Majoritarian threat to peace in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka government declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in Kandy to quell four days of riots that left three people dead and over 200 Muslim-owned businesses homes and vehicles set ablaze

Sri Lanka government declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in Kandy to quell four days of riots that left three people dead and over 200 Muslim-owned businesses homes and vehicles set ablaze

In an email interview, Neil DeVotta, a professor of politics and worldwide affairs at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and an expert on ethnic conflict in South Asia, explains what is behind the tensions and why the government has done more to fan the flames than put out the fire. Following the end of the civil war in 2009, Muslims emerged as the targets of hardline Sinhala resentment, replacing the predominantly Hindu Tamils.

At least 140 people, including the main instigator, have been arrested over the unrest, the police said. Eleven mosques were attacked.

"The curfew, however, would be in force between 8 pm tonight till 5 am tomorrow in the Kandy district, except in the Kandy Municipality areas", Police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera said. "At the same time, the authorities are folding their arms and watching", said Muslim businessman M Jaffer, as quoted in Thursday's DailyFT newspaper.

"The Sri Lankan government must act swiftly and in line with human rights to prosecute those responsible for recent communal violence".

Troops guarded every junction while security personnel carried out patrols on motorcycles and in armoured personnel carriers.

Sri Lanka's telecoms regulator asked internet providers to block access to Facebook and other social media platforms to prevent the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech.

Army chief Mahesh Senanayake visited Kandy on Thursday and promised an increased military presence near mosques.

A large number of Muslim-owned businesses in the island nation remained shut in protest against attacks by mainly Buddhist Sinhalese, but some shops in the Muslim neighbourhood in the town opened today. There were no casualties. In a parliamentary address Wednesday, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem, who is also minister of city planning and water supply, strongly criticized the police force for their inaction and failure to contain the situation.

The violence was sparked after four Muslims who assaulted a Sinhalese truck driver who later died in central Sri Lanka.

Almost 75 percent of Sri Lankans belong to the majority Sinhalese community while Tamils make up another 13 percent.

Police officials said that tight security would remain in place throughout the district to ensure that there was no relapse into violence amid concerns among Muslims about possibility of attacks during Friday prayers.

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