- GS-2: India and its neighbourhood.
Sri Lanka’s War on Terror
Context: Srilankan government would soon ban the burqa.
Proposals of the government
- COVID-19 and Burials: A government rule that Muslims who died of Covid-19 could not be buried saw community leaders go to court. The outrage it caused among Muslim countries and UNHRC led the Sri Lankan government to a rethink
- Inquiry Committee Report: A Presidential commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the six suicide attacks at churches and hotels in Colombo and in two other places in the country killing 260 people, has submitted its report to President but has not been made public.
- Burqa Ban: In the aftermath of 2018 Easter bombings, the Sri Lankan government had temporarily banned the niqab, a face covering worn by some Muslim women, although it had worded that in ambiguous terms as a ban on all face coverings. The burqa ban has been officially linked to national security and Islamist extremism
- Closure of Madrasas: Along with Burqa ban, the government has also proposed to shut down 1,000 madrasas.
- Draconian Terrorism Law: The government has also armed itself with new regulations under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act to detain for up to two years for the purpose of “deradicalisation” of anyone suspected of harbouring extremist ideas, or for spreading religious, communal or ethnic hatred.
Critical analysis of the proposals
- Large Section of Minority Population Impacted: In Sri Lanka, where Muslims comprise less than 10% of the 21 million population — they are mostly Tamil speaking and are mainly engaged in trade and commerce.
- Collective Punishment: The ban is likely to increase the feeling among Sri Lankan Muslims that they are being collectively punished for the actions of a few in the community.
- Invasive restriction of fundamental freedoms: There is no community edict in Sri Lanka demanding that Muslim women must wear a burqa. But for those who do wear it, as in many other places in the world, it is a matter of personal choice based on identity, or just modesty. Imposing restriction through laws is considered as assault on fundamental freedoms.
- New widening fault line in Sri Lankan Society: The Easter attacks and the “othering” of Muslims that followed have set on edge a minority community that was once seen as better integrated in the national and political mainstream than the Tamils. The new proposals by government will further increase the acrimony & distrust between two communities.
- Switzerland Model: Sri Lanka’s burqa ban announcement came close on the heels of the March 8 Swiss ban on the garment, which came after a national referendum. In a sharply worded statement, UN Human Rights Council criticised the Swiss ban as “discriminatory” and “deeply regrettable”. Other countries that have banned the burqa include the Netherlands, Denmark and France.
Connecting the dots:
- Article 25-30 of Indian Constitution