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Tamils mobilise against destruction of ancient temple, call for mass protests

Further details have surfaced following the destruction and vandalism of the Athi Lingam and theft of various consecrated items from the temple. The Athi Sivan Kovil atop the Vedukkunaari mountain in Vavuniya, which has been a place of worship for Tamil people for many generations has been renamed as Waddamana Parwatha Viharaya on Google Maps. Additionally, the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka has declared it to be an ancient Buddhist site. 

In the past few months, the Archaeological Department had obstructed the temple administrators and worshippers by banning them from entering into the temple premises. This follows a case filed against the temple administrators by the Archaeological department at the Vavuniya Magistrate course in 2021. 

The destruction of a heritage site of Tamil people has not only caused great distress among the public, but also has elicited strong condemnation of the destruction and vandalism. In the morning of 27th March, the Temple administrators lodged a complaint against the destruction and vandalism at the Nedunkerny Police station and students protested against the incident in front of the Jaffna University. They raised slogans such as “The Buddha who detached himself from the mind, is attached to our land”; “Is there no end to the hubris of Saffron robed monks?”; “Army, Navy, get out of our land,” “Archaeological Department, get out.”

One of the slogans “Vedukkunaari, Katchatheevu, Delft are our heritage” highlighted the ongoing rapid Sinhalisation of the Tamil homeland. 

The temple administrators also made a complaint at the Human Rights Commission in Vavuniya against the Archaeological department, whom they suspect to be behind the destruction of the temple. Following their complaint, the temple administrators spoke to the media. They said,

“Following the ban issued by the Archaeological department from us entering the temple, it was the department’s vehicles that continued to go in and out of the temple premises. This is why we suspect the Archaeological department’s involvement in this act of vandalism. Everyone can see the ongoing Sinhala colonisation. This has caused great distress and we strongly condemn these acts.”

A protest involving multiple faith leaders took place in Nallur. Following these incidents many public figures in the North have come forward to express their concerns over these developments. Particularly, Fr Sakthivel, a long-standing advocate for Tamil rights said,

“The destruction of the Vedukkunaari mountain temple is a well-coordinated political move that is rooted in racism to provoke Saiva people into committing violence. Not only do we have to condemn these acts, but if we don’t call out the politics of it, the religious leaders, those in power, including Tamil politicians, we will experience a Mullivaikkal of politics.”

The temple administrators have also issued a public call to a mass protest against these incidents. The protest will be held on Thursday, 30th March, at 9:30am from Kandasamy Temple. The protest intends to march up to the Vavuniya District Secretariat. The administrators have called upon organizations, political parties, religious leaders, the public, and activists to join the mass protest to condemn the ongoing Sinhala colonisation.

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