The lesson illustrates, with the examples of Belgium and Sri Lanka, how power-sharing is handled by democracies and we learn how necessary it is to share power in a democracy wisely.
(i) Geographical Position: Small country in Europe, bordered by the Netherlands, France and Germany.
Fig: Map of Belgium
(ii) Area and Population: Smaller in area than the Indian state of Haryana. Population is a little over one crore, half of the state of Haryana.
(iii) Ethnic Composition: 59% live in Flemish region — speak Dutch
40% live in Wallonia region — speak French
1% speak German
(iv) Capital: Brussels-80% speak French, 20% Speak Dutch.
(v) Important Point: In Brussels, the Dutch-speaking people are in a minority which is the opposite of the rest of the country, where they are in a majority.
Fig: Cheering crowds greet British troops entering Brussels, 4 September 1944
The minority population of French-speaking people was richer than the Dutch-speaking people. The majority community was given benefits much later. This led to tension between the two communities in the 1950s and 1960s. Tension was more acute in the capital city of Brussels.
(vi) Accommodation in Belgium: Belgium constitution was amended four times, between 1970 a nd 1993, so as to assist all communities to live together within the same country, with the result that it did not suffer from a civil war, demands for autonomy or partition of the country.
(i) Geographical Position: A small island in Asia, off the southern coast of Tamil Nadu.
(ii) Population: Same as Haryana’s. About two crore people.
(iii) Ethnic Composition: 74% Sinhalese-speaking people, 18% Tamil-speaking people, 13% are natives of Sri Lanka, known as Sri Lankan Tamils.
The rest are called Tamils who are descendants of plantation workers, who came from India during the colonial period.
(iv) Religion: Most of the Sinhala-speaking people are Buddhists. Most of the Tamils are Hindus or Muslims. Christians constitute 7% of the population and they belong to both Sinhala and Tamil communities.
Majoritarianism in Sri Lanka
(i) Meaning of Majoritarianism: A belief that only the majority community should rule a country, make laws for everyone and with total disregard to the wishes and needs of the minority.
(ii) Sri Lanka became independent in 1948. It immediately adopted measures to impose Sinhala supremacy.
(a) It made Sinhalese the official language of the country (by an Act in 1956), and ignored Tamil completely.
(b) Made a preferential policy to favor Sinhala-speaking people in all government jobs and educational institutions.
(c) It promoted and protected Buddhism.
Result: The Tamils felt alienated. No respect or recognition was given to their language, culture and religion. They began to struggle for equality in jobs, entry to the university, recognition of their language and culture. Slowly the conflict changed into a demand for regional autonomy.
The Tamilians were grouped together in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Their demands were ignored, the conflict became more severe and by the 1980s, the Tamilian demand had changed.
Fig: Tamilians in Sri Lanka protesting for their demands
They wanted Tamil Eelam in the North and East. A civil war ensued, which killed thousands on both sides. The flourishing economy of Sri Lanka has disappeared and the conflict has given a blow to social, cultural and economic life of Sri Lanka.
POWER SHARING IS A MUST IN A DEMOCRACY
There are two sets of reasons which make power-sharing desirable.
(a) Prudential reasons: Power sharing is good as it reduces the possibility of conflict or strife between the different social groups. It ensures stability of government. It doesn’t allow tyranny of the majority over the minority.
(b) Moral reasons: Power sharing is the very spirit of democracy. In a democracy a government that does power sharing allows its citizens to acquire a stake in the system through participation.
Forms of Power Sharing
(a) Horizontal Distribution: This form of power sharing is among different organs of the government, that is, between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. It allows the different organs of the government placed at the same level to exercise different powers.
(b) Vertical Division: This form of power sharing is among different levels of the government. The constitution lays down the distribution of power among the different levels of the government. This is also known as federal division of power.
(c) Power Sharing among Social Groups: Under this system power is shared between different social groups such as religious and linguistic groups. Legal arrangements are made to ensure the rights of minority and weaker sections are protected.
(d) Power Sharing among Political Parties and Groups: Sometimes when no single party wins the election with a clear majority, a coalition government is formed by different parties who come together.