories were so interlarded with incidents featuring acts of personal heroism that the Cynical Generation put them in the same category as the omni­present and unfailing family yarn that father always came first in class during his time.
It couldn’t happen in Ceylon. That is what we all thought. After all we had lived together, Sinhalese and Tamils, for so long, sharing our profits and losses, celebrating each other’s petty triumphs and consoling each other in our misfortunes and, what is more, respecting each other for integrity and for ability when we recognized it. And above all, we had always been able to indulge in mild teasing about each other’s idio­syncrasies in much the same way that the English rag the Scots.

It couldn’t happen in Ceylon. Of course there were racial and caste prejudices underlying the common pleasantries of social behaviour and of course there were politicians trying to stir these murky depths into foaming activity. But what of that? Look at the composition of the delegation that went to borrow 50,000,000 dollars from Washington at the very time of the race riots in Ceylon—was that not as fair a mixed bag of Ceylonese as you could wish? Here and there you could hear a low growl from someone pointing out that one religious group was conspicuously omitted from that selection.1 But, peremp­torily, you shushed this protest because it was ‘divisive’ in character and too awkward to deal with anyway, without getting yourself into very deep waters indeed.

So it couldn’t happen in Ceylon. But it has happened, and the chances are that it will happen again and again in other forms, perhaps more vicious and meaningless than the tragedy we have just encountered. How did it happen? Where did it begin? What course did it take? That is the burden of this story.
Goondas in Action
In April 1958 the Ministry of Lands and Land Development was advised by its field officers that the projected transfer of 400 Tamil families who had been displaced by the closing down of the Royal Navy dockyards in Trincomalee should be put off for more propitious times. Under the Government’s plan these labourers were to be taken to East Padavia for resettlement as farmers on land newly opened for colonies.
Sinhalese colonists from places ranging from Veyangoda to Kosgoda, squatters from various distant places and some of the older established Sinhalese families who regarded this province as being traditionally Sinhalese, were opposed to the settling of Tamils in the Polonnaruwa or Anuradhapura districts. Stirred by the constant cacophony of communalists who had been preaching the gospel of race-hatred in every part of the island for over two years, their objections were shot through with unprecedented bitterness.
In fact, the field officers of the Land Development Department had reported that Action Committees had been formed and that there were open threats of violence if the transfer scheme was carried out. From Kebitigollewa, a little Sinhalese village standing on the Meda­wachchiya—Pulmoddai Road, had come a direct declaration of war: a war to the knife and the knife to the hilt, should any Tamils pass that way to settle in the farm colonies.
The Government was persuaded to put off the settlement plans.

Meanwhile race-hatred was being churned up elsewhere. Several months before the Tamil Federalists in the north, desperately anxious to find a popular gimmick to symbolize their struggle for linguistic equity, had begun to obliterate with tar the Sinhalese character ~ (Sri) which had replaced the English letters on the registration plates of motor vehicles. New cars moving in the north and the east with the offending letter had their plates smeared with tar. The Tamil ‘Shri’ character was substituted for the officially accepted Sinhalese character. The Government took a top-level tactical decision not to prosecute any of the offenders for fear that they would be built up into martyrs. Federal supporters went about in the Penin­sular and the east coast with illegal number plates.

It is quite true that the use of the Sinhalese character for this purpose at a time when language was a sore point was unnecessary and provocative. Nevertheless the tame decision to permit people, however provoked they may have been, to flout the law blatantly and to continue to do so for months with complete impunity brought the prestige of the Govern­ment and the police into abject disrepute. The impression among the Sinhalese in the south was that the Government had abdicated its authority in the northern and eastern provinces of Ceylon. In the north the new buses of the Trans­port Board—inevitably SRI numbered—were daubed with the equivalent Tamil sign. This set off an ugly wave of reprisals in the predominantly Sinhalese areas.
Bands of Sinhalese rough-necks were suddenly let off the leash in Colombo. Bare bodied, sarongs held shoulder high displaying genitals unashamedly, armed with tar-pails and brushes and brooms they shrieked through the streets of Colombo tarring every visible Tamil letter on street signs, kiosk name boards, bus bodies, destination boards, name plates on gates and bills posted on walls. They were armed with ladders to reach roof level where necessary.
Outside Saraswathie Lodge—a ‘Brahmin’ thosey kiosk in Bambalapitiya—I watched a gang of these goondas smearing tar on the Tamil language poster advertising the Thinakaran newspaper for sale. Someone shouted to the tar-brush artist:
‘Go on. Paint a huge Sinhala Sri sign on the bastard’s door.’ The artist beamed at this inspiration but his past caught up with him at this very moment. He handed over the brush tamely to another: he himself was completely illiterate. He could not write even the in Sinhalese. These were the types who were so vociferous about the glory of the language for which they were willing to exterminate a people and vivisect a nation.

The goondas, once started, did a thorough job of it. They invaded even the public offices—even the relatively sacrosanct second and third floors. In spite of their rank illiteracy they seemed to know where the Tamil politicians lived in Colombo. Their walls were defaced with huge black letters. They even had sufficient sense of dramatic irony and temerity to give the tar brush treatment to the Left-Hand-Drive rear warning plate in English, Sinhalese and Tamil on the Prime Minister’s Cadillac.

Within twelve hours they had covered the whole of Colombo. Next day the wave struck the suburbs and the pro­vincial towns. And then the ineluctable wave of reprisals swept through Jaffna and Batticaloa. And the police looked on. They had been given strict—but verbal—instructions not to inter­fere.
The goondas soon discovered this. On the third day, when they found that they were running short of Tamil signs to tar, they started picking on anyone who looked like a Tamil to keep themselves in training. Two or three men were tarred on the streets. It was only then that the police intervened. But the hate-wave had scudded through the whole island and had now spent itself for the present.
The official response was—no prosecutions. What was the charge anyway? Mischief? Damage to public property? But there was no evidence to convict a crow, let alone the hundreds of men who had rampaged around the streets of Ceylon in hysterical gangs.
The Government ‘deplored’ the ‘incident’, leader writers ‘viewed with alarm’, the police made the obvious guess about ‘who was at the bottom of it’ and the wiseacres wagged their hoary heads and cackled over the dreadful state of Lanka. But no one even attempted seriously to piece these seemingly isolated episodes together and discern a pattern in them. It was just another Untoward Event—like the Ganemulla train fiasco2 and the Imbulgoda ambush.3 No one responsible for the preservation of order realized at the time that if such a tide of hatred could sweep through the entire country so swiftly, it could happen again in a more deadly form if the original impact was more powerful and its spread was better managed.

Another dangerous sub-plot in the evolution of the tragic drama was the organized boycott of Tamil-owned kiosks and shops in isolated areas. This campaign had been set afoot by certain militant monks who, with consummate cynicism, chose villages in Attanagalla, the Prime Minister’s own constituency, as the take-off point for their campaign. This movement swiftly spread to other outlying towns such as Welimada, Kurunegala and Badulla.

The Prime Minister, Mr S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, con­tinued with his year-long efforts to convince the people that the Bandaranaike—Chelvanayakam Pact which he had made with the Federal Party a year ago, was a fool-proof solution of the Communal Problem, inspired by his understanding of the doctrine of the Middle Way. For instance, a newspaper reported:
The Prime Minister, Mr S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, pre­siding at the prize distribution of the Sri Gnanaratna Buddhist Sunday School, Panadura, said that knotty prob­lems of State had been successfully tackled by invoking the principles and tenets of Buddhism. ‘The Middle Path, Maddiyama Prathipadawa, has been my magic wand and I shall always stick by this principle,’ he said. (Ceylon Daily News.)
The yes-men round him smirked complacently whenever he referred to his Magic Wand for solving problems in that special tone of voice which accompanies a double entendre.
Mr Bandaranaike said much the same thing when he justi­fied the Bandaranaike—Chelvanayakam Pact at the Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party held at Kelaniya on March I and 2. The relevant section of his Presidential Address is:
‘In the discussion which the leaders of the Federal Party had with me an honourable solution was reached. In think­ing over this problem I had in mind the fact that I am not merely a Prime Minister but a Buddhist Prime Minister. And my Buddhism is not of the “label” variety. I em­braced Buddhism because I was intellectually convinced of its worth. At this juncture I said to myself: “Buddhism means so much to me, let me be dictated to only by the tenets of my faith, in these discussions. I am happy to say a solution was immediately forth­coming.’ (Sunday Observer, March 2, 1958.)

But the oftener he defended the B—C Pact the clearer it be­came that, in the Prime Minister’s own opinion, it needed defending. The longer he delayed its implementation with the twin instruments of the Regional Councils Act and the Reason­able Use of Tamil Act, the weaker became the enthusiasm of the Sinhalese as well as of the Tamils.

The voices of the critics of the B-C Pact seemed to increase in volume and effectiveness as time went by. At the height of the tar-brush campaign it became evident that even within the Government Party there was a wide divergence of opinion about the efficacy of the major miracle of Mr Bandaranaike’s Magic Wand - the B-C Pact. Even his own kin and henchmen muttered together in the dark corridors of Sravasti about how unpopular the Lokka (the Boss) was becoming in the country by persisting in his defence of the Pact. No one dared to approach him—it was hard to endure the whip-crack of the Lokka’s pliant tongue. Till the last moment he spoke in eulogies about the wondrous nature of the B—C Pact, of communal harmony, of brotherhood and of national unity. But no one had yet seen the Bills which for a whole year were being fabri­cated by the Legal Draughtsmen. And no one was impressed.
The Abrogation of a Pact
On the morning of April 9 a police message reached Mr Ban­daranaike warning him that about 200 bhikkus or monks and 300 others were setting out on a visitation to the Prime Minis­ter’s residence in Rosmead Place to demand the abrogation of the Pact. They would arrive at 9 a.m.
The Prime Minister left the house early that morning to attend to some very important work in his office. The bhikkus came, the crowds gathered, the gates of the Bandaranaike Walawwa were closed against them and armed police were hurriedly summoned to throw a barbed-wire cordon to keep the uninvited guests out. The bhikkus decided to bivouac on the street. Peddlers, cool-drink carts, betel sellers and even bangle merchants pitched their stalls hard by. Dhana was brought to the bhikkus at the appointed hour for food.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister was fighting off the opposition to the Pact among his own party colleagues with desperate fury.

At 4.15 p.m. the B—C Pact was torn into pathetic shreds by its principal author who now claimed that its implementation had been rendered impossible by the activities of the Federalists.

The Prime Minister had gone home that afternoon accom­panied by half a dozen Ministers who stood on the leeward side of the barbed-wire barricade while Mr Bandaranaike lis­tened to the shrill denunciations of the monks. The Minister of Health sat on the Street facing the monks and preached a ser­mon, promising them redress if they would only be patient. The Prime Minister consulted his colleagues. The monks had won. The Magic Pact was no more. But the monks insisted on getting this promise in writing. The Prime Minister went into the house and the Health Minister, hardly able to sup­press the look of relief on her face, brought the written pledge out to the monks. Yet another victory for Direct Action had been chalked up.
The nation was left wondering what next. In two years the people had experienced two new theories of politics: govern­ment by crisis and government by scapegoat. What crisis next? was the big question.
Then the Communist-party-inspired strikes broke out. The Public Service Workers’ Trade Union Federation, whose leadership was Communist but which was mainly independent at the rank-and-file level, staged one of the most costly farces in the history of trade unionism in Ceylon.
The Government, unofficially of course, resorted to thug­gery to break the strike.

A gang of thirty-eight thugs, imported, according to police sources, from the Grandpass area and from Shanty Town in McCallum Road, had been organized into a mobile unit. They went round the city in a truck, beating up strikers demonstrating on the streets. The troops were called out to patrol the streets. This had the immediate effect of attracting public sympathy, which previously had been lacking, to the PSWTUF. Opposition Leader N. M. Perera scored a quick political victory for the Trotskyites by demanding the with­drawal of the troops by nightfall of that day or else. . . . The troops were withdrawn despite Food Minister Philip Guna­wardene’s protests.

The Government tried every device which had been em­ployed by the previous Government against the public ser­vants eleven years ago: the Finance Minister put out propa­ganda to the effect that there were only 1,750 on strike when actually many thousands were out; the Labour Minister, T. B. Illangaratne, declared the strike illegal and appealed to the patriotic sentiments of the clerks even as the Labour Minister of ‘947 had appealed to him and his colleagues who were then out on strike; the Food Minister tried to make out that this was a Tamil plot to weaken the Sinhalese Govern­ment even as Finance Minister J. R. Jayawardene had tried to drive a communal wedge into the 1947 strike.
But the PSWTUF held out for a fortnight in a futile frenzy at the unexpected ferocity of the Government, which had hitherto capitulated to labour demands supported by some show of violence.
The Government won that battle outright. The Public Ser­vice Workers’ Trade Union Federation broke up after the strikers split into warring factions and the net economic result was the loss of two weeks’ pay for every striker. The Govern­ment, without a doubt, had won a major battle. But—it was a pyrrhic victory, which was sufficiently expensive in terms of its reputation as a workers’ government to cost it the war, even­tually.

From the PSWTUF crisis to the next. The Communist-con­trolled Ceylon Trade Union Federation, which had come out a day after the PSWTUF, found they had caught a Tartar for once during the past two years. On the management side the Ceylon Employers’ Federation, encouraged by the Govern­ment’s firmness against the PSWTUF, had decided to stage a Custer’s Last Stand against political trade unionism. The Prime Minister and the Labour Minister, both heartened by the defeat of the PSWTUF and concerned about the grave losses to revenue caused by the cancellation of tea shipments, declared the CTUF strike illegal and refused to intervene. The Employers’ Federation was advised by the Prime Minis­ter to hold out even as he had done against the clerks. The employers went to it with a will. Large notices appeared in the newspapers calling attention to the illegality of the strike. These were followed by notices calling for new recruits. This too was done at the instance of the Government.

When events had reached this pass, the Trotskyite Unions which had watched the CTUF struggle with lofty detachment were impelled by pressure from their rank and file to make some display of solidarity. From the moment they showed signs of active interest in the CTUF—CEF struggle, the Prime Minister began to relent—perhaps retract is the apter word. Instead of allowing the Employers’ Federation to make their last-ditch stand against the Communists, the Prime Minister called for ‘negotiations’.
The CEF took the view that there was no point whatever in ‘negotiating’ at that stage in an illegal strike. But on the ground of national interest the Government pleaded, cajoled and then finally tried to browbeat the em­ployers into agreeing to accept every striker back and retain in addition, if they must, the men already recruited. At the last meeting the Prime Minister threatened to use emergency powers to take over the companies and run them himself if they did not give in. It was dangerous to the CEF to keep the men newly recruited in preference to those on strike, it was argued. The CEF replied that they would cope as best they could. That evening shocking and tangible justification of the Prime Minister’s concern for the danger to the CEF was forth­coming.
An explosive meeting of the Communist and Trotskyite Unions was held in Hyde Park—not a hundred yards away from Lipton’s Circus, sensitive nerve centre of the dispute.

The police, for some strange reason, withdrew every officer on duty fifteen minutes before the meeting concluded. On a nice calculation, a dashing cracker was exploded in the crowd by a man whose identity the police and press reporters well knew. When the noise died down hysterical panic took over. The mob ran panting, bleating, slobbering with fear and sub­human anger, breaking every glass window and door in the vicinity. A dispensary which had no Connection whatever with the dispute had its show windows and giant coloured bottle smashed to smithereens. The tea kiosk at the corner, which had supplied meals to the strikers for weeks, was damaged. Several Ceylonese firms—Car Mart, United Tractors, Tuckers, Bousteads—against whom the CTUF had no quarrel whatever at the time, were given the ‘treatment’. Passing cars were stoned. A taxi was burned. Some motor bicycles were set on fire. A hunt began for ‘Europeans’ to molest and, maybe, lynch.

There was pandemonium for forty minutes. Then the police returned and restored order. It was a very costly forty minutes. Thuggery had scored another victory. None of the miscreants was prosecuted.
The employers still held out. The Prime Minister who, not a fortnight before, had denounced the strike as illegal was now all for appeasement. He threatened again to nationalize the CEF firms. Their answer was direct: ‘If we capitulate to the CTUF now we might as well pack up for good.’ They were determined to call what they believed to be the Government’s bluff. The impasse was complete.
Elsewhere, in the meantime, the next crisis which was to help the Government over the labour crisis was gathering. The Fifth Horseman had pounded his way into Ceylon with his treacherous army of destruction.
Tension in the North Central Province
The Annual Federal Party Convention began at about this time in Vavuniya, forty miles from Anuradhapura, the capital of the Sinhalese-dominated district.
The Federalists, whose bid for recognition as the party of the Tamil-speaking people had reached its peak in May, June and July 1957, had dissipated a great deal of this popularity in their futile indignation over the ~ sign on vehicles. The longer Mr Bandaranaike put off the enactment of the Re­gional Councils Bill and the Reasonable Use of Tamil Bill the dimmer became the lustre of the halo worn by Mr Chelvana­yakam, the Federalist leader.
In the north and the east other voices which had been shouted down a year before began to be heard again. The conviction grew that Mr Bandaranaike had never intended to implement the B—C Pact and that therefore the Federal Party had been bamboozled into calling off the massive satyagraha they had planned for August 1957.

Mr Bandaranaike’s sudden volte face on April 9, when he broke up the pact which he himself had forged, set the pen­dulum of popularity swinging back in favour of the Federalists. They appeared once more in public as the aggrieved party. Mr Chelvanayakam was seen again as the martyred victim of the Government’s duplicity.

Mr Bandaranaike, for his part, declared that notwith­standing the abrogation of the Pact he would present the two controversial Bills guaranteeing ‘fair play’ to the Tamils when Parliament reconvened in June.
This announcement was greeted with loud protests from the militant Sinhala elements who stood by the slogan: ‘Ceylon for the Sinhalese’ and ‘Sinhalese Only from Point Pedro to Dondra Head’.
This in turn increased the fervour of the Tamils for a separate State.
It was in this atmosphere that the Vavuniya Convention was prepared. The Federal Party Chiefs, sensing the mood of the moment, went all out to make the convention a key event. Special arrangements were made in advance for the transport of delegates and supporters from every part of the island. Extra bogeys were attached to the train from Batticaloa.
At this stage our story ties up with the disturbances over the resettlement of Tamil labour in Polonnaruwa and Padaviya related earlier. Sinhalese labourers had organized themselves as a striking force against any infiltration of Tamils from Trin­comalee. This loose organization had been employed before— on two or three occasions—as shock troops which acted at the instigation of certain politicians to whom they were beholden. A year ago they had been sent as far as Maho to break up a meeting called to hear Dudley Senanayake denouncing the B—C Pact.

In May—June 1957 confronted by the threat of a mass satya­graha by the Tamils, Sinhalese settlers and labourers in the Padaviya area had been warned by the politicians to prepare themselves against a Tamil invasion from the Trincomalee district. They began to refer to themselves in epic terms as the Sinhala Hamudawa or the Sinhalese Army. But the tension had eased on both sides of the communal barrier when the Ban­daranaike—Chelvanayakam Pact was signed at the end o July that year. The Sinhalese politicians, too, had then shown signs of remorse. The Minister of Lands had instructed his officials to set apart 400 allotments for the Tamil labourers who were being laid off by the evacuation of the Royal Navy from Trincomalee. On the basis of five to a family this meant the settling of 2,000 Tamils in Padaviya.

The Sinhalese labourers, however, would have none of it. Led by a monk, a gang of Sinhalese squatters came in one night and occupied eleven Wadiyas intended to accommodate the Tamils who would camp there to clear the land for settle­ment.
The Ministry could or would do nothing to counter this forcible occupation. Once again the Government, by inaction, gave its tacit sanction to a fait accompli carried out deliberately and openly by people who seemed to be confident of being able to flout authority with impunity. The squatters formed Action Committees and proceeded to clear the land and settle in according to the pattern set by the official settlers.
Their political bosses now decided to use these ‘shock troops’ to stage demonstrations against the Tamils bound for the Vavuniya Convention. There is reason to believe that no murderous violence was intended at this stage. The orders were to stone buses and trains, hoot and generally signify ‘disapprobation’. The Sinhalese labourers were ready and began the treatment on random passers-by who happened to be Tamil, even before the real trek to Vavuniya began.
But events moved too fast for them. On May 22, five hun­dred thugs and hooligans invaded the Polonnaruwa station, and smashed up the windows of the Batticaloa train in their frantic search for Convention-bound Tamils. The General Manager of Railways, Mr E. Black, said:

‘According to the information we have—telegraph wires too have been cut—passengers entraining from Batticaloa were alarmed at threats that a gang was to attack them as they were under the impression that most of the passengers were going to the Federal Convention at Vavuniya. At Welikande, all but one of the passengers got off the train in fear. The train went on to Polonnaruwa with the one passenger. At midnight, as the train steamed in, the gang set about the train and the lone passenger. The train was stopped and left for Colombo at 7 a.m. this morning without a single passenger. The incident occurred at midnight. The passenger was sent to hospital by the Railway Officers there. A Railway Official was sent from Colombo today to hold an inquiry.’

The Observer reported this incident in more detail on May 24:
‘On Thursday night, passengers were intimidated into get­ting off at Welikande as news had reached them that a gang of men were on the way to prevent them from making the trip as they felt that passengers must be prevented from getting to Vavuniya for the Federal Convention.
One passenger however continued the trip but was severely assaulted at Polonnaruwa station. A gang of men, alleged to have numbered nearly 5oo, got on the train at this station, smashed windows, went from carriage to carriage looking for passengers, damaging railway equipment as they did so.
They found one passenger who cowered in his seat, plead­ing with them to leave him alone as he did not belong to the community they were looking for.
“You are all the same”, was the reply and they began assaulting him. He was later despatched to hospital.
All telegraph wires had been cut and there is still no communication between Polonnaruwa and Colombo. The train which should have arrived in Colombo that morning, left the station at 7 a.m. in the morning and arrived in Colombo late last evening. Meanwhile a Board of Inquiry has been despatched to Polonnaruwa by the General Manager.’
On the night of the 23rd at 9.15 p.m. the Batticaloa— Colombo train was derailed at the 215th mile on the Batti­caloa—Eravur line. Two men, Police-Sergeant Appuhamy and railway porter Victor Fernando, were killed in the wreck. Many others were injured, some of them very seriously. Hoodlums, on the watch for Vavuniya-bound passengers, attacked the wrecked train. Fortunately there were only forty-seven people on that train. The wreckers had made a serious miscalculation. There were very few Tamils on board. And it was the Sinhalese who suffered most.

At 6 p.m. on May 24 a crowd—nearly a thousand strong— again invaded the premises of the Polonnaruwa railway station. They assaulted everybody in sight, including Sin­halese travellers and railway officials, and damaged a good deal of railway property.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Johnpillai who was tra­velling on leave to Valaichenai at the time, was beaten up at Giritale. Timely arrival of police patrols saved his life. Mr Johnpillai, who was in a critical condition, was rushed to hos­pital together with several others who had suffered at the hands of the goondas.
That night police sources reported that after an armed party had cleared the crowd out of the railway station things were reasonably quiet. But the Railway Department took the pre­caution of cancelling, immediately, all trains which were scheduled to run between Batticaloa and Colombo.


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