Buddhist extremists hold first meeting after Easter attacks in Sri Lanka

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero (R), head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force", speaks at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic before the Buddhist monks convention in Kandy, Sri Lanka July 7. 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 July 2019

Buddhist extremists hold first meeting after Easter attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Many shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Kandy said they planned to close their establishments on Sunday for fear of violence

KANDY: Police lined the streets of the Sri Lankan highland town of Kandy on Sunday and the army was on standby as hard-line Buddhist monks gathered for their first big assembly since Easter attacks by Islamist extremists on churches and luxury hotels.
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the influential head of the Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), had called for as many as 10,000 clergymen from across the country to attend the meet.
The group said the gathering discussed who to back in the presidential elections later this year in the Indian Ocean island nation where Buddhists make up about 70 percent of the population. The rest include ethnic Tamils, who are mostly Hindus, and Muslims.
Dressed in orange, Gnanasara visited one of Buddhism’s most sacred temples in Kandy on Sunday where a relic believed to be the Buddha’s tooth is kept. Later, the hard-liner, who has faced allegations of inciting violence against Muslims, addressed the gathering.
After visiting the temple, he told reporters they would take a “historical decision” to give leadership for the development and security of the Sinhalese.
“Today, the Sinhala ethnicity, which has developed this country historically, has become very weak ... There is no leader who holds responsibility for Sinhalese,” he said adding some people were trying to sabotage the convention by spreading fears of possible riots.

FASTFACT

• There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country in recent weeks, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, in apparent reprisal for the April bombings claimed by Daesh that killed more than 250 people.

• Muslims have become fearful of a backlash, especially from hard-line groups such as the BBS that are leading the campaign against extremism.

“The army is assisting the police on security under the emergency law,” military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said, adding soldiers were on alert should trouble erupt.
There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country in recent weeks, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, in apparent reprisal for the April bombings claimed by Daesh that killed more than 250 people.
Muslims have become fearful of a backlash, especially from hard-line groups such as the BBS that are leading the campaign against extremism.
Many shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Kandy said they planned to close their establishments on Sunday for fear of violence.


Curtains close on Jaipur Literature Festival

Updated 19 min 15 sec ago

Curtains close on Jaipur Literature Festival

  • This year’s themes were current trends in politics, wider society, the economy, art, and literature

NEW DELHI: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) came to a close on Monday after registering a footfall of more than 400,000 visitors during the five-day event, which saw the participation of more than 500 speakers from 30 countries.

What started as a small event in the western Indian city of Jaipur in 2007 has gone on to become one of the most prestigious literary festivals in the world, so much so that the Diggi Palace, an expansive medieval structure which was used as the venue for the JLF every year, became overcrowded this year, forcing organizers to look for a new venue for 2021.

This year’s themes were current trends in politics, wider society, the economy, art, and literature.

With India witnessing continuous protests against new citizenship legislation introduced by the government, most of the political discussions revolved around the issue, with many drawing attention to the danger it posed to the constitution and the secular fabric of the country.

Changes taking place in the Arab world were also part of this year’s discourse with four Arab authors speaking at the JLF.