20 June, 2024

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Controversial Social Activists & Freedom of Expression: Hateful Words Can Be As Dangerous As Physical Violence

By W. Vishnu Gupta

W. Vishnu Gupta

Double-faced activities

It is well known that the fake people are double-faced, they will never show you who they truly are. They might appear among us as peace-loving fellow citizens who cares about our struggle against injustice and corruption while hiding their real face before us. True colours and intentions of such fake men and women get exposed during turbulent times, such as political and economic crisis currently faced by Sri Lankans. Notably, they are controversial and massive rumour mongers with no morals and no conscience, it would not upset them in the least that they are talking ill about someone, or some object dearly loved by many millions. Many provocative Youtubers falling into this category are known to discuss various social and political situations in Sri Lanka with catchy phrases. They are pseudo characters driven by huge monetary benefits under the banner of social activism and accustomed to use “YouTube” as the preferred and most profitable mode to propagate disinformation and misinformation on many issues in the realm of war, peace, politics, personal hygiene, agriculture, sports and religions etc Moreover, they appear to have focussed on presentations laced with profanity mostly based on innuendos, personal taste and very often targeting politicians, religion, and religious leaders. Sometimes, centered on hatred toward various strata of the society including diaspora in western countries and the senior citizens. For instances, they will be cynical about fellow Sri Lankans and may advised the voters not to participate in the elections or reject all the candidates by spoiling the ballot paper as it was witnessed in the presidential election held in November 2019. They may appear in the ongoing “Aragalaya” campaign as supporters but when things are not happening according to their political affiliations and beliefs fashioned by hatred, they will be the first ones to castigate Aragalaya. 

Foremost among the revulsive ideas held by these cynics in Sri Lanka are a) the senior citizens were responsible for electing the oligarchies to rule the country since 1948 b) religion especially the Buddhist clergies were responsible for ensuring the survival of deceptive and vile oligarchy leaders such as Bandaranaikes, Jayewardene, Rajapaksas and Ranil. c) all religions are infested with unvirtuous elements d) “Diyasena” and his expected arrival to cleanse the vile political regimes. This newly emerging social media phenomena are evident in the recent contentious comments made by one of the youtubers on the presence and maintaining sanctity of Dalada Maligawa. Although, in his remarks reference was made to lack of good virtues of some clergies, his message conveyed through words (fortified with profanity), distasteful tone, and body language was sufficient to infuriate the Buddhist community. Besides it is well known that there are unvirtuous or impious clerics in every religion and Buddhism is not an exception. Particularly in this case, any “eager beaver’s tirade against Buddhism and sacrilege, or profanity directed towards Sacred Tooth Relic enshrined in the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy which is venerated by many millions of local and worldwide Buddhist devotees is uncalled for. Religion has no bearing on the country’s economic and financial crisis, these suspected atheists have got it all wrong, Buddhism or the Sacred Tooth Relic of Gautama Buddha is not responsible for the economic crimes of last seven decades and related economic crisis. Contrary to these twisted stories, average citizens understand by now that fake and double-faced politicians, phony media, and the limelight hoggers such as political chauvinists are responsible for driving Sri Lankans into misery. 

The time has come for the judiciary system of the country to be fair and swift on acting on authors or architects of hate speech, perpetrators must be arrested for making statements defaming the places of worship or making mockery out of sanctified places such as Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Under the cover of freedom of expression, many Youtubers and fake social activists have been attacking religions, particularly Buddhism and sometimes Islam in Sri Lanka. These atheists seem to know very well that there is no legal definition of “hate speech” under the Sri Lankan law, just as there is no legal definition for spiteful, rudeness, unpatriotic speech, profanity, or any other malicious speech that 99.9 percent of the Sri Lankans would denounce. Strangely, the very same social activists have not come forward enthusiastically and deplore the actions of an unscrupulous man known as “Sri Bosath” involved in constructing controversial temple (a replica of Dalada Maligawa) for the Sacred Tooth Relic in Pothuhara, Kurunagala. 

The applicable laws

The rule of law must prevail, those who are driven by short-term political gains and contemplating to inflict further damage to harmonious co-existence of various religions and their followers in Sri Lanka should be reminded of “Chapter XV” of penal code on offences relating to religion. At the beginning of this chapter, Article 290 states:

Whoever destroys, damages, or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons, with the intention of  thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage, or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine, or with both.” 

Furthermore, Article 291B of the same penal code has stated emphatically that: 

“Whoever with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of persons, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both,’

Despite lack of legal definition of “hate speech” in the country, Sri Lankans especially the double-faced politicians, double-faced media outlets and the fake social activists should be aware of, that Sri Lanka is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act of 2007. Apparently, this unscrupulous lot have failed to pay attention to what the country has promised to the international community. Article 3(1) says:

 “No person shall propagate war or advocate national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence. Article 3(3) further states “A person found guilty of committing an offence under subsection (1) …. .. shall on conviction by the High court, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.” 

Whatever the excuse given by those who commit sacrilege, the legal matters should not be treated trivial. It behoves us to study and analyze future court judgements because under comparable situations, where others including politicians, clerics and civilians alleged to have committed similar crimes falling within the domain of penal code of Sri Lanka and ICCPR Act of 2007, have never been apprehended. The responsible learned lawmakers and certainly judiciary officers should not fail to ensure equality before the law as it means the law should apply to all people equally regardless of their status in society; rich or poor, young, or old, irrespective of their gender, race, culture, religion, or any other attribute.

The atheists in Sri Lanka should not be permitted to take advantage of paucity of legal definition for hate speech. No one can question their constitutional rights to peacefully exercise the freedom of religion or beliefs and freedom of expression. Late Mangala Samaraweera is well known for taking cover behind these constitutional rights when he was defending his extreme views and defiling Buddhist clergy. However, generally, hate speech is any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons based on race, religion, color, sexual identity, gender, ethnicity, or national origin. Sri Lankans irrespective of their religious affiliations or ethnicity must know that hateful words can be as dangerous as physical violence against people. Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet said, “those who burn books will in the end burn people,” in 1822, these words would have seemed silly at that time. But 100 years later Nazis Burnt Jewish Books and few years afterwards killed many millions of Jews. Likewise, Sri Lankans should not forget the burning of Jaffna Library. These are good lessons to learn from history and we should not tolerate or encourage hate speech spewed by any quarter of the society be it by the politicians, by religious bigots, or atheists under the cover of freedom of expression.   

Finally, it can be assured that followers of Gautama Buddha, the worldwide Buddhists will forgive and forget sacrileges committed by controversial men and women in no uncertain terms. However, the judiciary must not fail to act according to the rule of law in the country and international covenants to protect those affected by hate speech, blasphemy, or desecration of sacred institutions. Because the law ought to be impartial towards religion and beliefs and facilitate an extended space where, subject only to legitimate interferences for the protection of racial discrimination, and freedom of religion. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    Mr Gupta thanks for the article.
    .
    Needless to say, there is a huge gap between the adherence to the true teachings of Gautama Buddha and what is abusively practiced under Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhism.
    Gautama Buddha promoted non-violence as we learnt in Dhamma schools. However, being part of the “Sinhala Buddhism” makes Sri Lankans more violent today.- the opposite of true buddhism.
    .
    Their reactions to fellow Muslim citizens is the best example. There are powerful ministers who have incited such violence to collect pre-planned evidence to be presented at UN Human Rights Council sessions.
    Named Sarath Weerasekera – These people wear white to prove that they are true Buddhists. Channa Jayasumana is another example of young wicked men- but they are all read as powerful sinhala buddhists.

    True Buddhism, as taught by Gautama Buddha, should not allow rapid increase in violence in our country. That alone proves it is sinhala buddhist practises that should be crushed in order to shape up the future of our youth.

    What we all have seen long time ago. It is disgusting how many politicians and various fraudsters who hide behind Sri Lankan Sinhala Buddhism continue their frauds.

    tbc

  • 7
    1

    cont.
    .
    I believe Mahinda Rajapaksa is a strong Sinhala Buddhist (not a true buddhist). He has no shame in misappropriating money under the guise of a Sinhala Buddhist. There he knows that his ulterior motive is to distort the gullible and risky mindset of the poor common people..
    :
    From my understanding, Sepal did not want to promote Sinhala Buddhism and its harmful, misleading practices as established in our country in the last 15 years.

    There he broke the silence of many and helped widening their eyes. There, I don’t really respect all that Sepal or other YOUTUBERs take advantage of in the context of Sri Lanka, but I appreciate the action he is taking in this regard.

  • 2
    2

    ‘Finally, it can be assured that followers of Gautama Buddha, the worldwide Buddhists will forgive and forget sacrileges committed by controversial men and women in no uncertain terms.’
    .
    I don’t think so. Hindus are more at risk here but its still sacrilege https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-64235873

    • 2
      1

      Svendu, the modern day angoda case, Buddha was never God. He was a Prince who gave up his royal life and walked away. How would anyone who follows Buddhism will be forgiven by other Buddhists? Explain this Svendu mamma.

      • 1
        0

        TftN
        Can you please explain this question to me:
        “How would anyone who follows Buddhism will be forgiven by other Buddhists?”

  • 8
    2

    I dont dont know when Mr Gupta was born or when did he study about SL history of repeated violence in the name of race and religion? Where was he when Hindu and then Muslim mosques and even churches were burnt down by mercenary and ignorant and inebriated thugs in the name of Sinhala buddhism or patriotism. I still remember how the famous “Gane Deiyo nanada giya” story when some goons threw the statue of Ganesha into a lake, yet the same goons earlier patronised the same Hindu Kovil. In 1958 they burnt alive a Hindu priest at Panadura. How many mosques and churches were damaged and humiliated in the most repulsive manner by Ganasara and his goon?  How many Hindu places were destroyed by Buddhists clergy in the N&E and built Buddhist viharas over that? I just cannot understand who this Gupta is, is he an Indian or a Sri lankan. If he is an Indian then he will know how buddhism was destroyed by the Hindus in India  along with Islam dragging past history. Even now it is going on for political benefit by Mody goons. Rajapaksahsn did the same thing using an imaginary term “Sinhala Buddhism ”, to hoodwink the gullible, ignorant, Sinhala buddhist masses to win elections.

  • 5
    2

    Contd.
    Don’t Gupta know how they used racism and shameless violence to attack and kill innocent civilians in the name of religion to win elections? 
    Mr Gupta. you have no right to call Sepal an enemy or extremist. He is a social reformer, but I agree that his words are at times offensive. But he wanted to safeguard Buddhsim from the hands of corrupt, greedy, selfish crooks marauding under various names. They have just no regard for Buddhism. Just see what and what is happening in SL in the name of Buddhsim. Majority of Buddhist monks are capitalists, want a luxury life, Luxury vehicles, want political power, changing sides from time to time to suit their agenda, and many other things that Buddha denied. Everyday we see their evil and shameful activities in the name of Buddhsim. That is exactly what Sepal exposed and he did not go against Buddhsim. In fact he wanted to salvage Buddhsim from the corrupt “Sinhala Buddhism” , a fake entity created to cheat and exploit the gullible Sinhala people.
    Only now they want action against Sepal. How about other thugs and sponsors who used Buddhsim to cause so much destruction to SL? How about those evil mercenaries like Wimal, Jayasumana, Rathana theo, Gnanasara, Ampitiya thero from batticaloa and Sarth Weerasekara who were openly setting violence against other religions.

  • 4
    2

    Contd.

    Our country is in this plight because of these fanatics and mercenaries. Gupta where were you when Dr Shaffie was humiliated to the utmost by these goons out of racism and jealousy and to promote Gota to win election. That alone may have created so many so-called “terrorists” but Dr Shaffie forgave these evil men showing them what Buddha had preached.

    Only now they want action against Sepal. How about other thugs and sponsors who used Buddhsim to cause so much destruction to SL? How about those evil mercenaries like Wimal, Jayasumana, Rathana theo, Gnanasara, Ampitiya thero from batticaloa and Sarth Weerasekara who were openly setting violence against other religions. Our country is in this plight because of these fanatics and mercenaries. Gupta where were you when Dr Shaffie was humiliated to the utmost by these goons out of racism and jealousy and to promote Gota to win election. That alone may have created so many so-called “terrorists” but Dr Shaffie forgave these evil men showing them what Buddha had preached.

    Mr Gupta, in a country where there is “One country but so many laws”, you are very novice in this game, unique to SL and India, but not getting to the bottom of the problem. Religion is ok and rightly or wrongly millions of people believe and follow as a faith and it is up to them.

    • 5
      1

      Black Lankan;

      It looks like you have let out your anger bottled-up for so long about Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Those so called Buddhists are not real followers of Gauthama Buddha’s teaching. Some have covered-up their filthy bodies and sinful minds with yellow robes, as you have quoted well known among them are Gnanasara, Rathana and Ampitiya there are thousands of them in the country. Others such as SWRDB- Christian, Chandrika-Christian, Ranil- half Christian, JRJ-Christian, Rajapaksas- Pretentious Buddhists, Weersekera-Pretentious Buddhist, Jayasumana-pretentious Buddhist have abused Buddhism for their political survival, so do not judge Buddhism by the action of these vile men and women.
      Besides as Mr. Gupta has said, it appears that the Rule of Law has failed all of us. If the rule of law was applied as it should be we would have been much better nation and people would not have been tempted to Lord Ganesh’s statue into a lake. Gauthama Buddha didn’t ask Buddhists to commit such sacrilege. The problem lies in the corrupt politics and failed judiciary.

  • 5
    0

    Is Religion necessary for mankind, with religion all around us we fight and kill each other. but animals without religion get along well compared to mankind. Russia and Ukraine live with religion but fight with each other.

    • 5
      0

      Kanapathy Varunan, I say NO to religion but a big YES to God. We love to blame religion or something out there, but always fail to stop and look at how we behave. If you read the Bible, it teaches that you need to love your neighbour the way you love yourself. The Bible doesn’t say your neighbour has to be a Christian. Jesus forgave a prostitute and she followed him until he was crucified. He also said if one slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek to him and ask him to slap that too. It talks about greed, jealousy and many negative things. I am sure there are other Holy books which say very similar things. But we nasty humans, will twist the Holy books to our advantage and then when things backfire, we point our fingers at the Holy books.

      • 1
        0

        I am an Agnostic.

        • 0
          1

          Do you worship VP?

      • 1
        1

        TftN
        “big YES to God”
        Bigger question: Which God?

  • 3
    2

    one can argue until kingdom come if the Buddhas tooth is really his or for that matter the Siri pada is actually footprint. one can also argue if Jesus is actually this unseen gods son or Mohammed is the prophet of this same unseen God. but you dont go to the Vatican and insult the belief of the christians or go to mecca and insult the muslims. and if you do you should not complain about the consequences.

    I have watched this Sepalas Harangues on youtube and I can say they are nothing but geared towards the JVP . Typical of all the JVP ideologues. I wish there was a public flogging law in Sri Lanka to take on these fake ideologues. given the lack of such I can only wish this guy gets beat up in jail or the remand where he is.

    Also if you are a real Buddhist you would understand that these external trappings of religion are not the real religion but is designed for the masses. Infact I think the buddha himself acknowledged it.

    • 3
      0

      A1234,
      “but you dont go to the Vatican and insult the belief of the christians”
      Just for your info, you can. The Turin Shroud , said to be Christ’s funeral covering, was allowed to be analysed when its authenticity was questioned. It was dated to the 14th century. Buddhism claims to be more rational and peaceful than Christianity. So why is the relic not authenticated? Would it be bad for business?

      • 0
        2

        OC you stupid man. your god does not exist. and as for being authenticated the only thing in Buddhism that need to be authenticated is the sufferings of man and animals.

        • 3
          0

          A1234,
          Did I say I have a god? I said the Turin Shroud was fake. Why can’t you admit that a human tooth can’t be 4 inches long?
          Aren’t you the guy that flew from Dematagoda to Kadawata in 15 minutes in a tuk, and made a video of it? 🤣🤣🤣

          • 0
            1

            OC

            Either you cannot read or your powers of comprehension are Waning .

            • 2
              0

              A1234,
              So, explain what you mean. Is the relic fake or not? If Christians agree to have their relics analysed, why not Buddhists, who claim superiority? You are the one who said that Christianity can’t be insulted.

          • 2
            0

            OC
            Could not a clever dentist like Gunadasa Amarasekera have worked on the tooth?
            My dentist enlarged one of my broken teeth a little.

  • 3
    1

    So a 14567,
    First start a campaign to reform the crooks who are distorting buddhism, starting from the Buddhist monks. What is practices in Sinhala Buddhsist Land is not Buddhism at all but a materialistic, money making, luxurius life experiencing, politically motivated organisation. Thewre are many crooks in the rush who have introduced all kinds of silly rituals, mostly copied from hindusim, and exploiting the gullible. In Buddhsim is there Ganesha, Muruga, Vishnu, Kali, Luxmi, Saranwathy, Pathini, so 14567 first get rid of all those rubbish first. Also let others correct their respective non sense being practiced as religions. Buddha never said to have any form of deity worship. Then why talk of his tooth at Maligawa or his foot print at Sri Pada? Buddha was a simple man who saw the evils and sufferings of the poor, total exploitation by Hindu Brahmins and came out with his wisdom. But to see todays monks in SL, carved throne to sit on, luxury vehicles, Air conditioning, TV, Luxury food, political clout, business and 14567 what are you going to do about this. Sepala, may be his choice of word was wrong, but factually he is 100% correct. He is a reformist, pointing and exposing all the crooks and thieves and nothing else.

    • 0
      2

      Black man

      in Buddhism the only thing that exists is the suffering and the escape from suffering. all this kali Vishnu patthini is all man made nonsense. if you go to the east such as China and Japan you will see other man made things. none of which are important.

  • 3
    0

    An earlier article on Sepala’s case cited only Article 290 of the Penal Code and I commented that I didn’t see how his controversial statement was actionable under that article and added that all that Sepala was guilty of only stupidity on account of insensitivity. But Article 291B, cited in this article, does, in my opinion, make his remarks actionable. The earlier writer had not done his homework properly and it teaches me never to comment without checking with the original sources–something that I usually do.

    • 4
      0

      Leonard
      The problem here is not which article is applicable, but why it is applied differently depending on the offender.
      Gnanasara used the same word, “labba” to describe Allah.
      Another alleged arahat monk, Samantha Bhadra, described the tooth relic as “a pig’s tooth”. No action was taken against either. Are Buddhist monks above the law?

      • 3
        0

        Point taken but my concern was whether there was a law at all to cover Sepala’s case.

        On another point, I think the religion of those who are offended by words deemed insulting to their beliefs and whatever they hold sacred and require punishment of the offenders is very low, false and lacking in true spirituality.

      • 3
        0

        Old Codger and Leonard

        Mr. Gupta has said others (politicians, clerics and civilians) under similar circumstances have not been apprehended and that means the the judiciary system has failed to take actions. Particularly, the attorney general should have taken actions against Gnanasara and Samanth Badra, because under the constitution they (AG) are bound to protect the affected parties. Let’s wait and see what happens to Sepal’s case.

  • 4
    1

    a 14567,

    We are debating of SL the failed state only, ruined by racism, hatred, religions and politics. Forget about east or west and they have not failed or people are not starving or people are not sacred to sleep at home. We are a pathetic country willfully ruined by the majority. Buddhsit clergty is part of the curse. They are all businessmen. Name a single decent monk who live by what Buddha preached? These guys all the best thing on earth. I am sure they may be asking for Blue Label during dhana? To my belief religion is a curse to humanity. In India same thing is happening using Hindutva by the fanatic Modi crooks. We check our monks and poiliticians, and only then our country will ever progress.

  • 4
    1

    It is not a tooth at all. No one had such a huge tooth on earth. It is just blind belief. In fact without blind belief and stupidity no religion can survive. But Sinhala Buddhist, a unique entity, are more vulnerable than others to such non sense because they have lost the ability to think. They believe any thing. Otherwise this country would not have ended up like this.

  • 2
    0

    Thank you LM, Black Lankan, Vipuli, Kanapathy, OC, SJ, Leonard, Jayawardena, for objectively analysing the issue and presenting your views in a rational and unbiased manner.
    I cannot say the same for prisoner number A14455, who seems to think he is representing Sinhala Buddhism and making an utter monkey of himself. Such is the plight and vision of that class of people. Sadly they are in majority and that is the problem.
    Unbeknown to them, they are clueless about Buddha dharma and there lies the problem.
    Buddha didn’t say understanding the dharma was easy, one has to be fortunate enough (posses enough intelligence) to comprehend the dharma. If not every karumakkaraya will realize the truth and escape samsara without much effort.
    So those that have vingnana please be thankful, you are at a higher level of existence than people like a14455.
    We can only wish and hope that one day far into the future A14455 will also attain enough merits to be able to begin understanding the Buddha
    Dharma.

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