Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa reached Tirumala on Friday from Bodh Gaya in Bihar, amid protests by Tamil groups in the hill town and other parts of Chittoor district. Minutes before his convoy arrived, hundreds of protesters, especially women, crossed the security barricades and, chanting slogans, stayed put near the Padmavathi Guest House area, where Mr. Rajapaksa will stay overnight. The police took them into custody.

Warm welcome

Mr. Rajapaksa, accompanied by wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa and a 70-member delegation, was accorded a warm reception by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Joint Executive Officer K.S. Srinivasa Raju and Chief Vigilance and Security Officer G.V.G. Ashok Kumar.

Informed sources said Mr. Rajapaksa would take part in Suprabhata Seva on Saturday morning.

The TTD has made elaborate arrangements for his visit. After the protest, the police have thrown a security cover around the Padmavathi Guest House.

Visits Mahabodhi temple

Patna Staff Reporter writes:

Mr. Rajapaksa, along with his wife and a 45-member delegation, reached Bodh Gaya in the morning and visited the Mahabodhi temple. He offered prayers and gifted a chivar (robe of a Buddhist monk) before the Buddha idol. The President’s visit was a religious pilgrimage and not a political one, an official statement said.

Earlier, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar received him at the Gaya International Airport.

He acquainted Mr. Rajapaksa with Bihar’s history and legacy.

He presented a memento to the President.

The visit lasted over four hours.

Protest in Patna

Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit was marked by protests in Gaya and Patna.

All-India Students’ Association (AISA) of the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation and the Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) staged a protest in the State capital demanding that Mr. Rajapaksa be tried for “war crimes.”

“After killing thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils, he is coming to the peaceful site of Bodh Gaya … And the State is welcoming this. Bihar will not tolerate this,” Navin Kumar of RYA said.