“He was standing in front of the Ganesh temple in Paris. I went up to him, pulled out my katana and sliced his arm.” At a shabby café in southern Paris, last September, a former member of the Viluthus, one of the oldest gangs among the Sri Lankan Tamil community in the French capital, recalled his time with the gang. The man whose arm he had sliced off in 2006, he said, had “disrespected” the Viluthus. He could not remember how.
Such acts of violence have become commonplace over the past few years in “Little Jaffna,” a neighbourhood near the Gare du Nord railway station where a large number of Tamil migrants have set up shops and restaurants. Brawls frequently break out among groups of young men from the community. Mutilated teenagers are found in pools of blood. Many attacks take place in broad daylight. On 5 March 2018, a man having lunch with his girlfriend at a Tamil restaurant was attacked by a group wielding machetes. He survived, but was scalped during the assault.
Dozens of Facebook profile photos show Tamil teenagers posing with blades and swords. They taunt each other in the comments, with online bickering often spilling over into real-life bloodshed. Violence among the ten or so Tamil gangs active in northern Paris—besides the Viluthus, the gangs include the Eelam Boys, Cyber, Mukkalas, Red Kosty and Sathanai—reached an all-time high in 2018, a police officer who has investigated several gang-related crimes in the area told me, on condition of anonymity since he is not allowed to speak to the media. “This community remains largely impenetrable for us, quite like the Chinese community,” the police officer said. “But we have a lot of officers of Chinese origin, whereas we barely have any Tamils on the force.”