By Mass L. Usuf –
An eye witness recounts, “I witnessed what happened. After the procession when the rioting began I called the police stations that administer the areas. When I called the Matugama police station, they told me that the OIC was not in. The Welipanna police told me that they had only one vehicle and didn’t have personnel. Other police stations were silent. When all this happened the police were made to act deaf and blind. The Police have consistently acted deaf and blind to the actions of Gnanasara Thera leading up to this violence” – UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma.
The precursor to the pogrom of June 15 and 16 of 2014, was the spewing of hate filled anti-muslim language by the so called disciples of the Buddha. The demagogic ranting arousing Sinhalese chauvinism, buddhistic fervour and racist nationalism from the robed monk was the perfect cocktail of adrenalin to the listening Sinhala audience. People both from the area and those mobilised from far away places were present.
The next two days bore testimony to the carnage perpetrated by these thug monks cruelly supported by the misled Sinhalese people who unfortunately, pay blind obeisance to these elements masquerading in the saffron robes. If the doctrine of Karma has any true sense in the consciousness of these criminals, then they need to fear the inescapable repercussion they will have to face. The immutable Law of Karma will be looking at the lies uttered, the provocative speech, the wrong intention, the wrong speech, the incitement for evil conduct, the destruction of property and the killing and injuring of innocent people.
Attorney at Law Shiraz Noordeen and his team of lawyers
Monks Consummate In Virtue
To reflect on Buddha’s discourse with King Ajatusattu where the Buddha explained how a monk is consummate in virtue is profoundly educative, in this instance. Some relevant excerpts of this long discourse read as follows:
“Abandoning the taking of life, he abstains from the taking of life. He dwells scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. This is part of his virtue”.
“Abandoning false speech, he abstains from false speech. He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world. This, too, is part of his virtue”.
“Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. …… Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord. This, too, is part of his virtue.
“Abandoning abusive speech, he abstains from abusive speech. He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large. This, too, is part of his virtue”. (Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu).
This holy discourse was misinterpreted by these holy thugs with the following substitutions :
The abandoning of taking of life; Substituted with killing, maiming and injuring.
The abandoning of false speech; Substituted with the utterance of blatant lies, distortion and misinformation.
The abandoning of deception; Substituted with misleading people by gross deception.
The abandoning of divisive speech; Substituted with hatred and venomous speech dividing racial communities.
The abandoning of abusive speech; Substituted with boorish, uncouth and abusive speech.
Substituting reconciliation and unity with division and disunity.
The buddhistic virtues of mercy and compassion to these miscreants meant malevolence and vengeance. All perpetrated by taking unscrupulous advantage of the robe they don and in the name of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.
The Dumb Media
The acts of violence were perpetrated under the very nose of the Police and the STF who knew very well that they had no authority to interfere. Fearing reprisals from the then government, many were reluctant spectators of this violence. Even the Mahanayakes were surprisingly silent at the himsa (violence) perpetrated by those who profess ahimsa (Non-violence).
On the day of the pogrom in Aluthgama the media that makes so much noise today were like tamed pets. A highly placed official had informed editors of news and print media in Sri Lanka to desist from reporting the ground situation prevailing in Aluthgama. Colombo Telegraph was brave enough to at least report to the public the issuance of such a suppression of information order by the government (CT, 15.06.2014). The gymnastics that the media does today was never seen during that period. The right to information and freedom of media is limited in their minds to a set agenda even in today’s environment, barring a few media institutions.
The days following the riots, quoting unnamed police sources BBC Sinhala service reported that Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) V. Indran, who had refused to release the 13 suspects arrested over the Aluthgama clash, is facing serious threats to his life.
Shame Upon Us
Since the end of the war in 2009, the prevailing triumphalist ego made these Sinhala Buddhist nationalist forces to look down upon the other minority communities with disdain. To the extent that they did not even hesitate to trample upon the religious liberties of the minorities. The continuing harassment by these thugs by physical attacks on persons both Muslims and Christians, destruction of property of Mosques and Churches, threats and intimidation, hate campaigns and unfounded false propaganda against the religions of Christianity and Islam all went on unchecked.
Sri Lanka as a nation claiming to be the guardians of Theravada Buddhism was put to shame internationally after the Aluthgama incident. The riots slung mud on the stature of the respectable monks of the Sasana. They embarrassed a whole host of the decent, honourable and kind hearted Sinhalese people. They provided fodder to those waiting to pin down Sri Lanka in the international fora. So much for their parochial idealism!
There is, however, a positive side to this narrative. From the minorities point of view Aluthgama was the Achilles heel of the Rajapaksa regime. Aluthgama was a sort of culmination of a spate of unabated attacks on Muslim places of religious worship and Muslim businesses.
Karma takes sweet revenge. Aluthgama also greatly contributed to get rid of a regime that was marching towards a dictatorship inebriated with power. Thus it was the good riddance to bad rubbish. Today, there is a sigh of relief with the Rule of Law gradually establishing itself. Cases have been filed against the accused monks for their actions with impunity. Cases filed against other violators of the law.
The case filed in the Supreme Court against the OIC Aluthgama on the torture and illegal arrest of a Muslim youth in the aftermath of the riots, was concluded yesterday (14.06.2016). The crime was that he had allegedly uttered the word ‘abasaranai’ to a lady. The OIC tendered an unconditional apology before Chief Justice Sripavan to the Petitioner Mohamed Asmi.
Unrelated to Aluthgama but related to the spate of violence and hate campaign was another case heard today (15.06.2016) at the Colombo Magistrate Court. Charges had been filed by the Police under Section 410 and 291 of Penal Code against five accused for causing damage to the Borella Jumma Masjid. The accused had tendered an unconditional apology and were ordered to pay compensation. Mr. Shiraz Noordeen appearing for the Trustees of the Borella Masjid said that Islam is a religion of peace and in view of the need for coexistence and as a goodwill gesture towards the other communities and religions, they agreed to the settlement.
This would not have been possible under the pseudo ‘Dutugemunu’s’ regime.
So, is this all? Is everything hunky dory now. The reply is a reverberating, “No”. There is a long way to go to cleanse the minds of the bureaucracy, the Police, the racist elements, the violent prone monks. The two recent mosque incidents in Kandy and in Bhatiya Road, Dehiwala are classic examples that this has as yet not become the so called Wonder of Asia.
If we do not understand what is coexistence, equality before the law, the rule of law, religious liberty, respecting the space of the other and tolerance we are in for certain disaster as a nation. No racism, no Sinhala buddhist nationalism, no chauvinistic rhetoric will be of any help to this beautiful island of ours. Shake off the dust and learn to live together folks. The call includes those in robes too.