A 10 day emergency was imposed in the island nation of Sri Lanka on Tuesday, with clashes erupting between the Buddhist and Muslim community in parts of the country. The President Maithripala Sirisena has an option of extending it at the end of the duration.
Demographically the Buddhists Sinhalese form the majority of the Sri Lankan populace with a 75% population share. The Muslims are pegged to be about 10%.
As per local reports, the regions of Digana and Kandy saw the deployment of the army on Sunday after the police failed to quell local tensions. Tensions were result of mobs vandalising a Mosque and commercial establishments owned by Muslims, following the funeral of a Sinhalese truck driver named M. G. Kumarasinghe. He was beaten to death by youths suspected of belonging to Muslim community on 22nd February. A dispute over traffic accident is the reason being given by the Sri Lankan press for the death.
Ethnic violence was also noted in the country’s Ampara town on the night of 26th after an alleged Buddhist mob attacked a Muslim owned eatery and a Mosque, over rumours that the eatery laced its food with “sterilisation pills”. The situation appeared to have escalated to such a level that the country’s Health Services Director General had to assure the public that no tablet existed in western medicine which could cause infertility.
Even though these are the latest triggers for the current conflict, the true causes for the ethnic conflict go deeper. As per a Reuters report, divisions are appearing between the two groups in the past year over hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites and trying to forcibly convert people to Islam. The strife also possibly stems out of some Buddhists protesting the presence of Rohingya Muslims in the country.
These ongoing clashes too in Sri Lanka might just be a pixel in a much bigger conflict, with the country also witnessing similar communal riots in 2014. Back then the Sri Lankan government had deployed its army to quell clashes between Buddhists and Muslims centring around Aluthgama and Beruwala regions of the country, about 60 kilometers from Colombo.
The Bodu Bela Sena (BBS) led by Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara is considered as the main political force in conflict with the Muslims which has among other things, managed to get the Halal certification system abolished in the country. As per Gnanasara his main fight is against Islamic radicalisation.
With such a crisis enveloping on India’s doorstep, fears might increase about the country possibly facing a refugee onslaught like the one it was dealt with during the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.