Percentage of Tamils of Indian origin per district based on 2001 or 1981 (cursive
Distribution of languages and religious groups of Sri Lanka on D.S. division and sector level according to the 1981 Census of Population and Housing
Today there are two groups of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The first are the Sri Lankan Tamils, who either descended from the Tamils of the old Jaffna kingdom or who migrated to the east coast. The second are the Indian Tamils or Hill Country Tamils, who are descendants of bonded labourers sent from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka in the 19th century to work in tea plantations.Many came as laborers to work in the plantations, but few of them came as business people. Most of the recruits came as they were recruited by the head man in their villages, mostly by high caste Tamils, Kallars and Vellars.
Sri Lankan Tamils mostly live in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and in the capital of Colombo, whereas Hill Country Tamils largely live in the central highlands. The Hill Country Tamils and Ceylon Tamils historically have seen themselves as separate communities. In 1949, the United National Party (UNP) government stripped the Indian Tamils of their nationality, including their right to vote. Prominent Tamil political leaders such as S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and his Tamil opposition party opposed this move.
Under an agreement between the Sri Lankan and Indian governments in the 1960s, around 40% of Hill Country Tamils were granted Sri Lankan nationality, and many of the remainder were repatriated to India. However, the ethnic conflict has led to the growth of a greater sense of common Tamil identity, and the two groups are now more supportive of each other. By the 1990s most Indian Tamils had received Sri Lankan citizenship, and some were not granted Sri Lankan citizenship until 2003.