On May 24, a Sri LankanBuddhist monk, Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thera, self-immolated near the main entrance of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, to protest cattle slaughter in his country (see video here) . He had conducted raids to investigate illegal slaughter houses and was a vocal critical of cattle slaughter. He died of severe burns to over 95 percent of his body. Buddhist monks clashed over possession of his remains. This stunning action raises the bar on animal activism and political commitment more than a bit.
Political parties affiliated to the UPFA Government demanded that President Mahinda Rajapaksa take immediate action to ban cattle slaughter in the country.
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) insisted the slaughter of cattle should be banned before the funeral of Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thera who had succumbed to the injuries sustained after setting himself ablaze at the main entrance to the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy on 24 May.
General Secretary of the JHU, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, addressing the media in Colombo said, Indrarathana Thera’s death was not a suicide but a sacrifice of life for the sake of the country.He added that Indrarathana Thera had been involved in various campaigns against cattle slaughter, and the monk had clearly declared before setting himself on fire that no one should be held responsible for his action.
Speaking about his connection to the JHU, Minister Ranawaka said that Indrarathana Thera was a member of the Pelmadulla Pradeshiya Sabha, but he had lost his membership of the local authority as he had not attended the Pradeshiya Sabha meetings due to his social service engagements.
He went on to say that some foreign media are attempting to create a wrong impression about the monk’s death by stating it was suicide related to a religious issue.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), Wimal Weerawansa, has also requested President Rajapaksa to immediately ban the slaughtering of cattle in Sri Lanka.
In the wake of a Buddhist monk setting himself ablaze, Weerawansa has written to President Rajapaksa saying that measures should be taken based on the incident. He had further pointed out that the majority of the country’s Buddhists and Hindus reject cattle slaughtering, and that only a small group among Sri Lankan society approves of it.
He stated that in India, which has a majority of Hindus, cattle slaughtering has been banned and that during festivals such as Thai Pongal, they express gratitude to the cow that plays an important role in the traditional Indian farmstead. As such, it is greatly disappointing that cattle slaughtering continues to take place in Sri Lanka, a country which boasts of an agricultural economy, Weerawansa added.
Meanwhile, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) also said they will do their best to ensure that the wishes of Indrarathana Thera are granted.
BBS General Secretary, Ven. Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, told the media that Indrarathana Thera’s death was not a suicide, but one of life sacrifice. He added, Indrarathana Thera had demanded that both the slaughter of cattle and unethical conversions be stopped and a suitable Constitution for Sri Lanka be set up, vowing that BBS will work towards those objectives.
“Although the Animal Welfare Bill was drafted, it did not become law. Indrarathana Thera continuously fought to pass the Bill and establish it as a law. There was a Bill to stop unethical conversions but that too has not become law,” he said.
Gnanasara Thera stressed that cattle slaughter should be stopped and the majority of the people in the country are also against it.
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