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Short essay on Sri Lankan fight to gain independence


The Ceylon National Congress (CNC) was founded in order to attain greater autonomy, although the party was soon split along ethnic and caste lines. The CNC did not seek independence. What may be called the independence movement broke into two streams: the “constitutionalists”, who sought independence by gradual modification of the status of Ceylon; and the more radical groups associated with the Colombo Youth League, the Labour movement and the Jaffna Youth Congress. These organizations were the first to raise the cry in favour of outright independence following the Indian example. The efforts of the constitutionalists led to the arrival of the Donoughmore Commission reforms in 1931 and the Soulbury Commission recommendations, which essentially upheld the 1944 draft constitution of the Board of ministers headed by D. S. Senanayake.


The Marxist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which grew out of the Youth Leagues in 1935, made the demand for outright independence a cornerstone of their policy. They also demanded the replacement of English as the official language by Sinhala and Tamil. The Marxist groups were a tiny minority and yet their movement was viewed with great interest by the British administration. British state papers released in the 1950s show that the Marxist movement had a very negative impact on the policy makers at the Colonial office.


The Soulbury Commission was the most important result of the agitation for constitutional reform in the 1930s. The close collaboration of the D. S. Senanayake government with the war-time British administration led to the support of Lord Louis Mountbatten. Ceylon was eventually granted independence on February 4, 1948 as the Dominion of Ceylon. The dominion status remained till May 22, 1972, post Ceylon attained the republic status and came into being as the Republic of Sri Lanka.





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