After several years of ethnic strife and civil war and decisively defeating the separatists, it was thought that peace would prevail in Sri Lanka, that would facilitate the country to march towards economic growth and social advancement. However, the recent communal clashes in Sri Lanka that has necessitated the imposition of national emergency have belied the hopes of politics in Sri Lanka becoming stable and progressive.
It is said that communal violence happened in Kandy region in central province due to the death of a Sinhalese Buddhist youth allegedly at the hands of a group of Muslim men in an incident of road rage. It is difficult to believe that one such incident has resulted in such massive communal violence, causing destruction of property and attack on individuals and families. Obviously, there should have been simmering discontent and development of feelings of hatred between the communities over a period of time and this attack due to road rage must have happened, as it became a spark to kindle the fire in a heated climate.
Obviously, the intelligence department in Sri Lankan government have failed to identify such simmering discontent among communities and it’s potential to cause serious unrest and violence. The political leadership of the Sri Lankan government has also shown extraordinary lack of understanding of the ground realities, as a result of which the government has failed to take preventive steps.
In any case, it is good that the Sri Lankan government has acted with great alacrity and initiated all possible steps at it’s command to put down the violence and ensure peace by declaring national emergency for ten days. The situation is now returning back to normal outwardly, though the feelings of animosity and anger developed among people of different communities are unlikely to go away so soon.
The image of Sri Lanka in the eyes of the outside world has certainly suffered due to this communal violence and the Sri Lankan government’s efforts to project Sri Lanka as a peaceful country and encourage investment from abroad and promote tourism by people from across the world have suffered a setback.
It is always known that once bitterness happen between religious and caste communities and violent incidents occur, it is bound to happen again, unless earnest , intelligent and forward looking measures would be taken to avoid the conditions in future that cause such communal hatred. It calls for high level of maturity and the statesmanship on the part of Prime Minister and President of Sri Lanka to take the necessary proactive steps.
As usual in such scenario, Sri Lankan government may appoint an enquiry committee to look into the reasons that caused such communal violence and to suggest steps to prevent the recurrence.
Whatever the enquiry committee may conclude, there are some obvious pointers that should be noted without loss of time.
Sri Lanka is not the only country where such communal violence in different forms has taken place. It frequently happens in other countries like India, Bangladesh and several African nations. Even China is not an exception to this and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is a recent one.
In most cases, for such incidents of communal violence ,the root cause is the gradual shifting of demographic balance between one community to other. There are certain religions where more births are recommended and encouraged in families to make the people belonging to the religion numerically strong. Such conditions inevitably create sense of insecurity among the people and cause bitter feelings.
To prevent recurrence of such incidents, Sri Lankan government should take some special steps to protect the existing demographic balance between different religious groups and prevent religious conversions which may happen by force or by enticement. It is a well known fact that there are certain religious leadership today across the world who want to convert people belonging to other religions in a systematic way and they extend fund support and adopt other methods to achieve the objective.
While Sri Lanka government should take stringent steps to promote communal harmony by promoting appropriate climate of harmony and the political leadership in Sri Lanka should avoid narrow and short sighted partisan outlook to win votes and support, the basic necessity of maintaining demographic balance in Sri Lanka between different religious groups should get utmost priority.
BY - N. S. Venkataraman
N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.
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