Today the Bodu Bala Sena stands in the dock indicted with the heinous charge of attempting to return this nation to the blood-soaked barbaric age of violence from which it had risen so recently. It stands accused of repeated anti-Muslim attacks that have now resulted in inevitable bloodshed and death; and it stands condemned for outraging the religious sensitivities of the Buddhists by presenting to the world’s reproach and contempt, its distorted, savage and warped version as the sworn practical translation of the Buddha’s noble doctrine of Ahimsa.
With the anguish and pain of the harrowing thirty-year-old racial war which wracked the nation apart and left thousands of her citizens dead, still bleeding fresh in the nation’ traumatised memory, the reprehensible actions of the Bodu Bala in Aluthgama last Sunday night once more brought Lanka closer to the perilous precipice to shiver precariously on its brink, facing the abysmal vista of another possible conflagration to engulf the nation in religious flames.
Hardly three days after thousands of Lankan Buddhists had commemorated the arrival of Buddhism to Lanka 2558 years ago and spent the day in the practice of Buddhist ethics, meditating upon the sublime states of loving kindness to all and tolerance toward all faiths and creeds, a small group of rebel monks launched another serial attack on Muslims and showed the world the other side of Poson’s midnight moon.
Let’s cut the euphemisms and do away with the niceties adopted to spare the shame. Let’s brave the truth and face reality. Let’s accept the fact that these were not men in robes, as renegade monks are sometimes referred to and their actions dismissed summarily as having little or no consequences. These were ordained monks of the 2500 year old Buddha Sasana, card carrying members of the established nikayas, registered with the Government as Buddhist monks. Draped in the sacred saffron robe of the Buddha they were the official members of the Noble Order of Buddhist monks.
As the formal authorised representatives of the Buddha Sasana, their speech and conduct reflect upon Buddhism’s value. Generally, when monks step out of line with the Vinaya Code they face disciplinary action by the appropriate Council of the Sasana but in this case no such action has even been mooted by any Temple Elder.
These lapses have no doubt contributed in no small a measure to the rise of these perverse bands of rebel monks, the foremost of which is the Bodu Bala Sena, for which body this was merely one more incident in its long litany of religious attacks against the Muslims. Having savoured success without restraint at every turn, it was only to be expected that they would sooner or later go over the top.
And indeed they did. For the first time in the nation’s two thousand five hundred year old history, a group of Buddhist monks actively played a participatory role in a racial attack on a minority group which resulted in the murder of three Muslims and grievous bodily harm to nearly eighty others. According to the Police, out of the suspects arrested over the incident, two were monks who were armed and drunk.
Flouting every rule in the Buddhist canon, casting this cardinal, unpardonable insult to the religion they profess to follow, violating the hallowed tenets of the Buddha, in whose sacrosanct name they commit every ghoulish villainy, the Bodu Bala Sena has sprouted from unknown origins to spread the wild seeds of religious disharmony unchecked. They have openly preached and blatantly practised violence as a means of achieving their mysterious ends. But, as last Sunday’s attacks in Aluthgama and Beruwela vividly demonstrated, this time they had gone over the edge, and placed themselves beyond the pale of redemption.
But are they worried? No. As the Bodu Bala chief Galagoda-atte Gnanasara proudly declared at the Aluthgama meeting as if it was the best epithet he could receive, “Spineless ministers and others say we are racists, they say we are religious bigots. Yes, we are racists. Yes, we are religious bigots.”
Inciting the crowds with vicious language and rhetoric of Sinhala supremacy in Lanka and declaring the undisputable right of the majority race to inflict violence on any minority grouping who dared to out step the allowed bounds of their limited tolerance, the head of this rabid renegade brigand of fanatical monks, the saffron robed Galagoda Gnanasara arrogantly proclaimed in his inflammatory speech to a crowd clapping his every word: “If we do not unite and determine today to do our duty, our still unborn generations will, at a future date, curse us to be struck down by lightning. Without being subject to that curse, look at our ancestors, our forefathers and what they did. They sacrificed their blood, tears, sweat and their lives, donated their eyes, their flesh, their blood to safeguard this age old heritage on behalf of us. Today, evil sinful forces have emerged from all four directions to plunder this heritage.”
“We tell everyone,” Gnanasara warned, raising his hand defiantly, “This country still has a Sinhala police. Still has a Sinhala army. After today, if one Sinhalese is even touched, let alone a robe, if one Sinhalese is even touched by any Muslim or anyone else that will be the end of them all.”
The mob violence began soon after.
But Sunday’s violent climax was only to be expected. When the seeds of hate have been allowed to be sown to the winds of pseudo patriotism, what surprise is there when the whirlwind boomerangs to be reaped? Founded only two years ago in July 2012, the Bodu Bala Sena’s rise to notoriety has been mysteriously meteoric. During this brief period they have emerged as the sacred bulls of Lanka, allowed to wander and preach their gospel of hate and violence wherever they wished, untethered and given free rein of the rope to head butt and kick their way into any organisation they chose, granted immunity to attack and set fire to any Muslim business premises they focused their sights on; and regurgitate their unfettered violent exploits ad nauseam to further flaunt their untouchable status, and present themselves as the exalted saviours of Buddhism in Lanka.
They have arrogated to themselves the right to do as they wish to appoint themselves as the nation’s moral police, to anoint themselves as Buddhism’s guardians and even to damn themselves as the devil’s angels to wage holy war with the Muslims of Lanka.
Even the name of this rabid organisation Bodu Bala Sena which means Buddha’s Power Force is a perverse misnomer and a grievous insult but no power has seen the need to deplore this profanity committed on the hallowed name of Gautama the Buddha,
The law enforcing authorities who deemed it fit to remand and deport a British nurse, a practising Buddhist, for innocently having an image of the Buddha tattooed on her right arm in an act of pious devotion, on the grounds of sacrilege, have had no qualms about remaining inert when they witness blood spilt on the roads of the land and fear inflicted in the hearts of society by a group of monks exploiting the reverence accorded to the robe and waving Buddhism as their flag of immunity. If that is not sacrilegious, then what is?
As you read these words now, spare a thought on the grief and heartbreak the wives and small children of the three Muslim men killed near a mosque in Aluthgama must be suffering today. Was there any cause worthy enough to have killed them? What advance has been made by their deaths? What reason has justified their wanton deaths or what purpose has been served except to sate the macabre blood lust of a few megalomaniacs? Has Buddhism become a stronger religion and more protected because of it? Ask yourself; is this the Buddhism the Buddha preached? Does the real threat to Buddhism come from without or from within?
The Bodu Bala Sena’s sudden rise to the summit of immunity has indeed been phenomenal. Hardly known outside their own temples, Gnanasara and his renegade clan have become more bloated with arrogance with every boastful assault on the nation’s social and religious fabric. Meeting no opposition to thwart its ascent but a police guard to smooth its path, the litany of its villainy progressed to climax on Sunday night on the streets of Dharga Town in Aluthgama.
During these last two years, emboldened by not meeting any challenge to their attacks, they began to believe in their own professed infallibility and that Divine Providence blessed their mission and provided their talisman of protection to wage the holy war with impunity and dared the authorities to stop them if they could. In the face of this direct challenge to law and order and to the visible threat to peace and communal harmony the Government, the Police, the Mahanayakes, the due process and the laws of the land fell ominously silent.
But, for this apathy displayed towards repeated Bodu Bala attacks on the Muslim populace, there will be a price to pay. If the Bodu Bala and similar radical groupings are not checked and dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land, Lanka will face an almost insurmountable crisis and no amount of parliamentary resolutions passed will suffice to turn the tide of international opinion already fast moving against the nation.
The Bodu Bala claim that they are fighting Muslim extremists but that cannot justify their actions, for if there are indeed Muslim extremists operating in Lanka, as there well maybe, then it is a matter for the Government to tackle, not for a bunch of vigilantes in robes to take the law unto their own hands and wreak havoc on the land.
Soon the United Nations war crime probe will begin its inquiry. Though Navi Pillay will be retiring this month much to Lanka’s relief, it cannot bring great comfort to know that the new person to occupy the post of the Human Rights Commissioner will be a Muslim from Jordan. Can Lanka expect greater understanding from him when Muslims are subjected to religious attacks in Lanka and nothing is being done to prevent it?
With the Government standing firm on its decision not to cooperate with the UN war crimes probe, its present plan of action to thwart this violation of national sovereignty has been, in the main, to convince individual governments it is still friendly with that such a radical step by the UN is not called for since the government is taking meaningful steps to further expedite the process of reconciliation with the Tamil minority and address their grievances. Can the Government keep a straight face and try to persuade foreign governments to believe in their sincerity, when groups of fanatical Sinhalese are allowed carte blanche to launch attacks against another minority, this time the Muslims, and create new grievances, without any action being taken against the perpetrators?
On Monday in Bolivia after he was awarded the medal of honour for peace and democracy, the highest honour presented by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, by the Bolivian Government, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Bolivian President Evo Morales that establishing relationships with new nations is a part of the Government’s policy. The Foreign Office should ensure that it is also part of Government policy to retain the friendly relationship it has already established, especially those strong ties long forged with the Arab and Muslim nations, not forgetting Muslim Pakistan, which championed Lanka’s brief robustly at the Geneva Human Rights Council in March this year.
It will not contribute to the continuance of such friendly relationships with those Muslim states if the Muslims of Lanka are seen to have been reduced to the status of sitting ducks for any passing diehard Sinhala racist to take pot shots at without fearing any reprisals. It should not be forgotten that these are the nations that supply Lanka the oil it needs for its very existence and that they are also the main employers of Lanka’s Middle Eastern labour force which contribute 7 billion dollars to Lanka’s coffers every year. Without the oil and without the money this country would be brought to a halt.
For all the repulsive, arrogant and boastful bragging by the Bodu Bala chief Gnanasara that this country has still a Sinhala police and Sinhala army and that if one Sinhalese is even touched by a Muslim then that will be the end of all Muslims, the reality is that if the Sinhalese touch even one Muslim in the future and the Muslim nations place an embargo on oil to Lanka and slap a ban on employing housemaids from Lanka, then it will be the end of the Sinhalese.
Lanka has enough and more problems than it can chew. If it does not act now and take the necessary measures to prevent a repeat of Black Sunday, then it would appear that this nation has lost its marbles and is in search of new troubles and new enemies. The perpetrators should be dealt with under the normal criminal laws of the land and all citizens of Lanka must be assured that the first duty of any government which is to maintain law and order is being effectively discharged.
Today the Bodu Bala has blood on its robes and evil sin on its conscience. Missing still are the manacles on its hands.
THE OFFENCE OF UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY
The definition of unlawful assembly is stated in Section 138 in the Penal Code as an assembly of five or more persons if the common object of the persons comprising that assembly is, amongst other objects, to commit mischief or criminal mischief or other offence.
Section 143 states that wherever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly every member of such assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting. It is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that the others should have committed any physical act apart from joining or remaining in the unlawful assembly.
Section 150 states that ‘whoever maliciously or wantonly by doing anything which is illegal, gives provocation to any persons intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause the offence of rioting to be committed, shall, if the offence of rioting be committed in consequences of such provocation, be punished with imprisonment