Burning Jaffna library, an intent of genocide

“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” – Heinrich Heine – a German poet, writer and literary critic.

Today is the 39th anniversary of the burning down of Jaffna library on 31st May 1981 by the Sinhala mob brought down from the South of Sri Lanka by senior ministers of the Sri Lankan state.

This is a key event in the history of the Sri Lankan state’s genocide against Tamils, as the library was attacked in an aggressive act of biblioclasm, the deliberate destruction of books. By intentionally burning one of the oldest and respected collection of ancient Tamil manuscripts in the whole of south Asia, Sri lankan state deprived Tamils of their immeasurable treasure of cultural heritage.

This was intentional as there was no provocation in the area in which the library stood. The Jaffna district Police Headquarters was in the vicinity of the library when this occurred which shows intent as they were led by former ministers Gamini Thissanayake and Cyril Matthew. These are evidence that the burning of Jaffna Library was an intentional act of cultural genocide as the Sri Lankan government purposefully wanted to erase parts of Tamil history.

70 years of acts of genocide against Tamils calls for the need of justice through an international judicial mechanism and a process to protect the Tamils in the North-East of Sri Lanka.

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