A section of Tamil traders at Pettah, Colombo’s main market, on Thursday condemned the attack on Sri Lankan pilgrims near Tiruchi, and asked the Government of India to take action to ensure protection for tourists and pilgrims.
They shut their shops post noon and organised a protest near the Indian High Commission here. Later, a few representatives handed over a petition to officials.
This is the latest in a series of events that seems to indicate that tempers in the island nation have not cooled down. In the past two days, newspapers went to town with the attack story and held that the Sri Lankan government was right in issuing a travel advisory to those visiting Tamil Nadu.
On Thursday, a newspaper website used a file image of a mangled bus, to indicate the condition of the bus in which the pilgrims had travelled post-attack. This was promptly detected by independent news website Groundviews. The newspaper’s website quietly removed it about an hour later, without any explanation.
Relations between the two countries have been at a new low post-March, after India voted against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council at Geneva. Then too, there were many forms of protests near the Indian High Commission, banners mounted outside India House in London and the residence of the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, and overt doomsday predictions in the media on the path of relations between the two nations.
The news of organising TESO (Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation) conference in Tamil Nadu too saw rise of anti-India sentiments in the media and elsewhere — the August 12 protest outside India House held up the High Commissioner from reaching his house for more than an hour.
Doubts have been raised over the spontaneity of all these protests, mainly in cyberspace. Commenting on the latest protest, one tweet said: “A pettah tamil trader says instructions to organise the protest came from President’s catchers. Some traders intimidated to do so.”
Asked about this, representatives of Pettah traders said that they met on September 5 to decide on the protest.
“We are fully with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We want to make our protest over this incident clear,” said a trader.
With hardly a fortnight left for the start of the T20 cricket world cup tournament in Sri Lanka, anti-India sentiments is a worry for the Indian community in Sri Lanka.
Members of one family, who have been here for a few years, recalled that they encountered hostility from Sri Lankan fans for the first time during the recent India-Sri Lanka series. Flag-waving Indians were targeted with beer cans, water bottles and sundry missiles at R. Premadasa stadium here, venue of two one-day matches, and at the Pallekele International stadium, venue of the last ODI and a T20 game.