Buddhistization of Tamil Hindu places of worship by the Sri Lankan state

 June 21, 2022

Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister’s Office;
South Block, New Delhi, 110011
India.

Buddhistization of Tamil Hindu places of worship by the Sri Lankan state

Dear Hon. Prime Minister,

Vanakkam. Ours is a non-profit organization registered under the laws of the Ontario Provincial Government. The membership is composed of expatriate Tamils who were forced to flee Sri Lanka in 1983 and thereafter during the civil war.

The Hon. Prime Minister is aware of the fact that since independence in 1948, there has been systemic state-sponsored Sinhala colonization of predominantly traditional Tamil areas. Today, the Trincomalee district where the Tamils were once the majority is now in second place and soon pushed to third place.

The following Table 1 shows the change in the demography of the eastern province since independence.

Eastern Province Demography

Table 1

Year

Tamil

Muslim

Sinhalese

Others

Total

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

%

No

1946

136,059

48.75

109,024

39.06

23,456

8.40

10,573

3.79

279,112

2012

617,295

39.79

569,718

36.72

359,136

23.15

5,212

0.34

1551,381

Source: Ceylon Census Department

Thus, the number of Sinhalese in the Eastern Province has increased from 8.40% in 1946 to 23.15% in 2012! During the same period, the Tamil population declined from 48.75% in 1946 to 39.79% a drop of 8.96%. This we consider a systemic and structural genocide.

Since the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President in 2005, in addition to Sinhalization, there has been planned and accelerated Buddhistization of the Northeast province since 2009.  Several Buddhist viharas, dagobas and statues of Buddha have sprung up in areas where there are no Buddhists. The Sri Lankan army, the Department of Archeology and radical Buddhist Monks with a medieval mindset is behind this Buddhistization. 

The present President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed a pan- Sinhala Buddhist Presidential Task Force (PTF) in June 2020 headed by Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Major General (Retired) Kamal Gunaratne. This Task Force has been mandated to –  

  1. Identify sites of archaeological importance in the Eastern Province,
  2. Identify and implement an appropriate program for the management of archaeological heritage by conserving and restoring such identified sites and antiquities, 3. Identify the extent of land that should be allocated for such archaeological sites and take necessary measures to allocate them properly and legally, and
  3. Preserve the cultural value of sites of archaeological importance and promote the uniqueness of Sri Lanka, both locally and internationally, and make recommendations for the promotion of such heritages.

This PTF has identified several Buddhist heritage sites and thousands of acres of land surrounding those areas have been acquired by the Archeological Department. In particular, 246 Buddhist sites in Ampara district, 74 in Trincomalee district and 55 in Batticaloa district, including 28 Buddhist Viharas have been identified. These lands belong to Tamils, but they have been prevented from cultivating their lands.

In 2018 a Buddhist monk went to Kurundurmalai and claimed that the place was once a Buddhist Vihara and removed the Trident of the Hindu temple. With the help of the army and police, he prevented Hindu worshippers from performing daily poojas.  

The Department of Archaeology with the support of the Army commenced excavations claiming that there is a ruined Kurundaseva Buddhist Vihara buried under it. Moves are afoot to acquire 400 acres of land to the Vihara.

On the 10th of June, 2022 a convoy of Buddhist monks and the army have gone to Kurundurmalai to declare open a Buddhist Vihara built recently. Despite an agreement reached with the Mullaitivu Magistrate’s Court a few years ago, the Department of Archaeology, alongside State Minister Vitdura Wickramanayaka, removed a Hindu shrine at the Kurunthur Malai Athi Ayan Temple and replaced it with a Buddhist statue in February 2022.

The Hindu temple management filed a case in the Magistrate’s Court of Mullaitivu. The judge issued a restraining order prohibiting any construction till a final order. Obviously, both the Buddhist Monks and the army blatantly defied the court order and went ahead with the completion and opening of the Buddhist Vihara.

In close proximity to Kumulamunai is another temple called Vedukkunari Adi Lingeswarar temple. Like Kurundurmalai, the Archeological Department claims that a Buddhist Vihara stood at the place in ancient times.

 A Buddhist Vihara has been erected at Kanniya adjoining Pillayar Hindu temple (since demolished) and a monk has taken residence a decade ago. Kanniya hot water wells is a sacred Saiva religious site and its history is connected with King Ravana famous for its hot spring wells. According to legend King Ravana performed the last rites of his mother at this holy place. The Archeological Department has identified this place as a Buddhist monastery temple and this has generated tensions between the local Hindus and Buddhist zealots.

As already said Sri Lanka’s Director General of Archaeology “has ordered excavations and instructed district authorities to put up Buddhist structures on pre-existing Tamil worship sites and private Tamil lands, regardless of any opposition to it.” (https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/sinhalisation-continues-sri-lankan-army-helps-construct-buddhist-shrine-tamil-area-muttur)

The constitution of Sri Lanka stipulates “The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring to all religions the rights granted”.  Thus, by positing Buddhism to the “foremost place”, obviously has stratified Buddhism, relegating other religions to a lower level or a subclass. Though constitutionally Buddhism might enjoy only the nebulous status of “foremost place” in reality Buddhism dominates the political and socio-cultural discourse of the country. It has relegated followers of other faiths to second-class status.

It will be seen that India spends billions of rupees to renovate and restore Buddhist heritage sites in India despite the fact Buddhists number only 10,140 (0.70%) of the population. And that too mostly converts. On the contrary in Sri Lanka Hindu Tamils are under siege by extremist Buddhist monks aided and abetted by the state.

While we welcome India’s bailout of bankrupt Sri Lanka, we also wish to add it is feeding a snake by feeding milk. Historically the Sinhalese people are anti-India and they will remain so in the future as well.

The Kurundurmalai incursion has taken place despite the prevailing air of despondency in the country due to the economic meltdown. At a time when people are queuing up for gas, diesel, kerosene, rice, vegetables, medicine, transport, etc. have skyrocketed. When inflation sores at 39.1%.

We appeal to the Indian Prime Minister to use his influence to stop Sinhalization and Buddhistization of Tamils’ homeland aimed at imposing Sinhala – Buddhist hegemony down Tamils’ throats. The Tamil Hindus are under attack by an ethnic-religious-centric state on a daily basis. (Pictures attached)

 Yours truly

Veluppillai Thangavelu
President

Copy to: (1) Hon. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
              (2) Hon, Thiru M.K. Stalin, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu  

            (3)  Thiru K. Annamalai, President, BJP Tamil Nadu.

About editor 2677 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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