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Protests as Rajapaksa arrives in India for pilgrimage (Evening Lead)

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 12:50 hrs

Bodh Gaya/Tirupati, Feb 8 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday prayed at Buddhism's holiest shrine at Bodh Gaya and then flew to Tirupati amid scattered protests against his two-day Indian pilgrimage.

The president's brief trip - he flies back Saturday after spending a night in Tirupati - has triggered protests in Tamil Nadu as well as in Tirupati, New Delhi and Hosur in Karnataka over allegations that he was denying Tamils in Sri Lanka 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 told IANS.

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 staged a protest 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 was headed to the temple town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. A large number of Tamil activists from Tamil Nadu entered Tirupati to stall Rajapaksa's visit.

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

Prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people were imposed in the town in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district. A large number of security personnel have been deployed along the route from the airport to Tirumala.

The president will take part in the 'Suprabhatha Seva' at 3 a.m. Saturday at the revered Balaji temple. He will fly out to Colombo later in the morning.

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

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

They denounced Rajapaksa for ruling out autonomy for Tamil areas.

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.




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