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After the riots a ray of hope for Anamaduwa community
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Subject: After the riots a ray of hopefor Anamaduwa community
How more than 100 volunteers helped to rebuild 30 year old Madeena Hotel in Anamaduwa in the Puttalam District, 24 hours after a mob set fire to the eatery following a wave of anti-Muslim attacks in Kandy
Mohamed Rahim, or ‘Madeena Mudalali’ to the people of Anamaduwa, was the only Muslim to run an eatery in the area since 1990.
In a wave of anti-Muslim violence sweeping the Kandy District, several isolated incidents in other regions of the country were also reported.
In the early hours of March 11, Rahim’s restaurant was set ablaze by a mob, in what looked like an attempt to spread the wave of violence into the Puttalam District.
When the news of arson spread like wildfire, Puttalam DIG, Champika Siriwardene lost no time to ensure peace in the area leaving no room for mischief-makers to have a field day. Most importantly, the Sinhala community in the area did not want to see communal unrest in their own area, after the nightmare in Kandy, which remained largely calm and peaceful.
But the loss of the shop deeply affected Mohamed Rahim leaving him helpless and distraught. “My eatery which I started 28 years ago was lost in one night” he said emotionally, adding that he never thought he would be able to rebuild his business.
However, as a symbol of true coexistence and camaraderie the Anamaduwa New United Traders’ Association with its president, Dayan Abeyratne decided to rebuild Madeena Mudalali’s gutted eatery within 24 hours and reopen the restaurant to the public.
The Police kept up a 24 hour watch to ensure public safety while the restaurant was being rebuilt.
According to Abeyratne it was just a handful of extremists that had taken part in destroying the only Muslim owned shop in Anamaduwa. “We have no communal or racial divides within our association” he said, adding that Rahim had always lent a helping hand to those in need in the area.
“We wanted to prove we are able to coexist and we wanted to set an example” Abeyratne said, explaining that this was why many gathered to restore the shop within a day of the mob violence.
“Madeena Mudalali, we won’t leave you to fend for yourself alone. We are always with you. Do not be afraid. We will certainly eat kottu tonight itself in this hotel”, were the consoling words expressed by Rahim’s neighbours last week. They decided to reopen the hotel on the same day. Soon the volunteers removed the debris and began to restore the building.
More than 100 volunteers participated in the restoration work and by 4 pm, the same day, work was nearing completion. Meanwhile, the police had arrested a few suspects between ages 17-25 who were suspected of causing the fire that destroyed Rahim’s business.
Samantha Kumara Jayaratne who volunteered to rebuild the shop pointed to his palms full of blisters. “I have been working from morning and I am tired but I want to send out the message that there is no racism in Anamaduwa” he said.
Jayaratne said all communities of people should be allowed to live peacefully in Sri Lanka. The acts by these rampaging mobs are “shameful” he charged. “They have caused us great embarrassment” he said, requesting the people to refrain from acting in such a manner in the future,” the volunteer said.
At the reopening of the eatery at 7 in the evening, the members of the Buddhist clergy, Muslim religious leaders and local politicians were unanimous in commending the timely intervention of the people of Anamaduwa, who had shown the world that the Sinhala majority as a whole was not opposed to ethnic and religious harmony.
Madeena Hotel is now back in business and restored to its former glory in Anamaduwa. Rahim’s nephew Mohammed Anush said, the majority of the people in the area had displayed real human kindness.
“The mischief makers were only a few,” he said, after the hotel reopened. Anush said his uncle did not believe the hotel could be reopened in a day. “The people of Anamaduwa proved him wrong. We are happy things ended so well,” he added