146 Buddhist pilgrims killed in the Anuradhapura massacre (May 14, 1985)

On this day in 1985, LTTE terrorists slaughtered 148 Buddhist pilgrims at the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi shrine in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka.

On this day in 1985, LTTE terrorists slaughtered 148 Buddhist pilgrims at the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi shrine in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka.

ANURADHAPURA, SRI LANKA – Pick any modern terrorist group that claims to represent a particular religion. You have a lot to choose from. Islamist extremists. Buddhist extremists. Hindu terrorists. Jewish violent extremists. The list goes on and on.

In most instances these actors elect to target those who hew to a different religion or, especially in the case of jihadis, different sects within the same faith. How any organisation can see the killing of faithful people as justified (or even mandatory) under their tenets is beyond me, but there are.

Of course it is not always the case that devout suffer at the hands of those who see themselves as more devout and take on the mantle of ridding the planet of the ‘unbelievers’. Sometimes terrorist groups with no real association with a faith of any kind undertake such action.

I always find it disingenuous when religious terrorists target religious people for killing: not all those who kill the faithful are themselves particularly religious.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are one such example. Founded in the early 1980s as an effort to carve out an independent homeland for the Tamils of northern and eastern Sri Lanka, the LTTE was active for the better part of a quarter century on the island nation south of India. To many of us who worked counter terrorism during that time period the Tigers were the ‘A’ team of terrorism.

Slaughter of people carrying out religious acts

To the best of my knowledge, the LTTE were irreligious. Sure, as Tamils they were largely Hindu but I do not detect a close relationship between the LTTE’s goals and Hinduism writ large. Certainly not like modern Hindu terrorists in India who attack Muslims (and occasionally Christians) in the furtherance of a larger Hindu polity.

There is no question that the LTTE, as a Tamil organisation, did not like the majority Sinhalese, who are majoritarian Buddhist, but I am not so sure they hated Buddhism per se. And yet they did carry out acts in which Buddhists, and more narrowly Buddhists at prayer, were killed and wounded.

On this day in 1985 LTTE terrorists massacred 146 Buddhist pilgrims at the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi shrine in Anurapadhura, Sri Lanka. Another 85 were wounded as the assailants hijacked a bus, got off and sprayed crowds of worshipers.

I do not know how the slaughter of people carrying out religious acts is either seen as a good or an honourable thing. I do not know how the gunmen can look in the mirror and say ‘job well done’. Then again, there is a lot about terrorism I do not understand. And I fear I never will.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

One reply on “146 Buddhist pilgrims killed in the Anuradhapura massacre (May 14, 1985)”

You will not understand terrorism until you have experienced what it is like to be bullied and harassed for decades by those holding political power, marginalise and persecute your community; just like the Arabs have been because of their oil-rich lands. Imagine how you would feel if Canada was invaded had it been rich in fossil fuel – and a savage dictatorship installed; remember SAVAK was trained in Gestapo methods of torture using US taxpayer funds). So don’t expect the Iranians to either love you or trust you. And don’t be so puerile and ignorant of history as to call them a de-stabilising influence in the region, and supporters of “terrorists”. They are simply people who refuse to “know their place” the way Victorian servants were supposed to, and have enough backbone to stand up for themselves. Bully for them, is what I say. If the West wanted to make amends they could start with enabling Tehran to match the nuclear capability of the Palestinian Jewish State, which the invader-colonists, mainly form Europe, renamed ‘Israel’. (That’ll be the day!!)

It was the same with the Tamils. They FINALLY stood up to decades of bullying. Lankan Buddhists are even more hypocritical then Western Christians. So good riddance if they got rid of a whole lot of these hypocritical people who pay lip-service to the teaching of Siddhartha, and then go and behave diabolically towards innocent Tamils.
It was a sad day when the US and India defeated the LTTE. It could well have resulted in decent leadership for the Singhala people too. Look at the type of scum we have now; the President of Lanka this week pardoned a convicted murderer, for no other reason than that he is politically helpful. Go figure.

And maybe grow up and outgrow conventional brainwashing to transcend seeing the world through the eyes of the bully – be it Western or Singhala Buddhists!

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