By Nishthar Idroos –
Last year was the tenth anniversary of the devastating Tsunami. Survivors in the affected countries gathered remembering the estimated 230,000 people who perished. The majority were from the Indonesian island of Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province, where around 170,000 people died followed by Sri Lanka. The devastating Tsunami also destroyed coastal communities in India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Malaysia, Seychelles, Bangladesh and Kenya. A tragedy of this magnitude was a first to Sri Lanka. From a disaster management perspective Sri Lanka was not well prepared. People help people in times of need. This was more than evident in the aftermath. Even before the government or the private sector could intervene fellow humans were the first responders, embarking with a conscience and risking personal lives.
An avoidable tragedy took place in 1990 during the peak of the ethnic conflict. A conflict that had already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans. The ghastly Kattankudy mosque massacre was the killing of nearly 150 Muslim men and boys in a mosque by LTTE cadres on August 3, 1990. It took place when around 30 Tamil rebels raided four mosques in the town of Kattankudy, where over 300 people were prostrating for late evening Isha prayers. The attack widely attributed to LTTE, denied their involvement in the massacre. A crime blended with terrorism and racism committed again by the LTTE in the eastern region of the country. All peace loving citizens of the country were deeply shocked and anguished over the incident. This August marks the 25th anniversary and it’s like today, the gory incident flashing before our very eyes.
*Picture courtesy Kannan Arunasalam
Terrorists of all hues have absolutely no remorse, no consideration for human life and certainly no religion. The religion of the terrorists is violence. Their irrationality dictates that solutions can only be brought about by unleashing violence. Particularly violence perpetrated on innocent and unsuspecting people. This is so wrong. Throughout history people of violence have justified their actions by using nationalism, political marginalization and religion. This also provides them with gullible recruits. An unbiased media well-endowed with the subject should be in a position to disallow these people from using this ruse. The media no doubt has a very important role to play without exacerbating the situation. Who will have the mental capacity to empty a round of diabolical ammunition on a people who were worshipping their Lord?
The Kattankudy incident was just one of the many terrorist driven incidents that took the lives of innocent Muslims. The Muslims paid really and dearly. Even amongst the forces young and courageous Muslims fought the enemy and laid their lives for the sake of the country. One individual that comes to my mind automatically was the killing of young Major Tuan Muthaliff who was shot dead by LTTE gunmen at Polhengoda. Muslims paid in blood and lots of it to protect and preserve the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. Instead of being commended for their vehement opposition for separation Muslims continue to suffer at the hands of extremists of a different type today.
The total lack of sensitivity of the Rajapaksa regime was a very conspicuous example in recent times. Memories of Aluthgama is so horribly vivid in most Muslims. Four Muslims were killed in overnight clashes with hardline Buddhists in southern Sri Lanka. The men died of gunshot wounds near a mosque in the town of Aluthgama in what was seen as Sri Lanka’s worst outbreak of sectarian violence in years. If LTTE eliminated Muslim worshippers the BBS with the tacit approval of the then regime destroyed mosques and Islamic learning centres at will.
Muslims unfortunately, whether they realize it or not had increasingly become mere numbers to extremist politicians, only to be lusciously manipulated for electoral gains. At one time we had the scary camouflaged clothed extremist who was hell bent on killing alongside the palpable manipulations. They are no more. It’s now replaced by the saffron clothed and those with the milky white Ariyasinghe dresses. The extremist has become somewhat unrecognizable now. Ironically, Democratic Party politics is churning out chameleons at remarkable speed. At opportune times they spew acerbic vitriol at minorities and when it’s convenient they become virtual paragons of virtue. They’re well gifted and are making use of their gifts with superlative admiration.
The more harm they could cause on minorities the more they are able to rake in votes. Killing as collateral damage and psyching them coalesced as a main political instrument in the previous regime. This has got firmly rooted now, anyone can use it if he or she wants to compromise moral rectitude. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the unambiguous and ambidextrous exponent of the art of the possible extended exemplary leadership to pamper the needs of the ultra-Buddhists for electoral security. He picked on the marginalized minorities especially the Muslims with amazing adroitness.
We also have people like Patali Champika Ranawaka an ambitious MP and Minister who supposedly has a favourite but weird avocation to keep a close tab on global breeding of Muslims. He has at the tip of his mind demographic metrics of the world with special emphasis on hot spots of rapid Muslim breeding. He has this uncanny ability to recall at “electrical” speed using his own set of self-deduced algorithms about trends of Muslims breeding etc. When did procreation become unconstitutional or ill-legal in Sri Lanka? How can one allow sheer parochialism to besmirch the character of an able politician with a promising future?
If Slavery stood as an affront to human dignity in days gone by, intolerance and hatred is insidiously creeping like deadly ivy to destroy Sri Lankan society and the collective dignities of all Sri Lankans. Let’s reject politics that undermine the dignity of man. Let’s also reject those ruthless politicians who provide leadership to such politics.
Martin Luther King famously said in his immortal words “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Combatting and rehabilitating terrorists is a monumental drain on scarce resources but eliminating injustice on the other hand will act as a strong impediment against terrorism and will also contribute immensely to usher in peace and prosperity.