Form human chain; lawyers attempt to march towards Raj Bhavan; students observe day-long fast

On Wednesday, lawyers, software employees and members of political outfits took centre stage of the ongoing protests against Sri Lankan War crimes.

Meanwhile, over 1,000 students of various colleges continued with their day-long fast near Marina beach.

In the morning, over 200 advocates attempted to march towards Raj Bhavan and demanded a referendum for Tamil Eelam in the island nation.

Around 11 a.m., a large group of lawyers from the Madras High Court Advocates Association and Bar Associations of Saidapet, Egmore and GT Courts gathered at the Saidapet Court and started marching towards Raj Bhavan on the Taluka Office Road.

The lawyers held placards and shouted slogans against the Sri Lankan and Indian governments. The police had set up a three-tier security ring and had arranged for a few MTC buses nearby to transport any detained protesters. No vehicle was allowed to stop near Raj Bhavan or proceed towards it from the Taluka Office Road.

“There was no prior information about the diversion. That caused much confusion,” said Shenbagavalli, a resident who was on her way to her workplace.

The lawyers tried to push the barricades, but they could not proceed towards Raj Bhavan. A group of them then jumped over the gates of the All India Radio office on the same road. However, police managed to bring them out after some persuasion. Around 12.30 p.m., the lawyers proceeded towards the Saidapet Court.

“The road towards Raj Bhavan was blocked for nearly one-and-half hours. But it was a peaceful protest,” said G. Mohanakrishnan, president, Madras High Court Advocates Association.

Parties’ protests hit traffic

Meanwhile, traffic movement at the junction on the Royapuram-Ennore High Road at Royapuram was affected after nearly 1,000 supporters of the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK) blocked the stretch and burnt an effigy of the Sri Lankan president. Led by the party’s State co-ordinator S. Prabhakaran, the protesters staged a road roko for nearly an hour. Traffic movement on the flyover in Royapuram was diverted to West Madha Koil Street. All the protesters were arrested and released later in the evening.

In another event, more than 500 supporters of Popular Front of India blocked the Chennai Central-Avadi train at Perambur railway station and protested against the government on the Tamil Eelam issue. They too were arrested and later released. 

2,000 IT employees extend support

In the evening, professionals working in several software companies came out in support of the ongoing student movement. Armed with placards, the employees, who work in reputed MNCs including, Infosys, HCL Technologies, IBM, Accenture, TCS, Polaris and several smaller ones, formed a human chain outside Tidel Park that extended from Indira Nagar to the junction.

“It is only when working professionals demand answers that governments take notice. When the students persistently stood by the protests, we decided it was time for us to act too,” said R. Deepa, an employee of a company in Tidel Park.

S. A. Elangovan, spokesperson, Save Tamils Movement, one of the associations that had brought the employees together, said there was much work done to mobilise the employees. “We identified key points on the IT corridor–Ascendas, Tidel Park junction, Siruseri, OMR post – at key timings, and distributed nearly 18,000 pamphlets to professionals.”

While most of the employees were from Tidel Park, many working in Siruseri, SIPCOT IT Park and Mahindra World City had also travelled down to be part of the movement.

According to S. A. Elangovan, spokesperson, Save Tamils Movement, one of the associations that had brought the employees together, the response was overwhelming. “Police officials told us there were over 2,000 people in the protest.”

Seen among the protesters were also autorickshaw drivers and residents who work near IT offices. While Elangovan maintained the protest was being held to ask for an independent international investigation into the genocides, to impose economic embargo and a referendum among Tamils for a political solutions, some participants carried images displaying a hanging Rajapaksa or suggestions for a separate Tamil nation.

“Bulletin boards will full of discussions about the war crimes. And ever since the protests started, software employees have been itching to show their support. We are politically conscious and sensitive too,” said R. Mahesh, one of the protesters.

“Normally we work even if there State wide bandh or any emergency bandh. But this time many managers in smaller companies wanted their employees to participate in the issue,” said Annadurai, another employee.

The employees recalled the last time they took part in the protest was during the anti–sexual violence rally after the Delhi gang-rape. “Many companies had offered to send us more employees for the protest. Even during the anti-corruption protests, many companies started their own campaigns. But an issue like Sri Lankan war crimes, is still seen as a Tamil issue,” said R. Varadarajan, an employee of Infosys.

More In: Chennai