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  • Sri Lankan troops stand guard near a burnt house after violence in Digana, a central district of Kandy.

    Sri Lankan troops stand guard near a burnt house after violence in Digana, a central district of Kandy. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 March 2018

Media reports stated Buddhist mobs ransacked and burned structures belonging to the minority Muslim communities in Kandy, a city in central Sri Lanka. 

The Sri Lankan government has declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday after the recent anti-Muslim riots threw the South Asian island nation into chaos nearly seven years after the last such riots took place in the country.

Media reports stated Buddhist mobs ransacked and burned structures belonging to the minority Muslim communities in Kandy, a city in central Sri Lanka. Over the course of few days, arson attacks and riots hit the central district of Kandy, gripping the region with violence since late February, after the mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and a mosque, the Guardian reported.

According to the reports, the violence was ignited after a group of Muslim men in Digana town were accused of killing a man belonging to the majority Sinhala Buddhist community.  

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramsinghe, of the conservative United National Party, said the violence "appeared to be systemic and organized." 

Per the special measures, the military has been deployed in many civilian areas, for a period of 10 days, after which the parliament will debate the issue to decide if it needs to be continued, Mano Ganesan, the Sri Lankan minister for co-existence, told the Guardian. 

"There were concerns that communal violence would spread," he said. "We don’t want to spread communal disharmony and hate speech." 

Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka specialist with the International Crisis Group, told the Guardian that since 2012, the Buddhist groups have been attacking the minority Muslims with "a significant degree of regularity," especially since last April.

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"One of the key underlying elements is the sense that many Sinhalese and Buddhists have [which] is that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese and Buddhist island and other community, Muslims, and Tamils, are here on the sufferance of the majority,” Keenan said.

Of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, the Sinhalese Buddhists constitute for nearly 70 percent of Sri Lanka's population, while Muslims make up nearly 9 percent of the total population.

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