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Birth of Post-colonial South Asia: Sri Lanka and Nepal October 20, 2008 Based primarily on Whelpton, Wilson, and Rose.

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Presentation on theme: "Birth of Post-colonial South Asia: Sri Lanka and Nepal October 20, 2008 Based primarily on Whelpton, Wilson, and Rose."— Presentation transcript:

1 Birth of Post-colonial South Asia: Sri Lanka and Nepal October 20, 2008 Based primarily on Whelpton, Wilson, and Rose

2 2 Main questions I.What was the nature of the political and institutional developments in Sri Lanka and Nepal? II.How are these histories reflected in contemporary events in the countries? III.Both countries experience conflict. Are these conflicts similar or different?

3 3 Sri Lanka: What changed? What we hear now “ethnic conflict”; “civil war”; “terrorism”; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Today’s headlines in Indian newspapers What we used to hear: High levels of literacy and education; social programs; universal health care; progressive redistributive policies

4 4 “Sri Lanka for beginners” Voice of a young Tamil-American writer Author Q &A with Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum CityAuthor Q &A

5 5 Roots of the conflict Oppression of Tamil minority by the state on the claim that they dominated public service, better jobs and higher social positions Rise of separatist movement and armed militancy led by the LTTE Strong military response from the state Vicious cycle of violence and brutality mutually reinforcing one another

6 6 What was at stake? Language: In 1956, Sinhala is declared sole official language Religion: In 1972, Buddhism declared official language and name changed to Sri Lanka Education and unemployment: Perception of Tamil domination by virtue of their English education; reservation and discrimination These changes imposed by an aggressive militaristic program of ‘nationalization’

7 7 1983: Black July Immediate catalyst: Begins with a killing of 13 soldiers by the LTTE Spreads to systematic and targeted anti- Tamil riots Several thousand Tamils are killed and several hundreds of thousands rendered homeless and refugees. Jaywardene quote

8 8 The 25 years since Black July Continuous cycle of violence Sporadic peace efforts Cease fire in 2002 Violence continues.. Big markers: assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, PM of India, 1991; assassination of President Premadasa 1993; massive death and displacement of civilians

9 9 Nepal 2006: Unprecedented mass movement Throughout 2006, protest march and civil disobedience movements with mobilizations ranging from April 24, 2006: Reinstitution of the parliament May 18, 2006: Nepal’s Democracy Day: The parliament unanimously votes for: The abolition of the monarchy; stripping all royal powers; declaring the state a secular state; renaming the army; taxing the wealth of the royal family etc.

10 10 How does such massive change come about? Familiar story lines: The king “listened to the people” and voluntarily gave up power ‘the Maoists’ threatened the king People got tired of the civil war Possible argument: mass mobilization which brought together the Maoist movement plus every faction of civil society against the continued abuse of power by the monarchy

11 11 Developments leading to 2006 Immediate developments: civil society uprising of 2006 (did the BBC miss that?) Longer term factors: The Maoist “People’s War” Even nonger term structural factors: poverty and inequality, resistance to the monarchy, and various struggles for justice

12 12 Long history of resistance against hereditary rule 1800s: Conquered and ruled by the Gurkha monarchs. Rise of a hereditary system of rule by Chief Ministers who come from the same family (the Ranas) 1900s: Rebellion against the Ranas, establishment of the rule of King Mahindra 1959: Adoption of multiparty constitution; emergence of the Congress Party as the leading political entity

13 13 Uneasy relations between the monarchy & constitutional politics The Nepali Congress Party (NCP) emerges as the major political party Left groups also begin to emerge Successive kings deny these political entities their right to lead politics 1991: Finally, a democratic majority win for the Congress (Note: your Whelpton reading begins from here)

14 14 Nepal since 1991: two major trends emerge (1) (1)Increasing factionalization of political entities, resulting in the 7 leading parties Nepali Congress Nepali Congress (Democratic) Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist- Leninist) Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Nepal Goodwill Party (Anandi Devi) United Left Front People's Front

15 15 Nepal since 1991: Trend (2) Emergence of the ‘People’s War’ The main actor: Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) (CPN(ML). Main (stated) goal: uproot “the power of big landlords through armed struggle”. Main strategies: Increased participation in parliamentary politics where it had started to do well. Its initial successes led to the formation of an even larger groups of united left parties.. but

16 16 PW(2) But eventually there was dissent amongst the party members who felt too many compromised were made for the sake of retaining political power A new Maoist party CPN(Maoist) emerged and embarked on a full-fledged People’s War since This is the party that is currently in power

17 17 People’s War (3) In April 2006, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the CPN(M) both agreed for the dissolution of the monarchy and constitutional elections In April 2008, the CPN(M) elected in what was called an ‘electoral thunderbolt’ Which way now?

18 18 Current situation Development indicators 80% living below $2 Share of the poorest 20% in national income 7.6% Agricultural labour 93% of total labour force 25% own no land, 65% (of the 26 million) survive on subsistence farming


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