At the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka, a war memorial dedicated to the Tamil people was destroyed over the weekend, resulting in student protests, sudden arrests and a viral Instagram post.
What happened: On Jan. 8, the Sri Lankan authorities bulldozed a monument known as the Mullivaikkal memorial, according to Al Jazeera.
- The memorial was built by students on the university’s grounds to commemorate the Tamil civilians who were killed during the Sri Lankan Civil War. It was also built to acknowledge the 10th anniversary of the end of the war.
- The civil war started in 1983 and ended in 2009. During those 26 years, Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Sinhalese-dominated government fought the Tamil rebels (known as the Tamil Tigers) who wished to separate the state, according to BBC.
- After the war, it was estimated that 20,000 people went missing and about 100,000 people were killed.
- The University of Jaffna’s management decided to demolish the monument, as told to the AFP by opposition legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
- “The gates were locked while a bulldozer demolished the memorial inside the university,” Sithadthan shared. “Police were deployed outside for protection.”
Aftermath of the destruction: Students and residents from the area, in addition to the Tamils in India, grew angry over the university’s decision.
- Several Tamils criticized the Sri Lankan government, which is still Sinhalese-dominated, for not letting them commemorate their fellow people who went missing or passed away because of the war.
- According to a now-viral Instagram post, students who peacefully protested the university’s decision were arrested.
- The post, which has received over 43,000 likes at the time of writing, was written by former BPP Law student Bianca Rajasekaran (@thelawyerinbee).
- Rajasekaran wrote, “The armed Sri Lankan troops who were stationed at the entrance of the University, arrested them for merely questioning this unjustifiable action by the authorities. Their safety is not guaranteed. Anything can happen to them.”
View this post on Instagram
Rebuilding the memorial: On Jan. 11, ruling party legislator Angajan Ramanathan declared that a monument would be built to replace the demolished one at the same site, according to Al Jazeera.
The foundation stone is being laid at the demolished site..🙏🙏🙏
The foundation stone for a memorial to replace the demolished Mullivaikkal memorial at the university was laid today Monday morning led by Vice-Chancellor & Hunger Strike came to an end pic.twitter.com/lbNAsQfCJ2
— Angajan Ramanathan (@AngajanR) January 11, 2021
- Plans for the new memorial are not fully known yet. The Sri Lankan government criticized the old monument, claiming it to be a memorial to “terrorists” that glorified the Tamil Tigers.
- Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera also condemned the old memorial, saying that “no one will and should be allowed to commemorate dead terrorists.”
Feature Image via @AngajanR