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Rajapaksa reaches Tirupati amid protests

Source : AGENCIES
Last Updated: Sat, Feb 09, 2013 00:33 hrs
Rajapaksa protest: Vaiko, others detained

Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh): Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived here on Friday after praying at Buddhism's holiest shrine at Bodh Gaya amid protests against his two-day Indian pilgrimage.

The president's brief trip - he flies back on Saturday after spending a night in Tirupati - triggered protests in Tamil Nadu as well as in Tirupati, New Delhi and Hosur in Karnataka over allegations that he was denying Tamils in his country equal rights.

Rajapaksa and his delegation spent about an hour at the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi temple, about 100 km from the Bihar capital Patna, under tight security, a police officer said.



Security personnel did not let journalists talk to the president, who is avoiding New Delhi despite Sri Lankan concerns over how India will vote on a US-sponsored resolution against Colombo at the UNHRC meet in Geneva.

According to a police official, over a dozen workers of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist protested near the temple minutes before his visit. They were detained.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar earlier received the president at the Gaya international airport where Rajapaksa flew in from Colombo along with his wife and senior aides.

From Bodh Gaya, Rajapaksa flew to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh to pray at the revered Balaji temple.

Along with his family members, Rajapaksa arrived at Renigunta airport here by a special aircraft and drove by road to the revered temple atop Tirumala Hills amid tight security, officials said.

Senior officials of the district administration and Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) accorded him a warm welcome.

Rajapaksa will be staying the night at TTD's Sri Padmavathi Guest House and worship Lord Venkateswara early Saturday. He will take part in the 'Suprabhatha Seva' at 3 a.m. Saturday, and fly out to Colombo later in the morning.

Despite the massive security arrangements and prohibitory orders, protestors managed to reach close to the road route before the Sri Lankan president's convoy passed and raised slogans 'Rajapaksa go back'.

Police arrested over 100 protesters. Police sources said hundreds of protesters may have sneaked into Tirupati, about 50 km from the Tamil Nadu border and 135 km from Chennai.

In New Delhi, MDMK general secretary Vaiko, a strong supporter of the now vanquished Tamil Tigers, led a noisy protest.

Holding placards demanding "Strict Action Against Rajapaksa" and shouting slogans against him, Vaiko and his supporters gathered on Parliament Street in the heart of Delhi.

They denounced Rajapaksa for ruling out autonomy for Tamil areas. About 130 people were detained and let off after three hours.

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the watered down US resolution pulling up Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council meet last year.

The chief minister urged the Indian government to table a resolution on violation of human rights in Sri Lanka at the UN.

Also in Chennai, DMK president M. Karunanidhi accused Rajapaksa of not only trying to obliterate Tamils in the island but also their culture, tradition and the Tamil language itself.

Leading a massive protest held by Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO), he said Colombo was changing even the names of villages with Tamil names to Sinhalese.

Thousands of cadres belonging to DMK, VCK and other Tamil outfits took part in the protest wearing black shirts.

Tamil groups also protested outside the Sri Lankan consulate in Chennai. On Thursday, a group of people stoned the Bank of Ceylon office in the city injuring two employees.

Around 30 members of VCK party were taken into custody near the Tamil Nadu-Andhra border for holding protests.

Tamil activists were taken into custody in Hosur in Karnataka for protesting on railway tracks.

Lawyers in some districts like Villupuram, Dindugul and Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu boycotted the courts opposing Rajapaksa's visit and burnt his effigies.

The Sri Lankan president has been quoted as saying that he is opposed to granting autonomy to provinces, remarks that are widely seen as going back on promises made earlier to Indian leaders.

Six held for ransacking of Bank of Ceylon in Chennai

Six persons belonging to a little known pro-Tamil group were arrested on Friday in connection with the attack on the branch of Bank of Ceylon here.

They had carried out the attack yesterday to oppose the Indian visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a police release said.

V Thamaraikannan, R Kannappan, R Ashok Kumar, A Sampath, P Johnson and V Baskar belonged to "Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam", and were arrested based on video footage obtained from CCTV cameras inside the bank and subsequent investigation, it said.

Five special teams were formed to nab the culprits who had vandalised the bank, also injuring two persons in the melee.

They were produced before a court which remanded them to custody.

Two persons were injured when a group of unidentified persons attacked the Bank of Ceylon office here and vandalised it.

Vaiko, others detained

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) chief Vaiko and his supporters were detained in New Delhi on Friday as they protested against the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India.

Vaiko and his supporters were detained when they tried to march from Parliament Street towards the Prime Minister residence here.

According to reports, Vaiko and his supporters tried to break the barricade.

The leader was protesting against Rajapaksa's visit at Jantar Mantar since morning.

Addressing his supporters, Vaiko said: "We will not forgive the Manmohan Singh government for supporting Sri Lanka in its war against Tamils."

MDMK supporters burnt Sri Lankan President's effigy and shouted slogans against him.

Karunanidhi leads protests in Chennai

In Chennai, DMK president M. Karunanidhi accused Rajapaksa of not only trying to obliterate Tamils in the island but also their culture, tradition and the Tamil language itself.

Leading a massive protest held by Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO), he said Colombo was changing even the names of villages with Tamil names to Sinhalese.

Thousands of cadres belonging to DMK, VCK and other Tamil outfits took part in the protest wearing black shirts.

Tamil groups also protested outside the Sri Lankan consulate in Chennai. On Thursday, a group of people stoned the Bank of Ceylon office in the city injuring two employees.

Around 30 members of VCK party were taken into custody near the Tamil Nadu-Andhra border for holding protests.

Tamil activists were taken into custody in Hosur in Karnataka for protesting on railway tracks.

Lawyers in some districts like Villupuram, Dindugul and Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu boycotted the courts opposing Rajapaksa's visit and burnt his effigies.

The Sri Lankan president has been quoted as saying that he is opposed to granting autonomy to provinces, remarks that are widely seen as going back on promises made earlier to Indian leaders.

Karunanidhi led a statewide protest in Chennai against the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India, accusing him of making efforts to "annihilate" the Tamils in the island republic.

Wearing black shirt, the protesters gathered under the banner of the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation, which Karunanidhi had revived some months ago, and shouted slogans against Rajapaksa, who is on a pilgrimage to Tirupati and Bodh Gaya.

Karunanidhi charged the Lankan President with attempting to not only to "annihilate" the Tamil population but also erase the Tamil language.

Party treasurer MK Stalin and other senior party leaders were present.

Effigies of Rajapaksa were burnt and lawyers boycotted courts in some parts of the state, protesting the visit.

Karunanidhi had said on Thursday that the Centre should realize at least now that the island government was not keeping its promises after the Sri Lankan President had ruled out autonomy for Tamil areas.

"Now TESO was issuing a severe caution (by black flag demonstration), Rajapaksa should correct himself, and Centre also take steps to protect Tamils," Karunanidhi had said.

Tamil protestors held in Tirupati

Scores of activists from Tamil groups were arrested and prohibitory orders imposed in this temple town as police went on high alert.

The activists, who had arrived here from neighbouring Tamil Nadu to stall Rajapaksa's visit, were arrested from Tirupati and at various places on Tamil Nadu-Andhra border.

Police arrested over 100 protestors at the railway stations and dozens of others at border points. A police officer said 26 activists of MDMK were arrested near Chittoor town when they were heading to Tirupati. A protestor demanded that the 'killer' of Tamils in the island nation should not be allowed to visit the sacred Hindu temple.

Security has been tightened across the town following intelligence reports that hundreds of protestors had already reached Tirupati in Chittoor district, about 50 km from the Tamil Nadu border and 135 km from Chennai.

Several Tamil organisations are opposing Rajapaksa's visit as he has ruled out autonomy for Tamil areas in the island nation. They alleged that the Sri Lankan government had gone back on its promise.

Prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people have been imposed to prevent any untoward incident, an official said. A large number of security personnel have been deployed along the route from the airport to Tirumala.

Some activists were arrested when they arrived at the Tirupati railway station on Friday morning. They were raising slogans against Rajapaksa's visit. Some wall posters and banners have also come up in the town.

The slogan on one of the posters read: "Chase out destroyer of 2076 Hindu temples, killer of Hindu temple priests".

Sri Lanka seeks security of its properties in India following protests

Sri Lanka on Friday sought security of its properties and establishments in India following vandalization of an office of the Bank of Ceylon in Tamil Nadu.

The Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi has been asked to seek the assistance of the Government of India in providing security to other Sri Lankan establishments such as Maha Bodhi Society, Sri Lankan Airlines and to all Sri Lankans living in India, an official statement said.

The statement came after Thursday's attack on the Sri Lanka's state-owned Bank of Ceylon branch in Chennai.

The attack, which left two person injured, came on the eve of a private visit to India by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Congress plays safe on DMK protests

Playing safe on the ongoing protests in Tamil Nadu by the DMK, a key ally of the Congress-led UPA Government, against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's visit, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Friday said the engagement with Colombo in no way means that the Centre is insensitive or tends to undermine the concerns, which a section of the population of India may legitimately have.

Tewari said the government understands the sensitivities, which are involved with regard to the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils especially here in Tamil Nadu.

"We are engaged with the issue. We are absolutely in sync with some of the concerns, which have been articulated. And that is why at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Government of India had walked the extra mile, but then westphalian states also need to engage with each other. And therefore, I don't think these two issues are mutually incompatible," said Tewari.

"And engagement with Sri Lanka in no way means that we are insensitive or we tend to undermine the concerns, which a section of the population of India may legitimately have," he added.

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