A Muslim owned business establishment at Urukaamam in the Eastern Batticaloa district was subjected to an arson attack on Thursday June 20th 2013. A provision store cum eatery owned and run by Mr.Seeni Mouhammadu Fareed near the main street junction in Urukaamam was burnt down by an “unknown”gang at about 10. 30 pm on Thursday. The small building was completely gutted with the furniture and goods inside. A three wheeler parked inside the premises was also destroyed.
Mr. Fareed has lodged a complaint at the Karadiyanaaru Police station about the arson incident. No arrests have been made so far.
Although the identities of those responsible for the incident are unknown residents of Urukamam strongly suspect the involvement of a shady anti-Muslim outfit calling itself “Dravida Senai” or Dravidian Army. The Dravida Senai is regarded as a front of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal (TMVP)led by former Eastern Province chief minister and current Provincial councillor Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan.
The TMVP which is a breakaway faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)has been engaging in crude anti-Muslim propaganda and whip up hatred against Muslims among the Tamils of the East in a bid to counter the popularity of the Tamil National Alliance(TNA). The TNA stance is in favour of building close relations between Tamils and Muslims in the province.
Several leaflets attacking Muslims have been issued in the name of “Dravida Senai”.Posters have also appeared.Some leaflets have asked Tamils not to patronise Muslim businesses.Muslims have also been threatened to vacate their dwellings in areas with a mixed Tamil –Muslim population and get back to traditional Muslim enclaves such as Eravur and Kattankudi.
The bulk of these “Dravida Senai” anti-Muslim leaflets and posters have appeared in the villages along the axis of the Badulla-Chenkalladdy road known as A-5 highway. These are areas coming under the Manmunai South-Eruvilpattru AGA division.
Although Tamils and Muslims have been living in this region for many,many years the Muslims became displaced from these places from the 1985-1990 period.The Muslims were forcibly driven away by many Tamil armed groups. Many Muslims were massacred and possessions burnt. The LTTE was primarily responsible for the bulk of these anti-Muslim atrocities.Livestock and lands belonging to Muslims were misappropriated by the LTTE and handed over to their close supporters
The displaced Muslims have started returning to their own places after the LTTE was defeated and destroyed by the armed forces in May 2009.They are reclaiming their properties and re-establishing themselves slowly.
There is however a climate of fear still as many of the LTTE cadres or ex-cadres responsible for anti-Muslim activities maintain a presence in the region still. Most of them are now members of the TMVP or the Sri Lanka Freedom party(SLFP)of which former LTTE eastern regional commander Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan alias “Col”Karuna is a vice-president. Karuna is also an MP and deputy minister in the Rajapaksa Govt.
Many Muslims remain in these areas during day and return at night to the places where they have found new homes. Some however have trickled back slowly on a permanent basis.
There is some friction between the returning Muslims and the Tamils many of whm were also displaced and are now resettled. The TMVP and Karuna led eastern SLFP are exploiting these feelings and appealing to Tamils on a chauvinist basis.
This approach was clearly visible during the recent Eastern Provincial council. The three Tamil candidates fielded by Karuna and the TMVP candidates on the United Peoples Freedom Alliance(UPFA)list canvassed and campaigned on a blatantly anti-Muslim platform.
Some Muslim dwellings and a mosque were set ablaze in Unnichchai during the election period. The TMVP was allegedly responsible but no arrests were made.
Recently when a foundation stone laying ceremony for the housing scheme undertaken by the Indian Govt was held at Pullumalai well-known TMVP activists came there and distributed leaflets objecting to Muslims being given houses built by the Indian Govt. Among those present when the leaflet distribution was going on were Economic Development minister Basil Rajapaksa, Indian Envoy Ashok.K. Kantha and Eastern chief minister Najeeb A Majeed.Interestingly TMVP leader Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan was also on the stage when this ugly incident happened but remained impassive thus demonstrating that he was endorsing the act.
The Dravida Sena anti-Muslim leaflets distributed clandestinely and the anti-Muslim leaflets distributed by the TMVO openly were of an identical nature in many respects resulting in suspicion that the same hands were behind both.
Much of the anti-Muslim venom spread in the region is attributed to a TMVP stalwart known as “Theatre” Mohan who owns a cinema theatre in Chenkalladdy town. He is suspected of being the mastermind behind the “Dravida Senai” and also of spearheading the anti-Muslim violence and intimidation.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at ~ firstname.lastname@example.org