A blatant attempt is underway in Sri Lanka to “cover up” and whitewash the despicable role played by the “Bodhu Bala Sena”(Buddhist Power Force)in the recent attack at Pepiliyana on the Muslim owned apparel establishment”Fashion Bug”.
Although the Bodhu Bala Sena(BBS) has disclaimed responsibility for the incident ,such denial seems rather unconvincing as there is clear evidence of BBS involvement.
Efforts however are on to cover up the BBS involvement in an exercise typical of the “shape venda baridha ”syndrome prevalent in Sri Lanka under the Rajapaksa regime.
The mob that attacked “Fashion Bug”emerged from the precincts of the Buddhist place of worship”Sunethra Mahadeva Pirivena” in Pepiliyana.A group of about 25-30 persons including 8-10 Buddhist monks had gone there from Nedimala in Dehiwela and conducted a meeting at dusk.The mob was incited into attacking by inflammatory oratory of an anti-Muslim nature at the meeting.
Despite denials it is now well known that the group which went to Pepiliyana is from the Bodhu Bala Sena.Furthermore several people attached to the Pirivena including its chief incumbent are also members of the BBS.
Members of the Bodhu Bala Sena both clergy and laity were in the forefront of the mob and acted as ringleaders in the attack.
The BBS vanguard was seen abusing and assaulting “Fashion Bug” employees.Racist slogans and remarks were directed against Muslims.The building ,furniture,merchandise and vehicles were damaged or destroyed.
All those acts perpetrated by the Bodhu Bala Sena has been vividly recorded on the “Fashion Bug”CCTV cameras. In addition some employees too managed to video and photograph scenes of the violence being unleashed.
Though mainstream media also rushed to the scene the main thrust of the attack was over by the time they arrived on the spot. Nevertheless they too have some footage showing the BBS ringleaders in action.
As such it is possible to clearly identify the ringleaders thus exposing the BBS role in the attack if a free and fair investigation is conducted by the Police.Given the recent pattern of anti-Muslim attacks and the shameful conduct of the Police, few believe that the Police would undertake or be permitted to undertake an impartial unfettered probe into the incident.
Such disbelief in the Police shared widely at many different levels of society has been reinforced by the partisan conduct of the Police in the aftermath of the attack.
Instead of attempting to identify and arrest those involved the Police seem to be colluding with the guilty elements to obstruct or pervert the course of justice.
Police have announced the arrest of four suspects and also said they are looking out for four more suspects. There are however strong doubts that the actual inciters and ringleaders of the mob are being apprehended . Only small fry is being targeted for cosmetic purposes.Moreover the Police seem intent on preventing the guilty persons from Bodhu Bala Sena being identified and arrested.
It is learnt reliably that the management of “Fashion Bug” have been queried by the Police as to how certain details of the incident were known to sections of the media.The Police have “Strongly advised”the Fashion Bug management not to release any information or make statements to the media. As a result “Fashion Bug”has abandoned the idea of releasing a media communiqué about the incident as is usual in such situations.
Fashion Bug management has also been told by the Police not to release any footage of the incident as recorded by CCTV or other cameras to the media or upload it on the web.It is obvious that if such footage is publicised the identification and involvement of BBS in the incident would be crystal clear.
Furthermore the Police have not displayed any inclination or interest in procuring the footage available of the incident and utilising it to probe and uncover those involved in the incident.
Several media heads have also been “requested” to be careful about the footage and photographs in their possession and be discreet in using those.This too is part of the move to avoid the BBS being blamed. Sections of the media are already playing down the incident and publishing diversionary news items about it.
Moves are also afoot to sidetrack the issue by spreading rumours and through “inspired leaks”in sections of the media that the target of the mob was not “Fashion Bug” but a Backhoe rental yard situated about 150 metres away from the apparel establishment.
It is being stated that the mob had been incited to target those premises because the Muslim youth accused of allegedly raping a Sinhala girl was working there. The man who was arrested and remanded in this connection had been supposedly released three days before the attack.In a bid to “absolve” the BBS it is now being said that the mob had been “worked up” by the father of the girl to go in search of the Youth.
Even the “Fashion Bug”management seems to have been “persuaded”by the powers that be to go along with this theory.Apparently the establishment is not going to make any direct complaint about the attack or divulge details of how and why it happened.It would indirectly subscribe to the theory that it was not the target of the attack and that whatever happened was “collateral damage”. This would enable the authorities to downplay the Bodhu Bala Sena role and instead pursue the line of inquiry which seeks to portray the incident as a personal dispute.”Fashion Bug”agreeing to this arrangement has upset many Muslims but then the affected establishment may have valid reasons for adopting the path of least resistance.
This ruse and attempt to whitewash the role of the BBS seems rather pathetic and comic.Three related questions may help illustrate this.
If the mob intended attacking the Backhoe rental yard then why did it unleash such a vicious attack on “Fashion Bug”?
Why did Monks play a prominent role in the attack and utter anti-Muslim slogans specifically targeting “Fashion Bug”?
How did a mob assemble at the Pirivena premises without any help from the Buddhist clergy of the area in general and the Bodhu Bala Sena in particular?
Above all what is being lost sight of in this sidetracking attempt is the fact that even the attack on the Backhoe rental yard by the mob was legally and morally wrong. A mob of people has no right to take the law into its own hands and launch a punitive attack over a real or imaginary fault.Besides saying the real target was something else does not indemnify the crime committed.It is like killing “A”and then saying “B”was the intended victim.
In a related development the Bodhu Bala Sena sought to deny responsibility for the incident by staging a press conference in Colombo. It was addressed by both the BBS general secretary Ven.Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera and Ven.Dr.Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera ,the chief incumbent of the Pepiliyana Pirivena.Dr.Abhayatissa Thera a senior lecturer at Sri Jayawardenapura University is also a key member of the Bodhu Bala Sena.
Abhayatissa Thera denied any involvement in the attack and pointed out that he and other monks of the area had participated in the opening ceremony of the “Fashion Bug”establishment in Pepilyana and welcomed it.He posed the rhetorical question as to why they would attack a building which they themselves had welcomed being opened.What Abhayatissa Thera failed to note was that President Rajapaksa who appointed Sarath Fonseka and Shirani Bandaranayake earlier had later taken action against both!
Gnanasara Thera who denied BBS involvement and responsibility in the attack.He said there was a conspiracy on to blame the BBS and sabotage the noble task of Sinhala Buddhist revival that they were engaged in.He condemned the attack and urged action warning that nobody wanted another July 83. Both Abhayatissa Thera and Gnanasara Thera alleged that “others” were impersonating monks wearing yellow robes.
When Gnanasara Thera was asked who was responsible for the attack if the BBS was not responsible the political Bhikku replied that it was the duty of the Police to investigate and arrest the culprits. This was indeed ironic as the Bodhu Bala Sena claiming to be the Police has been going around the country targeting Churches, Mosques,businesses and Muslim and abattoirs in its self-avowed mission of cleansing society. But on this issue the BBS abdicates its self –appropriated “police powers” and wants the actual Police to take action.
Bodhu bala Sena’s press conference and denial is part of an orchestrated campaign to clear itself of responsibility for the attack on “Fashon Bug”.In a way this puerile attempt to insult the collective intelligence of the Sri Lankan public is amusing. It is reminiscent of the times when spokespersons of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and armed forces issued statements or conducted press conferences disclaiming responsibility for atrocious incidents of non – state and state terrorism.It fooled no one then and it fools no one now.
It is however a serious thing when a blatant attempt is on to cover up the role played by the BBS in the attack on “Fashion Bug”. The efforts of the Police to whitewash the “Ethno Religious Fascism”of the Bodhu Bala Sena is deplorable.What is more disturbing is the realisation that the Police would not be doing this without the sanction or authority of the upper echelons of the Defence establishment.
Notwithstanding his denials the Bodhu Bala Sena general secretary stands indicted in the “Fashion Bug”incident by his own pronouncements made on March 17th 2013. Ven.Galagoda Atthe Gnanasara Thera addressing a crowd of around 5000 at the Bodhu Bala Sena rally in Kandy made a bloodcurdling anti-Muslim speech most unbecoming of a revered Bhikku. Some parts of that speech were about the Muslim owned apparel establishments of “No Limit” and “Fashion Bug”. Here are the relevant excerpts-
“We have all the proof and information about the Fashion Bug and No Limit outlets and what they are doing to your girl children! What harm have we done to the Muslims?”
“Harems are being created. Are we to sit back and allow this to happen? This is not extremism. We have to discuss these issues”
“Hereafter we will only send our boys to work in these shops. They will no longer get our women!”
“We ask the big bosses at Fashion Bug and No Limit, is this true or not? They claim it’s not true. Oh the poor little pussycats. We are not asking anyone to go and stone these places and attack them. Come and have discussions with us – let’s solve this through discussion,”
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org