The depopulation of the Sinhalese people in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka began before the arrival of the British and continued into the early 20th century. This process was facilitated by a number of factors, including economic and political policies that favored the settlement and development of the more populous coastal regions, at the expense of the sparsely populated interior. Tamils and Muslims from these coastal regions migrated to the Dry Zone in search of land and opportunities, leading to a change in the ethnic makeup of the area.
At the same time, there was a process of assimilation occurring in the Dry Zone, as Sinhalese living in isolated settlements or among Tamil communities were increasingly absorbed into the Tamil community. This process was facilitated by the British, who used Tamils over Sinhalese in government positions in these areas, and the fact that Tamil was the language of instruction in schools and the language spoken by court interpreters and petition drawers. As a result, many Sinhalese in the Dry Zone lost their cultural traditions and became “Tamilized.”
These changes in the ethnic makeup of the Dry Zone had significant consequences, including the marginalization of the Sinhalese in these areas and the erosion of their cultural traditions. This has led to ongoing tensions and conflicts between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka. It is important to recognize and address these issues in order to properly understand the history and identity of Sri Lanka as a nation.