Sri Lanka must remain unfazed in the wake of Easter attacks as it has been reaping huge dividends from peace. First things first, any attack on a house of worship, no matter which religion’s, by someone who claims to be a religious supremacist is not an attack by an individual who believes in God. It is an act by a cowardly individual who does not believe in any ideology of humanity. Whether those strikes happen in Varanasi, Christchurch or as it happened this past Sunday, in Colombo. These blasts shattered the peace of the last decade in the island nation, a peace achieved after a two-decade civil war that cost thousands of lives, including those of 1,200 Indian soldiers between 1987-1990 who were part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), an unmitigated disaster of our foreign policy and military intelligence, likened by some as India’s Vietnam. A hard-handed and brutal approach by the Sri Lankan military wiped out the Tamil separatists in the north of the country, who had through several high-profile terrorist targets, killed hundreds of civilians and completely devastated the nation’s economy. But following their rout, the country has enjoyed a huge peace dividend with rapid economic progress as well as a revival of the tourism sector.
However, there is little doubt that Sri Lanka, like India and many other countries, has underlying religious tensions. These have only accelerated over the past few years with the rise of fundamentalist forces such as the Islamic State as well as religious fundamentalism in South and South-East Asia. While this attack is a symptom of this rising wave of fundamentalism, it is strange that the killers targeted the Christians in the nation, since neither the Tamil separatists nor the Sinhala majority ever zeroed in on them during the civil war. But Sri Lanka’s really small Muslim population on its eastern seaboard was singled out by both Tamil and Sinhalese forces. There have been rising tensions between Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims for some time now. Though Buddhism is seen as a religion that advises mindfulness and the Middle Path, fact is the Sinhalese have, like their counterparts in Thailand and Myanmar, linked it to issues of identity and they justify violence when they are under threat. With the Tamil issue gone, these people have latched on to Islamic fundamentalism as the new threat. This is something for the government of Ranil Wickremasinghe to address, although with polls scheduled later this year, the situation could easily degenerate. It is also important for India to help Sri Lanka with intelligence and information at this time. The scale and coordination of the attacks make it obvious that a small band of terrorists could not have pulled this off without support from forces abroad. It is likely that some of the executors could have an Indian connection, which means India itself should be on guard to ensure that violence does not spread to its mainland or that the island doesn’t become a festering launchpad. Most importantly, it is important that Sri Lanka’s bountiful years of peace are not brought to an end. These terrorists clearly wanted to send not just a message of religious fundamentalism but also one that punctured the nation’s burgeoning tourism economy with scare-mongering. They wanted to make a splash. They must fail.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer