by Times of India, March 6, 2018
- Sri Lanka on Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots that have killed at least two people and damaged dozens of mosques and homes in the central district of Kandy. Here’s what led the Maithripala Sirisena government to take the extreme measure:
* Communal tension in Sri Lanka has been on the upswing in recent years, with Buddhist monks and hard-line Sinhala groups accusing Muslims of expansionism, forceful conversions and of trying to undermine the majority community.
* Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.
* Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena decided to declare a 10-day state of emergency amid fears that anti-Muslim violence could spread. It is the first time in seven years Sri Lanka has resorted to such an extreme measure. The island nation was under a state of emergency for nearly three decades as government forces battled Tamil rebels in a civil war that ended in 2009.
* The unrest in the Indian Ocean island’s central district of Kandy began on Sunday after the funeral of a truck driver from the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community who died days after he was involved in an altercation with four Muslims, the government has said.
* Police had extended curfew in parts of Kandy, home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics, after rioters disobeyed an overnight curfew and went on a rampage.
* It was not clear why the initial altercation occurred but after the driver’s funeral on Monday, a Sinhalese mob attacked Muslim shops, police said. The body of a Muslim youth was found in a burnt-out house early on Tuesday, police said.
* Muslim homes, business and mosques were badly damaged in the riots. More than two dozen arrests have been made and an inquiry opened into police conduct in Kandy.
* The clashes took place a week after at least five people were wounded and several shops and a mosque were damaged in eastern Sri Lanka. In June 2014, riots between Buddhists and Muslims left four dead and many injured.
* Meanwhile, the BCCI said the Indian cricket team, which is currently in Colombo, will participate in a Tri-nation T20 series despite the emergency as the “situation is perfectly normal” in the capital city.
* Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. Buddhists make up about 70 percent and ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindus, about 13 percent.