Tuesday saw protests across the city intensifying, as the police tried to keep agitators in check
Protests against the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record heated up in the city on Tuesday, with road and rail rokos, demonstrations and fasts taking place across several locations. While a few train services were briefly disrupted and traffic had to wend its way through marches, the agitations were mostly peaceful.
Over 40 members of the Tamil Nadu Youth Front staged a protest by burning copies of the US resolution on Sri Lanka as well as the Indian government’s recent statement on the issue in front of the Nungambakkam burial ground.
At around 10.30 a.m., the members gathered opposite Loyola College, and displayed banners and placards. “We are against the United States’ call for a united Sri Lanka as mentioned in the resolution. We are demanding a separate Tamil Eelam,” said Aruna Bharathi, general secretary of the Front.
Around 11 a.m., the members took copies of the resolution and the report, placed them on a bier, and marched with it towards the burial ground shouting slogans against the Sri Lankan and Indian governments. Once they reached the gates of the ground, they burnt the resolution and the report. Police officers on duty nearby managed to douse the flames. However, traffic was disrupted in the area for a brief while. Later, the protestors dispersed peacefully.
Around 150 members of the Students Federation of India were arrested for staging a demonstration in front of Shastri Bhavan. The students had begun marching towards the building when they were stopped by the police. Some of them resisted, but were forcibly put inside a police van. They were all released later in the day.
In another part of the city, 75 VCK cadres were arrested for staging a rail roko at the Thiruvanmiyur MRTS station. The movement of trains was affected for around 10 minutes. “After this there was a delay in the running of a few trains as there were rumours about some protesters hitting a train driver,” a police officer said. However, the situation was restored to normal by Tuesday evening.
Train services between Chennai Central and Avadi on the city’s western suburban rail network were disrupted for more than half an hour after over 300 supporters of the Bharat Hindu Munani, a lesser-known political outfit, blocked a train at the Perambur railway station.
Police said around 11.30 a.m., supporters of the outfit walked 2 km from Paper Mills Road to the railway station, shouting slogans against the Central government.
The supporters, led by the outfit’s state co-ordinator, Vasathakumar, then blocked a train on platform 3, which was heading towards Avadi.
As the protesters refused to leave the track, a large police contingent led by additional deputy commissioner of police (Pulianthope), S. Jayakumar, arrested them and detained them at a wedding hall on Madhavaram High Road. Train services were then resumed, and the protestors were released later in the day.
In Kodungaiyur, 500 students of Muthu Kumaraswamy Arts and Sciences College staged a day-long fast in front of the college.
Flights held back
In the wake of the protests, Sri Lankan Airlines has cut down on the number of flights it operates from Chennai to Colombo. As against four flights — two each in the morning and evening — that fly between the two cities every day, there will be only two every day until March 24, an official from the airline said.