Violence against Muslims and the Character of the BBS

Published On:Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian

Violence against Muslims and the Character of the BBS

| by Laksiri Fernando

( June 24, 2014, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) After the organized violent attacks on the Muslim community in Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga town in mid-June, the political character of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) has come to the sharp focus. Some have condemned it as ‘terrorist’ and some others as ‘fascist’. All are fine as political rhetoric or words of strong condemnation of the heinous crimes that they have committed against the Muslim community. The acts in fact are both ‘terrorist’ and ‘fascist’ in soft meanings of the terms.
However, one central question posed is whether there is a need ‘to unite with the Devil’s grandmother,’ whoever she is, in the struggle against the BBS. I am particularly referring to Dayan Jayatilleka’s first article, “Is the BBS the Boss?” This united front proposition has been brought to the public discussion by portraying the BBS as a ‘clerical fascist organization’ going against the government for state power of its own, and posing a threat to the present ‘democratic’ regime. The danger of such an analysis, in haste perhaps or with different political motives, is not only that the formation of a viable opposition to the present anti-democratic regime is seriously undermined but also the actual power bases of the BBS or root causes are confused and camouflaged.
The Beast
Aluthgama violence is not the beginning or the end of recent acts of violence against the Muslim community by the BBS. It is undoubtedly the major single incident so far. The previous events and incidents are well recorded. Within barely a week of Aluthgama, a Muslim owned shop at Panadura has been set on fire. Parallel to the previous attacks on the Muslim community, their places of worship and business premises, there had also been a spate violence and incidents attacking the religious places and personnel of some Christian communities. Similar has been the atrocities committed against the Hindu Temples particularly in the North and the East.
The formation of the BBS in 2012 has been the culmination of an ideology and a sentiment evolving particularly after the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. That is the ideology of ‘triumphalism’ and Sinhala Buddhist ethno-nationalism in a new form and at a new height. The intended defeat of ‘terrorism’ has been conveniently turned into a defeat of an ethnic and a religious minority. What the army did in Nandikadal is being reenacted in small measures by the BBS in different forms. It is important to note that Gnanasara thera in his Aluthgama speech equated the situation there to Nandikadal.
There had been debates about whether the Tamils and the Muslims could be considered equal in status and dignity to the Sinhalese as groups in a plural and a multi-cultural society in Sri Lanka and in what form. It’s a question of group rights in human rights parlance which I am familiar with. There has been strong views expressed claiming that their place is only as ‘minorities’ or ‘minority ethnicities.’ The President has never explained what he actually meant by ‘there are no minorities in this country’ in one of his speeches after the end of the war. He did say though that ‘all are equal.’ ‘No minorities’ could mean the eradication of their identities as Gnanasara thera wanted to change the name of Dharga town in his provocative speech before the violent attacks. Continue Reading

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