Gintota Riots – A Dissection » Sri Lanka Muslim

Gintota Riots – A Dissection

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நன்றி - அனுப்புனர்

M. K. M. Rasmy – Gintota
Development Officer

English Translation –
Bro. Mohamed Safith Abdul Wahid & Bro. Hashir Naufer


A minor motor bike accident occurred at Gintota in Galle district was a HOT TOPIC talked island-wide as it was twisted as a riot by some racists. Gintota where around 2000 multicultural families are living is a peaceful region in Sri Lanka. Even though some unexpected incidents make the situation abnormal or unrest, it would be immediately solved out as the people of this place are well socialized and understanding. So, the clash occurred in such a peaceful environment was extremely regretful. Some social media and Buddhist Monks who apparently spread racism among the public were the main reasons behind the riot. Although the clash was based on the motor bike accident, there is no doubt on that there were some backgrounds of political moves as per the view of public and intellectuals.

A Sinhalese young man who used to ride motor bike faster so that it disturbs the moves of other vehicles and pedestrians hit a Muslim woman and her little daughter on 13th November 2017. According to the people who were at the place of incident, the bike rider had been drunk alcohol at that moment. Even though some Sinhalese youngsters who have been misguided by some racist monks were engaging in such deliberate riot oriented activities including such bike riding in recent past, the Muslims of the area never considered them as serious proceedings. But, it cannot be contradicted that some Muslim youngsters’ misuse of road rules and regulations also highly disturbs the normality of the road environment.

Generally, once an accident happened in the road in lesser-developed countries like Sri Lanka, the driver or owner of the vehicle is warned and punished at first without any judgment even though the pedestrians are guilty. Sometimes, the vehicles are burnt by the public without considering any pathetic or serious consequences. So, once an accident occur, the drivers or vehicle owners who have clearly understood such bad after-accident situations happening in Sri Lankan mostly try to escape the place of accident. This is the normal situation happening island-wide in Sri Lanka.

According to the people who have directly seen this particular incident, the fault was completely of the bike rider. The bike rider who escaped soon after the incident has asked one of his friends to retrieve the bike. When his friend came to the spot, some Muslim youths who were at the spot have asked that guy to bring that guilty bike rider for honestly compromise the problem. But, that Sinhalese guy who was also a misguided fellow who used to torture Muslims has refused and quarreled with them with inferior racist words. Then a Muslim young man who exasperated on those racist words has attacked that guy. It should be noted here that the Muslim young man could have tolerated and be calm by considering the lessons learnt in recent past.

Because, a spot incident with a single man can explode as a riot between different religious communities, and some racist movements guided by monks are looking for such wrong doings of Muslims to twist it as a platform for such clashes. Anyhow, the problem was solved out when it came to police by imposing a fine of 25000 rupees for the bike rider as compensation to the women and daughter; and then he was released on police bail.

Even though the police had brought the problem to a conclusion as above, some Muslim youths have been assaulted by a Sinhalese gang on 16th November 2017 while the Muslim youths coming back home through Vithanagoda village after playing in a ground. Later, the assaulted Muslim youths have come back to the place as a gang with more members to fight back with the Sinhalese gang. Then, as the Sinhalese gang entered into a nearby house, a very small damage has occurred in the house. Then, the Sinhalese gang themselves purposefully made severe damages in the house and other interior items with the consent of the house owner to intensify the clash by showing the damagesas serious and impose the blames on Muslims.

After that, even though the Muslim leaders of the area tried maximum as possible to peacefully settle the clash, the Buddhist monks never agreed. Consequently, some Muslim youths and Mr.HussainKiyas who was a former member and opposition leader in the particular PradeshiyaSabha were arrested by police on the request of the monks.

It should be noted here that Mr. Hussain Kiyas was not a member in the group confronted to fight back with the Sinhalese group; and he just rushed to the place to settle the clash. He is a good social worker working for multicultural communities without any bias; and he has been keeping a good a relationship with Sinhalese people since his childhood so that he has been a leader of Students’ Council in a Sinhalese School in Gintota. But, he is now criticized in wrong manners in some media which encourage racism among the public.

Further, many Sinhalese, formed into several gangs were continuing their harassments and bullyings against Muslims in all parts of Gintota even in the night; and they have assaulted some Muslims who were crossing them in the road. MoulaviLuthubulAleem, The Vice President of JammiathulUlama of Galle also was a victim among those who were assaulted. Consequently, the security of the area was strengthened on 17th November 2017 morning with more security forces (police and STF); and the Muslim community was calm as usual and never expected whether this chain of incidents will escalate as a riot even after this increased security. But, it came to know later that a Sinhalese mob have gathered in GintotaThooparama Temple and taken several riot oriented decisions against Muslims with the guidance of Buddhist monks at around 7.30 p.m on the same day. As the implemented high security was loosened at that moment, the tense situation was informed to the police and respective defense authorities. But, no safety precautions were taken by the authorities, and it could not be taken to the attention of the politicians as their telephone connections were not responsive.

In the other hand, the Sinhalese mob with more than 300 members who came from different parts of southern region with the help of social media had gathered in a place as they planned. Then, they entered into Gintota Muslim area group by group in many vehicles by blockading the roads and other means of accesses to the area especially at AmpitiyaThooparama, Ginikuruntha, Elabodawatta and Ukkuwatta; and started their attack savagely in the night at around 9.30 pm by damaging and burning with fire the houses, shops and other belongings of Muslims. The unarmed Muslims, who had never expected that brutal attacks of the Sinhalese mobs, did not come out and stayed calm into their houses as if they were under house arrest. Thereby, the racist mobs were continuing their barbaric attacks while scolding loudly with inferior and disgusting racist words. Although a less number of Muslim youths were in the field, they could not take any action against them. But, the level of destruction would have been very high if they were not present there. The main think to be much worried here that the Buddhist monks were the guidance for all of these brutal racist attacks on the Muslims.

As per the information gained in a meeting held in Galle District Secretariat on 18th November 2017, more than Sixty (60) Houses, Twenty Six (26) Shops, Twelve (12) Vehicles and Two (2) Mosques have been damaged by this brutal attacks of the racists lasted for three hours. Most of the houses among these have been damaged very badly while some of the vehicles have been burned completely. As the security forces were too late to reach the field, it was much convenient for the mobs to act as they had planned.

The security forces who rushed to the field did not react honestly and a bias favor to the racist mobs was obvious on their moves. The concern they taken on repressing the Muslim youth could not be seen on their actions against the Sinhalese mobs who had come from out of Gintota for escalating the riots; and no one can contradict the fact that some police men were bowing to worship a Buddhist monk who was guiding the racist mobs as if he was god.

After all out attacks for a continuous three hours, the mobs also stationed themselves in different places, awaiting opportunities to attack further.

A curfew was implemented with immediate effect. Women and children in house holds bad spent their time occupying the washrooms and rear parts of houses in fear. As soon as the curfew was withdrawn, Muslim civil organizations rushed to the scene to collect details of damages done. Many houses had been broken into, and even money and jewellery has been stolen. In one household, even the money collected in tills by small kids had been stolen. Village civil organizations not only accomplished the tasks of estimating and documenting the damage, but also arranged food for the affected people for all three meals.

Though curfew was being implemented again at 6.30 pm (18.11.2017), and complete safety precautions had been taken, a Muslim house of a very poor family that was situated near the Sinhala area was set fire. There was no one at that time of incident as the residents had already left to it her places due to fear of being attacked. The person responsible for setting fire has now been identified as a person who runs a grocery and a fruit shop in an entirely Muslim village, with Muslims as his major customers. There was another Petrol bomb thrown towards the Jumma Mosque again yesterday night, but no damages were incurred.In addition to that, the Jumma mosque in the adjacent Hirimbura area was also stoned. A husk factory was set on fire in the suburbs of Katugoda.

After the incidents of Thursday, G/ Gintota MV, which is a Sinhala school, experienced a severe incident where Muslim students studying there were verbally abused in very bad language, and beaten up with hands and eyes tied up, like in universities. The fact that not just youth, but even children are being fed with racist ideologies is clearly evident in the above incident. The incident that thus revolves around these innocent young Muslim students who had no connections whatsoever with the incidents and we’re waiting for examinations, being attacked by fellow students is totally unacceptable and leads us to a firm debate on whether students have been deprived of basic humane qualities of coexistence, acceptance and pluralism. The children who would lead this country in the future are being misguided. It is thus, to be pondered upon as to who the culprits are, in this process. It is to be noted with sadness that many Muslim students who are to write their G.C.E. O/L Examinations this year have been mentally broken and that they are now at a complete standstill with respect to their academics, having been forced to work with their community in this crisis.

Another important fact to be noted here is that, many Sinhalese businessmen who had established their business stalls in Muslim centred areas with 90% of their customers being Muslims, were also involved in the attacks. Gintota Muslims have never even looked to corner and exclude the Sinhalese who lived with them. Muslims were the sole customers of many builders, carpenters, businessmen owning groceries, fruit and vegetable stalls three wheel drivers, barbers, fish sellers and doctors. Muslims of Gintota have never looked at them in racist views. They will not look at them with racism again either. Even after this crisis, it can be seen that Sinhala traders and Muslim customers are still in a state of normalcy when it comes to trading activities happening around.

The above incident had damaged approximately 80 houses, 12 vehicles and 10 shops beginning to Muslims. In addition, many houses were broken into, and money, jewellery and diamonds were stolen. When the Sinhala properties are concerned, two houses and one shop were damaged. Even that damage was done by the rowdies themselves. But,the statements of MP representing Galle, and Minister of Internal Affairs Hon. Vajira Abeywardane that portrayed the damages done to Sinhala property to be bigger than those done to Muslim property caused widespread hate towards him and his party, the UNP and it is expected that this would lead to a huge slide in votes towards him and his party in the elections to come.

A small incident that could have easily been resolved verbally, was made to be a huge racist issue by some unaudited monks whose primary purpose is to inculcate racism, along with some Sinhalese youth, who are jobless, spreading racism all over facebook and by some politicians working in their own hidden agendas. We live in a nation which is small and rich in resources. Yet, we love at a time when political and religious leaders are unable to fulfill their basic duty of developing this nation using the ankle resources at our disposituon, with proper planning and implementation. Our dreams of development after the three decades of war, are gouged to remain as dreams till the end of time. While Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are in the ascent around usand while a country like Singapore has rights for even a Muslim woman wearing a Fardha to become the President of the state even though Muslims only constitute 20% of the population there, we, in Sri Lanka, with so many resources, are moving towards yet another doom. We currently posses all rights to be the next Somalia.

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