Tense standoff at Munneswaran festival

By Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

The annual Sri Badrakali Amman Munneswaran kovil festival in Chilaw was held amidst tight security this year, with nearly 1,000 policemen deployed to prevent a possible outbreak of violence as a group of Buddhist monks were protesting the sacrificing of animals at the festival.

The heavy police presence was required as a result of a protest campaign launched by members of the Jathika Sangha Sammelanaya.

Flash back 2009: Offering to the Gods? two persons hold a goat down while another prepares to behead the animal. The brutal slaughter takes place in full public view of both children and adults. Pix by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe and Augustine Fernando.
2010: An enclosure was prepared for the slaughter of the animals

ASP Chilaw, S.D.S. Sandanayake and HQI Thusitha Kumara obtained a Court order from the Chilaw District Judge A. Kahandagamage to stop the protest campaign organised by Ven. Bandirippuwe Vijitha and others who had planned to stage a satyagraha against the sacrifice of animals.

The Buddhist monks whose temple is situated in proximity to the kovil attempted to march in procession to the kovil, but were stopped by the police, who read the Court order out to them and threatened them with arrest if they proceeded.

Tension prevailed for around an hour as the monks were determined to go ahead with their procession and later sat down blocking the road arguing that police should have obtained a Court order to stop the slaughter of animals and not their march.

Though the protest was called off at around noon, police did not take any chances and subjected those arriving at the kovil to stringent checks in keeping with instructions from the kovil authorities that no journalists with cameras be permitted entry. Media personnel however did photograph devotees arriving for the pooja with fowls and goats.

Ven, Bandirippuwe Vijitha Thera said he resented the sacrifice of animals. He said, he had complained to the police as early as the 22nd to stop the practice. Unfortunately instead of obtaining a Court order to stop the sacrificing of animals, the police had obtained an order to stop their march after misleading Court he lamented.

He said appeals to politicians in this regard too had proved unsuccessful. He claimed animal sacrifice belonged to the medival period and had no place in the modern age.

Meanwhile Poosari M. Mahendran, the kurukkal in charge of the kovil said the tradition had been practised for over a hundred years. He added the sacrificing of animals was performed by devotees as a means of fulfilling vows. He said not all animals brought to the kovil were killed either.

He said animal sacrifice was a ritual in which many Sinhalese people who had made vows at the kovil participated and stressed animal sacrifice was not a religious requirement. Another Poosari who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was not a religious requirement to sacrifice animals and no kurukkal ate flesh.

He claimed it was a different Hindu sect who engaged in this practice. He praised the monks who protested the practice and said it (practice) should be stopped.

Buddhist monks march protesting the slaughter
Police barricades put up to prevent protestors entering the kovil area.
Devotees taking animals and birds to fulfil vows.
Lambs to the slaughter. A section of the animals -goats- awaiting death at this year’s pooja.
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