By Meera Srinivasan
A group of Hindus in Sri Lanka has launched ‘Siva Senai’, an organisation to “protect Hindus from threats from other religious groups” in the island.
A ceremony was recently held in Vavuniya, a Tamil-majority town located in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.
Clarifying that the organisation had no direct links to Shiv Sena, the right-wing political party in Maharashtra, the group’s Chief Organiser Maravanpulavu Sachithananthan told The Hindu: “But we have their support.”
The organisation which, he said, was in its formative stages would campaign for an anti-conversion law in Sri Lanka.
He added that Siva Senai was started after consultations with many organisations in India, including the Shiv Sena, RSS, VHP and the Goa-based Hindu Jana Jagruthi Samithi.
“We thought of many names, but considering that most Hindus in Sri Lanka are Saivaites, we thought something with Siva would be appropriate. So we chose Siva Senai,” he said.
According to him Hindus in the island face problems from other religious groups. Accusing the state of supporting “Sinhala-Buddhist colonisation”, he said “conversion is becoming serious concern for us [Hindus]. Observing that the island’s Muslims were being funded by countries such as Iran and Iraq and that the Christians received Western missionaries’ support, he said: “Hindus alone have no support.”
“Organisations such as the RSS, VHP and the BJP are very supportive of this move. I have met the leaders and discussed this in detail,” he claimed.
Hindus are the largest religious minority in Sri Lanka. Mr. Sachithananthan, along with fellow coordinator and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Seeniththamby Yoheswaran from Batticaloa and religious leader Then Kailaya Adheenam from Trincomalee, plans to work across the country’s 25 districts for the “protection of Hindus”.
The initiative has caused concern, including within the TNA. Parliamentarian and TNA spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran said the party opposed “bringing religion into politics or the politicisation of religion.”
“Given the track record of Shiv Sena in India, I don’t think it is a good move,” he told The Hindu.
When contacted, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray’s public relations officer Harshal Pradhan denied having any knowledge of overseas Shiv Sena branches. “We do have people working for us in Tamil Nadu, but I am not aware of any party unit functioning in Sri Lanka. No one from there has approached us for any permission.”
However, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said: “Members of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka have set up a Shiv Sena unit and would do the party’s ideological work with support from Sena’s Tamil Nadu unit.”