More than 300 Tamils were massacred in the first genocide unleashed on the Tamils after the island of Sri Lanka was independent from Britain.
Today is the commemoration of more than 300 Tamils killed in the ethnic riots carried out by Sinhala chauvinism from 22 to 27 May 1958.
In 1956, Solomon Bandaranaike came to power in Ceylon, on a majority Sinhala nationalist platform. The new government passed the Sinhala Only Act, making Sinhala the sole official language of the country. This was done despite the fact that nearly a quarter of the population used Tamil as their primary language. The Act immediately triggered discontent among the Tamils, who perceived their language, culture, and economic position as being subject to an increasing threat.
The 1958 anti-Tamil pogrom and riots in Ceylon, also known as the 58 riots, to target the minority Tamils in the Dominion of Ceylon after it became an independent dominion from Britain in 1948. The riots lasted from 22 May until 27 May 1958 although sporadic disturbances happened even after the declaration of emergency on 1 June 1958. The estimates of the murders range, based on recovered body count, from 300 to 1,500. Although most of the victims were Tamils, majority Sinhalese civilians and their property was also affected both by attacking Sinhalese mobs who attacked those Sinhalese who provided sanctuary to Tamils as well as in retaliatory attacks by Tamil mobs throughout the Batticaloa and Jaffna districts. As the first full-scale race riot in the country in over forty years, the events of 1958 shattered the trust the communities had in one another and led to further polarisation.