Buddhist unrest: Will the graves in Sri Lanka grow deeper?

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New Delhi, June 17: Television reports on the Sri Lankan Buddhist unrest seem to be a nightmare of some kind. Actually, unbelievable! Especially when we see the saffron-clad, otherwise calm and meditative saints taking up arms for the most communal reasons possible.

Beyond anyone's imagination, right? But this is exactly what happened.

In one of the worst religious violences in Sri Lanka, 3 people got killed and 78 got injured in the riots between the Buddhists and the Muslims of the country.

Despite the Muslim leaders pleading the government to stop the Buddhist march on Sunday, the latter kept mum. As a result, hell broke lose on th eotherwise peaceful ALUTHGAMA area, a southwestern coastal town.

The riots followed a protest march by Bodu Bala Sena, which is a hard-lined Buddhist group, led by the monks. Shops and homes in the area, most of them belonging to Muslins, were vandalised and broken. Mobs hurled stones and gas bombs in Welipitiya where men were protecting a mosque.

The police was not to be seen for many hours and the community went loggerheads with each other. A Muslim resident said,"The police didn't show up until after people were dead." Police teams eventually appeared in the early hours of Monday to transport the dead and injured."

Meanwhile, their leader Sri Lankan justice minister, Rauff Hakeem, denounced the government's action and his own sense of responsibility "The law-and-order machinery completely failed. For 72 hours, we begged the government to prevent this rally from taking place on Sunday for fear of riots. I am ashamed. I couldn't protect my people."

What triggered the rampage

Controversy sparked off when a Muslim and a Bhutanese youth fought with each other on Thursday, which led to the riots.

It is believed that the Buddhist group in protest has a silent backing from President Rajapaksha and his brother Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The opposition party cries foul here. They say that the previous attacks by the Buddhist monks have also gone unnoticed here.

It is further alleged that the Rajpakshas are going to any extent to secure their positions to the top. Hence, they are consolidating the Sinhalese community which accounts for 75% of the country, subduing the minority Tamils and the Muslims.

Communal riots dig deeper graves

Be it Sri Lanka or Iraq, communal riots have seen both these countries digging their own turbid graves. The tussle in Iraq between the Shia and the Sunni, the government and the people is an example at site. Interestingly, there is no certainty as to how many died. Moreover, government figures are also not available.

Why so? is a question that takes us back to Sri Lanka. In January this year, there was a mass grave site that was unearthed by construction workers. There is no account as to who they were and where they came from. While there are debates regarding the age of these skeletals, what is interesting is the debate whether the area belonged to the military or the LTTE.

Whatever the case may be, it remains to be seen whether the skeletons of the past trickle down to the present, making mass killing and racial, religious crimes a vicious circle of revenge. But will Rajpaksha's legacy survive the outcome of this? Will the incident be taken in good taste by International agencies? Let's wait and watch.

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