Thursday, October 06, 2005

Trincomalee visit - Religion, Politics, Issue of Religious Conversion etc.
I was in Trincomalee recently on a field research mission as part of a civil society group research team. I was able to witness heavy military presence in the city, with security personnel deployed almost at every junction in the city. The presence is much stronger than what it was in 2004 when I was at Trincomalee the last time. This signifies, perhaps the political developments in the district, which nevertheless has been a high conflict density zone, through out the history of the ethnic conflict.
The Buddha statue and the surrounding barbed wire has taken a lot of space of the Bus stand and one wonders with the heavily barbed wire around the place whether one can actually enter the premises and even atleast offer flowers to Lord Buddha. It is a sorry state of affairs in this country that religion has been pulled in to the whim of political arrogance that our politicians are famous for. The same can be said of how the Anti-conversion Bill is being dealt with. Whilst agreeing to the fact that there are certain religious groups in this country that take advantage of the economic status of people to convert them to their religions (only God knows why they do this.. And I wonder whether any religion actually thinks that by increasing the number of followers in their religion, the objectives of the religion being practiced can be met!!!). But these are matters that society should deal with and should not be pulled into politics thus violating the individual autonomous space of decision making that any person has entitlement to. As President Kumaratunge once noted (one of her sensible comments, I must say!) if Buddhism and Hinduism are to prosper the people who profess the religion should take the religious to the laymen and assist them in their social and economic development. I cannot but agree with her on this.


Hansa said...

It is with greatest sympathy I post my reply comment on the issue of Trincomalee Buddha Statue. Since Acharya has taken a very narrow approach in this regard, it heightened my curiosity to reveal the dark side of the matter.

One of the eye-catching points raised by this blogger is because of the heavy military guard to protect the Statue, people have lost the opportunity to offer and worship the Buddha statue. Indeed it’s TRUE! The meaning of the Buddha statue is to let people to engage in their religious activities and obviously it has been dispossessed due to the heavy military guard.

But the matter we have to distress here is "Why do they guard this particular Buddha statue like US troops guard the Pentagon?"

This Buddha statue is an endeavor of the Buddhist Three wheeler drivers of Trincomalee. In fact, this Buddha statue is a replacement statue. Even before this statue, the place was already occupied with a Statue but it was smaller in size. Therefore the spiritual TW drivers in Trincomalee together with Trincomalee Buddhist community after a hardy fund raise, became victorious in establishing the larger Statue which is in Dispute.

Yes indeed, why did it become a dispute? Is this statue a nuisance to the entire Trincomalee community or for one division? Obviously it is a consequent of a full-size plot by an identified military group (abstain from mentioning the name) who are extremely well active in the Eastern area. They haphazardly elevated the religious sensitivity and sentiment of Tamil community of Trincomalee towards the Buddha Statue in a destructive way and persuaded and brainwashed their mentality to impair the Buddha statue. I would like to inquire this blogger, whether he accommodates the responsibility to shield the Statue despite the possible threats to explode it.

The Government forces prime intention is not to put a stop to religious activities on this Buddha statue. They guard it for the wellbeing of the Statue and to protect Article 14 (1)e of the constitution of 1978.

I do not wish to deal with blogger’s other concerns in his comment. But I would appreciate if this blogger approaches the state of affairs in a country with an independent vision then his achievement in providing fair news to the general public as well as the international community might be well than NOW!

Aachcharya said...

I'm sorry for this late response, Hansa.

Its interesting and unfortunate that you compare the Buddah ststue with the Pentagon!

It is my perspective and judgment that one needs to be careful about placing religious symbols in cental places of public access in areas that are multi-ethnic and multi-religious. This is especially true about Trincomalee. Where a minority community perceives that its existence has been threatened it will not be a healthy move to place a religious symbol representative of the majority community at a centric place of a city where all three major communities live in equal proportion. Hansa asks me to consider the state of affairs in this country. I have considered this to the best of my knowledge and made the afore placed comment upon such an understanding!!

I'm sorry for the 'spiritual' TW drivers as Hansa equally seems to be. My post very much reflected the concern that they will have not a chance to worship the Buddah statute because of the restrictions in place!! (I'm being cynical here). Lets not be naive here and not say that there are no political forces behind the TW association!!

Ladyhas said...

I am in total agreement with Aachcharya. I think we should be more careful about how we use religious symbols in public spaces, in the context of a country where there is a deep divide, whether we like to admit it or not. The other day i noticed a similar situation in a town not too far south of colombo. after having returned to the island after a while, i found there was a new buddha statue built, almost on the pavement right infront of some muslim shops! I am sure it was the work of some spiritual TW drivers, as Hansa says! I have no idea who wants to offer flowers in the middle of the road, on their way to the market place! I too am a buddhist, but i am loosing patience with the way our majority is using religious symbols to create unnecessary divisions, sense of alienation and exclusion and communal arrogance.
No religion wins its ends by getting politicised. You cannot attain Nirvana by staring at Buddha statues, or experiencing 'budu res' as some buddha staues were recently claimed to be exuding!

d0t.b1n@ry said...

So aacharya, are you suggesting that the Lord Buddah's statue should be removed or simply should not be there, because all three major communities live in trinco?
If that's the case then how come nobody's complaining about all the hindu temples in colombo where the majority is buddhist?

I'm so looking forward to read your blog everyday now, after reading a couple of posts by you.. This is gonna be interesting..