Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gayoom's Regime Makes fun of Hinduism and Buddhism

The Maldives converted to Islam from Buddhism in 1153 AD. A large number of Buddhist places of worship were destroyed and mosques were built. Even though there were pockets of resistance from Buddhists in major centres of worship such as Gan of Laamu Atoll, the King in Male' defeated them and eventually the whole country converted to Islam. Some monasteries remained and they are regarded today as historic sites even though the mismanagement of the government has led to the destruction of several sites and loss of relics.

Even though there is no evidence at all to indicate that Buddhism survived in Maldives and monks were groomed generation after generation, the people in Male' received a shock on 3rd November when they saw three 'monks' walking on certain streets in the Maafannu ward of Male'. The young men were dressed in saffron robes and they carried an umbrella with them. It was not clear whether those 'monks' were Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain.

Hindu and Buddhist monks wear saffron robes. Saffron colour has significance to Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains as well. But the colour is more visible in Hindu flags, robes, Tilaka (mark applied on the forehead) etc. The colour is of significance to all religions branched from Hinduism. It is a militant colour for the Sikhs representing fight against injustice. The origin of usage of saffron as a religious colour is traced back to the time when pigments were rare and saffron colour was derived from the saffron plant which grows in the sub-Himalayan regions. Rarity of saffron could have pushed its value upwards. At the time of Buddha the robes were of saffron colour. But in China only the Emperor was allowed to wear that colour and the monks wore grey or black robes. Since the saffron-coloured dye wasn't available in Tibet, the Tibetan monks started wearing robes of a dark saffron or maroon.

The three young men were not aspiring monks but they were there to provoke the crowd that had gathered near the residence of Mohamed Nasheed, the Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who was transferred to house arrest recently after spending over two months in detention. The crowd had gathered to shake hands with Nasheed, popularly known as Anni, as it was the day of Eid and it was a Muslim tradition to shake hands. Anni was arrested on August 12, 2005 while he was sitting quietly, with a few others, in the Republican Square in Male' as a vigil to mark the anniversary of a demonstration that took place there the previous year. The ruling regime has proceeded to charge Anni with terrorism and treason, charges which many people believe to be fabricated.

Before the morning of Eid, Anni was informed by police that he was not permitted to go down to the ground floor of his apartment building to shake hands with supporters. Anni was warned that he will be transferred to Dhoonidhoo Detention Center again if he is suspected of creating unrest.

“The whole thing is totally ridiculous and highly comical,” Anni told Minivan News. “Woody Allen would say it is a travesty of a mockery!”

Perhaps Anni was not aware of the extent that the mockery will go.

As supporters flocked to the residence of Anni in the morning they received the news and reacted with anger. Many supporters opted to stay there as more people gathered. To provoke the crowd, the regime first sent young boys on motorbikes who sped through the crowd. The appearance of the three 'monks' was a further step by the ruling regime to provoke the people.

The current regime in Maldives, which has been in power for 27 years, has used naive young people to create unrest and to jeopardize peaceful protests in recent months. In early October a march calling to free Anni was interrupted by thugs sponsored by the regime who beat two journalists at the scene. Often brown sugar addicts are also lured into the regime's nasty schemes.

The young people pretending to be monks were dressed in saffron robes because the colour of MDP is golden yellow. As opposition websites had urged people to wear yellow when they go to shake hands with Anni, this was a deliberate mockery of MDP.

However, the regime did not realize that by using the sacred colour of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains and dressing the young people as monks and parading them on the street to mock MDP, they were also mocking the religions practiced by millions of people in neighbouring countries.

The young 'monks' did not show any qualities of the real monks but they were acting as street thugs. This was a mockery of the said religions which are practiced in several friendly countries including India. Ironically it was the Indians who rescued the Gayoom regime from Tamil terrorists when they attacked the country on a 3rd of November seventeen years ago.

It is sad that this shameful display of arrogance occurred on a day of Eid, a special occasion in which Muslims show tolerance and unity.

Note: This is one of the articles I had written and was published in Minivan News on November 6, 2005.

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