Bodu Bala bogeyman bares bigotry’s evil breast again

Bodu Bala bogeyman bares bigotry’s evil breast again

The Sunday Times Sri LankaSunday, May 28, 2017
 
Phantoms raised from comatose state to dance once more on Lanka’s grave
It was, probably, the shortest sathyakriya – the assertion of truth – ever undertaken by any man in search of martyrdom. But when injustice protests its innocence and demands its continuance in the outer precincts of the Sri Dalada, it’s no wonder the flaky timbre of resolve to wantonly assert the potency of truth soon disintegrates and turns unto dust.

Last Sunday the Bodu Bala Sena tribal chieftain jauntily strode into the Sri Dalada Maligawa to pay worship to the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Gnanasara Thera who led his tribe was granted, after waiting an hour, a short audience thereafter with the Chief Monk of the Malwatte Chapter and then directed to meet the Anunayaka the Ven. Dr. Niyangoda Vijithsiri Thera. After the audience was over he emerged from the chamber to state that, “henceforth I will not obey the laws of the land and I will not recognise the jurisdiction of the courts”.

He then proceeded to occupy a bench outside the premises of the Sacred Dalada Maligawa and declared that he will stage a sathyakriya against plans to arrest him. But it was apparent the guardian monks of the Temple of the Tooth were not prepared to let Gnanasara’s sathyakriya stunt take place on the doorstep of Lanka’s most hallowed temple. Two hours later the Anunayaka of the Malwatte chapter emerged from his avasa to warn the rebel monk the consequences that would follow if he did not give up his sathyakriya and vacate the premises forthwith.

Not all enterprises begun with great pitch and moment succeed when the pangs of hunger and the whip of authority stand poised to beat down the barred doors of intransigence. And the renegade monk who had dared to exploit and violate the sanctity of the Sri Dalada with a supposed sathyakriya to further his own interests and delay his day of judgment, meekly accepted the order and, shuffling his robe in haste, made quick exit. He could not risk being shown on national television launching a tirade of filth towards the custodians of the nation’s most precious possession, The Buddha’s Tooth Relic. But when it came to letting loose his lewd tongue on the guardians of the law, no such constraints restrained him from giving full vent to his spleen in the choicest words the Sinhala vocabulary possess in abundance.

Last Friday while returning to Colombo, the police tried to arrest him at a petrol station where the Bodu Bala cortege had stopped to refuel their vehicles. With raised fist and a filth outburst, he defied the police to arrest him, backed as he was by his supporter mob. Speaking in a lingo, unbecoming of a monk, he told them, “I told you I will surrender on Monday, why are you doing this cheap thing now? Is this the example you wish to set for this country?” Rich, isn’t it, coming from him, compared to the odious example he, an ordained monk representing the Noble Order of Bhikkhus, has set by inciting racial and religious attacks as happened three years ago in Beruwela and spreading racial and religious hatred elsewhere at every turn. The outnumbered police squad had to back down and Gnanasara was free again.

And why was the police, in the course of their lawful duties, bent on arresting the marauding monk? For an alleged hate speech made in Kurunegala and other similar incidents, apart from obstructing the police in the execution of their lawful duties.

But the monk never turned up at the police port of call on Monday. Neither did he turn up at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday where the complaint made by additional judge of the Homagama court that the rebellious monk had scandalised his court by behaving in the manner he did in his court room on January 25th last year by language and gestures made before him in open court, was scheduled for inquiry. Instead his counsel informed Court that her client Gnanasara was unwell to attend court that day and that she would submit the medical certificate on the next day of call. The case was re fixed for May 31st.

In these last two months Bodu Bala Gnanasara seems to have awoken from his hibernation and heightened his racial campaign and become active in the east where the three communities live more or less in equal proportion. The East is where the majority of Muslims live. He has taken his Bodu Bala inquisition to the fringes of Muslims’ Mecca; and there sought to blaspheme Islam’s God, Faith and Quran in an attempt, it seems, to provoke a backlash against Lanka’s majority race and condemn this country to another terrible racial war.

Two Sundays ago, on May 14th, he threatened Muslims at Onekama in Polonnaruwa and broke their huts and livelihood means, in the presence of the police, on the basis they were illegal structures. He claimed the Muslims were taking over Sinhala lands and referred to how Veheragodaella has become Palliayagodaella; and that the same thing had occurred to Mannikkawaduwa.

He said to a crowd of Sinhala monks and villagers that Mannikkawaduwa is Deegavapiya’s ancient chaithya, but now they call it Mayawaduwe. He then proceeded to refer to Allah and spoke in derogatory terms that would have inflamed Muslims. He then exhorted the monks and villagers to grab any lands they could and say ‘this is ours, this is ours,’ and occupy the lands. “When the Government sends its forces to enforce the law,” he said, “if there is any problem, call us and we will come. From one corner we will start and take batons and hammer anyone who comes and chase them away. He was to repeat a similar exhortation during a press conference he held two days later on May 16, where he once again referred to Allah in derogatorily terms.

So what makes this boisterous, bigoted, insufferable, so called guardian of Sinhala Buddhism spew hate in his track everywhere he goes even as the Giant African Snail or Golu Bella –introduced to Lanka a hundred years ago due to the negligence of a British planter — leaves a discharge of ‘sevela’ or saliva in its trail? Was the introduction of Gnanasara to assume the mantle of the Sinhala saviour during the halcyon days of the Rajapaksas, deliberate or due to negligence?

Even whilst the nation is still nursing its war wounds caused by a 30-year ethnic war, Gnanasara still remains hell bent on starting another, this time with the Muslims, united in the one faith of Islam which has over 1.8 billion followers worldwide, the state religion of many of the oil rich nations in the world having the power to control oil supplies and even place embargoes; and which religion has, within its religious councils, the power to issue fatwas against anyone who dares profane the name of Allah.

Already the Muslims are showing signs that this time they are not ready to remain as sitting ducks for the Sinhala Bodu Bala to take pot shots at. An Eastern Provincial Council member, Shibly Farooq has already fired the first warning shot. This week he told the monthly Eastern Provincial Council sitting that: “The racial activities taking place in the country will pave the way for another bloodbath. The majority of the Sinhala community does not approve racism. The proof of this mindset could be seen in the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Tamils and Muslims in the country are once again facing a series of problems.”

He further warned, “Racism is once again unleashed in spite of the fact that the scars of the 1983 bloodbath and the war that followed have not healed yet. Therefore, while great trust has been placed on this Government of Good Governance, it must flex its muscles and restrain the racist forces from rearing their ugly heads,” and called on the Government to maintain law and order.

Gamini Viyangoda of the Purawasi Balaya Sangvidanaya also had a message to the Government. Addressing a news conference this week, he said: ‘When it comes to holding a referendum, it is important for the Government to minimise as much as possible its unpopularity in order to win the people’s verdict. But unfortunately today, the Government’s unpopularity is on the rise. Gnanasara’s attacks against the Muslims three years ago became a main factor to send the Rajapaksas home. Again this Gnanasara has appeared on the stage. But up to today, no action has been taken by the Government against this monk. This will have adverse consequences on the referendum that is planned to get the new constitution approved by the people. Whatever else this Government might do, it will be of no use if this country is once again engulfed in flames. Therefore, it is vital that monks like Gnanasara should be tethered.”

It is almost as if someone somewhere seems to have pressed the red button to raise the ghouls from the land of the living dead and reactivate them to dig the nation’s grave and dance once more upon its barren bed. Someone, somehow seems to have managed to retract the stake driven into their hearts –these vampire bats who once, not so long ago, stalked the land in search of Muslim prey to feed on — and revive them to life, with the prospect of more blood to suck from minority necks and to replay the self same scenes that haunted the land and struck terror in the hearts of the minorities when the saffron shrouded spectres arose with impunity and acted with immunity.

If America has a Klu Klux Klan, wreathed in black and marching incognito to render the blacks into a quivering mass of black jelly, meet the Bodu Bala Brigade of renegade monks who do it in the open, without shame, without remorse, without fear: but with pride, with impudence, with arrogance and, alas, with immunity from legal reprisals; and, worst of all, do it in the name of Gautama the Buddha and flagrantly violate every tenet he preached. If the Taliban blasted the 1600 year old Bamiyan Buddha statues, the symbolic artistic representation of an alien idol to that fanatic Islamic outfit, the Bodu Bala seems hell bent on reducing to naught the value of the two thousand five year old peaceful Sinhala Buddhist heritage by the violent methods they use to ostensibly protect it.

Their rise from the sewers of obscurity is itself shrouded in mystery. But though their rise may have been from such depths, their burst in to national prominence began in 2012 when they held their first convention at the BMICH. Where did the bowl of funds come from, for a band of unknown monks without any known patronage, to start their campaign of hate from the steps of the grandiose international conference hall?

Then the world was their oyster, and legal immunity from arrest for what they were about to embark upon, their pearl. The saffron robe their armour, Sinhala chauvinism their lance and an unarmed defenseless community their prey. And attacking them and striking fear into their hearts, their pride and glory. All done in the name of protecting Buddhism, the nation’s religion, which despite five hundred years of foreign domination, has still remained Buddhist to the core.

Bodu Bala past atrocities need no retelling, for their reputations for bigotry and an inclination to arouse racial and religious hatred amongst the communities has long preceded their latest unwanted arrival on the national stage.
But this time Galagodaaththe Gnanasara seems to have lost his marbles, gone over the top, gone berserk. Perhaps it is to plunge the nation into chaos with Sinhala Muslim clashes which would earn for Lanka the world’s opprobrium and bring her down to her knees — which would ideally suit his puppeteers waiting for anarchy to break to escape from their own shadows of corruption sins — and defer his day of judgment where he faces the distinct possibility of a long-term in prison if convicted of contempt of court, stripped as he is now of his saffron immunity which the Rajapaksa regime caparisoned him with.

But why is it that this Government having condemned the Rajapaksa legal system of selective justice and harped time and time again that everyone is equal before the law and the Government is committed to upholding the rights of all citizens and that it is dedicated to creating an environment where all citizens of all communities can live together as one in peace and harmony, still shirk to throw the book at all those depraved racists elements, be they Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims who are intent on exploiting race and religion to advance their own political agendas?

Does the Maithripala Government believe that Galagodaaththe Gnanasara is untouchable? A sacred bull that must be left undisturbed in its rampage? Merely because he wears the sacred robe of the Buddha? If so they are wrong. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara has shown by his actions that he is not fit to don it. Does the Maithripala Government believe that if they act against him, that there will be a mass Sinhala uprising against the Government which would cause them to lose the elections next time around or even precipitate the Government’s downfall before 2020? If so, wrong again.

The Government has only to look at the 2015 general election results where the Bodu Bala Sena contested under the name of the Buddhist People’s Front. They only received 20,377 votes or just 0.18 percent of the total votes cast. So what is the Government waiting for?

Defilement of the sacred Buddhist Flag
This was the scene on Tuesday in the heart of Fort where a group of Bodu Bala monks and a few lay supporters staged a protest march against the imminent arrest of their tribal chieftain Galagodaaththe Gnanasara on a charge of delivering hate speeches against the Muslims.

Whether the rebel bigoted monk of hate is guilty of the charges to be laid against him is a matter for the courts to decide. But his supporters, Buddhist monks of his organisation Bodu Bala Sena, is clearly guilty of defiling the universally accepted Buddhist flag, sacred to millions of Sinhala Buddhist in the land.

Whilst proudly giving flutter to the Sinhala lion flag, itself an offence to fly being a distortion of the Sri Lankan national standard, this band of wayward monks and the misguided lay, perhaps in their ignorance, had thought it fit to deface the Buddhist flag by transposing upon its five colour, the photograph of their leader striking, with his raised and pointing forefinger, the Mudra of Hate.

Never in the history of its 132-year existence has the standard symbolising Buddhism, ever been subjected to such desecration and distortion. Only the Buddha has a right to be placed on it but even the Buddha image has never adorned it. The five-colour flag was designed by a distinguished committee in 1885 comprising Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera the chairman, Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, Don Carolis Hewavitharana, the father of Anagarika Dharmapala, Andiris Perera Dharmagunawardhana, the maternal grandfather of Anagarika Dharmapala, Charles A. de Silva, Peter De Abrew, William De Abrew (father of Peter), H. William Fernando, N. S. Fernando and Carolis Pujitha Gunawardena and was first raised and publicly displayed on Vesak day 1885 at Dipaduttamarama, Kotahena, by Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera which was the first time the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day was declared a public holiday in Ceylon by the British.

It was introduced to Japan by Anagarika Dharmapala and Olcott who presented it to Emperor Meiji and subsequently to Burma. And in 1952 at the World Buddhist Fellowship convention the five-colour flag was adopted as the International Buddhist Flag and universally recognised as such.

And then this Tuesday morn, these Bodu Bala Sena monks went and flung dung on it.

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