The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 20th & 21st January, 2012 Western Province Aesthetic Resort, Colombo

Session: Youth in Sri Lanka Date: 20th January, 2012 Time: 2.15pm-3.15pm
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The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 Capturing Gandhiji's Attention: A History of a Youth Movement in Colonial Ceylon Niyanthini Kadirgamar

The history of Sri Lanka in the last century is rich with many youth-led struggles. Commencing with the upsurge of a resistance to imperial rule in pre-independence Ceylon, the youth have organized themselves to lobby for change in the political, economic and social spheres of the country. Whilst what was envisioned and enthusiastically propagated by these movements as desirable conditions for the country, were never achieved in their entirety and even brutally crushed in certain instances, the youth have shaped the course of the history of this country. This paper is part of an ongoing research on the history of the youth movement in Sri Lanka and focuses on the early years of youth activism in colonial Ceylon. It explores why the youth of that time decided to take on a different path to that of their older political leaders during the final struggles for independence from colonial rule. It also looks at how it shaped public opinion and created an impact on the politics of that time. Particular focus is given to Gandhiji’s visit to Ceylon in 1927 and the events surrounding his visit. When signs of communal rifts started showing within the older political leadership of the country in the early 1900s, the youth began organizing themselves into leagues to express their discontent of the older political leaders and to pave the way for the establishment of a Ceylon of their dreams. Focusing on the Youth Congress, Jaffna and youth leagues in the South, this paper discusses the issues that were taken up by the youth and the ideologies that propelled them to do so. While the youth were in the forefront of the Nationalist Movement at that time, greatly influenced by the Gandhian Movement in India they refused to go along the lines of communalism that was developing amongst the older generation. Instead there is an interesting convergence when many of them formed and joined the Left Movement at that time.

The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012


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