The recent sets of national stamps released throughout Sri Lanka have led to widespread uproar and backlash over social media, and specifically the Tamil diaspora. The stamps depict the 18 stages of ‘Daha Ata Sanniya’, translating directly to, as stated by the Tamil Guardian, the ‘dance of the demons’, or ‘dance of the diseases’. The stamps have the words ‘traditional exorcism ritual’ written at the bottom, as the ritual is practised widely in many regions in the south of Sri Lanka. However, one specific stamp stands out and has drawn much media attention and criticism to it. This stamp reads ‘Demala Sanniya’, meaning the demon of Tamil, a disease which causes hallucinations and bad dreams.
The demon drawn on the stamp is shown to be dark-skinned and wearing a vibuthi (a sacred Hindu ash which is applied on the forehead). This has further led to allegations of religious hatred and discrimination against the Hindu religion. Many Tamil activists have taken to social media, arguing that the stamps are deliberately implying that the Tamil race is a disease.
Mario Arulthas, the advocacy director of PEARL (People For Equality and Relief in Lanka), took to Twitter, expressing that the stamps show that, “racism runs deep” in the country and tweeted, “This is Sri Lanka”.
TAG (Together Against Genocide,) have also commented regarding the stamps, tweeting that the innate racism “goes to explaining the genocide”.
Hit by Civil War for 26 years, 1983 till 2009, the country has deeply embedded racial tensions, and the oppression and war crimes committed against Tamil civilians by the Sinhala-majority government have still not been investigated or trialled.
Previously, Tamil land is being grabbed by the Sri Lankan military and the predominantly Tamil north is still under heavy military presence.
The release of these stamps has irritated an already infuriated Tamil diaspora.