Six Tamil students have been released on bail by Eravur Magistrate court after they were arrested earlier today for participating in a protest against the Sri Lankan government’s seizure of land and settling of Sinhalese farmers in Mayilathamadu.
The six students were arrested by Santhiveli police after their vehicle was intercepted as they travelled back to Jaffna once the protest had finished.
Dozens of Sri Lankan police officers armed with riot shields and batons were deployed to Batticaloa today, as Tamil university students joined farmers in their ongoing protest.
Sri Lanka has been pushing Sinhala settlers into the region.
footage from Mayilanthamdu. pic.twitter.com/6GGlrcgguE
— Tamil Guardian (@TamilGuardian) November 5, 2023
Sri Lankan police stated that the students were arrested for an "illegal gathering". Tamil National People's Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam tweeted that when he asked Batticaloa's Senior Superintendent of Police what the illegality was, he reportedly responded that the students had taken part in a procession without permission.
Ponnambalam also highlighted that prior to the arrests, the Santhiveli police had explained to the students how to execute the rally.
"What is clear is that it was the SSP Batticaloa and above that has given pressure to the Santhively police to arrest the students as an afterthought," the TNPF leader tweeted.
The University of Jaffna's student union released a statement condemning the arrests and the Sri Lankan police for "obstructing democratic protests."
The student union also condemned the police for not taking action against extremist Sinhala Buddhist monk, Ampitiye Sumanarathana, for recently threatening to kill all of the Tamils in the South but arrested Tamil students for expressing solidarity with the farmers.
Since September 15, livestock farmers in Mayilathamadu, Batticaloa, have been staging protests demonstrating against the Sri Lankan government’s seizure of land that they have traditionally used for cattle grazing. Many Sinhalese farmers have been settled in the land seized by the Mahaweli Authority.