New Delhi: The India-renovated Duraiappah sports stadium in the embattled Sri Lankan city of Jaffna had once laid bare the hidden brutalities of the Tamil civil war when at least 23 human skeletons, including those of some disappeared children buried secretly in the playground, were discovered in 1999. The stadium, named after a former Jaffna mayor, the late Alfred Thambirajah Duraiappah, Tamil-dominated city in northern Sri Lanka, suffered huge damages and remained abandoned during the civil war. Its renovation was started in 1999 when the conflict-ravaged northern areas saw relative bouts of peace and calm.
The moves to renovate and reopen the playground were hailed as signs of normalcy in the Jaffna peninsula until it exposed what laid buried deep within. The skeletons, including those of children, were unearthed when the stadium was being refurbished, according to a 2002 report on Sri Lanka child soldiers by Daya Somasundaram, a renowned psychiatrist in northern Sri Lanka. The bodies were believed to be of those arrested by Sri Lanka security forces and later allegedly killed in what activists say were extra-judicial murders. Leaving the brutally nightmarish past behind, the Sri Lanka government aided by India got the stadium renovated at a cost of Rs 7.1 crore — all borne by New Delhi.
The stadium now flaunts two pavilions, a gymnasium, a sprawling playground and incandescent lights. It has two galleries that can seat 1,850 spectators. The stadium could be utilised for all types of sports and track events, except cricket. The stadium on Saturday hosted an event to celebrate the second anniversary of the International Day of Yoga. Some 8,000 people were said to have performed yoga in the presence of at least 1,500 spectators watching from the galleries.
According to Indian officials here, the renovated stadium will provide the necessary infrastructure to promote sports and recreational activities, and benefit more than 50,000 students from different schools and educational institutions in the Northern Province. The project also aims to assist the overall development of the youth of the Northern Province. The second major event that is expected to be held at the stadium is National Games 2016 in September, which will be hosted by the Ministry of Sports, Sri Lanka. –IANS
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