Rebuilding a Library From War\'s Ashes

The Jaffna, Sri Lanka public library, a bastion of Tamil culture destroyed during that country\'s civil war, is being rebuilt:

On a fateful night 20 years ago, Sinhalese police officers rampaged through this town\'s public library, one of the great repositories of the Tamil people\'s history and culture, and committed an act of ethnic vandalism that helped set this country on a path to civil war. They stormed into the grand public rooms of one of South Asia\'s finest libraries and set 97,000 volumes ablaze.

Rare old manuscripts written on palm leaves and stored in fragrant sandalwood boxes, miniature editions of the Ramayana epic from the children\'s section, yellowing collections of extinct Tamil-language newspapers — all were consumed in a roaring conflagration that convinced many Tamils that the Sinhalese were out to annihilate their very identity. . . Now, finally, the library is being rebuilt here in the Tamils\' cultural capital. It is a hive of activity, with workers laying bricks and plastering over the bullet holes. . .

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