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News Features  


 

Sinhalese ‘not afraid to live in Chennai’

CHENNAI: The 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 attacked.

“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 countries.

“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)