ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Classes, States and the Politics of the Tamil Diaspora

The Tamil diaspora is not monolithic; it is differentiated by class, excludes certain castes and is gendered in its exploitation. The mobilisation of the diverse Tamil diaspora abroad and the rhetoric used have become the rationale for reinforcing the security establishment in Sri Lanka. A democratic Tamil leadership from within the country should challenge the larger Tamil diaspora to change course and work constructively towards building a plural and democratic society out of the ravages of war.

Much of politics relating to Sri Lanka in recent times has been about legitimacy, ideology and the public sphere. Thus, writing and speaking on certain issues itself seems to have a cost in either legitimising or reinforcing certain tendencies. This is all the more so around the discourse of the Tamil diaspora particularly in the post-war context.

While the Tamil diaspora had a major role in sustaining the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the decades of war, its power and influence have greatly changed following its decimation. However, certain pro-LTTE actors in the Tamil community outside the country are attempting to continue the mobilisations that made the diaspora very visible during the last phase of the war. Furthermore, there are many commentators who are giving such mobilisations much importance. Such commentators lack the perspective on the Tamil diaspora’s historical emergence, its underlying structures and shifts, and for that matter an analysis of its transformation in the post-LTTE years. Some of us who have been analysing the Tamil diaspora and engaging with it believe it is in a state of great flux and its role, its coherence and its influence will diminish in the next few years. Therefore to give the diaspora importance, might also be giving it unnecessary legitimacy, and only prolong the inevitable decline of what has been, over the last two decades, mainly a source of destructive politics.

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