The Government of Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency on Tuesday following the spiral of violence unleashed between the Muslim and Buddhist communities in recent days. Special measures allow the deployment of soldiers in civilian areas for ten days, period after which the parliament would have to ratify the situation of exception, according to Mano Ganesan, Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages.
Already at noon on Monday, the authorities imposed the curfew in two cities in the province of Kandy, in the center of the island, where the latest clashes broke out between the two communities. According to local media, the altercations caused two deaths, in addition to the fire and the destruction of several mosques as well as commercial premises and private homes of the Muslim minority; 10% of the total population of Sri Lanka.
This latest outbreak of sectarian violence has its origin in a street brawl by which a group of Muslims were accused of the murder of a man from the Sinhalese Buddhist community; which is 75% of the country. Following the arrest of the suspects, the attacks were aggravated by the arrival at the scene of Buddhist monks belonging to a well-known radical nationalist faction; crossed by local experts of theocratic fascism .
In the face of the spiral of violence, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Monday that the attacks “appeared to be systematic and organized,” and he promised the government would take action on the matter. It is the first time that the Asian country has imposed a state of emergency since the end of the civil war, with effect until November 2011.
However, it is not the first time that clashes have occurred between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka. The altercations of the past weekend join those that ended with the burning of several mosques and shops in the east of the country at the end of February.
Far from being isolated actions, the religious tension in the Indian Ocean island has been growing since 2009; when the end of the 26 long years of ethnic conflict that confronted the Sinhalese Buddhist majority and the also Hindu Tamil minority was declared, causing between 80,000 and 100,000 deaths.
Since the end of the civil war, Sri Lanka has experienced several anti-Muslim campaigns by radical Buddhist nationalism. In mid-2014, the wave of sectarian violence combined with the absence of investigations into the crimes that occurred during almost three decades of conflict were international criticism.
Also now, Amnesty International has called on the island’s authorities to “put an end to the impunity” of radical Buddhist groups accused of inciting and carrying out violent actions.