Sri Lankans also survived two terror-filled periods of Sinhala leftist insurrection and counterinsurgency, as well as the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. Tensions between the warring parties escalated in the disaster's aftermath, deteriorating an already unstable ceasefire. In , the country returned to a brutal war that ended in May with tens of thousands of Tamil civilian deaths during the government's military defeat of the Tigers.
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I lived through Sri Lankan terrorism. Here's my advice. Ten years later, the underlying conflict between the majoritarian state and the country's ethnic minorities remains politically unresolved. Sri Lanka's political and military leaders have not been held to account for alleged human rights violations, and the government has promoted alleged war criminals to high-ranking positions.
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President Mahinda Rajapaksa's year rule, which was increasingly authoritarian, emboldened Sinhala Buddhist nationalists, further militarized the country and prevented war-affected Tamils and Muslims from returning to their homes. Despite the election of a new president, Maithripala Sirisena, the formation of a coalition government and a constitutional amendment to limit executive power, Sri Lankan minorities remain frustrated by the country's lack of progress in demilitarization , land return and political power-sharing.
This history of violence must also be understood in relation to the formation of the country's religious communities. Most Sinhalas are Buddhist and most Tamils are Hindus. Christians , the majority of whom are Roman Catholic, are among Sinhalas, Tamils and various other ethnicities in Sri Lanka. The Easter Sunday bombings targeted St.
Anthony's and St. Sebastian's, two popular, multiethnic Catholic churches in southwestern Sri Lanka, and Zion, a mostly Tamil Evangelical church in the eastern town of Batticaloa. The big risk after Sri Lanka attacks.
Sri Lankan Muslims, on the other hand, identify as a separate ethnic group. Before the Easter attacks, there were no major tensions between Muslims and Christians, and in fact, hardline Sinhala Buddhist extremists like the ultranationalist Bodu Bala Sena have targeted both communities. They have voiced anxieties about Christian "conversions" and the growth of foreign-funded Christianity across the country.
On Palm Sunday, just two weeks before Sunday's attacks, Sinhala Buddhist nationalists mobbed a Methodist church during services and held the congregation hostage until police arrived.
Sri Lanka: An urgent case for conflict prevention
Anti-Muslim hate speech and violence have also been on the rise post-war, with large-scale attacks in central and southern Sri Lanka in and Last Sunday's attacks brought global attention to Sri Lanka, and with it, news that Muslim communities had repeatedly warned the state about the NTJ's sectarian violence. In , Muslim civilians staged protests demanding the arrest of the NTJ's leader. The government ignored their calls for action. As families mourn their dead , many Sri Lankans are angered by news that the government failed to heed civilian concerns and intelligence warnings before Sunday's attacks.
Why did the government not respond? Now and leading up to the attacks, the country has been embroiled in a political crisis : a split between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. With presidential elections this year, the possible return to power of Rajapaksa and peace dividends unreached, the crisis is deepening.
The Bi-Polar Perspective and the Sri Lankan Crisis
In this moment, our leaders must pause, listen and reflect on this living history of violence and oppression in order to reroute the country's future. Stay up to date The Easter bombings have threatened the fragile peace in post-war Sri Lanka, and the government's current state of emergency and blame games are exacerbating ethnic tensions and the political crisis. At this critical juncture, Sri Lanka's leaders and the international community need to listen to Sri Lankan civil society's calls for strength in unity against all hate. The government continues to resist any investigation or accounting for mass atrocities in the final months of the war.
Even on Indian-sponsored development projects and economic integration, the Sri Lankan government has dragged its feet; for example, construction has begun on only a handful of the 50, houses India has offered to build in the northern province. This is due in part to its history of counter-productive interventions in Sri Lanka.
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Many Sinhalese see India as favouring Tamils and as wanting to weaken or divide the country, despite its crucial role in destroying the Tamil Tigers. For many Tamils, on the other hand, India is seen as having repeatedly broken its pledges to defend their rights and protect their lives, especially during the final phase of the war in It has a clear interest in preventing either a return to violent militancy or the consolidation on its borders of another authoritarian government with an overly powerful military. After decades of actively supporting minority rights and devolution of power in Sri Lanka, India has its reputation on the line.
If it is serious about promoting a stable and democratic Sri Lanka, India will have to rebalance its priorities and press more consistently and in concert with other powers for major political reforms in Sri Lanka. Parties in Tamil Nadu, in turn, will need to use their leverage with New Delhi in consistent and principled ways, even at the risk of sacrificing potentially profitable political deals.
But the immediate focus of the talks and of Indian influence should shift from pressing for effective devolution of power to demilitarising the north and east and rebuilding meaningful democratic institutions and freedoms. This would require:. India should monitor its projects in the north more closely and insist, along with other donors, that they effectively empower local people.
India should insist on working through the newly elected local governments and, eventually, with the Northern Provincial Council. To make this possible, India will need to coordinate more closely with Japan, Western donors and international development banks. Together they have the political and financial leverage to influence the Rajapaksa administration should they choose to use it. India should revive its idea of a donors conference to review post-war progress and to push the government to demilitarise the north, lift the state of emergency and relax anti-terrorism laws.
At the same time, it should send strong, public messages to the Sri Lankan government on the need for domestic action on accountability.
Acknowledging the suffering of all communities will be necessary for lasting peace. India should broaden its political agenda from focusing solely on devolution and ensuring the rights of Tamils. This will take some time, but the work should start now. Reciprocal airstrikes by India and Pakistan have been accompanied by shelling, troop reinforcements and small arms fire. India claimed to have downed one of the intruding Pakistani jets.
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Pakistani officials have provided evidence, also circulated on social media, of the downed Indian jet and the captured pilot, but claims of six successful strikes conducted in Indian-controlled Kashmir are more difficult to verify. Despite ample evidence of its cross-Line of Control attacks, Indian claims of killing hundreds in the airstrike on a Jaish training base and downing a Pakistani jet lack credence since New Delhi did not provide any evidence.
Still, resort to military force for political ends increases the risks of escalation, no matter how unintended. With elections months away, Modi, responding to domestic opinion — particularly that of his hardline BJP constituency — vowed to avenge the dead in Pulwama, including at least 40 Indian paramilitary police officers. That response came in the shape of the 26 February airstrikes across the Line of Control. Both sides have left themselves room to climb down.
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