1989 Temple of the Tooth attack

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1989 Temple of the Tooth attack
Kandy is located in Sri Lanka
Kandy
Kandy
Kandy (Sri Lanka)
Location Kandy, Sri Lanka
Coordinates 7°17′38″N 80°38′19″E / 7.29389°N 80.63861°E / 7.29389; 80.63861
Date 8 February 1989
Target Temple of the Tooth
Attack type
Attack using small arms
Weapons Guns
Deaths 2–5
Non-fatal injuries
1+
Perpetrators Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

1989 Temple of the Tooth attack is an attack on the Temple of the Tooth Relic, located in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The shrine, which is considered to be important to the Buddhists in Sri Lanka, houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, and is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.[1][2][3] It was attacked on 8 February 1989, allegedly by the armed cadres affiliated to Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a Marxist-Leninist Communist political party in Sri Lanka.[4][5][6]

Background

In the late 1980s, the country was under a tense situation with two insurgencies ravaging Northern and Southern parts of Sri Lanka.[7] First insurgency was initiated by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and several Tamil militant groups in 1983, seeking to create an independent Tamil state in Northern and Eastern parts of the country.[8] In 1987, neighboring India intervened in the conflict to bring an end to the fighting between the insurgents and the Sri Lankan armed forces. That year, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was signed between the two countries and Indian Peace Keeping Force was deployed in Northern Sri Lanka to enforce disarmament of militant organizations and to watch over the regional council.[9]

JVP and other nationalist groups viewed this as a proliferation of Indian imperialism.[10] This suspicion was fuelled by the perceived threat of North-Eastern autonomy, due to the presence of Indian Army in Sri Lankan soil.[11] By this time, JVP was equipped with experiences of a failed insurrection in 1971, against the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Under these circumstances, the party launched a second insurrection in 1987, seeking to overthrow the then United National Party government.[12][13]

Incident

As the tension grew, JVP and its military wing, Patriotic Liberation Organization (Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya) launched attacks on various government and civilian targets.[14] Many public places were vandalised, and people presumed to be supportive of the government were attacked.[15] Temple of the Tooth, located in the heart of the Kandy city too came under attack on 8 February 1989. Eyewitness accounts, including a former JVP member who took part in the attack, describe the incident in detail.

Account of Adhikari

In 2001, The Sunday Leader, a Sri Lankan English-language weekly, interviewed a former JVP member, Adhikari alias Kosala, who participated in the attack.[16] A fully-fledged member, Adhikari had received arms training, and participated in several operations on behalf of the party, including the 1987 Pallekele Army camp attack, 1987 Bogambara prison attack and Digana bank heist.[16]

According to Adhikari, the first meeting to plan the attack was held at the house of a JVP co-ordinator named Sunanda, in Kandy. In that meeting, Sunanda explained the motivation behind the attack. He believed that taking away the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, which had been residing in the country for at least 1,700 years,[17] would have made the people to rise up against the government which couldn't even protect the sacred property. This relic is traditionally considered as the symbol of the leadership and royalty in Sri Lanka.[3]

[18]

Next week, another meeting was held at the same place, with the presence of D.M. Ananda alias Kalu Ajith, the JVP leader of Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces, and Somawansa Amarasinghe alias Sanath, current leader of the JVP and the last surviving politburo member of the party after the rebellion.[16] In that meeting, Adhikari proposed a place in Medamahanuwara, to hide the relic after getting hold of it. On the next day, the 8 February, he was asked to be present near the Queen's Hotel, Kandy around 2.00 – 2.30 pm. There he met Sarath, one of his colleagues in Digana bank heist, who introduced him to 4 boys and 2 girls. The girls, dressed in white lama saris were carrying two trays filled with flowers. Adhikari's task was to bring the group to the Makara Thorana (the entrance to the Temple), where he would meet two gentlemen, who carried pens attached to their pockets, as an aid to recognition. As instructed, after completing his job, he proceeded to the Kundasale town, about 5 km from Kandy. There he was waiting to receive the casket which contained the tooth relic.

But the plan did not succeed. From what he learnt, two girls had gone past the checkpoint near the entrance, without being properly searched, and waited for the others to follow. This has aroused the suspicion of a guard, and he had come towards the girls. By this time, members of the group had arrived in the scene; snatched the guns hidden inside the flowers on the tray; and shot at the guards.[16] Guards had returned fire. The following firefight left at least two attackers dead.

Account of K.G. Sisira

Sisira was employed as a labourer of the Kandy Municipal Council at the time the incident has happened. At that moment, he was travelling on a bus, near the temple.[19] The driver stopped the bus amid the confusion, in front of the shrine. Then Sisira he saw a person wearing a blue T-shirt, chasing a guard, who came running into the bus and boarded. Then the pursuer, who was carrying a gun, shot randomly and hit Sisira in his right leg. In the subsequent shooting spree, the pursuer had died. Sisira was taken to a hospital, where 4 bullets were removed from his leg. His was hospitalised for 8 months and had his leg amputated.[19]

2001 controversy

In the run-up to the 2001 Sri Lankan parliamentary election, the issue of the responsibility of this attack surfaced again. The party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe and then JVP propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa, denied the involvement of JVP in the incident.[20][21] The politburo of the party issued a statement denying that the attack ever took place.[22] These statements were rejected by the then Diyawadana Nilame (the chief lay custodian of Temple of the Tooth), Neranjan Wijeyeratne, and Mahanayaka theros of Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters (chief Buddhist prelates of the country).[23] Wijeyeratne said "There was blood-letting at the Sri Dalada Maligawa [Temple of the Tooth] as five persons were killed in the JVP attack".[20] The controversy turned into a major political issue during the campaign.[24]

See also

Further reading

  • Gunaratna, Rohan (1990). Sri lanka – A Lost Revolution? The Inside Story of the JVP. Colombo: Institute of Fundamental Studies. ISBN 978-955-2600-04-3.

References

  1. ^ "World Heritage List: Sacred City of Kandy". UNESCO. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  2. ^ Penfield, Frederic Courtland (1907). East of Suez. California: Echo Library. pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-140-6894-27-1.
  3. ^ a b Wijesuriya, Gamini (October 2005). "Cultural Heritage in Postwar Recovery" (PDF). In Stanley-Price, Nicolas. Armed conflict and conservation: Promoting cultural heritage in postwar recovery. 2nd ICCROM Forum. Rome: International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. pp. 88–89. ISBN 92-9077-201-8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2012. .. The Temple of the Tooth Relic is the most powerful national, religious and cultural symbol of the Singhalese Buddhists who form the majority of the population in Sri lanka. Its significance was manifested in the belief that the one who owned the Tooth Relic was the king of the country..
  4. ^ "Elephants, acrobats enliven ancient Sri Lankan Buddhist festival". Barefoot SriLanka. daladamaligawa.org. Retrieved 9 April 2012. .. but the temple faced the first attack during the insurrection of the radical Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the 1980s.
  5. ^ Samarasinghe, Sonali (2 December 2001). "Residence of the Diyawadana Nilame attacked". The Sunday Leader. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  6. ^ Karunakharan, P. (28 August 2008). "Main highlight of Lanka's cultural calendar". Daily News. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  7. ^ Lakshman, W. D.; Tisdell, Clement Allan (2001). Sri Lanka's Development Since Independence: Socio-Economic Perspectives and Analyses. New York: Nova Publishers. pp. 73–75. ISBN 978-156-0727-84-2.
  8. ^ Gunaratna, Rohan (December 1998). "International and Regional Implications of the Sri Lankan Tamil Insurgency". International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  9. ^ Rajasingham, K. T. (13 April 2002). "Sri Lanka: The Untold Story – Chapter 35: Accord turns to discord". Asia Times. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  10. ^ Gunasekara, Tisaranee. "Insurrectionary Violence in Sri Lanka: The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Insurgencies of 1971 and 1987–1989" (PDF). International Center for Ethnic Studies. pp. 70–72. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  11. ^ Ramachandran, Sudha (10 February 2004). "Reluctant India drawn toward Sri Lanka". Asia Times. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  12. ^ Brass, Paul R.; Engineer, Asgharali (2002). Competing Nationalisms in South Asia: Essays for Asghar Ali Engineer. India: Orient Blackswan. pp. 228–230. ISBN 978-812-5022-21-3.
  13. ^ Atack, Iain. "Refugees in their Own Country". Peace Magazine. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  14. ^ Jansz, Frederica (25 September 2011). "The JVP – Unmasked". The Sunday Leader. Archived from the original on 10 October 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Attrocities of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or Peoples' Liberation Front". Tamil Centre for Human Rights. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  16. ^ a b c d Wickrematunge, Raine (2 December 2001). "I was a member of the JVP team that attacked the Dalada Maligawa". The Sunday Leader. Colombo. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Temple of the Tooth, Kandy". sacred-destinations.com. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  18. ^ Atkinson, Brett (2009). Sri Lanka. Lonely Planet. pp. 27–29. ISBN 978-174-1048-35-3.
  19. ^ a b Seneviratne, Shane (2 December 2001). "Disabled in JVP attack on Dalada Maligawa". The Sunday Times. Colombo. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  20. ^ a b Wimalasurendre, Cyril (25 November 2001). "JVP can't deny they attacked the Dalada Maligawa using firearms – Diyawadana Nilame". The Island. Colombo. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  21. ^ Jansz, Frederica (24 March 2004). "Consorting with Vijaya's killers: Attack on the Dalada Maligawa". The Sunday Leader. Colombo. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  22. ^ "Temple of the Tooth is not only the most hallowed Buddhist shrine, it is the symbol of Sri Lanka's sovereignty". Political Bureau, People’s Liberation Front (JVP). Colombo. Daily News. 25 November 2001. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  23. ^ "JVP – Buddhists meet secretly". The Peninsula Qatar. 2 December 2001. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  24. ^ Ratnatunga, Sinha (30 November 2001). "'Temple of the tooth' comes under grenade attack". Gulf News. Colombo. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
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