How realistic is the adoptability of the message of non-violence to Sri Lankans?

sri-lanka.jpg Observers of the violent Sri Lankan conflict are of the view that decades of efforts to find a solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka through war have gradually eroded all the good values and norms of Sri Lankans and shrouded the future of this country in uncertainty. It is true that culture of bitterness, suspicion, and misunderstanding has been created as a result of these violent tactics, and it has developed into a dangerous situation that has made impossible the plausibility of bringing about a just and fair solution. The masses, political parties and militant organizations are divided. This is the reason for the failure of all negotiations.

It is argued that the people of this country have lost their values and norms and thus the situation has resulted in the current degeneration of the society. This article is centred around the arguement that the people of this country have not lost their values and norms; they continue to retain and cherish their inherited values and norms, but the ‘improper political socialization’ prevailing in this country for the last three decades has become dominant and rendered these values and norms, non-functional. It is possible to bring these values and norms back to life by threshing the poisoned layer of them through an effective ‘Peace Social movement’ with a clear objective and well defined strategy at the grassroots, there by ensuring lasting peace and harmony in Sri Lanka. An articulation of scientific process will make it possible.

Dealing with a ‘Divided society’

We are dealing with a situation where the population of the territory is not only physically divided, but also divided in the trust it places in the actors of the conflict.

There exists a low level consensus regarding the peace efforts. The governments could never come to a compromise with the opposition parties for a bi-partisan approach, and have even failed in reaching a compromise with the President.

More explanation can be referred to the Knowledge-Attitudes-Practices survey on the Sri Lankan peace process conducted by Social Indicator-Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2003. The study concludes that, the Sri Lankans are divided on the peace process. They are divided on how far they are willing to compromise for the sake of peace, and they are divided regarding their readiness to protest against a peace agreement they consider to be unfair. Ethnic differences in attitudes towards the peace process loom predictably large. A great majority of Sinhalese people opposed most peace proposals while a great majority of Tamils, Up-country Tamils and Muslims supported the majority of the peace proposals. In all, 67% of Tamils and 64% of Muslims were active supporters of the peace proposals. Most of the rest were passive supporters. A substantial majority (64%) of Sinhalese people opposed virtually all of the peace proposals. Opposition to the peace process was strongest in the JVP and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Government concerns about ‘selling’ a peace agreement to United National Party (UNP; which handled the peace process) supporters appeared exaggerated.

This underlines the fact that, the task of building a national consensus is not going to be an easy one. It has to address all these issues before a set of “national objectives” can be defined and a consensus built around these. It has been realized that the solution has to come out of the heartfelt blessings of all Sri Lankans. What is needed is a humanist approach, which Gandhi showed us – A path of non-violence to unlearn the wrongs. There is an overwhelming need in Sri Lanka for a Gandhian style ‘Peaceful Social Movement’ to right the wrongs.

What is a Social Movement?

Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals and/or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or undoing a social change.

They are more likely to evolve at a time and place which is friendly to the social movements. Generally, the social movements are formed in liberal and authoritarian societies but in different forms. Yet, there must always be polarizing differences between groups of people. Many social movements are created around some charismatic leaders.

The current crisis of Sri Lanka demands for a Peaceful social Movement. It is the need of the hour in Sri Lanka. The signs for such a movement emerging from the people are visible now. A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war, minimizing inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, often linked to the goal of achieving world peace. Means to achieve these ends usually include advocacy of pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, moral purchasing, supporting anti-war political candidates, demonstrations, and National Political lobbing groups to create legislation.

Generally, it is the campaigns which become movements later on. Campaigns work on one agenda. But, other agendas also can come out of this main agenda. The strategy behind this is that when a mass of people get involved it increases the number and the number becomes visible. Thus the visibility triggers the rulers to make social change.