They had been heckled during a pilgrimage to the Poondi Matha church near Thanjavur on Monday for an annual festival. Escorted out of the church Tuesday morning and taken to a Christian shrine in neighbouring Vailankannai, they faced more protests. Later three of the seven buses carrying them to the Trichy airport for their flight back home also faced protests.
With Sri Lanka issuing 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 Lankans in the state, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman assured in New Delhi on Tuesday that India would take all measures to ensure their safety and security.
“I wish to convey that the government of India, in close consultation with the concerned state governments, has taken and will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Sri Lankan dignitaries and visitors to India, including to Tamil Nadu,” the spokesperson said.
The latest bout of anti-Lanka protests in Tamil Nadu follows Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa stepping up her objection to Lankan defence personnel receiving training in India. On Sunday, she ordered that a football team from Royal College of Colombo, which played a friendly match against the Customs department in Chennai last week, as well as eight students of a Lankan school who had come for a tournament be sent back. A stadium officer who gave permission for the football match was suspended under Jayalalithaa’s orders.
On Monday, a few hundred cadres belonging to outfits such as VCK and Naam Thamilar Iyakkam gathered in front of the Poondi Matha church in Thanjavur shouting slogans against the Lankan government, demanding that the pilgrims be sent back. They apparently threatened to lock them inside the church without water, food or power.
Sources said the pilgrims had been planning to stay for a few days, but decided to end their trip due to the trouble. In the early hours of Tuesday, the group including 83 women and 36 children was brought out of the church premises on vehicles arranged by the officials and taken to the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Health Vailankanni in neighbouring Nagapattinam district, another very popular religious destination.
There too protests were staged, leading the police to arrest some of the protesters. As the buses left, they faced protests just a few kilometres from the Trichy airport, from where they were to board the flight back home. The flight was to leave Tuesday night at 10.
“We get reports that some people followed the pilgrims’ group, intimidated, abused and attacked them with stones,” Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner R K M A Rajakaruna said. He added that the people had “appealed to us to arrange to send them back to Sri Lanka”, and they thought a “quick eviction” was advisable.
“I don’t know why this is happening here whereas in Sri Lanka, different communities live together peacefully,” he added.
DMK Chief M Karunanidhi criticised the Jayalaithaa government, saying that while his party too opposed training of Lankan defence personnel in India, it was not averse to cultural and sporting ties. It was usual for players from the two countries, especially cricketers, to visit each other, he pointed out, adding: “All that we can insist is there should be no military training to Sri Lankan personnel in India as the military was responsible for death of civilian Tamils.”
A delegation of DMK MPs, in fact, met Union Defence Minister A K Antony in Delhi on Tuesday to submit a memorandum urging the Centre to do away with the training programme for Lankans.
Expressing concern, the CPM said: “Whatever the differences and opposition that exist regarding the Sri Lankan government’s approach to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka, nothing should be done to disturb people-to-people relations.”
One cannot blame if Sri Lankan pilgrims take Indian assurance with a handful of salt. The goverment watched helplessly the panic migration of thousands of Indian citizens of North Eastern states. Now the Thakrey clan is bent upon harsssing the Biharis ( read all north Indians) and the junir ministers of center have again issued statements of assurance saying that Indian constitution permits all Indian to work and live in any part of India. For Heaven's sake we know what the constitution guarantees. It is the weak kneed government which has failed to implement that guarantee with resolve and determination. With a lack lustre home minister and a lame duck Prime Minister, who publicly says that silence is golden no matter how grave and serious the provocation, who will trust us? In case of Lankans,it is the state chief minister who is spear heading the charge against the Sri Lankans. Any one who believes that The central givernment can rein Amma, should have his head examined.
when they can't assure safty for thier own citizens "fishermans" from srilankan navy.how they will assure srilankan citizens.let them first protect and implement rule of law.all will become ok on its own.
Not surprising that India do not have friendly and cordial relations with any of its neighbours.