Insights into Editorial: Easter Sunday bombings: Why Sri Lanka?
A series of coordinated attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka shattered the peace in a country that has suffered a long history of sectarian tensions.
During a decades-long civil war, which ended in 2009, the primary fault line in the country was between the Sinhalese Buddhist majority and minority Tamil groups.
But the bombings, claimed by the Islamic State and targeting Christian minorities, have little to do with these historical tensions.
The Sri Lankan government has said the Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 350 people were a retaliation for a white terrorist gunning down 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15 last.
Radical Islamist ideology: National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ):
Investigators have said local Islamist organisation National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) was behind the attacks, possibly with help from international networks.
The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks through its Amaq news agency and released a photograph of what it claimed to be the bombers.
The Sri Lankan government also announced the suspension of several social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
The inability of such prominent services to catch up to and counter the spread of misinformation, especially during times of crisis, continues to be a major challenge for government and civil society.
Between the lines:
Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war was driven largely by ethnolinguistic cleavage, with Tamil separatists in the north and east fighting against the Sinhalese-majority government.
The pattern of Easter Sunday attacks in churches point to yet another growing divide.
In its religious demographics, Sri Lanka is overwhelmingly Buddhist, more than 70% of the country’s population of more than 22 million, with around 12% Hindu, just under 10% Muslim, and a little more than 7% Christian.
The country’s earlier history of violence pitted ethnic Sinhalese (mainly Buddhist) against Tamil (mainly Hindu), with the small Muslim and Christian minorities not a target.
Tensions have been growing between Buddhists and Muslims, however, last year Buddhist extremists attacked Sri Lankan Muslims.
India condemns blasts, stands in solidarity with Sri Lanka:
President Ram Nath Kovind, hours after the blasts which shook Sri Lanka, condemned the attacks and said that such senseless violence has no place in a civilised society.
PM Modi tweeted, Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.
World leaders call for perpetrators of such ghastly and heinous act and those who provide them support to be brought to justice expeditiously.
We stand together with the people and Government of Sri Lanka in this hour of grief.
From recent evidences, South Asia, a fertile ground for ISIS:
It’s evident from its actions that the ISIS leadership has seen South Asia as a fertile ground for the organisation.
The history of jihadist insurgency, high Muslim population and growing tensions between communities may all have prompted the group to focus on the region in its quest for expansion.
Despite large-scale military setbacks at the core, ISIS still remains a global terrorist force.
In Nigeria, Boko Haram, the jihadist group that controls parts of the country, has declared allegiance to ISIS.
In Afghanistan, ISIS members and sympathisers have already set up a wilayat called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Khorasan Province in the eastern Nangarhar province.
The group has carried out several suicide attacks, mainly targeting Shias in the already troubled country.
It’s from Khorasan that ISIS is handling its South Asia operations, including in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
ISIS hasn’t carried out any major terror attack in India, nor does the group have any organisational presence in the country. But it has lured dozens of Indians into its fold.
The IS world view of permanent conflict between its version of puritanical Islam and other cultures continues to inspire young jihadists.
Thousands of IS militants have survived the fall of the ‘Caliphate’ and there’s an apparent communication system between the ramparts of the centre and the potential fighters in the periphery.
Their target is to spread terror anywhere in the world and trigger a cultural war between Islam and other faiths. This time it’s Sri Lanka, next time it could be any other country.
All these developments, from establishing wilayats in Afghanistan and Libya to attracting youth from India and Pakistan, suggest that ISIS may have been weakened at its core but it’s far from defeated.