Feature Article

Anti-Muslim harassment escalates in Mannaar

[TamilNet, Thursday, 27 June 2019, 23:51 GMT]
The occupying Sinhala Navy and Army along with the SL Police are harassing the Tamil-speaking Muslims in two hotspots in Mannaar district as never before, and the trend is worsening every day without anyone to voice for the rights of the affected innocent people. The predominantly Sinhala soldiers, particularly the SL Navy personnel at Thaaraa-puram in Mannaar island and those stationed in the mainland in Musali division, are humiliating the residents of more than 20 colonies. These settlements were put up by the controversial politician, Rishard Bathiudeen, who was serving the successive regimes in Colombo while creating a voter base for himself with the funding he facilitated from the Arabic world. The former SL Minister's opportunistic political behaviour has not only backfired against him but also against the Muslim residents of Thaaraa-Puram, which is his native village in Mannaar.

Thaaraa-puram is located between the city of Mannaar and Thalai-mannaar pier. A SL Navy post is put up at the junction where a road branches from the A-14 highway.

The residents living in the traditional Muslim villages and those put up after 2009 by Mr Bathiudeen through the funds obtained from the Arabic countries, are facing the hostility of the Sinhala soldiers. Some of the new colonies are also named after the sponsoring countries or cities, such as Al-Qasim City and the Turkey city.

The SL Navy has been harassing the Tamil travellers seated next to the Muslims in the buses on the A-14 highway. The soldiers question how they know each other. The harassment has caused Tamil travellers to distance themselves from the Muslims, and there have also been incidents of Tamil passengers blaming the Muslims for the reintroduced military hazards, bus drivers in Mannaar said.

The occupying Sinhala soldiers also perceive the Muslim residents of Chilaavath-thu'rai, Ko'ndaichchi, Ma'richchuk-kaddi in Musali division and those living in the newly set-up colonies extending towards Puththa'lam and Vipattu, as the wholesale supporters of the ISIS.

Any written Arabic, including the common phrase “Ma-shaa-Allah” seen in the households, is interpreted as ‘terrorist slogan’ by the Sinhala military.

On many occassions, the SL military had detained the individuals who were in possession of the Kur'an.

A female teacher who was having an Arabic magazine for teaching purposes was detained for seven days. The SL police alleged that she was spreading ISIS propaganda.

Every household is instructed to put up an A3 size poster with photos and details of the family members.

The SL military is using the gangs of unemployed Muslim youth as their informants. Some of those opposed to Thowheed Jamath are using the opportunity to turn those having different religious views as potential ‘extremists’ to the SL military.

While being the ‘resettlement’ minister, Mr Bathiudeen channelled the allocated funds mostly towards strengthening his supporter base. Besides, he had obtained funds from various countries in the Middle East to create exclusive colonies for the resettling Muslim families, who were forcibly evicted from Mannaar in 1990.

Like ALM Athaullah in Ampaa'rai and MLAM Hizbullah from Batticaloa, both representing UPFA, who have been causing ethnic and religious disharmony in the East, Rishad Buthiudeen has long been a trouble-maker in Mannaar and Vanni.

The successive regimes in Colombo were deploying these politicians for political counter-insurgency, directed against the Tamils in the past. The counter-insurgency based exploitation gave room for their political opportunism, which also went against their community.

While around 50% of the Muslims in Mannaar benefited from the politics of Bathiudeen, many among the remaining were treated as betrayers by him. Those affected by him in the past among the Muslims are now bent on giving trouble to him, the Muslim grassroots activists said.

After the Easter attacks, the extremist sections of the Sinhala establishment want to deploy the Tamils against the Muslims.

It must be the responsibility of the Muslims as a community to arrest the problem of these exploitative politicians, particularly in the context of improving Tamil-Muslim unity in the North-East, Tamil activists in Mannaar commented.

Genocide-affected Eezham Tamils should be wiser than these opportunistic politicians in not allowing the SL State to use them as its cannon fodder, they further opined.

The fellow Muslim politicians who have come together to defend these politicians also share the responsibility to course-correct their future behaviour, they added.

The pro-Rajapaksa Sinhalese personnel among the SL military and the police are behaving in the most hostile manner, the grassroots activists among the Muslims in Mannaar, who did not wish to be named, told TamilNet.

The Muslim activists in Mannaar are very reluctant to talk to media blaming the SL military or police as they are afraid of being detained under the Emergency Regulations.

There are only around 20 police officers who are from the Muslim community while about 150 are Tamils of approximately 2,000 SL police personnel operating the stations and the posts in the entire district.

The SL Navy and SL Army stationed in Mannaar are 99% Sinhalese.

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