Published: Tue, March 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Emergency declared in Sri Lanka after communal riots between Muslims and Buddhists

Emergency declared in Sri Lanka after communal riots between Muslims and Buddhists

Hakeem said the riots were concentrated in Kandy - home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics - but the government wanted to send a strong message given outbreaks of communal violence elsewhere recently.

Police in central Sri Lanka imposed a curfew to quell anti-Muslim violence after mobs from the majority ethnic Sinhalese population burned shops and homes in retaliation for a death that's the subject of a dispute.

"The curfew was imposed to control the situation in the area", said police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera.

Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese.

However the government's response has been criticised by human rights activists and local commentators for failing to address the root causes of racially-motivated violence on the island.

Ganesan said the fresh state of emergency also widened police powers to detain suspects.

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The violence in the Digana and Teldeniya areas of Kandy occurred after a Sinhalese man died, allegedly after a road-rage incident led to an altercation between the deceased and a group of Muslim men.

Renewed tension has been growing between the two communities since previous year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites.

Some Buddhist nationalist have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise. An anti-Muslim campaign was launched following the deadly Aluthgama riots in June 2014.

Earlier today, former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke about the clashes on Twitter.

"This is a small number of Sinhala Buddhists playing on more widely fears and myths and concerns".

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