Majoritarian Politics in Sri Lanka:
The Roots of Pluralism Breakdown
Publication Date: April 2017
Under British colonial rule, the Tamil minority in what is now Sri Lanka occupied a privileged position over the Sinhalese majority. After independence, Sinhalese politicians leveraged their new powers of majority to address the widespread inequality by denying Tamils equal language and citizenship rights. This systematic exclusion from the Sri Lankan state eventually culminated in a civil war that lasted more than 20 years. To redress majority disadvantages, early governments created new systems of exclusion that favoured the majority instead. What were the crucial pivot points that pushed Sri Lanka towards exclusion rather than towards more inclusive citizenship at the end of the colonial period? How did ideas of nationhood drive these decisions?