Concerns Raised Over Construction Of Buddhist Centre In Muttur
By Maryam Azwer
People in the Muttur area have expressed concern over plans to construct a Buddhist centre atop a mountain in Jabal Nagar, Muttur.
According to Mohammad Jihad of the Muttur People’s Forum, the mountain is surrounded by four villages, Jabal Nagar, Pachchanoor, Sahayapuram and Vettukadduchenai, which are predominantly Tamil and Muslim villages.
He said that hundreds of people from these villages depended on the mountain as a rock quarry, from which stones are sold as a means of livelihood. “The people are worried that they may be asked to stop their work here, and that they may lose their livelihood,” he said.
Another activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there had also been concerns raised as to whether the area would be declared a holy place in the future.
He also cited incidents that had taken place in 2003, where communal clashes had resulted over issues pertaining to the same mountain.
Earlier this month, discussions on these issues had been held at the Muttur Pradeshiya Sabha, and had been attended by local politicians, activists and religious leaders.
Meanwhile, Muttur Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, A. M. Harees, said that although no serious issues had arisen since construction on the Buddhist centre had started, people who depended on the quarry for their livelihood were very worried that they may lose these jobs in the future. “The rocks from this mountain are used for all development purposes, such as to build roads, and houses,” he explained. According to recent reports, the construction of the Buddhist centre was initiated on the request of the Seruwila Saranakiththi Nayaka Thero, and is being supported by the Ministry of Defence.