CNN‘s Tim Hume has a new piece today about “the rise of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist ultra-nationalists,” and the man at the center of conversations about the subject:
He is Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the Buddhist holy man who is the general secretary and public face of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS, also known as Buddhist Power Force).
The ultra-nationalist Sinhalese Buddhist organization has emerged as a troubling presence on the Sri Lankan political landscape in recent years, and is blamed by many for inciting the deadly violence in Aluthgama.
“It was already a tricky situation,” said Mohamed Hisham, a social media activist and businessman, who was raised in Dharga Town, a Muslim neighborhood near Aluthgama that bore the brunt of the violence.
“But I believe the presence (of the BBS) had a major impact. They are to be blamed for inciting what happened.”
What happened, according to witnesses and officials, is that shortly after the speech, Buddhist mobs marched through Muslim neighborhoods, ransacking dozens of homes and shops. Three Muslim men were killed, and sixteen seriously injured in the two nights of violence that followed, police said.
One month on from the violence, described as the worst attacks on Muslims in the country in years, 135 people have been arrested, police say.
But while Gnanasara has given a statement to police about the events of the day, he has yet to face any charges.
Read the whole thing here.
[UPDATED: Gnanasara is in the news again today, after accusing His Holiness the Dalai Lama of “being influenced by Islamist extremists” and saying that “the Tibetan could not be accepted as a world Buddhist leader.” His Holiness recently spoke out forcefully against anti-Muslim violence in the Buddhist world. – 7/23/14]