Updated 23:00 GMT
A group of students have embarked on a hunger strike outside the University of Jaffna, demanding that the Mullivaikkal memorial is reconstructed after it was bulldozed by authorities yesterday evening.
Braving surveillance by the Sri Lankan police, the students continued their fast in the rain after being refused permission by the police to erect a tent to stage their protest.
Sri Lankan police claimed that the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the area has increased but students have accused them of citing coronavirus in an attempt to break up the protest.
A hartal has been planned for next week as dozens of Tamils continue to stage a protest outside the University of Jaffna this morning amidst heightened security presence after authorities bulldozed a memorial monument last night.
Protesters persisted in their demonstration, sleeping outside the University throughout the night. Protesters included Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Sritharan and Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) MP Selvarajah Kajendran.
The demonstration outside the University of Jaffna began on Friday night following reports that a bulldozer was inside the university campus toppling the Mullivaikkal monument. The monument was unveiled in 2019, marking the tenth anniversary of the Mullivaikkal massacre that took place in May 2009 where tens of thousands of Tamils were killed by the Sri Lankan state.
The monument was designed and constructed by students, many of whom survived the Mullivaikkal genocide and had lost family to the massacres of 2009.
Reacting to the protests, Jaffna University's Vice-Chancellor, S Srisatkunarajah slammed protestors and threatened that if protesters continued with their demonstration, they would be "dealt with".
The Jaffna Vice-Chancellor claimed that the orders for the demolition came from "higher authorities" including Sri Lanka's defence, intelligence and education ministry. In a statement, Srisatkunarajah said that the destruction of the Mullivaikkal memorial ensured the protection of older monuments in the campus, including the Pongu Tamil monument and the Maaveerar Naal commemorative structure.
Former Head of Law at Jaffna University, Dr K Guruparan condemned the demolition and highlighted that the previous Vice-Chancellor was fired from the position for refusing to destroy the monument.
A photograph circulating on social media from last month purportedly shows the Vice-Chancellor showing Sri Lanka's army one of the many monuments inside the university campus.
The destruction of the memorial has drawn global outrage as politicians from across the world denounced the act and called on the international community to stop such acts of destruction in Sri Lanka.
See more on the events of Friday night in our feature: Protest at Jaffna University as authorities destroy Mullivaikkal memorial