Tamils in Sri Lanka have witnessed an escalation in the attack on Hindu temples in recent weeks, a trend that they note is part of the State’s “ongoing Sinhalisation project” in the island’s north.

In recent weeks, Tamil media reported multiple incidents of vandalism at temples, where Hindu deities were found missing or damaged. In Jaffna, some Tamils have sought to counter the trend by placing a Hindu deity in a public space, prompting police to petition the court seeking its removal. Several Tamil political parties have called for a protest on April 25 against the recent temple attacks, among other issues.

Simultaneously, Tamils also point to an increase in the number of new Buddhist structures and shrines coming up in the Northern Province, where Hindus form the largest religious group, followed by Christians and Muslims, with Buddhists in the fourth place.

The developments come amid the heightening activity of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology in the Tamil-majority north and east. Authorities have restricted public access to some temples, citing ongoing “archaeological research” in the historic sites.  In one instance, the media reported the arrest of a youth who attempted to worship at a temple in Vedukkunarimalai, Vavuniya. A large protest was held in the area last month protesting the vandalism of idols at this temple.

Jaffna legislator and Tamil National People’s Front Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam sees the incidents as part of a larger, persistent assault on Tamils’ rights, including to worship. Ever since the end of the war, consecutive governments have “accelerated the Sinhalization” of the north and east, he said, “as if to catch up with the gap of the 30 years during the war that they missed out on.”

The Aiyanar temple at Kurunthurmalai, Mullaitivu, has remained controversial amid a rapid increase in Buddhist structures on its premises in the last few years. Despite a court order preventing any new religious installations at the spot, a state minister in 2021 led a ceremony to place a Buddhist statue at the site, in the presence of military men and archaeological department officials. Similar contestations on land have also been reported in the east.(The Hindu)


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