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The Lives Destoyed in Aluthgama

By Camelia Nathaniel

Buddhists and Muslims have interacted with one another culturally, politically, economically, and sometimes militarily for years in this country. All religious faiths have coexisted harmoniously even though Buddhism is the predominant religion in Sri Lanka. As the Dalai Lama had said every person on this earth has the freedom to practice or not practice religion.

But once you accept religion, it is extremely important to be able to focus your mind on it and sincerely practice the teachings in your daily life. All of us can see that we tend to indulge in religious favoritism by saying, “I belong to this or that religion”, rather than making an effort to control our agitated minds. This misuse of religion, he points out, due to our disturbed minds, also sometimes creates problems.

Taking into consideration the latest incidents that took place in Aluthgama and Beruwela, it is sad to note that these communities who lived so long in total harmony have been pitched against each other, simply for political gains. The majority Sinhalese perhaps are worried that the Muslim population is growing rapidly, while politicians add to the flames by claiming that the Muslims will soon end up being the majority race in this country.

However, according to the Census and Statistics Department survey, these concerns are unfounded. According to the 1981 census the Sinhalese constituted 69% of the total population while the Muslims only made up 7% of the entire population

In 2011 the Sinhala population had grown to 74% while the Muslim population had increased by 2% to 9%, which clearly shows that the Majority Sinhala race is certainly not under any threat as highlighted by certain parties with the clear intention of creating racial disharmony for their own sinister political gains.

Those affected accused authorities of doing little to prevent the rampaging rioters that rendered hundreds of Muslims homeless after attacks on their homes, shops, factories and mosques even while a Police curfew was in effect. Local residents said the Police did little to protect them when the rioting mobs began their onslaught. Thankfully, the situation was brought under control. But it seems a bit like closing the stable doors after the horses have bolted.

In Dharga Town for example Muslims and Sinhalese have lived in harmony for ages without any issues. The Sunday Leader visited Military Road off Dharga Town where almost all of the Muslim houses had been burnt to the ground and everything had been destroyed.

But in spite of all this destruction and chaos, the Sinhala families living down that road were seen walking freely among their visibly distraught Muslim neighbors. In spite of these Muslim families having lost all their worldly belongings, they appeared to have no animosity towards their Sinhalese friends and neighbours. All the Muslim families who spoke to The Sunday Leader revealed that it was not the people in the area who attacked their houses and destroyed everything they owned, but that the mobs consisted of thugs who had come from ‘outside’.

According to these Muslim residents, all their valuables had been looted and the thugs who had invaded their homes and unleashed such destruction upon them had done so while the curfew was in force and they had even brought a large truck in which they had collected all the valuables and driven away.
One of the most disturbing factors however is that this destruction and looting was carried out right under the noses of the Police and STF. It is evident that the thugs had been sent with the clear intention of looting and destroying the property of these Muslim residents. No one on Military Road had been physically harmed except for a few residents who sustained minor injuries; hence it appears that the main mission of these thugs was simply to destroy property and loot all the valuables they could lay their hands on.

However now that this ugly incident has happened and it cannot be reversed, it is vital to ensure that these sorts of acts that could once again plunge the country into turmoil are never repeated. It is very important to have harmony and respect amongst the different religions and their practitioners. We must distinguish between belief and respect. Belief refers to total faith, which you must have in your own religion. At the same time we should all learn to have respect for all other religions.

Buddhists constitute the majority of the population in this country, whereas Muslims belong to the minority community and it is vital that both sides live in harmony. In order to sustain this harmony, both sides should not take lightly the sensitive issues between themselves. Indeed, the majority should pay attention to and appreciate the views and opinions of the minority. Both sides should discuss and clearly express what they think about the other’s views and opinions.

The minority, on the other hand, should be careful about where the sensitive issues of the majority lie and express whatever doubts they have in their minds. If problems are resolved in such a friendly manner; then both sides will stand to gain. Suspicion of each other will only harm both communities. Therefore, it is very important to live in harmony and analyse where the opinion of the other lies. The best way to do this is to engage in dialogue. The religiously and culturally or traditionally pluralistic harmony and tolerance of Buddhists and Muslims in the country is a condition necessary for lasting peace. Tolerance is the essential condition of harmony in Buddhism as well as in Islam.

 

M.H.M. Zarook a vehicle sales dealer

I trade in lorries and other vehicles for a living and live with my wife, son and grand children. We have lived here with our Sinhala friends all this time without any problems.

That day there was a meeting by the BBS in the Aluthgama town but I was not concerned as I have no political affiliations. However, after the curfew was imposed, we heard a huge commotion and we locked the gates.

Just then we heard a mob coming down the road and while passing our house they broke all the lights on the wall, and I told my son that the situation does not seem too good and we stayed indoors.
Just then some of them peeped from the gate and then they shouted that we were there and then they just broke through the gates and barged in. They started attacking my son and me and set fire to all the vehicles.

“My daughter and the two little ones had locked themselves inside the room. The mobs then started setting fire to the house and breaking everything in the house. They attacked my son on the head and he was bleeding and they tried to cut me with a sword. Thanks to God I managed to escape with my son and we ran into the house and grabbed my wife and children
and escaped to the next door neighbour’s house; our neighbours are Sinhalese.”

I have lost everything and even the clothes we wear are all given by our friends and neighbours. I have no way of rebuilding my business again and taking care of my family. I have undergone a bypass operation and am a heart patient.

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Harris a businessman from Military Road

The curfew was imposed around 6.30 p.m. on Sunday and we were all indoors that evening. My brother M.I.M. Riyaz who owns this house runs a small garment manufacturing business where around 60 girls are employed and of them 50 are Sinhalese.

They were working till around 5 p.m. that evening and while the meeting by the BBS was taking place, we were told that some provocative statements had been made at the meeting. Wanting to avoid any trouble we all decided to stay indoors.

Somehow by around 6.30 p.m. mobs had invaded the area and was smashing, burning and destroying all the Muslim houses down this lane. These were not people from the area as we know the people who live in the vicinity. They started burning the vehicle that was parked outside and then they broke open the front door and began destroying everything in the house.

“My brother’s wife and two little children were terrified and trembling like frightened mice. Since they had cut off the electricity supply by then the whole place was in darkness and under cover of darkness my brother and I quickly got hold of the children and the women and passed them over the wall to the house at the rear where my uncle lived. Meanwhile the thugs destroyed all the machines and everything that was in the house. The jewellery that was in the house was looted, and the empty jewellery boxes were found in the garden. The bales of cloth that was brought for the factory were taken away. We had nothing left except the clothes we were wearing.”

Most of the valuable that were looted were loaded onto a truck and taken away, and this was all done while the curfew was in force.
Even the car that was in the garage was set ablaze and the house which is newly built was just broken up and destroyed so heartlessly.

Now all these girls who were employed at the factory are unemployed and they too are really distraught. The losses exceed around Rs 220 million, while the bales of cloth alone were worth over Rs 60 million.

My brother is now depressed and devastated as nothing was insured. According to our religion we are not supposed to insure our belongings. It has been a week after the devastation, but no one has come to even find out what happened and we don’t even know if we are supposed to clear this destruction or what happens next. We have lost our homes, our belongings and all our life savings. Now we have nothing and we are desperate. What did we ever do to deserve this?
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Mrs N.T. Shahabdeen a teacher from Dharga Town

I was not originally from this area but from Kandy and my father was the Interpreter Mudaliyar of the Badulla district court. My husband was from Mawanella and he was transferred here as the Special Commissioner of the Town Council. He came here to improve this area and I was teaching at the Al Hamra School. I have been living here for nearly 38 years; my husband passed away seven years ago and I live here by myself as my only son is a backward child and he cannot take care of me and I have to take care of him. We have given him in marriage to another girl like him but he cannot come to see me or help me.

I now conduct classes for children at my home. During the New Year and our festivals we send the Sinhalese families food and they send us theirs as well.

On Sunday my nephew called and told me that they are expecting trouble and wanted me to remove my jewellery and put it away. So I took my valuables and wrapped it in a small bag, put it in my handbag and placed it in my wardrobe. When I was reciting my prayers at sundown around 6.30 p.m. on Sunday the 15th, someone banged at my front window and broke it.

I immediately went to my room and locked the door and called my neighbour. He asked me if I was alone and said that his house was under attack as well. Then I could see the king coconut tree in front of my house on fire and I could hear them breaking the door of my neighbour’s house. Suddenly I could hear all the other windows in my house being broken. I was trembling and thought that this was the end.

There were loud noises all around me; they sounded like bombs exploding. As I lay trembling in my room, suddenly my room door crashed open and a group of thugs barged into my room. One of them had an iron rod in his hand with which he shattered the mirror on my dressing table, while another broke open my wardrobe. Then, some of them who came in began to yell and argue with me. I told them that I was a teacher and I was alone and I had come here to help the people in the area. I told them to call the Sinhalese children in the area and ask them about me. I told them that all these children in the area were like my own children.

Finally someone in the mob confirmed my story.
Then one of the thugs said that our ancestors had killed their ancestors. I told them I had no knowledge of such clashes and that I was not even from this area. I said that until they just told me I had no knowledge of such attacks. When they said that they had to set fire to my house, I told them I had nowhere to go and that I lived alone.

When I started crying and trembling one of them told me that they would take me and hand me over to the STF. I asked him what wrong I had done for them to hand me to the Police; he said it was for my own safety. My heart was breaking as I knew all my savings and jewellery were all in my wardrobe and the thugs were ransacking my room.

The house was full of these thugs who were breaking everything in the house, and they did not spare anything. Even the china that I had safeguarded and treasured as that was all I had left from what my parents had given me at my wedding was not spared; and they so mercilessly destroyed all of it.

“While these thugs were destroying my whole house around three of the men took me very carefully and handed me over to the Police who were stationed at the Ambagaha junction. They were really gentle with me and I was rather surprised that having come with the thugs they had such compassion in them.

I told the IP who was there about what had happened and then through him I was taken to a friend’s house where I am still living today as I have nowhere else to go. The police officers including the IP were also very kind to me and they helped me that day and if not for them I don’t know what would have happened to me.”

 

8 Comments for “The Lives Destoyed in Aluthgama”

  1. marcus fernando

    defence secretary over to you

  2. Sylvia Haik

    It has been reported that Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera of the BBS in his speech at Aluthgama on 15th June, had said among other things that in Sri Lanka we have a Sinhala police and a Sinhala Army. This is possibly correct but I am sure not by design. Come to think of it, there is no earthly reason why the police or the army does not recruit from the other communities. If it is the case that they do not want to join lest they be bullied, the authorities should set a target to properly represent the size of the communities or introduce incentives that will make it worth their while to overcome any chance of being bullied.

  3. gamarala

    Law enforcers did not even baton charge arsonists & looters – this would have stopped the mayhem,
    This shows collusion.
    Instead,three muslims were shot dead,and this is being covered up by altering the post-mortem reports.

  4. sukirichuti

    Mrs. Shahabdeen says that three of the men in the mob had said she would be taken and handed over to the STF for safety. Accordingly she had been handed over to the STF stationed at the Ambagaha Junction. What did the STF do with the three men who handed over her to them. Surely all this had happened when the curfew was on and STF could have taken action against them for violating the curfew.

  5. srilankan like

    Dear Friends,

    This is what Load Budda teach you.,…

    Why you make shame to the pure… and humble Load Budda….. Most of the tugs were monks…… I am surprised…. you madenss is shedding blood and destrying others assets.

    THE REAL LOAD IS WATCHING YOU……. YOUR END IS WHAT YOUR HANDS DONE THERE.

    as we know….. police and defence under the GOTTA PAYA RAJAPAKSSA, WHO KEPT SILENCE, when the incident flames….

    He is the culprit, who is responsible for this…..

    ITS SHAME TO SAY I AM A SRI LANKAN.

  6. silva

    What a shame for the rulers

  7. Nandan

    It is very unfortunate that the government and the security forces whose prime responsibility is to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, yet they failed once again, and even failed to arrest the main culprit Gnanasara. I am surprised that the Ministry of Buddha Sasana is still silent while BBS is tarnishing the the very image of Buddhism.

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