By Avanthi Kalansooriya –
Once again it was the same feeling that went through my mind, which has been ever present in my mad young age thoughts that I want to restructure this world, smash it into pieces and reconstruct it according to my wishes rather according to human feelings. I am quite aware of the fact that I have to get out of these utopian thoughts which would only make me feel miserable. Nevertheless there is push factor that propels me to move to the battlefield of discussing about peace.
This time, it was Parzania (Heaven and Hell on Earth), the movie by Rahul Dholakia that discusses on the disappearance of a Parsi boy Parzania during the communal riots in Gujarat 2002. The movie was screened in International Centre for Ethnic Studies with an anecdote to 1983 riots in Sri Lanka that occurred in a similar vein of brutality, inhumanness and agony. It was Minna Thaheer, a senior researcher from ICES narrated her own experiences with 1983 riots and how her house at Borella was burnt by the marauders who came in search for Tamils. She talked about her insecurities she, herself as a Tamil speaking Muslim lady had to face as a member belonged to an ethnic minority in Sri Lanka where she sometimes had to give up speaking in Tamil for self-protection.
We, as a nation has stepped into a post-Parzania stage where mothers still weep for their lost and disappeared kids and fathers wander in streets with the hope of seeing their kids again. What is more important to understand at this point is that we all have suffered enough and it is high time to reach out of this stage. As Mr. Seelan Kadiragamar highlighted what is prominent in our society is “state of denial.” All ethnicities deny that they have committed grave mistakes in the past. They are very keen on accusing each other and wiping the dirt from the hands. However, it is high time that we share the blunders of the past and think of a way forward.
I was also stricken by one dialogue that Minna recalled from her Grandmother. She said that when the evil groups approached their house, her Grandmother started screaming “apiva marannepa api marakkalayo” (Don’t kill us, we are Muslims). However, I am quite unhappy with the terminology that has been used so far in Sri Lanka to describe the ethnic minorities. At present the commonly used term to call Muslims is “hambaya” (no hard feelings) and it is clear that nothing has changed within 30 years period; it has only been a replacement of the term from Marakkalaya to Hambaya which is used in a very offending and derogatory manner in the emails, facebook pages and images. In fact we still have not reached out from the process of “othering” where we fatally fail to accept minorities as human beings.
Meanwhile, as human beings we have determined certain criteria under which we qualify to be human beings. Yet, what is apparent is that when it comes to matters of race, religion and language, human beings tend to forget such borders of morality. Several times, I have noted that Sinhalese devotees pray in front of Hindu Gods and Goddesses such as Ganesh, Luxmi, Saraswathie pleading for blessings for education, wealth and aesthetics respectively. However, at times due to racial prejudices they forget that it is unethical to take up arms against their own brethren whose God has been their God too. As realists have been pointed out human beings are inherently selfish. They want the Hindu Gods and Goddesses but not the people who believe in that faith.
Hence, it is high time that we choose between hell and heaven to test our moralities.
*Avanthi Kalansooriya – An Intern at International Centre for Ethnic Studies – Graduate of International Relations, University of Colombo