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The killing of 13 soldiers is usually explained as the spark which led to the ‘spontaneous Anti Tamil riots’ of 1983. However, this is not true. With an urgency to suppress all activism and regain control of the North, many Tamil political activists were detained without charge for months prior to Black July. A plan had already been devised by Minster Cyril Mathew to carry out a large-scale systematic attack on Tamils. The plan had the approval of many top leaders in the government, including President J. R. Jayawardene himself. Following the pattern of all past governments, anti-Tamil hysteria was generated to deflect pressure on addressing growing concern for political and economic discrimination and human rights abuses. The President’s remarks on July 11, 1983 indicated the manner in which he was going to handle the “Tamil problem”.

The killing of the soldiers was exploited as the spark to ignite Black July. The state media widely publicized the killing while decisively leaving out key details that the killing was a reprisal for the abduction and rape of two Tamil girls (as reported by London Times on July 27, LAWASIA, and others) and other acts of violence by security forces. Much of the public was unaware of these incidents since the government banned Tamil newspapers in early July, and all media by the outset of violence. Despite the publicity of the initial pretense for the riots, at the conclusion of the riots, the President went on to contradict the initial reason by stating that blame for the violence lied with political parties in the opposition, namely Tamil parties and Sinhalese leftist parties.

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