afraid to live in Chennai’
recent attack on the Maha Bodhi Society, a Buddhist
centre in the heart of Chennai, in the wake of
killings of two Tamil fishermen, sent shock waves
across the small Sinhala community in the city.
But, though small in numbers, the Sinhalese say they
have never been afraid to live in the city or
anywhere in Tamil Nadu despite the state’s
passionate pro-Tamil and pro-LTTE sentiments.
Shiromi Alexander, a Sinhalese tour guide who has
been living in Chennai for 15 years, says it was sad
to see the poor and innocent Buddhist monks being
“It was unfortunate, but at the same time the
attack should not be taken as a collective sentiment
of the Tamil people. There were tense moments during
the civil war in Sri Lanka. But now I don’t worry at
all. There is a good rapport between the two
countries,” says Shiromi.
However, she worries that the inflow of the annual
pilgrims from Sri Lanka to Chennai may reduce.
“I accompany the pilgrims who come from Sri Lanka to
the religions places in and around the city. The
season has just begun. Attacks like this can create
tension and spoil such visits.”
The Maha Bodhi Society was established in 1891
and Kennett house is over 80 years old. But the old
building is being torn down and re-constructed even
as a newer building was established in front of it,
forty years ago. It is estimated that about 500
Sinhala families have made Chennai their home. Many
of them are employees at the Sri Lankan Deputy High
Commission or work for IT companies and some are
students pursuing higher studies.
The attack on the Buddhist temple located on the
Kennet Lane in Egmore in the heart of the city came
close on the heels of the killing of two Indian
fishermen allegedly by the Sri Lankan navy.
Lankan officials, however, continue to deny the
charge even as rage mounted in Tamil Nadu over the
death of the fishermen. Sri Lanka deputy high
commissioner Vadivel Krishnamurthy says he suspects
the hands of some fringe group in the attack.
“The attack must be the plan of some secret’
group that is against the peaceful relationship
between the two countries. I don’t see this will
spoil the relationship between India and Sri Lanka
in anyway,” he says.
However, Dinidu, a student from Colombo, says both
the governments should take the attack seriously and
work for the betterment of the people in both the
“Sri Lanka is a war-torn country now. The
situation is very disturbing, especially for the
Tamils there. The coverage of the shooting incident
got much publicity, and it must have fuelled the
anger of the Tamils here since they are already
frustrated with the Lanka government’s attitude
towards the internally displaced Tamils. So this is
just a manifestation of their frustration,” he says,
adding that “the government must come forward and
solve the issue, instead of blaming it on some
fringe’ groups.” (TOI)