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The healing touch: on Muslim Ministers resigning in Sri Lanka

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The mass resignation of two Muslim governors and nine Ministers in Sri Lanka deepens a new fault line that has emerged in the island nation after the Easter Sunday blasts perpetrated ( carry out or commit (a harmful, illegal, or immoral action))  by a fanatical ( obsessively concerned with something) Islamist group. Sinhala Buddhist hardliners had demanded that the Governors, Azath Salley and M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, and Cabinet Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, be removed for allegedly backing the terrorist group and interfering with the investigation.

Stung ( provoke someone to do (something) by causing annoyance or offence)  by the aggressive demand at a time when investigators had not found any evidence implicating the three, all Muslim Ministers resigned in an act of solidarity. The campaign intensified mainly because of an indefinite fast by Athureliye Rathana Thero, a Buddhist monk, in Kandy. Thousands marched in his support. It is clear that the upheaval ( a violent or sudden change or disruption to something ) caused by the blasts, in which more than 250 people were killed in churches and luxury hotels, has caused widespread fear and mistrust across ethnicities.

In a development that seemed too organised to be a spontaneous, emotional backlash ( a strong negative reaction by a large number of people, especially to a social or political development), a campaign of violence and intimidation ( Frightening ; Terrifying) was launched against the Muslim community. This despite the fact that the National Thowheed Jamaat, the group behind the blasts, which included suicide bombers and was led by the radical preacher ( a person who preaches, especially a minister of religion)  Zahran Hashim, has been dismantled.

Hundreds have been arrested and the plot possibly inspired by Islamic State propaganda has been unravelled ( investigate and solve or explain (something complicated or puzzling)). It is intriguing ( arouse the curiosity or interest of; fascinate)  that the government is not made accountable for the failure to act on advance intelligence on the attacks, but the community is being targeted.Ever in need of new enemies and a blameworthy ‘outsider’, the majoritarian impulse in any society is likely to be awakened by an event as catastrophic ( involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering) as a religiously motivated attack.

However, it is Sri Lanka’s misfortune that anger against the perpetrators has been turned by some influential sections into fear and hatred towards Muslims. The President and the Prime Minister, who belong to the two main national parties, have not taken a firm stand against the disproportionate influence some Buddhist monks have on the political situation. Not many have called out the campaign of hatred. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has decried ( attack ; criticize) the allegation that one of his ministerial colleagues is in league with terrorists, and has boldly challenged “politicians, religious leaders and media moguls ( an important or powerful person, especially in the film or media industry)  trying to incite ( encourage or stir up (violent or unlawful behaviour)) racial and religious hatred”.

Last month, a wave of violence swept ( search (an area) for something)  through some Muslim habitations. A concerted campaign is now on to demonise ( portray as wicked and threatening) the community, and one extreme example is the allegation that Muslim doctors were surreptitiously ( in a way that attempts to avoid notice or attention; secretively) rendering Sinhala women infertile. Having emerged from a destructive civil war, Sri Lanka needs to focus on rebuilding inter-ethnic trust and ushering ( cause or mark the start of something new)  in a new egalitarian ( believing in or based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities)  order. It will be ill-served by a conflict between communities.

About the author

Vignesh

Vignesh Sathyan is the Founder of Day Today GK, a portal that helps Aspirants who are preparing for Competitive Exams.

You can reach him at sathyan@daytodaygk.com

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