Vesak should be day of mourning - eastern students

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 April 2001, 12:52 GMT]
Eastern university undergraduates and teachers demonstrated Friday urging the people of Batticaloa to observe the Buddhist Vesak festival as a day of mourning. Thirteen people, including nine children from an orphanage, were shot dead by Sri Lanka army soldiers in Batticaloa town during the Vesak festival on 17 May last year following a blast. The SLA sought an apology for the massacre from the people of Batticaloa in January this year, blaming a drunken commanding officer for ordering troops to open fire on civilians. Meanwhile, the SLA warned civilians in Batticaloa Friday not to move about near its camps and positions in the district after dark. The army increased search operation in the eastern town this week.

The demonstrators at the Eastern University held placards condemning the assault and sexual harassment of Nageswary Mahendran by Special Task Force (STF) commandos. Nageswary, a widow in the village of Kaluthavalai south Batticaloa, was assaulted severely by Special Task Force on 21 April for complaining about sexual harassment.

The university students also criticised the state run 'Daily News' for carrying a statement by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) that they had organised the general shut down (Hartal) in Batticaloa on 19 April to mark the 13th anniversary of Annai Poopathy, the woman who fasted to death against atrocities of the Indian army in 1988.

A leaflet issued at the demonstration today states, "The students have nothing to do with the Hartal. It was a spontaneous act by the people. We strongly condemn the irresponsible statements of the SSP in this regard. We feel that such statements are being made to prepare the ground for the military to expand its activities against the university community".

The students held placards condemning the sexual harassment and assault on Nageswary on 17 and 20 April by the STF. They condemned women's rights group in Batticaloa for continuing to ignore such sexual atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan security forces on Tamil women.

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