Sri Lanka: â€œIn this country we still have a Sinhala police; we still have a Sinhala army. After today if a single Marakkalaya or some other paraya (alien) touches a single Sinhaleseâ€¦..it will be their end.â€
â€œCall him a Bikkhu who controls his hand, also his feet; who is well controlled, who is happy within himself; who is collectedâ€¦.â€
The Buddha (Dhammapada)
It is a chilling sight. On stage, Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera is raining words of poison and fire. Below, a large crowd, made up of monks and ordinary people, are listening intently. They do not look violent or angry. There is hardly a sign that an hour or so later they will turn into a baying murderous mob. Many of the lay-listeners have their hands together, in the traditional gesture of worship. That and the focused looks on their faces indicate that as far as they are concerned they are listening to not to a political speech but to a religious sermon[ii].
The Jihadists, the Crusaders, the holy warriors are here. And in this place they wear the yellow robe and call themselves Buddhist monks. All around, the police and the military stand, armed to the teeth, watching and listening. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera is inciting people to break the law. He threatens and threatens, his words like razor-sharp weapons, fiery missiles. And still the guardians of law and order watch. He is not arrested, produced before a magistrate and put away where he belongs â€“ the jail.
The police are inactive. The law looks dead. The purveyors of hate and violence own the stage.
Holy wars, irrespective of who is fighting whom, are hell. Thanks to the nature of Buddhism â€“ the real thing â€“ this country escaped that hell for most of its history. Not anymore. Sinhala-Buddhism has metamorphosed into the even more bastardised and odious form of Rajapaksa-Buddhism. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thera is its Prophet and Chief Prelate. It is a religion of suspicion and hate, a violent creed and a poisonous one, a faith based on murder and mayhem.
Who Permitted the BBS Rally?
The initial incident â€“ the alleged attack on a Buddhist monk and his driver by three Muslim youths â€“ was an accident. That was the only accident in the bloody tragedy which is being enacted even now. Everything else was non-accidental, deliberate. The BBS instigated the violence. The authorities facilitated the BBS.
After the initial outbreak of violence, calm reigned. And then someone at the top decided to permit the BBS to hold a rally in the still smouldering Aluthgama. That decision could have been made only by a certifiable lunatic or a person to whom law, morality and humanity are totally alien.
Such a momentous decision would not have been made by a police officer; or even the IGP. It would have either originated from or approved by the very top. And at the very top are President Rajapaksa â€“ who from Bolivia tweets vague, Hallmark-type trite messages instead of condemning the violence and the violent â€“ and his brothers. .
The BBS did not hold an illegal rally; they did not hold an illegal demonstration. They were permitted to have their rally and have their demonstration by the authorities. Without that decision Aluthgama would have returned to normal. And innocent lives could have been saved.
What was the aim of the authorities? A little riot? A controlled-riot? A stage-managed riot? A limited Black June? A short sharp lesson to all minorities to mind their words and deeds? A tiny reminder to the Muslims, Tamils and Christians that they live on sufferance? Create a new enemy to divert Sinhala-Buddhist attention? A signal to Narendra Modi and the West that we too are anti-Muslim? Some of this? All of this?
Otherwise why permit the BBS to turn smouldering ashes into an inferno? Why did the police and the STF fail to stop the rioters? Mobs are cowardly. At the first real sign of decisive action by the police and the STF the rioters would have melted away.
I lived through Black July. As a born-and-bred Sinhala-Buddhist I hope I will not have to see that horror happening again, to another minority. But I fear that controlled riots are becoming part of the Rajapaksa arsenal. And someday one of those mini-riots will spiral out of control.
This is no country for minorities; this is no country for decent Sinhalese and Buddhists. This is a moral wasteland and a paradise of lawlessness.
For the violence, for the deaths which have happened and which may happen, the BBS and the Rajapaksas must take responsibility. This is their work. This is their unpardonable crime. We elected them; we tolerate them. That is our eternal shame.