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'Vedukkunaari Hill is Tamil land!' - Tamils in Vavuniya demand release of 8 detainees

Protesters are rallying through Vavuniya today as they demand the release of the eight Tamil men who were unlawfully arrested at a Shivarathri pooja at Vedukkunaari Hill Athi Sivan temple last week.

Protesters were calling on the Sri Lankan state to stop occupying traditionally Tamil lands and end the Sinhalisation of the Tamil homeland.

The protest gathered at Vavuniya bus station before marching to Vavuniya town where they then headed to Illupaiyadi. 

A motorcade rally left from Nallur, Jaffna this morning to join the protest in Vavuniya. 

Today's protest follows a series of protests across the homeland this week calling for the immediate release of those who were arrested. 

The eight individuals who were arrested are: Kanthasamy Gowrikanthan (24), Thilakanathan Kinthuyan (28), Sivam Luxshan (28), Thurairasa Thamichelvan (28), Makenthiran Narenthiran (29), Rasaratnam Vinayagamoorthy (30), Subramaniyam Thavapalasingam (35), Thampirasa Mathimugarasa (45). 

During a court hearing, the Sri Lankan archaeology department falsely claimed that the devotees had damaged the temple's antiquities.

Since their arrest, five of the eight individuals launched a hunger strike in protest of their unlawful detainment and to demand that they are released. The families of those hunger striking reported that their health has deteriorated and urged the authorities to release them so they can be reunited with their loved ones. 

Although Vedukkunaari Hill Athi Sivan temple has been a place of worship for Tamil people for generations, it has been declared as an ancient Buddhist site by Sri Lanka's archaeology department. This forms part of Sri Lanka's ongoing efforts to colonise traditionally Tamil sites.

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