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Hundreds attend Neeraviyadi temple's pongal 'festival of resistance'

Hundreds of Tamils flocked to Mullaitivu on Saturday as a Hindu temple, formerly on the verge of being colonised by Buddhist monks, held a festival for the first time in over a decade.

The Neeraviyadi Pillaiyaar temple in Semmalai has been at the centre of a local dispute about land-grabs and Sinhalisation, as a Buddhist monk has spent the last ten years establishing a vihara on the temple’s premises, culminating in the building of a massive Buddha statue.

The Hindu temple which was previously out-of-bounds due to Sri Lankan army occupation has restarted worship activities after a court ruled in its favour.

Since the ruling, the defeated Buddhist monk has regularly bussed in Sinhalese supporters from the South to protest against the Tamil temple.

The temple’s first festival, a traditional ‘pongal’ in which ceremonial rice was cooked in 108 pots took place amidst heavy police presence on Saturday.

Hundreds of Tamils came from all over the North-East in a show of solidarity with the village, with the festival seen as an act of resistance against the onslaughts of the Buddhist monk, who had been attempting to appropriate the temple with the help and protection of Sri Lankan police and security forces.

Tamil politicians also attended, and organisers noted that many Tamils of Christian faiths had also come in support.

Although rumours had been surfacing that more Sinhalese protestors would be showing up to disrupt the festival, the day passed mostly without incident, although a sour note was hit when the occupying Buddhist monk’s lawyer refused to move his car from the food serving area.

Former Chief Minister of Northern Province C V Wigneswaran (Right)

TNA MPs Shanthi Sriskantharajah, Mavai Senathirajah and Sivagnanam Shritharan

TNPF leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam

 

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