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Online hate speech stokes fear of religious violence in Sri Lanka

Photo courtesy Thyagi Ruwanpathirana Hate speech is growing more effective and pervasive among media platforms in Sri Lanka, prompting concern from Muslim and Christian minorities amid mounting attacks. The Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) released a report this week on the challenges surrounding the significant uptick in online-based hate speech in post-war Sri Lanka. “The […]

Liking violence: A study of hate speech on Facebook in Sri Lanka

Photo courtesy Sri Lanka Brief The Centre for Policy Alternatives, the institutional anchor of Groundviews, released today a report co-authored by Shilpa Samaratunge and I on hate speech online, looking at Facebook in particular. The report is the first in Sri Lanka to focus on hate and dangerous speech in online fora, contextualising the growth […]

INFOGRAPHIC: Religious Violence in Post-War Sri Lanka

Religious tensions have been exacerbated in post-war Sri Lanka, contrary to claims by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) that attacks against places of religious worship are isolated incidents. In Mach 2013, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) published a report highlighting concerns about violence and intolerance against all religious communities in the country. The […]

Portraits of diversity from Myanmar vital for Sri Lanka

When the British administrator J.S. Furnivall coined the term “plural society” he was talking about colonial Burma to describe the extraordinary diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, races and religions that inhabited its cities. Sixty years ago he wrote, “Bengali Muslims jostled alongside Iraqi Jews and Armenian Christians”. Walking around Yangon’s streets today, you can still experience […]

Stand Up Against Extremism

Image courtesy NBC News “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”- —Robert F. Kennedy Africa these days has been battling with EBOLA, a severe, infectious, often […]

Is Sri Lanka sinking in to an abyss of racism and apartheid?

Photo by Shilpa Samaratunge Two months since the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) inspired anti Muslim attack in Aluthgama took place causing scores of damage, destruction and death to the livelihood, properties and life of the Muslim community, evidence is emerging that the attack is not spontaneous but a well orchestrated plan to attack Muslims and to […]

The BBS and a catalyst for a Buddhist Muslim conflict

Photo by Shilpa Samaratunge The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Sri Lanka’s catalyst for opening up a new Buddhist verses Muslim conflict, perhaps due to boredom now that a thirty year civil war has ended, follows more by design than accident a classic military strategy of an escalation or advancement and then a tactical retreat due […]

Photos around questions I couldn’t answer: Four days after the riots

All photos by the author At journalism school I was taught to get as close as possible without getting involved. Go in, get the story, don’t become the story, don’t interfere with the story. These rules played like a soundtrack on loop in my mind when I visited Aluthgama and Beruwela, four days after the […]

Responding to Aluthgama

Photography by Thyagi Ruwanpathirana Responding to Aluthgama Imagine a country, an island in the Indian Ocean. Let’s call it Serendib (ooh, the irony). Imagine further: several groups, including those named Limat, Milsum and Alahnis, populate the island. A long war ended there some five or so years ago. Nevertheless, peace gives it a pass. Just […]

Stop blaming the victims

Photo by Thyagi Ruwanpathirana In the weeks that have passed since 6-15 (15th June) when Sri Lanka witnessed one of the worst outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence, the official narrative has been as chilling as the events. The government initially dismissed the violence that has so far claimed at least four lives directly, displaced over 370 […]

Proud Inheritors or Petty Contractors? Understanding the BBS phenomenon in Sri Lankan politics

Photo by Thyagi Ruwanpathirana The speech delivered by Ven. Galaboda-atté Gnanasara at a public meeting in the Aluthgama on 14 June 2014 is broadly considered as the primary cause that triggered the subsequent rampage and violence in that area. Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the organisation of which Ven. Gnanasara is the Secretary General, is squarely accused […]

The Riots of June 2014 and Pogrom of July 1983

Photo by Thyagi Ruwanpathirana It is unlikely that there is anyone living who remembers the anti -Muslim riots of 1915. In any case, apart from the fact that most of the victims were Muslims and most of the perpetrators were Sinhalese, there are few similarities between the riots of 1915 and 2014. In1915 the British […]