Sri Lankan president's visit to India: Tirupati on high alert amid protests

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 12:02 hrs

Chennai: A thick security blanket has been thrown over this temple town in the wake of reports that some Tamil Nadu-based outfits may create trouble during the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday evening, police said.

The Vaiko-led MDMK party, which blames Rajapaksa for the plight of Tamils in the last phase of conflict between the Lankan Army and rebel LTTE, has announced staging black flag protest at Tirupati against the leader's visit there.

Various pro-Tamil groups including DMK-led TESO have also announced protests elsewhere.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been put in place at the airport, across the 15 km road from the airport leading to the foot of the hills called Alipiri and the 18 km long hill route leading to Tirumala, the hill abode of Lord Venkateswara, police sources said.

Rajapaksa would offer prayers in the wee hours on Saturday, temple sources said, adding, he would also take part in the 'Suprabhatha recitation ritual by priests at the sanctum sanctorum.

Rajapaksa would arrive at the airport on Friday evening on a 17-hour pilgrimage by a Sri Lankan special flight and immediately proceed to the hills by road, and stay overnight at the tightly guarded Sri Padmavathi guest house, the sources said.

He had last visited the shrine on April 2, 2011.

Karunanidhi leads protests

DMK chief M 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.

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.

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