Chennai: DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Friday led a state-wide protest here 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 M K 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 yesterday that the Centre should realise 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.
He accused Rajapaksa of not only trying to obliterate Tamils in the island but also their culture, tradition and the Tamil language itself.
He added Colombo was changing even the names of villages with Tamil names to that of 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.
Rajapaksa at Bodh Gaya, meets Nitish
Meanwhile, Rajapaksa flew into Bodh Gaya to pray at Buddhism's holiest shrine even as protests erupted in parts of India against his two-day pilgrimage.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar received the president at the Gaya international airport, about 100 km from the state capital Patna. With him is a delegation of senior Sri Lankan officials.
Authorities said Rajapaksa immediately left for the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi temple, which is located the site where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
Security was tight in and around Bodh Gaya following the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist's threat to protest against Rajapaksa.
This is a "personal" visit by Rajapaksa, who will travel from Bodh Gaya to the revered Balaji temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh to take part in the 'Suprabhatha Seva' at 3 a.m. Saturday.
The president will fly home some six hours later.
Rajapaksa is skipping New Delhi despite Sri Lankan concerns over how India will vote in the upcoming UN human rights meet in Geneva.
Vaiko protests in Delhi
Even as he took off from Colombo, Tamil political parties in India took to the streets in Tamil Nadu, New Delhi and Tirupati to denounce the visit by Rajapaksa.
In New Delhi, MDMK general secretary Vaiko led a protest in the national capital.
Holding placards demanding "Strict Action Against Rajapaksa" and shouting slogans against him, Vaiko and several supporters gathered in Parliament Street in the heart of Delhi.
They denounce Rajapaksa for ruling out autonomy for Tamil areas.
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.
Security tightened in Tirupati
A large number of Tamil activists from Tamil Nadu entered the temple town of Tirupati in Andhra in a bid to to stall Rajapaksa's visit.
Police arrested over 100 protesters. Police sources said hundreds of protestors may have sneaked into Tirupati.
Prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people were imposed in the town. 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 Friday morning. They raised slogans against the visit.
Jaya blames PM for going soft on Lanka
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the watered down US resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against Sri Lanka last year.
Replying to a debate in the assembly, she said: "Last year, the US brought a strong resolution against Sri Lanka. The Indian government voted in favour of the resolution at my continued insistence."
In support of her charge, Jayalalithaa said Manmohan Singh wrote to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa later: "You ... would be aware that we spared no effort and were successful in introducing an element of balance in the language of the resolution."
She said while the Sri Lankan government did not take any action even on the "watered down resolution, there is information that the US is bringing another resolution" against the island nation this year.
In the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils, the Indian government, based on the resolution passed by state assembly, should table a resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN and get it passed, Jayalalithaa added.
Blasting the "careless attitude" of the Indian government vis-a-vis Indian fishermen who she said were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy, she urged the central government to take up the issue with Colombo.
US-sponsored resolution against Lanka
Last year, India voted for a US-sponsored resolution urging Sri Lanka to go for reconciliation and speedily rehabilitate those derailed by the long running ethnic conflict that ended in May 2009.
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.
Addressing the 65th Independence Day celebrations on Monday, the Lankan President had ruled out greater political autonomy for Tamils, saying ethnicity-based division was "not practical" as people live together in unity and there were no racial or religious differences.