Recently we visited the house of Mohamed Razik Mohamed Thasleem (37) in Danagama Mawanella. He is one of the first victims of Zaharan’s killing spree and is currently recovering from gunshot injuries. We visited him to inquire into his present condition.
The vandalism on Buddha statues in Mawanella was one of the first tasks sprouting from extremist religious fanaticism. Thasleem is a respected and leading figure in the Muslim community of the area. He is among those who helped maintain conciliation among people in conflict areas. He did this while helping to apprehend suspects alleged to be responsible for vandalism.
He was frank to brand them as a sordid gang of their own community before the residents of the area, security sectors and politicians. He said they don’t follow Islam, but are extremists.
After collecting vital information about these extremists Thasleem was engaged in a wearisome effort and was able to inform the security forces about the training venues of these extremists in Vanathawillu. He even joined a four-day operation in Vanathawillu in search of weapons and explosives with the security officers. His efforts and determination helped avert a major national catastrophe.
He always maintains that Muslims are not partners to these destructive happenings. The information alone provided by Thasleem would have sufficed to avert the coordinated April 21 Easter Sunday attack if due attention was given to the imminent threat without waiting till the damage occurred. The delay in being vigilant has led to the present confused situation in the country.
However the extremists saw Thasleem as an obstacle in their path. Hence they decided to deal with Thasleem. The extremists led by their leader threatened Thasleem by shooting at him and injuring him severely; the attack was carried out while he was asleep on March 9.
A piece of ammunition that entered from the back of Thasleem’s head pierced through his forehead causing heavy injuries. He is still undergoing treatment and has been at the intensive care unit receiving treatment for months.
After the unexpected incident that physically weakened Thasleem his family is facing many difficulties. His wife has to now look after her three children and Thasleem’s mother. Although her neighbours and relations help this family now, how she can live on their sympathy?
The victim was transferred to Kandy Hospital from Mawanella Hospital due to the severity of the injuries. Thasleem’s wife Mohamed Sahideen Fathima Janan (28) detailed about the brutal incidents that took place on that dreadful night.
“It was about 4.30 am on March 9. Our family members along with three children and Thasleem’s mother were at home at the time. Thasleem, our younger son and I were asleep on the same bed. That’s when I heard a sound similar to that of disconnecting the supply of electricity. I also picked up a nasty smell and thought that the telephone charger might have burst.
I told my husband about the suspicious sound, but there was no response. He then grabbed my hands. Then I noticed that he was bleeding from his head. I thought he was going to collapse and fall from the bed. I also feared he was dead. I ran towards the back door and found it open. I also caught a glimpse of two figures running away. I screamed and called my niece whose house was nearby. The locks of the door had been broken.
Mohamed Thasleem of No D 36/2 Danagama Mawanella is a businessman. He has three children-all boys. Two are aged 9 and 6 years while the youngest is 18 months old. He earns a living by engaging himself in a poultry farm. According to the people of the area he is a very simple man. Thasleem’s mother Mohamed Sareef Laima Umma (62) also provided us with details of her son.
“I have three children and Thasleem is the only male. Since boyhood he has been a friendly person. He has helped them in every possible turn. First he had his education at Denagama School and joined Zahira College, Mawanella to study for the Advanced Level Examination. He was only six years old when my husband deserted our family. Since then I have looked after my children by doing domestic work in houses in our family circle.
“I am very sad about what happened to us unexpectedly” tearful mother continued”. “When my son was in 9th grade we became entitled to the Samurdi Relief. One day, after returning from school, he told me that there were poorer people in the village who were not receiving Samurdi relief and suggested that we should return the Samurdhi allowance so that a poorer family could enjoy it. He wrote some letters to stop our family from receiving the Samurdhi relief.
“When he was a student, he worked in a retail shop after school hours to support the family. From his school days he has been a friendly person. The majority of his friends are Sinhalese people living in surrounding villages. He volunteered and helped all of them during times of difficulty. Whenever there was a funeral at the village he would want me to prepare food to be sent to the house where the deceased remains were kept” she said.
Thasleem’s wife Fathima intervened to say “Now it is two months and a week since the tragedy. He can talk now and is able to recognise family members. Our sons who were worried about their father’s condition are now happy as he can talk to them. They are anxiously awaiting his return home. “Though he is now fully conscious and talking well the right side of his body is still feeble. However the doctors say that his condition would be stable soon.
“Now he is conveniently receiving treatment in another hospital which is administering neurological treatment; aimed at improving his consciousness. Our relations look after and attend to him in the hospital. There are also two police officers present to ensure his safety while in the hospital.
“A police officer, Bandula from Digana, attached to Kandy Police, helped us when my husband was in critical condition. He treated my husband like a brother. The friendliness extended by his family also helped us to face this difficult situation. We are very grateful to them” she said.
After what Fathima said, we again had the opportunity to listen to Thasleem’s mother.
Minister Kabir Haseem said that his Secretary Thasleem did an immense service helping the security services to arrest the extremists in a short period of time
“My son has been helping the Sinhala people the most. He has gifted school books to students; specially students of the Sunday school (Daham Pasala). Recently he distributed relief items among people affected by the earth-slip of Samasara Rock. All this took place under the guidance of Buddhist Monks of Viyan-eliya Temple in Debathgama. These items were bought from the donations received from rich Muslim families. His efforts could be seen during the Tsunami and other catastrophes like floods in the Rathnapura District.
“He is very fortunate to find rich voluntary people to fund his social missions. He could raise money because he was able to win their confidence. These people observed his dedication towards performing social service. “He treated everyone alike leaving aside race. He appreciates the brotherhood present among all of us. I also had the opportunity to often help in my son’s social activities. But I am very sad about the situation my son is in today. I believe he was fortunate enough to live despite this brutal attempt on his life. This was largely due to the blessings he receives for his dedication to help people. He has been able to resolve various conflicts because of the confidence people have in him.
“My son told me that for many years we, who belong to different races, have been living in peace and in unity. But a group of youth, who has been misled by extremists, had created various problems among us.
“He always told that these misled people wanted him to be arrested by the police or the army” she added. “Then out of fear I asked my son not to engage in problems associated with these young men. But I could not stop him” she recalled.
Doubts about his security
Thasleem’s mother, while proudly speaking of her son’s dedication in social activities, suddenly began to sob when reflecting on the present situation of her son.
When we asked Fathima whether her husband could recall the terrible happening she said, “ He is still not aware of what had happened on that terrible day”.
We asked her whether he would continue with his social activities after returning home from the hospital?
“He wishes to engage in the same activities. We take Sinhala and Tamil papers to hospital for him to read. He can watch the TV in hospital. He says what he wished was to help stop these bad things that were happening in the country .
“He says with a heavy heart that people weren’t willing to shed their differences and work towards stopping these cruel incidents” she said.
We also posed the question whether there are problems regarding her husband’s security?
The large play ground is a result of Thasleem’s determination and labour. He began working on this ground. He himself engaged in filling the lowland. Now it serves as a proper ground. His aim was to move the youth away from the use of drugs and help them enjoy sports
“Yes we have doubts about his security at home. Even the doctors of the hospital say that he should receive more security during his stay in hospital” affirmed Fathima. Mohamed Munthas is a friend of Thasleem and lives in the same village, Danagama. He also has a lengthy list which highlights Thasleem’s social activities.
“We have details of his social activities. He is a wonderful and talented man dedicated towards social services. He has a buddy lorry. We use this vehicle when performing all his services. It has also been used for transport when there are funerals at the village. It might have been used during 100 or more funerals. He maintained a good relationship with monks of all the temple in the area and distributed school books among students; from a number of villages.
“I can remember how he helped to recover a body of a drowned child from the depths of the Ma-oya, which flows bordering the village. This happened at a time when nobody was willing to dive deep due to the rushing waters. But with courage and determination he could built a dam to slow down the flow of the water with the help of the people. He himself then dived and fished the dead body out. And after the tragedy he made this area of the stream using concrete to put a stop to people taking risks. The construction has made the place convenient and safe for bathing.
The large play ground is a result of Thasleem’s determination and labour. He began working on this ground. He himself engaged in filling the lowland. Now it serves as a proper ground. His aim was to move the youth away from the use of drugs and help them enjoy sports.
In appreciation of his dedication and endeavours for the social service he was appointed as the secretary of the trust board of the mosque in the area. He also had the opportunity to serve as Minister Kabir Hasheem’s secretary. However he never used ministerial vehicles or any other privileges when engaging in social service. He has told his friends that the use of such privileges would make the people have a misunderstanding about him. Instead he used political influence when working for the benefit of the people.
Further speaking about his son Thasleem’s mother told us that the people want him to be a peoples’ representative and that he was thinking of entering politics to serve the people better.
After the unexpected incident that physically weakened Thasleem his family is facing many difficulties. His wife has to now look after her three children and Thasleem’s mother. Although her neighbours and relations help this family now, how can she live on their sympathy? The provider for her three children and the family is now confined to bed.
Even the Buddhist monks in the area are much concerned about the tragedy befallen on Thasleem. Several Bodhi Poojas were held in the temple of the area to evoke blessings and to wish him a fast recovery. When we arrived at his home in Danagama Village along the Mawanella Rambukkana Road, there were several villagers there. They all spoke fondly of the social and friendly services offered by Thasleem. The house in which his family and mother live is old with its cracking walls showing the need for urgent repairs.
Minister Kabir Haseem said that his Secretary Thasleem did an immense service helping the security services to arrest the extremists in a short period of time; which he did by providing vital information. And this has led him to be a target of their cruelty.
We were told that Minister Hasheem has done all what is necessary for Thasleem and his family during this difficult situation. And he is constantly in touch with his family members to check on his recovery and to offer him protection.
The Muslim people said that they have been disgraced by the fact that a few extremists have surfaced. And even during the 30-year-war in the country words like Tamil extremists or Hindu extremists were never used. “We want to remove these expression from the society and live in peace and unity with all the people in the country,” a member of the family said.
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