A group of Christians belonging to the denomination known as Jehova’s Witnesses became the target of the ethno religious fascist organization “Ravana Balaya” (Ravana force)on Sunday June 16th 2013 at Mulleriyawa on the eastern outskirts of Colombo city.
The Ravana Balaya is an extremist organization comprising members of the Buddhist clergy and laity named after the mythological ten headed demon king of ancient Lanka,Ravana.
The Ravana Balaya along with the Bodhu Bala Sena and Sihala Ravaya forms a triumvirate of Ethno Religious fascist organizations unleashing hatred and violence against the religious and racial minorities in Sri Lanka in the name of “Sinhala Buddhism”.
It is widely believed that these organizations are able to indulge in these hate activities because of tacit support extended by the upper echelons of the ruling Rajapaksa government. The benign protection afforded by those at the top has led to a situation where a climate of impunity prevails in regard to transgressions of the law by these organizations.
The Ravana Balaya has been hitting the headlines in recent times through several campaigns like threatening to throw eggs at Sri Lankan cricketers playing in India, demanding the banning of Tamil films from India,calling for a statue of Ravana to be erected before a constructing a ststue of Sita, protesting against the naming of a cyclone as “mahasen” etc.
It has also engaged in acts of violence against Christian churches.
The latest incident occurring on Sunday in Mulleriyawa was one in which the Ravana Balaya led by Ven Itthakande Saddhatissa Thero was involved with Saddhatissa Thero himself playing a leading role
A group of Christians belonging to the Jehovava’s Witnesses denomination were engaged in evangelical outreach in the area of Mulleriyawa an eastern Colombo suburb to the south of the Kelani river.
Mulleriyawa is the venue of the historic battle “Mulleriyawa satana” waged by King Mayadunna against the Portugese in 1559. In recent times Mulleriyawa is widely known for a mental hospital.
The operation launched by the Ravana balaya against the Jehova’s witnesses evoked memories of both the battle and the hospital.
A group of Jehova’s witnesses(JW) were engaged in evangelical work in Vijithapura in the Walpola area of Mulleriyawa. TheJW Christians were going house to house distributing Sinhala copies of the monthly magazine “Awake!”.
The “Awake! Monthly issued by the Jehovas Witnesses is the magazine with the second largest global circulation with 43,500,000 copies in 99 languages published every month. The largest circulated magazine is “watchtower” also published by Jehova’s witnesses. It has 45 million copies in 109 languages.
When the JW group was distributing these copies the organization “ravana Balaya” was alerted by some people in the neighbourhood who objected to the Christians visiting Buddhist houses.
Within a short time a group of Buddhist monks and laymen led by the Ravana Balaya leader Ven Itthekande Saddhatissa Thero arrived at the scene. The group was joined by some others in the Vijithapura area.
The Ravana balaya contingent then accosted the Jehovas witnesses and encircled them. They were ordered to stop their magazine distribution at once. Unwilling to confront ravana’s forces the JW Christians comprising men and women meekly obliged and prepared to leave the area.
The Ravana Balaya however exerted some physical force and restrained them from leaving. Some intimidatory threats were also issued.
Meanwhile Saddhatissa Thero telephoned the Mulleriyawa Police station and asked the Police to come. The Police obeyed Saddhatissa Thero and arrived at the spot.
Media personnel with TV cameras also arrived at the spot after being invited by Saddhatissa Thero
Thereafter Saddhatissa Thero told the Police to take the Christian group into custody.These instructions too were followed by the Police who ordered the Jehova’s witnesses to accompany them to the station. The Ravana Balaya also went to the Police station.
A complaint against the Jehovas witnesses was recorded at the Mulleriyawe station. Thereafter they were allowed to leave but had to listen to a harangue by Saddhatissa Thero before being set free.
The Ravana balaya leader warned the Jehova’s witnesses that they should stop visiting Buddhist residences. They could distribute their literature to their own people but not to Sinhala Buddhists he said.
“You all can tell about your God to your own people but don’t try to do a mad dance in Buddhist home homes” Saddhatissa Thero said.
Saddhatissa Thero said he was fully aware that foreign countries and NGO’s were financing the JW in Sri Lanka. That is why they are able to attire themselves in tie and coat and go about in posh vehicles the monk said.
He also said that all information about them was with the Police CID.
Finally the JW Christians were warned not to get caught to the Ravana Balaya again.”if you do get caught again there will be consequences.When that happens don’t start complaining that we (Ravana Balaya)are bad people”said Saddhatissa ominously
While Saddhatissa Thero was proferring this “advice” to the Christians the Mulleriyawa Police remained silent spectators
The Jehova’s Winesses left the Police station after getting a taste of mild ethno religious fascism at the hands of the Ravana Balaya.
The Jehova’s witnesses denomination is distinctly different from mainstream protestant Christian denominations. It rejects trinitarianism and disapproves of festivals such as Christmas and Easter.
The Jehova’s witnesses derive their name from verse has over 20 million worldwide adherents of whom around 8 million engage in evangelical work.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org