The gaping wounds of Aluthgama

One year after the anti-Muslim violence, Latheef Farook wonders what further mayhem would have occurred if the Rajapkasas remained in power


Monday, June 15, marked the first anniversary of the anti-Muslim violence in Aluthgama, Dharga Town and Beruwala, that saw at least four killed, widespread looting and destruction of property, rendering hundreds homeless and thousands more displaced. That the violence would literally trigger the political funeral of the Rajapaksa brothers, who were accused of either being directly involved or at the least complicit in the calculated atrocities, is a wicked twist of fate they wouldn’t have envisaged.

Shops in Alutgama town were razed to the ground

Killing of Muslims, looting of their belongings and the destruction of their properties were meticulously planned and executed to military precision in all three places.

However, the island’s mainstream media, which observed a news blackout and later tried to cover up the shameful carnage with watered down versions, only woke up to the reality after seeing the wide coverage of the mayhem in the international media.

Realising the adverse publicity and the growing widespread criticism by moderate Sinhalese intellectuals, professionals and Buddhist monks, the Rajapaksa Government began a programme to rebuild the burnt, destroyed and damaged properties, which included places of worship.

However, the wounds of the June 2014 carnage remains deep, especially since the perpetrators escaped scot free and the looted property, estimated to be worth billions of rupees, is yet to be recovered or returned. The enduring tragedy however is that the racist elements that instigated the atrocities in 2014 have once again embarked on yet another hate Muslim campaign.

Unanswered question

A year after the carnage, the larger question of why the Rajapaksa acolytes unleashed a wave of violence against Muslims, targeting their religious, cultural and economic life remains unanswered. Was it part of a larger scheme aimed at eliminating the Muslims as a community? Was the carnage in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga Town retaliation for perceived transgression? Did the Muslims, who are as Sri Lankan as the other communities in the country, commit any crime? Did they attack any Temples, Sinhala business establishment or oppose the Rajapaksa Government in any way?

The most peaceful of all the three major communities in the country, the Muslims, as stated by former Chief Justice, Sarath N. Silva, only wanted to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the communities.

The Rajapaksa Government and the racist elements that carried out the hate campaign against the Muslims and the carnage in Aluthgama, have conveniently forgotten the role played by the Muslim community in opposing the LTTE call for a separate Elam, to protect the territorial integrity of the country. Many of the Muslims, evicted from the North and East by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and eager to return to their homes and rebuild their lives shattered, are still paying the price for this patriotism.

What the racist elements also failed to understand is also that if not for firm Muslim opposition to the Eelam call, the country would have been divided long ago, as it was not militarily equipped, at the early stage, to meet the challenges posed by the separatists who were backed by India.

Whose agenda?

Now the question is, whose agenda was this hate Muslim campaign that sought to poison the Sinhalese minds against Muslims, to the detriment of all communities and the country?

Perhaps it was the agenda of the defeated Rajapaksa Government’s new found friend Israel, responsible for destabilizing the entire Middle East, time and again, and kicked out by successive Sri Lankan Governments in the past, only to return like midnight thieves during the Rajapaksa era.

However, Muslims have been aware of the boast of the destructive racist elements, “We will take care of the Tamils first and deal with Muslims later”. Perhaps, they got that opportunity in the aftermath of the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, with the patronage of the Rajapaksa Government and, as I always suspect, the support of the Israelis, who have stealthily re-entered the country and managed to penetrate many key areas.

Dealing with local politicians is simple for Israelis, whose only agenda has been against Islam and Muslims as, by and large, most local politicians and even media personnel are ignorant of Israel’s crime records and their indifference towards injustice towards Muslims here and abroad.

Houses were torched –

This is the reason why the Muslims voted for President Maithripala Sirisena in the January 8, 2015 presidential elections. Muslims feared islandwide attacks against them this year, especially in the context of Provincial Counselor, Udaya Gammanpila, openly stating that an attack on Muslims is inevitable in 2015, to mark the anniversary of the 1915 Sinhala-Muslim riots.

Mayhem averted

This fear was further strengthened by the Rajapaksa Government’s decision to allow Myanmar’s controversial Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, who has been carrying on a relentless campaign against the Rohingya Muslims, and described by TIME magazine as the ‘Face of Buddhist Terror’, not only to enter the country but also give him a reception usually reserved for heads of State and sign an agreement with Sri Lanka’s own anti-Muslim racist outfit, the Bodu Bala Sena. In view of these developments, many knowledgeable Muslims believe the election of President Maithripala Sirisena averted an islandwide Aluthgama-type attack on Muslims this year, in what would have been a commemorative replay of the 1915 Sinhala-Muslim riots.

It was under such circumstances the Muslims observed the first anniversary of the Aluthgama carnage last Monday.

Meanwhile a book titled ‘Mayhem during Curfew’ a compilation of selected articles on the atrocities committed in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga Town, published in the local and international media, was released recently. The book is an attempt to put the record straight on the Aluthgama violence, for posterity.

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