By Sujata Gamage –
You hear about goon squads but nothing like facing them for yourself. It is a surreal feeling. This is your country. You pay your taxes and you try to do the right thing, and then some guys waving sticks at you ask where you are going, while the police are watching. You tell them it is none of their business, which is the case. That prompts them to threaten you and shout filth at you, in your city.
This happened today on the way to Hultfsdorf. There was an open invitation to attend a meeting protesting the impeachment of the Chief Justice. I thought about hard it and decided it is important to show my support. Visakha joined me. We arrived there little past 10AM. Police were there but they did not stop us. If they did, we would have respected their decision. Instead there was this gang of abut 20 with some them carrying two by two sticks who blocked our way.
Goons: Yanava, yanava, thamuselata mehe vedak naa (Off, off, you have no business here)
Sujata and Visakha: ogollo kavuda apata ehema kiyanna. poleesiyen kivuvoth api yanava (Who are you to tell us; we will go only if the police tells us)
The conversation went back and forth a few times getting more aggressive each time. We decided to take another route but could not quite make it to the meeting. The situation was getting violent. Goons started running down the street forcing us to go inside a shop. One came broke a window of the shop with his foot.
I came away with two thoughts.
First, these goons are government goons. If they were not, the police would not have let them run amok with their sticks and threaten people. Yes, we were not any passerby. We were going to attend a protest. If it even crossed your mind that we should have stayed home, think again. “Labbata thiyapu atha puhulata thiyanva”. Next day it could be you.
Secondly, we are not all that powerless. It was interesting how the goons got exasperated with us at one point and said “Madam, why don’t you leave without creating trouble. I think, we got that response because we were engaging with them making eye contact with each one, and that made them uncomfortable. When one of them lifted the stick, my hand went automatically to my umbrella, but, he did not hit. One man even said, if you can’t go why don’t you bed with us. I looked straight in the eye and asked him and “what kind of talk is that” in my schoolmarm voice I suppose. I am not suggesting anybody tries to go one on one with goons, but, lot of us in white saris, for example, can have an effect, I feel.
See the pictures here;