After a respite for a decade, is Sri Lanka once again in for agonizing news of skirmshes and ill-will as before? The terror attacks on Easter day raise concerns in this direction.
In the suicide attacks on churches like St Anony's Church of Colombo, St Sebastian Church of the coastal city of Katuwpitiya and Zion Church of eastern city of Batticaloa, and in three five-star hotels of the capital, 290 people were killed at the time this goes to print, and nearly double that number are reported to have been injured.
Six Indians including a Keralite have been confirmed to have died. Vocbulary at our command may be insufficient to condemn the dastardly attack of shedding blood on the bosom of the island nation, that brought the globe's heartbeat to moment's halt. The cry of sorrow is that loud. It is yet to be clear whence these terrorists descended on Sri Lanka like a thunder. The government has, after a preliminary enquiry, released the name of an outfit called 'National Thowheed Jamaat'. Some ministers have made comments also to the effect that some international terrorist groups have also been behind the incident. The only thing confirmed at this point is that 30 people have been arrested in this connection. President Maihtripala Sirisena has constituted a three-man commission of enquiry led by Supreme Court judge Viji th Malalgoda. Many countries including the US have pledged assistance for the enquiry. It is hoped that the perpetrators behind the globally condemned terror attacks, will be identified in the coming days.
Sri Lanka has often been termed the tears of India, based on purely geographical reasons. However, Sri Lanka has often, for historical and political reasons, plunged the nations of the world literally into tears. The history of Lanka land is also the history of lakhs of people burned at the altar of racism and dictatorship. It is yet too early to say that its people have tided over the whirpool of a dark era; many of its wounds still remain unhealed. But since the annihilitation of Tamil secessionists in 2009, the world was able to watch Sri Lanka slowly stepping into democracy and peace. Although some tremors were felt even after that, the people and the government there were able to address them tactfully.
The most recent example of this can be the attempt of Sirisena to bring Mahindra Rajapakse to the post of prime minister. When Ranil Wikramasinghe was removed from power and Rajapakse elevated to office, people who came out on the streets in protest also won the support of the Supreme Court. With that, Rajapakse was forced to leave the scene albeit for the time being. That was an incident which proved that the democratic ethos of Sri Lanka was not entirely lost. This change was evident not only in administration, but also in other areas like tourism and sports. In other words, it was when Sri Lanka was getting more stabilized that the terror attacks jolted places including the capital. That definitely, though unfortunately, is a barbed fence that halts the march of the Lankan people towards a democratic and peaceful life.
As Sirisena reacted, this attack was not entirely 'unexpected'. Lankan media have already raised a criticism that despite intelligence agencies' warnings on 4 April that the 'National Thowheed Jamaat' was likely to strike at churches and Indian High Commission office, that was not heeded. The liberalization of visa rules to promote tourism has bolstered that sector, but often there were instances recently of raising sescurity threats. It was under the cover of tourism that the international drug media found a foothold easily. It needs to be investigated whether any group had misused the loophole of being able to enter the country easily.
Even as we say that Sri Lanka is slowly walking back to the spring of democracy, it cannot be ignored altogether that the minorities there are still in insecurity. It is only that while previously it was the torture by LTTE, now that comes from Sinhalese Buddists. Even last year Buddhist terrorists had run on a rampage. Following this, the parliament itself had to debate on the phenomenon of extremists evolving among minorities and at least a fraction of them joining groups like IS. But Sirisena's government was not prepared to address that problem. It is yet to be seen whether such aspects would come up or not in the probe into the explosions. The first thing to do in this context, is to be in solidarity with the Lankan people in tears, and then to take a pledge that governments and peoples will fight in unison against terrorism.