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Sri Lanka's archaeology department claims Vedukkunaari devotees damaged temple antiquities

Sri Lanka's archaeology department has claimed that the eight Tamil devotees at Vedukkunaari Hill Athi Sivan temple were arrested during the Shivarathri for damaging the temple's antiquities. 

Appearing on behalf of those arrested, lawyer Kanagaratnam Sugash said that the archaeology department has falsely accused the eight individuals of damaging historical monuments at the temple.  

The lawyer told reporters that they would appeal on behalf of those who have been wrongfully accused, stating that the accusations levelled by the department are baseless and untrue. The eight devotees will remain in custody. 

Since their arrest, the devotees including the priest have been denied a request to change their clothes and only a lawyer has been able to communicate with those who were detained. The detainees have said they were manhandled and ill-treated by the police. The courts have also requested a medical report. 

Last Friday (8) Sri Lanka police unleashed violence at the temple, deploying riot police and forcibly taking away devotees who were engaged in worship. Member of Parliament Selvarajah Kajendren was assaulted by Sri Lankan police, and a further 8 worshippers were arrested during the incident.

Despite the ongoing dispute over the temple, the observance of Shivarathri by locals was allowed to go ahead by the Vavuniya Magistrate’s Court. Despite this, Sri Lankan police officers stormed the religious event and seized valuables estimated to be worth around 10 lakhs, including food, pongal, and puja items, disrupting the puja services midstream. 

While the archaeology department has claimed that the worshippers had damaged historical monuments, Sri Lankan police stated that the arrests occured because the bonfires and hearths posed a risk and could have caused a forest fire. 

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