UNITED KINGDOM, August 15, 2013 (BBC): The lives of Burma's (Myanmar's) Tamil minority are in the centre of a 12-part weekly series launching on BBC Tamil radio on Sunday 18 August. "The Tamils Who Stayed Back In The Golden Land" (Thanga Mannil Thangiya Thamizhargal) explores the conditions in which Burma's ethnic Tamils live today and talks about their collective memory, their daily lives and their aspirations for their future in a changing Burma.
Burma's ethnic Tamils, whose number is unofficially estimated at half a million, are the descendants of Tamils from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They migrated to Burma during the days of the British Empire and worked in finance and trade as well as agriculture. The end of the British rule in Burma in 1948 led to a decline of the community's fortunes. In the 1960s, in the wake of the military rule, many were forced to leave Burma - but many also stayed back.
The BBC Tamil series producer, Swaminathan Natarajan, travelled across the Tamil-speaking areas of Burma, interviewing people from various cross-sections of the society including traders, community leaders, farmers and social activists. Their cultural identity is the focus of the series.
Swaminathan says: "All the Hindu temples have a statue of Buddha, and the fact that a lot of ethnic Burmese visit those temples testifies to a high level of integration and tolerance. On the other hand, due to lack of opportunities and economic benefits, there is reluctance among ethnic Tamils to learn their mother tongue. Despite this, many seem to go the extra mile to make sure the new generation doesn't forget the Tamil language."
Editor of BBC Tamil, Thirumalai Manivannan, comments: "Having retained their cultural roots, Burma's Tamils also seem to have achieved some success in integration with the mainstream Burmese society. The series looks at how this integration works - and also throws light on the issues affecting this section of the Burmese society and takes a historic look at the vicissitudes of their lives."