Buddhist supremacy prevails in Kathirkamam

Kathirkamam dedicated to the Hindu God Murugan

Last week made a memorable visit made after a gap of five decades with my family to the main Murugan Temple complex at Kathirkamam, dedicated to the Hindu God Murugan. Over the centuries, annually at festival times thousands of Hindus walk from Jaffna and other parts of the island to Kathirkamam. It is one of few religious sites in Sri Lanka that is venerated not only by Hindus, but also Buddhists and Muslims.

Nowadays, however with the civil war restricted this holy traditional link between people of Hindu faith in the north and east of the country and was heavily dented is returning back to normalcy . But the prevailing Buddhist supremacy at Kathirkamam Temple was very obvious and understandable as Sinhalese make up more than 92% in the locality and constitute around 75% of the total populace in the country.

However, this non-representative nature has not bothered the minorities; least of all the Hindus, who are very tolerant by nature and during the annual festivals many hundreds of pada yatra pilgrims still continue to walk by the coastal jungle route. This is nothing new in a country, where successive governments since independence have unashamedly, openly and nakedly followed a majoritarian supremacist policy and all minorities, including non-Buddhist Sinhalese have accepted this reality and lived accordingly for decades. As any other response from them, however peaceful, democratic, legal or constitutional is suspected by successive governments as grievous lack of patriotism.

Bitter Truth is this open adherence to Sinhala-Buddhist extremism isn’t a true representation of Sri Lanka as it is in reality, a pluralist land with a mix of ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures. Unfortunately, for the government representatives it is an imaginary Sinhala-Buddhist country, where the minorities exist only in a demographic sense, for whom their first task has been to look after Sinhala-Buddhists and Sinhala-Buddhism.

With the minority political parties struggling to form a response to a regime which is committed to a new order where they are forced to exist on terms of explicit and structural inequality; while political parties of the majority in opposition are busy with internal battles and are trying to regress into majoritarianism.