Monday, July 29, 2013

Black July - Only in knowledge can it be prevented.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Black July, I’m not 30 yet, and I wasn't born during that time, though like most youth I grew up with 20+ years of war and destruction. The anti-tamil riots during the month of July in 1983 should never be forgotten.

As kids I remember my parents telling us about how they saw innocent tamils stopped from cars and taken out or how houses were set on fire. My parents who went for their daily jobs in Colombo couldn't do anything but to watch in despair as angry mobs ransacked shops and harassed innocent people.  These killing and violence made a permanent scar in the Sri Lankan society, and any Sri Lankan would clearly know the implications it had on the war and the divide it brought forth.

Any young adult of my age in their 20s or early 30s who grew up in the 90s should clearly know the implications of racial extremism and what destruction a communal riot would bring to this small country. Partly for political mileage or otherwise state media used to shower the public with news and articles about Black July every year for its anniversary. So any kid growing up those days knew of the harm such a riot could bring to a country.

Ironically, it’s sad to see how few extremists seem to ignore this lesson learned and act with no responsibility whatsoever. Particularly the Muslim phobia that some elements try to create is pathetic. Public hate speech, attacking places of worship or businesses are carried out occasionally by a small minority who just want to instigate a clash or a riot. This could spark a communal clash at any moment.

I just finished watching the amazing WWII documentary series  “The Nazis – A Warning from History”, which takes an in-depth look into how Nazi ideology flourished in Germany through propaganda and manipulation and how an entire nation became obsessed with racial purity and domination. Though Sri Lanka can be hardly compared to the Nazi Germany its important to remember the ending notes narrated in its closing episode. It echoes words from Karls Jaspers a prominent German philosopher about World War II and the atrocities that were committed, which I think are pretty much relevant to Black July as well...

"That which has happened is a warning. To forget it is guilt. It must be continually remembered. It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute. Only in knowledge can it be prevented."

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