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Challenges to pluralism in South Asia

7th January 2014
With the end to 30 years of civil conflict caused by ethnic tensions, Sri Lanka is now witnessing an escalation of religious intolerance. The rise of fundamentalism has resulted in debates over secularism and pluralism, not only in Sri Lanka but also across the South Asian region.

SAPRI hosted a colloquium on ‘Challenges to pluralism in South Asia’ The well attended event was held at the BMICH in Colombo on 7th January with an international panel of four eminent scholars comprising Prof. Rajeev Bhargava (India), Prof. Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka), Dr. Christophe Jaffrelot (France) and Ms Asma Jahangir from Pakistan who made presentations on the issues of religious tolerance, peaceful coexistence, secularism and pluralism in South Asia. The sessions were moderated by Dr. Deepika Udagama and Prof. Savithri Goonesekere. Club de Madrid’s Dr. Clem McCartney summarized the deliberations.

This event was organized by SAPRI with the participation of Club de Madrid.

‘The Crisis in Governance in South Asia,’

Wijaya Kumaratunga Memorial Oration  EXERPTS

bhanuThese are two excerpts from the Memorial Oration delivered by President and CEO of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Prof. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s on ‘The Crisis in Governance in South Asia,’ commemorating the 25th death anniversary of Wijaya Kumaratunga.

I am just quoting a passage from the great German historian Heinrich Meyer from a biography of Julius Caesar. This passage will remind you of so many South Asian politicians, It certainly reminds me of Indira Gandhi, very vividly, and many other State leaders. Heinrich Meyer describes Caesar as, being insensitive to political institutions and to the way they operate. He was unable to see them as autonomous entities. He could see them only as instruments of his power or as instruments in an interplay of forces. He had no feeling for the power of institutions, to guarantee law and safety. But he had only feelings for what he found troublesome about them! In Caesar’s eyes no one existed or no institution existed, except if it was useful as it were for him “The people were not the people; they were either supporters or opponents. Read full story >>

“Unity in Diversity; Building Shared and Inclusive Societies for Peace and Prosperity”

13th Anyiam-Osigwe Lecture in Nigeria
Delivered by SAPRI’s Chair – HE Chandrika Kumaratunga


peacePoverty is considered to be the greatest challenge facing all countries. Governments have formulated and implemented thousands of programmes to alleviate or end poverty and deprivation.
However, rarely do governments recognize the importance of searching out the causes of conflict and resolving them. Unresolved conflict invariably leads to violence and civil war. This in turn compounds the problems of poverty. Read full story >>

“State and Terrorism”

kingsSir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan Memorial lecture at King’s College London delivered SAPRI’s Chair – HE Chandrika Kumaratunga


Terrorism poses the most serious military challenge to the modern world. Recognition of the importance of searching out the deep-rooted causes of conflict and seeking to resolve them seems to be a rare occurrence in the planning of counter-terrorist strategies. We can witness, all around us, the dismal failure of mainly militarist methods to address violent conflict.

I believe that militarist strategies must be employed only as the solution of the last resort. The deep-rooted causes of each conflict must be understood and managed. This will, no doubt, take time and involve complex operations. However, it is such a holistic approach that has proved to finally overcome violent protest and conflict in a durable manner.Read full story >>


CERIPresident Chandrika Kumaratunga’s lecture at the Centre for International Studies and Research CERI – Sciences Po

Secularism implies the relationship between Religion and Politics, more specifically between Religion and the State. The concept of secularism has drawn its sources from the philosophy that Humans can order their lives and their societies without recourse to transcendent or supra natural powers, and hence they could also organize and manage the State and its government, without direct connections with the religious establishment. Thus evolved the concept of Secularism and the separation of the Sate from Religion, taking root in Europe and spreading its message across the globe.

In South Asia, the concept was popularized in the 20th century, mainly during the anti-colonial struggles and the consequent formation of new, independent States in the 2nd half of the century. Read full story >>