Sri Lankan police have arrested eight key suspects involved in fueling the religious riots and ensuing looting. Official estimates suggest the damages caused on June 15 cost 200 million rupees of the local currency. They have also said four were killed and 80 wounded. The announcement of the arrests were made as the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, a collaboration of 48 smaller organizations, wrote a petition to police chief N K Illangakoon saying the authorities had done little to prevent extremist Buddhists from attacking Muslims, who constitute only 10 percent of the country’s 20 million population.
At least three people were killed and 52 injured when a Buddhist mob attacked a Muslim neighborhood in southwest Sri Lanka. The sectarian violence followed a huge rally on June 15th by Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Army) in Aluthgama, which lies 60 kilometers south of Colombo.
Reportedly, the rally was carried out after a Buddhist monk was assaulted by Muslim youths earlier this month. However, the rally led to agitations on both sides when demonstrators decided to march through Muslim neighbourhoods chanting anti-Muslim slogans. Homes and shops of Muslims were ransacked during the attacks and this prompted residents to seek refuge in mosques.
Ajith Rohana, Sri Lankan police spokesperson, said soldiers were brought in and a curfew was put in place so the situation in Aluthgama and nearby town Beruwala would not worsen. He said that 12 people from the country’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority, some of whom are members of Bodu Bala Sena, had been arrested over the communal violence.
“They have been remanded at the moment and we're framing charges in due course,” he said.
The attacks have garnered international response with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asking the Sri Lankan government to do everything it can to lessen damage and curb hate speeches and incitement that is driving it.
“I am very concerned this violence could spread to Muslim communities in other parts of the country,” she said.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently in Bolivia for the G77 summit, condemned the clashes by posting 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… An investigation will be held for law to take its course of action to bring to book those responsible for incidents in Aluthgama,” he wrote.
Approximately 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is Sinhalese with most people practicing Theravada Buddhism. Recently, the country has experienced a surge of Buddhist nationalism, most of them led by Bodu Bala Sena, a nationalist Buddhist organization in Sri Lanka that has pledged to fight for the religion.
Photo Credit: Reuters