Colombo November 21 (newsin.asia): The anti-Muslim riots which rocked Gintota town, south of the national capital, for four days last week, have put the Sri Lankan government in a spot just weeks ahead of the crucial local bodies’ elections.
The riots in which several Muslim shops and houses were damaged or burnt brought back bitter memories of the riots in the nearby town of Aluthgama in 2014, in which three people were killed and which turned the Muslims of Sri Lanka completely against the then President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The ant-Rajapaksa Muslim vote was a major factor in his defeat in the January 8, 2015 Presidential election. Muslims believed that the Rajapaksa government’s radical Buddhist allies like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) were behind the pogrom and that the police were in cahoots with the Sinhalese Buddhist rioters.
This time round, too ,the police were found wanting as vehicles were burnt in their presence when curfew had been clamped.
Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka imposed censorship on the media threatening arrest of those who described the “minor brawl” as a “Sinhalese-Muslim riot”. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also warned of stern action against rumor mongers and rushed to meet the victims of the riots.
According to human rights activist Shreen Abdul Suroor, on 12th Nov. a Muslim lady and her one and a half year old child were knocked down by a drunken Sinhala motorcyclist. Since the motorcyclist tried to flee, a group of Muslim men caught him, assaulted him, seized his motorbike but released him.
The next day a Sinhala mob mobilized by the motorcyclist attacked Muslims who had come to watch a football match at the Gintota Zahira (Muslim) College. The brawl resulted in the intervention of the police who appeared to have settled the matter. And by way of abundant precaution, the Special Task force was deployed. .
On November 17, police after protection was withdrawn, Sinhalese men gathered at the Gintota Thuparama Pansala (Buddhist school) and renewed the attack on Muslims. About 60 Muslim houses were broken. Some were burnt. Three Muslims shops were gutted and some others robbed. Four Muslims were injured.
According to Saroor, till 10 pm on November 17, the police did not do anything to curb the violence. Curfew was declared but on November 18, one Muslim house and a fiber factory were been burnt even when the curfew was on.
“To date there is tension there. The Muslim community feels insecure,” Saroor said.
(The featured image at the top is that of a vandalized Muslim shop in Gintota)