Sri Lanka: Tamils protest land grabs, cultural heritage destruction

Kanniyaa Pi'l'laiyaar temple before it was destroyed in the 1980s. Photo: Tamilnet.

More than 500 Tamil demonstrators tried to march to the site of a destroyed Hindu temple at Kanniyaa in the Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka on July 16.

They were blocked by the army and police, who had allowed a group of Sinhalese chauvinists to enter the site. The protesters were threatened and assaulted by these racists.

The temple had been destroyed during previous anti-Tamil pogroms. Local Hindus had wanted to rebuild the temple, but the area was occupied by Sinhalese who built a Buddhist shrine near the temple site — most Sinhalese are Buddhists, while most Tamils are Hindus.

This conflict is typical of what is happening throughout the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Following its victory in the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — which sought an independent Tamil state in response to decades of oppression — the Sri Lankan government has been encouraging Sinhalese settlers to move into traditional Tamil areas. This policy is modelled on the Israeli state’s practice of establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The government’s military victory over the LTTE was accompanied by the genocidal massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils. Today Tamil areas remain under military occupation.

Tamils continue to resist, protesting against land seizures, as well as demanding freedom for political prisoners and information on the fate of the disappeared.

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