Sri Lanka commits discriminatory practices against Hindu worshippers

On March 8, eight Tamil Hindus were arrested by Sri Lankan authorities for celebrating festival rituals in Veddukkunaari temple near Vavuniya. This detainment is included in the series of events where the Sinhalese Buddhists target religious minorities and their religious sites for “Sinhalaziation”.

Sri Lanka commits discriminatory practices against Hindu worshippers
Hindu Temple in Sri Muththumari Amman Kovil, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.© Rowan Heuvel, April 14th, 2020, via Unsplash


Dara Masita

Human Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

A magistrate just released eight Tamil Hindu worshippers on March 19th. Authorities detained them as they were practising festive rituals last week in the Veddukkunaari temple near Vavuniya.

The Vavuniya magistrates court allowed the Hindus to celebrate the Shivaratri festival on March 8th at Veddukkunaari. Nevertheless, the police came and assaulted worshippers which included an opposition member of the parliament. The worshippers were detained because the police believed the small ritual fires were to be a hazard. Additionally, the Department of Archaeology claimed that the worshippers had damaged antiquities. The detainees suffered beating during custody. 

In the past years, Sri Lankan authorities and nationalist Sinhala Buddhists have been targeting Hindu and Islamic religious sites, which is what is happening with the detainments. The Veddukkunaari temple is a Hindu place of worship. However, Buddhist monks and the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology claim it as an ancient Buddhist site. This temple is just one of the many Hindu temples being “Sinhalized” in Northeastern Sri Lanka. The Buddhists managed to claim a lot of religious sites due to the support from government agencies and security forces.

Discrimination against Hindus and other religions has been prevalent in Sri Lanka. The historical 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka was caused by the ethnic tension between the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and the Tamil Hindu minority. In general, religious minorities experience constitutional rights violations through hate speech, discriminatory practices, physical violence, and destruction of property.

Freedom of religion is covered under the Sri Lankan constitution under Chapter II, Article 9. Furthermore, the freedom of religion is included in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights– to which Sri Lanka is a party.

Overall, the situation in Sri Lanka is disheartening as citizens cannot freely practise their religion. The Human Rights Watch have called on the Department of Archaeology to stop discriminatory practices in Hindu religious sites. With that, the international community should further highlight and call out Sri Lanka’s unfair treatment of religious minorities.

Sources and further reading:

Al-Jazeera, ‘What are Black July massacres that triggered Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war?’ (AlJazeera, 2023) <> accessed 21 March 2024.

‘Hindus in Sri Lanka: A Survey of Human Rights, 2020’ (HinduAmerican, 2020) <>  accessed 21 March 2024.

Meenakshi Ganguly, ‘Sri Lankan Authorities Detain Hindu Worshippers: End Interference in Minority Religious Sites, Practices’ (Human Rights Watch, 2024) <> accessed 21 March 2024.