Muslims in Sri Lanka fearful after the deadly violence against them by Buddhist mobs in the coastal town of Aluthgama 

ALUTHGAMA — At least three people have been killed and 52 injured following deadly violence by Buddhist nationalist mobs in the surrounding areas of Aluthgama in south-west Sri Lanka.

After a rally by Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a hardline Sinhala Buddhist nationalist group led by monks, a wave of deadly communal violence broke out at the hands of Buddhist mobs marching through Muslim neighbourhoods, torching and destroying dozens of homes and shops.

Fasniya Fairooz, an 80-year-old, who was at home when the mob stormed into her house said, “We pleaded with the attackers not to harm us. They used abusive language. They took the Holy Quran and burnt it outside… Then they looted the house.”

The rally was prompted by the alleged assault of a monk by Muslim youths a few days earlier. Muslim shops and homes have been destroyed in the violence, causing them to seek safety in the mosques.

Video clips from the rally shows BBS’s leader, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, giving an inflammatory speech and using derogatory terms for Muslims. He was seen vowing that if any Muslim laid a hand on a member of the Sinhalese majority, let alone a monk, that would “be the end” of them.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was away for the G77 summit, commented on the clashes on Twitter:

“The Government will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. I urge all parties concerned to act in restraint,” he said. He also mentioned that investigation would be held to bring to book those responsible for incidents in Aluthgama.

About three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s population are Sinhalese, most of them Theravada Buddhists, while Muslims, who are a minority belong to 9.7% of the population.

A Buddhist leader and fierce critic of the attacks on Muslims is in hospital after reportedly being abducted, stripped naked and beaten. Watareka Vijitha Thero, the leader of the Jathika Bala Sena — who opposes the actions of Bodu Bala Sena — was abducted and assaulted in the outskirts of capital Colombo on Wednesday night.

In recent years, Sri Lanka has seen a rise in Buddhist nationalism led by Bodu Bala Sena. The Sri Lankan government has also been accused previously of endorsing extremist nationalists, which has caused a culture of ethnic violence and those involved in it unrestrained.

Massive occurrences of ethnic violence in the world are causing people, especially human rights groups, to speculate a rise in what they call ethnic cleansing. Thousands have been killed in the conflict between Muslim and Christian militias in the Central African Republic. The ‘Hate Propaganda’ was said to be similar to that in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide that killed about 8,00,000 people. In Sri Lanka, fears are growing about rising attacks against Muslims, especially after the bloody civil war five years ago.

Preeti A. Karna, Correspondent (Asia: South)

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