Muslim community and Religious leaders have agreed to relocate a Mosque on Swarna Chaitiya road in the Grandpass area of Colombo in one month’s time due to an intensive protest campaign by the“Ravana Balaya” (Ravana Force)
The sequence of events relating to this “forced relocation”demonstrates a very high degree of extreme intolerance and hatred by the Ravana Balaya and the perceived collaboration of the Buddha Sasana ministry in the sordid exercise.
Although the beleaguered Muslim community had tried very hard to be flexible and accommodating on this issue by suggesting reasonable alternatives the ethno religious fascists had demanded nothing less than a total relocation.
Grandpass called Thotalanga in Sinhala and Paalathurai in Tamil is a multi-ethnic,multi religious area where adherents of the Buddhist,Hindu,Islamic and Christian faiths have been living side by side in amity. It is zoned as Colombo 14.
According to reports from the locality the Mosque had been existence for many years. A Buddhist temple is also in the vicinity. The serpent that invaded the garden of Eden in this instance was the Ravana Balaya.
The Ravana Balaya is an extremist organization comprising members of the Buddhist clergy and laity named after the mythological ten headed demon king of ancient Lanka,Ravana.The Ravana Balaya leader is Ven Itthekande Saddhatissa Thero
The Ravana Balaya along with the Bodhu Bala Sena and Sihala Ravaya forms a triumvirate of Ethno Religious fascist organizations unleashing hatred and violence against the religious and racial minorities in Sri Lanka in the name of “Sinhala Buddhism”.
Initially the Ravana Balaya had begun a protest on account of the Bo Tree in the vicinity. The Bo tree or Pipal (Ficus religiosa) is the tree under which Lord Buddha is believed to have been enlightened. Buddhists in Sri Lanka revere the tree as the Bodhi.
When the Ravana Balaya orchestrated protests objecting to the Mosque being in close proximity to the Bo tree much religious tension prevailed. Religious worship and prayers at the Mosque were disrupted and the Mosque was “closed” down temporarily.
The Muslim leaders and authorities connected to the Mosque adopted the path of least resistance to avoid a confrontation .They found another location elsewhere in the area in consultation with the Police and set up a new Mosque there.Permission was also obtained from the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs that comes under the purview of Prime Minister DM Jayaratna.
But the Ravana Balaya started a fresh protest demanding that a new Mosque should not be set up in the area. As a result the new Mosque was also shut down.
This state of affairs infuriated the Muslims of the area who exerted pressure on Islamic authorities to commence prayers in the old Mosque if there was opposition to the new Mosque.
At a community meeting held in the area members of the Muslim community expressed the view that objecting to both the old and new Mosques was extremely unjust.
The Ravana Balaya however renewed its protests against prayers being conducted at the old Mosque also
The extremist organization whipped up a campaign of hate against the Muslims .In one incident the Buddhist temple bells were rung and Buddhists summoned for a meeting where provocative speeches were made.Thereafter a group of Buddhists with clubs and rods tried to march on the road and launch an attack on the Mosques.
When Muslim youths of the area heard about this they too converged in the Mosque premises and prepared to defend their place of worship.
An ugly conflagration was avoided by prompt intervention by the Police who managed to disperse the Buddhist mob and keep the peace.
Thereafter in a bid to resolve the issue a meeting was convened at the Buddha Sasana ministry on Monday July 8th 2013.The Ravana Balaya transported people in two buses to the premises and began a massive demonstration demanding that the Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs ministry revoke the permission given to open a new Mosque.
The meeting was then postponed for Tuesday July 9th. During the interregnum officials of the Buddha Sasana ministry met Muslim leaders in private and told them that permission could not be given to resume prayers in a new mosque in the same locality. They “advised” the Islamic authorities that there was high level pressure and it would be better to seek an alternative compromise.
Police officials also unofficially admitted that they may not be able to maintain law and order if attacks were launched again on the Mosque because of the possibility thst their hands could be “tied” due to “orders from above”
Against this backdrop the Muslim leaders and authorities decided to be accommodative. A meeting between the Buddhist and Islamic leaders was held on July 9th under the auspices of Buddha Sasana ministry officials.
At the meeting the Muslim leaders agreed “voluntarily” to shift the Mosque from the locality to an alternative venue elsewhere in one months time.
The relocation decision was one that forced upon the Muslim leaders but was deemed unavoidable in the prevailing situation where the ethno religious fascists function with full backing of powerful elements in the state apparatus.
Despite the decision to relocate the situation turned ugly in the evening in Grandpass when a mob of Buddhists egged on by Ravana Balaya tried to demonstrate outside the Mosque premises in a “triumphal” mood.The bells in the Buddhist temple were rung incessantly to assemble a crowd.
The situation was quite tense as many Muslim youths also gathered with a view to confront the triumphalist mob. Many Muslim youths were disgruntled over the decision of Muslim elders to relocate the Mosque.
The situation was brought under control by the Police and personnel from the Police Special Task Force.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org