By Muheed Jeeran –
In a small rented house in Hunupitiya near Roseville Garden a Muslim family consisting the mother, three married daughters and five grandchildren were living for some time. They used to stitch frocks and sell them out of their home and this was one of their incomes for survival. They used to buy different coloured cloth. The colours of the cloth included all sorts of shades of blue, green, red, white and orange.
About ten days ago, noticing the orange coloured fabric used for stitching frocks, their up stair tenant who is also Muslim had tipped off the police stating that they are suspicious about this family who possess ‘robe material’ of Buddhist monks. Two police officers visited the house for a search operation and found the orange coloured poplin material among the other coloured cloth. They were convinced that this was a false alarm, but, at the same time a neighbouring Buddhist lady took one of the frocks and went outside screaming “they are having our monks’ robes”.
This fiasco precipitated the neighbourhood to gather and start throwing stones at the house and even the policemen could not control the mob. The mob entered the house with swords and knives to attack the family. The family, including children hid inside the toilet as they had no other option. The mob tried to break the door and at the same time threw stones through the ventilation gap of the toilet to injure the poor family including five children. Somehow STF and other police arrived at scene. They successfully rescued this family and evacuated them to the Kiribathgoda police station.
While this besieged family sought refuge inside the police it was evident to the police that they were innocent. But due to unfounded objections of the neighbours, the police had to investigate this family under emergency regulation detaining them for twenty one days.
What is sad was that this poor family was forsaken by their own mosque. The clergy failed to visit this family in order to look into the family’s welfare. The police were considerate enough to not lock them up inside the cell but have given them a separate cell to stay together. They were also getting all the basic facilities, thanks to the humanity and due conduct of the Superintendent of Police for Peliyagoda Division. But the police was delaying their release promising them their freedom on an unknown date.
When I heard of this incident, I immediately visited the police station and met this family in person. When they saw me they started to cry, begging me to help them out. They stated that their entire household items were destroyed by the mob. I promised to support them as it was my moral duty as a human being and an activist.
Following a discussion with the Peliyagoda Superintendent of Police, Mrs. Madara Ariyasena, she promised to release them as she knew they are innocent. She understood the true story behind the attack. She is also in a catch 22 situation because if they were released under normal law without applying emergency law then they might encounter protests by the petitioners.
She said they would complete documentation and try her best to inform the Attorney General’s department to fast-track the investigation as the reports are clear now.
It was with a heavy heart I left the police station after doing my best to help this family. I hope they will be released in a day or two.
Today in Sri Lanka, hatred and violence seem to be blind to humanity.
A piece of orange coloured cloth can put a family, even children behind bars.
The hands of hatred are long.