Lenin’s Sealed Train: Sri Lanka edition

It’s always fascinating to think about when and why governments support armed actors or political movements that later turn against them in violent fashion (and of course when these groups instead remain controlled or play ball).

We see this kind of “blowback” in the Indian Punjab in the 1980s, the radicalization of Pakistani militant groups that had been fostered by the state, and in the clashes between the MQM and its various former/future political sponsors in Karachi over time. More indirectly but very dramatically, the German Imperial High Command’s decision to send Lenin back to Russia worked nicely in the very short term, but in the long run didn’t do a whole lot for Germany’s strategic position in Europe.

I hadn’t realized that the United National Party did this in 1977 Sri Lanka with those who had been involved in the 1971 JVP revolt. According to Wickremasinghe 2014 (p. 250), “in 1977 the UNP returned to power and the prisoners of 1971 [many of whom had previously been given life sentences] were given an unconditional pardon and released. This was not a purely altruistic gesture on the part of J.R. Jayewardene but a decision based on the analysis that a reconstituted [ultra-Left] JVP would undermine the [leftist-ish] SLFP.”

JR and the UNP would be in the gun sights of the JVP within a decade.


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