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Attacks on Srilanka Muslims
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
|Srilankan Muslims, accounting for about
ten percent of the country’s population, have never had it easy,
sandwiched as they are between two bigoted communities, the Tamils in the
north and the Sinhalas in the rest of the country. Though mostly belonging
to the Tamil linguistic group, they refused to support the (Hindu) Tamil
secessionist movement and stuck to the unity of their country. As a
consequence 110, 000 were robbed of all their possessions and driven out
of their homes from the Jaffna peninsula by the LTTE terrorists at a few
hours notice in 1990 and since then live in tents and shanty towns in
other parts of the country.
With the surge of chauvinist Sinhala groups, life of Muslims in other
parts of Srilanka was at best precarious. The latest spate of violence
broke out on 30 April in the central town of Mawanella which lies about 80
kms east of Colombo. Thousands of Sinhala thugs, Chandiyas, with the
active support of Rural Industrial Development Minister Mahipala Herath,
went on the rampage, burning and looting Muslims shops and properties.
Four mosques and 30 shops were ransacked and burnt. When Muslims came out
to demonstrate, they were attacked by the police which killed one Muslim
protester and injured many. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress sources gave
different figures for the actual loss of Muslims in Mawanella: 18
vehicles, 20 houses, 140 shops, two garment factories and a rubber factory
were gutted by the Sinhala thugs who killed two Muslims during curfew.
On 4 May Muslims demonstrated in the Maradana, Panchikawatta, Maaligawatte
and Hulftsdrop areas of Colombo demanding for protection to Muslim lives
and properties. The police once again came into action and fired upon the
protesters injuring 15 of them. Riots broke out in various parts of the
Srilankan capital and a 12-hour curfew had to be clamped.
Two days later, on 6 May anti-Muslim violence erupted in Mutur town in the
eastern district of Trincomalee. Twelve Muslim shops were gutted in the
main street at stone-throwing distance from the town police station. q