Sri Lanka is back in the grip of unrest and we sincerely pray the communal violence affecting a large part of the island nation comes to an end. Having borne the brunt of a bloody civil war lasting for nearly three decades, Sri Lanka was beginning to experience a period of normalcy, when the government was forced to declare a state of emergency.
The current unrest is the fallout of communal skirmishes involving the majority Buddhists/Sinhalese and minority Muslims. The government’s swift action in dealing with the rioters has to be applauded. Helping the government restore peace in the country are some of the top sporting icons including cricketing greats Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Sanath Jayasurya, who all took to social media to unequivocally condemn the violence and demand stringent action against the perpetrators of violence irrespective of their race or ethnicity.
Sangakkara in particular posted a short video on his Facebook page mincing no words in reminding the Sri Lankans of the bloody past of their country as a result of the civil war. In the video, Sangakkara spoke eloquently and sought to use his status as an icon to spread the message of peace. His words will no doubt have the desired effects as his fans transcend ethnicities in a cricket crazy nation.
Sangakkara’s incredibly emotional video is also a lesson for the Indian celebrities including sporting heroes, both former and past, and Bollywood stars on why they mustn’t remain silent in the face of rampant violations of human rights for cheap and short-lived gains. Sangakkara’s video must also serve as a lesson to India’s sporting heroes such as Virender Sehwag, Phogat sisters and Yogeshwar Dutt, that humanity is above everything and no other ideology should be capable of overpowering the message of brotherhood and a sense of togetherness.
More crucially, these icons owe it to their fans and the society at large primarily because they enjoy a considerable position of power and influence.
What we also learn from Sangakkara’s video is that the self-championed flag-bearers of patriotism and nationalism in India will continue to suffer from moral bankruptcy in the absence of their ability to muster the courage to speak for human values.
Whilst we pray for the restoration of normalcy in Sri Lanka, it’s time for reflection for our icons if they are being true to their moral duty by not speaking against injustices regardless of who the perpetrators are and whether their criticism will upset a certain political ideology. Sangakkara has indeed provided all of us in India a moment to pause and reflect.
Act before India slips into a catastrophic situation where Sri Lanka remained for nearly 26 years and the quagmire that our not-so-friendly neighbour Pakistan has found itself in for several years now.