08/25/2023, 10.22
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Buddhist fundamentalism 'weapon' to extend rule over Hindu Tamils

by Melani Manel Perera

The "Sri Lanka Brief" report testifies to the escalation of attacks against the minority 40 years since Black July 1983. It counts at least 14 incidents between July 9 and Aug. 22 this year. The construction of new Buddhist temples to erase the legacy of Hindu culture in the northeast of the island. Vale police complaints.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The construction of new Buddhist temples and the simultaneous cancellation of Hindu places of worship in the north-east of Sri Lanka represent a "manifestation of Sinhalese domination" and an attempt to "alter the demographics and culture of the region".

This is what emerges from a report published recently on the occasion of the International Day (August 23) of remembrance for the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, which lists at least 14 incidents that occurred between July 9 and August 22 2023.

40 years after the "Black July" of 1983 [during the civil war the Sinhalese killed 3,000 Tamils and destroyed 18,000 homes], the Buddhist monks supported by the army continue their campaign of sectarian violations and extremism.

The first incident, reads the report entitled "Sri Lanka Brief", took place on 9 July in Mannar. Relatives of the missing Tamils have called for the removal of military camps and an end to the construction of Buddhist temples.

"The purpose of building Buddhist viharas in military camps is to hide the mass graves and to settle the Sinhalese," said one activist. On the same day, former Minister of Public Security and current presidential adviser for food security Sarath Weerasekara affirmed before the judge that Sri Lanka is a "Buddhist country".

Another episode dates back to July 14, when the Pongal festival - the harvest festival for the Tamil people - was interrupted by a group of Sinhalese, led by a religious leader. Over a hundred people, led by a Buddhist monk from the area, stopped and threatened Tamils who were going to the Ayyanar temple of Kurunthoormalai for celebrations.

The police did not take any action against those who disturbed the event, ending up threatening the Tamils who became victims twice. Former Northern Provincial Council (NPC) member Thurairasa Ravikaran and political activist Peter Ilanchezhiyan lodged a complaint with the Mullaitivu Police Station about the incident, to no avail.

Again, a Buddha statue was installed on July 23 in violation of a court order.

The spiral of sectarian violence and attacks continued in August too, fueling an escalation of tension between the Sinhalese (Buddhist) majority and the Tamil Hindu minority. “On August 16, posters in Sinhala areas called for mass demonstrations to stop the cult of Pongal.

The posters - reads the report - were posted in the Sinhalese villages of the Mullaitivu Welioya area and shared on the Facebook page 'Kurundi vihara' to invite Buddhists to go to Kurunthoormalai and prevent the Pongal cult of the Tamils at the Ayyanar temple". Two days later Sinhalese groups aboard five buses arrived in the area, welcoming the appeal launched by Buddhist monks, to protest against the festival and protect the Kurundi Viharaya.

On August 18, the Buddhist monk Galgamuwa Santhabodhi also tried to disturb Tamil worship, and again, on August 20, he filed a complaint against the Tamil magistrate indicating that Mullaitivu Saravanaraja court judge acted unilaterally and irresponsibly, effectively disregarding the provisions of the Department of Archaeology.

Finally, on 22 August, religious leaders and journalists were stopped and held up by a mob made up of Sinhalas, also led by a monk. “Religious leaders, some Tamil civil society activists and journalists who had traveled to Mathavanai Mayilaththamadu, a border area of Batticaloa, were illegally detained for three hours by a mob.

They blocked vehicles and issued death threats, as well as fearing the deletion of all footage that could testify to the violent confessional-based attack. The same day - concludes the Sri Lanka Brief report - a protest against the abuse was held".

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