Hate shall have no home | Daily News

Hate shall have no home

The Government has declared a state of emergency and a police curfew is enforced in the Kandy district. This was a sequel to communal clashes that erupted following two isolated incidents in Ampara and Digana, Kandy during the last few days. Both incidents led to widespread attacks on private residences, business establishments and mosques of Muslims by Sinhala mobs.

Obviously these mobs have taken the law into their hands instead of allowing the law enforcement authorities to deal with those responsible for the above two incidents. This shows that inter-communal relations had developed to such an extent that any untoward incident could ignite communal violence on a large scale.

It could be recalled that similar incidents took place earlier at Gintota in Galle and in Alutgama. There was also a series of isolated but well - orchestrated attacks on Muslim business premises and places of religious worship of Muslims and several Christian sects. The pattern of all these incidents shows the working of an invisible hand, an organised movement that wants to create communal discord.

There are also allegations that the police were hesitant to intervene to prevent the occurrence of such riots and some of them were in fact collaborating with those who attacked the Muslims. These allegations cannot be ignored. They should be investigated and if the allegations are proved those responsible should be punished. That is the only way the Government can get itself exonerated from the blame the people can get an assurance such incidents won’t be repeated in future.

Communal clashes

Recalling a similar development of a series of communal clashes sporadically in time and space prior to the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983 July, one gets the impression that the present developments could also unleash such brutal mayhem at any moment. The only difference would be the victims this time would be the Muslims instead of Tamils. If it happens it would be a national calamity with repercussions on a greater scale. We would again be black-listed among the international community, as a savage and uncivilized nation. We would have to say Good Bye to foreign investments, tourism and development.

Further escalation of inter-communal clashes after the July 1983 pogrom led to a thirty-year old fratricidal war with immense loss of lives and property. The causes that gave cause to the war still remain unresolved. The perpetuation and deterioration of the present volatile and explosive atmosphere may lead to another communal war where the country will be doomed.

Hence, it is imperative that the present situation must not be allowed to continue. Ethnic or religious violence should stop. One reason for the occurrence of such communal riots is that those who were responsible for earlier riots and mayhem were not punished. All governments including the present one have failed in that respect. Therefore the criminals and those who espouse the cause of racism or religious fundamentalism enjoy a wide immunity and even claim to be “patriots”.

Allegations against the police

It should also be mentioned that the masses, whatever their race or creed are not communalist. It has always been the case that those who resort to communal violence are persons living outside the localities in which the clashes occur. The presence of considerable numbers of “outsiders”, who had come prepared to attack the innocent villagers were seen by witnesses. The Police would have seen them but for some reason or other they have not intervened to prevent a breach of the peace. This may be a cause for allegations against the police.

The question to be asked and answered is this: “Who benefits by spreading communalism and instigating communal violence?” One such party is clearly visible. That is the opportunist politicians who want either to retain power or regain lost power by arousing communalist passions in the electorate. But there are others too. Rival business interests among various communities could also use communalism to gain monopoly command of economic interests. There may also be geo-political ambitions of foreign powers that would provide stimulus to trouble-makers to destabilize society.

Muslims have lived in peace and harmony with the Sinhala and Tamil people for centuries in our country. They have contributed to the independence struggle against the colonial powers and have been partners in the development of the country. They did not join the Separatist rebels and stood for the integrity of the country. They still are patriotic citizens except for a handful of bad eggs as found among any community.

What is more unfortunate in the present context is to see communal mayhem committed in the name of religion. The Maha Nayake Theras and dignitaries of other religions have now openly condemned the riots and called for peaceful coexistence of all communities. It is commendable. How much commendable it would have been if they could do so much earlier.

Peace and reconciliation

Communalism is like cancer. Once it enters the body politic it spreads incessantly destroying every vital organ of society. Hence the only way out is early detection and sharp surgical intervention when necessary.

Now that it has woken from the slumber, we hope it would act swiftly and resolutely to wipe out the cancer of racialism from the society.

We call upon all political parties to get together for the purpose of stopping racial and religious violence and ensure a peaceful future for our people. They could form joint peace and reconciliation committees at ground level without trading accusations against one another for political gain. The local government bodies that would be instituted soon could also join such efforts.

The civil society and its organisations as well as the mass media also have a huge responsibility to see that all possible efforts are taken to prevent racism raising its ugly head and destroying our social fabric. For, the ultimate arbitrator is the civil society itself.


 

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