Sri Lanka Series Roundtable: Reflections and Reportbacks

Earlier this summer, a small and informal collective of artists, activists, and academics gathered in Sri Lanka. Variously and presently based in North America, the group's members collectively drew on their years of personal ties to politics and lives on the island in order to support and learn from the burgeoning re-emergence of political and creative imagination in the island's public arena, particularly in the still militarized North and East.

1) 18:34 Mullivaikal Massacre
2) 46:59 Pitfalls of Identity politics
3) 50:44 Role of International law in the conflict
4) 1:26:21 Role of Caste in the Tamil community
5) 1:54:49 Pitfalls of mobilizing around trauma

Mario Arulthas is the Advocacy Director of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka and a Human Rights Fellow at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. As part of his role, he engages government officials and policy experts of various countries on issues concerning the conflict on the island. Mario has conducted several research trips to the island, where he has worked on reforms, memorialization, militarization and obstacles to domestic prosecution of crimes related to the ethnic conflict. Previously he was a policy advisor at the Royal Borough of Kingston, the editor-in-chief of the Tamil Guardian and a director at the Tamil Youth Organisation - UK.

Fathima Cader is a Toronto-based writer and litigator. Her essays, creative non-fiction, and poetry have been published in The New Inquiry, Hazlitt, Apogee, and elsewhere. Her legal practice focuses on human rights, union-side labour, and worker-side employment law. She teaches at the University of Windsor's Faculty of Law and is an incoming faculty member at the City College of New York's Beyond Identity program.

Dr. Nimmi Gowrinathan is the Founder and Director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative, a global study examining the impact of rape on women’s political identities in extremist movements, and a Visiting Research Professor, teaching courses on Gender and Violence at the Colin Powell Center for Global and Civic Leadership at City College New York.

Professor Sujith Xavier’s scholarly interest is situated at the intersections of law, socio-legal theory, and global and local society. His research interests span domestic and international legal theory, including Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), constitutions and administrations, global governance, international law, and transitional justice. Professor Xavier’s scholarly engagement explores the intersections of law and society with a focus on race, colonialism and imperialism. His research is rooted in TWAIL methodologies that seek to unpack, deconstruct embedded racial hierarchies in law, and then reconstruct it.

Niranjan Takle: Journalist on the Fascist Trail

There is a shift in the world toward right-wing populist authoritarianism. As the recent spate of arrests of human rights activists and lawyers shows, India is well advanced on this path, with its ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) moving rapidly to make India a fascist state. Investigative journalist Niranjan Takle tells a story of historical significance in this development: the murder of a judge presiding over a case of extra-judicial killing in which the president of the ruling party and the most powerful man in India today, Amit Shah, was the prime suspect.

Introduction by Aparna Sundar

Fearsome & Familiar: Buddhist Majoritarianism & Anti-Muslim Attacks in Sri Lanka

Discussion with Farzana Haniffa & Aparna Sundar

Since Sri Lanka declared its war on the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam over in 2009, coordinated mass attacks by Sinhalese Buddhists on Muslims have been on the rise. Perpetrators have included monks and the police. How do these ongoing attacks flow from the historic anti-Muslim violence of 1915, the island’s first reported ethnic riots?


Left Politics in South Asia: Past, Present, Future



The Necessity of Communism

By Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad surveys the conditions, facts and politics of India before suggesting ways the Left can move forward.

To read a revised version of this presentation, click here




Muslim Maoists and Lenin's Limits: The Pakistan Mazdoor Kisan Party

By Noaman Ali

The Mazdoor Kisan Party (MKP) was arguably Pakistan's largest far left party, with significant support among the peasants of the North-West Frontier Province. Noaman G. Ali examines how differences in the values and interests of peasants and landless labourers were reflected in the theoretical differences of the MKP leadership, and how their inability to resolve these differences ultimately led to the collapse of the party.


Left Politics in Bastar

By Bela Bhatia

Noted Indian academic and human rights activist Bela Bhatia surveys the political situation in India’s tribal region of Bastar. 

To read a revised version of this presentation, click here (no video available)

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Mao-Lana Bhashani: Maoism and the Unmaking of Pakistan

By Layli Uddin

Today, socialism and Islam are often viewed as incompatible. Does the career of Maulana Bhashani, “the Red Maulana” of Bangladesh, offer a corrective to this view?

To read a revised version of this presentation, click here (no video available)




The Making of a Progressive Tradition in Karnataka

By Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobi

Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobi explains how Kannada progressive tradition is in crisis and makes a case for its reinvention.  


Liking Progress, Loving Change: A Brief Look at the Progressive Writers' Movement & Socially-Purposive Writing in Urdu

By Rakhshanda Jalil

Rakhshanda Jalil traces the local evolution of progressive thought in India to understand the coming together of writers & social reformers.





In Search of the Political: Social Life in Pakistan's Sufi Shrines

By Ammen Jaffer

South Asia’s Sufi shrines are typically thought to have a quality of other-worldliness that is antithetical to the worldly concerns of the left. But can we rethink the shrine’s political possibilities?

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Reserves of Resistance In Post-war Sri Lanka

By Ahilan Kadirgamar

Ahilan Kadirgamar discusses anti-colonial Tamil youth politics in Sri Lanka and the interstices of nationalism, caste, and community in post civil war Sri Lanka.