Sri Lanka: bombings a pretext for intensified repression

Arrested JUSU student leaders, Babilraj Sivarasa and Divaharan Navaratnam.

The Sri Lankan army and police have used the bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday as a pretext for repression, targeting people who have no connection with the group responsible, the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ – National Monotheism Society).

The NTJ, an extremist Islamic group, is believed to be linked to the Islamic State, based in Iraq and Syria.

Sri Lankan police have been raiding numerous Muslim groups with "Thowheed" in their name, even if they are opposed to the NTJ. As of May 2, at least 130 Muslims had been detained, according to Tamilnet.

Non-Muslims have also been affected. On May 3, the Sri Lankan army and police carried out a search operation at Jaffna University, in the predominantly Tamil north of the island of Sri Lanka. They searched the offices of the Jaffna University Students Union (JUSU), and arrested JUSU president, T Thivakar and secretary, S Babilraj.

Other student leaders later held a press conference. According to Tamilnet, they said the army and police has for a long time engaged in a "shadow war against the Tamil student community".

JUSU has fought for the rights of the Tamil people by peaceful means, such as meetings and demonstrations. It has campaigned for the freedom of political prisoners, for the return of land confiscated by the army to its rightful owners, and for information about people who have disappeared after being arrested or abducted by the army or police.

JUSU has no connection with NTJ or similar groups.