In 1956, eight years after political independence was secured for Sri Lanka, a major transformation was effected through the ballot. A confederation of forces led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) under S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike turfed the United National Party (UNP) and its right wing, English-educated leadership out of office. These forces represented a groundswell of the underprivileged against the privileged, and, as such, represented a radical socialist thrust. They also included a powerful strand of Sinhala nativism, i.e., of cultural nationalism, which made Sinhala the language of administration and which espoused conspiracy theories directed against the influence wielded by Catholic cabals. This body of thought has been described in the literature as “Sinhala linguistic nationalism” and “Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.” What requires underlining here is the fact that this ideological corpus had previously been in a defensive position because it was deemed a “communalism.” But, now, in 1956, the majoritarian sanction of a populist and radical victory converted it into a nationalism (see Roberts 1994, 258–59, 263–64, and ch. 12)–a force which some scholars, standing in the mid-1990s, would redefine as “chauvinism.”

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