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Tamil devotees detained without cause and ill-treated, lawyer tells court

Lawyers representing the eight devotees who were arrested without any warrant during the Shivarathri observances at the Vedukkunaari Temple yesterday said the individuals are being held without charge and have been ill-treated at the time of their arrest.

“Their only crime seems to have been chanting Om Namah Shivaya,” their lawyer Sugas Kanagaratnam told reporters outside the district magistrate courts. “They have not violated any laws and the police is yet to even submit a report as to why they were arrested in the first place.”

Kanagaratnam told journalists that the case has been adjourned until next Tuesday since the police inquiry is incomplete. He said that the courts have been informed of how the individuals were ill-treated while they were arrested and of the injuries sustained during the arrest and thereafter. The court had directed them to present their case to a lawyer for the submission of a report. 

“Their only mistake appears to be the chanting, so we have asked if that constitutes a crime?” he said. “The actions of the police and the subsequent arrests are illegal.”

The observance of Shivarathri at the Vedukunari Hill Athi Sivan temple in Vavuniya North, descended into chaos on Friday as police violence marred the religious proceedings. 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 hill, the observance of Shivarathri by locals was allowed to go ahead by the Vavuniya Magistrate’s Court.

In a shocking turn of events, police personnel seized valuables estimated to be worth around 10 lakhs, including food, pongal, and Puja items, disrupting the Puja services midstream. Sri Lankan riot police and Special Task Force officers (STF) descended upon the temple premises, with women participating in the temple rituals forcibly removed by the police.

Additionally, 8 individuals, including members of the temple management, were arrested. 


The Sri Lanka Police Media Unit released a statement following the arrests. In their statement, they claimed that that the bonfires and hearths posed a risk and could have caused a forest fire, which is what led to the arrests. 

They also stated that the Acting Director of Archaeology had requested the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Northern Province to prevent any religious ceremonies from being conducted at this temple. 

The eight worshippers who were taken into custody are 24, 29, 30, 34, 37, and 54 years old and are residents of Nedunkerny, Pulyankulam, Kanagarayankulam and Mamaduwa areas. 


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