Life changed in ’83 when my Tamil friends left to Canada, Australia, to the USA. I still have my Sinhalese friends, but life isn’t whole when a part of me is missing.
The anti-Tamil pogrom that Black July was a shameful episode I’m sure all of us would like to forget. We lost the beautiful integration of cultures for hatred, suspicion and isolation. Our children are conscious if their friends are Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim. I suppose they think of these things now, when a few children in school have begun casting remarks denigrating the other’s religion. What is this influence that is slowly pervading us all?
The long war drained us, and we too were happy that it was over. No more bombing, no more violence, we thought. We hoped that things would get better. But the hopes of turning a fresh page are replaced with growing discomfort and frustration due to the increasing hate mongering.
Joining Sharni on her mission to capture some perspectives of Sri Lankan Muslims on the anti-Tamil pogrom in ’83 and thirty years later, I am glad that this brings to the open our thoughts, our dreams, our hopes and fears, discussed amongst us Muslims, in board rooms and living rooms. These have to be heard, as much as the thoughts and feelings of the Sinhalese, the Tamils, and the many other peoples in our country. Acknowledging the other’s experiences is as important as acknowledging our own, and it can help heal the damaged ties between the peoples of our country.
Speaking with some Muslims – a housewife, a businessman, a three-wheeler driver, politician, activist, men and women, the thoughts that echo in everyone’s words are no different : The Government is responsible in allowing the hate against minorities to grow. The Government is waiting to capitalize on the anti-minority atmosphere to meet political ends. The media is not impartial. Rights are violated. Respect and Dignity depends on ethnic and religious identity. There’s a breakdown of law and order. Who is enforcing ‘law’? Who will enforce the rule of law? These are some of the troubled voices we heard.
And still we hope that things won’t get worse, not like ’83, not like what happened to the Tamils. But small groups are successful in increasingly pouring poison into some minds, with words of deceptive hubris based on religion and ethnicity.
While the majority who silently disapproves of the growing hate campaigns thinks they cannot do much to reverse the trend, or feel they will never allow a repeat of ’83, they perilously wait till all are consumed by the hatred that’s growing, and then it will be too late.