By Ramachandra Guha –
Last year I travelled to Sri Lanka on work; my previous visit had been a decade earlier. The people were, as before, gentle and polite; the scenery spectacular; the roads and residences, spotlessly clean. But the political culture had changed in the interim. An air of Sinhala superiority was
abroad. A war had been waged and won; what had been imposed afterwards, however, was a victor’s peace. Instead of assuring the Tamils that their rights would be protected, the idea that only Sinhala-speakers and followers of the Buddhist faith were authentic citizens was being promoted. The army had not disbanded its units in the north; there were fears that large numbers of non-Tamils would follow them and settle there.
These chauvinistic policies were accompanied by a promotion of the First Family of Sri Lankan politics. Photographs of the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, were everywhere. His brother, Gotabaya, was making loud and threatening noises at regular intervals. While I was in Sri Lanka the President’s son was engaged in an electoral campaign, and the notion that he would one day succeed to his father’s office was being broadcast to anyone who cared to listen.
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*Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi and Makers of Modern India