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It is immaterial whether Deep State Secrets are shared with the public or not but justice for victims has to come into play 

 

On April 2, 2021, three headlines in the Daily Mirror caught my attention: “Government vows action against those behind Easter Sunday attacks soon”, “Two arrested for spreading Wahabism in social media” and “15,000 Al Qurans found in a Wellawatte International school store”. 
These headlines which can be traced back to the activism (and non-activity) of the country’s government and security mechanism indicate one thing for sure: that the second commemorative anniversary of the Easter Sunday attacks is impending, and that there was a need to assure the public that something – whatever that something is – is still being done. 

"After the bomb attack, many politicians who toe an intense Sinhalese-Buddhist line thrived in their careers. Many other moderates were displaced or forced to retreat. In 2019, Sri Lanka witnessed an election result that zealots liked to see as a “Sinhalese-Buddhist victory”

In a good film script the dances and the songs come at the right time. Otherwise, it is difficult to keep the soap moving for five hours/years. 
The full account of what happened on Easter Sunday 2019, perhaps, is destined to be a classified narrative. At present, it is far from being tabled to the ordinary public. 
One should not expect stories on which high politics are hinged to be readily shared for the evening bite either. Perhaps, the full account of what happened would never be known. In that regard, the storyline of the Easter attack is not the first, nor will it be the last. With bated breath, ordinary people like you and I must continue to wait in anticipation of the next scene and the next amidst assurances from the occasional minor character that the play is almost done. 

"These incidents go back 15 years back in time. If it does not provide answers to some of the compelling questions that surround the Easter attack, Hoole at least provides us with a road map for us to do the Math"


I feel that part of the Easter attack story can be partially understood through Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne Identity” series: the story of Jason Bourne, a State-designed, State-programmed, superman – the product of elite security – who breaks free from his scripted role and runs free. Having snapped, he engages in a chain of actions seemingly destructive to the state’s cause. 


So, the state hunts Bourne by sending after him other high-skilled, purpose-oriented super troopers. 
Published in late-2019, in his book “Sri Lanka’s Easter Tragedy: When the Deep State Gets Out of Its Depth”, Rajan Hoole investigates the rise of extreme Islamism in Sri Lanka’s east. 
Hoole discusses how militarized Muslims from the area, along with renegades from the LTTE, were designated into teams that were overseen by elements of the Sinhalese-nationalist political bloc during the war. Sinhalese-nationalist politicians who, today, are in opposing camps – in Hoole’s report – are unified in patronizing Islamist militarism for war purposes (refer, in particular, chapters 3,4, 13 and 15). 

"Their stories have been written by many and many feel that the fate of these men and women are immersed in the post-Easter anti-Muslim frenzy"

These incidents go back 15 years back in time. If it does not provide answers to some of the compelling questions that surround the Easter attack, Hoole at least provides us with a road map for us to do the Math.  
After the bomb attack, many politicians who toe an intense Sinhalese-Buddhist line thrived in their careers. Many other moderates were displaced or forced to retreat. In 2019, Sri Lanka witnessed an election result that zealots liked to see as a “Sinhalese-Buddhist victory”. 
The polarization of the voting patterns by the district was quite conveniently de-historicized to suit the tune of the nationalist trumpet. On either side of that election, sentiments that hurt Muslim feelings were encouraged. It seemed as if the Easter bomb attack was made into a lever that came at a human cost. 

"One should not expect stories on which high politics are hinged to be readily shared for the evening bite either. Perhaps, the full account of what happened would never be known. In that regard, the storyline of the Easter attack is not the first, nor will it be the last"

On the second commemorative anniversary of the Easter attack, we must not forget the many headline-making Muslim nationals of 2019 and 2020: among others whose cases never came to public light, Shafi Shihabdeen (branded by media as the “Vandha Dosthara”), Abdul Rahim Mazahina (the lady with the kameez of the wheel design), Facebook-critic and translator Ramzy Razeek, and poet Ahnaf Jazeem. 
Their stories have been written by many and many feel that the fate of these men and women are immersed in the post-Easter anti-Muslim frenzy. In 2021, no one asks after Dr Shafi Shihabdeen or the women whom he supposedly ill-served. Men who, in 2019, worked the media giving an unsolicited opinion on Shihabdeen’s guilt have, by now, reached an “honourable status” by charming the nationalist vote. 


Between 2004 and the present, the political camp rallying under the Sinhala-Buddhist ideological bloc has forwarded its cause through an exclusive nationalism which achieved a few targets it set out to win – among them, the military defeat of the LTTE and the territorial control over the north and east being one. 
Its meeting with armed Islamists – as Hoole reports – happens somewhere along that path. I am aware that the metaphor of Jason Bourne cannot fully satisfy the extremist activism that led to the shattering events of April 2019. But among the complex ripple-effects that nationalist programmes engineer, you would sense a Jason Bourne climbing in and out of buildings and muscling his way through.

"Men who, in 2019, worked the media giving an unsolicited opinion on Shihabdeen’s guilt have, by now, reached an “honourable status” by charming the nationalist vote"

When I visualize the way ahead, it is immaterial whether Deep State Secrets are shared with the public or not. But, as a necessary course, justice for victims – in an acceptable degree, in a dignified manner, with established accountability – has to come into play. 
Also, the realization that the Sinhalese chauvinist narrative has its limits and failures is highly timely, too. In its current form – as we have known it since 2004 – this ideological frame has run its course. It has left us where we were before it came to play: with headlines of public enemies, and divisions that hurt minorities and vulnerable groups. 

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