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Pak-linked Jehadis worry Lankans

There are fears that such groups may weaken the democratic Muslim parties in Lanka, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2006 10:37 IST

A section of Sri Lankan nationalists and India are worried about the alleged existence of Jehadi groups in the island having links with similar groups in Pakistan.

According to a top leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) the existence of four such groups has come to light, and that the Indian government is aware of it.

The JHU, which is a Sinhala Buddhist party, fears that such radical groups may weaken the democratic Muslim parties in the island, such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and tear up the democratic framework of the country.

"This is the reason why the JHU is eager to get the SLMC to join the government," the leader told Hindustan Times.

"Unless the Muslim moderates are made part of the system and encouraged to function, the radical Islamic groups will start attracting people," he said.

The other Sinhala nationalist party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is opposed to the SLMC and the Indian Tamil party Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) joining the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, which both the JVP and the JHU are supporting.

"But we hope to convince the JVP on this issue. The JHU and JVP were rivals earlier, but now " the JHU leader added.

Theatre of Indo-Pak rivalry

The Sri Lankan nationalists are also acutely aware that the existence of Islamic militant groups with links in Pakistan will worry India.

And they are afraid that the rise of Pak-linked Jehadis here may make Sri Lanka a theatre of the larger India-Pakistan conflict.

"Traditionally, there has been no Pakistan-factor in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. But the Pakistan factor may have been introduced by now," the JHU leader said.

" In that case, Sri Lanka is in danger of becoming a theatre of India-Pakistan conflict," he said.

"We do not want Sri Lanka to become another Lebanon," he said.

US-LTTE factor

The JHU fears that the rise in the power of Jehadis among the Muslims of the North East would enable the LTTE to win the sympathy of the United States, which is ranged against these groups world-wide.

The United States, which is strongly anti-LTTE now, may soften its stand towards it only to face the common enemy, the Jehadis.

And that would not be good for Sri Lanka, the JHU activist said.

The LTTE was the first to point out to the existence of a Jehad group among the Muslims of the Eastern districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai.

At the first round of talks in Geneva in February 2006, the LTTE had given the Sri Lankan delegation some details about a "Jehath" group. But it also alleged that the group had clandestine links with the Sri Lankan military.

No proof

However, despite all the allegations and talk, there has been no concrete, publicly stated proof of the existence of militant and armed Jehadi groups in Sri Lanka so far.

Not even the LTTE has captured and produced any Jehadi cadre.

The Sri Lankan moderate groups have vehemently denied that there are armed Islamic militant groups in the island, and have challenged those who make the allegation to give proof.

Their contention is that the Islamic fundamentalists of Sri Lanka are not politically militant or armed, but are purely religious, promoting a "pure" Islamic way of life as decreed in Saudi Arabia.

The moderate Muslims see the allegation as LTTE's ploy to sully the Muslims and get the sympathy and support of the US and India, both of which had proscribed it in the 1990s.