24 September, 2020

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Anti-Muslim Violence: Through The Scorched Frames

By Afrah Niwas –

An attempt to flesh out and give voice to the numbers and figures we have at hand of the recent anti-Muslim violence unleashed in the Hill Capital; through a collection of narratives and images of the affected Welekade area of Kandy district.

Flowers made of cloth that had survived the fires which consumed a house

I walked into a pocket of Muslim houses in a village in the district of Kandy with a tiny voice in my head seeking for splinters of something to hold on to as hope; amid the burnt homes and livelihoods. It seemed almost unnatural and unforgivable that I had sought so. For what I encountered, beyond the scenes of destruction, was a bitter cry far more critical and sad. It was evident we have, as a community and as a country, passed the threshold to yet another mayhem of misery and impending bloodbath – if matters are left unchecked. It felt as if a finite period of “state of emergency” had dawned among the Muslims and the other communities in this country, who wish to live in peace.

“After burning the vehicle parked in the front, they burnt the small children’s bicycle. They even broke the children’s toys…what kind of beings were they?” A resident of the affected area wondered in dismay.

“Only our clothes are different, everything else is the same….,” the first woman I spoke to from the affected area began the conversation thus. The Temple and the Mosque lay within a 100 odd meters’ distance on either side of the main road. My first instinct as we entered the area was to think like the many reports I read online, perhaps this community too had worked together to prevent the violence. However, when we had spoken to some of the residents it became clear that the attacks on this community was very much unexpected. It happened on the morning of 7th of March, almost two days after the initial attacks in the Teldeniya and Digana areas. The elderly woman I first spoke to continued to provide her own account of the attacks. She also stated that a Sinhala woman took so many of these women into her house and sheltered them during the attacks. However it was sad to see that a shadow had fallen on the state of ‘normalcy’ that these communities experienced and their relations with each other. “There were no issues between us previous to this. But nobody came to us to at least to say a word of consolation. We are yet to meet them face to face. I do not know what they will say now. But before, whenever we see each other we speak referring to one another “akka”.” , her voice trailed on with hurt and acknowledgement of the more than physical damage this violence has brought on.

A burnt car under a burnt Katu Anodha tree

A recurring image in my thoughts are the words and the sight of a small school boy whose house was completely brought down by the arson attacks. When they had heard the on-coming mobs, he said he fled the house with his elder sister and their younger brother; their mother had passed away some time ago and their father was at the hospital undergoing a major surgery at the time of the attacks. Standing on the wreckage, fighting the brimming tears while trying to be the ‘man’ of  what was now the skeleton of a house; he related using the past form “Dhatha da kalyaanatha next month wechirunthom – we had planned to have our elder sister’s wedding next month”. It took me some effort to descend those broken steps and leave him alone there; in the backdrop of his devastated house.

A partially burnt coconut tree with partially burnt king coconuts seen through a scorched frame

One of the women we spoke to said how they had to return to the partially broken house a few days after the attacks; because her ten year old daughter had started to fear that they have become refugees. She said “My daughter kept asking me, “Umma are we refugees now? Have they burnt all my books too?” She is already very frightened. I did not want her imagination to traumatize her further, so we came home after repairing the broken doors and windows with wood and cardboard.” Fortunately their house had not come under arson attacks.

After speaking to many affected people from the area, we understood this incident of violence seemed to follow a familiar pattern, one that was widely reported during the recent violence in other parts of Kandy too. Initially the mobs had come around scaring and pelting stones from the roads. When the people witnessed a large crowd of mobs coming into their area; some had fled to interior parts and some had locked their houses and waited inside. One man said, as soon as he saw the crowd, himself and his family prayed two units of prayer seeking help “We could not have withstood those people. There were just too many.” The accounts of people with regard to the numbers among the mob varied from “200”, “400” to “1000”. After the first round of attack, some men in uniform; whom the residents could not clearly identify as the “army or STF” had rushed to rescue the people from the burning or locked houses. According to different narratives they were not allowed to put out the fire or touch anything in their burning houses. Rather they were asked to immediately get on to the “lorry/jeep/defender” to be taken to safety

Windows/doors of a completely destroyed house and the views through the scorched frames.

A mother recalled with tears. “We left like orphans, my daughter’s three month old baby, just with the piece of cloth on her, we ran. They took us to protection, to our relative’s places in interior areas.” She went on to say that those men in uniform protected her and her young daughters from harm but their properties, vehicles and so on were burnt or destroyed. She wondered when and how that happened, since the STF/army were already present. Most of them could not identify or differentiate who were the forces that was deployed to protect them. It appears that they simply trusted these men in uniforms to be a source of protection from the mobs. However, when the residents had returned, they were met with destruction and loss of houses and properties.

Descending a ruined flight of stairs

One woman who had also fled the scene narrated that “We did not even have a moment to lock the doors. They said “api balagannang, api balagannang – we will take care, we will take care”. But when we came back; we don’t know what they took care of.” I wonder if my translation of her statement does justice to what she exuded in speech; she did not say this in anger or rage, she sounded sad. Profoundly, sad. For I saw, many of them heaved a sigh of relief and were grateful to the ‘men in uniforms’ for saving them from bodily harm or loss of lives but they expressed a deep sense of betrayal and loss.

A woman we spoke to related that a mother and her one and half year old baby were rescued from their burning house by a Sinhalese woman in the neighbourhood. Apparently the neighbour woman, with the baby in her arms had fallen on the ground begging the mobs, not to attack this house and that they are “hondha minissu – good people”. What was left of the house told us those cries had gone unheard. Like what we learn from history, flames that went up in this incident consumed so much. However, contrary to how some media depict this as a clash between two different religious communities; by nature and execution in plain sight it was a wave of violence unleashed upon unarmed civilians by mobs with the seeming blessings of the powers that be.

It was painful to see what they had lost in their hearts and minds were more than what they had lost in material. The frames through which these people viewed their lives were burnt most brutally and, yes, systematically. This could be a shared feeling in other Muslim communities across the Island too, for whom once again, recent history has repeated itself. But this is also the scorching of the frames for many Sri Lankans for whom this land and peaceful life in it are priceless. What I can infer from all this is that this recent violence is yet another devastating reminder of what and how we are performing as a country. The demons that haunt our “post-independence” and “post-war” lives have come out in blatant day light. In the midst of rebuilding houses made of bricks, cement, wood and more – would we be able to rebuild the ‘homes’ and make this Island a home again to many of its citizens; who have lost that sense, not merely in this recent March 2018 anti-Muslim violence but way before due to many different forms of violence and marginalization?  Most of the women we spoke to prayed that “Something like this should never happen, not to anyone. Never.” But are we a community, communities and a country, ready to entertain just such prayers and hopes?   

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein

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Latest comments

  • 10
    28

    Afrah Niwas: You have explaned one important pooint here. Muslims are invading . Muslims build mosques near the temples. YOu say here 100 meters. tht has happened every where in Sri lanka. This is not the only place. In every key city they build mosques neaer temples. I heard they have done it in India where buddha was born. Talk to the people in Javaththa where you are and they know the truth.

    • 20
      8

      Jimjim
      You and your Budda Terrorists live by looting others, specially Muslims wealth . Don’t you know your Budha is Cursing you and your Terrorists.. The Budhas temple have become Saiva Kovils in TamilNadu .. Budhism has been eradicated from India because of these type of Barbarian violence against others in India after Siddarththa died ..
      The world has declared that ‘ BUDDHA TERROR’ has started to spread from Myanmar – BUDDHA TERROR STATE, proving to the world how Buddha’s followers became barbarians whose only way of living are raping, killing and looting..
      Nowadays , when people are seeing so called Amaduru with kaavi redhda , start to panic and try to go away from them..

      • 6
        4

        Mahabaratha was a very rich country. It is Atrab moguls who looted the country and built so big mosques in Ottoman empire.

      • 2
        2

        Ceylonee,

        “Budhism has been eradicated from India”

        Because Buddha told not to worship ‘Linga’. Hindus enjoy worshiping ‘Linga’.

      • 2
        1

        Ceylonee,

        What the hell you Muslims are doing in Sri Lanka? Sinhalese have never asked you to come to their country.
        Before Muslims came to India, Indian subcontinent was the “First world”, the most civilized, most prosperous, everyone respected every one , etc, and at the same time Europe was the “hell hole” of the world.

        Cristian counties have Crusaders to save their counties from Muslim mongrels, Buddhist don’t have such equivalent, so, that’s why BBS, Mahason balakaya, 969, etc have been formed to tackle Muslim extremism.

        Ceylonee, why do you think that you are superior to the A1la, anyway this is all his wish.

    • 12
      4

      Jim softy,

      Muslim Mosques, Buddhist temples, Churches and Tamil temples being side by side would mean peaceful co-existence among the masses to anyone with some moderate, peace-loving and thoughtful brain. If it is seen as an invading, it indicates some serious weaknesses in those who are working hard to push Sri Lanka into top 10 worst countries list knowing or unknowing, maybe.

      • 13
        5

        Jimso..
        Go and see Colombo 7 – Cinamon garden, near lipton circle, there are Moskue and Church built in one land side by side .. There is a huge budhist pansala built where Muslims and Indu Tamils make a majority of around 80 thousands while only some 30 to 50 Budhists live that is in Ampara district. This prove how other community is tolerant and peace loving and compromising towards SIN KELE BUDHISTS.

        Even after so many Terror attacks on Muslims by Budha kaavi Terrorists , Not even single stone was thrown to this Budha vikara and other places too. THIS IS WHAT ISLAM TEACHES so that Muslims are obeying in an respectful and just towards others.

        Jimsoty , If some one say a Muslim man attacked you near your home and then you with some guys, went to attacker’s friend house, some 15 miles away, starting attack his friends , looting his friend’s house, setting fire to his house , raping his wife and daughters, saying ‘ Your friend attacked me so that I am attacking all of you as you are his friend” .. If you did , then , This is called RACIST TERRORISM which the Sin Kele Buddha Terrorists are doing in Sri Lanka.

        • 6
          2

          If peace is what Islam teaches as you say, how come Muslims invaded, plundered, raped and murdered North Africa, Southern Europe and most of Asia.

          Islam has NEVRER been a peaceful religion. 95% of its history is bloodshed. Its a middle eastern tribal religion imposed on people out side the Middle East. These people were converted by the sword.

          Come on man get real, you are living in a fantasy world about Islamic history and Islam being a peaceful religion.

          PS
          Just to help you.
          Q1.Who built the Bamiyan Buddhas?. Buddhists did 1500 years ago.
          Q2.Who destroyed them? The Muslims did in 2001 !!!

      • 6
        4

        Muslims start with loud speaker praying very early in the morning. It goes five times a day near a buddhist temple and many buddhist tmepks that are very important to buddhists. that is happening in India too. Unlike HIndus, buddhists are silent and not violent. In Indian Muslims had taken over some hindu temples that muslims were allowed to pray. buddhists may mean peaceful co-existence but not by muslims. why there is so much coflicts among muslims versus muslims nd muslims vs christians or hindus. I heard, Kahatagasdigiliya where there is not many muslims, they have built a mosque and lous dpeaker praying goes on. So, if people take that out, you people will not like it. there are many mosques like that in Sri lanka.

        • 0
          0

          This what is said in the loudspeaker ( It is calling for Prayer not calling for war)
          Here is some lines of Azaan—( call for Prayer)
          Hayya ‘Alas Salat
          (Come towards the prayers)
          Hayya ‘Alas Salat
          (Come towards the prayers)
          Hayya ‘Alal Falah
          (Come towards the success)

      • 8
        4

        Fathima,

        Shall we put up a Buddhist, Hindu or Christian temple in Mecca, Medina or Jedda.?

        What is happening is a slow take over of Sri Lanka by the Muslims. Its their long term strategy. The muslim population of Sri Lanka has almost doubled over the last 30 years. Almost 100% of the trade in the country especially in Colombo, Kandy and Kandy environs are in Muslim hands. They have put Sinhalese (and Tamil) trader out of business, make money out of the Sinhalese and then try to destroy the Sinhalese.

        And these are the descendants of the Muslims to whom our stupid Sinhalese Buddhist kings showed compassion when the Portuguese Catholics were persecuting the Muslims in the 1500s and gave them refuge in Kandy and the Eastern province.

        Fathima in case you did nt know Portuguese Catholics persecuted the Muslims in Sri Lanka because Muslims had invaded Spain and Portugal (via North Africa) and massacred the Christians.

        The thanks we get for our compassion is to slowly exploit and destroy us.

        PS in India Muslim invaders massacred Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Thousands of Buddhist monks were beheaded at Nalanda. What a mess Muslims have made just about every where they invaded.

      • 2
        0

        Pathima,
        So many temples are in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Raad Husain’s Jordan, etc???????

        Muslims should have the same rights and privileges that Sinhalese are having in Muslim counties such as Saudi Arabia, Raad Husain’s Jordan, etc.

    • 13
      2

      Stupid justification for the violence against Muslims, the attacking of homes, mosques, burning of businesses, looting, and terrorizing innocent people. A VIOLENT reaction from violent Buddhists who should have known better than to believe false rumors, and turn a road rage incident into a racial attack. To go against the teachings of the Lord Buddha, and attack people who have done NOTHING to deserve it, is the worst. We have seen the same ugly behavior throughout the country’s history, and it seems these mobsters have time on their hands, and no brains.

    • 12
      2

      In Buddhism -every action has a cause and consequence. This is Called Karma. Hence Buddhists can rationalize the violence as ” Muslims started it ” . Muslim cant’ because they believe that everything has been decreed and is controlled by Allah Most Merciful and Compassionate one.

    • 2
      1

      What is wrong in building a mosque near a temple? Aren’t they both places of religious worship. Aren’t there mosques and churches adjoining in other countries? If they are places of worship surely there is nothing wrong in that. President Premadasa built churches, temples and mosques adjoining in Hambantota.
      We are a country destined for destruction. The destruction will be brought about by hatred among ethnic and religious communities. Love begets love and hatred begets hatred. So as Jesus said if we want peace we must love our enemies and do good to them that hate us. On the other hand those who take to the sword will perish with the sword. Sri Lankans never seem to learn. so they will live through unceasing hatred among the communities which will destroy all. Those who take the sword will sooner or later disappear from history. Raja Senanayake Retd CCS

      • 2
        0

        Raja S
        Good question. Suggest you put it to Saudi Arabia first.
        Percy
        Retired hurt.

    • 0
      0

      Buddha’s message was to observe pansil. A majority of Muslims do that so a mosque or similar religious place of worship near another is ideal. However to a dumb fool like you who falsly claim to protect Buddhism this will not make sense. After all you’re definitely not observing pansil nor any other buddist principle and you are scared that your nakedness be boren. However you have done a good job here making a fool of your self on a daily basis. 2500 years of Buddism has survived in this land whilst preserving its values. It surely does not need a bunch of coward rowdies like you who will be the first to run when a true need arises.

    • 0
      0

      Hi JIm.. i see that you have a serious social disorder pls contact veterinary doc.

  • 7
    0

    Like one said, Buddha is noble and his way of teaching is good. DOnt take him as God. When he is statue form he is God, When the statue is broken it is not God is broken, but statue is broken.

  • 5
    7

    I read something good. Non muslims, when you are in muslim majority country obey them and fo what they say. When muslims are in non-muslims country, listen to muslims and let them do what they want. So, it is OK to kill sinhala people and forget it as any revenge is not liked by muslims. Your Holy war is form of revenge.

    • 2
      1

      BBC News released new video Burma miyammar hot news

    • 2
      1

      @Jim Softy, You need to understand that we have criminal justice system. Irrespective of Race or religions, Be it Muslims , Tamils, Sinhalese, Christians etc, They should face the full weight of the justice system. The problem with our country is that we see everything via racial lens. If a single Muslim has a flight with Sinhalese person, this is taken as the whole of Muslim population verses Sinhalese which is very shallow interpretation. Why not arrest the perpetrators and prosecute him in the courts, convict him , hang him or hand him a life sentence.

      If the every citizen becomes a judge and takes the law into his or her hands, why do we need a justice system?

      • 3
        1

        Nahfees,
        How come Muslim Imams are allowed to commit utter barbaric, meaningless criminal offense of circumcision/FGM of infants???? Muslim Imams are criminals and Muslim parents are very bad parents for allowing their infants to be circumcised. And FOUR wives, how many of you keep four wives?????

        When a Muslim commits a crime Muslim politicians, Muslim lawyers, Muslim judges, Muslim organizations, etc come to the rescue of Muslim criminal. That’s what happened in Kandy, Ampara, Aluthgama, Ginthota, etc.

        Sri Lanka has enough law to deal with any situation. So, Sri Lanka does not need barbaric, out dated Shariya laws.

  • 5
    3

    Faiszer Musthapha is in the team gone to Geneva to defend the government against accused Genocide crimes and murder of 150,000 Tamils in five months. Basically in all representation of the government to Geneva, Muslims are included. Privately, with Faiszer Musthapha, Rear Admirable Weerasekara also went there. Faiszer Musthapha claim Muslims are not asking separate country. But He did not deny they were asking separate unit. He is the one now creating separate units in Sammanthurai, Kalmunai……

    While Muslims Ministers are defending the government fully in Geneva, there is accusation that there are Muslims Ministers sending secret information to UN on the Kandy Riots. So the report says now Sinhala spies are watching some Muslims minters, but not any pacific names.
    The other day Sri Lankan Muslims living in New York area staged a protest in front of UN while Faiszer Musthapha is in Geneva. Yesterday European Sri Lankan Muslims staged a protest in front of UN.

    While inside, Faiszer Musthapha is working against Tamils, EU Muslims protesting for them in front of Geneva meeting is conflicting their ethics. The Muslims political leaders and Jamiyyathul Ulama guided Colombo Muslims to protest against UN on wrong things. Now Muslims are finding proper reason to protest against UN.

    The writer is also showing double face like Jahan PhD. There are ordinary Sinhala citizens. They won’t go to violence or even will attempt to protect victims. But some politicians and monks have shown interest in subdue the riots only to save them from UN or to earn name. This is extremely well demonstrated when the Old Royals pretended like they were saving Muslims by controlling the riot, according to them the government missed.
    The lesson for Muslims folk is here, your protection is something you have seeks by understanding internal and external politics. Ravindra clearly said Muslims are good spies and if so Muslims will be kept only there by the government. That is reason now Faiszer Musthapha is in UN.

  • 12
    1

    All commenters have missed the most significant point that Afrah Niwas makes. We have all lost; and building a more just country and society would take the collective effort of many of us committed to all the people of this country. I am highlighting the section that brought home to me very forcefully the idea of a a holistic solution. What she has written is an appeal and so non judgemental. If people ignored Jim Softy and focussed on what this author has so poignantly pointed out, we might even be able to begin the process of understanding where the problem lies. It lies amidst us as much as it lies outside in an external cause.
    ” The frames through which these people viewed their lives were burnt most brutally and, yes, systematically. This could be a shared feeling in other Muslim communities across the Island too, for whom once again, recent history has repeated itself. But this is also the scorching of the frames for many Sri Lankans for whom this land and peaceful life in it are priceless. What I can infer from all this is that this recent violence is yet another devastating reminder of what and how we are performing as a country. The demons that haunt our “post-independence” and “post-war” lives have come out in blatant day light. In the midst of rebuilding houses made of bricks, cement, wood and more – would we be able to rebuild the ‘homes’ and make this Island a home again to many of its citizens; who have lost that sense, not merely in this recent March 2018 anti-Muslim violence but way before due to many different forms of violence and marginalization? Most of the women we spoke to prayed that “Something like this should never happen, not to anyone. Never.” But are we a community, communities and a country, ready to entertain just such prayers and hopes? “

    • 0
      0

      SUMATHY: violence was by sinhala buddhist people and you talk about Marginalization and different forms of violence. Can you explain it. did sinhala women go through violence by muslim men ?

  • 1
    1

    Shameful policy of anti -Muslim ratios advocated by MS-President , RW-of Primer and CBK of champion of reconciliation regime has released ratios against own citizens of nation by 2018 March 05th.
    That is Not a-” good governances and rule of law” by UNP regime of Ranil Wicks has been promised last 39 moths in power ……since 2015 January. Ours democracy are for not that depend on politics of religion and racism basis unlike Tamil Nadu nationalism of Indians.
    Needless to say Our democracy norms and values are beyond that!
    Meanwhile MS as a President and lady of CBK of that champion of “reconciliation advocated” by “rainbow revolution” in 2015 January 9 has been betray by “good governance” which is/was praises and support by USA, UK and Indian democracies in West & Indians ?

    Such governments of UNP ruling parties must leave the power by gracefully; by the shake of ‘democracy’.
    By given an open space and room for conducted new invesgition of Muslim ratios by coming government in near future ?
    The current UNP of RW +MS+CBK of SLFP regime has undermined moral and ethics of obligation of Democracy rule and its democracy governances has failure avoided by allowing and permitted
    anti-Muslim ratios in our soil certain parts of Island…2018 March in Sri lanka?
    This historical tragedy of demand by needed seriously address and recficity by future MR leadership democratic alliance will be power sooner than later.

  • 7
    1

    Thank you Sumathy for your inspiring and thoughtful comments.!
    My worry is that, who is going to listen to you or other wise people in this kind of country and citizentry we live in today ?
Gone are the days when people had some sense of belonging to the nation. Now that everything has been systematically destroyed by people with racial jealousy and indifference and a majority complex of the fake mahawansa mentality …
The nation is just going down the drain day by day and the final days are just there..waiting to happen.
Learn how to destroy a nation from Lankan politicians and the people of Lanka….they are just doing it in style no one can believe in this 21st century….
Is it all our karma or fate ? no it’s the stupidity of the politicians who invented all these religious bias and language bias based primitive ideas to get into power by manipulating the Sinhala masses . and subjucate minorities of all kind. This is the problem of superiority complex.
The Buddhist Sagha plays a big part here which is used by all the political play masters to suit their own agendas at the cost of poor minorities-Tamils and Muslims.
Numbers speak..yes..minorities are voiceless and their leaders are just greedy for power using them to better their lives. Hakim, Rishard, and every one of them…these guys are famous for that of course..
Even some Tamil leaders seems doing it now, after the demise of LTTE…it’s all bad fate of the people.
Sinhala Buddhism is the big drag for any prosperity in our country..
and Sinhala only…stupid stiff of SWRD idiot.
and standardization mockery of the worst discrimination…of the bright and promising Tamils students..
and the worst one is the Swabhasha education…Sinhala language education and Tamil language education
without English up to whatever higher grade..They find it difficult to change the medium of instruction..

  • 3
    5

    Government is very quick to give compensation for the Muslim victims of recent riots but lethargic in giving compensation for the victims of Uma Oya and Salawa disasters.

  • 1
    0

    A very good option would be, to make it mandatory that all Sri Lankans to study all four major religions and obtain a mandatory pass at the GCE O/L exam where Religion (All four religions) is a compulsory subject.

  • 1
    0

    I wonder whether reverting to English as the medium of education in schools will help to foster inter-communal peace. Our traditional literature in the national languages- Sinhala and Tamil glorify the conquests of the two communities and hardly promote peace. Maybe we need to teach Sinhala and Tamil literature only at the post graduate stage and confine school education to modern knowledge excluding Sinhala and Tamil literature with their tales of glory in wars and conquests over each other. Let us teach only modern Sinhalese and Tamil and exclude literature .It is a pity there is no common religion binding the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Raja Senanayake

  • 1
    1

    I dont see buddhism is a problem but the backward Sinhala buddhism. Sinhala Buddhism proudly allow its followers to loot, rape and destroy non Sinhala Buddhists properties. The real Sinhala Buddhist are lazy and jealousy over others development and progress. Forunately they are only confined to this small island, otherwise it would be a real danger to the civilized world.

  • 0
    0

    Huge protest againstSinKele Buddha Terror in Geniva..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=48&v=UBkfMZe9bj8

  • 0
    0

    as the election commissioner said- most singhaleese approve the mob violence. same in 1983.

  • 0
    0

    Spme of the comments – need a little sprucing up in the command of the English language.

  • 0
    0

    C
    This what is said in the loudspeaker in the mosque ( It is calling for Prayer not calling for war)
    Here is some lines of Azaan—( call for Prayer)
    Hayya ‘Alas Salat
    (Come towards the prayers)
    Hayya ‘Alas Salat
    (Come towards the prayers)
    Hayya ‘Alal Falah
    (Come towards the success)

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