Tamil memorial at Jaffna University destroyed in Sri Lanka; Indian leaders express shock

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Colombo, Jan 9 (PTI) A Tamil war memorial in Jaffna University was destroyed by the authorities in Sri Lanka, triggering protests by students and community groups and evoking strong reactions from Indian leaders who termed the incident as a big shock.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna Professor Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah ordered the removal of the monument on Friday night amid heavy police presence.

The monument was established in 2019 in the University of Jaffna in memory of the civilian Tamils killed in Mullivaikkal in one of the bloody episodes of the island nation's last leg of the three-decade old conflict in 2009.

Tamil groups accused the government of destroying the war memorial to remember the Tamils. They said that the military bulldozed the memorial using heavy machinery, terming it a high-handed political act to hurt Tamil sentiments.

'This is a deliberate provocative act knowing well that memorials are to do with emotions,' S Sritharan, a Tamil legislator said.

A group of students protested by staging a sit-in, leading to arrests of two students. They were later released on bail.

The gates of the university were closed as hundreds of students gathered outside the varsity protesting against the demolition, including Jaffna Mayor Vishwalingam Maniwannan, the Colombo Gazette reported.

The incident evoked strong reactions from Indian leaders, including Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister K Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam and DMK President M K Stalin, who termed the incident as a big shock.

Palaniswami said the demolition has pushed Tamils across the world into 'grief' and blamed the Sri Lankan government for bringing it down.

'It comes as a big shock that the memorial pillar, set up in memory of university students and people killed mercilessly in Mullivaikkal in the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka has been demolished overnight,' the chief minister said in a tweet.

Panneerselvam also took to Twitter to strongly condemn the demolition and said it came at a time when efforts were on to ensure justice for the 'hordes' of Tamil civilians killed in the 'Ealam war.' Stalin, while slamming the incident, wanted India to condemn the demolition.

Meanwhile, Sampath Amaratunge, Chairman of the University Grants Commission, said that the Vice-Chancellor of Jaffna University decided to remove the monument on Friday night as it was a threat to the unity in the country.

'The vice chancellor had taken the decision to remove the memorial. The students who are currently in the university were only 9-10 years old when the war ended. We have to protect all children. It is not war memorials which we need right now, all we want now are monuments of peace,' Amaratunga said.

He said that there are over 1,000 Sinhalese students in the Jaffna University and several Tamil students from the North studying in universities in the South, the Colombo Gazette reported.

“They reside in common hostel facilities. They participate in common lectures, common sports events and other activities. As a country we are fortunate that these students have been responsible to experience no issues at these universities,” he was quoted as saying by the dailymirror.lk. PTI CORR/SA/RS AKJ RS