21 July, 2024


JVP: From Idealism Of Anti-Indianism To Pragmatic Realism(?)

By Athulasiri Samarakoon

Dr. Athulasiri Kumara Samarakoon

The official visit of Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP/NPP leadership team to India this week marks a significant departure from the party’s historical stance on Indo-Lanka relations. Originating in the Sixties with an ingrained anti-Indian rhetoric, the JVP’s recent responsiveness to India’s call suggests a pragmatic shift, signaling its readiness to engage with India should it assume power in Sri Lanka’s next government.

Amidst widespread frustration towards the Ranil- Rajapaksa regime, the current political climate in Sri Lanka presents opportunities for alternative political forces. The JVP, attuned to the discontent among ordinary citizens deprived of basic necessities and hope for a better future, appears poised to capitalize on this sentiment. While facing competition from Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, who enjoys significant support among the marginalized masses, the JVP’s evolving politics and strategic realignment make it a formidable contender.

In recent times, the JVP has undergone a substantial transformation in its political objectives. Shifting its focus from advocating socialism, the party now prioritizes the eradication of corruption and the establishment of law and order in the country. At every public address, the JVP/NPP leader vows to hold accountable those responsible for corruption and the misappropriation of public wealth – factors contributing to Sri Lanka’s unfortunate status as one of the poorest and most corrupt nations globally.

The JVP’s public display of anger and protest, particularly in the post-aragalaya/porattam context, has resonated well with the electorate, significantly expanding its voter base. Large numbers of men and women attending rallies across the country highlight the party’s growing influence. The JVP’s distinctive organizational model and its role within political alliances have solidified its position as a key player in Sri Lankan politics. Additionally, the party’s effective social media campaign has garnered popularity among the younger generation. However, the populist surge of the JVP may fall short of addressing the country’s enduring challenges unless it shows readiness to embrace democratic pragmatism in both local and external environments.

The invitation from India appears to be a test of JVP’s perceptivity towards the structural power constituted by the Indo-US relationship. Notably, discussions with India aim to review the party’s policy towards these powers, challenging its anti-imperialist and anti-India rhetoric that has traditionally galvanized support from university crowds and left-nationalist elements. These elements, often full-time activists, have historically sought to save Sri Lanka from what they perceive as agonizing capitalism and hegemonic politics.

The roots of the JVP trace back to its early connections with the Chinese Communist Party, shaping a unique political journey. Aligned with Marxist-Leninism and adopting a Bolshevik and Leninist stance, the party emerged in 1971 as a rebellion against traditional and left-right political elites. The shift in focus to nationalism in 1989, using the Dravidian issue and Indian intervention as rallying points, contributed to the rise of anti-Indian sentiments among the Sinhalese population.

The JVP’s resurgence after 1994 saw strategic collaborations with Chandrika Bandaranaike, granting it significant influence within the government. Despite its engagement in parliamentary politics, the party maintained its ideological stance, particularly regarding the Tamil issue and India. However, the JVP’s withdrawal from the governmental power began after its opposition to the Post-Tsunami Operation Mechanism (PTOM) in 2004, formed in collaboration with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The JVP’s involvement in key power shifts, including the presidential election between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe, showcased its ability to influence political outcomes. The party actively pursued constitutional reforms, advocating for a reduction in the powers of the executive presidential system. Recent leadership changes, though, have led to shifts in its stance.

Central to the JVP’s historical ideology is its anti-India approach, rooted in concerns about India’s influence on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The party consistently criticizes India’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s affairs, fearing a potential loss of independence. This anti-India stance has been a constant thread in the JVP’s foreign policy discussions since the 1987 Indo-Lanka Peace Treaty.

As the JVP continues to evolve, the complexities of its historical journey and the necessity for a nuanced stance on critical issues underscore the intricate landscape of Sri Lankan politics. The party’s willingness to engage with India while maintaining its commitment to eradicating corruption and establishing law and order marks a departure from its earlier idealism of anti-Indianism to a more modest phase of pragmatism.

Further, political predictions may abound, but the true challenge lies in consolidating, improving, and preserving power once it is secured, particularly in the face of regional geopolitical complexities, domestic economic collapse, and urgent public frustrations that require swift solutions. Immediate hope becomes essential in navigating these challenges.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    … JVP may fall short of addressing the country’s enduring challenges unless it shows readiness to embrace democratic pragmatism.
    … the party maintained its ideological stance regarding the Tamil issue and India.
    … Central to the JVP’s historical ideology is its anti-India approach, rooted in concerns about India’s influence on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.
    Sovereignty is an on obsolete concept unsuited for the modern Globe.
    India cannot be contained or isolated by JVP.
    Ideological stance regarding the Tamil issue will be detrimental to pragmatic democracy.

    • 0

      Dear Nathan,
      This is the POV of step brothers of JVP-NPP.

      Whoever is going to sow the fairy tale, it will be another hidden trick aimed at lankens by indians, this time it is focusing on the JVP and the NPPs.
      I feel sorry for Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, her respect will go down if she leaves more misinterpretations.

  • 9

    Dravidian Issue! Why who are the Chingkallams? Aryans? Or the Sri Lankan Muslims? Arabs? The answer is neither, they are both equally Dravidian as the Thamizh and that to 99% of them descended from Thamizh Dravidians. Just look at you, the map of Dravidian South Asia is written on your face and your family name gives away your recent Thamizh South Indian origin like many Chingkallams. Dravidian issue my foot.

    • 1

      Pandi Kutti,

      You’ve got to admit that Tamils have more Dravidian blood than Sinhalese, and Sinhalese have more North Indian blood. Aren’t you proud of that? You have also got to admit that Muslims have Arab blood.

      • 0

        I mean, Sinhalese have just a bit more North Indian than Tamils. That’s about 1-15% difference in N. Indian blood (with about 5% being for 90% Sinhalese). Some speak of 1% difference between apes and humans, but that is a whole different scale (it’s like 1-100% between monkeys and humans, and .00001- .0001% between Tamils and Sinhalese on the same scale….something like that). So, both Sinhalese and Tamils must celebrate their large part Dravidian genes. Proud to be large part Dravidian myself. 💖

  • 9

    There is really no need for deep analysis of the JVP’s stance or history at this critical stage of Sri Lanka’s decades-long misfortunes culminating in catastrophic bankruptcy and the rapid descent into a totalitarian state with crime being rewarded and justice shunned (except for show trials like for KR). The only option left for the 69 lakhs of cattle who wanted a Hitler and the dopey dimwits who think putharno will set things right, is a grassroots movement that is sincerely committed to rescuing that blighted country from absolute disaster for generations to come. So, everyone who believes in a future for their children will need to support the NPP, as bilateral relations with India is critical. It is a singular honour for the JVP that India officially recognizes them as the next governing party in Sri Lanka.

  • 3

    India strives to be a sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and welcomes Sri Lanka’s move to incorporate greater socialism into her economy rather than embarrassingly and unsuccessfully play-acting American Capitalism. It will be a relief to them when the offshore accounts of the accumulated money of the Lankan people held by Lankan billionaires, are set free and emptied back into the coffers so the Lankan economy can start rolling again. They will be able to get their monies back with interest then.

  • 6

    People much worse than the JVP have ruled SL and bankrupted the blooming country! ……… How worse can the JVP do? Really? ……. Can the JVP do any worse than what has happened to the country now?

    People come out of the woodwork now, to analyse the JVP every which way to the Nth degree.

    The fault is not with the JVP …….. but with the so called “educated” who do the analysing ……… unknown to them, their minds are rigidly set and held prisoner to think only “conventional” politicians are suitable to rule SL …… in their minds, only Mahinda, Ranil, CBK, Sajith even Namal and Gota …….. are capable of ruling the country except the JVP! …….. Case in point ……. were this kind of deep analysis done about Mahinda, Ranil, CBK, Sajith, Gota, Namal? ……… Why only the JVP?

    If someone’s father or brother or uncle was a corrupt murderous crooked leader ……. is the son/sibling/nephew automatically suitable to rule the nation? Where is the deep analysis?

    • 5


      It’s madness to think that the fault/ignorance is with the rural voters in Timbuktu …….. the urban/Colombo “intellectual set” is the worst! ……. Look at the uncritical support Ranil is getting now to destroy the democratic fabric – whatever is still remaining – of the society now ….. not for the benefit of the people/country ……… but for his benefit, to hang on to power by any crooked way he can.

      As for India ……. there is nothing wrong with India or Indians ……. they are as helpless as the Lankans: they do not set policy. …….. It’s India’s rulers that we should worry about ……. their rulers are no better than ours!

  • 2

    We forget a period in which the JVP’s hostility to India took a back seat.
    When India warned the LTTE against attacking the SL Army base in KKS in year 2000, the JVP was full of praise for India. That mood lasted for some years.
    The JVP objects to India’s role in some issues, but not in the same way as in one of its now forgotten ‘Five Lessons’.
    The title ” From Idealism Of Anti-Indianism To Pragmatic Realism” is faulty.
    Anti-Indianism is no ideal. It can be part of an ideology, which I doubt if it is now.

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