11/27/2023, 16.58
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Tamil farmers protest in Batticaloa over disputed pastureland

by Melani Manel Perera

Dairy farmers have been protesting for 74 days against a group of Sinhala outsiders who have seized their land by force. A court ruling in the dairy farmers’ favour is still not being enforced. “These areas are our life,” they say. Without food, their animals “are going to die.”

Batticaloa (AsiaNews) – Milk producers in Batticaloa, Mailattamadu and Madavani, in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, have been protesting for weeks, demanding justice from the authorities because of criminal acts committed against them and their livestock by a group from outside the province.

The silent protest has been going on for 74 days in front of the Sitthandi Junction milk collection centre in Batticaloa, after a group of Sinhala farmers forcibly settled in the Madawani-Maiylaththamadu area, seizing pastures and destroying Tamils' temporary sheds.

On 13 November, a court ordered their eviction, but the situation has not changed, even though President Ranil Wickremasinghe spoke about the matter during a recent visit to the region.

"These are our pastures and our sheds were destroyed, set on fire on 13 October by a group of Sinhala farmers. Now we live in fear," said Muththupullai Siyanthar, a dairy farmer who was brutally attacked by the group, speaking to AsiaNews.

"We call on the government and the authorities to clear our grazing lands. These areas are our life. If our animals don't have food, we don't get milk. They're going to die."

Fr Kandaiyah Jegadas, secretary of the Batticaloa District Inter-Religious Committee, which is contributing to the farmers’ silent protest, spoke to AsiaNews about the situation.

“When the president came to this province last month, he asked the police and the courts to remove the Sinhala farmers occupying the pastures of the dairy farmers,” the clergyman said. Unfortunately, “none of these orders have been fulfilled.”

According to the protesting farmers, about 7,000 cows have been destroyed so far, with serious consequences for the 3,000 families of Tamil farmers who depend on livestock.

There are more than 980 farms in the area and the situation is having serious repercussions for them.

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