This research paper explores three incidents of Anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka: Puttalam in 1976, Galle in 1982 and Mawanella in 2001. This paper intends to cast light on anti-Muslim violence over the past three to four decades outside of the north and east, episodes that have been masked, lost or suppressed in the commonly narrated recent histories of political and religious violence in Sri Lanka.
The history of violence against Muslims during this period is overshadowed by the armed conflict and extreme polarization precipitated by Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms. The incidents recorded are often limited to those in the north and east. It is necessary that the post-war resurgence in anti-Muslim hostility is historicized and placed within the wider sweep of anti-Muslim hostility within Sri Lanka over the past few decades. The distinct experience of political and ethnic violence experienced by the Muslims in the context of Sinhala-Muslim tensions requires greater empirical attention and theorizing than it is has received.
This paper is posited as a step towards addressing this lacuna. This research is also motivated by the possibility that a deeper understanding of the temporal, spatial, political economic and social dynamics of anti-Muslim violence can illuminate the broader conditions that generate and reproduce communal violence more generally.
“Sri Lanka’s former strongman leader on Tuesday blamed unnamed conspirators for carrying out anti-Muslim attacks during his tenure as he tries to woo estranged minority communities in his comeback bid in next month’s parliamentary elections.”
Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne has called on the Abbott government to deny an extremist alleged to have masterminded anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka entry to Australia.
Gnanasara Thero, who has been instrumental in inciting hatred against religious minorities in Sri Lanka and who is the General Secretary of the extremist Bodu Bala Sena sect, has applied for a visa and intends to tour Australia. Gnanasara Thero has reportedly been denied entry to the UK, France and the US.
On the 15th of June 2014 ethnic riots took place in Aluthgama following a rally organized by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist fundamentalist organization. Even though the police and state officials had been informed of the potential of the rally to turn violent, no steps were taken to stop the same, instead a large number of police and Special Task Forces (STF) personnel were deployed in the area. In the aftermath of the violence that shocked the country, a women’s team visited Aluthgama and met with several survivors with the objective of documenting the events that took place. Below is their report. Considering the safety of the survivors their names, location and other identities are not recorded.
“Fifthly, it is necessary not to underestimate the power of the State. It is a State that has tremendous military might; a State which is powerful enough to effectively suppress any movement if it really wants to. And it has every power to do so; legally, constitutionally, militarily, judicially or in any other imaginable way. The fact that it’s not happening tells us precisely what the BBS is all about.”
In two days of rioting and looting four people have been killed, including a Tamil security guard, and 80 others injured, the majority being from the Muslim community. Over 60 homes and businesses were set on fire in the two days while several mosques were also damaged.
Despite the deployment of Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force the police were unable to control the mobs who numbered in the thousands according to eyewitness reports. Eventually the military was called in to restore order.
The towns, which were once tourist attractions, are now under the blanket of a military curfew with many Muslim residents fearing to return to their homes. Sinhala Buddhist families in the area have taken to marking their homes with the Buddhist flag in an attempt to ensure they are not caught up in the attacks.
A needed and insightful article in Colombo Telegraph on the recent nationalist violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka by Nimanthi Perera-Rajasingham : “At the present moment, large sections of elite and popular society in Sri Lanka refuse discussions of the truth, and so the past will, I believe, repeat itself.”
“A curfew was clamped down in the Aluthgama and Beruwela Police divisions of Kalutara district in the Western Province of Sri Lanka following an outbreak of communal violence on Sunday June 15th 2014 that was triggered off by the “Ethno Religious Fascist” Organization the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS).”
Sickening. The BBS and supporters (including those at Maharagama) accused Muslims of creating “divisions” among Sri Lankan people through labeling of Halal foods (after “peace” had been restored to the country in 2009). Tell me again who is creating divisions?
Residents of the riot-hit areas said Muslims were leaving their homes and seeking shelter in community centres as fears of more violence lurked.
There were no reports of arrests.
The latest unrest came just weeks after Muslim legislators asked Rajapaksa to protect their minority community from “Buddhist extremist elements” blamed for a recent spate of hate attacks.
Muslim families gathered at the Dhargatown Marikkar Street Mosque and several other mosques in the area, as homes came under attack by violent mobs, who continued to move about despite the curfew in force.
Shops came under attack in the Beruwala area at 9 PM, in spite of the police curfew, according to sources in the area. Crowds of people were on the March again in Aluthgama by 9 p.m., with police warning Muslim residents to stay indoors. Fixed line telephones in several areas of Aluthgama also went dead late last night.
“For the violence, for the deaths which have happened and which may happen, the BBS and the Rajapaksas must take responsibility. This is their work. This is their unpardonable crime.
We elected them; we tolerate them. That is our eternal shame.”
In some of the worst religious violence in Sri Lanka in decades, three people have been killed and 78 injured in riots between Buddhists and Muslims in this southwestern coastal town after months of rising tensions, officials said Monday.