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  • Compulsory cremation of Covid-19 dead bodies of Muslims: Science, human decency and racism
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    That is what the government should reckon of its flawed policy of compulsory cremation of dead bodies of Muslims. According to the religious belief of Muslims, the burning of the dead is tantamount to desecration. And the rest of the...
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Updated Situation Brief - Aluthgama

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Aluthgama as at 17.06.2014 (9.00am)

Summary

Religious tensions between Sinhala Buddhists and Sri Lankan Muslims flared up in the Muslim majority areas of Aluthgama and Beruwela located within the Kalutara District with Sinhala mobs including Buddhist monks, attacking Muslim homes and businesses. Hospital sources state that there were 8 deaths and 80+ persons injured so far, some with gunshot wounds. The violence reportedly took place after the Sinhala Buddhist Bodu Bala Senawa (BBS) held a rally to protest against an earlier incident on 15.06.2014 (see Background below). Government has been criticized for permitting the rally to take place.  A police curfew has been declared in both areas amidst fears of violence spreading.  Violent incidents have been reported on 15.06.2014, 16.06 2014, and during the early hours of 17.06.14.

Background

On 08.05.2014 a Muslim owned shop was set on fire by a mob led by Buddhist monks in relation to a police investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of a Sinhala 12 year old by the shop owners brother. On 12.06.2014 further tensions broke out in Aluthgama, after reports of a Muslim man allegedly attacking a Buddhist monk and several others. Tear gas was used to control protests. Three were arrested. A vehicle of a minister, Kumara Welgama, who visited the area was also attacked. From 13.05.2014 the police and Special Task Force (STF - counter terror police unit) were deployed in the area with armored vehicles etc.

Request for security by Muslim community leaders

According to newspaper sources a delegation of Muslim organisations met with Western Province DIG Anura Senanayake in Kalutara on 14.05.2014 to hold discussions about security in the area. Police assured the organisations that they would ensure maximum security in the area. Deputy Minister of Investment Promotion Faiszer Mustapha wrote to the Secretary of the Ministry of Law and Order, Maj. Gen. Nanda Mallawararachchi urging him to prevent the Bodu Bala Sena rally from taking place. In a letter to IGP N.K. Illangakoon, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, the Wakf Board of Sri Lanka, the All Ceylon YMMA and the Colombo Masjid Federation said that “extremist organisations” Bodu Bala Sena and Sinhala Ravaya had organised a rally in Aluthgama to protest against an alleged attack on a Buddhist priest in the area last Thursday. “This is a dangerous situation that could develop into a major riot, hence we call upon you to take immediate and decisive action to safeguard the lives and property of Muslims in Aluthgama and surrounding areas,” stated the letter to the IGP, that was also copied to DIG Anura Senanayake yesterday.

Sinhala Buddhist group holds rally

Sinhala Buddhist right wing Extremist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS – Buddhist Power Force) held a rally in Aluthgama on Sunday 15.06.2014. Its leader and General Secretary Buddhist Monk Galagodaaththe Gnanasara, questioned the heavy police presence in the area. He referred to Muslims in derogatory terms and accused sections of the Government of being in collaboration with the Muslim Community. He stated in Sinhala that “They keep calling us racist and religious extremists. Yes, we are racists”. The crowd  had cheered him on. He then stated that “This country still has a Sinhalese Police, this country still has a Sinhalese police and a Sinhala army. It will be the end of all [Muslims] if a Muslim lays even a finger on a Sinhalesehe said. He also added that it has come to the point where he also has to question the intelligence of President Rajapaksa in allowing such minority communities to flourish. The crowd continues to cheer him on  (video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiHEYxOyrfc)

Beginning of clash

By late afternoon 15.06.2014 the Bodu Bala Sena proceeded to the Muslim majority area of Dharga Town in Alutgama in vehicle convoy. In the area pelted stones at the convoy, triggering clashes. Several people were injured. Note that it is unclear as to who started the clash but the violence continued even after a police curfew was declared with information to indicate that Muslim owned shops and houses had been torched. Information also indicates that the attackers were armed with sticks and knives and cans of petrol. There are also questions raised as to why the convoy was permitted to drive through a densely populated Muslim area when ethnic tensions were at a fever pitch.

Police Curfew declared to control situation

From 6.45PM 15.06.2014 the police declared a curfew in the Kalutara District towns of Aluthgama and Beruwela. This curfew was declared due to continuing clashes sparked by the earlier incident. Around 1200 police personnel and including 400 Special Task Force were brought in from different parts of the region to control the situation. The curfew was to be in place till further notice according to the Police Media Spokesman.

Violence continues and mobs disregard the curfew

Over 10 shops in the Muslim majority Dharga town area in Aluthgama were torched with police and Special Task Force personnel firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the mobs to no avail. Houses in the Kotapitiya, Meeri Penna and Adhikarigoda areas in Aluthgama were also set on fire with Muslim residents fleeing their homes to take sanctuary in several mosques in Dharga town. It is confirmed that several buildings have been torched through video footage and pictures obtained by the media in the area. Ground reporters also described seeing heavy clashes. Telephone lines in Aluthgama were reportedly disconnected whilst rail and road services were also disrupted. Meanwhile footage showed armed personnel carriers and newly-imported water cannons being brought to the Aluthgama area.

Violence continues and starts to spread to other areas

Despite the curfew, Muslim families gathered at the Dharga town Marikkar Street Mosque and several other mosques in the area as homes came under attack by violent mobs who continued to move around ignoring the curfew. In fact shops had come under attack in the Beruwala area at 9 PM on 15.06.2014 in spite of the police curfew according to sources in the area. Ground reports indicated that crowds of people were on the march again in Aluthgama at 9PM, 15.06.2014 with police warning Muslim residents to stay indoors. Fixed line telephones in several areas of Aluthgama also went dead late night on 15.06.2014. In a seemingly related incident Harcourts Pharmacy in Dehiwala, Colombo was attacked close to midnight. CCTV evidence indicates that 3-4 young men with their faces concealed entered the premises, broke the glass counters and threw an incendiary device and left..

Daily FT reported that Police fired tear gas on 16.06.14 night to disperse 300-strong crowds in Welipanna late last night. Journalist Dinouk Colombage reported police confirming a mosque being set on fire in addition several shops and houses being attacked in Welipenna by mobs before the army intervened to disperse the mobs late night of 16.06.14. He also reported that a Muslim-owned garment factory was burnt down in Aluthgama last night. Colombage confirmed that one individual was killed last night in Welipenna and the overall death toll from the violence has risen to 8 people, quoting hospital sources. The tensions that prevailed on the night of 16.06.2014 resulted in two lorries taking supplies to those affected being turned back and requested to return in the morning.

Reactions and responses

The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse are currently not in the country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is in Bolivia attending the G77 summit, called for restraint via his twitter account and said those who are responsible for the violence would be held accountable. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and other Muslim organisations expressed concern, and called on the Muslim community to remain peaceful. Bodu Bala Sena says the organization was protesting peacefully when they came under attack. BBS spokesman Dilantha Vitanage told Reuters that the incident was “unfortunate” and should not have happened. “There are damages and casualties to both the parties”.  Meanwhile NewsFirst Reports that approximately 80 people have been injured in the clashes with at least seven people with gunshot injuries. BBC Sinhala Service has published a video that captures the situation in Aluthgama. Curfew has been temporarily lifted from 8am to 12 noon today 17.06.14 from Aluthgama to Beruwala. Reports from human rights activists indicate that there are also some efforts under way to arrange for diplomats from Muslim-majority/OIC countries to accompany Muslim politicians on a visit to Aluthgama on 17.06.14 (to provide protection). Police spokesman confirmed on 16.06.14 night that no arrests have been made so far in connection with the violence. Civil society has called to ban the BBS. Calls have been made to ensure safe delivery of relief supplies and recovery assistance to those affected.

Sources

http://www.therepublicsquare.com/news/2014/06/15/what-happened-in-aluthgama-yesterday/

http://www.ft.lk/2014/06/16/alas-aluthgama/

Tense situation in Aluthgama after assault on a buddhist monk more..

'Muslims have a different law in Aluthgama: Police live n Mosque' more..

JHU demands deportation of Muslim extremists more..**

Muslims concerned over Aluthgama incident more..

BASL concerned over BBS more..

Mini-battle in Aluthgama: Curfew declared more..

Video: SL shaken by religious violence more..

ACJU requests all Muslims to remain calm more..

Alas Aluthgama! more.. http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/48358-police-tear-gas-protesters.html

http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/48354-tense-situ-in-aluthgama.html http://colombogazette.com/2014/06/12/three-arrested-over-aluthgama-clash/ http://www.colombopage.com/archive_14A/Jun12_1402591811CH.php http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5Mz2iN_Rrg https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/inside-story-of-the-torching-aluthgama-muslim-owned-shop/

http://www.ft.lk/2014/06/13/tensions-flare-in-aluthgama/

 

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