Sri Lankan Prez arrives in India; protests galore in TN

Sri Lankan Prez arrives in India; protests galore in TN

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today began his two-day pilgrimage to India amid strong protests from various Tamil Nadu political parties, including DMK and MDMK, which charged him with making efforts to "annihilate" the ethnic Tamils in the island republic.

Commencing his tour with a visit to Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, the visiting dignitary arrived in Tirupati this evening to offer worship at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara.

Tight security arrangements were made for the private visit of Rajapaksa which evoked protests in Tamil Nadu.

Leading the protests in Chennai, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, whose party is a key UPA ally, alleged Rajapaksa was not only attempting to "annihilate" Tamils but also the Tamil
language.

The protesters, wearing black shirts, gathered in large numbers under the banner of the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation, which Karunanidhi had revived some months ago, and shouted slogans against Rajapaksa.

"This protest is being held against the visit of war criminal Rajapaksa who has been denounced by the world for his vow to annihilate the Tamils", Karunanidhi told the protesters who included his son M K Stalin, VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan and senior party leaders.

"There would not been any necessity for us to protest against Rajapaksa now if we had protested together earlier. We could have achieved Tamil Eelam. We missed it", the DMK patriarch said adding a meeting of TESO would be held in Delhi on March 7. 

MDMK chief Vaiko and his supporters were detained in New Delhi when they tried to march towards the Prime Minister's residence protesting the visit of the Sri Lankan leader.

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

Meanwhile, Government said it was in "sync" with concerns of the people in Tamil Nadu and its engagement with Colombo in no way meant it was "insensitive" to Lankan Tamils issue.

"We understand the sensitivities which are involved with regard to the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils, especially here in Tamil Nadu. We are absolutely in sync with some of the concerns which have been articulated...", Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters here.

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

In Tirupati, activists of DMK, MDMK and other Tamil out-fits who reached by train, buses and vans from Chennai and Vellure were taken into preventive custody on the outskirts of the temple town.

Rajapaksa would offer prayers to Lord Venkateswara in the wee hours tomorrow and take part in the 'Suprabhatha' recitation ritual by priests in the sanctum sanctorum, temple sources said.

The visiting leader flew into Tirupati on a  17-hour pilgrimage on a Sri Lankan special flight from Bodh Gaya.

He immediately proceeded by road to Tirumala where he would stay overnight at tightly guarded Sri Padmavathi guest House.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been put in place at the airport, along the 33-km road from the airport to Tirumala.

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