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Jaffna Nachimar Temple chairman arrested over chariot festival 

The Sri Lankan police have arrested the chairman and secretary of the Nachimar Temple, Jaffna based on allegations that the celebration of the annual chariot festival that took place on Sunday violated the COVID-19 restrictions in place in the country.        

The police have alleged that the conduct of the festival created conditions for a spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Jaffna district. It is understood that, following the arrests, the police would file a case against the temple chairman and secretary in the court of law. 

The annual temple festival in the Nachimar Temple, Vannarpannai, was underway when devotees gathered to worship Tamil goddess Sri Kamatchi Ambal sporting face masks due to the threat posed by the pandemic. 

The arrest of temple officials have given rise to complaints that Tamils are being targeted unfairly whilst mass gatherings in Sinhalese areas continue to be ignored. 

Ambika Satkunanathan, former Sri Lankan Human Rights Commissioner, asked in a tweet whether organisers of racing events held in the city of Nuwara Eliya in the Central Province have been arrested for violating health guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arrest of the Nachimar Temple administration follows similar cases of crackdown against Tamil civil society under the pretext of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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