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20 MADURIKA RASARATNAM Furthermore, none of the BJP’s coalition partners shared its ideological project of transforming India into a Hindu state and it appears that the BJP may well have reached the limits of its expansion. In Sri Lanka, however, the claims of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism define the political mainstream, and all of the mainstream Sinhala parties have to reaffirm their commitment to the ideals of a majority Sinhala Buddhist state. Caste is also a common factor that continues to influence social and political dynamics in both India and Sri Lanka. It is difficult to discern a single organizing principle that governs the social reality of caste; occupational, religious and social distinctions have all shaped caste as a social hierarchy in Tamil, Sinhalese, and Indian societies. In India, caste has become a singularly important factor in both national and regional politics. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries non-brahmin castes mobilized in Maharastra, Madras, and Mysore against what was claimed to be brahmin or upper caste dominance in the bureaucracy and in the Congress party. During the 1920’s and 1930’s A. M. Ambedkar, a constitutional lawyer from the untouchable Mahar caste led movements to end the social and political oppression of untouchables, and also challenged Gandhi’s claim to be the sole representative of India’s Hindus. The Indian constitution implicitly recognizes caste as an important source of social disadvantage, and allows for positive discrimination in public sector institutions in favor of formerly untouchable castes. The provisions apply to tribal groups and formerly untouchable castes listed in a schedule of the Indian constitution, and therefore known as Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The constitution also makes reference to a wider category of “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens” that could be eligible for the types of benefits that were extended to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. South Indian states, including Tamil Nadu, extended reservations for this category of “other backward classes,” or OBC’s in the early 1950’s (Corbridge 2000, 127). During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, north Indian caste groups that are classified in the OBC category began mobilizing for an extension of these reservations in north Indian states and in central government institutions. Unlike south India, which had an early history of caste-based mobilization, north Indian states and the central government have resisted the implementation of these provisions. Although caste norms and values are used to define social hierarchies and groups in both Sir Lankan Tamil and Sinhala societies, caste has not become an explicit category of political mobilization. While caste often seems subsumed by ethnic mobilization, it can be characterized in Uyangoda’s terms as falling within the “inner courtyard” of both Tamil and Sinhalese politics (Uyangoda 2000). The British commission that arrived in Sri Lanka in 1928

Sagar XVII — 2007  
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