A Sri Lankan Minister, who in March this year threatened to break the limbs of journalists who went abroad and spoke ill of Sri Lanka, is in the news again: this time, he wants to stop an animal sacrifice ritual in a Hindu temple, for a second time in two years.

Last year, the Minister, Mervyn Silva, and his followers, descended on the Munneswaram kovil, and took away the animals brought there for an annual sacrifice ritual. This year, tempers are running high in Chilaw — a town just over 70 km north of Colombo on the West Coast — as Mr. Silva has again threatened a repeat of his act.

In normal circumstances, there would be no supporters for the much-abhorred practice; and anyone standing up against the sacrifice will be hailed a hero.

But then, when the sacrifice is in Sri Lanka, conducted at the Munneswaram kovil by the Hindu Tamil community, a minority, and when the opposition is almost monopolised by Buddhist monks, and a Minister who is more known for his brawn, the entire story is given a communal, Sinhala chauvinist angle.

The issue in question is the conduct of the annual animal sacrifice ritual at the Munneswaram Sri Badra Kali Amman Kovil in Chilaw. The temple Chief Priest insists that the “ceremony” would go ahead, and had also sought President Rajapaksa’s help to conduct it on September 1. Tamils in Sri Lanka seem much more devout and take their religion very seriously. They still hold on to many medieval practices, and are willing to undergo a lot more pain in a bid to placate their gods.

Some in the Tamil community told The Hindu that the move to prevent the sacrifice was a direct and calculated affront on the community.

The local Animal Welfare Trust is seeking a court order to prevent the ceremony from being observed; and Buddhist monks took out a procession on Sunday against the ceremony. For now, an uneasy peace reigns in Chilaw.

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