The Jaffna University administration’s decision to remove a war memorial erected in 2019—in memory of victims of the 2009 Mullivaikkal massacre in the last phase of the Sri Lankan war—triggered protests outside the varsity and sharp reactions from leaders in Tamil Nadu.
The Army and police were deployed to disperse protesters, including students, following reports of a heavy vehicle being used to remove the structure on Friday night.
Political leaders including Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami of the AIADMK and DMK chief M K Stalin condemned the incident. While Palaniswami blamed the Sri Lankan government for demolishing the structure and said it was a “huge shock”, Stalin urged the Indian government to condemn the move, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter.
A student, requesting anonymity, said they were denied entry into the campus when they gathered to protest. “They used two heavy vehicles to destroy the memorial. They did not complete the demolition due to our protest. They used police to threaten us in the premises,” he said.
Jaffna University V-C S Srisatkunarajah told The Sunday Express that he ordered the removal of the structure as it was illegal. “There was already a war memorial at the campus. But this new one was erected recently during the 10th anniversary of ending the Sri Lankan war… (it was) installed without permission from authorities,” he said.
Srisatkunarajah said there were orders from the government to remove all such unauthorised structures.
A senior police officer from Jaffna said: “It was the university’s decision and we deployed our personnel to prevent a huge gathering amid a pandemic,” he said. He dismissed talk of the incident hinting at LTTE’s revival.