The wife of the Eastern Province governor verbally abused Trincomalee villagers who requested her to remove her shoes before entering their temple.
The governor and his wife were visiting Soodaikuda to inquire about tensions following the halting of restoration work to a historic Hindu temple by a court order sought by Sampur police at the request of Buddhist monks.
Residents of Soodaikuda in Muthur East were told to halt restoration work on the Kuntrathur Mathalamalai Murugan temple after Buddhist monks who visited the site claimed that it was the site of an ancient Buddhist temple which the Tamils had destroyed.
The people of Soodaikuda displaced in 2006 along with most of Muthur and had been resettling from 2013. The temple, which has existed since at least 1905, was being rehabilitated gradually by the villagers and was officially re-registered in 2014, with prayers being regularly conducted. Locals had recently obtained permission to build a well to provide drinking water for the temple and its users.
A court order was issued on December 19 to suspend all rehabilitation work while police and divisional secretariat officials investigated the Buddhist monks’ claims.
Buddhist monks aggravated the villagers the following day by visiting the site and roaming around the temple premises with their shoes on, an act considered deeply offensive and disrespectful by Hindus. Police intervened as locals expressed their anger.
The dispute was escalated the following day with the visit of the governor and his wife, who attempted also the enter the premises with her shoes on.
The crowds beseeched her to remove her shoes or leave, upon which the governor’s wife used abusive language and allegedly said “you all are tigers, if you need Murugan go to Kathirgama” as police watched on.
As tensions simmer in the area, residents of Soodaikuda have been left fearing for the fate of their village as well as their temple, with many concerned that their ancestral lands will be seized to make way for a so-called Buddhist archaeological site.