11/30/2012, 00.00
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Police and students clash, 20 students injured

by Melani Manel Perera
Catholic sources tell AsiaNews that agents forced their way into the campus of Jaffna University, threatening female students with guns. Tamil students were planning to commemorate in a peaceful manner 'Heroes' Day,' the birthday of a Tamil Tigers leader. Plainclothes police threw stones at an opposition lawmaker who wanted to talk to the students. Police called on local priests not to celebrate Mass to "avoid tensions".

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Thousands of university students took to the streets across Sri Lanka yesterday to protest clashes between police and some Tamil students at Jaffna University (northern Sri Lanka) on Tuesday. At least 20 male students were injured and many female students were under shock after being threatened by police. Teachers from the Ceylon Teachers' Union joined the demonstrations, condemning what they consider a police attack against students.

Last Tuesday morning, police stormed the campus of Jaffna University where some students were commemorating 'Heroes' Day,' on the birthday of Tamil Tiger rebel leader V. Prabhakaran, to remember him and other fallen members of the terrorist group.

Local Catholic sources told AsiaNews that the first agents first went to student hostels just outside the campus waiting for the students to start their commemoration. Without warning, they entered women's dormitories where they broke some oil lamps and put guns at the temple of some of female students. When some fainted, male students tried to intervene but were stopped by police who warned them against organising any rally or lighting any oil lamps in memory of fallen rebels.

Elsewhere, police attacked a reporter from a local Tamil language newspaper, Uthayan, who had videotaped the police raid. After he escaped, he filed a complained against his attackers before going to hospital for treatment.

When informed about the clashes, the newspaper's editor E. Saravanapavan, who is also a Member of Parliament for the Tamil National Alliance, an opposition party, went to the university to speak to the students. However, when he arrived, plainclothes policemen threw stones at him.

Police justified their action and subsequent threats saying that the student commemoration was turning into a violent gathering. Eyewitnesses, including professors, denied this version of events, saying instead that the students were staging a peaceful demonstration.

Government action was not limited to Jaffna University. Monday evening, the military Pandivirichchan (Madhu District) told Fr Arokiam not to celebrate Mass the next day "to avoid tensions". The clergyman told them that he only took his orders from the bishop. So next day, he conducted a regular Mass.

The same occurred in Thoddaveli (Mannar District). In this case, the local parish priest, Fr Neru, celebrated Mass unconcerned by police warnings.

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