“Introduction à l’Asie du Sud et ses diasporas avec Éric Meyer et Vasoodeven Vuddamalay” sur South Asia’s Hub


South Asia’s Hub est la nouvelle émission mensuelle de New-Veo Radio. Cheon Mak et Delon Madavan, ses animateurs, souhaitent proposer à leurs auditeurs des programmes portant sur l’Histoire, les cultures et les questions de société des pays sud-asiatiques et de leurs diasporas. South Asia’s Hub accueillera chaque mois des chercheurs, artistes, militants des droits de d’Homme, des personnes d’origine sud-asiatiques et des amoureux de cette région pour parler cinema, danse, religion, identités ou encore intégration. Ambitieuse, South Asia’s Hub se propose d’être un centre de connaissance et d’échanges interculturels.

Le Podcast de la première emission de radio de South Asia’s Hub est en ligne!!!

Lien pour écouter le podcast: http://www.newvoradio.fr/south-asias-hub-1/

Pour cette première, nos invités Eric Meyer et Vasoodeven Vuddamalay (géographe et ethnologue, enseignant-chercheur à chercheurs l’Université d’Évry-Val-d’Essonne) vont nous aider à délimiter les contours de l’Asie du Sud et de leurs diasporas.

Présentation d’Éric Meyer : Historien de formation, spécialiste de Sri Lanka et du sous-continent indien, sa recherche se concentre sur la relation entre le capitalisme colonial et la société rurale et plus particulièrement sur l’interaction entre les paysans, les planteurs et l’État colonial à Sri Lanka. La crise socio-politique que connaît ce pays l’a conduit à en analyser l’arrière-plan historique. Professeur émérite des Universités à l’Inalco, il est également chercheur associé au Centre d’études sur l’Inde et l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS UMR 8564 – EHESS/CNRS). Pour en savoir plus sur les publications d’Eric Meyer :http://ceias.ehess.fr/index.php?224

Présentation de Vasoodeven Vuddamalay: Géographe et ethnologue, sa recherche se concentre sur les diasporas sud-asiatiques et à leurs inscriptions spatiales à Paris et Londres. Vasoodeven Vuddamalay est enseignant-chercheur à l’université d’Évry-Val-d’Essonne. Pour en savoir plus sur Vasoodeven Vuddamalay : http://www.savoirs.essonne.fr/…/vasoodeven-vuddamalay…/


                                          Sommaire de l’émission :

Partie 1 : tentative de définition (avec Éric Meyer)
Partie 2 : Histoire de l’Asie du Sud (avec Éric Meyer)
Partie 3 : Une diaspora sud-asiatique ? (avec Vasoodeven Vuddamalay)
Partie 4 : Sud-asiatiques à l’Île Maurice et en France (avec Vasoodeven Vuddamalay)

La page facebook de South Asia’s Hubhttps://www.facebook.com/SouthAsiasHub?ref=hl

“Sri Lanka : Democracy at Work” by Eric Meyer

The South Asia Democratic Forum (www.sadf.eu) organized at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, 21st January 2015, a post-electoral briefing on Sri Lanka, which was attended by an international audience including South Asians, and European MPs.
We publish here the text of the intervention of Eric Meyer, who was invited to present his views in the discussion panel.


In the decades after Independence, Sri Lanka used to be regarded as one of the most advanced democracies in Asia.

Then after 1971 (the first JVP insurgency and its suppression) and 1978-83-87 (the beginning of Eelamist rebellion and civil war, the establishment and manipulation of a presidential system, foreign intervention by India and its failure), Sri Lanka came to be branded as the sick man of South Asia.

After more than 40 years of civil war, of social and political violence and of growing lawlessness, the results of the presidential vote and the conditions of the transfer of power to the new President show the resilience of the democratic system in Sri Lanka, and a democratic maturity which was unexpected a few months ago by pessimistic observers.

Sri Lankans could share the words of Radhika Coomaraswamy (former U.N. Undersecretary general in charge of the rights of children) : « the elections made me triumphantly proud of my country ». But does it mean that Sri Lanka is back at square one ?


The high voter turn out, above 81.5%, is remarkable (the highest in the history of the country), as compared with the previous presidential elections of 2005 and 2010 (73-74%); even in northern Jaffna it was more than 66%, while in 2005 it was 1.2% because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had imposed a ban on voting, and in 2010 it was 25% in the aftermath of the bloodbath and repression of the previous year. This progress is the result of a return to more settled conditions and of a political will for change.

The overall result shows a margin of 3.7% between the two candidates, rather similar to that witnessed in well-established democracies : 6,217,162 votes (51.28%) went for Maithripala Sirisena, the common candidate of the opposition who had resigned a few months before from the Rajapaksa government, against 5,768,090 votes (47.58%) for Mahinda Rajapaksa. Regional breakdown shows that the north, east, and the large cities, voted overwhelmingly in favour of Sirisena ; that the rural areas of the South voted in favour of Rajapaksa but with a reduced majority ; and that in the Centre and Centre north, the balance was rather equal. If one extrapolates to assess the vote of the ethnic groups, it is clear that the great majority of the Muslims, of the North/East Tamils and of the Up-country Tamils voted for Sirisena ; and that a small majority of the Sinhalese, especially in the countryside, voted for Rajapaksa (about 52%).

But it is also clear that between 2010 and 2015, Rajapaksa lost in the Sinhalese majority areas about 10% of the votes – and more than 15% in urbanized areas (Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Galle) and in the north central rural districts (Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa). Without this shift, Rajapaksa would have won even if all the minorities had voted against him. It is therefore inexact to affirm, as he did after the results, that he lost only because of the vote of the minorities.

There are no opinion polls age-wise or by occupation in Sri Lanka, but most observers consider that the young people who voted for the first time chose Sirisena, and the postal votes (open only to civil servants and members of the armed forces) follow the general tendency.

In a democratic election, the marginal difference is meaningful. What is the message sent by the voters who made the difference – the young people who voted for the first time, the members of the minorities who decided to cast their vote this time, the people of the large cities? Rajapaksa had at its disposal almost all the media which he had for the last six years forced into submission, but his opponent had young supporters using social networks, and many professionals such as lawyers who were outraged at his high-handed style. Family ‘bandyism’, growing corruption, unethical behaviour, lawlessness and impunity, price hikes of basic commodities were denounced by the various groups supporting Sirisena : it is significant that the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a party founded by nationalist Sinhala Buddhist monks, on one side, and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the party which before 2009 supported the Eelamists, on the other, abandoned their extreme nationalist rhetoric to focus on these common themes ; so did the well-organized Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which was behind the two revolutionary attempts of 1971 and 1987-89, and the pro-western United National Party (UNP). In addition, the atrocities committed by the Bodu Bala Sena, an extremist self-styled Buddhist Force encouraged by Mahinda’s brother Gotabhaya to outflank the Jathika Hela Urumaya, alienated the Muslim minority and many Christians.


According to press reports and a few independent testimonies, it seems that Mahinda Rajapaksa, under the influence of his brother Gotabhaya, was prepared, if the election was narrowly lost, to proclaim a state of emergency under the pretence of maintaining public order, to postpone the proclamation of results, and to stage a ‘legal’ coup d’état. For that they needed the support of the Inspector General of Police, the Army Chief, the Judiciary (Chief Justice and Attorney General) and the Elections Commissionner. The Chief Justice Mohan Pieris, who was with the President during the election night against every principle of separation of powers, seems to have been involved from the start, but the refusal of the Attorney General and of the other VIPs derailed the attempt.

Then Rajapaksa contacted Ranil Wickramasinghe (the head of the United National Party, whom he knew well) who decided to come to the President’s residence, where he was able to persuade Rajapaksa to finally accepted his defeat by giving him a few assurances. It may be that the visit of pope Francis four days later made it difficult to plunge the country into political turmoil. Finally, the main political actors acted with restraint and responsibility, in spite of temptations to the contrary : democracy passed its second test.


Mahinda Rajapaksa and his supporters still control of a part of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party electoral machine : they may win the legislative elections which are due in April – May, and try to reimpose their power, especially in view of the relative weakness of the UNP especially in rural constituencies. The question is whether Maithripala Sirisena will be able to get rid of the most corrupt individuals in the party (of which according to the statutes he is now the head instead of Rajapaksa), impose new leaders, obtain the support of the majority of the SLFPers, and consolidate his power. Or will Rajapaksas continue to pull the strings, claim to represent the majority, brand Sirisena as the traitor who owed his election to the vote of the minorities and was manipulated by the former President Chandrika Bandaranaïke ?

The illegal activities of members of the Rajapaksa entourage may continue. Private security firms connected with them, which employ ex-soldiers, had recently imported huge loads of firearms. In addition, various paramilitary groups (including Tamil ex-LTTE armed groups who defected to Government) are still roaming about the country. Civil disarmement is going to be a huge problem for the Sirisena administration.

Vested interests are likely to suffer high losses if the Sirisena administration succeeds in cleaning up the country – for which it was elected : new rich groups derive their wealth from building and transport contracts, but also from casinos, prostitution, drug trafficking. The army and navy are controlling a large part of the reconstructed economy and a share of the lands in the war zones of the north and east and members of the armed forces derive large benefits from it. It will be difficult to eradicate corruption in the political class.

Finally, the cost of electoral promises might prove difficult to finance : with a taxation system which allows a lot of tax evasion, the rise of the salaries of public servants, of the pensions, of social allowances, of the guaranteed purchase price of agricultural products and so on will require new resources hard to find.


Maithripala Sirisena was the common candidate of a very heterogeneous opposition alliance. Its programme envisioned a series of constitutional reforms by a caretaker cabinet during a 100-days period, and in a second stage after the parliamentary elections, a National government formula for at least two years. Among the immediate reforms, the repealing of the 18th amendment to the Constitution which allowed the indefinite candidature of the President in office, and gave him full control over the Police, Justice, Electoral, Bribery and Human Rights Commissions ; the return to an electoral system based on constituencies instead of the present Preference Vote system ; the revision of the current budget ; and the reestablishment of a civil administration in the former war zones.

But the components of the coalition differ on several basic issues which will come into the fore sooner or later. As regards economic policy, the UNP, which controls the key ministries in the caretaker cabinet, has a history of favouring free enterprise and foreign investments ; while the JVP and the JHU, although with different ideological/moral arguments, converge in their radical critique of global capitalism and multinationals and will put pressure on the government.

As regards the political reforms long promised by successive governments but never really implemented to give the linguistic and religious minorities better rights, especially the regional devolution envisioned by the 13th amendment to the Constitution, the position of the monks of the JHU (and of its present lay leader, Champika Ranawaka) is or was the opposite of that of the left-oriented intelligentsia (illustrated by the interview with the Indian press of the new Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera who promised to fully implement the 13th amendment)

On other issues such as the role played by the army in the reconstruction of the North East, the place of Buddhism and Buddhist monks in the polity, the activities of International NGOs in the country, opinions also differ.

The National Advisory Council just set up by the President, is going to be the forum to discuss and hopefully settle some of these issues. It comprises : Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickramasinghe, the Prime Minister, leader of the UNP, Chandrika Bandaranaike, the former President (1994-2005), Champika Ranawaka, leader of the JHU, Anura Dissanayake, leader of the JVP, General Sarath Fonseka, who led the Army against the LTTE, lost the election of 2010 against Rajapaksa and was emprisoned by him, R. Sampanthan, the leader of the TNA, Rauf Hakeem and R. Bathiuddeen, leaders of the main Muslim parties.

Rebuilding democracy after one of the bloodiest civil wars in Asia, and decades of authoritarian rule and attack on human rights is a difficult exercise which is being undertaken by the Sri Lankans themselves. The burning issue of war crimes committed during and especially in the final phase of the conflict is constantly raised by the Tamil diaspora and by Human Rights organizations abroad. The Sirisena programme does not elude the question but considers that it must and can be tackled by the Sri Lankans themselves*. The sensible but too limited proposals of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) set up by the Rajapaksa regime were never seriously implemented. Whether the Sirisena administration will be able to do it will be the third and most difficult test of democracy. European democrats should give it enough time and support to pass it, while monitoring the progress of human rights in the country and keeping a tab on undemocratic activities abroad.

* « Since Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome statute regarding international jurisdiction with regard to war crimes, ensuring justice with regard to such matters will be the business of national independent judicial mechanisms »

” Sri Lanka to probe hidden foreign assets after Rajapaksa defeat” by Shihar Aneez

(Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s new government is to investigate “black money” transferred overseas by powerful figures in the administration of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, a cabinet spokesman said on Thursday.

via: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/22/us-sri-lanka-politics-corruption-idUSKBN0KV20J20150122

“Sri Lanka Premier Wickremesinghe: ‘Huge Challenge’ Ahead” by Gordon Fairclough

n an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Wickremesinghe said one of his most urgent priorities was to depoliticize the police and “dismantle the apparatus that was built up” under Mr. Rajapaksa to stifle dissent. His government has called on journalists and intellectuals who have fled the country to return.

via: http://www.wsj.com/articles/sri-lanka-premier-wickremesinghe-huge-challenge-ahead-1422000150

“Implementing the Thirteenth Amendent: The First Step of a Long Journey” by Asanga Welikala

In other words, a ‘comprehensive devolution audit’ must be undertaken with regard to all existing law, policy, and practice, and recommendations made for amending, repealing, and replacing anything that is inconsistent with the maximum level of devolution permissible under the constitution. Needless to say, the sustained commitment of the government to implementation is crucial, and these changes are imperative to creating a conducive political environment for negotiating higher order constitutional changes in the future.

Via http://groundviews.org/…/implementing-the-thirteenth-amend…/

“Helping Sri Lanka’s New Democracy” by Ryan Goodman

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former defense secretary, oversaw the Sri Lankan armed forces’ worst atrocities during the final stages of the civil war and, as it happens, he is a naturalized American citizen. (Indeed, he used to live in Los Angeles, where he worked as a computer systems operator at Loyola Law School.)

As a citizen, Mr. Rajapaksa can be held liable under the War Crimes Act of 1996, which puts war crimes anywhere in the world under the jurisdiction of United States courts if the perpetrator, or the victim, is a United States citizen. Put another way, the United States has a perfect justification to go after Mr. Rajapaksa individually.

via: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/opinion/helping-sri-lankas-new-democracy.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1

“What Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election Means for Foreign Policy” by Frederic Grare

The international community could also play a positive role in Sri Lanka’s progress toward reconciliation. Sri Lanka’s relations with the United States and Europe were notoriously bad during the Rajapaksa regime, but the election creates the opportunity for a revision of U.S. and European policies vis-à-vis Sri Lanka.

To help control corruption and promote reconciliation, it may be time to consider relieving some of the pressures on Sri Lanka applied by the United States and Europe. Gradually unfreezing development aid and giving Sri Lanka enhanced trade benefits under the GSP+ trade agreements if Sri Lanka works toward achieving genuine reconciliation and fighting corruption could be steps in the right direction.

via: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/01/16/what-sri-lanka-s-presidential-election-means-for-foreign-policy/hzh0

“Charting a New Course: Sri Lankan Foreign Policy” by Yohan Senarath

Adopting an antagonistic approach towards the West only further strengthened their resolve and the resolve of other regional powers to tighten the noose against us. It is critical that if we are to tread delicately and get the best of what the game of international politics has in store for us, that we are at our best behavior at home.

Via http://groundviews.org/…/charting-a-new-course-sri-lankan-…/

“‘The Jewel of the East yet has its Flaws’ – The Deceptive Tranquillity surrounding Sri Lankan Independence” by Dr. H Kumarasingham

The piece below recounts a story about the early years of independence that is familiar to many Sri Lankan readers, in terms of the broad brush-strokes if not in terms of the detailed palette-work. But I hope it also serves to remind us again of a number of important, yet often ignored, matters, including the advanced state of constitutional development we were in compared to other decolonising countries, and the gentler and more sophisticated political culture that we enjoyed at the time. Yet none of these things were sufficient to prevent the descent into communal conflict and civil war, and those constitutional issues still remain to be settled. Hopefully, President Sirisena’s immediate reforms will create the political space necessary to dealing with those matters in the future. Thus it is to history that we must turn, to ensure we resurrect the good and bury the bad.

“Northern power plant’s waste oil contaminates region’s water supply” by S. Rubatheesan

When the Northern Power Plant (NPP) was set up in 2009 in the Valikamam area, nobody would have thought of having to face a serious shortage of drinking water, which made them demand an immediate closure of the station after five years.

Residents of surrounding areas took to the streets yesterday to protest opposite the plant, demanding an immediate solution, after their complaints to provincial and central government authorities went unheeded.

The Northern Power Plant operating inside the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) premises in Chunnakam, releases waste oil which seeps into the underground water springs in the region and contaminates the wells.

via: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150118/news/northern-power-plants-waste-oil-contaminates-regions-water-supply-131234.html

“In Gesture to Tamils, Sri Lanka Replaces Provincial Leader” by Dharisha Bastians

Tamil leaders have long complained that, five years after declaring victory over Tamil separatists, Sri Lanka’s government remained reluctant to demilitarize the former conflict zone, instead maintaining large detachments of army troops and vast military compounds there. Particularly irritating to them was the man chosen as the province’s governor: Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri, who had commanded army forces during the last, brutal years of the 25-year civil war that ended in 2009.

President Maithripala Sirisena said General Chandrasiri would be replaced by H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, a longtime diplomat who once served on a Truth Commission that recommended an inquiry into reports of grave human rights abuses committed during the last phase of the war. The government website that announced the change emphasized that the new governor was a “nonmilitary civil servant.”

General Chandrasiri’s removal was “one of the major requests” expressed by Tamil voters in the most recent regional elections, said Abraham Sumanthiran, a legislator with the Tamil National Alliance party.

“We are hopeful of better times,” Mr. Sumanthiran said. “We think there is hope with his appointment that things can improve.”

via: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/16/world/asia/new-sri-lankan-leader-replaces-governor-of-tamil-stronghold.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

“Il y a 10 ans… le tsunami” – expo photos – Puteaux (92) – janvier 2015

affiche expo Tsunami - 2048px


La mairie de Puteaux (92) et l’association Suravi organisent une exposition de photographies pour commémorer les 10 ans du tsunami du 26 décembre 2004.

40 photographies N&B de Jean-Michel Delage sont exposées au Palais de la Culture de la ville.

Pour en savoir plus sur le tsunami de 2004, l’exposition et le photographe, visitez la page suivante :


Du 8 au 31 janvier 2015
19/21 rue Chantecoq – 92800 Puteaux
Entrée libre.

“New Evidence on Cultural Exchange between the Roman and Indic Worlds: The Discovery oh the Second-century BCE shipwreck at Godavaya” by by Prof. Osmund Bopearachchi

We would like to share this link to a video lecture, on the ancient Godavaya shipwreck near Hambantota, by Prof. Osmund Bopearachchi (CNRS Paris), presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013.  His presentation includes extensive photos and maps that situate the Godavaya wreck in the larger context of Roman and South Indian maritime trade in the Indian Ocean.

“Anthropology, Politics, and Place in Sri Lanka: South Asian Reflections from an Island Adrift” by Jonathan Spencer


How does the idea of ‘South Asia’ play out in the politics and public culture of Sri Lanka? As an island, long connected by the trade routes of the Indian Ocean, it has always been a place of comings and goings. Yet, paradoxically, this fact seems to often generate efforts to imagine it as necessarily bounded and unattached to the adjacent subcontinent. The problems of place-making that follow from this move, it is suggested, may be a source of Sri Lanka’s success as a producer of extraordinary anthropologists—anthropologists like the late Stanley Tambiah, whose research in Thailand was self-consciously conceived as a way of understanding the peculiar dilemmas of his homeland.

via: http://samaj.revues.org/3812

REVUE SAMAJ n°10 / Ideas of South Asia / Symbolic Representations and Political Uses

SAMAJ is pleased to announce the publication of its tenth thematic issue:

South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal

Ideas of South Asia
Symbolic Representations and Political Uses

edited by Aminah Mohammad-Arif and Blandine Ripert


accessible in full at http://samaj.revues.org/3699

Introduction. Imaginations and Constructions of South Asia: An Enchanting Abstraction?
by Aminah Mohammad-Arif

‘India, that is Bharat…’: One Country, Two Names
by Catherine Clémentin-Ojha

India in the Muslim Imagination: Cartography and Landscape in 19th Century Urdu Literature
by Faisal Devji

A Strange Love of the Land: Identity, Poetry and Politics in the (Un)Making of South Asia
by Sudipta Kaviraj

Poetics and Politics of Borderland Dwelling: Baltis in Kargil
by Radhika Gupta

Impasse and Opportunity: Reframing Postcolonial Territory at the India-Bangladesh Border
by Jason Cons

Anthropology, Politics, and Place in Sri Lanka: South Asian Reflections from an Island Adrift
by Jonathan Spencer

Thinking India in South Africa: Gandhi’s Conundrum
by Claude Markovits

The Construction, Mobilization and Limits of South Asianism in North America
by Anouck Carsignol

From South Asia to Southasianism: A Nepalese Activist’s Perspective. An interview with Kanak Mani Dixit
by Blandine Ripert

Afterword. On Region and Nation
by Sanjay Subrahmanyam

Other recent publications:

Free-Standing Articles

Cosmopolitan Soirées in Eighteenth-Century North India: Reception of early Urdu poetry in Kishangarh
by Heidi Pauwels

Murder in the Andamans: A Colonial Narrative of Sodomy, Jealousy and Violence
by Manju Ludwig

Contesting Consensus. Disputing Inequality: Agonistic Subjectivities in Rural Bihar
by Indrajit Roy

Click here for all free-standing articles

Book Reviews

Judith Pettigrew, Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal’s Civil War
by Dan V. Hirslund

Tapan K. Ghosh, Bollywood Baddies: Villains, Vamps and Henchmen in Hindi Cinema
by Imke Rajamani

Thinking the Difference: On Feminism and Postcolony [review essay]
by Anne Castaing

Click here for all book reviews

Previous thematic issues:

9 | 2014
Imagining Bangladesh: Contested Narratives
edited by Benjamin Zeitlyn, Manpreet K. Janeja & José Mapril (SAMAJ-EASAS Series)

8 | 2013
Delhi’s Margins
edited by Radhika Govinda (SAMAJ-EASAS Series)

7 | 2013
The Ethics of Self-Making in Postcolonial India
edited by Uday Chandra & Atreyee Majumder

Click here for all thematic issues