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50th anniversary of massacre at World Tamil Research Conference commemorated

In a solemn commemoration, the 50th-anniversary event to honor those who were killed in the 1974 World Tamil Research Conference was held on January 10th in Jaffna. The ceremony unfolded at the memorial courtyard erected to remember the massacre.

Taking place at Veerasingham Hall in Jaffna from January 3 to January 10, 1974, the fourth World Tamil Research Conference faced many setbacks from the Sri Lankan government. The then government, which was led by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, threatened to withdraw funding for the conference because the organising body, the World Tamil Research Forum insisted on conducting the conference in Jaffna. This was the first time the conference, which is conducted throughout the world, was to be held in Jaffna. The Sri Lankan government also refused entry and deported an American Tamil scholar as well. 

The pushback from the state took a deadly turn on the final day of the conference when the police were deployed to disrupt the final event, a speech made by Prof. Naina Mohamed from south India. The platoon of police led by Assistant Superintendent of Police Chandrasekara opened fire, threw tear gas, and attacked the attendants with batons which resulted in a stampede. They also fired at electric wires, which resulted in the electrocution and killing of 11 attendees. 

The Commission of Inquiry on the Tragedy of January Tenth, 1974, which published its report on 18th February 1974 said, “The irresistible conclusion we come to is that the police on this night (10 January 1974) was guilty of a violent and quite an unnecessary attack on unarmed citizens.

"We are gravely concerned that they lacked the judgment which we expected of policemen in a civilian police force whose duties call for tactful handling even in the most difficult situation.”

Despite this damning report, the ASP Chadrasekara was promoted following the massacre.


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