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Book: Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka's Civil War

Chapter: Federalism and Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.28067


The previous chapters reconstructed the Sinhala Saṅgha mind-set in order to understand the Saṅgha as key actors within the Lankan polity. We noted how they not only rejected federalism as a solution to the separatist war in Lanka but also interpreted it as a threat undermining Lanka’s unique position as the designated home of Buddhism, just as the war itself threatened the territorial integrity of island. The Saṅgha fought against federalism with the same motives that made them engage in and support military action against the Tamil Tigers. This dynamic remained largely unnoticed by well-meaning Western observers and activists. In this chapter, we will explore the Saṅgha opposition to federalism in detail, but instead of approaching the subject from the point of view of the Saṅgha, the chapter reviews the contents of the federal proposition and the trajectory of the federal debate in Lanka. It concludes with an assessment of the prospects for peace building in Lanka and reasons for past failures, the main point being that it is not that the techniques and methods of peace building need refinement; rather, the entire project of Western-style peace building and federalizing needs a thorough review in light of its unintended and yet very real effects on countries such as Lanka.

Chapter Contributors

  • Suren Raghavan ( - book-auth-755) 'University of Oxford'