Glossary: Tamils

Ethnic group, predominantly Hindu, whose language is Tamil, a Dravidian language spoken by the Tamil minority in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka; and which is the major regional language spoken in Tamil Nadu State, southeast India. Sri Lankan Tamils are descendants of settlers and invaders and are a native minority that represented approximately 12.6 percent of the population in 1981. Indian Tamils are descendants of estate laborers imported under British sponsorship to the island primarily in the nineteenth century, and represented approximately 5.5 percent of the population in 1981. The Indian Tamil population has been shrinking because of repatriation programs to Tamil Nadu.

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