The aim of this article is to explore the communal violence in Sri Lanka and find out the root causes and mechanisms to solve such conflicts in the future. Communal violence is not a new phenomenon in the country. Throughout history there have been many incidents of communal violence among the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim ethnic groups. However in the post conflict era, religious violence has become very common between the Sinhala and Muslim ethnic groups. It is reported that in the past 6 years over 300 religious related incidents of violence took place elsewhere in the country such as Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Maligawatta, Aluthgama, Kooragala, Gintota, Ampara, Digana, Kandy, Puttalam etc. The above events have killed a number of people and have caused massive losses to the Sri Lankan economy. The Sri Lankan government which is responsible to protect the people regardless of ethnicity, religion, and race seems to not respond in a proper manner to curtail such violence and not implement any measures to prevent such violence. It is noted that most of the communal violence took place at the presence of Sri Lankan police and forces. It has brought some suspense to the Muslims about the law and order and has reduced their esteem in the present government. If such situations continue, the country may easily relapse into a conflict very soon.
Sri Lanka is a multi-religious country where Buddhists (71%), Hindus (13%), Muslims (9%) and Christians (7%) have lived in peace and harmony for over thousand years. However, in the post conflict era (after 2009) religious related violence between Sinhalese and Muslims has become very common. There have been a number of incidents reported in the past. The violence that took place in Kandy (Digana) is one of the recent communal clashes between the Sinhala and Muslim ethnic groups. Rioting in Kandy began in Udispattuwa and Teldeniya, later spreading to Digana, Tennekumbura and other areas. The flames of this violence was ignited when a middle-aged truck driver of Sinhala ethnicity was assaulted by four Muslim youths following a traffic accident. The truck driver died of his injuries four days later. On the 5th of March Sinhalese mobs began attacking Muslim properties in the region, resulting in widespread damage to property. The riots, the first large scale Buddhist-Muslim sectarian violence since similar riots in 2014, prompted the Government of Sri Lanka to declare a State of Emergency for a period of ten days, in addition to the police curfew already imposed on the district. Social media networks including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and Instagram were blocked in the country in an effort to prevent mobs from organizing their attacks and spreading propaganda. Currently, the communal violence in Kandy is fully under control, however there are some minor incidents that have been reported in Puttalam and Aluthgama. It is reported that 25 mosques, 65 shops and over 100 houses were looted and burnt down (partly/fully) by some Sinhala radical youths.
There are many root causes for this communal violence in Sri Lanka: Political, economic, social, cultural and religious issues. Regarding the political issue, the cabinet Spokes-person Hon. Minister Rajitha Senarathna says that there are two Parliamentarians directly involved in this communal violence, however he did not disclose their names. Some critiques say that due to the continuous communal violence in Sri Lanka many Muslims have lost their trust and hope both on SLFP and UNP and remain in a big dilemma about their political stance in the future. Regarding the economic aspects, the violence in Kandy has cost over a billion rupees to the economy. Further, travel & tourism, stock exchange market and import & export also has been badly affected in the past two weeks. Regarding the religious issues, there is a lack of understanding among the Sinhalese about Islam, such as the Halal issue, number of mosques, dress code, etc. Although some information has been provided in the past that has not reached the Sinhala community yet. There is a fear among the Sinhalese about Islam and some extremist groups, similar to how Muslims also fear the Sinhala extreme groups now a days. Such misunderstandings and mistrust should be eliminated in both communities, otherwise it may lead to further communal violence in the future.
The following mechanisms can be used to reduce communal violence in Sri Lanka:
(1) Religious leaders should play a vital role on this aspect. Religious leaders from both sides should come to one standing and discuss the issues where they have problems and sort it out amongst themselves and then disclose to the public. Frequent discussions and mutual trust is very important between the Sinhala and Muslim communities.
(2) Civil society should play an important role in organizing meetings, workshops, forums and open discussions among the academics and respective leaders.
(3) Politicians can play a vital role in this regard, although there are many political diversities among them. For a common purpose they should come to one standing and eliminate the misunderstandings and increase mutual trust and enhance the knowledge for the sake of the country and betterment of people.
(4) Finally the concept of nationalism should be promoted among the people while segregations should be minimized. Although we are Sri Lankan citizens we are not yet ready to refer to ourselves as Sri Lankans, but rather we introduce ourselves as Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils etc. Sri Lanka is our country. We all stand for unity, peace, equity, equality, liberty and democracy.
Real Siva Sankaran Sharma / March 14, 2018
Muslim is not an ethnic group but a religious group. Islam is a religion not a race or ethnicity. Only in Sri Lanka due to dirty politics to divide and rule the island’s Tamils . A religion has become an ethnicity. Sri Lankan Muslims are Tamil ( not Moor as none of their ancestors came from Morocco and very little from the Arabian Gulf) . If you want to be separate from the rest of the Tamils , this is your wish but it should be based on fact and truth and not on myths and lies. You should be called Muslim Tamils or Tamil Muslims not Moors just to suit your Arab worshipping politicians and elite. If you want reconciliation , then start it with acknowledging the truth of your own origins and not on lies and myths , that created all these problems. Sinhalese are Aryans and Sri Lankan Muslims are Arabs/Moors , when in reality there is hardly any Aryan amongst the Sinhalese and very little Arab and definitely no Moor amongst the Sri Lankan Muslims. Both people are more descended from Dravidian Tamils. indigenous or Indian. DNA also proves this. No acknowledgment of truth and still uphold lies/myths , there will be no reconciliation. The conflicts will continue based on these lies myths and imagined superiority and entitlements.
Jim softy / March 14, 2018
Those two Sinhala people killed – the driver and the assistant – they are not important at all. Muslim businesses and mosques are important. why muslims are not honest. How can there be reconciliation when people are dishonest. How do you build inter ethnic relations, when one faction is dishonest. Some one who knows very well say, it is not the regular muslims who killed those two Sinhala people.
Navin / March 14, 2018
All Sri Lankans must reject the poison that is spread from outside elements into this country, and do what is right for the country. Some Sinhala nationalists have been brainwashed into thinking this country is being taken over my 9 percent of Muslims, not very bright people, but they have been used as tools in this anti Muslims campaign, and while they do the bidding of those despicable Islamaphobes, they are destroying their own country, bringing ethic conflicts once again, and we will be looked upon like Myanmar is around the world, disliked and pariahs. They are also bringing embarrassment and disgrace to Buddhism. Think about it, what kind of people riot, attack, destroy Mosques, loot, burn, and terrorize a helpless minority, based on unfounded rumors of flour balls making men sterilized? The answer will not be very flattering for those shameful people.
The Messenger / March 14, 2018
My Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala Country or a Tamil Country or an English Country. It is not a Buddhist Country or a Hindu Country or a Muslim Country or a Christian Country. It is not a Sinhala Country that belongs to Sinhala-Buddhists, Sinhala-Hindus, Sinhala-Muslims and Sinhala-Christians. It is not a Tamil Country that belongs to Tamil-Buddhists, Tamil-Hindus, Tamil-Muslims and Tamil-Christians. It is not a Country belonging or dedicated to any one religion or ethnicity.
My Sri Lanka have had the benefit of several waves of cultural influences throughout its history and this multi-cultural pluralistic society (language, religion, ethnicity, etc.) was prevalent in my country for many centuries. Any one ethnic or religious or linguistic group becoming more in number (majority) in a particular territory or the whole country does not make them the sole owners of that territory or the whole country.
My Sri Lanka belongs to all the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and ideological groups with their historical and cultural backgrounds who have become citizens of the Sri Lankan state and who are therefore known all over the world as ‘Sri Lankans’. We Sri Lankans have no other country but Sri Lanka.
My Sri Lanka will ensure that no person residing on the territories of the state shall enjoy any more privileges than those enjoyed by any other and that the constitution of the state ensures, protects and defends this equality and prevents and punishes any and all infringements or threats of infringement thereof. My country will have equal status, equal rights and equal opportunity for all.
My Sri Lanka will ensure that no person is above the law and that waiver and release of Liability conferred on the President or any other official shall be limited only to those actions performed in official capacity and authorized by the parliament or other relevant authority which authorizing authority shall then assume such liabilities.
Miskin / March 14, 2018
Do you think the Sinhala-Buddhist Modayas who ignorantly believes that just because they are the majority, the whole country belongs only to them and do you think the Tamil separatists who believes that since they are the majority in the North and East, they are the sole owners of that region going to change? The Sinhalese believe that the whole country belongs to them and the Tamils believe that one-third of the country (two-thirds of the coast) belongs to them. The poor Muslims who do not ask or believe in anything such thing are being beaten by both Sinhalese and Tamils.
LEFTIST PROGRESSIVE MUSLIM / March 14, 2018
To be fair ,He had refused to collaborate with Ajith, he was purposely pulled into the video.
There is only one answer and that is confiscate all these goons assets , followed by 20 years rigorous imprisonment.
same with the Muslim goons
I think we must consider talking with BBS . People do have a change of heart and we must admit the first flicker was by our goons , which was the opportunity the gangs have been witting for .
Assan / March 14, 2018
It is a very good presentation. It should be implemented on practical side.The basic problem is each has not aware and familiar with their respective background of culture religion languge and history ctc. From childhood theses should be taught to children on equal manner without giving any priority to an one community We must entertain a lot of scholars and writers to write books for children and internet presentations This will be sometimes a longtime process but would have some positive results to keep peace and harmony among communities.