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Police detaining women wearing clothes with “Buddha” imagery

Images of the Hindu Deity Krishna mistaken for Buddha images

By Arjuna Ranawana

A Buddhist Monk and bystanders accosted a woman wearing a sari they said had Buddha images in Trincomalee on Thursday/Twitter.com

Women’s activists are angry and exasperated by police detaining women wearing sarees or dresses with the images of Hindu Deities on them.

Activists say there has been a rash of such incidents recently. Some of the images, particularly of the Hindu deity Krishna, resemble images of the Buddha and that has led to some of the detentions, these activists say.

On Thursday a woman wearing a sari at the Trincomalee bus stand with what appeared to be images of the Buddha was handed over to police by a crowd allegedly incited by a Buddhist Monk who had arrived at the scene.

Social activist Garikalan tweeted the incident saying the woman was “intimidated by the crowd.”

Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake posted a video of the incident on his Facebook page.

An eyewitness, free-lance journalist M L Aswer told RepublicNext that he heard the Monk calling the Officer in Charge of the Trincomalee Police station and reporting the woman.

“Then a police truck arrived and the woman, her daughter and son were taken away by the officers,” Aswer said.

The Police Media spokesman’s office in Colombo confirmed to RepublicNext that a woman wearing such a sari had been detained and released with a warning.

Such incidents are being reported from various parts of the North and East, Indumathie Hariharathamodaran of the Women’s Rights group Viluthu based in Trincomalee told RepublicNext.

“It has become a fashion now for women to wear these sarees with murals of Hindu deities,” she said. “Some of the images look like pictures of Lord Buddha,” she added.  

It has become fashionable in India to wear these mural-bearing sarees/devotional.com

These sarees have become fashionable in India and many women wear them for special occasions such as weddings, she said.

She added that there are many Hindus also who object to women wearing these sarees, depending on the deity depicted on the garment.

Colombo-based Velayuthan Jayachithra, another activist said that she too has encountered incidents where women have complained that police have taken action against them for wearing these sarees or kurtas with similar images.

“One woman was taken to the Wellawatte police station and detained and her husband had to bring her another sari to wear,” she told RepublicNext.

In July the Hindu newspaper reported that a 26-year old Indian tourist who had been wearing a dress with a mural such as this had been taken to a police station when she was spotted shopping in a Colombo mall.

Dr Sepali Kottegoda of Women and Media commenting to RepublicNext asked under what authority the police were acting in this manner. “What law is there for them to act, as the fundamental rights of these women are being violated, “she said.

The Hindu quoted Human Rights lawyer J C Weliamuna as saying that “only defaming a religion is a criminal offence. This is ridiculous.”