All photos by the author.
Two weeks have passed since violence broke out in Aluthgama and Beruwala on the 15th June- a day that will go down in the history books of Sri Lanka as nothing short of a dark, dark day. These are a few photos I managed to take while carefully stepping through the rubble of the affected houses, and a personal account of conversations with affected residents and families of those who lost their lives.
The general sentiments were in absolute spite of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS). Written in the soot that canvassed the remaining walls of the houses burnt, these sentiments are now drawing crowds from one house to the next.
‘Don’t look at Sinhala, Muslim. Enforce the law’, one roughly translated.
‘The terrorist BBS’, ‘Say no to BBS’, others read.
There was plenty written about Galagodaaththe Gnanasara. Let’s just say they weren’t very nice.
‘Is this the compassion in Buddhism?’ others questioned.
‘State weapons have been used’, ‘Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is responsible’, ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa is responsible’, a few pointed out.
“Meygollo thamai apita mehema kaley” (they are the ones that did this to us), one man said glaring down at my pirith nool. Pirith nool is a sacred thread that is tied on the wrists of Buddhists, said to be blessed with powers to ward off evil spirits and of healing. I had contemplated whether to remove it before heading down, but decided to keep it on- people of Aluthgama should know that the BBS doesn’t represent moderate Buddhists. “Api okkoma ehema na” (we are not all like that), a friend said quickly coming to my defence. He didn’t seem too convinced.
“Meka mangkollayak, miss. Jaathivadi mokakvath nemei” (This is robbery, miss. Nothing racial in this), one man said. Still visibly shaking, another nodded in agreement and added that 7 lakhs worth of goods had been stolen from his house.
See all of the 98 photos in the album in full screen here.
The wives of two men who lost their lives during the early hours of the 16th were in mourning. Mohammed Zahiran and Mohammed Shiraz were protecting the village mosque that was temporarily housing their wives and children, since their homes were no longer safe, said their in-laws. I recognized the oldest daughter of Mohammed Zahiran from a clip I had seen, and noticed that her eyes were still as puffy as they were on the video that was uploaded close to two weeks back. A friend was trying to distract the oldest daughter of Mohammed Shiraz with a smart phone to keep her from re-living the horror, while Shiraz’s brother- in-law gave us his account of the night. But late Shiraz’s youngest daughter kept running back to her mother’s room for comfort while her mother tried hard to hold back tears and wiped the dirt off the little girl’s feet.
“Miss, mehema thamai Yaapaneth thiyenna aththe” (Miss, this must’ve been what Jaffna looked like). I was at a loss for words.
Another said maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. “Mewa dakala danwath meka nawaththuwoth monawa nathath, eka mokakhari” (if they see these and put an end to this, if nothing else, that’s something).
I hoped he was right.