Monday, September 10, 2012
Sri Lankan pilgrims attacked near Tiruchirapalli airport
A group of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, who had come to Thanjavur to participate in a festival, were attacked near Tiruchirapalli airport on Tuesday 4 September. As per reports, over 200 pilgrims had arrived at Poondi, a village near Thanjavur, to participate in the annual festival at Poondi Madha Basilica, a two-century old place of worship.
On Tuesday, members of Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) raised slogans against the pilgrims' participation in the festival. However, police intervened and later sent the pilgrims in five buses to Tiruchirapalli airport. Members of NTK, a pro-LTTE outfit floated by film director Seeman, pelted stones at the buses carrying the pilgrims. While the buses were damaged, no one was injured in the incident, police sources said. A special flight has been arranged at Tiruchirapalli airport for the pilgrims to go to Colombo.
One of the pilgrims who did not want to be named said that all the pilgrims had valid travel documents. The pilgrims have taken up the matter with the Indian external affairs ministry and Sri Lankan government. However, no cases have been filed against any of the protesters.
Last week, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had ordered deportation of a group of school boys from Sri Lanka, who had come to play friendly football matches. She had also suspended an official of Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority for allowing a match between Chennai Customs Department and the visiting Sri Lankan team. Another Sri Lankan team, which arrived from Colombo on 2 September, was also sent back.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu including the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a key ally of the ruling UPA, had been protesting against friendly gestures by India towards Sri Lanka. DMK also demanded that Sri Lankan defence personnel, who were being trained in army camps in India, should be deported immediately, alleging that the Rajapakse government in Sri Lanka had committed a ‘genocide’ of Tamils in the island republic during the war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.