Theme: “Survival and protest amidst the ongoing crises in Sri Lanka”

The socio-economic and political crises that led to a powerful protest movement by the masses of Sri Lanka in the year 2022 remains unresolved. The present regime tries to handle these crises in a superficial manner without bringing about far-reaching changes in the economic and political systems that are responsible for the crises. It seems to be more interested in saving its political future rather than the welfare of the people. The people of the country, including the people in the north, are pushed into resorting to various survival strategies to cope with the miseries created by the crisis. In the meantime, the people’s resistance to the regime and its policies, although fragmented, dispersed and sometimes muted, continues to be alive in various forms.

The measures taken by the present regime under the pretext of addressing the crisis have worsened the socio-economic conditions of the people, especially those who are poor and marginalized and those who form the working classes. The austerity programs implemented by the state at the behest of the IMF and other financial organizations have already resulted in the pauperization of a significant segment of Sri Lanka’s polity. The domestic debt re-structuring measures introduced recently seek to deplete the hard-earned savings of the people kept in the EPF account. It is feared that the recently introduced Aswesuma plan will deprive the poorer segments of society of access to welfare opportunities by the state. In the political sphere, the state encourages or remains indifferent to majoritarian chauvinism as its strategy of deflecting the people’s attention away from their pressing economic needs and concerns. It also attempts to push through draconian legal reforms that aim to close off the democratic avenues available for the people to channel their protest and resistance.

In such a crisis-ridden, repressive context characterized by austerity, dispossession and widening inequalities, survival and resistance have taken different forms. This conference asks: Who is able to survive this crisis and who is not? What forms of survival have emerged during this crisis? Is increased out-migration a survival strategy on the part of the people? If so, who is able to migrate out of Sri Lanka? Who has the right to protest today? Is protesting possible in a context of increasing political repression? Whose protests get the attention of the government? What futures await the economically marginalized segments of our society, working classes, communities that have faced historical caste-based oppression, and those who belong to ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities? How do we understand the ongoing crisis and imagine alternative futures based on the experiences of the communities on the margins and peripheries of our society, their survival strategies and their everyday resistance?


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