Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe:
On 20th April 2012- Friday, a mob of some 2,000 led by Buddhist priests occupied and ransacked the Masjidul Khaira Mosque, obstructing those engaged in prayer. Even the police and the Special Task Force could not prevent the mayhem. The attack was carried out on the grounds that the mosque had been constructed on a site designated as a sacred Buddhist area.
A firebomb had been blasted the day before, without, however , causing any casualties. This attack follows another attack against a Moslem mosque in Anuradhapura, last September, by a mob led by Buddhist priests, and by the series of attacks against Christian, Hindu and Islamic religious institutions elsewhere in the country- all with impunity. By Monday, the Minister for Religious Affairs had given the order for the Mosque and a Hindu Kovil in the vicinity to be demolished and asked that they be relocated elsewhere. As of now, the President has not stated anything in this regard, attesting to his complicity in this decision. This has been decided in spite of the fact that the Mosque had been in existence since 1964,where Islamic devotees had regularly practiced their religion.
Let us all hope that this attack shall not lead to the monstrous developments as in India when the historic Babri Masjid mosque at Ayodya was razed to the ground by Hindu fanatics in 1992, and which led to state-sponsored genocidal attacks, replete with mass massacres and gang rapes on Moslems in Goa a decade later. The recent attack in Dambulla portends of such possible monstrosities in the future. The Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya who led the attack threatened a pleading Tamil resident woman of the area that unless the Hindu kovil is demolished, all Tamil residents of the area would be evicted. Far more menacingly, another leading monk standing with the Chief Incumbent read out that hereafter no Moslem would even be allowed to urinate in this area! ( Much to the hilarious delight of their devotees chanting Sadu!). That no other religious places of worship would be allowed in any area declared to be Buddhist sacred areas, and that this writ is hereby declared without consent or presence of either the Judiciary or the President , and shall be executed throughout the island. The sheer primitiveness and depth of vulgarity, and the boldness and audacity expressed by the monks, including baring genitals in the face of the mosque, attests to a simmering volcano of religious fanaticism, bigotry and hatred against all others, that had been nurtured by the politics of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism and supremacy foisted by the Rajapakse Regime.
I am not here concerned with the compounded violation of the doctrinal precepts and ethics of Buddhism as practiced by the institutional order of the priesthood, or by these bigoted religious fanatics, since I do not believe that Buddhism in its pure doctrinal essence exists in Sri Lanka. What exists as Buddhism is a Sinhala (Aryan) supremacist political ideology that had been nurtured by the British colonialists, and which serve the class interests of the dominant status quo and the politics of the Comprador Capitalist ruling classes. The Buddhist priesthood today, in general, represents nothing of the quintessential institutional and personal sense of piety, renunciation and search for enlightenment specified and exemplified by the Lord Buddha. For the most part, it exists as a corrupt, hierarchic, caste-ridden, privileged enclave of rich and powerful feudal lords in saffron robes- as much the same with other religious institutions. If Buddhism does exist in its doctrinal essence, it lies in the devotion and practice of the majority of lay Buddhists, who have no vested political or economic interest. I state this fact openly, since I consider the Lord Buddha to be one of the greatest philosophers and have profound respect and critical appreciation for the rational-ethical universality, the rigor of scientific investigation and the dialectical method incorporated in the Dharma, even though I am a convinced Marxist, and equally revile all those who would exploit and auction it for political power, personal gain and commercial profit.
I venture into this article since I feel that it is important to analyze the underlying political implications and ramifications of this attack. The attack achieves special significance given that, following the adoption of the US sponsored Geneva-UNHRC resolution, it would seem that the international spotlight would be on the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime for its performance on human and democratic rights. How, then, could such a brazen violation of fundamental, constitutionally enshrined rights occur in broad daylight, in the presence of the Police and the Special Task Force, and for the government to have taken this hasty and arbitrary decision? In this backdrop, we have to assume three possibilities. 1. Either the Regime itself engineered the attack, or is complicit, 2. Forces opposed to the Regime engineered it in order to discredit the Regime, Or, fundamentalist forces exercised initiative on their own.
It is quite possible that powerful vested interests within the Regime itself engineered the attack, or is complicit. It is quite clear that the Regime itself, and the ruling dynastic triumvirate places its political survival over and above all other considerations. This is due to the lust for power and glory, as much as it is driven by the fact that the Regime and the Triumvirate cannot afford to lose its hegemonic grip on state power since it will surely be dragged into the Tribunal of the People- and perhaps some international tribunal as well,- to face Justice. The governing ideology and political agenda of the Regime and of the ruling dynasty is to exercise undisputed, hegemonic rule over a Sinhala-Buddhist unitary State reigning over the entirety of an undivided, sovereign territory of Lanka-in perpetuity. This is the stuff of a terminal megalomania. There is reigning consensus among the triumvirate that some form of quasi-military rule and subordination over the entire people and country, spiced with doses of white terror and generalized repression, with the direct political subjugation and military subordination of the Tamil nation at its core, are the necessary ingredients to pull off this militarist-chauvinist, dynastic-hegemonic agenda.
The bogey of a revived LTTE in league with Southern Sinhala rebels, funded by the Tamil Diaspora, conjoined with a Western Conspiracy -adding up to a traitorous plot against the Regime-equated with the ‘Motherland”, adds gist to this agenda. This is the current meaning of ‘national sovereignty’ that certain sycophantic ambassadorial pundits and all stripes of Neanderthal patriots would have us defend and serve as our highest collective duty. Well, to sustain this agenda, the Regime would need and would feed off a situation of semi-anarchy, terror and violent conflict, including crisscrossing class, national, ethnic and religious conflict. The power of the tyrant is best exercised over a terrorized population ridden with fear and uncertainty, wherein all hope of survival is vested in the one, omnipotent ruler. This would be a way for the Regime to turn the growing anger and frustration of the masses into cannon-fodder for exercising its naked terrorist dictatorship, in the guise of a ‘five-star’ parliamentary democracy. To be sure, the imperialist and regional hegemonic powers would dance and dine, cajole and compromise with such a dictatorship by whomever, so long as it does its duty by falling in line, crushing the resistance of the masses and open the floodgates to Capitalist pillage and plunder.
The Second possibility that the attack could be engineered by forces opposed to the Regime to discredit it, is simply absurd. I have mentioned it only because this line may be bandied about by the Regime itself, and by its apologists and media lackeys. For one thing, the attack was instigated and led by the Chief Incumbent of the Dambulla Raja Maha Viharaya, a powerful feudal-clerical Lord of the Buddhist priesthood, who has his own ambitions of power and glory within a unitary Sinhala-Buddhist theocratic Capitalist State. His class interests lie squarely with that of the Regime.
The Third possibility that the attack could have been instigated by the fundamentalist forces independently, on their own initiative is not to be discounted. The recognition of the US-led resolution and its implementation ( implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the LLRC and other obligations related to international humanitarian and human rights Law) would sound the death-knell of the fundamentalist project. These recommendations call for a political solution based on effective constitutional devolution of power to the Tamil people. It would mean a de-facto and even a de-jure recognition of the political status of the Tamil people as a nation- or would lay the basis for such an articulation. The idea that there could be any other nation or nationality other than the supreme Sinhala-Buddhist nation on this blessed island is a virulent anathema to these fundamentalists. At best, there could be ‘minorities’ who are tolerated by the grace of the Sinhalayas.
At the same time, India is being compelled for its own internal and expansionist reasons to pressure the Regime towards such a solution ( 13 +). Under the mounting pressure, Mahinda Rajapakse maybe seen to be prevaricating and sliding on the issue. I mean, sending off Minister of External Affairs to the US to meet with the Secretary of State carrying a secret Action Plan on Human Rights would send shivers down the spine of the tribal-fundamentalist camp. They may feel that they may be losing their grip on the President and the Regime in all these machinations, and may opt for a drastic and dramatic initiative such as the attack on the Mosque to reassert their domain. They would be emboldened by the fact that the President and the Regime would dare not oppose this calculated move on the chess board, lest all ideological legitimacy and political authority gained by the mantle of Sinhala supremacy and ‘Savior of the Motherland’ would be challenged and fatally threatened, if there is to be open confrontation with this camp of die-hard fanatic fundamentalists.
I have elsewhere in a previous article warned of the danger of underestimating the political-ideological hold, organizational capacity, and the social base of this wolverine camp of fanatical fascists. They hold powerful ministerial positions and have infiltrated the armed forces and the bureaucracy and sounded the red alert for the possibility of a wholesale ‘betrayal’ by the powers that be, and would mount any campaign, conspiracy and initiative to advance their agenda for total domination. Perhaps this is why the Minister for Religious Affairs hastened with absolutely no respect for democratic, constitutional and consensual procedure to order that the Mosque and the Kovil be demolished post haste, and why the Chief Executive has so far remained silent on the issue. Once before, the attack at Bidunuwewa where some 26 Tamil detainees were slaughtered in open daylight in the presence of the armed forces by Sinhala mobs was designed to warn the then President Chandrika as to the fatal dangers inherent in any effort to concede to Tamil demands by dismantling the unitary, hegemonic status of the Sinhala-Buddhist State. The real perpetrators of this massacre are still on the loose and working overtime, with renewed strength and under far more favorable conditions. The implications and ramifications of the attack on the Masjidul Khaira Mosque run deep underground to give alarm to a logic of escalating division, anarchy and violence as both foreign and internal predators sink their fangs into the vital arteries of the country and the people. So much for the promise of Peace, Paradise and the Miracle of Asia!
This then, is the legacy of the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime, which is equated with patriotism and the ‘motherland’ and which is to be defended and perpetuated at all costs. Under this ignominious and bloody legacy, the country is under the grip of domination by imperialist and regional predator powers as never before. The Land of Lanka, the supposed repository of the pure Theravada Buddhist tradition, has been mortgaged in perpetuity to foreign powers, where robber barons, drug lords, murderers, torturers, pimps and high class prostitutes ride high and roam free; where high-rise luxury apartments, seven-star hotels and hospitals, glittering casinos, spars, brothels and bars, and super-highways dot the landscape, while the masses of people rot in bottomless poverty, indebtedness, insecurity and degradation, with no hope for the future; where essential social infrastructure such as public education and health is left to perish; where the Tamil people are subjected to direct military occupation and political subjugation in their homelands; a divided, bankrupt and beggar State where the entire Land and People have been subjected to an intensifying process of militarization and politicization; where political abductions, disappearances, assassinations and torture reign and democratic governance and the Rule of Law have long since been buried by a pitiless, corrupt, terrorist Capitalist Dictatorship; where our dignity and reputation as an ancient civilized people have been defiled and violated, and we are looked upon as a nation of barbarians. In this fateful hour, we are called upon by generations born and unborn, to see beyond the limits and terms set by the System and the Regime. We are called upon to raise our vision to experience the dawning of a bright new world rising on the horizon, upon the ashes and ruins of imperialism and neo-colonial bondage.
We must strive to rise together as the indivisible and invincible People of Lanka to claim our future and decide our destiny.
“Nothing is impossible, if you dare to scale the heights”. The Path is Tortuous: The Future is Bright” (Mao).
The writer is Secretary: Ceylon Communist Party ( Maoist)