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No Borders:
Villages Separated By Civil War Slowly Return To Old Friendships

During the Sri Lankan civil war, neighbouring villages were often separated due to the fighters’ front lines. Now the concept of the ‘border village’ is becoming a distant memory.

03.01.2018  |  
Today these villagers work together, regardless of their ethnic background.

For about 20 years the two villages were on the opposite side during the Sri Lankan civil war. Kokolai and Karnatakeni were separated by what was known as the forward defence line.

The militant organisation, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, attacked Kokolai several times because it was a Sinhalese-majority village. But somehow the Sinhalese villagers did not leave and they tried to maintain their friendships with the neighbouring Tamil hamlet.

But now the age-old relationship between the villagers is growing once again.

Kokolai and Karnatakeni are not the only of what are known as Sri Lanka’s “border villages” to rekindle old friendships.

Thiriyaya and Kalarawa are another example. “In the past we used to pull up the fishing nets with the Tamils,” recalls Don Anthony, one of the oldest men in Kalarawa village. “The girls in our village got friendly with the boys in theirs and they would elope. The same thing happened with girls in Thiriyaya. So, in fact, we were relatives.”

During the civil war the two villages were separated, and even those who were family lost touch, he says sadly.

“But now old relationships and friendships are returning,” he continues. “I never dreamed that it could be like this and I am so happy to see this all before I die.”