Helion's Paradise Afire Vol 1: Sri Lankan War 1971-87
|Author/Artists:||Adrian Fontanellaz & Tom Cooper|
|$29.95 MSRP from Casemate|
88 pages, softcover, over 100
While not the #1 cause of conflict, ethnic and religious differences have to be up there somewhere. What often happens in these cases is that the majority starts to ignore or oppress the minority. Such is the case with Sri Lana (Ceylon). Ceylon has a long history of warfare between its various princes and lords through the ages. It was not until the British took over the island in the 1800s as they overthrew the Dutch who were in effective control of the island that there was any sort of unifying government. It is actually more complex than that, but that is the gist of things.
The majority in Ceylon were the Sinhalese, who had controlled most of the island in the past. These were the people who basically formed the government with the help of the British. The children of Sinhalese wealthy went to the advanced schools and universities. They were the ones who rose in government. Basically, they were the entitled. On the other hand, there were the Tamils. They lived mostly in the northern part of the island. These folks did not have all the opportunities of the Sinhalese and while some did take advantage of education and government position, their numbers were quite small.
Unsolved ethnic conflicts and social inequalities led to the formation of a number of anti-government groups and violence broke out in 1971. These were initially low conflict events that were as much banditry as anything and mostly against government installations and banks in the northern part of what was now Sri Lanka after a name change in 1972.
The Sri Lankan military and police forces were not prepared to deal with these sorts of things and so a build up in both forces were in order. Equipment was brought in and numbers were increased to meet the needs, though the events seemed to just escalate. At times it was so bad that military bases in northern Sri Lanka were basically besieged and attempts to leave the confines of the base were often met with attacks and the difficulties of moving over mined roads. To make matters worse, insurgent groups were getting outside training in places like Southern India which has a large Tamil population as well as overseas in Palestine.
Eventually, the various insurgent groups came and went while one group grew stronger and stronger. Attempts by India's government to bring the two parties together to arrange for a peaceful settlement failed time and time again. The many groups training in Southern India caused so much trouble for the locals in India that India decided on military action to remove these groups from the country and that is where this volume ends.
This volume covers the first part of the Sri Lankan war war from the beginning of the country until the interjection of Indian military force. As is usual with situations like this, the number of insurgent groups is often mind-boggling. The authors do a great job of clarifying the situation as well as delving into some of the larger actions taken by both sides to gain ascendency. It all makes for another great Helion book regarding these sorts of wars and I'm looking forward to reading the second volume.
In all, it is a superbly researched and well written book. There are a considerable number of photos from that time as well as nicely done maps and some great full color profiles. It all adds up to a book that those with an interest in the region should have on their shelves.
Review book courtesy of Casemate Publishing, where you can order your copy at this link.
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