Sri Lanka’s civil war ended nearly a decade ago, but Maithili Thamil Chilwen’s barren plot of land still resembles a battlefield.
There is only a mound of dirt where her home once stood in Keppapilavu village in the country’s northeast; the rest is just dirt, gravel, and broken shards of doors and windows from her demolished home.
Sri Lanka’s military occupied thousands of hectares of land during and after the country’s bitter 26-year civil war, which came to a brutal end in 2009 when the military crushed remaining Tamil fighters here in the north. Almost a decade later, rights groups say reconciliation between the country’s majority Sinhalese community and its Tamil minority is at a standstill, and occupied land is one glaring example.
Thamil Chilwen, an ethnic Tamil, said the military seized her property at the end of the war. It took almost nine years, until earlier this year, for the military to give it back. But by then, her home and fields were destroyed. “We were happy when the military told us we could go back to our land. But when I saw the state of the land, I had to cry,” she said.