Bodu Bala Sena
Bodu Bala Sena (Sinhala: බොදු බල සේනා; Buddhist Power Force; BBS) is a Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organisation based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It has organised various campaigns against the country’s minority Muslim and Christian communities which, according to the organisation, are needed to protect the country’s Sinhalese-Buddhist character. The organisation’s hard-line attitudes have drawn concern and criticism from inside and outside Sri Lanka.
ne of earliest campaigns by BBS was in respect of Buddhist Sri Lankans working in the Middle East who, according BBS, were prevented from prevented from practising their religion and punished harshly if found to be doing so.
The BBS held its first national convention at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall on 28 July 2012. The convention passed five resolutions which, amongst other things, called for a ban on vasectomy/tubectomy in government health facilities; replacement of the various legal systems used in the country with a single legal system; preferential treatment in university admission for students who attended Buddhism classes; use of monks in government schools to teach history and other classes; and no solution for the country’s ethnic problems which was based on race/religion.
The BBS held a protest at the Bangladeshi High Commission in Colombo on 4 October 2012 against the anti-Buddhist riots in Bangladesh. Some of the protesters threw stones and bottles at the High Commission.
On 14 October 2012 BBS stormed a house in Batakettara, Homagama, Piliyandala where it alleges a Christian pastor called Dinesh and others from an evangelical group called The Name of Lord Jesus were trying to convert Sinhalese Buddhists. The pastor was later released but following complaints from the pastor’s family seven people were arrested on charges of abduction. The following day BBS held a protest outside Piliyandala Police Station demanding that the seven arrested be released.
The BBS held a protest rally in Badulla on 25 October 2012 against alleged conversion, vandalism of Buddhist sites and Islamic terrorism. They held a protest at the Department of Archeology on 29 November 2012 urging the authorities to protect archaeological sites in the Eastern Province.
The BBS stormed Sri Lanka Law College in Hultsdorf, Colombo on 7 January 2013, alleging that exam results were being distorted in favour of Muslim students. The allegations were not true but the college was forced delay new student registration by one week in order to investigate the allegations.
The BBS stormed the Cinnamon Bay Hotel in Moragalla, Beruwala on 21 January 2013, alleging that the premises contained a “Buddha bar”. Two hotel managers were arrested by the police for organising the “Buddha bar” event.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and government ministers met with the BBS on 27 January 2013 at Temple Trees, Colombo. After the meeting the President issued a statement which urged the BBS and other monks to avoid conflicts with other religious communities but this statement was only issued in English, not Sinhala which is the language of most BBS supporters.
The opposition United National Party met with the BBS on 12 February 2013.
The BBS organised a meeting in Maharagama, Colombo on 17 February 2013 which was attended by around 16,000 people including 1,300 monks. At the rally the BBS general secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara stated “This is a government created by Sinhala Buddhists and it must remain Sinhala Buddhist. This is a Sinhala country, Sinhala government. Democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race”. He also told the crowd at the rally that they “must become an unofficial civilian police force against Muslim extremism. These so-called democrats are destroying the Sinhala race”. At the rally the BBS unveiled the “Maharagama Declaration”, a ten-point resolution which, other than an end to halal certification, called for a ban on Sri Lankan women going to work in the Middle East; end of mosque building financed by the Middle East; and ban some contraceptives.
In February 2013 BBS leader Kirama Wimalajothi called for a ban burqas in the country. The BBS has also campaigned against the abaya.
The BBS met with the of the Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, Major General Shavendra Silva and others from the Sri Lanka Army in late February 2013 to discuss extremist Muslim groups that the BBS alleged were operating in the country. BBS also met with IGP N. K. Illangakoon from the police on 1 March 2013 to discuss the same issues.
Meth Sevana, the BBS’ cultural and training centre in Pilana, Wanchawala, Galle District, was officially opened on 9 March 2013 by chief guest Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The BBS held a rally in Kandy on 17 March 2013 at which it announced that it would work to remove a 10th-century mosque at the Kuragala Buddhist monastery complex in Ratnapura District. At the rally BBS alleged that Muslim fundamentalists had taken over the site and destroyed Buddhist heritage. BBS general secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara accused the Muslim owned Fashion Bug and No Limit retail chains of converting its Buddhist Sinhalese employees to Islam.
The BBS held a rally in Panadura on 24 March 2013 at which it called on the country to rally against Christian and Muslim extremists, insisting Sri Lanka was a Sinhala Buddhist country, not a multiracial or multi-religious country. At the rally BBS called for High Commissioner Ferial Ashraff to be recalled from Singapore for allegedly carrying out anti-Sinhala activities. At the rally BBS announced that a ringtone could be downloaded from Mobitel, the state-owned mobile phone operator, which would raise funds for BBS. This caused protests from Mobitel customers and the company was forced to apologise for causing “emotional distress”.
A nationwide protest by Muslims against the anti-Muslim campaigns being carried out by the BBS and JHU was held on 25 March 2013. The protests were organised by the Muslim Rights Organization (MRO). A hartal was observed in the Eastern Province on the same day against the BBS’ anti-Muslim stance.
The Muslim owned Fashion Bug clothes shop in Pepiliyana, Colombo District was attacked on 28 March 2013 by a mob led by Buddhist monks. Some reports suggested that BBS was behind the attack. BBS denied any involvement and condemned the attack.
On 31 March 2013 it was reported that the government was going to ban a number of extremist groups including the BBS. Reacting to the reports, BBS general secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara described Minister of National Languages and Social Integration Vasudeva Nanayakkara as a disgrace and a peacenik, saying “Such ministers should be sent to Angoda once in three months, to have their heads examined”. Nanayakkara denied the reports, saying that the government wasn’t going to ban extremist groups like the BBS, it was only considering banning hate speech.
In April 2013 a group of BBS members led by general secretary Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara visited the USA to raise awareness of the organisation and counter its negative image.[