After Today’s BMICH Explosion
I was with some Tamil students, as a training course was winding down for the day, when news of the explosion at the BMICH reached us. The details of the incident were sketchy at first. Being Muslim, while I felt worried when I heard the news, and the BMICH being
close to where we were, I didn’t panic. But I noticed a marked difference in the reaction of the Tamil students.
“Oh god what happened,” one of the male students wailed.
“We have to go home quickly,” another said.
“What will happen to me on the way back home,” another student said with deep worry.
They started calling their homes. They even left without telling me.
What I could see was that they felt deeply afraid after such incidents. They were not afraid of the average person on the street. They were afraid of security forces and what they might do to them.
When I see this kind of thing I am really worried because as a citizen of Sri Lanka everybody needs to be treated equally and everybody needs to feel safe. Everybody is the same.
What might the forces do to them you might ask?
If they don’t have a good enough answer to explain what they are doing they can be arrested. This even if they have their IDs. If they forgot to take their ID, then they would be in much bigger trouble. If arrested they can be held for months, and they fear they might not even come out.
Sometimes people are asked to kneel in afternoon sunlight, irrespective of whether they are men or women in the North and East. I am from the eastern town of Valaichchenai and I know this happens. Sometimes they can be kept like this for hours and only released after questioning later.
Round ups which happen suddenly involve large groups of people being grouped, sometimes kept for hours and questioned. This rarely happens for Muslim people. Only for Tamil people.
Today’s explosion wasn’t the result of an attack but was an accident. The students, nevertheless, had their typical reaction of fear.
The Jaffna Human Rights Commission lawyer, who was hit by a soldier on Friday while he was minding his business without warning and without inquiry is another example. Soldiers can hit first and ask questions later. This soldier apparently apologized after he found out that this person was a lawyer at the HRC in Jaffna.
Average Tamil people also don’t have any freedom in the night. “We don’t open the door after 6.00 pm now matchung,” a friend of mine who lives in Kiran told me.
I can also understand what problems the security forces face. They work to protect the country and they can’t say when they will die. They don’t even have time to see their families as they work full-time. I can imagine how they feel when their colleagues are killed while on duty. Uncontrollable fear probably takes over.
We need to think of their situation as well.
The attack against the lawyer in Jaffna is the kind of thing that changes the minds of minority communities against the forces and government.
Muslim people also feel that they are affected by the ethnic conflict without being involved. They have lost lot of scholars and employment and income opportunities. People in border villages are afraid for their lives as well. Currently the big fear is how will the Karuna faction treat Muslim people in the east.