Protests continue against Lankan pilgrims

Protests continue against Lankan pilgrims

A batch of 178 Sri Lankan nationals on a pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu faced protests for the second day today with a pro-Tamil outfit trying to block their vehicles when they were returning after offering worship at the famous Velankanni Christain shrine near here.

Police, however, intervened and arrested nine activists of the Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam with pro-LTTE leanings, who tried to block the seven buses carrying the pilgrims. The Lankan nationals were meted out similar treatment during their pilgrimage to the Poondi Madha Christian shrine near Thanjavur yesterday.

The pilgrims, including 75 women and 36 children, had arrived at Velankanni this morning to offer worship at the Shrine Basilica, police said. As the activists protested, police personnel on security duty for the ongoing annual festival rushed to the spot, arrested them and brought the situation under control within a few minutes, sources said.

The pilgrims later proceeded to Tiruchirappalli safely from where they are expected to leave for Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan nationals had worshipped at the Poondi Matha shrine last evening as part of their annual pilgrimage when activists of Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam headed by film director Seeman, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and P Nedumaran-led Tamizhar Desiya Poduvudamai Katchi, staged a demonstration asking them to go back.

The incident comes a day after Sri Lanka issued a travel advisory asking its citizens not to visit Tamil Nadu until further notice in the wake of "increasing number of instances of intimidation" of Sri Lankans in the state.

While, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had on Sunday ordered sending back home a football team from Royal College of Sri Lanka which played a friendly match against Customs Department in Chennai on Friday. Jayalalithaa, who slammed the Centre for allowing the Lankan football team into India, had also directed that eight students of a Lankan school who had come for a tournament with a city-based school and their coach be sent back.

The ruling AIADMK and key UPA ally DMK and other political parties in Tamil Nadu have all joined the chorus of opposing India training Lankan military personnel, alleging the island republic's forces had committed war crimes against Tamils during the last phase of 2009 war against LTTE.