Hounding Anagarika Dharmapala – new crusade of the mainstream Sepoy media
Posted on June 20th, 2018

by Senake Weeraratna

 

The shameless attack on Anagarika Dharmapala in an article in the Daily Mirror (2018-06-15) entitled ‘Anagarika Dharmapala: Shedding away the invective’, re –confirms a significant finding of the Press Commission ( 1964) headed by Justice K.D. de Silva that:

From the evidence placed before us we are satisfied that the existing newspapers did not hesitate to fabricate, suppress, slant or distort news and views whenever it suited them. They have been further guilty of anti — national and anti – Buddhist activities, which are more serious than the earlier mentioned lapses on their part. Indeed, the most vehement critics of the present activities of the Press were the Buddhists and some of their organisations, and we are satisfied that their grievances are genuine and should be removed.

Buddhist leaders have been falsely accused of being intolerant. Their hopes and ambitions receive scant consideration, and the rightful place due to their religion has being denied to it by the newspapers. This has been deliberately done in order to help the minorities, in particular, the Christian minorities, to perpetuate the unjust privileges acquired by them during the last four centuries at the expense of the Buddhist Majority.

Refer: Paragraph 212, Page 90 Final Report of the Press Commission (1964)

Article in the Daily Mirror

No Christian or Muslim country would allow mainstream newspapers to publish articles vilifying the national religion and national heroes, and humiliate the followers of the pre-dominant religion, as we see it happening almost every day in Sri Lanka, even in Poya Day supplements of English language newspapers.

The article in question is a shoddy piece of writing. It shows contempt for Buddhist readers. Deceptively projected as even sided and balanced a close examination reveals that it lacks any academic merit. It is poorly written, conceptually weak, cherry – picks issues / topics and reproduces hate speech and falsehoods. It does not serve any purpose except to promote neo – colonial agendas and interests.

The article does not advance our knowledge of Anagarika Dharmapala or shed any light on any issue except take matters out of context and pass biased judgment on a Buddhist National hero by using standards and criteria more relevant to the current era.

Not a single word in this article on colonial-era atrocities or the challenge faced by Dharmapala and the Buddhist Revival Movement to preserve the Sasana and fight against racial and religious discrimination openly practiced by the colonial Government.

Buddhist National Hero
In the modern history of Sri Lanka no one stands taller than Anagarika Dharmapala. In a country that had witnessed the overthrow of its last king in 1815, seen successive waves of Portuguese, Dutch and British invasions sweeping away much of the traditional Buddhist culture of the country, the unsolicited entry of missionaries of every conceivable denomination from both Europe and USA descending on local children like a cloud of locusts with unconcealed plans to wean them away from their longstanding religious beliefs, and make them ashamed of everything that they stood for and lived by i.e. their religion, their culture, their language, their race, their food and their skin colour, it was a time that any ‘reasonable man’ using a well – known British test introduced into court jargon in 1837 would have thought Buddhism had no hope of survival in Sri Lanka.

The mid -19th century soon after the crushing of the 1848 Matale uprising for independence led to the consolidation of British colonial rule and putting into action a grandiose plan to weaken the Buddhist foundations of Sri Lanka. Children born of Buddhist parents were more or less forced to be registered in a church, resulting in biblical names being bestowed on them, and most people were ashamed or afraid to declare themselves Buddhists. It was the worst of times for the indigenous Sinhala Buddhists.

Nevertheless in the words of Bhikkhu Sangharakshita, a biographer of Anagarika Dharmapala:

Low though the fortunes of the Dhamma had sunk, the great beam of the national karma was beginning to right itself, and gigantic forces were being set in motion which in the future would lift them to a position even higher than their present one was low”

Buddhist Nationalism
Dharmapala’s entry to public life was via the call to serve the cause of Buddhism pure and simple, But then he realized as wisdom and maturity dawned on him later in his life that Buddhism cannot and will not survive in any form unless there was a protective layer – Buddhist nationalism. In espousing the cause of freedom from colonial yoke, and then calling on his people to awaken and lift themselves from slumber and moribund state( ‘Sinhalayan Nagitiyaw’ – speech given in 1926) he touched a chord lying deep in the collective sub – conscious of the Sinhala Buddhists.

Anagarika Dharmapala unleashed forces that to this day reverberate not only in his country of birth but offshore as well. He was born to an incipient Buddhist Revival movement in the middle of the 19th Century but then found himself championing it in the first half of the 20th Century to the great delight of Buddhists everywhere.

The Buddhist Revival movements in India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand owe a great deal to the pioneering efforts of Anagarika Dharmapala. The Buddhist nationalist movements in Sri Lanka of Brahmachari Walisinghe Harischandra, Sinhala Maha Sabha of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the Buddhist National Revolution of 1956 and the Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya (BJB) of L.H. Mettananda have their genesis in the foundation laid by Dharmapala.

Both the writers and Editors who, under the guise of freedom of the press, approve abusive articles targeting Buddhism and Buddhist Savants must be held to account for hurting the religious sensibilities of the Buddhists. Sri Lanka needs a Media Ombudsman to look into the grievances of the Buddhist public vis a vis denigration of religion by a Sepoy media thriving with an editorial staff still unable to take up the challenge to de-colonize their minds.

Proposal for Reform of the Mass Media
The establishment of a Mass Media Commission to inquire into the state of the Mass Media in Sri Lanka in all their ramifications and provide recommendations for reform of the press and other mass media agencies is a public necessity.

Such a Commission must be empowered to monitor and review editorials, articles in newspapers and other publications, radio broadcasts and television programmes of media institutions that aim to undermine and denigrate Buddhism and its pre-eminent status as the leading moral and spiritual force in this country.

Article 9 of the Constitution must be given teeth via enabling legislation that would protect the fair name of Buddhism and all those worked for its revival during a time when it faced the prospect of extinction under oppressive colonial rule. 

In addition, the re – organization of the Press and the wider Mass Media is an essential pre-requisite to the resolution of the national problem and establishment of true peace and harmony in the country.

 

Senaka Weeraratna

4 Responses to “Hounding Anagarika Dharmapala – new crusade of the mainstream Sepoy media”

  1. samurai Says:

    The anti-Buddhist bias of the Daily Mirror is proved by the fact that they never publish responses from readers to counter the anti-Buddhist articles published in the paper. Why did not they publish this article by Senaka Weeraratne when he sent it to them? This is not the first time the Mirror published such an article. Earlier an editorial staffer Ranga Jayasuriya called the Anagarika Dharmapala a racist, in a similar article

    Fifty four years after the publication of the Press Commission Report this unfortunate situation still continues. Every government should be held responsible for this.

    The irony of this is the Mirror publishers Wijeya Newspapers Limited is owned by a Buddhist Ranjit Wijewardena, son of the Lake House founder-Chairman D.R. Wijewardena

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    D R Wijewardhana and his son Ranjith Wijewardhana are token Buddhists. Their history is replete with efforts to denigrate Buddhism. It is D R WIjewardhana who was at the forefront through Lakehouse that made Anagarika Dharmapala leave Sri Lanka for good. Lakehouse and Wijeya Newspapers are all full of non Buddhist editors and subeditors. Although they try to appear to be benefactors of Buddhism outwardly the net effect is denigration of Buddhism and promotion of Christianity.

  3. Nimal Says:

    Who cares about him but must look ahead to build the country.

  4. samurai Says:

    I wish to clarify a point I made in previous post on this subject. The Daily Mirror only allow readers’ comments below a controversial article but seldom or never gives equal space for another article to counter the false arguments.

    Also almost all columnists/feature writers/editors in the English print media are non-Buddhists or as Ratnapala says are token Buddhists. They seldom or never give prominence to a Buddhist point of view unlike the Sinhala press.

    I won’t be surprised if the next article in the Mirror is going to be a piece calling Buddhist revivalist L.H. Mettananda another racist and extremist.

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