Tamils in the North-East have started a massive protest march, mobilising around demands for the United Nations and international community to heed Tamil calls for justice and accountability. The walk for justice has been named after its route from ‘Pottuvil to Polikandi’, delineating the two furthest ends of the traditional Tamil homeland, from Pottuvil in Amparai in the south, to Polikandi in Point Pedro at the northern tip.
Sri Lankan police attack Tamil protesters
Sri Lankan police and STF troops attempt to block protesters and TNA MP R Shanakiyan
The march has been endorsed by all Tamil political parties, as well as by Tamil and Muslim civil society organisations and Muslim leaders. The campaign has been met with a brutal crackdown from the Sri Lankan state, with troops and police disrupting and threatening marchers, and Sri Lankan police obtaining injunctions against the protest, and targeting individuals in the community, in several districts.
Among the demands, which include calls for a letter sent to the UN by Tamils to be heeded, are calls for an end to forced cremation of Muslims which the Sri Lankan state continues to practice. Muslim civil society members and locals joined the march in Pottuvil.
Several Tamil politicians and civil society members defied injunctions to participate in the march. Sri Lankan police officers and Special Task Force (STF) troops were deployed in huge numbers to the protest march, threatening and clashing with politicians and members of the public taking part, as well as putting up arbitrary road blocks on the march route. As well as walkers, campaigners joined the procession in a vehicle rally which Sri Lankan security forces also attempted to disrupt.
The first leg of the march, which is planned to be completed over three days, concluded in Thazhankuda, Batticaloa this evening.