The words of a small schoolboy whose house was completely burned still echo in my head. When they had heard the on-coming mobs, he fled the house with his elder sister and their younger brother. Their mother had passed away some time ago and their father was at the hospital undergoing a major surgery at the time of the attack. Standing amidst the wreckage, fighting back brimming tears; he said in past tense “Dhatha da kalyaanatha next month wechirunthom" (we had planned to have our elder sister’s wedding next month”.) It took me some effort to descend those ruined steps and leave him alone there.
One of the women had returned home a few days after the attack, even though it was not fully repaired, because her ten-year-old daughter had started to fear that they had become refugees. “My daughter kept asking me, “Umma, are we refugees now? Have they burned all my books too?” She is already very frightened. I did not want her imagination to traumatise her further, so we came home after repairing the broken doors and windows with wood and cardboard.” Fortunately their house had not been burned.
From the testimony of many of the people from the area, the violence that happened here seemed to follow a familiar pattern, one that was widely reported in other parts of Kandy too. Initially the mobs had arrived pelting stones. When the residents saw the large crowd, some had fled into the interior, while others had locked their doors. One man said, as soon as he saw the crowd, he had begun praying with his family. “We could not have withstood those people. There were just too many.” There were varying figures as to the number of people in the mob, according to eyewitnesses - from “200” to “400” to “1000”. After the first wave of attack, some men in uniform - either army or STF, the residents could not say - had rushed to rescue people from burning or locked houses. They were not allowed to put out the fire or retrieve anything from their burning homes. Rather, they were asked to immediately get in to the Defenders to be taken to safety.
A mother recalled with tears. “We left like orphans. My daughter’s three month old baby, had just a piece of cloth on her. We ran. They took us to the safety of our relative’s – slightly interior to where we were.” She went on to add that while the men in uniform protected her and her young daughters from harm, their properties, vehicles and so on were burned or destroyed. She questioned how this could have happened, since the STF or army were already present when the attacks began.